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Thread: A Special Providence

  1. #2041
    Field Marshal Stuyvesant's Avatar
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    Again, an explosion from zero to 100 in no time at all.

    First the introduction, deep in backstory and richly detailed; then the description of the hotel and Fielding's and Morton's methodical, almost leisurely progression through it; then the prey is spotted, but things are still under control; and then, the stupidity of one man (in this case, the Guardia captain) blows the lid right off.

    It's sad to see Morton and Fielding coming to such grisly ends, particularly Fielding: I suspect Morton was already dead, but Fielding, with the gashed hand and the torn muscles or broken bones, must've burned to death.

    As to Temic, Director's earlier statement suggests he did not survive the encounter either. But even if he lived through the alcohol-fueled blaze, he must be severely crippled: shot several times, burns over his body... And then there are soldiers waiting for him - and with a burning storeroom, it shouldn't take them long to figure out where he's hiding. So adieu, Temic. If there is an ultimate arbiter in the afterlife waiting for you, the meeting won't be pleasant.
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  2. #2042
    Maestro Director's Avatar
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    TheExecuter - Burned? Certainly. Dead? The man has more lives than Schroedinger's cat, so we will have to wait and see. Magic 8 Ball says, "Future cloudy. Ask again later."

    There will be at least one survivor, dictated by the title of the piece and required by the structure of the plot. That's been set since page one. More than that i should not say.

    Incognitia - You wouldn't believe how hard I worked on that. I wanted Messoune to go off-stage in a grisly way. Fire seemed good. But fire in a casino? The liquor storeroom/cases of rum idea took WEEKS to think through, and I'm still not certain it would hold up under the Myth-Busters test, but it was the best I could come up with.

    As for the one-liner at the end... thank Fielding. I didn't see it coming until he said it.

    J. Passepartout - The chess-board is being cleared and we are not done yet. Fielding and Morton are, sadly, dead. Messoune's chances of survival would depend on whether or not he could get that door open, and what he would find if he did.

    cezar87 - I'll agree that Frost has been unlucky at times, but at others she has shown terrific ability and skill. One does not come to rule Imperial Germany by chance. Were she a man she might have been better equipped to pull it off, but as a woman she suffers from the attitudes and prejudices of the period.

    I've said before that Germany would have been better off with her in control because her goal was to quash France by risking war, NOT to start one. Germany may yet win - if the AI is inept, the French AI is a comedy act with clowns and pies. A bellicose, hostile Germany has made it easier for its allies to join together in opposition... something that Frost would have avoided.

    Returning Frost to power might be easier than you think. It would require a coup and perhaps a violent one, but... help from one of Sigismund's close relatives is one option. Capitalizing on a defeat is another. Sigismund has seized the throne in a particularly nasty way, and it will be impossible to stop the gossip (especially since the gossip is correct). A lost battle or a lost war and suddenly the 'old regime' looks pretty good.

    Stuyvesant - I mourn the loss of Morton and Fielding - I really liked them. But they chose how to go out. I had three or four scenarios for that scene, and when I started writing... this is what we got.

    Earlier The Executer referred to Feric and i didn't catch it - assumed he meant Temic. Thanks for setting that straight.

    Temic is in the same quantum haze as Schroedinger's Cat. We'll have to open that box later and see how he is.


    Should have another update in a day or two. It's a doozy.
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  3. #2043
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    Quote Originally Posted by Director View Post
    There will be at least one survivor, dictated by the title of the piece and required by the structure of the plot. That's been set since page one. More than that i should not say.
    I'm so tempted to start speculating and hypothesizing as to whom will live in the end... Must restrain that urge. Granted, I'd most likely be utterly wrong, but just in case I got it right, it wouldn't be beneficial. To quote Lovecraft: Sometimes, ignorance is bliss.

    Still, I have my thoughts and I will continue to cogitate on them.

    Finally, one observation I failed to make yesterday: I was a bit surprised to see Temic felled by 'mere mortals' (yes, I know he might still be alive - but I stand by my earlier reasoning: there are enough rifles nearby and Temic must be in a bad enough state that death should be inevitable. Go ahead, prove me wrong ). I was expecting some kind of titanic struggle between Knights Temporal (Ronsend vs. Messoune would've been fitting, as they're both really still just sidekicks to the main movers - Makhearne and Frost) using a variety of cutting-edge technology, much like Frost did when she made good her escape. Instead, Temic fell to some pretty old-fashioned means of killing: lead bullets and that age-old scourge, fire.
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  4. #2044
    Maestro Director's Avatar
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    I did say 'at least one' survivor. Believe me when I say the cast members are not willing to go quietly. And they're really running this thing - I just take dictation.
    "That which does not kill me, has made a grave tactical error." - Jerry Pournelle

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  5. #2045
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    I don't expect that to be the end for Temic, but he'll be some time getting back on his feet.

    Frost's position seemed so tenuous even from the beginning, I can't believe she thought it would last. She should have thought of something else or used her years of influence to worm her way in permanently.

  6. #2046
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    Excellent writing, but I do have one question:

    It was to no avail; despite overturning a pair of overstuffed gentlemen and their wives, he arrived at the door to see the guardia captain reach up and place his right hand on Messoune’s shoulder. Then time seemed to slow, everyone moving at half-speed except the figure at the center of the action. The captain went down in a heap, two bystanders thrown aside as his body crashed into them. A shock front of the irate and the panicked spread through the tightly-packed room, radiating out from Messoune’s slender figure as it arrowed toward the door.
    Why does Messoune react with full killing force to a mere touch on his shoulder? For all he knows it is some servant of the house come to ask if he wants his whiskey refreshed. Even if he sees the Guardia uniform, what trouble is he in with the law? Is he to be accused of murders thirty years before, in a different jurisdiction, when his apparent age is perhaps forty? Perhaps I've lost track of the story through infrequent checking, but what exactly have Fielding and Morton got on him that they think the Guardia will help them, and why does he agree with them to the point of revealing his capabilities in public at the mere sight of an officer's uniform?
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  7. #2047
    Maestro Director's Avatar
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    First, let me apologize for the delay in getting the next post out. My company is rolling out a new point-of-sale system, which means intensive testing, tweaking and preparation. For this I have been flying to Dallas every week for months, broken only by flying to LA, Raleigh, etc.

    We are putting it in the alpha site Tuesday evening(29th). Please cross your fingers . Hopefully I'll be getting the post out then.


    Dinglehoff - in an Imperial system, even one like Imperial Germany that has an elected house, control of the Kaiser is everything. And she did have control of the Kaiser. I grant you that she did not see the challenge to her power, but we all expect things to go on more or less as they have done in the past.

    King of Men - Temic Messoune has been fomenting revolution all around the Caribbean and he knew full well that people were looking for him. That was his mission from Frost and we can only assume he went to it with his usual energy. The appearance of a uniformed policeman at his elbow probably would not have startled him in the street or at his rooms, but in the casino he would have felt more protected by class and money. Along with the 'laying on of the hand' the officer probably said something like, "Sir? I arrest you..." and the explosion followed. Had he had the time to think it over he probably would have gone quietly - at least until an escape route opened.

    Fielding and Morton were after him for exactly that reason - funding and promoting guerillas, revolutionaries, anarchists and the rest. As the post says, they have been tracking him across several countries.

    Messoune would have thought it fairly simple to get away, and had he faced people who didn't know his strength and speed he probably would have made it out the back and into the streets.
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  8. #2048
    Maestro Director's Avatar
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    “I don’t care what anyone says. I have my orders and I did not ask for your opinion of them!” Lieutenant Brinkman thumped his desk with his fist, a gesture too careful for the intended effect. His audience did not mind in the least, would not have changed his placid expression had Brinkman screamed or snored. Sergeant DeGruyter had joined the army long before Brinkman and intended to be still in uniform long after this wet-eared young officer was gone.

    “And we are at war with France, besides,” Lieutenant Brinkman thumped the desk again. “I have just had the cable.” A cable brought out to this remote outpost halfway between the Atlantic and nowhere in particular, peddled out in the dusk by a boy on a bicycle. A boy who at any other time would have stayed at home under his mother’s skirts, DeGruyter mused. DeGruyter had never lived anywhere but in the Seven Provinces and had no experience with the armed forces of other nations, but he would have bet money there was no more penny-pinching, old-fashioned and thoroughly screwed-up service than the Dutch army. War declared on France, he thought, and they send a child on a bicycle to tell us.

    War made people do crazy things. Or – the idea struggled to climb over the well-worn ruts of thought that passed for DeGruyter’s brain – perhaps people doing crazy things made war. The sergeant wouldn’t know; he had never seen anything more stressful than a parade and the less he saw of them the happier was his too-too-abundant-flesh. The Coastal Artillery suited him; easy service, decent equipment – Krupp 105mm steel rifles, not new but good guns – and a posting far away from official eyes. DeGruyter was living for retirement, had been since the day he joined, and the Coastal Artillery and he were thus perfectly suited to one another.


    Krupp 105mm guns, used by the Netherlands Army as mobile coastal defense batteries


    “They have dared to insult the dignity of the King! Of the Republic!” Brinkman stared at the shuttered window as if it would open at any moment and reveal the gray and wizened visage of His Majesty King Louis III. “Hmph! The cat is among the turnips! War with France! And Germany, of course – on our side,” Brinkman added hurriedly. “Germany is on our side!”

    “Begging your pardon, sir, but I don’t see what any of this has to do with us.” Brinkman met his sergeant’s eyes in astonishment. Those round, innocent, guileless eyes – so limpid and clear and… He wrenched his gaze away and gathered up his ire as if to use it to shield himself. He thought DeGruyter had no more wits than a cow, and trying to stare him down was worse than useless. Like peering into an abyss, a man who spent too long looking into the sergeant’s eyes might see something uncomfortable looking back.

    “War, you… War! War has to do with us! We are soldiers of His Majesty and we guard a vital waterway! We must man the guns this instant and bar it to the enemy!”

    Anton DeGruyter raised a hand as if to argue and then – from long and settled habit – paused to reflect. “Yes, sir, I believe I have the war part, though I cannot understand what issue we have with France. Or they with us, though in the past there was that…” His pause encompassed the entire reign of Louis XIV without being able to say anything about it. “They’ve always seemed like nice enough people, sir.” Even DeGruyter could tell he had wandered far enough afield. “I only meant to ask, sir, why we must close the Scheldt. We are not at war with the Belgies, are we?”

    Brinkman’s well-focused thoughts slipped a gear and lurched sideways. “Well. Well! Of course we are! It stands to reason… I mean, we must be… France would… “ He stood abruptly and clutched at the telegram paper. “We are at war, Sergeant! We man the guns for His Majesty, here in his fortress of Ellewoutsdijk. We were sent here by him, for one purpose – to defend our waters! And we are at war and therefore must do so!” A heavy breath, and then another. “This is m… our duty, and we will not shirk it!”

    “Yes, Lieutenant.” DeGruyter nodded amiably and Brinkman, knowing the sign, braced himself. “I only was wondering who we were going to shoot at tonight – the French? Or the Belgians? Or both? Or…”

    Brinkman clutched at his hair, then snatched his hands down to his sides. “Sergeant! You will call out the men. To man the guns! With ammunition. Real ammunition! Not the training stuff. With flare shells at the mortars. Any ship attempting to pass up or down the Scheldt will be hailed, and if it does not stop we will fire a warning shot. A shot to miss, Sergeant DeGruyter! Across the bow!” He released his wispy locks and shot DeGruyter a look of black loathing. “That’s the pointy thing at the front of the ship, Sergeant!”

    DeGruyter nodded again, then pursed his lips.

    “You have something else to add, Sergeant DeGruyter?” Brinkman’s voice was brought low so that the men standing guard would not hear any more than they already had, but the menace in it was clear.

    “No, Lieutenant. I will go and see to the manning of the batteries now.” There would be no shirking the duty, either, as one might do with a superior who was equally wrong-headed but less energetic than Brinkman. De Gruyter had served in the Army for decades and he had formulated a mental map. Officers were either competent or not, and energetic or not. Competent and energetic he could take, as those men did not stay in the Coastal Artillery for long. Competent and slack was less good as it put more of a burden on subordinates like DeGruyter to keep things running. Incompetent and indolent meant a subordinate could do as little as he liked until the dull superior was booted or promoted – about an equal chance, in DeGruyter’s experience. But incompetent and energetic was dangerous. Brinkman would give stupid orders and insist they be carried out to the last detail, would come and personally inspect the men and the guns to see that his orders were followed. Brinkman was the sort who would push his men into folly and never back up.

    No, there was nothing for this but to resign or obey, and Sergeant DeGruyter would not let an ass like Hendrik Brinkman run him out of his comfortable cruise to a pension. He and his men and his guns – his! Not Brinkman’s! – might have been rousted out of their comfortable old barracks and shipped off to a provincial town on a sandspit at the end of nowhere, but quit he would not! He found himself outside the little timber structure that housed the fort’s offices, feet proceeding mechanically down the path to the parade ground. Corporal Hooft was smoking a cigar as methodically and with as little evidence of pleasure as ever, a wisp of greasy smoke visible before the man himself could be seen. Hooft appeared shapeless under a rubberized sheet designed for the army, rumor had it, by the King himself, but Hooft was shapeless even when standing at attention in full uniform in broad daylight. He was older than DeGruyter, even, and had risen and fallen many times before settling down at corporal. The sheet was supposed to protect against rain but the men of the seacoast batteries often wore one when the ocean spray was up, or when the weather was foggy or cold. The things were so hot that wearing one left the uniform as wet from sweat as it would have gotten from rain and spray, but they did keep off the cold wet and the chill. Hooft, he had learned, was often cold even in good weather.

    “The Lieutenant directs that the batteries be fully manned, right now.” Hooft swore and spat, but so softly that DeGruyter could barely hear him. “Complete loads of live ammunition at each gun, including flare shell at the mortars.” Hooft’s face was expressionless until after the corporal had drawn deeply on his cigar, a face lined and whiskered like a medieval Satan twisting in disgust at the news. “We’re at war, apparently.” Hooft remained silent. “Put two good men on the parapet with binoculars. Men with good lungs – we’re to hail the ships passing and turn them around, then give ‘em a warning shot if they won’t.”

    “Can’t turn them around.” Hooft’s voice was gravel ground under iron. “River’s not wide enough. Stupid –“

    “Keep yer damned voice down,” DeGruyter said in a soft conversational tone, one he knew from experience would render words incomprehensible to a listener more than ten feet away. “Be just like him to pad-foot out here to make sure his orders get followed. He’s one of the ones that likes to keep busy, Corporal Hooft. And he don’t like being told what shouldn’t be done – more so if you’re right and he’s wrong. So call up the men to the guns, but do it quiet-like. No drums or bugles.”

    “Don’t have a bugler,” Hooft said. “Or a drummer neither, not since Modder…”

    “Pay attention to what I’m saying and to what I am leaving unsaid also, Corporal Hooft,” DeGruyter said. Another man’s voice would have had a steely edge; if for DeGruyter it was more of a rusty scrape, Hooft still got the message. He dropped the cigarette and ground it beneath a heel.

    “Right, Sergeant. Goin’ now.” Nevertheless he paused. “Van Wyck on the parapet?”

    DeGruyter nodded. “That’s a good choice. He’s smart and he knows it, so we’ll let him suffer a bit, for his own good. Put Werder up there too; he was shirkin’ when we brought the guns down.” Hooft grinned, but when DeGruyter didn’t return it the corporal pulled his ratty coat around his thin frame and scuttled away.

    The men were turned out without much fuss and soon stood ready beside the six guns of the battery. These were 105mm Krupp rifles on carriages, designed to be easily served and quickly moved to new firing positions. They would have no trouble ranging across the relatively narrow waters of the Scheldt estuary, and their rapid rate of fire would make it possible to lay a curtain of high explosive across the river. Van Wyck and Werder were given binoculars and sent to their posts, one exposed on the brick wall of the old fort and the other atop the seawall at the river. DeGruyter had a sudden, unexpected pang of longing for their old barracks at Den Helder, with its proper signal tower and the rangefinder that had been too heavy and delicate to bring along.

    Then there was a half-hour of silence, the men restless in the cold autumn twilight. The river was broad and gleamed with a metallic shine, rippled with serpentine muscle. It was empty, eerily so, and De Gruyter permitted himself a small hope that it would remain so. That hope was dashed by the appearance of a large ship, brightly-lit, its escort of small tugs giving it the appearance of an elderly dowager with small dogs straining at their leashes. Lieutenant Brinkman climbed the crumbling brick steps to the top of the parapet to stand by Van Wyck, then lifted a megaphone and attempted to hail the ship. If anyone heard him they gave no sign.

    “Sergeant, fire one warning shot!”

    DeGruyter took a look at the angle of the oncoming ship and tilted his head in thought. The slightest deflection would send the shell too far ahead to be seen or plunge it into the body of the vessel. He shook his head dubiously – better to wait a bit longer for the target to be more nearly perpendicular.

    “Sergeant! I gave you an order! Fire a warning shot!”

    DeGruyter huffed – dangerous, with Brinkman looking on, but he couldn’t help it. A glance at Hooft and the crew swung smoothly into motion. The sergeant made sure his men were not polished enough to be posted overseas, but they knew their drill. The angle of the shot, now… The gun barked, sharp and hard, pneumatic recoil absorbers and a tail spade preventing it from going backwards. Despite every man craning his neck and straining his eyes, the most that could be said for certain was that the shell went… somewhere. An angry motion from Brinkman and number two gun boomed. This time they were more ready or the angle was simply better for a reflection of the waning sunlight and they were able to track the projectile. At the last possible instant it seemed to veer – a breath of wind out over the water, perhaps – and it dove directly into the oncoming ship, plunging deeply along its length before the fuse – the excellent Krupp fuse – detonated.

    For an instant, nothing else happened. Then the ship’s whistle sounded, the bellow of a wounded bull, and the tugs put their helms hard over. As the ship began to wheel, Brinkman waved his arms excitedly – he had dropped the megaphone – but over the engines and the steam whistle and the after-effects of the cannon shots, DeGruyter could not make out what he was saying. Hooft evidently had no doubts, for he waved his hat and marked off the volley of guns three through six. The big ship had swung just enough that at least two of the shells went into her side, the others flying off to the far side of the river. DeGruyter dashed up the steps with an agility that would have astounded anyone who had ever served with him, seized the binoculars from Van Wyck’s nerveless hand and screamed to the boy to get to cover. He raised the glasses and swept them right-to-left, taking in the black hull, white upper works and black funnels with what appeared to be dark blue bands. The name on the bow was Hudson. He could see a flag at the bow but not make out what it was, and the rear of the ship was hidden by its own bulk.

    The ship continued to swing and the whistle continued to scream. Now someone was firing rockets from the foredeck, red and blue and white or yellow stars bursting in the darkening sky. Brinkman was pulling at his sleeve, declaring that the enemy was returning fire.

    “Don’t be foolish,” DeGruyter said, not regretting the insolence for a second. “Those are distress flares. That ship is American!”

    “American! That is not possible!” Brinkman screamed. They looked at each other for a long moment, DeGruyter wordlessly offering the binoculars. Brinkman snatched them up, put them to his eyes and turned just as the next salvo crashed out. The overpressure from gun number one – well, that and the sheer unexpectedness of the shock – tumbled them both off the parapet down into what had been a ditch and was now a muddy marsh. DeGruyter rolled onto his side and stared directly into Brinkman’s face, a mask of shock and horror, bruised from striking himself with the now-lost binoculars. He struggled up the parapet mostly on hands and knees, wanting to scream for Hooft but aware that he had no breath to waste. The guns boomed again and then – how? – incoming shells peppered the plain to the west, one spraying mud and water over number six gun.

    He spared a glance over his shoulder as he went over the parapet and down the steps, nearly pitching head over heels on the uneven bricks. Out on the river the tugs were still gamely trying to turn their tow, but the ship had apparently stuck fast. Its own engines were still, the roar of the whistle joined by the banshee shriek of steam being blown off from the boilers. Her windows were still brightly lit though the whole scene was veiled in steam – or was it smoke? It was too dark and DeGruyter was too hurried to see the pockmarks of shell hits in her black side, but the white superstructure had missing windows, and gray and black streaks. Was that a flicker of fire, behind the glass? There were no people to be seen. He assumed they were on the opposite side, since any sensible person would be trying to get away, or at least hide.

    He saw the tiniest red dot on the far shore, and as he hurried down the steps he knew. There is another battery on the opposite shore, he thought. We missed the ship and the shells landed there. And now they are shooting back. This madness must stop!

    “Hooft!” he bellowed, caroming off a gun-layer. “Hooft! Cease firing! You men! Cease fire! Gun captains, pass the word to cease firing! We are shooting at our own people!” In the uproar he had no idea if anyone could hear him; struggling for breath, he could barely hear himself.

    He had a glimpse of Hooft, standing down by number three gun with his perpetual and criminally reckless cigar alit. Then he went down, tangled in his own great stupid feet, and clipped his head on something, and lay very quietly in the dark and noisy night for a timeless while.


    The burned out wreck of the Ward Line steamship ‘Hudson’, ashore on the bank of the Scheldt River near Ellewoutsdijk.
    "That which does not kill me, has made a grave tactical error." - Jerry Pournelle

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  9. #2049
    Field Marshal Stuyvesant's Avatar
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    I'm torn between the brevity of 'Whoops' and the slightly less brief, but more salty 'Oh f*ck'.

    I think the latter has it.

    That seemed like the perfect combination of outdated equipment, poor communications, lack of preparation, overzealousness (Brinkman), going-through-the-motions-even-though-they're-stupid-because-it-beats-losing-retirement (DeGruyter), and just a dash of bad luck. Oh, and stupidity, what with the opposing batteries opening fire on each other.

    The scene felt really plausible and it vibed really well with my feeling for circa turn-of-the-century Dutch history. I'm no expert (beyond the fact I was born there, roughly 80 years later), but it just felt right.

    And now the Dutch, already ill-advisedly at war with the French (and possibly the Belgians), are going to face the wrath of the mighty American Empire. Oh my, I pity my compatriots.
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  10. #2050
    First Lieutenant cezar87's Avatar

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    Oh, the US press is going to have a field day with this little incident. If there was any hope in anybody's mind that the US was not going to get involved, it's gone now.

  11. #2051
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    Never put something down to malice that you can explain with sheer idiocy... said the Ambassador to the POTUS.

    Poor Dutchies, oi vay!

  12. #2052
    Gives brinkmanship a new meaning when you shoot your own side trying to fire at someone not involved in the first place. Assuming Brinkman survives the war, and assuming the Netherlands are in a position to do so when they have a chance, I think we have an excellent candidate for court-martial.

  13. #2053
    Lt. General TheExecuter's Avatar
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    No offense, D...but I found the characters a bit stereotyped. From the moment the scene started you knew EXACTLY what was going to happen...and how it was all going to go down. Perhaps I'm getting a bit jaded?

    Now that the bad is out of the way, the good: I loved the descriptions, and the text really enabled me to see, hear, and experience the action.

    <sits back with cup of chai>

    I'm looking forward to the war itself. If its as good as your Civil War writings...whoo-boy...this'll be good!

    The Last Mission A Love Story

    There is no way to peace along the way of safety. For peace must be dared, it is itself the great venture and can never be safe. Peace is the opposite of security. To demand guarantees is to want to protect oneself. Peace means giving oneself completely to God's commandment, wanting no security, but in faith and obedience laying the destiny of the nations in the hand of almighty God, not trying to direct it for selfish purposes. Battles are won, not with weapons, but with God. They are won when the way leads to the cross.

  14. #2054
    Historically plausible Dewirix's Avatar
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    And so it begins. I think that if the United States, the Netherlands, et al were to approach the incident in good faith it could probably be resolved without further bloodshed. I'm also convinced that good faith is going to be in increasingly short supply over the next few years.
    AAR in progress
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  15. #2055
    Maestro Director's Avatar
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    To all - I'd like to open with some general comments and then I'll respond to each commentator.

    The Executor pretty much nailed it. I agree that the situation and characters are stereotypical and even cartoonish. I'm not going to argue that; instead I'd like to walk through the decisions that I made when structuring the post.

    First, I had to account for some very unlikely events. In-game, Netherlands DoW's France and Belgium and Germany stand by their alliances. As the US player I made the decision that I could not afford to let Germany run over France. I've only recently passed Germany in the world power scores and don't lead by all that much. I'll never match their military score, so letting Germany increase her industrial score by ripping out the heart of France would be something I need to prevent. France has turned down my alliance offers every year since forever, nor are they allied with anyone significant but Belgium. So how do I account for what appears to be a foolish declaration of war followed by the notoriously isolationist USA jumping in straightaway?

    I've been foreshadowing this for a long time, dropping hints that the US was more involved in the international scene and going on about friction between the US and the Dutch and Germans. Germany could cold-bloodedly create a reason to go to war with France, I think. For the Dutch to jump first is unlikely but could be ignored or re-written. But for the US to jump instantly into a war there would have to be more than a small amount of motivation - something drastic, in my opinion. So... what are the choices? A telegram doctored to be insulting? An assasinated president or prince? A sunken ship, whether by enemy action or not? (Franco-Prussian, WWI, US entry into WWI and Spanish-American). I had to work hard to fabricate a believable reason and my first choice was an attempted - unsuccessful - assasination of Theodore Roosevelt. But that felt... expected, and hard to prove who was at fault unless you captured the assassin. So I picked the sunken luxury liner and tried to work out how it could have happened.

    The stereotypical and cartoonish elements in the post come therefore from trying to force the characters to do things that are unlikely but necessary for the plot. I needed men who were military (able to destroy the ship) but unused to the Scheldt (so that they would fail to recognize the ship). I needed a reason for them to start shooting (inept commander and officers) and keep shooting (shells hit far shore where there just happens to be a battery, and one which is able to instantly return fire). What I wanted was more in the line of Dr Strangelove - slapstick comedy against a looming backdrop of global war - and unfortunately I don't write well enough to pull it off.

    If the readers have better explanations for how the war could have started, I'd love to hear them. It's never to late to learn and it could be a lot of fun.

    ++++++++++++++++++++++++


    Stuyvesant - glad you enjoyed the post. I went back and forth on my opinion of DeGruyter and I'm still not sure how competent the man really is.

    Well, at long last the war is launched. Now to get the US into it... and there is that little matter of where Kierianne Frost went, and what she is doing there.

    cezar87 - yes, it is going to play like the Maine and the Lusitania. I don't think any apology is going to suffice, but we will see. A lot depends on how TR reacts - his ancestors are Dutch, you know.

    Jape - I wanted something that would convincingly explain a rapid US entry into the war since I think the US would need a solid kick in the... baubles... to leap into a great war in Europe.

    J. Passepartout - Brinksmanship as in Lieutenant Brinkman? Good catch. Brinkman unfortunately does not survive the war. The Dutch army investigates and finds no grounds for a court-martial; the government is grappling with running the war and won't over-rule the army. So they promote him to a front-line battalion as a 'reward' and if he happens to stop a bullet (or a piece of shrapnel, actually) then... too bad.

    TheExecuter - I think I spoke to your concerns above but I would genuinely like to hear your thoughts. We can discuss this a bit, so long as we make sure it doesn't go too long.

    Dewirix - I agree, and that's why I started talking about friction between the Dutch and the US in the colonies. There are going to be more surprises ahead... this isn't quite the WWI of our time-line. No-one ever said war would come because of 'some damned thing in the Benelux'!.
    "That which does not kill me, has made a grave tactical error." - Jerry Pournelle

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  16. #2056
    Lt. General TheExecuter's Avatar
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    No worries on the discussion bit. I am not half the writer you are (particularly when dealing with action scenes), so if I were going to write such a passage...I would probably have had the Dutch attempting to contact the American steamer, which, for incompetent reasons (captain or signalsmen drunk) does not respond. The ranging shells hit the ship, and the excited crews keep firing. It feels more like a tragic moment, one full of pathos, than something to pull Dr. Strangelove into. But then, of course, it would be my story, and not your own.

    I am also announcing that, you have won the weekly AAR showcase, as I want to be sure you have a big audience for what I know will be the excellent description of the world at war.

    Congrats!



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    The Last Mission A Love Story

    There is no way to peace along the way of safety. For peace must be dared, it is itself the great venture and can never be safe. Peace is the opposite of security. To demand guarantees is to want to protect oneself. Peace means giving oneself completely to God's commandment, wanting no security, but in faith and obedience laying the destiny of the nations in the hand of almighty God, not trying to direct it for selfish purposes. Battles are won, not with weapons, but with God. They are won when the way leads to the cross.

  17. #2057
    Maestro Director's Avatar
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    TheExecuter - Oh, my. Thank you!

    I've been writing though not posting, so I have a selection of treats for my readers. Here we go!
    "That which does not kill me, has made a grave tactical error." - Jerry Pournelle

    Seven AARs and a picture, too: Director's Inkwell

  18. #2058
    Maestro Director's Avatar
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    Theodore Roosevelt straightened, brought a rag-wrapped hand to his brow and paused in mid-wipe. The new auto-steamers were notoriously quiet, but the high-pitched chuff-puff they made could not be mistaken for the deep cough of a locomotive or for the panting of a stationary steam engine. The problem was that there was not a sawmill or a railroad within twenty miles, nor an autosteamer nearer than a hundred... unless he was mistaken. He cocked his head and listened intently. The eyes might be weak behind strong lenses but his hearing had always been exceptional.

    An auto-steamer? Here? That would be a herald from a new age, indeed. He removed his pince-nez and wiped them carefully, lifted the earthenware jug from the stump and took a thoughtful, measured sip of cold spring water. Then he stepped to the edge of the clearing and donned shirt and jacket, moving quickly now that the decision was made. His undershirt was soaked, but that couldn’t be helped. If some lunatic was trying the rutted trail up to Gorman Hill farm in an auto-steamer, then something was very wrong. His wife and children were at the farmhouse, or down at Seneca Lake. Elliott, his brother, had been… not ill. Insane, in a way. Perhaps… Determination put a stretch in muscles weary from a day’s wood-cutting and gardening.

    There was an auto-steamer in the lane by the house, dusted so that its color was indistinct and its windscreen brown as an old board. Two men were talking to the agents of the Presidential Detail, identifiable as driver and passenger by their bulky, dirt-covered coats and headgear. One of them turned as Roosevelt strode out of the woods, and the President’s heart sank as he saw Wilbur Gordon’s serious face.

    “You can let them be,” Roosevelt rasped. “I know them – this one, anyway.” The PD agents nodded respectfully but made no other movement. Roosevelt bared his teeth; he hated having men look after him every moment, but also had to admit they were only doing their jobs.

    “Yessir,” Agent Dobbs said. “We recognize Mister Gordon. But this gentleman doesn’t want us to inspect his… carriage.”

    “If I have to put up with this confounded intrusion, then so does he,” Roosevelt growled. “You can let these agents carry out their duties or you may depart, sir – this instant!”

    “I have not been paid,” the man started, “Not a penny, and that’s just the hire rate, not to mention the special. And look you, my bonnie needs water – good, clear water, mind.”

    “Let my men have a look and we’ll talk about payment,” the President rapped, “or be off with you, and take your chances with payment and water both!” He sailed past the still-protesting driver, Gordon’s arm gripped in one meaty hand. “Not one word until we are indoors,” he said in what for Roosevelt was a mutter.

    Once inside he slammed the door and rounded on the young secretary. “All right, Gordon, you can tell me about your amazing exploit in a moment. What is your news, to bring you this long way in person?”

    Gordon blushed under a thick crop of freckles, unbuttoned the heavy duster coat and removed a sheaf of telegrams. Roosevelt flicked through them, face stony, read through them again and looked up with eyes blurred by tears. “A hundred dead.” He gasped and hunched into himself as if he had received the wound in his own body. Gordon walked him to his favorite chair, a massively-overstuffed assembly of gnarled tree-branches and worn fabric upholstery, then went to the kitchen for two glasses of lemonade.

    Roosevelt drank half his glass in silence, looking into the depths of the ashy fireplace. He had no need to read the telegrams again; the contents were sorted, ranked and filed along with everything else he had ever read, instantly accessible. Then came the questions, delivered in his best prosecutorial style: whom, what, when, and most importantly the why. When he had wrung from Gordon everything the young man knew, Roosevelt paused for only a moment before dictating instructions.

    “Take Agent Dobbs or one of his men as a guide. Go find my wife and her party – bring them here. Sarah is with them – she is our maid – and we will need her help to pack. I will be ready to travel when you return and we will take the auto-steamer to the station.” Then the Rooseveltian curiosity surfaced. “However did you get it here – you could not have driven all the way from Albany!”

    “Put it on a railroad flatcar, sir. Had a devil of a time getting it on and off, but we managed. Faster than a team of horses, it is, on level ground, anyway. And no need to stop and rest it, either.”

    “I’ll telegraph the Cabinet from the station,” Roosevelt mused.

    “Sir? Will you want to telegraph the campaign headquarters, also?”

    There was scarcely a month left before the voters went to the polls in November. Roosevelt nodded. “I’ll wire both – Judge Price needs to know, although what he will make of this I cannot say. It is certainly too great a matter to be made into a campaign issue.”

    Gordon fidgeted silently, then blurted, “Will there be war, sir?”

    Roosevelt’s face turned grim. “I fear so, Gordon. I hope not, and we must hold fast to that. Do the newspapers have this yet?”

    The secretary frowned. “It was not in the evening paper when we left Albany – I am sure I would have heard the cryers. But -”

    “That Devil Hearst has correspondents everywhere, I know. And he is no friend of my administration – or of anyone save himself.” He breathed in deeply, then strained the exhale through his mustache, grown a little long on his holiday. “There is nothing for it but to return to Washington as quickly as possible. Now – be off with you to tell the others! I shall be ready when you return.”
    "That which does not kill me, has made a grave tactical error." - Jerry Pournelle

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  19. #2059
    Field Marshal loki100's Avatar
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    well to describe that as superb is to be a wee bit unjust. Works at so many levels, with the key issue left unsaid (or it maybe just I've missed the simply obvious), but in many ways a quiet coda between has gone on and what is still to do so?
    Remember, whatever the question, the answer on 18 September is Yes ...

  20. #2060
    Maestro Director's Avatar
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    loki100 - for me it establishes that TR isn't just running to a war screaming 'Bully!' and generally behaving like a cliche. We know from the historical record that he had profound, complicated feelings about the Spanish-American War and that those changed somewhat after his wartime service.

    For my own part I want to say that I would not have picked a war with Germany without extreme provocation. The breaking-point for me was the preservation of France and Britain - if Germany went for one of them, I would have to intervene.

    So - here we are, me and my 95-something divisions plus the most inept AI in the game (WWI France) versus the German reaper. Naval power and cash aren't going to get the deal done, so the questions now are:

    1) Can I get the Army to Europe in time to save France and possibly Belgium?
    2) Where do I land?
    3) What do I do if (*gulp!*) I lose the Army?
    "That which does not kill me, has made a grave tactical error." - Jerry Pournelle

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