Sword of Ages, Part I

In all my years serving in the Legion, I rarely had to raise my sword in anger. But when I did, the Heavens trembled at the prospect – Immunes Longinus Cratos

The furs that covered his leather armor gave off a musty odor as he walked through the forest at dusk. From a distance, he appeared as any other barbarian that the land would offer up with the exception of his measured stride. The smoke from the chieftain’s cooking fires carried the aroma of freshly killed deer venison and his stomach threatened to betray him as he found a hiding spot near the camp. His brown eyes studied the camp’s design. No guards other than those at the leader’s tent. He shook his head as he sat down in the shadow of a fallen log and checked his dagger and short sword. Once the sun had completely set, he would creep into the camp and complete his task. Tied to his belt was a small leather pouch containing a collection of herbs he had collected along the way and his trusty wine pouch. After praying silently to Mars and Fortuna, he leaned back against the log and waited for the light to dim.

Anglerfish Underway, Part II

Hardy marveled at the island flora and fauna that bordered the road. Perry Island had one paved road that started at the airfield and circled the island in a five-mile bicycle wheel with spokes that converged at an Administrative Hub. A pair of twin hills topped with radar dishes and radio antennas towered behind the Hub.

“The Navy went to some expense building this place.”

Simmons kept his eyes on the road. “Yes, Sir.”

The conversation continued in fits and spurts until the car stopped at the Hub. Hardy retrieved his briefcase in hand and stepped out, the skies gradually filling in with storm clouds. This is not a good omen, he thought as he tucked his sunglasses away in a suit pocket and went inside.

The Hub’s interior reminded him more of a five-star resort hotel lobby than the headquarters building for a naval installation. A four-pointed blue and white star graced the mirrored floor tiles as he walked through the tinted front doors and over to a long desk manned by a man and a woman, dressed immaculately in matching dark blue outfits. He saw no sign of military insignia but under their blazers, he could make out the distinctive bulges that pistol holsters tended to create. Someone went to a lot of trouble, he thought.

Before he could introduce himself, he was handed a small white plastic punch card and directed to an elevator at the end of a long hallway to his right. His footsteps on the brown carpeting shrank in volume as he neared his destination. A small slot flashed green and red on his approach. Inserting the card into the slot hissed open the elevator doors and he stepped inside.

Before he could press a button on the control panel, the car immediately went into free fall, plastering him against the ceiling for an eternity before coming to an abrupt stop and leaving him in a heap upon the floor. The control panel read that he had only traveled two floors down but he didn’t believe that for a second as he wrestled the wrinkles from his clothing and regained his composure. The doors opened onto an organized office and a white-haired man dressed in a dark suit.

“Welcome to Perry Island, Commander.”

Anglerfish Underway

Perry Island was in a zone so restricted that it was listed on maps as a hazard to navigation when it was listed at all. An artificial island built near Andros, it had the distinction of being the only island in the Bahamas no one knew much about. Even the native fishermen knew to steer clear else they would be harassed by ever present patrol boats armed with large caliber machine guns. A blue and white Super Constellation circled lazily over the island’s airfield, her four engines droning a lament at the prospect of leaving the sky.

Lieutenant Commander Michael Hardy finished reading his orders for the twentieth time since leaving Miami and looked out of one of the Connie’s porthole windows. More palm trees and white sandy beaches, he thought as he placed his orders packet in his briefcase. I was on a fast track to one of the new nuclear boats before being hustled on a flight out of the States. A shame too because I was looking forward to meeting Rickover.

A MATS Stewardess stopped to remind him to fasten his seat belt as she made her way to the cockpit. Hardy nodded, clicking the harness in place and stowing his briefcase on the floor between his knees. The deck tilted below his feet and for the briefest of moments, he caught a glimpse of a submarine tied up at one of the piers, its teardrop hull painted a shade of bluish-gray that almost rendered it indistinguishable from the surrounding waters. The submarine banked out of sight and he heard the engines throttle back for landing. The shape reminded him of a Thresher, no Permit, Class boat. The change in class name was still new to everyone in the community, especially since Thresher was considered one of the best boats in the fleet.

The orders specified that he was not to arrive in uniform, so a tan suit and thin tie, white shirt and black dress shoes buffed to a glossy sheen were his uniform of the day. He still had his military ID but to any onlookers, he appeared like any other businessman on a business trip to the Caribbean. He watched the Connie’s landing gear make contact with the runway and the engines put on a burst of power to take the plane to the small terminal building. He collected his gear and waited for the plane to come to a stop.

He put on a pair of dark sunglasses, feeling very much like James Bond, as he stepped down the boarding stairs. He loosened the collar as he walked toward the terminal, the squat building holding up the control tower like Atlas, hoping for some respite from the tropical heat. A gray Oldsmobile Jetfire roared to a stop beside him, its US Navy markings stenciled in letters just dark enough to be seen at close range but not much further. The passenger side window rolled down and a voice called out. “Commander Hardy?”

“I’m Hardy.”

The driver’s door opened and a young man with close-cropped red hair jumped out and headed around to open the passenger door. “Petty Officer Simmons, Sir. Admiral Jennay sent me down to collect you, Sir.”

“Well, it’s about time,” Hardy said, settling in. “I was starting to think that I would have to call the base for a ride.”

Simmons got back behind the wheel and restarted the engine. “Good one, Sir.” He put the car in gear and turned toward the airfield’s exit. A press on the gas pedal and they were on their way.

May Ambitions: Old Storylines

Now that May is upon me, I feel the need to wrap up some old storylines that have been floating around the blog for a while. Most of them were one-offs to experiment with certain story segments that I wanted to practice. Some, however, were intended to go somewhere but for one reason or another didn’t. I’ve gone back and selected three that I will be finishing this month in between Lights and Shadows and the Parallax Sequels:

1) Academy Days: This is the prequel series featuring a younger John Pratt during his time with the United Earth Union Navy Academy. It seemed a shame to only write three episodes so there’s more to come.

2) Dark Ocean: Originally, this was a bit that I did as a free writing exercise that I did in my “Story Time” post and I left it hanging. I don’t like hanging scenes.

3) Leviathan Sleeps: I’ll probably change a bunch of things in it to reflect The Stardivers Storyline that I was fleshing out in my Idea Folder. I might even change the title, but I haven’t decided yet.

The original posts are still archived, but leaving those particular characters in Limbo never sat well with me so it’s off to the races.

The Village

As he approached Saint L’Azaire, he felt a pressure at the back of his skull. He felt no wound back there, only a faint throb that increased as he climbed over hedge rows and crossed fields. Night had passed quickly to early morning and while his muscles ached from exerting himself, he didn’t feel tired.

He stopped at the edge of town and put his hands up in the air as he felt an unseen barrier pushing back against his fingertips. Beyond the barrier, the village appeared as it had when he had last visited so long ago. Was Lucy still there? He reached into his pocket to find her picture missing. Did he lose it during the drop? He rummaged through his gear. All of his things were gone. The Thompson disappeared next, followed by his sidearm, and then slowly everything else save his clothing. The throbbing behind his eyes increased to a crescendo of pain until he dropped to his knees. He staggered backward and fell over backward to the ground. Memories of a bad landing, a firefight with Germans, a Luger muzzle stuck against his ear, and then blackness before reawakening in the tree.

“No way.” He gave up all pretense of stealth and shouted in all directions. “What about my men? I had a duty.”

Silence was his only answer as he sat in the dirt.

A hand touched him on the shoulder. He opened his eyes and looked up, seeing her as he remembered. Long black hair, warm brown eyes, and wearing the bright floral dress on the day they had met. He fell in love with Lucy Pardeu from the first moment he had laid eyes on her.

Lucy smiled down at him as she took his hand in hers.

“You’ve marched for far too long. It is time to go home.”

He allowed himself to be helped up. “This can’t be real, is it?” He turned to see a small granite memorial mere yards away. The writing on the obelisk wasn’t clear enough to read, but even at that distance, he recognized the company logo. “We failed to accomplish the mission. We were separated and the Germans cut us down.” He looked into her eyes. “They’re all buried under that monument?”

She nodded.

“Did our side win?”

She gently pulled him close. “You fought bravely to the end. The Germans made an example of you by hanging your body back in the trees with your parachute. Later, your were reburied with your men.”

“Wait, if I’m dead, then how can you…”

“After you were executed, German soldiers made an example of Saint L’Azaire.”

“Well, shit.” He kicked a rock around for several minutes. “How long?”

“Time has no meaning anymore.” She pointed to a bright light on the horizon. “You’ve walked this path from the tree to here many times over the decades. Your reluctance to accept the truth has kept us apart for far too long.”

He took her hand and they started walking. “Hey, I have a question?”

“We have plenty of time for questions. What is it?”

“If I’ve been haunting those woods all this time, did I get a chance to really scare the bejesus out of anyone in all that time?”

Lucy laughed.

The End

Drop Zone

The stars mocked him as he awoke, his back slapping against the rough bark of the tree that his parachute had caught on during the landing. He looked around as he fumbled for his combat knife. His men were nowhere to be seen. A couple swipes were enough to cut himself free. He checked himself of injuries and thanked a silent God that he found none. It bothered him that such a rough landing would leave him with no scrapes or bruises. The instructors at Camp Toccoa told him to expect at least a bump or two, but even his old football injury uttered nary a peep as he got his legs under him.

“Either I’m lucky or I’m dead,” He muttered as he performed an equipment check in the dark. The musette bag attached to his combat suspenders D-Rings were secure, as well as his dispatch bag. His wrist compass glowed a dull green as he dug out his map and tried to check his position. Saint L’Zaire shouldn’t be more than a few miles from his position. Where was his men? It wasn’t unheard of to get blown off course, but to lose an entire platoon was something he was going to have a hard time living down when he regained contact.

He put the map away and unslung the Thompson. Men or not, his job was to make contact with The Resistance and Virgil McInerney was never late for an appointment. He flicked off the submachine gun’s safety and began walking.