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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

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iain_a_wilson

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Part 10


Dirk Krugar tugged at the blanket around his shoulders and held his hands out towards the fire that crackled merrily in the centre of the cavern. Its bright light sent the shadows dancing around the walls, and were it not for the cheery grin of the British soldier sitting opposite him, the cold beer at his side and the smell of sausages cooking, Dirk may have been slightly unnerved. His companion, who had learned was called Dave, grinned and prodded the fire expertly with a stick, sending a shower of sparks drifting into the air. Dirk smiled.

"So, let me get this right, there are no crocodiles down here?"

Dave wrinkled his brow.

"Not strictly true, chum. There is a crocodile..."

Dirk tensed.

"I thought you said..."

The soldier laughed and waved his hands.

"...but she's stuffed."

"Why do you have a stuffed crocodile in what is meant to be a Crocodile Pit of Death (1)?"

Dave winked.

"Allow me to demonstrate."

He thrust a nearby torch into the fire and its tip blazed into life. Standing, he motioned to Dirk to follow him. The two men left the warm, arid confines of the cave and back into the main chamber with its underground river. Dave led the way, his heavy footfalls making noisy splashes as he waded through the water into the darkness. As they moved further away from the cave and its fire, the light slowly receded and the darkness began its slow exorable creep towards both men until it surrounded them completely, held at bay only by the blaze of Dave's torch. Eventually the soldier came to a halt in front of a large, metal door that was set into the cave wall. He indicated the handle to Dirk.

"Go on - it's open. You go in."

Puzzled, the Boer stepped forward and grabbed the handle, pulling the door towards him. It creaked open on rusty hinges and he peered inside, straining his eyes to see what was within. As his vision acclimatised to the gloom he let out a little gasp, put his hand to his mouth and staggered backwards, releasing his grip on the handle as he did so. The door swung shut, giving Dirk one last look at the gigantic crocodile within before it clanked shut. Dave laughed and clapped Krugar firmly on the back.

"She looks pretty realistic, yeah?"

Dirk nodded.

"Shit - I thought it was real! It's massive! Why? Why have you got it there?"

Dave smiled, his face looking like that of a rather jolly demon (2)in the flickering torchlight.

"Well, Himself upstairs needs to believe that we've got fierce crocs down here, so I bought this one off a couple of Tswana hunters, had it stuffed and brought here. When He asked to see the crocs I’d bought fir His pit I took him down here in the same dim light and let him see what you’ve just seen. Pretty damn, scary huh?"

Dirk nodded and pointed back down the tunnel.

"It is, but do you mind if we go back to your camp fire? I'm still bloody freezing from thrashing around in the water like I was being eaten and I could really do with those sausages and my beer."

Dave nodded.

"Sure thing."

"If you don't mind me asking though, why did you spend all that money on a dead, stuffed croc when you could have bought a live one?"

"Are you kidding? Capturing and transporting a live croc is hard enough, but keeping it fed down here and looking after it? No thanks! I find it's a lot easier for everyone if the boss simply believes he's got crocs to feed his enemies to. That way he's happy, I don't have to deal with man-eating, killer reptiles and any 'crocodile maintenance' money that gets fed my way - pardon the pun - accrues a nice amount of interest in my bank account (3)."

By now the two men were back at the cave and Dirk wasted no time on squatting down by the fire and warming his hands again. Dave extinguished his torch in the river outside and prodded the sausages experimentally with a stick. He gave a grunt of satisfaction (4)and turned them over. Dirk took another swig of beer before jabbing his bottle in Dave's direction.

"The one thing I don't get is why you don't get found out. Isn't there a risk that the Brigadier runs across someone who he believes has been chomped by his pets?"

Dave grinned and started to rummage in a bag behind him.

"I thought you'd ask that. It's simple really. For one, the boss is a toff. And he's mad. Most toffs barely acknowledge the existence of their social inferiors", he waved a hand over his shoulder at Dirk, "no offence intended."

"None taken I'm sure."

"The fact that he's mad means it's dead easy to play the 'you must be mistaken, sir' card. But my secret weapon is this..."

He triumphantly wrenched something from his bag and waved it in front of Dirk. The Boer cocked his head to one side and looked quizzically at it. Whatever it was that Dave was holding had all the appearance of a small, dead rodent.

"Road kill?"

Dave frowned.

"No you great lummox. It's a false beard. You wear it; you'll look like someone else completely."

He smiled wryly.

"Did you not notice how many men upstairs had suspiciously bushy looking beards?"

"To be honest - I wasn't paying them that much attention. I was trying, instead, to concentrate on prostituting my nation to yours."

Dave held up his hands defensively.

"Whoa there my friend! This war is not my fault..."

Dirk waved his bottle apologetically.

"I know, I know..."

"...in fact, as I was saying, did you notice how many of the soldiers upstairs were sporting rather odd facial hair?"

Dirk brightened.

"You mean..."

"Yup - there's a whole underground army forming right under the Brigadier's nose. You're not the only one who wants this war to finish, my friend."

He threw the beard at Dirk and picked up a plate upon which he unceremoniously heaped four sausages. With his other hand he placed a knife and fork on the plate and handed the ensemble to the Boer who was busy examining the facial hairpiece he was now holding.

"Thanks!"

"No problem. My plan is this - I figure if we get rid of the nutter at the helm, a saner mind might be more amiable to pursuing a negotiated solution, rather than bothering with things like crocodile pits, insane Colonels and concentration camps."

He held out his bottle.

"Cheers!"

Dirk clinked his against Dave's.

"Cheers!"

"Now get those sausages eaten and let’s get you measured up for your uniform..."

1. He made a point of clearly pronouncing the capital letters.

2. Truth be told, all demons are fairly cheery. They've got good reason to be. If you're in Hell but not being tormented for eternity it stands to reason that you can commit pretty much any sin you want and get away Scot free. Given how much fun a lot of sins can be, this is a pretty good reason to be cheerful. In the armies of the Damned it's the vampires who are the miserable ones. They have some kind of contractual obligation to be whiney, angsty and tormented. This, naturally, makes them very popular with teenage girls, and Hell likes nothing more than damning souls at a tender age. It also makes them extremely media friendly and Hell also like mass audiences being drawn in and entranced with one of their creations. Most demons find this very amusing. Especially when the PR boys dream up tripe like “Twilight”.

3. Dave was saving up for his own orchard. He liked to brew cider, but unfortunately the apples in South Africa didn't seem to suit his ancient family recipes. Nonetheless, the stuff that he distilled here was very popular with the artillerymen. Not just because it could send a grown man into a nigh on comatose state after two glasses, but a keg of it was simply excellent for cleaning the breeches of the really big guns with.

4. This type of non-verbal communication is common to all situations involving men, fire and dead animals. Just take a look at the guys clustered around the barbeque next time you're at one. An entire group of men can stand around for hours, beers in hand, staring at meat blackening over dancing flames, pausing only to grunt in approval as whoever is in charge of the barbeque flips the burgers. Ladies - don't attempt to understand this. It's a primal thing. We used to do this when we killed mammoth. Now we're chained to desks. We're simply getting in touch with our inner cave men. It’s our equivalent of all that fuss you make over childbirth. As if it hurts that much. We know you’re just getting in touch with your primal selves. That's cool too. (5)

5. Light of My Life – it goes without saying that if you’re reading this that last paragraph really, really was a joke. Please put down the scissors...
 

AllmyJames

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So the Brigader is right! Everyone is out to get him! :eek:

Do the pigs have beards too?
 

4th Dimension

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Hmmm. My Phoshoping skills leave much to be desired. His beard is not that noticeable.
 

Kazmir

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I hope the brigadier won't find out about the underground army, he might do something crueal to the poor men like throw them into a crocodile pit. ;)
 

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I just realised the AAR is kinda Pratchett like. And that is a big compliment as he's my favourite author. So yeah. Don't really know where I'm going with this so I'll stop.

As for the AAR, I wonder, who will be the Boer Han Solo? And above all, who will be Chewie?
 

iain_a_wilson

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Is there anyone in the camp without an beard?:p

Some of the women are clean shaven I believe.

Some of them.

There was that time when the tea lady's brew wasn't to the Brigadier's liking and she ended up paying the crocs a visit.

So the Brigader is right! Everyone is out to get him! :eek:

Do the pigs have beards too?

He's never seen the pigs so he wouldn't know. However, he does know that those boars are EVERYWHERE.

Hmmm. My Phoshoping skills leave much to be desired. His beard is not that noticeable.
Wow. It seems the strength of the above image has rendered you all speechless.

Are these two comments related? ;)

I hope the brigadier won't find out about the underground army, he might do something crueal to the poor men like throw them into a crocodile pit. ;)

Hehe. Rinse, wash, repeat!

I just realised the AAR is kinda Pratchett like. And that is a big compliment as he's my favourite author. So yeah. Don't really know where I'm going with this so I'll stop.

Thank you very much - high praise like that means a lot! As long as it's keeping you entertained I'm very happy indeed!

As for the AAR, I wonder, who will be the Boer Han Solo? And above all, who will be Chewie?

You're not the only one to have said that. I'm very glad this AAR is getting people speculating!
 

iain_a_wilson

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Hi chaps,

Just to let you all know, I'm going to be vanishing for a couple of days on my Easter holidays. But fear not - a new update will follow next week!

Thanks again for reading (and saying nice things)!

Happy Easter to you all (and have a good weekend if you're not a Christian)!

Cheers!

Iain
 

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This Dave fellow sounds like he ought to be in charge. But then that's the way of it in the British Army, isn't it? Long-suffering Tommies who can see the idiocy of what they're being ordered to do but who heroically go and do it anyway. Or who do what really ought to be done and fool the guys at the top into thinking the stupid bits have, in fact, been done. Come to think of it, the American Army has the same tradition. :D

So having someone in charge who knows what they're doing would violate the natural order of things and likely open a wormhole to Hell, or Kansas, or possibly even Ankh-Morpork. And we can't be havin' with that.

Definitely a Pratchett quality - and that's a good thing.
 

iain_a_wilson

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Part 11


The massive shipyard in Alexander Bay (or Alexanderbaai if you were an Afrikaaner) lay in almost total darkness. Whereas for the last twelve months the sound of various presses, hydraulics, furnaces, winches, welders, riveters and other myriad pieces of shipbuilding equipment that filled the dockyard (1) had echoed almost constantly, tonight the whole building was almost completely silent. Workbenches lay empty, dust sheets covered machines and not a single worker was anywhere in sight. The various lamps that dangled from the ceiling were dark, and the only light came from the torches carried by the two figures slowly picking their way across the shop floor. Occasionally one of them would stop to curse as he stubbed his toe on a misplaced tool, but eventually they made their way to the large waterway that opened out into the Orange River. Both of them shone their torches on the massive ship that lay at anchor, and one of them, the smaller of the two, whistled appreciatively.

"Wow. She a beaut. No arguing there."

His colleague, a tall, gaunt man dressed in a smart, black, three-piece suit nodded.

"You're right there, McAllister. She is without a doubt our finest work."

James McAllister removed his glasses and frantically ran a rag over their massive, round lenses, before shining his torch on them to check that no fogging or specks of dirt had escaped his frenzied rubbing. Seemingly satisfied, he donned the glasses once more and blinked owlishly (2).

"Ah - that got it! It's so bloody muggy in here, my specs misted up! Well, there will be no more mugginess for me after she's launched", he gestured expansively at the ship before them, "I can finally get back to a decent climate and away from a continent where everything that's not human wants to eat me, and everything that is human and isn't British wants to shoot me (3)!"

"It's not that bad you know..."

McAllister snorted indignantly.

"Not that bad? Bloody hell Tarquin, there's Boers - Boers with rifles no less - hiding in bushes. Everywhere!"

Tarquin Collins held his torch up under his chin, causing his face to glow with an eerie light. For effect he widened his eyes and rolled them ominously.

"I...am...a...Booooooooooooooer..."

"That's not funny you know."

Tarquin sniggered and lowered the torch.

"Of course it is - it's especially funny given that you never have seen - and never will see - a Boer guerilla. The closest you'll get to something like that is if you visit the primate section of Bloemfontain zoo."

McAllister stood in silence for a couple of seconds before he got this.

"Very drole."

"I thank you."

"Anyway, can you believe we designed her?"

He jabbed a finger in the direction of the massive ship.

"I mean, she's just a bloody beauty isn't she? Nobody - and I mean nobody will have ever seen anything like her before (6)."

Placing his hands on his hips he sighed wistfully.

"It's enough to make you cry, it really is."

Suddenly he brightened and quickly turned to face Tarquin. His eyes were alive, like a child's at Christmas.

"What should we name her?"

"Sorry?"

"The ship - what are we naming her?"

Tarquin frowned.

"Well, if you're thinking of naming her..."

McAllister snapped his fingers.

"I've got it!"

"You have? That's nice for you. However, I should point out..."

"No, I really have!"

"I wasn't doubting you the first time, however..."

"No, listen..."

"I was and I am."

"Right. Well. You know how she's colossal?"

"Is she? I hadn't noticed."

"What? Oh. Shut up. Look. Listen!"

"Which sense exactly are you wanting me to use here? Sight or hearing?"

"You make things so difficult."

"I know - it's part of my charm."

McAllister sighed and appeared to be counting to ten inwardly. Tarquin laughed lightly and held up a hand.

"Ok, ok. I was fooling around. I promise to listen and not interrupt you."

"Promise?"

"Promise."

"Ok - well, she's huge, massive, imposing and enormously well-armed, right?"

"Right."

"And coming at you full tilt down the river with the sun behind her and her guns blazing you'd probably have the fear of God in you, right?"

"Well, yes. But that probably would only be for a few seconds before I was pulverized by her main armament."

McAllister made a zipping motion across his mouth.

"Remember the promise not to interrupt?"

Tarquin shrugged apologetically. McAllister continued.

"I think, if you saw that coming towards you, you'd probably think you were facing the most destructive power in the whole universe... You know what I'm driving at, right?"

"My three year old daughter throwing a tantrum?"

McAllister drew him a look at that could have scorched the hull of the ship before them.

"Sorry."

"...what I was mean was this; what could be more destructive than the fiery power at the heart of our sun? At the heart of a star?"

"Look, James, I..."

McAllister was nodding.

"Oh yes, Tarquin. I know what you're thinking."

"I really don't think you do."

"Oh yes I do. Her name. The most destructive power in the universe. Are you ready for this?"

"Go on."

James held up a hand, palm towards the sky and moved it to the right in a slow arc as he spoke.

"HMS...Star...no...wait...that's a bit gay..."

He moved his hand back to the left and then slowly arced it to the right as he spoke, the drama and tension building in his voice.

"HMS...DEATH Star!"

He beamed proudly.

"What do you think?"

Tarquin looked at his nails.

"It's ok, but you're too late."

"What? What do you mean too late?"

"The brass have already named her - the governor wants her launch to reflect the glory of the Cape Colony, so she's going to be called HMS Alexander Bay."

"But...but...that's...shit..."

Tarquin shrugged.

"That it may be my friend, but the boss get to choose the names. We engineers, we only get to design and build the ship - that's our part of the creative process."

He reached out and put an arm around McAllister's shoulders and started walking him towards the exit.

"Come on - I'll buy you a beer."

"But I designed her!" he squeaked.

"Co-designed her..."

"But I co-designed her!"

"I know you did..."

"Part of me is in her!"

"I know it is... (7) Now lets go to the pub."

~~~

Four hours later, and a really drunk James McAllister was the only occupant of Alexander Bay's only public house. The barman stood in front of him, religiously polishing a glass and feigning interest in his drunken ramblings.

"Aysh...emmm...esh Aleshandah Bay... Hmph! 'ey doan ash me" here he drunkenly jabbed himself pointedly in the chest "wha' she should be called."

He staggered, straightened, and held the finger he had just prodded himself with up to his eyes for examination.

"Tha' hurt."

The barman polished the glass understandingly. McAllister smirked and jabbed at the table.

"I wash a seen...seenyee...seen'or desh-iner on a ship! An' they doan ash me!"

He went to point at himself but stopped short and stared at his finger. He winked at the barkeep.

"Woan fa' for tha' again!"

Suddenly the room seemed to spin slightly and he grabbed onto the bar, slowly sinking into the mire of inebriation as he did so. He grinned stupidly at the barman.

"Wanna know my besht invention?"

He tapped the side of his nose.

"Thermal exhaust port. I deshined that."

Then, with a crash and a thud he collapsed onto the floor in a drunken stupor. The barman sighed and continued to slowly polish his glasses.


1. ...of which this author has little or no idea of the existence, let alone function, of...

2. Which, when you consider that owls can't blink, is a pretty odd turn of phrase.

3. McAllister is representative of a particular breed of Briton who, despite coming from a nation of explorers with a rich maritime heritage, seems firmly ensconced in the belief that there is nothing of worth outside of his home country and that every wonder of the world has a counterpart back home in Britain (4), and thus uses this as the bedrock of his central "Why bother leaving?" argument. These are the self-same Britons that have resulted in our present woeful teaching of foreign languages, and who can be found in hotels abroad (on the rare occasions that they are forced from the confines of our fair Isles) talking V E R Y S L O W L Y to waiters and receptionists in the failed belief that this somehow makes it easier for "Johnny Foreigner" to understand English. They are also the sort of person who will end up refusing to eat "that foreign muck" when someone suggests having takeaway food - doggedly yelling things like "What's wrong with getting fish and chips?" They'd probably have a heart attack if it was pointed out to them that their beloved "chips" were originally developed in Belgium in the 1680s (5)...

4. For those of you who have yet to have the pleasure of visiting Great Britain, you may be surprised to find that this belief is completely and utterly without grounding in fact. Sorry. You can still come and visit though. Our country's quite nice really even if we don't have pyramids or hanging gardens.

5. ...and given that in the 1680s Belgium was part of the Spanish Netherlands that technically means that our "British-Through-and-Through" friend's beloved national dish is THREE TIMES as foreign as he first suspected. If you really wanted to make him freak you could refer to his "chips" as "French Fries" because, to the lover of British cuisine (I use this term very loosely to describe a body of food that is either deep fried, stogy, pie-shaped or packed with offal) the one place that says "Gastronomic Hell on Earth!" more than anywhere else is France - after all, they use all those fancy, greasy sauces there, in addition to leaving the meat almost RAW (or juicy and tasty as some of us prefer to call it) and refuse to cook it to the point of blackened, gritty, charcoal-tasting incineration... That being said, most sane people should be wary of a culture who don't understand the concept of "...and this is the part of the animal that we throw away."

6. Apart from the several hundred workers involved in her construction obviously. McAllister was grandstanding, and when you're grandstanding you're allowed to omit certain facts that would somehow lessen the importance and grandeur of what you are pontificating about.

7. Given McAllister's fragile mental state, Tarquin wasn't going to make the obvious joke that probably occurred to all of you reading this just now. It would be like scoring in an open goal - somehow not as satisfying. No, that's not a euphemism for anything. See how foul your mind really is?
 

canonized

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ROFL the death star and the tarkin doctrine . PREPOSTEROUS haha
 

Director

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Oh, the thermal exhaust port... right. Perfectly safe. No-one could ever, ever hit that. Too small, too hard to get to, nothing to see here. :D

'Alexander Bay' sounds like Michael Bay's father, which would make a ship of that name really terrifyingly awful and horrible, so that name works for me.
 

Johan11

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Oi!

How many people are in this story anyways?

And how will they connect?
 

Vesimir

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HMS Death Star.

Ah, it's better that way. Now he'll be able to build the second one. And as we all know, the second one was better than the first.

So yeah. Always look on the bright side of life. :D
 

Johan11

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Enewald

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"I know you did..."

"Part of me is in her!"

"I know it is... (7) Now lets go to the pub."

What is in where?:eek::eek::wacko::confused: :rofl:

A open easy goal might still be satisfying. :D
 

loki100

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and this is the part of the animal that we throw away

this reminds me of, a vaguely related, story I once heard of an English journalist who was visiting an isolated French Gendarme post in Guyana. He was leafing through a book of the local fauna and was impressed that so many things were ticked and annotated, so assumed his hosts were keen on wildlife spotting, only to be told that, no, those were the things they'd had to eat (with recipe suggestions for the next group to be posted there).