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Chairmen of the Border

Discussion in 'Civ3 - Stories & Tales' started by Jeremy 3.0, Jun 24, 2005.

  1. Jeremy 3.0

    Jeremy 3.0 Chieftain

    Joined:
    Mar 5, 2005
    Messages:
    26
    Location:
    Dayton, Ohio
    I was able to access my account here while on vacation but that turned out to be the least of my problems. A sub-56K dial up connection that dropped whenever the hell it felt like it coupled with having to do all my writing in WordPad kept me from adding anything here. I did manage to write several more installments and email them to myself. One of them looks a lot like this…

    Niles stood on the shifting sands of the island's eastern shore and trained his spyglass past the anchored British ships to a spot on the horizon.

    "Are you familiar with that talk about ships powered by wind, Captain?" he asked. Stilton didn't answer, preoccupied as he was with a problem that stood next to them on the beach and happened to be wearing a hat.

    "I'm just doing my job," said Colin the Settler, adjusting the hat. "It's all about regulations, you know?"

    "And here I thought the problem was that you're doing everything but your job," Stilton said. "Professor Nelson here assures me the deposit here is pure saltpeter. We are therefore bound to build a city. Immediately. "

    "That's exactly what I didn't say," Nelson bristled. "All I've said is that the substance in question is definitely not sauerkraut. I make no further conclusions."

    "I think it's fair to say that it’s the genuine article this time unless we're prepared to believe the Germans are saturating the hemisphere with cottage cheese and banana pudding," Stilton said. "So with that in mind, would someone please tell me why we're still standing around waiting for sunstroke instead of founding a bloody city?”

    "I'm trying to work with you, Captain. Really," said Colin. "But the Settler's Union is very clear about what I can and cannot do."

    "Settler's Union? What sort of nonsense is that?" Stilton barked.

    "An organization whose sole charter is to protect the interests of the brave Settlers of the English people," Colin said, more or less quoting the cover of a handbook he had produced from his backpack.

    "And these interests include failure to obey direct orders from armed superiors?" Stilton had begun tapping his sword hilt in an “Oh, was I really doing that, Your Honor?” sort of way.

    "Some of our mills are powered by the wind," Niles said, still watching the ocean. "Don't see why a ship couldn't do the same thing."

    "Maybe if years ago some of you 'armed superiors' had spent more time escorting my fellow Settlers instead of sending us alone into the wild to be wiped out by barbarians and god know what else, we wouldn't be having this argument!" Colin yelled.

    "Is there any chance at all you could have explained your position before we climbed into the ships and rowed all the way here?" Stilton yelled back.

    "It's not like any of you lot could be bothered to tell me where we were going! No, everything had to be top secret, need-to-know, eyes-only nonsense. I'm only the Settler, after all!"

    "Are you sure? From what I've seen you're just a worker with a hat and a union manual," Stilton said. "Look, no one said this mission was going to be a holiday in Canterbury. We've all got a duty around here and yours is to build us a city. So get with the building!"

    "I'm quite sure our contract is strictly for continental cities alone," said Colin. "I suppose an amendment could be granted for projects outside the mainland, but quite a bit of paperwork would need to be drawn up and of course the negotiators would need to be brought in…”

    "Seemed like there was quite a bit of wind on the water when we crossed," Niles continued. "Maybe if you harnessed it with several large bits of cloth."

    "Listen," Stilton said. "Right now Bristol is being defended by a pair of ancient spearmen and a squad of men holding muskets that don't work because the firing powder smells vaguely of cooked cabbage. If we don’t control the saltpeter on this island, we won’t have a chance against the Germans.”

    "Who we are not at war with," Colin said.

    "Yes, yes," Stilton said. "Not yet anyway," he added under his breath. "But in the meantime can we can all agree that it would be nice to have muskets that actually work and don’t invoke memories of bratwurst and dark mustard?"

    "I don't know," Colin said, flipping through his handbook. "Seems like I'm due some sort of additional compensation."

    "Compen...are you mad?"

    "Maybe if you had an array of several tall poles that each held a broad canvas..." Niles mused. Stilton spun in the sand to face him.

    "Is there any particularly reason why you won't let this drop?”

    "Not really," Niles said. "Other than those ships heading our way, I mean."

    Stilton took the spyglass and followed Niles' directions. It took very little time to spot them. Two large ships heading directly their way and making good time.

    "Germans!" he said. "Blast, that's going to complicate things."

    "And they're using sail power," Niles said smugly.

    "Like that's the important factor here," Stilton said, gritting his teeth.

    "Are you sure they're German?" Colin said, peering through the lens of spyglass he had pulled from his backpack. "The flag doesn’t look right.”

    "Yes, they've scratched out their own banner and drawn in a skull and crossbones," Stilton said. He lowered the spyglass and looked at Niles. "That can't be a good sign, eh?"

    "They can attack without fear of reprisal because the ships can't be traced directly to Germany. Clever." Niles said.

    "Signal our ships to unload the spearmen and head out in separate directions. Those German vessels are probably more interested in them than us, at least for now," Stilton said. He may have had more to say but an abrupt and highly localized sandstorm suddenly made additional orders problematic.

    "What in god's name?" he sputtered.

    "I don't have much time!" Colin yelled over the flying sand. "I'm a sitting duck out here until this city is done."

    The shovel in his hands was a blur of metal as the hole he dug widened dramatically before their eyes.

    "Fascinating," Nelson said. "I've never actually seen it done before."

    "The spearmen will be here soon," Niles said, blocking his eyes and mouth from the flying debris as best as he could.

    The buzz saw of work suddenly stopped and for a few seconds there was silence other than sheets of sand hitting the ground all around them. Colin peered over the edge of the hole.

    "I don't suppose anybody has a name for this bloody 'burg yet, do they?”
     
  2. Yellowbelly

    Yellowbelly Chieftain

    Joined:
    Nov 8, 2004
    Messages:
    63
    Jeremy 3.0

    You did say "several" more installments? PLEASE post them: with all due respect to Vanadorn, Coinich, das, Handy and a few others, your thread is the best written - and most literate - of all. It is also one of the most entertaining. I WANT MORE!
     
  3. Jeremy 3.0

    Jeremy 3.0 Chieftain

    Joined:
    Mar 5, 2005
    Messages:
    26
    Location:
    Dayton, Ohio
    Thank you all. I did write several other chapters. The problem is that none of the ones I worked on is the next chapter. Other writers may understand this…

    The German Privateers steered toward…

    The dark waves crashed against the prows of the surging Privateers, which were sent by Germ…

    Onboard a nondescript ship with a Captain and Commander who both happened to be German…

    See, here’s the problem: While technically the two ships lunging toward the British forces on the island are German, you really can’t just go and point a finger and say. “Hey, you’re German!” It defeats the whole purpose. A privateer doesn’t originate, if you will, from any particular country, even if most of them are built well within the confines of the patron nation’s seaport. (Not all of them are, and that will play a fairly important role here very shortly.)

    The whole idea behind a privateer is that it&#8217;s sure as hell not (in this case) German. But we&#8217;re all adults here, so why <mess> with the narrative?


    The noise came from somewhere deep within the bowels of the (German) privateer. It sounded like an oak tree splitting in half followed by an enormous rush of water.

    &#8220;Better have someone tend to that, Commander,&#8221; Captain Mauser said, not taking his eyes off the British boats struggling to row against the island currents.

    &#8220;Very good, sir,&#8221; Commander Reinhart answered. &#8220;Er, any idea how to do that?&#8221;

    Mauser sighed. &#8220;Why not ask one of the Bablyonians? It was their ship long before it was ours. Their Captain&#8217;s standing right over there.&#8221; He pointed toward the stern where a small Babylonian man with very gray hair was swabbing the deck with the wrong end of the mop.

    Reinhart approached him and made a great show of pointing below deck. &#8220;You takee menee&#8230;fixeee holey!&#8221; he shouted in the great tradition of bully nations that believe deep down everyone speaks their language. The key is to speak very slowly and very loudly until the little fellow across the table suddenly opens his eyes wide and says "Oh, okay, boss!" in an ungainly accent.

    The Babylonian man wasn&#8217;t playing by that rule. He looked back at Reinhart with all the comprehension of a mollusk attacking a quadratic equation.

    &#8220;No wantee sinkee!&#8221; Reinhart yelled. The sound of rushing water was getting louder. The Babylonian pushed the mop handle against the deck wood harder than before and smiled a broad, idiotic grin.

    &#8220;No, no, no!&#8221; Reinhart said, snatching the mop away. The Babylonian&#8217;s grin remained in place.

    He was not, in fact, the Babylonian Captain. That man had made a break for it in the original attack and was least seen swimming toward the nearest Babylonian port. The mopless man standing expectantly near Reinhart had been press-ganged into the Babylonian Navy as a teenager and it is a matter of record that his home village politely refused him when the Navy tried to give him back. Eventually he was given the job of guarding a single barrel of biscuits just to keep him out of trouble. Later, another man was assigned to check on him occasionally and if necessary help fish the barrel out of the water. He was thought to be the Captain because the German word for &#8220;leader&#8221; sounds very much like the Babylonian term for "Oh, dear, where did it go this time?"

    The (German) privateer started to list to port. A lot.

    Reinhart looked at Mauser helplessly until a small group of Babylonian men climbed down from the rigging and ducked into the hold, shaking their heads. A lot of sawing and pounding later and the Kluge slowly began to right herself.

    &#8220;Damn Babylonian vessels,&#8221; Mauser said.

    What neither Mauser nor any other nation on the planet yet understood was the dynamic of copy degradation.

    Take a crisp full color laser printed document and run it through a copier. Then take the copy and likewise run it through the copier. Do this enough times and eventually you&#8217;ll have something that looks like it was created by baboons but you can probably sell to the nearest art collector for at least enough money to cover your toner costs.

    The D.N.G.S. (Definitely Not German Ship) Kluge was, until set upon by a (German) privateer, a Babylonian galley. Enough of the galley remained after the attack that the (German) privateer converted her into another privateer. Of course wood and spare parts are in short supply on the open sea and so a number of significant short cuts had to made. This was made worse by the fact that the (German) privateer was herself originally a galley that had been captured on the open sea by (wait for it) yet another former galley.

    The Kluge could float, at least most of the time, and definitely looked like she was made by baboons.

    Reinhart approached Mauser once the Kluge was fully righted and now heading more or less toward the new British city.

    &#8220;We will we be engaging the enemy?&#8221; Reinhart asked.

    &#8220;In this heap?&#8221; Mauser said, turning to officer. &#8220;I&#8217;d like to see home again if that&#8217;s all the same to you. Signal the Plausible Alibi to take on as many of them as she can. Since the Brits have made landfall the Kluge&#8217;s job is to reconnoiter their position.&#8221;

    Reinhart gave his captain a lengthy stare.

    &#8220;That means we&#8217;re to investigate them, Commander,&#8221; said Mauser.

    &#8220;Oh,&#8221; Reinhart said, picking up a hooded lantern. &#8220;That&#8217;s a huge relief.&#8221;
     
  4. Lord_Iggy

    Lord_Iggy Tsesk'ihe

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    :lol: That was a HILARIOUS chapter. Write again soon!
     
  5. Invisible Rhino

    Invisible Rhino Prince

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    Phoenix, AZ
    You'll never know how hard I just laughed when I read that! :)
     
  6. Jeremy 3.0

    Jeremy 3.0 Chieftain

    Joined:
    Mar 5, 2005
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    Location:
    Dayton, Ohio
    The Governor of Colin City smiled graciously at Captain Stilton and Niles the Scout.

    Wait a minute&#8230;Colin City?

    &#8220;My understanding is that the settler in question was under duress at the time of the city&#8217;s founding,&#8221; the Governor said. &#8220;A name was needed as quickly as possible.&#8221;

    &#8220;And that little twit named it after himself?&#8221; Stilton said. &#8220;If he hadn&#8217;t disappeared I&#8217;d have disappeared him myself!&#8221;

    Niles tugged on Stilton&#8217;s sleeve. &#8220;Where did the governor come from, exactly?&#8221; he said. &#8220;And all of these other people, for that matter?&#8221;

    Stilton looked around the town as scores of people arrived at their businesses, made small repairs on their homes, tended groups of farm animals, and generally lived their lives in a perfectly normal way except that they just hadn&#8217;t been there an hour ago.

    The governor pulled at his suspenders and rocked on his heels. &#8220;Oh, I don&#8217;t know. It&#8217;s a fine name, don&#8217;t you think?&#8221;

    &#8220;Perhaps we can revisit this later,&#8221; Stilton said. &#8220;Our primary concern is what to build next.&#8221;

    &#8220;Build, Captain?&#8221; the Governor said. &#8220;I thought perhaps we'd recruit more spearman to help defend the city.&#8221;

    &#8220;We&#8217;ve already got spearmen defending the city!&#8221; Stilton said. &#8220;We came to this island to secure the saltpeter!&#8221;

    &#8220;Nothing wrong with more spearmen,&#8221; the Governor said.

    &#8220;With what the Germans are fielding these days? Are you kidding me?&#8221; Stilton said. &#8220;Anymore a spearman may as well be holding a tiny white flag!&#8221;

    Two spearmen eavesdropping on the conversation looked at each other in horror.

    &#8220;Bloody hell!&#8221; one said to the other.

    &#8220;Oh, like you didn&#8217;t already know that!&#8221; Stilton said.

    The governor wrinkled his forehead in thought. &#8220;Don&#8217;t recall seeing any saltpeter back in the resource box. What&#8217;s it look like?&#8221;

    &#8220;A lot like that pile outside the city limits,&#8221; Stilton said. &#8220;That idiot settler built this place right here on the beach instead of where we needed him to. That&#8217;s why we need a worker to build a road to it.&#8221;

    &#8220;A worker? So soon after we were founded?&#8221; the Governor said. &#8220;I&#8217;m not so sure.&#8221;

    &#8220;No, we need a temple to expand our cultural borders,&#8221; Niles said quickly. &#8220;The saltpeter&#8217;s outside our borders. A worker wouldn&#8217;t be of any help unless he built a colony.&#8221;

    &#8220;How do you know that?&#8221; Stilton asked.

    &#8220;The orange lines only go so far as&#8230;never mind, I&#8217;ll show you later,&#8221; Niles said.

    &#8220;If the goal is the secure saltpeter,&#8221; the Governor began &#8220;wouldn&#8217;t our priority be to construct a harbor to make sure we can get it to the mainland?&#8221;

    Stilton looked at the ground quickly. &#8220;Well&#8230;yes&#8230;I suppose. But if we don&#8217;t make sure to bolster our forces here there won&#8217;t be any saltpeter to ship.&#8221;

    &#8220;So you advocate building a barracks, then?&#8221; the Governor asked.

    &#8220;Well, that might not be a bad idea,&#8221; Stilton said. &#8220;Without a barracks those poor spearmen bastards are going to get creamed.&#8221;

    &#8220;Oh, god,&#8221; a spearman said. &#8220;I think I&#8217;m going to throw up.&#8221;

    &#8220;Stand fast, lad!&#8221; Stilton yelled.

    &#8220;Look, a temple makes the most sense,&#8221; Niles said. &#8220;We have no idea what a worker would run into while building a road to the saltpeter.&#8221;

    Stilton started to add something but came to a crashing halt. &#8220;What the hell do you mean the workers wouldn&#8217;t know what they&#8217;d be running into?&#8221; he said to Niles.

    &#8220;Just that,&#8221; Niles said. &#8220;There&#8217;s no telling what&#8217;s still out there, hiding in the mists as it were.&#8221;

    Stilton gaped at Niles.

    &#8220;Don&#8217;t you know what&#8217;s out there? Aren&#8217;t you the bloody scout?&#8221;

    &#8220;I know where the saltpeter is,&#8221; Niles said defensively. &#8220;That&#8217;s the extent of my job here!&#8221;

    &#8220;Oh, god, don&#8217;t tell me you&#8217;re in a union, too,&#8221; Stilton said. &#8220;Let me guess: The Fraternal Brothers of Scouts and Supply Wagons? Am I close?&#8221;

    &#8220;Now that is completely unfair!&#8221; Niles shouted. &#8220;I have been an integral part of this mission since its inception!&#8221;

    Stilton raised a finger to make a point but was drowned out by a huge cheer, which arose from the people of Colin City.

    &#8220;What? What?&#8221; he said. &#8220;Have we secured the saltpeter?&#8221;

    &#8220;Ah, we&#8217;ve completed the library,&#8221; the Governor said. &#8220;I didn&#8217;t know what else to do so I had them work on building us a nice little place to check out books.&#8221;

    Stilton&#8217;s eyes flew open and his face became a color that if you called it &#8220;red&#8221; you&#8217;d feel like you&#8217;d short-changed the moment. The word &#8220;crimson&#8221; was invented for just such a moment.

    &#8220;How in the hell did you think&#8212;&#8220; he began before Niles cupped a hand on his ear and whispered very quickly.

    &#8220;&#8221;Pardon?&#8221; the Governor asked.

    Stilton&#8217;s breathing was still irregular and a number of veins in his forehead and neck had yet to find home. &#8220;Good job, old chap,&#8221; he managed between breaths. &#8220;A worker now would be good. And no, I&#8217;m not asking.&#8221;
     
  7. Jeremy 3.0

    Jeremy 3.0 Chieftain

    Joined:
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    Messages:
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    Location:
    Dayton, Ohio
    Interlude II

    Ludwig the Assistant Spymaster was the current record holder at his position.

    He had held the job for just shy of six months.

    Prior to that he had done fieldwork in Babylon (sabotaging production), eastern Germany (following British troop movements), and a short stint attempting to steal technology from what turned out to be a minor tribe of barbarians. He lucked out on that last bit, turning around a potential disaster by talking the angered Apaches into joining the Empire. For that he was made Assistant Spymaster.

    It was the worst day of his life.

    The unspoken focus of any Assistant Spymaster's career is to become the actual Spymaster. But unlike a regular job, where experience and hard work bring about promotion, a Spymaster is unfailingly appointed via the unfortunate and highly-suspicious demise of his predecessor.

    The words "natural causes" rarely turn up in a Spymaster's obituary. Spymaster's tend to be a jumpy lot, with dark circles under their eyes and the tendency to cook their own food under an assumed kitchen.

    When his own underlings began pressuring him to "advance his careeer," Ludwig started to wonder which of them would later show up in his bedroom at midnight with a box of tarantulas.

    Then fate and irony decided to double date and provide Ludwig an unexpected opportunity.

    The Spymaster, a remarkably paranoid man with so many false identities that he had long ago forgotten his actual name, forgot also which of the goblets on his dinner table was the one he had laced with blowfish poison. The Babylonian visitor commented on the wine's lovely bouquet. The Spymaster gurgled and sputtered...

    Ludwig, fearing that his dreaded promotion was upon him, rushed to the Spymaster's manor and found his superior in a deep coma and surrounded by guards who were quickly discovering just how negotiable their loyalties could be. They expressed their concern for the Spymaster's health, wished for him a speedy recovery, and apologized profusely to Ludwig that they all had to take a coffee break and the exact same time that a shiny new dagger had appeared on the bedstand.

    Ludwig locked the bedroom door and drew the curtains closed. The Spymaster's chest rose and fell, struggling for air. Ludwig approached the bedside.

    He picked up the dagger.

    And he looked at the Spymaster.

    He looked at the dagger, gleaming in the light.

    And tucked it in his belt.

    And then he summoned guards loyal to him and ordered the Spymaster&#8217;s quarters sealed off.

    And afterward he decided to go about his business as if nothing had happened. And part of that was planning for nearly every possible contingency: A sudden assault by the English, the destruction of the Hamburg city walls due to natural disaster, the discovery of a vast network of carpenter ants within the city. Even the immediate depletion of the Hamburg's Saltpeter. (A tricky problem, the solution for which involved carving a large number of muskets out of wood while concealed men yelled &#8220;Boom&#8221; into their cupped hands.)

    But even an Assistant Spymaster can&#8217;t prepare for everything.

    &#8220;My god, Ludwig, do you wear that shirt in public?&#8221;

    &#8220;Hello mother,&#8221; Ludwig said, noting with some dread the amount of luggage stacked on his front porch. His tongue automatically went for the suicide capsule embedded in his gums.

    &#8220;Are you too embarrassed to hug your mother?&#8221;

    &#8220;Of course not&#8230;gurk!&#8221; Ludwig managed before becoming engulfed in taffeta and sweet powdery perfume.

    &#8220;Why do you put me through so much?&#8221; his mother wailed through the yards of fabric.

    Ludwig began to answer but was grabbed by two meaty hands and thrust forward.

    "You're avoiding me, aren't you? That's it, isn't it? Here I am your poor widowed mother, left to rattle around in the house on the other side of the country..."

    "But moth..."

    And speaking of that, do you have any idea how long it took to get here?&#8221; she bellowed. &#8220;And the roads&#8230;don&#8217;t get me started!&#8221;

    &#8220;This isn&#8217;t exactly downtown Berlin, mother,&#8221; Ludwig gasped. &#8220;The barbarians sometimes like to dig up the roads. I mean, if they didn&#8217;t, they wouldn&#8217;t really be barbarians, would they?&#8221;

    &#8220;Would it kill you to write me now and then,&#8221; his mother continued, unhearing. &#8220;Do you even own some nice stationery?&#8221;

    &#8220;Sure. I&#8217;ve got the kind that dissolves immediately in water, the kind that accepts invisible ink, the kind that vanishes instantly in flame, and the kind saturated with contact poison. What&#8217;s your preference?&#8221;

    &#8220;You and your toys,&#8221; his mother said, shaking her head.

    &#8220;I would think you all people would understand my duties,&#8221; Ludwig said.

    &#8220;Duties? Duties? You duty is to your mother , Ludwig!&#8221;

    Ludwig disengaged himself from his mother&#8217;s grasp and stepped back. &#8220;Did you say the same thing to dad when he was still alive?&#8221;

    He may as well have hit her with a baton.

    &#8220;Your father,&#8221; she said reverently &#8220;was the Spymaster!&#8221;

    &#8220;And I&#8217;m the Assistant Spymaster!&#8221;

    "Oh," she said. "I suppose that counts for something."

    Ludwig crossed his arms. &#8220;Mother, do you remember how long dad was Spymaster?&#8221;

    &#8220;Well, I&#8217;m sure I couldn&#8217;t provide an exact figure&#8230;&#8221;

    &#8220;Sixteen days!&#8221; Ludwig said, leaving an epic pause between the six and the teen. &#8220;Sixteen days. And then one morning he was found stabbed, bludgeoned, poisoned, bitten, and hacked apart by something we still haven't identified. The funeral director gave us a deal on the service on account of there being so little of him left to bury.&#8221;

    &#8220;God rest his soul,&#8221; his mother said, clutching her hands to her chest. "Now there was a man who understood the duty of his position."

    "If by duty you mean getting killed then I suspect if he didn't understand before, the lesson was fairly well drummed into his head when it was all said and done."

    "So now you're mocking me is it? Your poor old mother comes all this way for her layabout son to mock her. I'll be the envy of the garden club."

    "Layabout?&#8221; Ludwig said. &#8220;Mother, have you ever stopped to think about what I&#8217;m doing here?&#8221;

    &#8220;It&#8217;s all I ever think about,&#8221; his mother sobbed. &#8220;Each day is another black mark on our family name!&#8221;

    Ludwig took his mother by the shoulders and escorted her into his foyer, thinking that with any luck the local hoodlums would make off with her luggage. He sat her in the nearest plush but not irreplaceable chair he could find and knelt beside her.

    &#8220;Mother, the Spymaster is in a deep coma,&#8221; he began.

    &#8220;Which you had nothing to do with,&#8221; she sniffed.

    &#8220;That&#8217;s right,&#8221; Ludwig said, ignoring her disdain. &#8220;And while he&#8217;s bedridden, I&#8217;ve nominally in charge of spy activities until such time as he is able to regain his faculties.&#8221;

    His mother dabbed her eyes with a kerchief and shook her head. &#8220;Yes, yes, and it&#8217;s my great shame that you won&#8217;t finish him off.&#8221;

    &#8220;Listen, mother,&#8221; Ludwig said. &#8220;While agents from every corner are trying to kill the Spymaster, I continue to do his work.&#8221;

    He lowered his voice and leaned forward. &#8220;Do I have to speak in Italics here?&#8221;

    She began to respond but stopped herself long enough to absorb what he said.

    &#8220;So&#8230;what you&#8217;re saying is that you&#8217;re acting as Spymaster until the real Spymaster gets better but in the meantime all the other spies are doing things to try and finish him off?&#8221; she asked.

    &#8220;And they can&#8217;t get to him because he&#8217;s being watched by my closest guards,&#8221; he finished. &#8220;Get it?&#8221;

    &#8220;Oh&#8230;&#8221; she said, starting to smile. &#8220;Oh my little baby is daddy&#8217;s boy after all!&#8221;

    &#8220;Mom!&#8221;

    &#8220;Oh, no, your daddy would be so proud of you!&#8221; she exclaimed. &#8220;You&#8217;re so smart and&#8230;yes! Devious! That&#8217;s the word!&#8221;

    &#8220;We&#8217;ll have to keep that down, mother,&#8221; Ludwig said. &#8220;We can&#8217;t let the help know how tricky we are. Okay?&#8221;

    His mother stopped cooing long enough to bring a finger to her mouth. &#8220;My lips are sealed, tee hee!&#8221; she said. &#8220;Now, I need to send for more luggage.&#8221;

    &#8220;What?&#8221; Ludwig cried. &#8220;You&#8217;ve got eighteen cases on the porch!&#8221;

    &#8220;Yes, but with all this pressure on my baby I&#8217;ve just got to spend extra time with you!&#8221;

    &#8220;I assure you that I&#8217;m perfectly&#8230;&#8221;

    &#8220;Are you seeing anyone these days?&#8221; she asked. &#8220;You aren&#8217;t getting any younger, you know. And why aren&#8217;t you trying to mask that bald spot? Some spy you are! Tee hee!&#8221;

    Ludwig nodded at his mother. Once again his tongue rubbed against the suicide capsule.
     
  8. soul_warrior

    soul_warrior Termite!

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  9. thisispete

    thisispete The Man Who Would Be King

    Joined:
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    Location:
    Dunedin, New Zealand
    This is a great story. Reminds of of the style of Terry Pratchett.
     
  10. Jeremy 3.0

    Jeremy 3.0 Chieftain

    Joined:
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    Dayton, Ohio
    You are officially my favorite human being on the planet.
     
  11. Lord_Iggy

    Lord_Iggy Tsesk'ihe

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    It's also reminiscent of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

    I am not sucking up.
     
  12. thisispete

    thisispete The Man Who Would Be King

    Joined:
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    Thanks, but it really is that good.
     
  13. Yellowbelly

    Yellowbelly Chieftain

    Joined:
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    Jeremy 3.0

    Thank you for these pieces, and for acceeding to my intemperate demands! I am heartily with thisispete and Lord Iggy in their (our) admiration of your work. Adnd don't concern yopurself with comparisons with other writers (like Neil Gaiman, for example, IMHO): just keep writing like Jeremy 3.0.
     
  14. tR1cKy

    tR1cKy taking over the world

    Joined:
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    Hi Jeremy! Glad to see another excellent story by yours... hope it will go on for a while, it's really hilarious! And also very well written BTW.
     
  15. Jeremy 3.0

    Jeremy 3.0 Chieftain

    Joined:
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    Location:
    Dayton, Ohio
    The sign on the desk read &#8220;Assistant Spymaster,&#8221; with the word &#8220;Assistant&#8221; in bold, underlined, italics that had nearly blinded the man who had carved it.

    Ludwig was very specific about his title. Head Spymasters had a bad habit of catching blowgun darts dipped in cobra venom. All Ludwig had managed to catch today was a naval commander dripping water all over a very fine looking rug.

    &#8220;Was your carpet expensive?&#8221; Reinhart asked, pointing down.

    &#8220;It&#8217;s a fifth century Semature rug and it&#8217;s priceless. But my fault. I have a replica but it&#8217;s out for cleaning,&#8221; Ludwig said. &#8220;You don&#8217;t want to know what they were cleaning off of it,&#8221; he added to himself.

    &#8220;Is it raining outside, Commander?&#8221; he asked instead.

    &#8216;Uh, not exactly,&#8221; Reinhart said. &#8220;On the way back here to Hamburg the Kluge had a very slight&#8230;sinking problem.&#8221;

    &#8220;Oh, my,&#8221; Ludwig said. &#8220;I do hope everyone is well.&#8221;

    &#8220;Yes, sir. We were fortunate enough to sink in the harbor here,&#8221; Reinhart said. &#8220;But of course we&#8217;ve now got a whole bunch of Babylonians crewmen to deal with.&#8221;

    &#8220;Deal with?&#8221; Ludwig asked, leaning forward in his chair. &#8220;I don&#8217;t follow.&#8221;

    Reinhart wiped water from his vision. &#8220;You know, sir, the prisoners from when we captured the Kluge ?&#8221;

    &#8220;Are you speaking of the Babylonian nationals who were recently liberated when their pirate captors and ship went down as they tried to attack Hamburg?&#8221; Ludwig asked very slowly.

    Reinhart&#8217;s mouth opened and closed as a mass of thought smashed around in his mind like a flock of inattentive birds encountering a very clear window.

    &#8220;I believe you&#8217;ve got a firm grip on it, sir,&#8221; he said with wide eyes. &#8220;And of course earlier when I said &#8220;deal with&#8221; those Babylonian nationals, I of course meant getting them some blankets and soup as quickly as possible.&#8221;

    &#8220;Yes, well, nothing too extravagant. This is still the frontier and Berlin&#8217;s not exactly throwing gold our way.&#8221;

    &#8220;Of course,&#8221; Reinhart said.

    &#8220;Now, tell me about the Brits,&#8221; Ludwig said.

    &#8220;The Brits,&#8221; Reinhart began &#8220;wasted no time building a city on the island.&#8221;

    &#8220;I was afraid of that. We wasted too much time getting you and the Reasonable Doubt to sea.&#8221;

    &#8220;Actually, sir, we sailed with the Plausible Alibi,&#8221; Reinhart said. &#8220;She was in pursuit of the little British rowboats last we saw her.&#8221;

    Ludwig stood up to consult a map tacked on the wall behind him. &#8220;Oh yes,&#8221; he said, pointing to a small flag marked &#8216;fishing vessels.&#8217; &#8220;The Reasonable Doubt is on patrol north of here.&#8221;

    He turned back to Reinhart. &#8220;And what about this British city? What was so important out there? Fresh fruit? Silks? The view from the beach?&#8221;

    Reinhart shifted uncomfortably. &#8220;We seem to have one of those good news, bad news situations, sir.&#8221;

    &#8220;Aren&#8217;t they all?&#8221; Ludwig mused.

    &#8220;The good news,&#8221; Reinhart said. &#8220;Is that they didn&#8217;t build their city directly on the saltpeter. The bad news is&#8230;&#8221;

    &#8220;I think I&#8217;ve got a handle on the bad news, Commander,&#8221; Ludwig said, sitting back down. &#8220;And it&#8217;s very bad news indeed. Unless...&#8221;

    He looked up sharply. &#8220;I don&#8217;t suppose you were close enough to smell the saltpeter, were you? Catch a whiff of cooked cabbage. Perhaps a sort of&#8230;vinegary odor about it?&#8221;

    &#8220;Sir?&#8221;

    &#8220;Nothing,&#8221; Ludwig said, staring out his window. &#8220;Just a long shot.&#8221;

    &#8220;I guess we could have looked a little closer,&#8221; Reinhart said. &#8220;The city&#8217;s pretty far away from it.&#8221;

    Ludwig halted mid-thought and leveled his vision at Reinhart.

    &#8220;How far away, Commander?&#8221;

    &#8220;Pretty far,&#8221; Reinhart said, suddenly aware again of how much water was still dripping from him. &#8220;You could probably wedge a city between it and the British town if you didn&#8217;t mind being a little crowded.&#8221;

    The Assistant Spymaster held his gaze on Reinhart a few uncomfortable seconds before pulling out a desk drawer.

    &#8220;Are you absolutely sure?&#8221; he said, dipping a quill in ink and attacking a piece of paper with it.

    &#8220;Yes, absolutely!&#8221; Reinhart said. &#8220;What do you think it means?&#8221;

    &#8220;I think it means that we have an opportunity to turn a problem in to&#8230;a much reduced problem,&#8221; Ludwig said. &#8220;But if I&#8217;m going to sign the request I&#8217;ve just drawn up and pass it along to the governor, I&#8217;m going to need your assurance of the facts.&#8221;

    Reinhart blinked as a few stray water droplets fell from his hair. &#8220;They are as you know them to be, sir,&#8221; he said.

    &#8220;Wonderful,&#8221; Ludwig said. &#8220;Then I appreciate your time. Now please, go dry yourself off.&#8221;

    Reinhart nodded and was halfway out the door when he stopped.

    &#8220;Oh, and sir?&#8221; he said.

    &#8220;Yes?&#8221; Ludwig asked, looking up from the paperwork.

    &#8220;My compliments to the coastal gun crew here. The Kluge never had a chance.&#8221;

    Ludwig cocked his head. &#8220;How&#8217;s that?&#8221;

    &#8220;You know, the coastal fortress? I mean, the Kluge was about half swamped anyway but those men didn&#8217;t waste any time. No warning shots across the bow or any of that nonsense.&#8221;

    &#8220;You mean our own coastal fortress sank your ship?&#8221;

    &#8220;One shot, too,&#8221; Reinhart said, shaking his head. &#8220;All the lads were impressed. Leastways the ones who speak German, which would just be Captain Mauser and myself, of course.&#8221;

    &#8220;Commander,&#8221; Ludwig said, feeling like he had joined that flock of inattentive birds. &#8221;Can you explain to me why our own men fired upon you?&#8221;

    &#8220;They said it was on account of the flag,&#8221; Reinhart said. &#8220;Apparently the skull and cross bones on the German flag confused them

    Ludwig&#8217;s own confusion took a left turn into much deeper territory. &#8220;You drew a skull and&#8230;but isn&#8217;t the Babylonian flag already a skull and cross bones?&#8221; he asked.

    &#8220;Yeah, I read somewhere that the discovery of ceremonial burial really touched them,&#8221; Reinhart said. &#8220;But you can&#8217;t expect us to operate under the flag of an enemy nation, right?

    Afterward, Ludwig watched the ink dry on his requisition. He would have to ask the governor directly for this one, and he&#8217;d probably have to do it nicely.

    He hated nicely.

    He gave a curt &#8220;Enter&#8221; when the knock at his door came shortly afterward. An underling stepped into the office but stopped at the squishing noise under foot.

    &#8220;Uh, sir, there&#8217;s a man here from the cleaners. Says he&#8217;s got a carpet or something to deliver.&#8221;

    &#8220;It&#8217;s a copy of a fifth century Semature rug,&#8221; Ludwig said. &#8220;Send him up.&#8221;

    &#8220;Right away, sir.&#8221;

    &#8220;Oh, and one other thing,&#8221; Ludwig said.

    &#8220;Yes, sir?&#8221;

    &#8220;If someone holding a blowgun asks for me, send them right on up as well.&#8221;
     
  16. Jeremy 3.0

    Jeremy 3.0 Chieftain

    Joined:
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    Messages:
    26
    Location:
    Dayton, Ohio
    Thanks, everyone.

    I plotted out the rest of the story this morning and right now I've got four more installments plus an epilogue before it&#8217;s done. There&#8217;s some fierce landscaping looking at me for tomorrow night but I can probably get the next chapter out soon.
     
  17. Lord_Iggy

    Lord_Iggy Tsesk'ihe

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    Location:
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    I'm eagerly awaiting it.
     
  18. Jeremy 3.0

    Jeremy 3.0 Chieftain

    Joined:
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    Location:
    Dayton, Ohio
    The orange line stretched through the field of grass and disappeared into the horizon. It passed unscathed through stone and wood and, as we&#8217;ll soon see, a swordsman&#8217;s foot.

    If you looked closely enough, you would see the line brighten and dim very, very faintly, giving a suggestion of movement, like the steady purr of a reclining jungle cat.

    It was very hard not to think of it as a living thing.

    &#8220;Has this always been here?&#8221; Captain Stilton asked, passing his boot through the light. The warming sensation he felt was so slight that he thought possibly that he&#8217;d imagined it.

    &#8220;Ever since we built Colin City, yes,&#8221; said Niles. &#8220;It&#8217;s a little easier to see here in the evening, but not much. Did you notice it&#8217;s expanding?&#8221;

    Stilton crouched closer and reached a tentative finger toward the line. &#8220;I think you&#8217;re right. It&#8217;s moving in a broad path toward the jungle there.&#8221;

    &#8220;Toward the saltpeter ,&#8221; Niles said. &#8220;It&#8217;s the library that&#8217;s doing it, just like I told you earlier.&#8221;

    &#8220;I was getting ready to ask you where you think it comes from but on second thought I&#8217;m not sure I really want to know,&#8221; Stilton said.

    &#8220;I&#8217;ve got a number of theories,&#8221; Niles said, picking up his gear. &#8220;Perhaps we can go back to town and discuss them. And I hear there's a poetry reading at the library..."

    &#8220;Nice try,&#8221; Stilton sad. &#8220;But I think you&#8217;ve got some scouting to do, eh?&#8221;

    &#8220;You know, this is completely unfair,&#8221; Niles said. &#8220;I did my part on the mainland. Now you want me crawling around out here with god only knows what lurking in the bush?&#8221;

    &#8220;It&#8217;s only an island. You&#8217;ll be back in a couple days,&#8221; Stilton said. &#8220;A month at the most.&#8221;

    &#8220;A month?&#8221;

    &#8220;At the most,&#8221; Stilton said. &#8220;How am I supposed to know for sure until you&#8217;ve mapped the bloody thing?&#8221;

    &#8220;You know, the settlers have it right. Organize! Unionize! I&#8217;ll have to look into that when I&#8217;m off this glorified sandbar!&#8221;

    &#8220;I&#8217;m all for it,&#8221; Stilton said, smiling. &#8220;Just as soon as you&#8217;re done here.&#8221;

    &#8220;Fine,&#8221; Niles snapped. &#8220;At least let me borrow your sword.&#8221;

    &#8220;Are you mad? What would you do with it?&#8221;

    &#8220;What would I&#8230;? Defend myself of course! Do you have any idea what dangers might be out there?&#8221;

    &#8220;Not a clue,&#8221; Stilton said. &#8220;Seems like that&#8217;s one of the reasons we&#8217;re sending a man out there to scout. Can&#8217;t seem to recall his name now&#8230;&#8221;

    &#8220;So it&#8217;s going to be that way, is it?&#8221; Niles said. &#8220;Sending out an unarmed man?&#8221;

    &#8220;Why not? I&#8217;ve always assumed that the only reason you&#8217;ve never ended up turning on a barbarian roasting spit is because they take one look and can&#8217;t help but feel sorry for you.&#8221;

    Niles hoisted his pack over a shoulder. &#8220;I mean it. As soon as I come back, I&#8217;m starting up the Eternal Righteous Brotherhood of Scouts and Oppressed Utility Units. I&#8217;ll be propping my feet up in front of a nice fire while someone in London mails me a check every two weeks.&#8221;

    &#8220;I&#8217;ll be your first dues paying member,&#8221; Stilton said, extending a hand. &#8220;Assuming you&#8217;ll accept an oppressive old swordsman in your ranks.&#8221;

    Niles shook the Captain&#8217;s hand after a moment and, with a final look at the lights of Colin City in the distance, headed toward the unknown.


    Not very far away, a man accustomed to constantly avoiding danger found himself slouched against the railing of a ship and wishing quite forcefully for his own death.

    &#8220;How we doin&#8217;, lad?&#8221; asked a raspy but not unkind voice.

    &#8220;I have discovered,&#8221; the man said slowly,&#8221; that the contents of my stomach are not quite as interesting empirically as they might have been academically.&#8221;

    &#8220;How&#8217;s that?&#8221;

    &#8220;What I said was, when are we getting off this ******* ship?&#8221;

    &#8220;Well now let&#8217;s see,&#8221; the raspy voice said. &#8220;It&#8217;s going to be a bit of a trial finding the specific area we&#8217;re wantin&#8217; what with the night fallin&#8217; an everything.&#8221;

    &#8220;I see. Could I perhaps offer you some sort of monetary incentive to dash us all against the rocks?&#8221;

    &#8220;Our cook&#8217;s got a sure cure for seasickness. You want me to call &#8216;em?&#8221;

    &#8220;Considering that it was his cuisine that put me here to begin with?&#8221; the man said. &#8220;On the other hand, perhaps that will be enough to finish me off.&#8221;

    &#8220;That&#8217;s the spirit!&#8221; said the raspy voice. &#8220;Someone send up some of the cook&#8217;s special brew for the Spymaster!&#8221;

    &#8220;Assistant Spymaster. Assis&#8230;ohhh.&#8220; The man leaned over the railing again. &#8220;Change that, tell them it&#8217;s for the Spymaster,&#8221; he said, straightening up. &#8220;In fact, tell everyone it&#8217;s for the Spymaster.&#8221;


    &#8220;Bloody fascist!*&#8221; Niles said once he was well out of earshot. &#8220;Wouldn&#8217;t even give me his sword. Like I wouldn&#8217;t know how to use it or anything!&#8221;

    He tramped through the jungle, ducking vines and stepping over plant fronds larger than any others he&#8217;d ever seen.

    &#8220;I mean, of course I don&#8217;t know how, but that&#8217;s not the point! A man goes on a suicide mission and asks for one little thing and then you&#8230;you deny him?&#8221;

    Niles stopped a readjusted his pack. The air was growing thick with humidity and, increasingly larger and more persistent insects. The terrain was getting rougher as well, constantly reminding Niles that he was no longer on the mainland.

    &#8220;Not that this is actually a suicide mission,&#8221; Niles said. &#8220;But it could be. Hey, maybe it will be. That&#8217;ll show him.&#8221;

    Niles continued through the dark, mumbling to himself, swatting at bugs, and, very soon, hiding behind a tree at the sound of strange voices.

    *With Fascism having yet to be discovered by the English, Niles is actually referring to a Pictish word he once encountered that means roughly &#8220;Jerk who won&#8217;t let me borrow his sword.&#8221; The Picts are very particular with their insults. And their swords, as it turns out.
     
  19. shumble

    shumble Emperor

    Joined:
    Jun 7, 2005
    Messages:
    146
    Comical explanation of what Fascist means here. I liked it.

    I really love the visible orange and blue lines that the people can see on the ground in front of them.

    This is a great story.
     
  20. DAv2003

    DAv2003 Prince

    Joined:
    Dec 31, 2004
    Messages:
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    Location:
    England
    Thisispete was right. This is very Pratchett-esque in delivery. Which makes it all the better.
     

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