You learn more from your mistakes than your successes.
So here I am to try, and to fail, so I can learn.
Paul Fail. For The Win!

24 June 2010

FlashFriday: Warrior Regret

#Friday Flash
Warrior Regret
©2010, D. Paul Angel

Once again he's running along the Warrior's top past Q Turret.  Just as he ducks below decks he sees a hole punched through the falling splashes just abeam her.  An instant later the rolling, all consuming thunder of the shell's hit passes through him on its way to the bow, knocking him down.  The energy's reverberation knocks the breath out of him as it passes through him on its return.  Gasping, he sucks in the fetid air's cloying stench of burning cordite, seared flesh, and lost bowels.  Fighting off nausea, he pushes himself aft.

As the foul, bilious smoke clears, grieved shouts call him to an open hatch over the compartments below.  Through the weak, crackling electrical light he watches the North Sea rush into the far chamber.  A group of men are fighting to close the watertight door in a desperate attempt to stop the implacable flood's rising.  Although they have it almost completely closed, the blast's force distorted the frame; rendering it, ultimately, useless.

Realizing their futility, they give up on the door and turn to him at the hatch.  Dozens of voices now shout at him.  Alternately pleading and cursing, they implore him for help.  Panic enters the men's voices as the North Sea simply pushes the watertight door aside to rush into the small space.  The light's flick off with a pop, but not before the Men's anguished faces are seared into his memory.

For the first time their siren song calls him
through the hatch, and he joins them in the salty embrace of their iron tomb.

"Hey! Get out of that box!  I told you both to never come up here!"

William and Bradley looked up from the box to the flushed face of their Grandpa.  "We're sorry," said Bradley, the oldest at ten, "We couldn't help ourselves."

"Well put it all back then and come back downstairs."

"But Grandpa..."

"Yes?  What?  Come, come.  Leave it.  There is nothing of good in that box."

"But Grandpa!  This is a, 'Distinguished Service Order'" said Bradley, proudly holding it aloft by it's ribbon, and reading its inscription.

Their grandpa sagged when he saw it.  "Grandpa?" asked William, through an eight year old's black and white perspective, "Doesn't this mean you were a Hero?  Isn't that good?"

"Not always Billy.  Not always."

The box might have been returned to its dusty place in the attic, but it could  no longer be forgotten.  Bradley and William asked him about as often as they dared, and though she wouldn't admit to it, he could see the look of curiosity on his daughter's face as well.  With things starting to turn bad in Korea, and his son-in-law possibly being recalled in the next few months, he wondered if it was, finally, time to share.  He had always told himself he would talk of that late, May afternoon, "when the time was right." but in the 33 years since, that time had never seemed to come.

Then, one Sunday evening after dinner, as the family sat around the fire, he started to talk.  He listened to his own voice, shocked that he had started to share, frightened by what they would think, and wholly unable to stop himself.  "I was an Ordinary Seaman on the Warrior.  We sailed out as part of the First Cruiser Squadron towards Jutland, our own four ship piece of the Grand Fleet.  The day started disastrously with the Battlecruisers, and the the mists played havoc with us early on.  We didn't even know it, but we were at almost  point blank range with a line of German Dreadnoughts.  They started firing at us, and soon had us bracketed, even though all we could see of them through the haze was the flashes from their big guns.

"We got hit over a dozen times by their 11 and 12 inch shells.  I thought her doomed until the Warspite did two complete circles, ending up practically next to the bloody Huns!  None of us had seen anything like it.  She was such a riper target they let us be and started hammering her.  Well, all except one that is.  I was being sent from midships to the stern and was just passing the seven and a half inch turrets when I heard another salvo of shells falling on us.

"I'll never forget that sound.  Never.  Like a whistling train ripping through sheets of canvas.  Well, I instinctively braced behind the turret's shielding and most of them, thank God, landed well short.  They threw up towering splashes of water all around our Port quarter, but one..." he paused and looked far past the family portrait above the fire.  He seemed completely alone in the room before he continued, "One more came through.  Right through the spray and into her shuddering bones, just at the waterline.

"I ducked below to avoid the cloud of smoke and yellow gas heading over the topdeck when I heard shouts from a hatch below me.  I could see the compartment starting to flood with a dozen or so men in it.  The watertight door had been knocked a kilter, and they were vainly trying to stop the flow.  When they realized the couldn't they turned to the hatch and to me, but I could see the wall of water coming through."

He stopped again, removed his spectacles, and wiped a single, salty tear from his wrinkled cheek, "I could see there wasn't much more than a few seconds before the compartment would be lost.  So I...  So I-"

His pause filled the air with an oppressive quietus which found them all, save William, looking away from him.

"So you helped them out Grandpa?" asked William.  His eyes were wide in both wonder and horror as he tried to fit his Grandfather's story into the reality created by the Medal. "You got them out before it flooded, right Grandpa?  Right?"

"No Billy, I didn't.  I closed the hatch and dogged it down."

10 June 2010

#Friday Flash: Last Scene Leaving the Hall

#Friday Flash
Last Scene Leaving the Hall
©2010, D. Paul Angel

David and Renee walked across the polished mahogany entrance hall of their Grandfather's palatial home. They were amongst the last to arrive, and quickly spotted him as aanother group left him. The iconic tycoon as always, he was in his wheelchair with a plaid blanket over his legs speaking to a young man in a beret. They began walking towards him, already exasperated at the evening's ordeal, and ready to let their old Grandfather know their displeasure. Then Renee realized who the man next to his Grandfather was and slammed her gin and tonic to the floor before stamping over to them with David trying to intervene.

"What the fuck are you doing here you poodle-fucking sack of shit?" she screeched at the man.

"Rene. Really! That is quite unladylike," snapped their grandfather as the man in the beret smugly met the glances of everyone who was now watching them. "After his refreshingly honest expose I asked Mr. Holmes to film my will. Which, I might add, you were almost late to see. Come. There was no reserved seating, so I hope your tardiness did not cost you much."

Chester Holmes raised his glass of scotch Renee, but quickly turned before she could knock it out of his hands. He followed his patron into the hall, but David and Renee were turned away by a serious man in a crisp suit, who made it clear that he not only knew who they were, but he very much did not care. Embarrassed and insulted in front of several hundred people in their own Grandfather's Great Hall, they bitterly stalked to their seats.

"All because that fucking old prick refuses to just fucking die," Renee hissed into David's ear.

"And now he's embracing the shit who tore us apart with that damned movie of his," he spat back.

"Ladies and Gentlemen," began their Grandfather, "I am an old man, but still very much in control of my facilities." It was hard to tell whether Renee or David, or both, had snorted, but he ignored them whilst continuing, "So while still very much in this world, I felt it important to share my Last Will and Testament. Just not in that order.

"Mr. Holmes?"

Chester Holmes turned to start the video. Adding Mr. DeMauneaux's Will to the end had been the easiest money he had ever made. Being able to add back in the segments even he had found too libelous was icing on the cake. As the movie flared to life on the protable screens around the room, Renee and David began a loudly whispered commentary on the video.

"Oh boo-fucking-hoo..."

"God I get so sick about people whining..."

"Wanna keep your fucking house? Pay the fucking mortgage..."

"God-damned eco-fucks...

Their commentary crashed to halt as images of their dead parents came across the screen. The music, of which they were only vaguely aware of before, switched to one of Mahler's sadder pieces. Then they saw their Grandfather speak on the screen with more emotion and passion then he had ever showed them over their entire lives. As it continued, it changed it changed. They sat mesmerized, as his mea culpa grew inexorably, like a slowly rising tide made of small, gently lapping waves.

His head bowed, both on the screen and in his chair, before he continued in the video, "Now that you have heard my Testament, I hope you can fully appreciate my will. I have been a man of considerable means for a great many years. I have enjoyed them, and I tried to share them with my only daughter and her children.

"I understand now, that I was substituting my money for emotions. I did the same thing with my beloved Viola." He paused to brush back a single tear, "And now that I will soon be with her again, I wanted to see her again in good conscious. So I have liquidated the whole entirety of my assets, with the exception of this house and estate."

Renee and David looked at each other with mutually shared greed. Despite their Grandfather taking a bizarre turn towards the end, they had no doubt of their place. So each began counting the funds in their imaginary trust funds.

"Those funds, just shy of 3 billion dollars, I have dispersed across a wide spectrum of charities."

Renee and David's imaginations jarred to a stop mid fantasy. Their money, their money was gone. Not just gone, but given to the freeloading filth of the world.

"And this estate has been transferred to the State for a much needed rehabilitation center."

Renee's fists clenched as she went pale. She started to rise, but David's hand stopped her. Their Grandfather now looked markedly different. No longer a fragile man of ninety-three, he looked like a vigorous man in his early fifties. "Finally, to my beloved David and Renee, I leave a legacy of self-determination." Renee and David sat speechless, their dreams of easy wealth simply, irrevocably, gone.

The image on the screen flickered with a brief burst of static, and he was once again sitting before them."I do thank you all for coming, and I beg forgiveness from everyone's whose life I have hurt. Would that I could offer more." Chester Holmes looked at the screen in disbelief. This wasn't in the video he had made. Indeed he could've sworn he had turned it off when it flickered back to life. The murmurs, whispers, and even indignant mutterings of Renee and David all ceased in their transfixed silence. "Now, if you all please excuse me, I must leave. I am late for my first date with Viola in thirty-seven years."

With that he rose from the chair, smiled and left the plaid blanket behind as he spryly walked off screen.

The lights came on full and the large, silent audience all gaped at him. He wore a faint smile, most of his wrinkles were gone, and he was very much dead.

06 June 2010

Photowalk: Ships and Trees

A new photowalk is up, Ships and Trees.  It is Rose Festival time in Portland again, and that means Fleet Week.  Saturday was the only day during their stay that there was no rain, so it was a nice excuse to get some pics in.  I also managed to stumble into fulfilling Daily Shoot assignment #202 when I just happened to turn the camera down on the Steel Bridge after shooting the US Navy ships.

05 June 2010

Notes: The Sailing of the Hawaii

Notes: The Sailing of the Hawaii

1400 Words

This was the Fourth time that I wrote this story.  The concept started simply enough, a conversation with a friend dur a game of Axis & Allies War at Sea Miniature game.  What if they remade some of the older battleships?  Use newer materials, but keep a good deal of the original armament.  Since I the coolest mini I have is of the USS Alaska, a US Navy Battlecruiser from WW II, I decided to go with that.  When I researched it I saw there were three ships in the class, the last of which was the USS Hawaii.  Despite never having been completed, she became superfluous with the ending of the war, she would have been a heckuva ship.

So she sailed again in my story yesterday.  I was, I think, trying to do too much.  I had the sinister backstory of the Pentagon types spooking a ship into sailing up the Taedong River and into the very heart of Pyongyang's.  I also had what was happening on the ship itself.  And I had to lay the groundwork for the ship's existence in the first place.  And describe what happened to trick them.  And Explain who did the trick.  A lot.  Not necessarily too much for a 2,500 word Clancyesque short story, but just far and away too much for a Flash.

In trying to keep it to the barest of bones I lost much of those little details that always made the Clancy books so enthralling to me.  So in the end, it wasn't a very good flash, and, it wasn't enough description to acheive what I wanted to achieve anyway.  The fix is to either make it into a larger Short Story, or serialize it.  I kind of like the latter idea best.  Six episodes around 500-700 words would've done quite nicely. 
  1. The ship as seen from the Captain's point of view when the "nuke" detonates.
  2. The Pentagon.  Admiral Hutchinson sees the men and senses that there is something wrong. (It may be superfluous, but I am too enamored of "the world's most exclusive Starbuck's" line to let it go just yet.)
  3. Back to the USS Hawaii. In the finest Clancy tradition they effect their plan.
  4. Admiral Hutchinson confronts the men, and discovers their sinister plan.
  5. The USS Hawaii does what it must, as does the First Officer.  The Captain may not survive, but his ship and crew will.  Demonstrating everything that the Pentagon bastards aren't.
  6. Finally, Admiral Hutchinson is eliminated in, if not fine Clancy fashion, than at least in best of Shakespearean tradition.  And the twist when the men realize the Battlecruiser, and crew, might survive after all.

At least, that's my thoughts.  Any other suggestions?

(BTW, I used Google Maps to look at Pyongyang itself, but didn't bother to look at the head of the river, here.  Note the nice, sturdy sea wall to prevent exactly what the Hawaii did. *sigh*)

04 June 2010

The Sailing of the Hawaii

The Sailing of the Hawaii
©2010 D. Paul Angel

"Report?" asked Captain Barnes, in the privacy of his Ready Room, away from the rest of the CIC crew.

"I saw the flash, too, Captain. It lit up the entire Southern sky. Whatever it was, it was huge," reported Captain Barnes' First Officer Commander Locke.

"The radiation indicators are all pegged, Captain," Said his ship's Doctor Captain Imley. "With the dosage the crew got, I'd say 72 hours before the first symptoms show. Then, maybe another 72 before you'll have about 90% casualties. I'm sorry Captain." She added the latter with more concern for her patients than herself, even though she knew she would share their agony

"Chief?" he asked his Chief Engineer.

"Anything electronic is pretty much lost. Anything mechanical is still working. We lost the FADEC, but the mechanical interlocks engines on line again. Main turrets are working with the original pneumatic and mechanical systems. God bless 70 year old technology, eh? We don't have fire-control worth a shit, sir, but our main batteries can still reach out and touch anything in 30 miles, sir."

"Alright. Chief, Doc, I want you to go ahead and get back to your posts. No one is to speak one word of this. Not one. The electrical systems were burned out by a bus overload fault. It affected the radiation indicators, too. That's all."

"Sir, with all due respect...

"Go ahead Chief."

"Well, sir, in 30 years of the Navy, I've never heard of a, 'bus overload fault.'"

"Good. That's because I just made it up. But no one will tag to it for at least another 8 hours. And believe me, they'll be too busy to think about it. You two are dismissed. Jim, a word."

"Yes sir. Jim, I need you to make sure no one who was on the Bridge with you says anything about the flash. Understood?"

"Yes sir."

"And there's one more thing I'm going to need you to do."

"Of course."

"Don't be too eager, it's going to make you sick."

"Half-caff, grande soy, mocha. No whip," Admiral Ed Hutchinson said to the Barista at the world's most exclusive Starbuck's, deep inside the inner ring of the pentagon. As he took the cup, declining the ubiquitous sleeve, he noticed General Yates in a corner booth with a couple of civilians, laughing. Laughter was a rare enough thing in Pentagon, let alone with a couple of civilians. Yates shushed them as they left.

As a Marine General, Hutchinson was nominally his superior officer, but the vast schism in paperwork made it, ironically enough, more of a theory on paper than in real life. With his instincts twitched, however, Admiral Hutchinson decided that now was as good a time as any to insist. He followed them down the hall into General Yates' office.

He stood outside the door and held his breath for a moment. When more laughing erupted he burst through the door and, in the kind of booming "I am your GOD" voice that can be heard from one of a Battleship to another, demanded with righteous fury to know, "What in the Sam-Fucking Hell is going on?"

The three men stood immediately, and Hutchinson was pleased to see Yates look extremelu uncomfrotable. The man shriveled before him, even though the two civies did not. What in the Sam Hell is going on? he asked himself.

The civie on the left, the scrawny one with the expensive but badly rumpled suit looked over to the one on the right. The one who looked like a used car salesman at a Ferrari lot. They nodded, and the car salesmen type nodded to the professor type.

"I am Dr. Claude Daubert. This is Heinriech Jencks. I am Professor Emeritus at the American University in Psychology. Specifically, battlefield decision making. Mr. Jencks is a, shall we say, purveyor of fine weaponry?"

"Yates? What the Fuck? Yates?"

"Yates!" boomed Admiral Hutchison again as Yates looked anywhere but at him. Yates ran his hands over his head, down his chest, and fingered row after row of combat ribbons he had there.

"It's all I have, Admiral. All I know." He reached into a drawer, pulled out a flask with the Marine Logo on it and drank deeply.

"Admiral, I can explain. Frankly, it involves things well above even you, or likely anyone currently even in the building. If you would General Yates, the feed? It is, I believe, perfect timing"

As Yates typed on his computer, a live satellite feed appeared. At the center was a large ship in a smallish river. Hutchinson recognized it immediately as the Hawaii, his newest ship, and his oldest.

"Rebuilding a World War II Battlecruiser was a stroke of genius, Admiral. It's armor can withstand any of the current anti-ship missiles designed for sinking lightly built ships. Eighty year old mechanical technology which is unfazed by any EMP. She's perfect. And, as it happens, the type of weapons system that Mr. Jencks specializes in."

Hutchinson felt his skin grow cold. The tiny ship on the screen wasn't terribly detailed, but he recognized now that particular river bend, and knew that his ship, HIS Hawaii, was just outside Pyongyang. It should be off the Coast of N Korea, not in it, Godfuckindammit. As he watched, he saw it fire, and saw part of Pyongyang dissappear in a cloud of dust.

The professor looked at the monitor. "Based on the RNK response, I think they got there sooner than expected." He smiled broadly at Mr Jencks.

Dumbfounded Admiral Hutchinson looked at the smug little man. "Talk. Now," he said, already feeling the little man's throat in his hands.

Professor Daubert noticed the threat immediately, and accurately judging its seriousness, spoke. "Admiral, you must realize that America is at her best when she is fighting. Our Golden Ages have all come as a result of massive mobilization efforts. The problem with the Koreas, the Vietnams, and our most recent debacles in the Middle East stem from trying to go to war without decisive consensus. They are not 'Good' wars; like World War II was. So, we had to make one.

"Mr. Jencks built the largest conventional explosive, and General Yates, with many, many like minded officers, deployed it. The Hawaii's systems were sabotaged before she even left port. These stimuli that I carefully crafted and modelled made them believe that the fleet has been wiped out by a RNK nuclear weapon. They are, in their minds, retaliating."

"My God," was all Admiral Hutchinson could muster to say as he fought back nausea.

"Finally, since their radiation sensor was tweaked to show a lethal dose of radiation as well, this is not a mission from which any of them expect to return. In a few moments, when they're guns are either crippled or out of shells, they will scuttle their ship, choosing a quick, valiant death over the suffering agonies of radiation sickness. We have a war, it is righteous, and, when the RNK recovers the Hawaii, we shall have an opponent worth fighting against."

"We're expecting a hell of year Admiral. America is going to return to a Golden Age, General Yates won't be retired, and, well, there's still time to... ah... invest?"

"You set up my ship to start a war with the idea that she'll go down with all her crew and you expect my support? My Help? You sick sons of bitches!

The harsh bang of the forty-five filled the little office. General Yates returned the gun to it's holster, sat down, and took another sip from his flask.

Half a world away the echo of the gunshot reverberated.

Jim Locke stood over his dead Captain. The 9mm in his hand seemed to pull all of his weight with it in his grip. "The Captain sabotaged the ship as part of a plan to start a war." he said numbly. "Pull out immediately and head back to sea. All possible speed. Ensign, remove his body. He may have been a traitor, but he was a good Captain until then. At least afford him that respect."

The crew, stunned after the craziness of the last few hours, went back to the familiarity their stations and duties. It did, unfortunately, explain everything far too well.
"Uh, professor," said General Yates quietly, "What happens if the ship makes it out of North Korea and comes back safely?"