Undead Underway, page 1
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Copyright © 2007/2016 by Brenna Lyons
First Fireborn Publication: October 2016
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All characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is strictly coincidental.
This book is written in US English.
It all started when Clueless...that is, when Lt. JG Edward Cluze staggered onboard from liberty in a little town that shall remain nameless, somewhere above the Arctic Circle.
I could tell you the port, but then I'd have to kill you, military secrets being what they are and you not having the clearance I do.
Strictly speaking, I'm joking. After all, when a nuclear sub comes up, the heat bloom on satellite tells the whole fucking world where we are, but I've always wanted to say that to someone, and you seemed like a good bet for believing it.
Anyway, back to the story.
Clueless made it back. Pissed me off, because when 0200 local time. came and went, I'd bet he'd passed out somewhere in town and was busy making himself into an Officer-sicle that wouldn't be discovered until the sun rose fully in a couple of months.
It wouldn't have made me cry not to see him come back before we cast off, but it sure did tick me off to see him half-falling down the ladder, because that meant I was out twenty-five bucks to Diamond Dallas. Well, that and the fact that I'd have to deal with him for the rest of the underway. I could be one EOOW short, if it meant losing Clueless.
Who am I? Sorry about that. Maybe, I should have started with my name, but since this fuck-up wasn't my fault, I figured I should start with Clueless Cluze. My name is Bob Leonard, otherwise known as Petty Officer Len. I run E-Div.
Yeah, Clueless thinks he has some say in it, but as I noted, he's clueless. When the orders come down, the men listen to me, not Cluze. Why? Because they want to be alive at the end of the day....whenever that is.
You see, when you work on a sub, there is no night or day, really. There's no going topside to see the sunlight. You don't even keep the clocks on 'home port time' or even on the time of whatever time zone you're in at the moment. The minute you cast off, you go to Zulu time, also known as Greenwich Mean Time. And that, my friend, is what started this whole mess rolling.
So, Clueless made it down the aft hatch in one piece, a miracle in the making, if you're the praying sort. It might have been better for the crew of the MSP, if Clueless had been the praying sort, but he wasn't. I've come to learn that you never could tell when a cross will come in handy, but we can get back to that later.
If he'd been an enlisted man, someone might have lifted a hand to help Cluze back to his rack. We'd been known to drag guys down and heft them into top racks, when they were far gone, but that was what we did for other enlisted guys. He wasn't enlisted; he was an officer. A snot-nosed nub with a lot to learn about the Navy and submarines and...well, you can guess what I was going to say.
I can report, with confidence, that the nickname was a fitting one, because I was one of the luckless bastards who had to train him at S1C, the Nuke prototype that used to stand in Windsor, CT. About half of the pups who came through S1C were certifiably idiots, possessing two-five knowledge, at best. Two-five is the lowest passing score, and it essentially means that a student is smart enough to agree with the right answer to a question when told it by someone training him. Clueless was smart enough to agree...most days, or at least he was at S1C.
Cluze was worse than most. When the new bar code qual system was instated, we once qualified a box of grease pencils, just as a lark. I'm sorry to report that the grease pencils had a higher GPA than Clueless did. For that reason alone, when I'm particularly annoyed with Clueless, I tend to call him Greasy. He's never understood it; typical for him.
At any rate, I gave Clueless just the right amount of shit for costing me twenty-five and not having the good grace to die like a man in the sub-zero temps. For those of you who have never been on a submarine, the right amount would be a verbal trouncing the likes of which sent one E-Divver off the sub in a straight jacket.
The weak link, as always, must be eradicated.
I paused in mid-rant, staring at his collar. For a moment, an instant in time, I would have sworn that he had lipstick on the white shirt. Then the blue...
Let me tell you a little something about 'Navy Blue.' It isn't blue, at all. It's black. What sick psychopath named it Navy blue, I will never know, but trust me on this one. There's nothing blue about a Navy uniform, unless you're talking dungarees or poopie suits.
Anyway, his jacket collar shifted and hid the spot of red from me, and common sense intruded rather quickly. Clueless was a long, tall drink of water with wild, red hair and an oversized nose that not even a Tromso-babe looking for an open wet bar and a US Navy baby would have taken up on a roll in the hay.
That was saying a lot, considering the fact that the US Navy was banned from Tromso, Norway after the first...and last visit a US Navy submarine had made there. It seems that the government of Norway didn't like the population explosion some nine months later, courtesy of their universal health care system, from young women giving only "some US Navy submariner" as the Daddy's name on the birth certificate.
It was no great surprise that the MSP had been the only sub to stop there. That was why we were stuck going even further north for a port than we had the last time.
So, it wasn't lipstick. There was no way it was lipstick. Clueless must have cut himself shaving and managed to make it across the brow without someone noticing it and ruining his chances of down time in port. No one took more than one dress uniform on a cruise, so someone sending him back would have screwed Clueless completely, though the only reason it would have was because the CO was being an asshole and making us wear uniforms ashore in the first place.
Usually, we wore civvies, but when the Petty Tyrants start up, there is no reasoning with them. When the
I may have lost twenty-five bucks to Diamond Dallas, but there I was with a piss-drunk JO who needed correction, on my way to the rack for a few hours down after standing my port and stupid. So, I blasted him properly and sent him to the rack, fully prepared to make sure he was the first one racked out when the start-up came due. I grinned the whole way back to the rack, imagining Clueless hung over on watch...or better yet, suffocated in the puddle of his own puke he'd likely soon be sleeping in.
I should probably warn you that submariners chuckle over things like that. Our unofficial motto is "Everything is funny until someone dies. Then it's fucking hysterical." That's a code those of us who survive submarines live to religiously. You never know when someone is going to flick your balls or rim a mug just for the laugh.
Of course, if he's stupid enough to rim it with the coffee in it... Believe it or not, that's a standard nub mistake! Well, if he's that stupid, he learns our second motto: "Stupidity should be painful." In a case like that, the joke's on him, you know?
Getting Clueless racked out was easier said than done. It took Cat Man and Diamond Dallas combined to get him up. By the time they finagled him out of the rack, looking a little worse for wear, they'd disturbed two other officers, and that is never a pretty sight.
When Cat Man practically pushed Clueless out of the tunnel and into the engine room, he announced that he'd never seen anyone manage 'the sleep of the dead' on board before. Usually submariners sleep light; even the ventilation fans cutting out will wake them, but not Clueless. Not that night or any night after that he slept.
Or was it day? I guess it was day, though we were so far north that there was little or no day to the day. Never mind that. I've gotten off the subject again...sort of.
Torturing Clueless that watch was sweet justice. It was always good entertainment when some nub thought he could drink with the big boys. In ten years, I hadn't met a nub that could drink me under the table, and that included Lonnie, a monster of a man who weighed in at more than double my one-seventy-five and stood a full six-feet-four in height.
It didn't surprise us that Clueless couldn't look at food or stand the smell of coffee. That's how you can tell a true submariner, by the way. A true submariner can drink tar-thick coffee in any state from hung-over to state five seas.
Clueless had never been cut out to be a submariner, and we all knew it. The only thing we had to do was drive him crazy...or drive him to go AWOL. We'd done both to weak links before, and he was undeniably the weak link of the current underway.
If he was an older man, we could drive him to a heart attack, as Cat Man and I had done with the former COB, but that was unlikely with Clueless. He worked out and ate as healthy as one could on a submarine. No, it would have to be insanity or UA with Clueless.
We cast off near the end of the watch, and everyone back aft waited patiently, hoping Clueless would lose what little he had in his stomach before we managed to dive.
The time a submarine spends on the surface is the roughest it gets. It's made to be steady as a rock underwater; but in all honesty, a submarine is little better than a bobber up top.
Once again, Clueless disappointed me, but at least I didn't lose any money on him that time. That bet was between Diamond Dallas and Lonnie, and Lonnie was none too happy about losing five on the nub, though Diamond was rolling in dough after two winning bets in the past twelve hours.
The fact that Clueless slept a portion of his down-time, ignoring his forward quals, and didn't eat added fuel to the fire. He was easier to rack out for the next watch, but he still wasn't eating...and he was looking more than a little pale.
Maybe, we should have seen something bad coming then, but who expects anything but what we see every day?
He took shit when he was still dragging the next day, but it was the third day that finally snapped me.
"What is wrong with you?" I finally demanded, not bothering with the 'sir' that we both knew was said with the highest disdain and distaste when I did bother with it.
Clueless pushed at his collar, fidgeting, brown eyes half hidden by the dark circles beneath them. The bruises on the side of his throat caught my eye, and I grabbed his collar, uncovering them.
"What is this shit?" I asked, more interested than frustrated now.
It wasn't a hickey. Not that I thought Clueless could get a hickey. No, this looked more like two fingertip bruises. The certainty that someone was testing out the Vulcan neck pinch on him brought a smile to my face. Now, would Clueless admit to it or not?
"She bit me."
"She? She who?" There were no women on submarines. Maybe it worked. Maybe he's finally cracking, and we can get rid of him.
"The woman in port. The one I..." He darkened, yet more proof that he didn't belong on a submarine. "The one I picked up at the bar and took back to her room."
I pushed Clueless away. "Nice try. Why don't we try something believable, like aliens or the Loch Ness Monster?"
"You don't think I can get laid?" It was a petulant complaint at best.
"No, I don't." Might as well be honest, right? "What really happened? Did Diamond Dallas play Spock on your ass?"
"Can it, Len. I got laid, and she bit me."
I couldn't help it; I laughed. "No, really. What woman would—"
"A really gorgeous one, now can it. I wish I knew what the hell she did to me." Clueless wandered off, looking befuddled, murmuring something about seeing Doc.
A niggling of unease settled in my stomach. He'd sounded rational about the whole thing. My hopes that he was going over the edge sank. I'd seen more than a few men crack in ten years, and none of them went with such quiet confusion.
It was three days later when things started to get really weird. Clueless was looking healthier, but the COB was looking pretty rocky, not that the COB ever looked good, especially since his wife had left him a week into that deployment. Now, I probably don't have to note that I was no sadder to see the COB under the weather than I was to see Clueless there, but a COB in a foul mood is even more of headache material than a JO that thinks he knows what he's doing.
After little more than a minute's consideration, I decided that it was boat crud snapping at their heels. I grumbled at the COB to keep his distance and not give it to me, though I knew from long experience that no one escaped boat crud. With the air recirculation, it just kept circling and getting more virulent until it was a near-death sentence for the folks back home, but we became immune...after three or four passes with mutated strains.
Would that it had actually been boat crud, I wouldn't be writing this shit down now. Of course, no one ever said life was fair or boring, especially not on a submarine.
It moved quickly after that. Every three to five days, an increasing number of the crew came down ill, staggered cases appearing over a few days. The worst part was that those who'd been sick before seemed to only have a few days' reprieve before going downhill again. It was downright weird, like nothing Doc had ever seen.
As each man fell ill, he exhibited the same ugly bruising, some on their throats and some on their shoulders or wrists. Some were confused about how they got them, some royally hacked off that they'd managed to catch "the new crud." It was nearly always two bruises...sometimes four, about the same size and the same distance apart. Damn, it was spooky.
If we'd been on a carrier, we'd have had the ability to check CBC or other blood tests that might have given us insight into what the problem was, like Doc itched to. Of course, if we were on a carrier, there would have been other ways to find out precisely what was going on.
But, Petty Tyrant hadn't
People started getting edgy. Everyone was watching their backs. Rack assignments were switched around. Those who were well refused to hot rack with those who were sick. In short order, they had separated sick from well and shuffled all the sick into nine-man berthing. When the affected overran nine-man, then twenty-one man and moved into forward berthing, things really got tense...mutinous tense.
Planning a mutiny on a submarine isn't usually what civilians imagine it to be. Normally, it falls into the sanity-saving column of aberrant behavior. Every once in a while, someone gets bored and just a tad over the whole 'Petty Tyrant' routine and blocks out how he could best accomplish taking over the boat, getting it to port and getting the hell off...or he plans how he would take out all but a dozen or so of the crew and go smuggler with the sub. Your shipmates might even look over your shoulder, offer hints and move on. If it's a really bad cruise, the Chiefs might get in on the fun.
It's when things start getting serious that you should worry about it. It got serious pretty quickly. It wasn't just me planning a mutiny anymore. It was every man left in aft berthing, and since none of us were hot racking it, that made about a hundred and twenty guys down from a crew of just over a buck-fifty...and thirty or so planning not to go next, planning so hard that we'd welded the door between us and forward berthing shut. It had only been a little over a month since Clueless had gone sick, so we were understandably concerned about being next.
Luckily, Rosenbloom, a stand-up A-ganger worth his weight in approved leave chits, had been cross- trained as a Naviguesser, so figuring out where we were and where we wanted to be wasn't all that difficult. Unfortunately, we were far from anywhere we could find shelter once we'd escaped the boat. That complicated things.
Other author's books:
- Stone LordWerewolf UBearing Armen - Book ThreeUndead UnderwayFates MagicTygersProphecy: RaptureThe Master's Lover
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