Discussion in 'Civ3 - Multi-Team Demogame II' started by CommandoBob, Apr 4, 2010.
The following four part story takes place during Saber's turn of Turn 294.
Rear Admiral Ambrose "Black Foot" Cheng clutched the binoculars in his hands more tightly. He was not happy. Everyone knew he was not happy. And when he was unhappy he sought solitude up in the crow's nest, where he could scan the horizon with his own binoculars and let his mind race. The crows nest was not manned while at sea and thus was a place of peaceful solitude. Except that for the past week, however, the newly installed radar on the Harry Callahan was on the fritz and the whiz-bang kids had not been able to determine a reason. As a result, lookouts were posted and the Admiral's favorite place of refuge was denied him.
The sudden appearance of several destroyers from Saber two hours ago made things worse.
Although not at war, the movement of Orange fleet from the shores of The Council to the south east coast of Free had warranted a reshuffling of ship assignments. But since the main guns used radar sighting technology, the lack of radar was of considerable concern. With no radar, they had been doing drills the old fashioned way, but the results were not impressive. If Saber got frisky, they would be in a world of hurt. He was wary, but the young captians of the destroyers Sub Xyster, Sub Exposer and Sub Attacker were ready and eager to fight.
Newer ships; younger captains, he thought. I bet they don't have a problem with their radar! Even though the motto of the ship was 'Make my day!' the truth was that the Harry Callahan had seen far too many days. She was one of the first battleships of Free and it was kept afloat only by generations of engineers and fix-it people. Things were so haphazard when she was built, way back then, that she had to go through several budget turns to be offically named. Launched in Turn 219 and not named until Turn 233. Only bureaucrats could take so long to name a ship and think they were moving fast, he thought with disgust.
The Saber destroyers had slowly gained on his ships but otherwise had ignored them. Each group pretended like the other group did not exist, all the while watching them sharply. The movement on the decks of the Orange based destroyers looked normal; no running or other wild behavior. Just sailors doing sailors work under the direction of petty officers.
He was focused on the lead destroyer, which was sending a flurry of signals using the signal flags. Most of the flags and pennants he recognized and absently translated into his own terminolgy, but his skills were rusty. Plus, the meanings of the flags were totally different from navy to navy.
Bet those young whippersnappers on our tin cans never even used a flag before except to wipe their backside! he thought ungraciously. And I hope those REMF's in Freedom Central know what they're doing. We should have been working in units long before now. Idiots in deskville, with that worthless CommandoBob running the entire show. Weak kneed; spineless sack of refuse. I've stepped on better things...
So he stood outside the bridge, somewhat away from the hustle and bustle of running the ship, and not as high as the crows nest, watching the nearby not-enemy with his own pair of binoculars. He was in a foul mood for many reasons and he knew it.
He turned slowly to confront the one who had interupted him. The ensign that had disturbed him was young, nervous and looked ready to wet her pants, he noted dryly.
'Could you repeat that, Ensign?' His voice sounded snappy and he regretted it. She was just the messanger.
'Admiral Cheng, Captain Engles has something he thinks you should see in the Briefing Room.'
'Thank you, Ensign. Tell the captain I will be with him shortly.' He raised the binoculars back up to his eyes.
The ensign nodded, but no move to go away. For about a minute she watched the admiral, waiting.
'Sir, ' began the Ensign.
'The captain was so bold as to suggest that I might escort you to the Briefing Room.'
'Ha!' he snorted. 'Did he now.' He paused and looked at her again. 'What were his exact words?'
The ensign blinked, opened her mouth, took a deep breath and said in a nasally tone, '"You get that old fart down here right away. Find him, wake him up from his nap or book-readin' or whatever it is he's a doin', but get him here and pronto. Now, git!"'
The admiral smiled, the first one in a long time. Yep, he thought, that's the Jack I know. Aloud he said, 'Ensign Duckworth, that is the best Jack Engels impression I've heard yet, but don't you tell him that. Lead the way, I'll follow.'
Not too far away, on the bridge of the Sub Xyster, Captain Babcock Jones studied the technician in front of him. The youngster was nervous and excited at the same time, but he had done his homework and the XO had done right to send him on up.
'We're being jammed, but we're not supposed to know it but you do. Is that right?' he asked the rookie.
'And you confirmed this with the Sub Exposer by blinker lights?'
'We have not been able to raise Harry, Exposer or Attacker. Our diagnostics indicate we are sending fine, 5x5. We have a group of Orange tin cans in the midst of our formation. They have not acknowledged us.'
The captain stared and frowned.
'XO, Battle Stations, quietly, word of mouth only. Any deckside movement will be done starboard side, away from our visitors. Live fire, at my command. Target the closest vermin. You got five minutes.'
'We'll be ready in four, sir,' and the second in command left the bridge.
To the techie he said, 'Good job, sailor. We might make it out of this alive. If we do, you'll get the credit.'
'I'd rather be wrong, sir, than start a war.' This wasn't just a puzzle, like it had been only a few minutes ago and the swabbie was stunned by what solving the puzzle had revealed.
'Yeah, but we both know you're not wrong.'
Before he went inside to begin the trip to the Briefing Room, Admiral Cheng took a final scan of the sea with his binoculars. He paused on the nearest destroyer. Something was wrong, but he couldn't tell what. Ah! he thought, She is turning...why? He continued to eye the Orange ship until she was pointed straight at Harry Callahan. Then he dropped his binoculars and raced into the bridge, grabbing a stanchion for support as he stumbled over the doorsill.
'Sound General Quarters, NOW!' he roared.
He was too late.
Before anyone had time to move, a thunderous crash shook the ship. Men were thrown around and a large firball was visible behind the bridge. Glass shattered and the huge mass of the Harry Callahan rolled to the starboard.
The old admiral was thrown about, too, but kept his grip on the stanchion. As the shp began to right herself, he found the proper control and sounded General Quarters on his own. Like it matters now he said to himself. They got the first hit and we got nothing.
He staggered out to the deck again and gazed aft. Heavy black smoke poured from the ship, but she was making headway. He could see flames and saw men running but heard nothing. Deafened from the explosion he could only watch. The fate of the ship was out of his control.
Remembering the ensign, and that he had not seen her, he looked around. Not on platform...Thrown over?...Fo'ard?...Gotta check. Far more tired than he expected, he made he way to the railing and looked down. There she was, one deck down, with her left leg at an impossible angle. Men and women raced by two decks below, but not one. She was isolated. She's young...maybe only the leg?
He rose from the railing only to be thrown down as another explosion rocked the ship. He fell sideways to the decking and yelped as his head slid into a railing support. The sharp pain and sudden dimmng of his vision coincided with the return of his hearing. As he lay on the deck he noticed that the everpresent and familiar vibration of the engines had stopped. That's bad...sitting duck now.
The noise was tremendous at first, as his mind struggled to identify and catalog the sounds. The roar of flames; alarms of all sorts and the high pitched wail of the wounded. And his own voice cursing his own stupidity and that of his superiors.
Once again he struggeld to his feet, the binoculars bouncing onto his chest, still strapped around his neck. He made his way back to the bridge, looking for someone in charge. No one seemed to be. F-ing bad, need a voice to lead 'em. Even mentally he had to curse in shorthand.
'Admiral Cheng,' said one of the officers, a lieutenant, he saw. The name badge read 'Green' he noted. 'Are you allright?' The officer in question had a worried look and a broken arm. 'You're bleeding...Admiral?'
Bleeding? That would explain the warm wetness on his cheek. It would stop. Or not. It didn't seem to matter at the moment.
'Damage?' he asked hoarsely. He glanced at his watch. Only two minutes had passed.
'Radio is gone, so is radar. Rudder damaged, engines off-line. We can shoot but they're too close. We can't lower our guns to get a bead on them. We've taken several torpdeo hits and the lower decks are flooding,' said Green.
'Haven't seen him at all today, sir.'
'He was in the Briefing Room,' he managed to get out. His head really hurt.
'That is just underneath the radio room, sir.'
'Then he's dead, but send someone to make sure.' Better off dead, he blinked, no more mistakes...to haunt you.
He leaned back against the bulkhead and slowly lowered himself to the deck. Can't lead sittiin' on your butt. Get up! he raged at himself but was powerless to do anything but stay there.
He recognized the voice of Lieutenant Green, but he seemed a long way away. He just wanted to rest. And be still. Somewhere quiet.
An extremely pugnent ordor assualted his nostrils. He roused with a start, his mind clear.
'Great Meleet, what is that stuff?'
'Smelling salts, Admiral. You passed out and we need you. We've bandaged your head to stop the bleeding. As you guessed, the captain is dead.' It was still Lieutenant Green.
'Status report,' he asked as he stuggled to his feet. He saw a cup of coffee and grabbed it. The warmth of the liquid and the bitter blackness of the taste helped him return to normal.
'We've been bombed twice while you were out. We're down three feet at the stern and taking water fast. Engines still out and no power to the pumps. Casualties are unknown at this time.'
'I'm the Office on Deck, sir. The others are...'
'Presumed dead,' finished Cheng.
Green said nothing.
Another explosion tore at the ship. Callahan rolled port and then back to the starboard, but it did not right itself. The ship stayed with a slight list portside.
'No power, no steerage and uncontrolled flooding. Correct?'
'Yes, admiral, but I'm sure -'
'Not now, Lieutenant, not now'. He looked around. Green wasn't the only wounded man in the room.
'I'm assuming command, Lieutenant Green. Do you understand?'
'I have only one order. Abandon ship. Do you understand?'
'Abandon ship. Do you understand?'
'You want to give up on Harry?' It was obvious this thought had not occured to the officer.
'No, Lieutenant Green, I have not,' lied Cheng. 'I am ordering you and the crew of this vessel to abandon ship. Do you understand?'
'Um, yes sir,' replied the confused officer. 'We abandon ship and you..'
'You obey my order Lieutenant and do it now!' Looking around the bridge, Cheng addressed the other officers. 'Abandon ship, on my orders, at this minute!'
The men hesitated.
'That's an order! Do you want to face a court martial for disobeying orders under fire?' Then in a quieter tone he continued, 'Quickly men, leave, while you still have time. It is not your disgrace, it is mine.'
The men shuffled out, all but one.
'Go, Lieutenant Green. Save as many as you can. Your duty is to them now, not to me.'
'Aye, sir.' Clearly distraught, Green left the bridge only to return shortly with a life jacket. He said nothing, but waved it and placed it down on a nearby console and left.
In the emptiness of the bridge, Cheng noticed for the first time the horid odors of hot metal and burnt flesh. A puff of breeze sent some smoke into the bridge. Coughing, the admiral made his way outside to where the air was slightly cleaner. He glanced at his watch once again. All of this in only twenty minutes. And at most, twenty more minutes to go.
He walked to lower side of the ship and raise his binoculars. Through the smoke he saw another plume of smoke in the distance and knew that the Harry Callahan would die among friends. We might even be avenged...not... his mind faltered, not that it makes any difference.
Unbidden, the quote came to mind.
Aloud, Cheng said grimly, 'No. Not lucky today.'
'When will he be done?' asked the Saber ambassador.
'Sir, I do not know. Once he is done you will see him.'
'That is what you said two hours ago.'
'And nothing has changed in the last two hours. He is still occupied,' replied Vinne. He stared at the ambassador. This was not the first time today, or even this week, that they had had this conversation.
'It is late. I will be back tomorrow.'
'And we will be here. Maybe things will change.'
'Yes, maybe. Good night.'
Vinnie watched the man go. He did not know what was so important to bring the man from Saber here every day, all day long, but it had to be bad news. And bad news they did not need. Not the ways things were going.
CommandoBob, leader of the Free, had gone off the deep end.
Over the past several Turns, he had been spending a lot of time with the devil boxes called computers. Vinnie didn't understand how they worked or what they did, only that they sucked the life out of people. He could not understand how otherwise sane and normal people could spend hours on end sitting in front of a modified TV and fancy typewriter keyboard. There was plenty of life outside to be enjoyed, even household chores to be done; many things much more exciting than IMing, whatever that was.
It is like a second childhood. You'd thnk we were taking away his candy when we suggest that he read a book or take a walk or even take a bath! This past month StinkyBob (he had earned that namechange) had been holed up in office down near the capital's power plant. This particular office had once belonged to a corporate big shot and had its own plumbing installed, plus a small kitchen. More importantly, it connected to that Internet thingee. Somehow the leader of the Free had commandeered this place for his own personal needs. When they finally discoverd where their leader had been hiding, the stack of refuse around his chair was three feet high, except for the path to the potty.
Mack had found him that day and was still shaken by the experience. And all because of a game.
'I don't get it,' he had told Vinnie. 'It was some world simultation game he was playing. He was so happy because he had just build Hoover Dam in someplace called Berlin. Ever heard of that place? Berlin? Strange name. And then he kept muttering 'One more turn. Just one more turn.' And then, when he had won that game, he said he submitted it to the Hall of Fame. Just about peed all over himself when it did get accepted.
'I tell ya, he's one sick puppy.
'You know, I could understand it if he was looking at porn. That's manly stuff, sortof. I don't think a real man needs it, I don't, but I can understand some people being curious. But just to spend hours upon hours playing a game? Something is very wrong with this man.'
He known Mack a very long time, and they had been through some nasty times in the fall of Gong. Surviving the firefights of that war, even while losing the overall war, hadn't fazed him at all; they had even laughed at the danger and horrors at the time. But what had happened to CommandoBob has shaken him and that worried Vinnie. Sometimes Mack was too smart for his own good. PrinceMyshkin's last orders surely had not covered mental collapse.
Even good people can do stupid things Vinnie had told him. But Mack still blamed himself.
Vinnie shook his head and rose and walked down the hall of bigshots. Of late, only remake20 had been coming in, but he had more questions than answers. At this hour, even remake20 had gone home. But of course, the office lights were still turned on. It wasn't his money, but that kind of waste irked Vinnie and so he had made it his task to turn the lights off when not needed. The upper brass of Free did not really impress Vinnie all that much.
Vinnie's cell phone buzzed. He glanced at the number and answered it.
'Things just got worse. Palace ICU, but don't hurry. It's that bad.'
'On my way,' said Vinnie and pocketed the phone. His mind raced as he tried to imagine what had just hit the fan. He stopped by a vending machine and got a soft drink and snack. It was expensive, but far better than what was available in ICU.
Mack was in the Palace ICU waiting room with someone is scurbs. When Vinnie entered he motioned both of them into a corner of the room. That simple act told Vinnie a lot. If this was a hush-hush meeting here....
'Okay, Doc, tell us what you know,' said Mack.
'The patient is sedated. He is exhibitiing signs of paranoia and slight schizophrenia and is also mildly delusional. He is not rational and hasn't been for some time. There is no choice but to keep him here, under medical supervision, for the time being.'
'How long are we talking about?' asked Vinnie.
'Weeks, if not months. We'll have to get his body stablizied with some good food. Hosptial food isn't very tasty, I know, but it is more nourshing than Diing-Doongs and Mountain Deew. We'll need to get a shrink involved too, so we can figure out what triggered all this. I'm afraid he is not going to be getting better anytime soon.'
The men said nothing.
'Thanks, Doc. We'll be in touch.'
'The people here know where to find me,' said the doctor, then he rose and left the room.
Once he left, Mack rose. 'Outside,' was all he said, and Vinnie understood. No eavesdroppers outside.
'He had given up a bit on that world simulation game, at least for a little bit,' began Mack as they walked through the corridors. 'I guess he got tired of playing what he called 'Sid's Revenge'. He found another game online. I don't know what he saw in it. It involved shooting bubbles.'
'Yeah, multi-colored bubbles. And the name of this monstrosity was 'Bubble Shooter'. He played it for hours on end. Pathetic.'
They made the rest of trip in silence. It was getting dark outside but the sun had not yet set.
'That is bad,' ventured Vinnie, just to get things started.
'This is worse than bad. No one knows about his condition and we need to keep it that way for as long as we can.'
Vinnie gave his partner a puzzled look. An embarassed Mack explained.
'Over the past few turns, I've, uh, taken it upon myself to keep the empire running,' he said.
'I've been giving orders, telling people what to do and stuff and everyone thinks it's him doing the bossing. But I know it is not, and now you do too.'
'Okay, so, what's the problem. Just keep doing it. No one seems to care or even notice.'
'Yeah, except that things got worse with our Orange buddies.'
'In the last turn, we have lost two nuclear submarines, seven destroyers, two cruisers and the Harry Callahan from Saber attacks. That is what their ambassador wants to discuss with us. We've been able to read some of their mail and we our Navy confirms that they no longer have contact with these ships. Our navy also tells me that everything is fine, this is just a breakdown in communications.'
Vinnie stared into the twilight.
'We're at war with Saber, which they haven't told us about, our leader is in la-la-land from playing some crazy computer game and you've been pretending to be the boss from behind the throne. Is that about it?'
Glumly Mack repsonded. 'Yeah, that's about it.'
Side by side they gazed westward.
Finally Vinnie turned to Mack, put his hands on his shoulders and looked him square in the eyes.
'Well, CommandoBob, what are you going to do?'
Good stuff CB! I knew those Saber guys were evil.
Darn. Whomp has beaten me to the first post.
Evil? Us? Nahhh!
Great reading. Can't wait to see the ending.
very interesting reading ... good job!!!
Separate names with a comma.