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View Full Version : Scene 7 - first part - too repetitive?



archer88iv
February 20th, 2013, 04:51 AM
(Update: new ending added.)

Looking for thoughts on this:

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The largest open space on board Kodiak was the secondary gun deck, which housed the twelve massive guns of her six-inch batteries. Each weapon weighed nearly seventeen thousand pounds and could fire a projectile as heavy as Aria herself a distance of some nine miles. Kodiak could fire six of them on a broadside, which meant that she could deliver forty-eight shells per minute on any potential target, or about one shell every one and one quarter seconds: the equivalent of two and one half tons of high explosive every sixty seconds. And yet, for the deadly calculus of any real naval battle, these awesome weapons were all but irrelevant. They mattered now only as scenery, as a backdrop for this, the final night before Aria expected to make contact with the Austran force. The guns themselves were silent and forgotten, shipped full aft or full forward like oars on an idle rowboat. Lights were strung about their working stations and the deck had been cleared of every possible distraction because, tonight, Aria had granted her crew permission to have a celebration.


Twenty massive kegs of good, dark ale, taken from her own private stores, along with nine hundred forty pounds of good beef, corn, potatoes, and bread, were all laid out for her crew. Every available fiddle, flute, squeezebox, mouth harp, guitar, banjo, and musician had been either bribed by liquor or else just plain commandeered in order to provide the entertainment. Half the crew had, at random, been declared ‘female’ and the other half ‘male’ for the evening, as evinced by the way they danced and cheered with one another as the beer flowed. Not all of the men were actually men, either, it seemed, as Aria found herself invited to dance by one very buxom young lieutenant. She declined and retreated to the shadow of one of the starboard guns, crossing her arms over the ribbon-strewn breast of her sable-blue dress uniform and leaning against the breach, as did Sergeant Cross beside her. He looked to have eaten nothing thus far, and neither did he have any prospective dance partners.


“You should try to enjoy yourself, Sergeant,” she said, her voice barely audible above the general din. “It’s your favorite brewery, after all, and there are still men without partners.”


“I do not intend to die with a hangover,” said Cross with confidence, “and, in the Army, we do not dance with other men.”


Aria looked at him then, his weathered face half-hidden in shadow, and she took his calloused hand in hers. “May I have this dance, milady?” she asked in her haughtiest tone, and she pulled him out into the center of the floor without giving him the chance to refuse.


A gunner’s mate with a mandolin caught sight of them and boldly began a slower tune in threes. The other musicians fought this change in time until one of them cried out, “For the admiral!” and then all eyes were on the two of them as they waltzed, followed by the single mandolin and a soft train of strings and reeds. Cross gracefully stepped round her and into the lead, his face flushing with his natural disdain for the limelight even as he accepted his role in it, just as he always did. He was tall, as befits a sabreur, and she was not, and they seemed at once utterly mismatched and made for one another, like a father dancing with a daughter at her debut. As she let her head rest against his chest, he whispered, “I am getting too old for this.”


That was hard to believe. The strength of his arm was evident as he led her around the circumference of Queen turret, and his step was more sure and steady than that of a man less than half his age. The gray in his short-cropped hair did nothing to make him less handsome, but only added a pinch of seasoned wisdom to his appearance. She breathed deep when she was near him, filling her lungs with his scent: a breath of musk and an aftershave that burned in her nostrils, with a dash of leather and mint thrown in. He was a rare creature: a man who would have been her match in more than just physical strength. How long had it been since she last…


She flushed hotly and then realized with a start that the song had come to an end and that she was still swaying in his arms. Again, with a grace born of long experience, the sergeant led her out of the limelight and back into the shadows, out of view of the banqueting table and back under the eaves of the port battery. “Milady dances quite well,” he commented once there, and with that the moment came to an end. Cross never put on airs: he was not, and had never been, and never would be, a gentleman; he was satisfied with his own lot in life. “A shame there is not a partner here to suit you.”


“Yes,” she said, her voice much softer than usual. “Quite.”


Aria found herself in her cabin, alone, with a nameless anger welling up inside her. The last song that had played before she left was still stuck in her head, with its mournful strains and its plaintive refrain: The miles are longer o’er the Sea. That thought tore at her mind, enraging her. She kept her body under control, but her spirit burned on as she very carefully turned out her drawers in search of a small, brown flask that seemed to have been secreted away in the very last place she might look: in the pocket of her heavy coat. She snatched it from its hook on the wall and was still fumbling with the buttons as she emerged onto the deck, lashed by frigid winds moving at nearly forty knots. For all the good her uniform trousers did against such a chill, she might as well have been wearing none at all, but she needed the cold at this moment. She needed to forget about things she wanted and couldn’t have.


She unscrewed the cap and took a long swallow from the flask, and liquid fire poured down her throat to offset the freezing gale. She gazed up toward stars veiled behind thick plumes of clouds overhead and shivered. It would not be long before frostbite set in if she remained, but she stayed a moment, hoping for a break in the impenetrable fog that enveloped the ship so that she might have just one glance at the clear night sky. Yes, perhaps there, just ahead: she felt sure she could see a break, and perhaps the moon behind it, where a faint light could be seen in the clouds. But then her heart began to thunder as she realized that the light was not the moon.


Panazech’s watch was on the bridge when she arrived, having run there as fast as her frozen legs could carry her. “Captain,” she gasped out, pointing in the direction of the phantom moon just as the clouds there began to break, “Contact off the port bow.”


And there, through the mist of the clouds at eleven thousand feet, could at last be seen the faint outline of a warship silhouetted against the star-strewn sky. That she was of Austran make there was no doubt: a somewhat older first rate, either Granech or Belfegor, but an estimable opponent either way. The light Aria had seen on deck was that of the ship’s recovery lamps: Panazech offered her his long looking glass, and through it a single windjack could be seen fluttering in the wake of the massive ship, struggling to make contact with the landing net hung off the vessel’s starboard bow. At last the pilot managed to wrangle his charge into position and the lights were doused, and the Austran battleship vanished into the night once again. Panazech watched Aria closely and all was silent on the bridge as they awaited her command.


This was no accident. The Austran commander had wished to make contact with her, one way or another: to either discover her or to announce his presence to her on this, the eve of their first meeting. To remain hidden herself after such a display would be an admission of weakness, at the very least, and at any rate it was clear that her opponent had no intention of beginning a battle that evening; to mark his position so would have been to invite disaster otherwise. Her mind was made up in an instant.


“Signal climb on station to starboard,” she ordered, and the bridge burst into activity around her as Kodiak began a graceful roll into a long, corkscrewing climb designed to maintain both speed and position. “At fifteen thousand feet,” she said, “you will move the fleet to the east by not more than sixty miles.”


Panazech’s response was curt, restrained. “Yes, Admiral. Will there be anything else?”


He was, in a word, afraid. She could see the way it gnawed at him, right at his throat, even as he stood perfectly straight and still, the picture of calm. Will there be anything else? Will you guide me through this trial? She had already, and quite unconsciously, made the calculations herself: the enemy fleet stood at a slant range of more than 25,000 yards, which was well beyond the effective range of the twelve-inch rifles mounted aboard Belfegor and her sister ship. It would be a quarter of an hour before the enemy’s guns could be brought to bear, even if they turned to fight immediately. Even a leisurely climb would see them at fighting altitude long before then, and the greatest danger would be past: a gun duel in the darkness would be fought on even footing. Perhaps it would take Panazech all evening to come to the same conclusion. Perhaps he would never figure it out. That was all right. Her aim was to make him understand that she expected him to carry out this task alone, and that she believed him equal to it.


“Yes, Captain,” she said, and she paused just long enough to let him wonder. “Wake me if they start shooting.”

---

Also, this marks 100 posts in nearly six years. Ha. :)

---

Thanks to everyone for all of your comments. Here's an updated ending for the scene:

---

Panazech’s watch was on the bridge when she arrived. She took just an instant to compose herself, to push aside the excitement that threatened to overwhelm her: she had wanted to run to the conn just as fast as her frozen legs could carry her, but had just managed to restrain herself. “Captain,” she called out, and she pointed in the direction of the phantom moon just as the clouds there began to break. “Contact off the port bow.”


And there, through the mist of the clouds at eleven thousand feet, could at last be seen the faint outline of a warship silhouetted against the star-strewn sky. That she was a first rate, and of Austran make, there was no doubt; she was either Granech or Belfegor, both estimable opponents, and Aria found herself fighting to keep a smile from her lips. The light she had seen on from the deck was that of the ship’s recovery lamps: Panazech offered her his long looking glass, and through it a single windjack could be seen fluttering in the wake of the massive ship, struggling to make contact with the landing net hung off the vessel’s starboard bow. At last the pilot managed to wrangle his charge into position and the lights were doused, and the Austran battleship vanished into the night once again. Panazech watched Aria closely and all was silent on the bridge as they awaited her command.


This was no accident. The Austran commander had wished to make contact with her, one way or another: to either discover her or to announce his presence to her on this, the eve of their first meeting. To remain hidden herself after such a display would be an admission of weakness, at the very least, and at any rate it was clear that her opponent had no intention of beginning a battle that evening; to mark his position so would have been to invite disaster otherwise. Her mind was made up in an instant.


“Signal climb on station to starboard,” she ordered, and the bridge burst into activity around her as Kodiak began a graceful roll into a long, corkscrewing climb designed to maintain both speed and position. “At fifteen thousand feet,” she said, “you will move the fleet to the east by not more than sixty miles.”


Panazech’s response was curt, restrained. “Yes, Admiral. Will there be anything else?”


He was, in a word, afraid. She could see the way it gnawed at him, right at his throat, even as he stood perfectly straight and still, the picture of calm. Will there be anything else? Will you guide me through this trial? She had already, and quite unconsciously, made the calculations herself: the enemy fleet stood at a slant range of more than 25,000 yards, which was well beyond the effective range of the twelve-inch rifles mounted aboard Belfegor and her sister ship. It would be a quarter of an hour before the enemy’s guns could be brought to bear, even if they turned to fight immediately. Even a leisurely climb would see them at fighting altitude long before then, and the greatest danger would be past: a gun duel in the darkness would be fought on even footing. Perhaps it would take Panazech all evening to come to the same conclusion. Perhaps he would never figure it out. That was all right. Her aim was to make him understand that she expected him to carry out this task alone, and that she believed him equal to it.


“Yes, Captain,” she said, and she paused just long enough to let him wonder. “Wake me if they start shooting.”


In such moments it becomes commander’s responsibility to represent, for the commanded, the sovereign and indomitable will of the nation. She was reminded of the first test of her own nerve as commander of a stricken cruiser at the abortive Battle of the Rickles Flat. No one ever asked her to tell the tale of her snow-blind escape through the winding vale below the plateau aboard a thin-skinned cruiser with one workable engine and through a veritable cloud of long line mines. Frankly, considering she would have been summarily stripped of her command for taking such a risk, that was a mercy: she doubted that Admiral Westland had ever mentioned her role in the engagement to anyone. His only words of advice for her upon leaving his battleship Victrix bound for the damaged Halefoot had been, Try to stay off the ground.


She dreamt that night of her long hours on that shattered, blood-soaked bridge and woke before dawn only to force herself to be patient. She took breakfast in her cabin, and the look in the ensign’s eyes when he brought her plate said everything she needed to know regarding the dispositions of their two fleets. Quite by intention, it was not until almost ten o’clock that she arrived on the bridge. If there had been any doubt among her subordinates as to how the day would proceed, it was dispelled by her arrival, clad as she was in the immaculate white of the Navy’s formal dress. As she’d expected, the Austran force was drawn up parallel to her own, some thousand feet below and perhaps 20,000 yards distant. “Let us know our opponent,” she said. “Fly my eagle, captain. Perhaps my opposite number will respond in kind.”


No sooner did Aria’s banner find its place on the mast than the opposing flagship raised a similar banner bearing the ancient arms of the honorable house of Hrothspont. “Well, then, we face Granech and company,” observed Chambray once he knew the name of their adversary.


A rocket shot into the air from aboard Granech, trailing white fire and an ivory plume. Aria smiled, and she said, “It seems Lord Hrothspont wishes to have us for lunch.”


Aria watched for a moment as Panazech squirmed beneath that double-edged blade. At last, a junior officer asked the question he dared not: “Their admiral wishes to parlay? There will be no battle?”


“On the contrary,” said Aria. “No gentleman would do battle without first offering his enemy a meal.”

WriterJohnB
February 20th, 2013, 06:06 PM
Ha, someone who posts less than me. The details about the guns seemed repetitive, but the rest flows well. You handle her emotions well. Nice writing in every way. I'd read this novel. One nit - should favorite brewery be favorite brew?

Take care,

JohnB

mber341
February 20th, 2013, 10:03 PM
I agreed with everything WriterJohnB said. I can see what you were trying to do there at the start. The whole war weapons backdrop vs the festivities and partying, but I feel the first paragraph could be cut down a bit. It comes off rather hard to read or get into. After that, I was lost in this world (in a good way). Unfamiliar with ships and such, I had no problems visualizing and following everything along. I wish I could give you better criticism but I'm pretty new and just blown away how good the lot of you are. It's inspiring.

dolphinlee
February 20th, 2013, 11:34 PM
Although I was a bit lost as there was no scene setting (I assume this has been done previously) I did enjoy this piece. Most of the writing flowed well, although there were a couple of places that I had a small problem with.


which meant that she could deliver forty-eight shells per minute on any potential target, or about one shell every one and one quarter seconds: the equivalent of two and one half tons of high explosive every sixty seconds.

There are three ways of describing the firepower. I think you could cut this down.

And yet, for the deadly calculus of any real naval battle What do you mean by calculus?

Every available fiddle, flute, squeezebox, mouth harp, guitar, banjo, and musician had been either bribed by liquor or else just plain commandeered

Were the fiddles and flutes bribed by liquor or commandeered?

then all eyes were on the two of them as they waltzed, followed by the single mandolin and a soft train of strings and reeds.

Where they actually followed by the mandolin.?

Aria found herself in her cabin, alone,with a nameless anger welling up inside her.

Is the word ‘nameless’ necessary in this sentence?

Panazech’s watch was on the bridge when she arrived, having run there as fastas her frozen legs could carry her.

Who was it that ran as fast as her frozen legs could carry her? I ask because I cannot imagine an Admiral, whom you have taken pains to describe as controlled running anywhere on their ship.

archer88iv
February 23rd, 2013, 09:47 PM
Thanks to everyone for all of your comments. Here's an updated ending for the scene:

---

Panazech’s watch was on the bridge when she arrived. She took just an instant to compose herself, to push aside the excitement that threatened to overwhelm her: she had wanted to run to the conn just as fast as her frozen legs could carry her, but had just managed to restrain herself. “Captain,” she called out, and she pointed in the direction of the phantom moon just as the clouds there began to break. “Contact off the port bow.”


And there, through the mist of the clouds at eleven thousand feet, could at last be seen the faint outline of a warship silhouetted against the star-strewn sky. That she was a first rate, and of Austran make, there was no doubt; she was either Granech or Belfegor, both estimable opponents, and Aria found herself fighting to keep a smile from her lips. The light she had seen on from the deck was that of the ship’s recovery lamps: Panazech offered her his long looking glass, and through it a single windjack could be seen fluttering in the wake of the massive ship, struggling to make contact with the landing net hung off the vessel’s starboard bow. At last the pilot managed to wrangle his charge into position and the lights were doused, and the Austran battleship vanished into the night once again. Panazech watched Aria closely and all was silent on the bridge as they awaited her command.


This was no accident. The Austran commander had wished to make contact with her, one way or another: to either discover her or to announce his presence to her on this, the eve of their first meeting. To remain hidden herself after such a display would be an admission of weakness, at the very least, and at any rate it was clear that her opponent had no intention of beginning a battle that evening; to mark his position so would have been to invite disaster otherwise. Her mind was made up in an instant.


“Signal climb on station to starboard,” she ordered, and the bridge burst into activity around her as Kodiak began a graceful roll into a long, corkscrewing climb designed to maintain both speed and position. “At fifteen thousand feet,” she said, “you will move the fleet to the east by not more than sixty miles.”


Panazech’s response was curt, restrained. “Yes, Admiral. Will there be anything else?”


He was, in a word, afraid. She could see the way it gnawed at him, right at his throat, even as he stood perfectly straight and still, the picture of calm. Will there be anything else? Will you guide me through this trial? She had already, and quite unconsciously, made the calculations herself: the enemy fleet stood at a slant range of more than 25,000 yards, which was well beyond the effective range of the twelve-inch rifles mounted aboard Belfegor and her sister ship. It would be a quarter of an hour before the enemy’s guns could be brought to bear, even if they turned to fight immediately. Even a leisurely climb would see them at fighting altitude long before then, and the greatest danger would be past: a gun duel in the darkness would be fought on even footing. Perhaps it would take Panazech all evening to come to the same conclusion. Perhaps he would never figure it out. That was all right. Her aim was to make him understand that she expected him to carry out this task alone, and that she believed him equal to it.


“Yes, Captain,” she said, and she paused just long enough to let him wonder. “Wake me if they start shooting.”


In such moments it becomes commander’s responsibility to represent, for the commanded, the sovereign and indomitable will of the nation. She was reminded of the first test of her own nerve as commander of a stricken cruiser at the abortive Battle of the Rickles Flat. No one ever asked her to tell the tale of her snow-blind escape through the winding vale below the plateau aboard a thin-skinned cruiser with one workable engine and through a veritable cloud of long line mines. Frankly, considering she would have been summarily stripped of her command for taking such a risk, that was a mercy: she doubted that Admiral Westland had ever mentioned her role in the engagement to anyone. His only words of advice for her upon leaving his battleship Victrix bound for the damaged Halefoot had been, Try to stay off the ground.


She dreamt that night of her long hours on that shattered, blood-soaked bridge and woke before dawn only to force herself to be patient. She took breakfast in her cabin, and the look in the ensign’s eyes when he brought her plate said everything she needed to know regarding the dispositions of their two fleets. Quite by intention, it was not until almost ten o’clock that she arrived on the bridge. If there had been any doubt among her subordinates as to how the day would proceed, it was dispelled by her arrival, clad as she was in the immaculate white of the Navy’s formal dress. As she’d expected, the Austran force was drawn up parallel to her own, some thousand feet below and perhaps 20,000 yards distant. “Let us know our opponent,” she said. “Fly my eagle, captain. Perhaps my opposite number will respond in kind.”


No sooner did Aria’s banner find its place on the mast than the opposing flagship raised a similar banner bearing the ancient arms of the honorable house of Hrothspont. “Well, then, we face Granech and company,” observed Chambray once he knew the name of their adversary.


A rocket shot into the air from aboard Granech, trailing white fire and an ivory plume. Aria smiled, and she said, “It seems Lord Hrothspont wishes to have us for lunch.”


Aria watched for a moment as Panazech squirmed beneath that double-edged blade. At last, a junior officer asked the question he dared not: “Their admiral wishes to parlay? There will be no battle?”


“On the contrary,” said Aria. “No gentleman would do battle without first offering his enemy a meal.”

dolphinlee
February 23rd, 2013, 09:51 PM
Hi,

i see you have put up a new version. You are allowed to put the editied version into the original post. This mean that anyone new to the thread will read and comment on the new version rather than the old version.

archer88iv
February 23rd, 2013, 10:04 PM
It actually is in the original post.

dolphinlee
February 23rd, 2013, 10:16 PM
Sorry, I just saw the new post and made an assumption.

Thank you for changing the Admiral's passage to the bridge a walk. For me it reads more smoothly.

I have one small comment to add.


“Well, then, we face Granech and company,” observed Chambray once he knew the name of their adversary.


Instead of knowing could Chambray recognise the flag of the adversary.

Nice story.

pdwalke4
March 22nd, 2013, 07:10 PM
Minor nit pick, may just be me but you use both numbers and text 25,000 yards then in next sentence twelve inch.