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This is a story I'm in the process of writing, so I would like some creative feedback and criticism. Hell, push the boat out and say where you would improve things.
The cruel wind whipped across the overcast bay, causing the peaks of waves to morph to foam as they rolled steadily towards the piers and buoys to which low, dark shapes were tethered. Rain droplets too were sucked into this maelstrom, being carried as they fell from black clouds above to the surface below, beating the sea into a froth as the projectiles impacted. On one low headland an officer, his watch barely showing beneath the cuff of his greatcoat, shivered before turning back to the black staff car as its headlamps illuminated the scattering droplets in its powerful beams.
The officer hurriedly swung the door open; eager to get out of the driving cold that seemingly penetrated him to the core. Just as quickly he slammed it shut; using one hand to wipe away the drops that had been blown into his face by the driving wind.
"Onto the base, sir?" asked the driver ,disinterestedly. The officer regarded him for a moment. Just thought of him as another piece of cargo to be delivered, and then back off to the depot. To some girl. Rain blattered on the windscreen before it was swept aside by the wipers.
"Yes, carry on," sighed the officer, before turning his dark eyes to the window beside him once more. Gravel scrunched beneath the cars tyres as it moved off down the twisting road around the side of the bay to the naval base at its apex. The officer moved his eyes slowly over the dark grey shapes as they sat low down in the water, some rolling fitfully as they were tied to buoys in the cross current of the harbour, others securely fastened to piers and jetties, surrounded by huddled figures scuttling quickly against the ravaging gusts that threatened to knock them off their feet to the cold, wet concrete of the pier. Rusting gantries towered high above the ships as they sat brooding in angry water, wind whistling around their corroded angular iron structures.
Eventually the car ground to a halt near some squat concrete buildings, scarcely illuminated by the rapidly diminishing daylight, some way from the ships on the pier. The guardsmen on duty at the sentry post had barely bothered to move their arms to slap their rifle butts in salute as he was driven past. Apparently, the dreary atmosphere of the place, like the wind, cut straight through and lodged into your inner being. As he stepped out into the biting chill, the officer quickly turned his greatcoat collar upward, preventing the cold rasp across his neck, before he started the walk to the doors of the low building, this naval bases' head office. Behind him he heard some ratings fitfully cursing as they struggled to remove his cases from the boot of the car before they lost their caps in the blowing gale. He placed his hand on the oak panelling of the solid door and pushed firmly against the old brass hinges, stepping forward into another world.
Outside he could see his breath form clouds in the precious milliseconds before the wind snatched it from his vision, but in here he could feel the heat flowing back into his body. A blue-clad officer approached him quickly, his heels clicking with a vast echo that reverberated around the hall. The officer's eyes flicked for a second to the two gold rings about the officers cuff. The approaching one did likewise at his, noting the extra one. "Commander Haines? The Commodore will see you now." Haines nodded slowly and followed the lieutenant as he spun on his heel, leaving a small twist of rubber on the otherwise pristine shiny floor. Morosely, Haines strode after him, his long legs swinging like a pendulum weight with a precisely measured period.
A door materialised at the end of a busy office, teletype machines clattering away in discordant harmony as the many clicks became one rhythmic pulsing beat while information was being converted from one medium to another and sent on its way. In the centre of the room a six-foot Imperial Eagle spread its wings across the wall, with an attendant priest buffing it industriously with a rag till it virtually glowed with cleanliness. The lieutenant reached for the polished brass handle and opened the door to one side, smiling smugly at Haines as he stepped into the harshly lit office. The door clicked shut behind him as Haines stepped forward and took off his peaked cap, waiting for the commodore behind his desk to finish his phone call. The Lieutenant melted into the background of the room by the door.
"....don't give a damn, I want that bloody shipment here in the next three days or you will find yourself at the end of a very long chain on account of being used as an anchor for my personal flagship!" the receiver was slammed down with such force that it caused the pens on the mahogany desk to jump and rattle. Tactfully, Haines pretended not to notice.
"You sent for me, sir?"
The commodore now only just seemed to recognise the fact there was more than one person in the room, his eyes widening in recognition before taking to his feet and proffering an overly large hand in greeting. "Haines! Do take a seat, why don't you?"
As Haines descended into the upholstery, the Commodore, Kemp, shuffled through a couple of papers on his desk. The rain from outside rattled against the window. Kemp raised his head to face Haines, his milky blue eyes seeking out Haines' penetrating hazel ones. "As you know;" spoke Kemp, "two days ago the Praetor of the western continent was assassinated by a person or persons unknown, leaving a power vacuum to be filled to restore law and order to the people who upon hearing the news broke into riots continent-wide."
Haines nodded, remembering the vid-pict broadcast the night before in his hotel room nearby, watching the results of the assassination. The combined chiefs of services on the western continent had immediately declared that they were the new rulers of the continent before they too in short order had been assassinated, although this time the leaders of the dissident faction were clear, they were in the military themselves. In short, a coup.
Kemp lightly tossed a sealed brown envelope into Haines' lap. "You are to take command of the heavy cruiser Sebastian Thor immediately. She's a new ship, and by the Emperor, she is formidable! Good turn of speed, devastating anti ship and air armament, you'll be damn near unstoppable!"
Haines let this hang in the air for a few precious seconds, listening to the steady drum of rain on the roof and took a brief intense interest in the swirls of colour on the carpet, before tearing the envelope open and scanning the paper folds cradled loosely in his hands. "Crew composition?"
The commodore waved his hand as if at an annoying fly. "Nothing to worry about. Thirty officers in total, but your senior ones are all veterans like yourself. The rest of the crew is mixed between regulars and reservists who've been called up in the past day or so."
Haines nodded slowly in understanding and calculation. "I see," he stood up quickly before continuing, proffering his hand. "I'll be on my way, then, sir." Kemp slowly dragged himself to his feet, regretting the momentary loss of an extremely comfortable chair beneath him.
"Good luck, Commander."
"Thank you, sir," quietly replied Haines, before taking a step back, saluting, then striding swiftly out of the door, which swung slowly until it finally closed with a click. The Lieutenant promptly stepped forward as Kemp replaced his rump on the warm seat.
"Are you sure he's the right man for the job, sir?"
"Of course I am!" bellowed Kemp, "Why wouldn't I be?"
"He seems a bit..terse, sir," put forward the younger officer. Kemp leant back fully in his chair, waving a dismissive hand about demonstratively.
"Not a chance. He's calculating and logical, but he's a damn fine officer. Got initiative, intelligence, and he knows when to stand aside and let things run their course. Exactly what we, and more especially, I, want from a commanding officer of a brand new and expensive ship. Do you have those enemy ships plotted on the charts yet? Lets have a look at 'em!"
Lieutenant Commander Etude watched through grey-flecked eyes at the rain battered black car as it slowly drew to a halt on the wet wooden slats of the pier. Behind him, six ratings sat waiting in a small whaler that had been dispatched from the Sebastian Thor, which lay anchored eight hundred yards beyond the grey, low breakwater at the mouth of the bay. A further two leading hands that had been standing by him strode forward to collect the cases that lay in the cramped boot of the car. Etude thought briefly of the comparison between his last ship and the Thor. The Diogenes was a light cruiser so old it was held in popular belief aboard that the flakes of rust that made up its hull and structure were only held together by the many layers of foul-smelling gloss paint the crew were forced to apply by a Captain more used to polish than action.
The Thor, by contrast, was as far detached from the Diogenes as heaven was from the Warp. Everything down in the engine room, where Etude and his artificers scuttled amongst the pounding machinery by means of narrow catwalks, still had yet to accumulate the permanent oily film across every metal surface available. Etude was broken from his train of thought as Haines opened the door of the staff car and uncoiled himself from the rear seat and fortified himself against the driving rain. Etude stepped forward smartly, managing to get a click out of his heels on the sodden wooden boards beneath his feet as he saluted Haines, who morosely returned the honour. "Thank you, Mr....?"
Etude saved Haines the embarrassment. "Lieutenant Commander Jurgen Etude, sir, Chief Engineer.." Etude was briefly interrupted by the two leading hands as they clattered across the pier to the whaler, lowering the two dark leather cases to their comrades in the whaler, "The First Lieutenant sends his regards, and reports that we will be able to weigh anchor within the hour, sir, barring any more setbacks."
Haines stopped himself from stepping into the whaler and turned back to Etude. "There have already been some?" Etude visibly paled before attempting an offhand shrug. "A bunting tosser fell from the starboard bridge wing. Just as I came out from the Engine room, sir. Impacted less than ten feet away from me." Impacted. Impersonal, or at least an attempt at professionalism. Haines inclined his head to one side, and his eyes narrowed somewhat.
"Someone you knew?"
Jurgen swallowed hard. "My nephew. Quite fond of him. Most promising of my sister's progeny."
"I see." Haines stepped down into the whaler, watching as Etude untied the coil of rope around the mooring ring on the pier, before throwing the sodden hemp into the bottom of the boat, climbing down after it and positioning himself opposite Haines on the left of the tiller. One of the muscle-bound ratings daintily used his oar to push the small boat away from the damp wooden piles beneath the pier, before sitting back on his seat, looking expectantly at Etude like the rest for his next order. Etude didn't disappoint.
"Oars out!" four pairs of oars slid quickly into the turbulent water, their owners frowning to keep the rain from clouding their vision through the swirling droplets fixed on the confident figure by the tiller and the huddled shape opposite it. Their muscle-wrapped limbs tensed as they bent over the wooden shafts, ready to give the first stroke of the journey from this relatively sheltered pier to the near-open ocean beyond the breakwater. Etude had his eyes on the choppy waters. If he gave the next order too soon in the pattern he was beginning to discern in the swirling waves, he and the other occupants would likely be hurled into the frigid depths.
"Give way together!" A grunt emanated from deep within the chest of more than one of the rain-soaked men as they hauled back on their oars, soon settling into a steady rhythm that would carry them out to the cruiser in no time at all. Haines shuffled on the small plank that sufficed for a seat against the transom of the whaler as the waves lapped alongside the hull. "How is she fitted out?" Etude gave Haines a sideward glance, and found Haines looking expectantly at him.
Etude recovered quickly. "Very well, sir. We can make twenty-five knots on her turbines, and she packs nine six inch guns in two triple turrets forward and one aft, sir. Anti air weaponry is superlative. All we need and want."
Haines nodded, deep in thought. "I see?." Etude's gaze flickered across to Haines once more, to see him silently chewing over information, nodding in time with the motions of the oars as they continued their journey into and through the frothy blue waves.
"Off caps! Accused, one pace forward, MARCH!" yelled the Coxswain. Langstrom picked his head up from his desk, trying to ignore the way his cheek peeled slowly off the varnished wood and tried to make sense of the swimming room before his eyes, before quickly replacing his peaked cap on the crown of his head. Three figures wobbled into focus as Langstrom, with as much subtle as possible, leaned down and closed the drawer in the desk, desperately hoping that the others wouldn't notice the gurgling noise of the swirling brandy in the bottle. He watched as the Coxswain, Raikes, banged his feet on the deck and brought up a pair of clipboards with the list of charges on it. Two ratings, one with a swollen lip and bruised eye, the other with a neat spray of still bleeding wounds on his cheek. Intermingling with the blood were tears that slowly dropped out of the corner of one eye.
"Able Seaman Karet, official number F.2941, charged with causing an affray, assault, breaking and entering, and other numerous charges pertaining to a bar brawl ashore." As Raikes stepped forward to hand the sheet to Langstrom, he stole a look at Karet. A smug grin twitched at the corner of his mouth, threatening to erupt into a display of dazzling white teeth. Raikes carried on with the charges.
"Seaman Lortes, official number F.1923, charged with Actual Bodily Harm and assault against one Leading Seaman Packard of the Serpent, pertaining to aforementioned bar brawl." Raikes once more handed Langstrom the clipboard. Still reading the charges, Langstrom addressed the accused.
"Anything to say for yourself, Karet?"
"Not at all, sir, those charges before you are pretty much accurate." Langstrom lifted his eyes. Arrogant *****, he knew that he wasn't going to get justice served to him.
"One month to be served in a cell on the duty ship in the next port we put into, extra duty watches until then." Even before he had finished speaking Langstrom returned his gaze to Lortes, trying desperately the whisky fumes to ignore Karet's smug grin that now stretched across his face. "And you, Lortes?"
Tears were rolling unfettered down his cheeks now. "Please sir, it was an accident, I never meant to harm nobody!"
Langstrom shot an unsteady look of disbelief at Raikes. "He broke a chair over Packard's head, sir. Laid him out cold, and Packard broke his jaw on the flagstones of the tavern as he fell, sir." Lortes blubbered where he stood.
"Sir, I didn't mean to! I was just sitting there enjoying my drink and then this bar fight erupts around me! What was I going to do?" Langstrom studied the seaman's body and disposition. Thin, wiry. Scant musculature instilled only by repetition through the training he had received rather than natural build; and he did not exude the arrogant or even quiet confidence of that ***** Karet.
"One week extra duty during the dog watches. Dismiss."
"On caps, about turn, quick march!" barked Raikes, watching as his terse commands seemingly electrified the two crewmen, who strode out the door quickly, their feet slamming on the deck in unison. The hatchway swung shut with a load sonorous clatter that had barely died away before Langstrom whipped open the desk draw and began to unscrew the top of the brandy bottle. Tossing his cap on the desk, he lowered the level of spirit by two inches, gulping down the sickly sweet liquid. Then he sat gazing with brooding eyes at the blank bulkhead in front of him in silent contemplation.
"It fits like clothes made out of wasps!"
Hey great story..
Would love to read more..
I like your characters, I wanna know what happens to all of them..
The only criticism I have is in the first Chapter you say "Haines" an awful lot once he reaches Kemp's office.. maybe something else to use to refer to him would help..
Keep up the great work.