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Adventures of the Covenant of the Kraken: Through the Gravity Well
Chapter 1 Life as an Irish Half Breed in Victorian Era America
I was told as a child that I wasn't really a part of the human race. Maybe they were right as I have little desire to share the most popular ideas I see around me regarding money, fashion, popularity, following the crowd, and the absolute cult of one's own ego. Of course money is a useful thing, but I was raised from birth to believe that only friends, family, and our Great Mother which is the Earth really matter. Everything else is just stuff! Ok, so I can appreciate a finely made sword, and I can even appreciate fine craftsmanship in a rifle, pistol, or cannon, and I admit I sometimes fall to drooling at the site of a truly magnificent sailing ship, but in the end (our ship excepted-it’s family!) they are all just stuff!
I was born Eastern Cherokee in 1848 and grew up among them raised to think like any other Cherokee Brave. I was also taught, by my Irish father, how to live, think, and behave like a true warrior of the Celtic tribes, though I found little difference other than language between the two. I grew up in the woods of the hilly areas in the Carolinas among the Cherokee, or what was left of them after the Bluecoats came one winter to burn our homes and take most of our people away down the trail of tears. That was 1838 by their reckoning. We just thought of it as “The Winter of Despair” as we had no use for their calendar. The Bluecoats knew it would be nearly impossible for us to escape, hide and survive without food or shelter, burned out of our homes in the dead of winter, so they captured most of us for that forced exile to Oklahoma. I hear some of our relatives survived that torture to make a new home, but we knew as well as they did that no little children, babies, or wise ones (older people) were likely to survive. To the White Eyes that just meant fewer mouths to feed, so it was a perfect way, in their mind, to steal our land and kill the witnesses to the crime.
Oh they may have told some lies about how they courteously knocked on our doors and told us to gather our things , so they could take us some place safe, far away from the white settlements. They probably even spun some yarn to tell their wives back home about how they honorably guided and protected us all the way to our new homes in Oklahoma. That may have helped the whites that took over our lands to sleep better at night. I actually would like to think they cared that much, but it was probably just more of the silly lies that the white eyes tell one another as part of the games they play to rise as the chief of all liars in charge of their great American tribe of liars.” My mother was only 9 years old when that happened, but she remembers it well even though there were few left to tell the tale. Her are her words, as nearly as I can recall them:
“I was startled awake by the screaming! There were animals screaming everywhere and my sisters were screaming as well and rushing around in the dark and the smoke, but I was too scared to move. Mom finally grabbed me and carried me running for the door to the Asi. The White men outside were lit like some kind of evil spirits from the forest by the lights of our Asi (wood and daub home) burning along with the shelter for our animals. The guns were firing with loud booms as they shot our animals in front of us. The White Eyes laughed at our screaming, at our pain, and at our tears. They laughed as they beat and kicked my father where he lay bloody on the ground. He looked up and yelled just one word in Cherokee ’Run!’ My mother and sisters ran and we never stopped until we were too far into the snows for the men to find us. We ran half naked, empty handed, but far more horribly, with the knowledge that we were now orphans and widowed there in the snow. Father was one of the Cherokee elders that spoke against selling our land to the whites, so he probably got special treatment along with all the others that voted to reject all such offers. Apparently some houses were not set on fire until after the families left them, but they were not allowed to take anything they could not grab quickly and carry on their backs. Even those things were genrally lost by the time they reached the end of the trail of tears, if they ever made it, and that was how the whites treated their strongest supporters in the most ‘civilized’ of the ‘5 civilized tribes’. If our father had not forseen this treachery, we would be dead, but he built a small hidden shelter with food and blankets that helped us survive the winter, though just barely even then. I lost my childhood on that day, and I lost my trust in men, white men anyway.” Singing Bird - Female Elder, Eastern Cherokee Tribe
I have never forgotten her description of that night or the lesson it taught me about being too trusting toward these crazy Europeans even if they seemed to be of a decent sort at times. I was as different from the white (largely English stock back then) Americans as almost any human being could be! While my sandy brown hair and brown eyes might be mistaken for European, the dark swarthy tan and the way I carried myself spoke of a wild thing from the darkest depths of the forests. My family managed to run and hide when the soldiers came, and we snuck back into unsettled areas after they left. At first we "Eastern Cherokee” were simply ignored, then tolerated, and finally accepted as interesting tourist attractions, but that was much, much later. At the time I grew up, we were still in hiding some of the time, and more open at others. As such I learned to move quietly, camouflage, hide in plain sight, and to "borrow" from the white man what was needed when times got hard. My father; however, was Irish through and through, and had come from Ireland in 1847, at a time when things were even worse than they were for us in my childhood.
My father taught me to speak, read, and write in English and Gaelic as well as to figure numbers, but he didn't talk much about his life in Ireland otherwise. When I asked, he got so quiet and sad, that I finally just stopped asking, but when asked about what they did after the Gypsies came to his area, he brightened a bit and told me many colorful tales. I got a pretty clear understanding of his life as a Tinker, a nomadic peddler, like so many others, after his family were thrown off their farmland for non-payment of the impossible rent. Some of the Gypsies, magical nomads from India, who were treated even worse than us poor Irish, took pity on some of us starving poor of Ireland, and taught us how to make a living selling herbs, telling fortunes, brewing untaxed liquors (well we already were doing that one), and making pots and pans out of tin to sell door to door. The noise that came from hammering tin into pots is the source of the name "tinker" as a nickname for such folk and it stuck. At least after he got a (not totally undeserved) reputation for having the ability to put the "evil eye" on rude people, the customers not only stopped being so abusive, but they actually started buying at least a few things. Naturally payment was often in food, but that suited him just fine. That is until the potato famine started killing everyone, and I mean everyone, that wasn't already well off.
As beef became a very profitable luxury item among the elite of Britain, they looked for any and all possible ways to rid themselves of the rebellious and troublesome Irishmen that kept trying to farm the land and feed their families. The nerve of us Irish, caring more about feeding our starving children than feeding the bank accounts of our wealthy English Landlords! This was made worse by extreme high tariffs against any foreign grain being shipped in from outside of Great Britain. When starvation hit, relief programs were terribly insufficient and required farmers to pay a penny for each bag of grain. While this sounds like little enough, a penny was a lot of money to people desperate to hold on to land that was about to be foreclosed and most of the country Irish barely ever saw money and rarely, if ever, used it.
Needless to say the absent English Landlords, who stole our lands under the leadership of Cromwell, used every trick, legal or otherwise, to confiscate our land and turn it into pasture land for English beef. They also continued to ship Irish grain to England even while Irish were starving to death. The Irish farmers that were often starving on the road side had no hope and no options. This went on for years adding to the growing hatred toward the English and all absentee landlords. This continued to slowly get worse until the great potato famine of 1845. Some of the English Religious people actually had the nerve to suggest it was God's way of cleansing Ireland of the Irish problem and they should just let it happen. The dead lay everywhere and the English happily watched about one third of Ireland starve to death, or at least that's how my Pappy remembers it.
He claimed that he personally drove a local magistrate’s carriage to one hard hit village where no one in town stirred. In cottage after cottage they saw families lying like a pile of skeletons wrapped around one another on the straw mattress. At first they thought them all dead, but then heard low moans showing that the parents, especially the men, had given what food could be found to the children, who were still barely alive, then died with their arms around those they loved. It was amazing that cannibalism had not set in. Actually it was rumored, or at least joked about that if they killed the soldiers and threw ”lobsters” (a nickname for English redcoats) in the stew pot, they might survive the winter, but clearly most of the people had the strength of character to resist such things even at the end.
One day, when everyone he knew and loved had died of disease and starvation, and he was crazed with starvation himself, he helped a mob kill the English soldiers guarding a shipment of oats leaving Ireland and bound for the rich English landowners. The mob, and their surviving families ate well that night, but there was hell to pay in the morning boy! My Pappy had been recognized by one soldier who wasn't quite dead yet, so they were looking for him specifically to set a good example. He stowed aboard a ship bound for the Americas. After the crew of the ship beat him half to death (well flogged him severely anyway) for stowing away, they put him to work. He was too weak to do much good at first, so they actually fed him. After that, he was grateful to work, as an honest Irishman, or dishonest one for that matter, was happy to work for anyone that would actually feed him in the year of 1847. By the time he arrived, he was a fair sailor, but his first experience at their hands put him off sailing a bit as a profession. Unfortunately it was hard that year for anyone to find work what with so many homeless starving Irish arriving all at once like, and there were no jobs to be had at all for those lousy drunken (actually much worse words were used) Irishmen themselves of course! We were pretty much all forced into organized crime or out of town.
My Pap didn't like the English types a bit better there in the Americas, so he went west until he found people more to his liking and married mom among the Cherokee. She was only 18, but she was beautiful, and that was well past age to marry among our people. He had a bit of trouble convincing her father, since he had no horses or anything else to trade, but she loved him, so he indentured himself, sort of, to her father until the bride price was paid.
As a young "half-breed" born in the Cherokee territories, after, of course, they had stopped being “Cherokee Territories” making us all illegal squatters with no country or land at all, as the son of an Irish Gypsy like "Tinker" and a Cherokee woman, I had very few prospects in the young new country of America. As such most of my cousins of similar blood line, (Irish-Cherokee mix) and there were many, stayed among the Cherokee, but I got bored easily, and had always wanted to travel on the great sailing ships my dad had talked about from his own youth. I even saw a few when we went to the sea ports to trade furs for iron goods at times, and I fell in love with them! It was love at first sight. My Pap tried to beat it out of me, but I couldn't be put off the idea, so at the age of 12, I finally left home. Actually mom wanted me to wait until I was older, at least until after my right of manhood next year, but things happened that changed everyone’s mind about that rather suddenly.
You see, the lawmen in those days didn’t much care what you did to a Cherokee woman. As such, some white men found forcing Cherokee women to have sex to be a favorite sport. They usually kill them afterwards, not because any marshal would take a complaint from an Indian or even from a white husband of an Indian, especially an Irishman, but rather out of fear she might get true revenge on him. The rape victim’s only legal recourse (they were happy to hang Indians that killed white men and generally burned out the family , just to be sure afterwards) to get revenge was by telling the rapist’s wife about it or worse showing up to hand their wife a half Indian baby.
I was walking slowly after my mom, angry at her for insisting I help her pick berries (women’s work!) when I should be out hunting deer with the other men, because that ‘s what I was, in my own mind at least, a man! I decided to practice my hunter’s arts of moving silently and telling myself to believe I was invisible. I didn’t understand this old Cherokee magic, but I knew that if I convinced myself to believe others could not see me, they rarely would, and even the wildlife seemed not to notice me as much this way. I listened carefully to everything and smelled the air, which had scents of cedar, pine, berries, and a little wood smoke from far away. I was starting to pride myself on my silence and thinking how I would probably sneak right up on mom and scare her, when I heard her say, “Wooly head? Is that you?”
I hated that nick name, but she had called me that, due to light colored curly hair, since childhood. The other boys always laughed at that name, (except for the other half-breeds like me) , because it pointed out how different I looked from the other boys. I had not yet had my rite of manhood to get a real adult name, but was desperately looking forward to it, nay day now. Then I heard my mother scream! At first, I was confused, but then pulled aside the bushes to see some huge white man grab my mother’s tunic with a knife raised as if to kill her. I ran at them without thinking what I would do when I got there. I felt cold dread as I thought I was seeing my mother die, then was again confused by seeing the knife simply rip open her tunic instead. He then, believe it or not, made some sick imitation of kissing her. She struck at him of course, so he punched her in the face and struck her to the ground. He then grabbed the hem of her skirt yanking it above her head and knelt holding it against her face while he tried to unfasten his pants.
I stopped being able to think or feel or do anything but hate! I killed him of course. I didn’t even think about it at the time. It was the right thing to do, so I simply did it. At least it was unquestionably right to our way of thinking. Unfortunately the white government was likely to think otherwise. As such the body was left in the entrance to a bear’s cave, and I was packed off to find a new life a few minutes later in some old clothes (more or less white folk clothes) we traded for from some pioneers nearby.
I went to look for work and managed to find it aboard the rough and dirty world of the merchant marine. They didn’t always hire boys so young, but there were rumors of a war brewing between the northern and southern states, so many able seamen were being hired by the new navy being formed (both north and south) leaving a lot of unfilled vacancies. I learned to sail very well and to live very bad among those men at sea. They were honest enough, if they had a gun to their head at the moment, and were the law abiding sort, at least when anyone was looking. Ah well. I remember my youth fondly, well some of it anyway.
As I was the smallest man in the crew, I attracted bullies like flies to honey. I had been taught to fight, but weapons weren’t allowed on board ship against crew mates, and their size and strength forced me to mostly dodge or run away. When things got too bad, I used some the magical tools of the Gypsies, the Irish, and of my mother's people to lean odds in my favor, or to get away from angry losers who believed more in cheating and violence than Gypsy magick. I learned early not to gamble with shipmates, because you couldn't get away from them, and weren't allowed to hurt them bad enough to prevent work the next day. I finally got tired of such games and constant fighting among those seeking to find someone further down the social ladder than themselves.
Aside from slaves, who rarely served on ships, there was no one lower than the poor Irish except for the Indians and everyone loved to remind me that I was both. In order to get away from this, I tried learning some foreign languages to help cover up my heavy Irish accent. Due to a long standing trade route my Captain had with a business man in Spain, and some Spanish and Mexican shipmates, I managed to learn Spanish and get a decent Spanish accent. This helped cover up for why my skin was a bit darker without admitting my actual background.
This worked Ok for a while, but one day one of the bigger bullies got into the rum and got really drunk. He grabbed me while I was asleep, dragged me out of bed and bent me over clearly intending to use me the way that white man had tried to use my mother! I felt his great weight, his iron grip and the stink of his drunken breath and rotten teeth breathing down on me as he clumsily fumbled to tear off my pants. I was frozen with fear and couldn’t think what to do!
I was considered a man at the age of 12, not because I had passed the rights of manhood, but because I had proved myself the old way. I had killed an enemy in the heat of battle. Well actually it was more like an execution as I came up behind him, plunged a dagger into his right kidney, twisted and rammed down the handle to lever the point up further (like dad taught me) to increase the damage. I then kicked the back of his right knee, grabbed his hair and cut his throat. I never even thought about it, probably because I was so angry at what he was doing to my mother that all other emotions and all logical thought simply left me at the time. The old men of the tribe said it meant I had been a great warrior in a past life. Maybe they were right, or maybe they were just trying to give heart to a frightened boy that had to run away from home far too young.
This time it was different! I was terrified! I didn’t have the anger at first, only the fear. It was like a terrible nightmare, the kind where a great bear is charging at you, but you fall down and are too paralyzed with fear to get up or even move while it comes closer and closer. I felt the ice all the way through all my limbs making my arms and legs feel like lead unable to move, yet trembling violently!
Then I remembered the man with my mother, and thought about how this man must be just like him. I thought how this man must be a crazed vicious animal like the one that cut away my mother’s tunic, beat her to the ground, then pulled her skirt over her head suffocating her with it as he tried to…I felt heat start to pour up through my limbs melting away the ice and clouding over my vision with a red haze. I felt heat, fire, anger, rage flow through me and it made me feel strong, like the battle rage in the ancient tales my dad told about great Celtic heroes! It wasn’t going to happen this way! I had all his weight on top of me bending me over so hard I couldn’t reach my belt knife, so I grabbed the small one in my boot. (Even in my sleep, I was too frightened in those days to sleep without my weapons and knives were all sailors were allowed unless called to quarters.)
I tried to turn and stab his groin, but his grip was too strong. Instead I bit his arm hard, twisted and then ripped up through his left hamstring. As he screamed in pain and lost his footing coming down, as being hamstrung is prone to do, onto his left knee, I reached my target and ripped up through the same area he had been groping on me. He was punching and flailing at my head, but I barely noticed due to the absolute terror and rage all mixed together! I then tried to keep the knife going up, but it ran into his belt and I felt a sick fear believing I was about to die beneath the knife he finally pulled and was plunging toward me. I jumped back with the speed of a cornered rat fleeing for his life, but unlike a rat, which would keep on running, this time I darted back in under his knife arm and ripped up through his soft belly spilling his intestines like a squirming octopus onto the deck. I backed off this time as he started spilling blood then collapsed.
There was a lot of screaming and yelling all around, but when they got a lantern lit and saw me squared off against my destroyed attacker with a bloody knife still in my hand they fell silent. One of them asked “What have you done boy?” For some reason I grabbed my other knife out and challenged them all. I said “This bucket of slime just tried to bugger me, so I cut his guts out. If any of you have a mind to try the same, now is the time to try. Let’s get this over with, because I’ll kill every damn one of you just like this one if have to.” By this time I was screaming at them. “Not one of you will ever lay hands on me ever again! Do you hear me?”
Again it was silent for a time, then they sent for the Captain, who took a look at the fly of my pants where the buttons had been ripped off and the belt half untied, then he just said “Well young…what was your name again boy?” I said “Leon del Mar sir, Ramon Leon del Mar”. (I had been pretending to be Spanish for a while now you see) He said “yesss..er um, well, it wouldn’t do for us to write up this story in too much detail, because it would impugn my reputation for picking suitable and moral men for crewmen, besides, I’m sure you would rather just say he attacked you with a knife right off and got what he deserved rather than going into any sordid details don’t you think young Ramon?” I just agreed with him politely still holding my knives and expecting to be hanged any moment. He then said, “Oh do put those bloody knives away won’t you boy? No one in their right mind would ever lay hands on you again after this now would they?’ And to my surprise he gave each of the other crewmen a glare such as I had never seen on that young captain’s face suggesting the most unspeakable form of death for any who dared cross him in this matter.
In the end he told the crew to simply “toss the buggerer, er uh, the unfortunate man that fell on his own knife overboard and clean up the mess won’t you? There now that’s a good fellow.” After that I believe he went back to the brandy he had been nursing in his quarters like nothing had happened.
After that, the other crewmen treated me with respect and I was now “one of the boys” so to speak. (even if I was a “little Spaniard” whatever that means) they even included me in their moonlighting schemes to make a little extra money by thievery, picking pockets, and other skull duggery. They said it was tradition to make a little easy money the evening before they sailed since no one was apt to remember which sailor was which so long as they shipped before the theft was discovered. The trick was to time it as close to actual sailing time as possible and to distract the mark, in the case of pick pocketing enough that an hour or so passed before they noticed the loss. The used me a lot for picking locks, distracting marks, standing watch etc. When they learned how quietly I could sneak up on people they even put me to work drugging guards while the men were talking to them or actually stealing keys without being noticed.
They were quite surprised that I refused to help when they planned to use real violence against an intended victim. They reminded me of how ruthlessly I cut down a crewmate. I asked them what they would have done if it had been them. They of course each tried to out do one another describing something more horrible than the one before, but none could really think of anything more visceral (no pun intended) or visual that what had actually occurred. They finally agreed to plan more elaborate schemes that rarely involved any physical violence and only then in the form of a belaying pin to the skull of someone with a gun or sword already in hand. I wouldn’t help them if they planned anything more violent than to knock them out as a last resort and only if they had to in order to escape. I soon became the sneakiest, and cleverest thief of the lot, so they agreed to do it my way if I would come up with a plan clever enough to avoid the violence all together.
One night we paid a popular prostitute to give us a sign if she had someone with a lot of money interested. We then followed them out of the pub and ran around in front of the pair to wait. When the wealthy man, usually intoxicated and eager to get to her room, ran into Mc Gregor, he was usually quite surprised to stumble into something built like a brick wall and often fell back into the mud on his bum! Now you need to understand that Mc Gregor stood over 6 foot 6 inches and was all muscle. He had lived a hard life at sea and looked the part. He then would below “what exactly do you think you are doing with my wife there? I finally come home from a voyage and I find this rascal trying to cuckold me in the streets of my own town!” He would yell and curse and terrify the poor drunk aristocrat, then he really frightened him by threatening to call the sheriff and have him arrested for adultery! That would mean public scandal and possibly even calling his wife out to come get him!
While we knew as well as he did that the local sheriff, constable, or whatever would be only too happy to take a bribe and cover up the matter, we did as I said, make sure the prostitute got him drunk first, so he wouldn’t be able to think that clearly. While the drunken aristocrat tried to explain himself to this giant of a man who pretended to be enraged and the two large men beside him, I simply lifted his wallet and walked away quietly. Mc Gregor finally accepted the man’s apologies and pretended to scold the women as he led her away. The point of all this was that by the time the man realized his purse had been taken, he was too embarrassed to tell the police about the circumstances and covered up the crime for us. I felt bad about it at first, but the girl, who naturally got a share of the money, assured me she would never do this to a good customer as she would certainly lose his business afterwards. She saved this sort of thing only for those aristocrats that liked to use the girls as punching bags as a sick sort of foreplay. We could always find at least one pretty prostitute in any port with an axe to grind against someone with a fat wallet. We made enough extra money that I eventually got some decent clothes, which I set aside for a job inquiry should a better option present itself.
Chapter 2 How a Fine Naval Officer Can Find Himself Becoming Somewhat of a Rogue
When the Civil War started, the Government called for Naval recruitment and I thought they just might be desperate enough to enlist me even if I was a 13 year old half breed! They refused me the first two times, but a couple of years later, when I filled out a bit, got taller, and they started running very short of men, things were a bit different. I still faced the racial discrimination that prevented “persons of color” from enlisting until the very end of the war. Well, I'm not sure what the recruiter thought I was, but when a few shipmates, who were also enlisting, told him I might be a bit odd, but was a great hand with the sails, he decided it didn't matter what my parentage was. He just put down "white Immigrant" and frontier region as my place of birth and I was finally in a professionally run ship's crew! At the age of 14, I was clearly the youngest “able seaman” on board, but one of the more experienced, actually, so I rose surprisingly fast in the ranks. I loved it!
I loved it so much that I worked very hard to be the best sailor on the ship and to learn everything I could about weapons, tactics, and even, when they allowed it, navigation. I was stationed first on a small navy war sloop. It was small and lightly armed, but we were so fast and our captain so clever, that we accounted for many ships far larger than our own. It was a great place to serve, until it sunk in a great storm that is. Then I, and those few who swam well enough to survive, were reassigned to a new and unbelievably advanced ship, the USS Constitution! It had been the absolute terror of the English Navy during the War of 1812, not to mention more than a few pirates, French ships, and privateers. Now it was to be my home. It was old and out of date now as it was constructed just before 1800 to take down the ships of the Barbary Pirates, but it was still fast, sturdy, and a great ship of war. It was unthinkable good luck!
Even better luck was that the Captain stated flatly to the Midshipman one day, "I don't care if that Ramon is a Spaniard, an Indian, an escaped slave, or even a bloody drunken Irishman (note that Irish, always combined with the appellation "drunk", were so disliked as to be the worst option of the lot in that time) if he can read and do numbers, and wants to learn navigation, then by God you'll teach him! I never know when the navigator might fall overboard or when we might lose so many officers in a battle that I'm desperate for any man with enough skill just to get us home. Teach him to read a map and plot a course if he can be taught.” The Midshipman didn't believe I could learn, but I did, and I was so good at it, that I matched his own rank before a year was out at the age of 15. I actually became one of the youngest Lieutenants in the Union Navy at the age of 16 a year later, but I had lied about my age of course, so they had me on paper as 18. I looked much older than 16, and becoming an officer at that age wasn't really so very rare in a time of war when a man was judged by his abilities rather than his age, but it usually only happened to sons of noblemen or upper class who had a far better education and connections than my own. I was young, alive, and an officer on a great warship during one of the grandest wars ever fought. It was a dream come true for me let me tell you!
I'd like to take a moment to tell you a little about the ship, so you will understand just how special it is:
Minister to France Thomas Jefferson suggested an American naval force to protect American shipping in the Mediterranean but his recommendations were initially met with indifference, as were the recommendations of John Jay, who proposed building five 40-gun warships. The design was unusual for the time, being long on keel and narrow of beam (width) and mounting very heavy guns incorporating a diagonal scantling (rib) scheme aimed at limiting hogging while giving the ships extremely heavy planking. This gave the hull greater strength than that of the hulls of other navies' frigates. The designers realized that the fledgling United States could not match the European states in the number of ships afloat. Therefore the new frigates had the ability to overpower other frigates, but were capable of a speed to escape from a ship of the line which might mount guns heavy enough to pierce her unusually thick oak hull.
It was lauched in 1797, but was one of the fastest, toughest, and most heavily armed sailing ships ever built. It was magnificent! The innovative (for it’s time) diagonal cross ribbing beams in the hull that made it able to withstand storms and even direct hits from medium sized cannons. Her hull was so sturdy that an Englishman, losing in a fire fight with her, once yelled “that ship has sides of Iron!” . It had 20 inch thick hull walls of the most dense form of oak they could find strong enough to repel most cannon of that time as if they were made of iron. Yes she was the queen of the seas in her time, but considered out of date now in the 1860s, so perhaps it was actually fate that gave the old girl a new life in a century far before her birth.
The first day I came aboard the ship, I gawked at the great masts and great guns of the ship like the small child I had been when I first saw a “tall ship”. She was (and still is!) utterly beautiful! The deck was over 200 feet long, but with a width of only 43 feet making her more slender and fast than others of her class. She had masts that looked almost as tall as the ship was long. In order to reach such unbelievable heights they were actually made of a thick mast and a thinner one attached for the last third or so of it’s length with great platforms where the heavy mast attached to a smaller one. A great sail covered most of the heavy mast, a smaller one the area where they joined and a third smaller sail at the top of each mast. In addition to this extra sails could be unfurled out to the port and starboard of each sail to catch more wind, as well as 3 or more at the great bow sprit (a pole that stretched well over 50 feet in front of the bow and to the stern post as well. Lateen (triangular sails jutted back from each mast allowing the crew to tack against the wind with great speed and allowed them to adjust for many different sail configurations to meet different tasks. The deck was mostly level with many latticed hatches to permit fresh air to reach the crew below, but all the hatches could be battened down (covered with oiled hides to make them water tight in a storm. The ship’s wheel was right before the rear mast on a slightly elevated quarter deck. The cannon deck had 15 great 24 pounder medium cannons on each side. The top deck had another eleven 34 pounder carronades (short, but large bore powerful short range cannons) on each side of the deck plus another 2 long guns (medium bore, but with very long barrels for extra range and accuracy) fore and aft to use against ships we were chasing or that were chasing us. These were mostly used to destroy the sails of other ships at long range, but they were the only guns that actually fired fore and aft. To use the other 52 guns of the ship we had to turn and face fully sideways to our target firing them either individually or as the incredibly powerful broadside attack where all guns on one side fire at a single target in unison. I was truly in love!
Unfortunately as the Constitution and her armaments were considered out of date by civil war standards, we mostly patrolled the eastern seaboard or imposed blockades during the war, seeing only combat with smaller vessels most of the time. After the Civil War was over, the most excitement this grand ship found was chasing pirates and privateers. Even that became rather slow after the Constitution and her sister ships smashed most of the Barbary Pirates and French Privateers. When Louis-Napolean Bonaparte III, self proclaimed second Emperor of France, sent most of his warships and even many of his privateers to the far east to help with a small war against Korea, things really slowed down! That's why I was so excited when we ran into a good sized pirate schooner operating just off the coast of Bermuda. We were hunting him specifically as he had captured many of our trade vessels traveling to and from Europe. Bermuda was right in the middle of the Sargasso sea, which is an area in the middle of the north Atlantic that was normally avoided by sailing vessels due to very weak winds and long calms, but our pirate had been preying on cargo carriers which had been coming this way, in spite of poor trade winds, just to avoid pirates all together. Apparently he had anticipated this and was picking off cargo vessels that had not thought armed escort would be needed in this desert of wind.
We were surprised by two things. First his vessel appeared of similar or older time period than ours. Second, it was more than a little faster. This was surprising since our ship was the fastest of it's class at the time in spite of being an older design. Only the slender clippers were faster, and this was no clipper ship we were chasing. It had what appeared to be a steam engine on board belching smoke and allowing him to travel directly into the wind at pretty good speed! While we had all seen the wonder of steam engines on trains, the idea of using it to move a ship against the wind was still just a fanciful dream at that time.
When we got within firing range and managed to slow him down with some chain shot through his rear sails and rigging, he turned directly against the wind. This looked like madness to us, or like he planned to wait for us and fight, so we happily made our best speed using lateen rigged sails to follow against the wind. Unfortunately his ship began pouring smoke out some sort of chimney and picking up speed, to our amazement, while moving directly against the wind! We could not understand it. Of course we had seen something similar with steam engine locomotives, and with the new steam driven ironclads, but no one suspected that pirates had actually gotten hold of steam drive engines. Besides that, they had no paddle wheels. How could they use steam power to move a ship without some sort of paddle wheel? It wasn’t like they could just push the ship with steam itself without something for the steam to push the water with!
It was picking up speed and churning the water behind the ship like a dolphin flapping it’s tail at top speed. We just stared after it with our mouths hanging open for a few minutes, until the Captain finally started bellowing out orders to “Use Ramon’s idea about raising the barrel of the chase guns to get more range!” I had been pestering him for weeks about something I read about how Napoleon Bonaparte was defeated by raising the barrels of cannons to get more range through greater elevation, but I thought he had just been ignoring me. He certainly hadn’t seemed to think it worth trying before as he had said we could never hit anything at such ranges especially with such an unstable gun carriage. Just the same he went on bellowing “I don’t care what you use. Put the damn thing on your back if you have to, but get that barrel pointed up and shoot that bugger out of the water!”
We actually managed to elevate our chase long guns up to almost a full 40 degrees by lifting the carriage and stacking things under it each time before firing. We did manage to tear up his sails and rigging twice more, but it seemed to have no effect. Actually that wasn’t too surprising, since they had dropped most of their sails and were using the magic smoking thing to make the ship go against the wind! He kept this trick up for some time to get some distance, then turned a bit to starboard and headed for a pair of islands on the horizon. We kept him in sight for a while and when the wind shifted in our favor, we actually gaining on him. Most of our guns were big, but short range, so we had trouble destroying his remaining sails at such ranges.
Soon after that, just to make things worse, a storm started blowing in from the opposite direction! The weather was crazy in this place! We were right in the middle of the Sargasso Sea, the most calm and wind deprived seas in the world, yet wind direction seemed to change almost once per hour and with real force! Then it got bad. Finally it got a whole lot worse with lightning and thunder like a great battle among the Gods! The pirate schooner raced toward a pair of volcanic islands south west of Bermuda at maximum speed, but with the storm mostly into our face, he had to drop his square sails again and use his magic smoking thing/engine/whatever to sail straight into the wind even in that terrible storm. He hoped to lose us that way, but we changed our sail configuration as well and were able to keep him in sight until the tropical storm blew across far enough to have a calm, then a complete change of wind direction blowing directly toward him and the islands now! Soon were gaining on him and moving faster than I had ever seen the ship go. We had so much sail out in the storm that the masts strained and creaked like they might break any minute, yet the Captain was now determined to take any risk necessary to catch this sea faring sorcerer and learn how he could flee into the wind! We would have lost him long ago, but he was heavily laden with captured loot and we were in a much faster built ship.
He went just a little starboard of the volcanic islands trying to run us aground of a dangerous coral reef. He succeeded in what he had planned, but our ship was much stronger than he had hoped and the impact only cracked our special hull. Water came pouring in, but we plowed right through the top of the reef, stopped the major leaks and began gaining on him again. He then turned hard to port and raised all his square sails again. We thought he planned to stand and fight, but he had something else in mind. He was going east at maximum speed toward Bermuda. The pirate ship raced for the narrow gap between the islands heading back the way we came. It was hard to tell, but it looked like he, they, their whole ship just vanished as they passed between the islands. Of course we thought it was just a trick of the storm. We opened up every sail even though that is incredibly dangerous in such a storm and raced through the gap at maximum speed trying to catch him. Then I felt nauseous, dizzy, very very heavy. I fell to the deck and could not hardly lift my head, much less my limbs. I saw a man with a cannon ram fall to the ground and it appeared he was being crushed under the weight of the ram rod. I thought how strange it was that everything weighed more in this God forsaken place as well. I saw the spars with the sails tearing free of their moorings and braces and falling on the men around me. Then I felt very very strange just before I passed out.
When I awoke, our sails had all been torn down, cross beams, spars, and all, not by the storm, but rather by some other unexplained force that had made everything suddenly so heavy that many men were crushed to death by things that weighed less than 10 pounds if they were unlucky enough to fall with it resting above them. Most of the crew was still unconscious and we were going in circles with no-one at the helm. It was amazing we hadn't foundered. (That’s sailor talk for sunk) Maybe that was what happened to the pirates or maybe they knew how to deal with the madness, the heaviness, and the nausea better than we. In any case we never saw them again.
When I could get enough crew members on their feet to get under way, (I had mostly given up drink in favor of learning charts and navigation, as math and map reading were things I could never manage when drinking, so I recovered faster than most) we headed for Bermuda. It was still there, but the only signs of life we could find were a few terrified natives throwing stones and spears at our ship which they must have believed to be some leviathan, like the Kraken itself, from the deep.
The crew said little after a while, but drank heavily to forget what they were afraid of finding when we got back to our home port. When we found nothing, but squirrels and a few frightened natives there too, the Captain, a great man who had forced the officers to teach me regardless of my heritage, the man who had been like a second father to me, simply had a heart attack or something and died on the spot. The first mate slowly went mad, and most of the other officers either fell so deep into drink as to be useless or killed themselves in various ways along with about half the crew. I didn't fully see what the fuss was about as I rather liked living among Indians and never liked the noisy, smelly towns with all the English looking (to me anyway) men in them, but even I started to mourn when I realized that everyone I knew was dead. Well, actually, they had never been born.
As a result I soon found myself the only officer, junior at that, left. When I realized that at the age of 17, I was now the acting Captain of what was probably the most powerful warship on the planet, I got quite weak in the knees and felt like I might go a little mad myself. I finally shook of the moment, put on the Captain's hat, and went around kicking the crew back into action. We didn't have enough left to man most of the guns, but by god we could sail the ship. We send out scouting parties to find fresh water and hunt for food, but the natives found us before we found much else. Fortunately they spoke a dialect I was familiar with, and I managed to trade for what we needed so we could get ready for a long voyage to the one safe port I was pretty sure would still be there. I didn't know what we would find when we got to Spain, but I damn sure wasn't risking the Bloody English or French getting their hands on this ship in what appeared to be several centuries before it‘s design and cannons would be invented! I had some idea what to expect from various times in Europe as I had made a good study of military history, well naval history anyway. I just didn't know if we would find Queen Isabella being gradually persuaded by Columbus to fund his mad adventure, or if Hannibal or the Roman empire would still be in charge of the southern Spanish peninsula when we arrived.
I had the good sense to pull along side a small cargo vessel, before actual landfall anywhere in Europe and invited the captain on board to find out at least what century we were in and who was in power these days. The ship was a small caravel with a Spanish flag and only lightly armed, by our standards anyway, with bowmen and a few small ballistae, so the crew was terrified when we pulled alongside with a French Flag showing and about 20 large cannons showing on the top deck. We sometimes used the French flag, when in dangerous waters, to give a false sense of comfort to French privateers that were supporting the confederates, and I didn't want to use a US flag since the country didn't exist.
I convinced them in Spanish that we were not pirates. Fortunately the French were friendly with Spain, or at least their part of it, at the moment, but the flag was confusing to them as the France it represented also did not yet exist. They advised us that the constant war to rid Spain of the evil Moors had finally been won and that Queen Isabella of the Castilles had married King Phillip cementing an alliance between two of the largest factions to make a mostly unified Spain which was now one of the current superpowers. It seems that Algerian Pirates, England, France, Germany, and Holland were still major players as well, at least on the sea, but that the real super power at present was the Moslem Ottoman Empire.
They said they mistook us for Turks at first, because they heard that only those accursed Turks had actually started mounting real cannons on ships. (It kept getting better!) As such we fabricated a story about being a rebel group of Galatians (Celtic Galls mixed with locals from central Turkey) that had stolen a great new kind of ship that was such a big secret even most of the Ottoman commanders didn't know about it, and clearly their government would never admit to such a brazen and successful theft of their new secret weapon. We claimed it was an honorable act of war as a last effort in a failing rebellion, but we thought our best chance of using it against our evil Ottoman oppressors was to enlist as privateers for Queen Isabella.
We first had to invent the idea, apparently, of there being such a thing now as privateers, and then convince them it was a good idea. It helped that we captured a couple of small Barbary pirate ships with most of the crew still alive, and offered them both as a gift to the King and Queen of Spain as proof of our abilities to protect their shipping and of our good intentions. the second thing I had to do was lay down some kind of ground rules for how we would and would not operate. They would have to be far less limiting than those I had served under as a naval officer, yet prevent any sort of actions that would eventually have us fighting ourselves. This is what I came up with:
Oath of the Covenant of the Kraken:
I will not rape. I will not torture. I will not enslave others or support those who do. I will not unnecessarily murder, maim, or behave in other ways that will defame the reputation of this Covenant or it’s members. I will not aid or support any that hunt, torture, enslave, or murder others for cultural or religious differences or heresies either real or imagined such as those espoused by the “Protestant Witchfinders”, the “Papist Inquisitors”, the so called “Muslim Jihadists”, or any other such religious fanatics. I will not betray my brothers or sisters nor make any unprovoked attack on other members of this covenant. I will never reveal any secrets of the Covenant of the Kraken without prior approval of the Lord High Admiral. I swear this before both Gods and Men. May the Kraken itself take me and send me to the depths should I ever break this covenant.
High Lord Admiral Kraken
(also known as “The Kraken” master of all admirals in all centuries of the Fraternal Order of Privateers hereafter known as “The Covenant of the Kraken”)
The above rules guide the actions of the privateers that I travel with and guide our actions when we must deal with those that break our very few rules. Our rules are few, but they are fiercely enforced, and they are all that separates us from the actions that turn men into monsters or cause them to devour one another out of greed. It works for us, so we live by it. Welcome to our world.
Their admirals wanted our ship so badly they advised the crown, both of them actually to confiscate our ship so it could be duplicated to build a stronger navy. We did not agree to that or even allow them to board our vessel to inspect it. Fortunately Queen Isabella was unusually wise for a European Monarch and argued strongly against attacking such a useful new ally. In the end it was decided that capturing our ship against our will might destroy most of their fleet, and they wouldn't know how to sail it even then. As such we managed to actually get letters from the Queen and King of Spain stating that we were attacking enemy shipping and warships on their behalf as an honorable act of war, and their country guaranteed honorable treatment of captives, but expected the same in kind if these representatives were ever captured.
When we learned that the Ottomans and their Mongol allies were capturing hundreds of thousands of East Europeans and selling them into slavery in the Middle East, this got our Yankee blood boiling! Not only had we been fed lots of stories about how we were fighting the grand fight to free humanity from slavery in the South, but these were even pretty white women those Arabic people were enslaving. While I didn't fully grasp why this was so important to my crew, I could see they were frothing at the mouth to take on the Turks, and take them on we did! We also became wealthy confiscating Ottoman trade which was vast and rich in the area. They grew far more wealthy by being the largest buyer and seller of European slaves in the world. Most of our crew eventually gained a pretty wife or girlfriend that they had personally freed (literally) from the shackles of Ottoman slavery.
We even broke with tradition and allowed some of the women to serve as crew on board the Constitution so long as they dressed like men when outsiders were around and kept quiet about it. Sailors are a superstitious lot, but the ones on my ship were unusually courageous chrononauts that had survived time travel, so a risking making the Goddess of the Sea Calypso jealous by having a few women on board didn't scare them much. We did try to hide this fact somewhat from allied or hired mercenary ships (like Barbary Pirates) that we sometimes used to board ships after we disabled them. (a great force multiplier against vast numbers like the Ottoman Navy)
Actually the girls we allowed to serve on board were usually so fierce, that the men were more scared of them than any such silly superstitions. We had a few gentle souls , male and female alike on board, but they generally worked as cooks or medical staff and both were far too important for us to be fussy about gender. (Some of the female cooks were also the ones that made our special Kraken Rum cooked up in large batches using the steam engine furnace to heat the still!) We just made regular devotional offerings to both Poseidon and Calypso and then hoped for the best!
We may not have rewritten history, (actually as I grow older and wiser I try very hard to avoid rewriting history and instead look for logical gaps in history books. I obtained a set of World Book Encyclopedia, that I keep hidden and locked in my cabin, just before they sort of went extinct before the behemoth called Wikipedia took over. I also keep copies of military histories, and detailed plans and specs for weapons and warships through the ages, but this is hidden between decks in a false floor. I look for places in history where it almost appears that some strange anonymous hand must have helped out the hero in his hour of need, then I look for ways to profit by becoming that anonymous hand. We were instrumental in breaking the monopoly of sea power in that region, but we tried to do it anonymously as possible.
I often tell people that I met Vice Admiral Narasimhan In Sri Lanka while attempting to establish a trade outpost with a great King there. She was a beautiful princess of the powerful Rajput King on the southern end of what later became Sri Lanka. While she was one of the younger daughters, and unlikely to be married to any great king, she was well loved and protected by her father and family. She was one of the most intelligent of the girls trained in reading, writing, (rare for the time), mathematics (even rarer), Yoga, Ayurvedic medicine, Ayurvedic astrology, and rarest of all, she was trained with sword and musket. She was the daughter of a true warrior clan that trained all persons of royal blood to fight. The men went to war, and the women guarded the children. After the years of Muslim Invaders, the women had learned that they could learn to fight or expect to die a horrible death, so they had been highly motivated for many centuries. She was such an excellent marksman, that the Raj showed off her skill to our officers at a dinner party given honor of a new trade agreement as well as to thank us for destroying some local pirates in the area.
She was magnificent! She was about 10 years younger than myself, but at the tender age of 17, women were usually married in that time. It seems that she was more interested in her studies, and found most men offered to her to be wanting in some way before. That's why I was quite surprised and flattered that she seemed to really enjoy my interest in her. She was somewhat shy and appropriately modest, but even her father noticed her interest enough to take me aside and explain that no daughter of a royal house, even the youngest like Radha, could ever marry a Feringee (their word for a foreigner). I was disappointed, but tried to put her out of my mind by focusing on trade and capturing enemy shipping in the name of her father's Kingdom. Unfortunately I couldn't forget her.
I finally engaged her personal Eunuch (yes they still used a few actual Eunuchs to guard their women) if there had ever been a case of a member of the warrior clans marrying a princess without the father's consent. He immediately said, But of course! It was traditional in such a case, for the love struck young man to prove himself by kidnapping the girl in front of her relatives and making off with her. Afterwards they would be unable to oppose the marriage as others would assume she had been deflowered, whether it happened or not, so she could not get any other suitors. Of course it also often started wars as a result. He said that was the other way a father could be convinced to change his mind. If his forces were about to be defeated, he would often agree to marriage as an alternative to surrendering his throne and probably his life, even if he didn't like the boy she was to marry. I said that both methods seemed rather extreme. He just smiled and said, "I cannot expect you to understand our ways sahib."
In the end I took the less violent of the two options and surprised the Eunuch by galloping up on a horse, leaping on him to grab his sword arm, then knocking him unconscious with a sap. I narrowly avoided being beheaded by my lady love who apparently believed I had just killed her best friend and body guard. I had not been allowed to carry any obvious weapons with me into the area where they were walking and admiring the sea, but the sap just looked like a decoration as it consisted of a colorful sock with sand in the end. I used the Eunuchs sword to fend off her attacks, which were lightning fast, until I could wrap the sap around her blade with one had while striking with the sword at her hilt and spinning into her to disarm her.
She was a tigress! I got more than a few cuts, some serious ones from her dagger, and various scratches, bruises, and bites by the time she was tied, gagged, and then tied over the horse for the ride to where my men were secretly coming with a long boat. Naturally she had quite a few other guards, but she had left them at quite a distance away, and I was considered a friend of the family, so they had not over ridden her command to keep back when I said I had come to see her. As they were on foot, I was able to outrun them even on the heavily burdened horse. I simply abandoned the horse, and we rowed away with the guards arguing over whether or not to shoot us with the two muskets they had. Lucky for us, none of them were as good a shot as my lady love, so by the time they decided to fire, they both missed.
When we got to the ship, I carried her to my state room, closely followed by two of her maids, whom we had tricked into coming to sea shore and grabbing a little earlier. They had been instructed to watch the whole affair from the ship deck through a telescope, so they could verify that the princess was never violated in any sort of sexual way. She was then left with her maids who were instructed to untie her and offer her wine to calm her down. Instead, the Lady Radha grabbed a chair and tried to smash down the door. I finally unbolted the door and was narrowly missed by the chair as she threw it at me. I knelt before her with fine traditional clothes to offer in place of her damaged ones, but just got kicked in the teeth for my efforts. I finally grabbed her bodily and tossed her on the bed, running out like a coward and barring the door before she could attack again.
We then got the translator to the door to try to reason with her. Either he, or the maids, finally got across to her that this was some sort of confused Feringee attempt to woo her hand in marriage. It got silent for quite a while, and one of the maids finally invited me in. She had changed into the new clothes and had apparently washed and applied makeup from a bag one of her maids had brought along. (We did say they had been called to attend her after all). She looked radiant, but furious!
She demanded to know why I thought that I, as some silly foreigner, had the right of a Kshatriya warrior prince to claim a bride in the ways of their traditions. I was little surprised and irritated that I had gone to so much trouble for her, possibly starting a war, and ruined a wonderful trade arrangement, yet she was simply insulting me like some damned aristocrat. Then I realized she was an aristocrat, and it was simply expected of those of her class.
I decided to take a different tack and answered her as one of her "Warrior Princes" would have. I told her I was a great admiral that had won more naval victories than any I had ever heard of, that I commanded the most powerful ship in the world (not an exaggeration as it was just short of 1500 at the time), and that I commanded the most powerful fleet in this part of the world. I stately frankly that I was as much a king among my people (I didn't mention I was referring to the Covenant of the Kraken privateer confederation) as existed and ruled with absolute authority among them. As such I claimed the right to take the only women I had found in all the world I considered good enough to be my bride by whatever means necessary.
I stated that if I had to defeat her father's entire kingdom to prove myself good enough for her, that I was willing to do that as well even though it was against the traditions of my people to start any unprovoked war with one who had been such a good host during our time with him. I advised that I was trying to avoid breaking our own traditions of honoring one's host as they honored their guests, but that I had given up my religion and recently become Hindu for her, yet that was not enough for her father, so this became necessary. She sated that in their culture they teach that the guest is God, so they also would consider using my relationship with her family to get close enough for this kidnapping an insult. I apologized for that, but said I am taking the only path that has been allowed to me.
After a while she smiled and said, so what do we do now? I spoke with the translator for a while and finally asked him to inquire if she thought her father might accept the destruction and/or capture of his rival's entire navy an acceptable bride price? She was a bit surprised by this, but said, he might, but that if she stayed on board our ship, it would make no difference what her maids said about her chastity. I then offered to send her back to her father with an offer of significant spoils as an apology for my confused mishandling of their traditional customs, and to make clear that my intention was only to prove myself and not to harm her.
She then got very angry and yelled curses at me and started crying for some reason. The translator finally got out the maids that she believed I had killed her Eunuch guard whom she was very fond of as he had guarded her since she was very young. When I convinced her he was simply knocked unconscious with a special weapon designed to do no permanent harm and showed her the sap, she stopped crying, dried her eyes, and wrote a letter in her own elegant hand requesting her father accept my offer.
She pointed out that if I succeeded it would be a bride price even the most conservative of warrior kings would approve of, and if I failed, then her father would be rid of the now dead and no longer troublesome feringee with a greatly reduced force under the control of his rival. She then added that she thought she might like being married to this clever feringee, and she had never felt this way about any other, so she hoped he would approve. She also pointed out the pains I had gone to getting his maids to observe the entire encounter and to attend her immediately afterward, the fact that she had wounded me significantly in the encounter, yet had not been harmed herself, and that this strange feringee even had the unusual claim to have recently converted to a Hindu devotee of their family God and was severely repentant for offending his hospitality , but claimed it was the fault of the madness of a young man in love.
I am uncertain which argument was most effective, but her father agreed on the condition his daughter was returned immediately, which I was quite happy to arrange. We then sailed for the north end of the Island of Sri Lanka taking the small fleet of pirates that we had captured, then converted into privateers under our banner simply by showing them how much more profitable it was to work for us. It took a few months, but the Raj was very pleased indeed with the large number of merchant ships, many still partially loaded with goods, that we delivered together with crews to him.
We kept the warships, manned them, cherry picked the cargo and used it to pay everyone involved, then refitted, re-manned, and went out again. His rival got desperate enough to hire every mercenary navy and pirate around and even pressured allies to send navy, but we eventually beat them all. I won my prize, and my fleet grew large and rich. I, unfortunately grew less rich than normal as I had to subtract any booty we gave her father from my shares of any haul, but I got what I wanted, and we have been together ever since.
OK- NOW I FESS UP AND GIVE YOU THE TRUE STORY ABOUT MY LADY
I usually tell people that Vice Admiral Radha Narasimhan is a Princess from Sri Lanka that I captured in a romantic whirlwind romance where actually kidnapping her was the only way I could convince her powerful Warrior King father to permit me to marry her. As that was actually true of some warrior caste families in India, it is almost believable, especially when I show scars from the various wounds she actually did inflict on me the first day we met. The Raj is real, the outpost and alliance there is real, We really did fight those battles and have all those victories. That part of the story is all true, making the rest seem more believable. I even met just such a princess in the family of that Powerful Raj, but even at such a young age, I wasn’t foolish enough to risk my men, my ship, and such a powerful alliance on the possible affections of a stuck up princess. She was beautiful, and seemed more than a little interested in me, but I don‘t risk the lives of those entrusted to me on such personal whims. Besides, I actually have more in common with the clever street urchins of that great kingdom than with any members of any royal family from any part of the world that are brought up in a life of luxury.
Actually the oh so romantic story about a Spanish Privateer who fell in love with a forbidden Indian Princess is just the cover story we giver when we interact with the ridiculous feudalistic Royal Courts in Europe. Those silly people have not only convinced the lower classes that poor people are just property and the aristocrats are like an entirely different higher life form than normal humans, but they have been telling the lie so long they have begun to believe it themselves. As such, it is necessary to make a pretense of royal blood in order to get the best contracts, prices, or even do business at all with the heads of Europe.
Naturally I also have a cover story about being an Irish prince descended from Stephen, the exiled King of Ireland while he was on the run from Edward the long shanks, one of the Bloodiest Kings England has ever known. As King Stephen was clever enough to often change his appearance and keep his location and family secret, it was fairly plausible since I spoke Irish and was somewhat educated, but the Queen finally took me aside one day insisting I accept servants for my home that could coach me on how to behave more like a proper gentleman. She didn't mean that I was rude. Actually it was just the opposite. She said I was actually polite to the servants instead of treating them as if they didn't exist, so everyone knew I was probably not really royalty, but she needed my skills so much she wanted me there in court. As such she was going to Knight me as a reward for the local Barbary pirates we had captured and gifted her upon our arrival, (I do believe in making an entrance). That way no one could question that I had a right to be in the court especially since she had bestowed the knighthood on me herself, or rather ordered it be done. She then recommended I stick to my story and keep repeating it until everyone started to believe it. She suggested throwing in occasional Irish phrases for effect, and believe it or not, they actually bought it. I had to careful around that one. Isabella the first was nobody's fool! Now back to the real story:
The part about me at least trying to tie my Lady Radha Narasimhan up and carry her off while getting several slashes from razor sharp circles of metal is accurate enough, and she really was very well trained and educated, especially for a half English Gypsy. The truth is that her grandfather was a powerful Sikh warrior on the run from the Moslem rulers, her grandmother mother was the best trained Astrologer, and her mother the best trained herbalist in their local tribe. She got the best from each of them as she studied hard to learn what each could teach her. Her father was an English sailor that was reasonably decent to her mother and spent money on her when he came to visit, but he died when she was young.
As a young lad in the merchant marine, I was trained and used as a thief and pickpocket by the older men, so I spotted her as a fellow thief long before she pretended to trip on a man in the crowd, stumble into me and cut my purse. She was too beautiful to be just another peasant in the crowd, and she was watching me out of the corner of her eye and following us, so I thought her either a very cautious lady of the evening, an assassin, or a thief right away. She just didn't strike me as the first, so I stopped and searched the shadows and roof tops for an ambush, but saw no one. She seemed to notice my searching gaze looking for her accomplices, and suddenly she smiled directly at me and called out to me saying "What are you looking for pretty man...some pretty Gypsy Girls perhaps? Well look no further for you have found the prettiest one right here!" Then she started striding confidently toward me. I was startled and thrilled to hear English spoken by a local girl! We could actually get a good translator for once.
At that point I actually found myself hoping she was a thief as they would be more effective at helping us learn what Muslim ships were sailing soon with good cargoes (we were at war with The Ottoman Empire, so most such ships would belong to them or their allies). Her flirtatious approach caused me to wonder, but her confident walk showed the courage, confidence, and strength of a Tiger, so I was pretty sure she was a warrior trained thief and this was just a distraction. All pickpockets, good ones anyway, use distractions in their work. I knew what she was up to, but she was so beautiful and graceful, that I just let her do it to get close to her. Besides, the purse I wear outside my clothes is a decoy with only a few coppers and a bunch of rocks to make it look attractive.
She would have simply taken the purse and then wandered back out of my life, but for some reason I snatched her hand as she tried to get away with my purse of rocks. She thought I was about to yell for the town guard, so she really did fight like a tiger to get away, but I wrestled her to the ground, because I didn't want her to leave. It was more than just the hope of finding a good translator for once. Something I had seen in her eyes made it worth more than my own life to make her stay and talk to me. When her cousins hiding in shadows and on the rooftops showed them selves and started pointing muskets at my men, I yelled for everyone to stop. The Gypsy cousins didn't understand of course, but when I yelled the same to them in the Romany language (learned from my father's Gypsy friends, some of whom came with him to the new world) that really got their attention. The guard did show up, but I told them the thief had already escaped, and asked if they could escort us to a safe place where I and my lady friend could get food and calm our shattered nerves. They obliged and were given a good tip for the assistance in keeping her cousins at a safe distance.
When we were alone I told her in my somewhat questionable Romany dialect that I wanted to hire her. At first she did not understand as they used a very different dialect, but then I remembered she had spoken English! I found that her English was a bit rough at first, but we understood each other. She said her father taught her, when he was home from the sea on his periodic visits. I then told her that I was captain of the most powerful ship in these waters and I wanted to hire her. She laughed! She said she never heard of a sailor that used women for any good purpose especially aboard a ship.
I told her we hired who ever was best at a job regardless of gender, but that women did often dress as men while on board our ships so as to avoid stirring up the pirates that often worked for us in this area. She found this interesting, and her eyes got big when I put a stack of silver coins on the table offering a silver per man for any good sailors she sent our way. When I pulled out gold, she cursed like a sailor about stupid feringees, and made me feel like I was being scolded by a long time girlfriend when she grabbed it and shoved it back in my lap while looking nervously over her shoulder.
I told her the gold was for information about rich cargoes leaving this Mogul Empire port. I said we needed her to help us in other ports as well since our Hindi and Arabic were not so good. Besides, surely she realized that men might be more likely to talk to a beautiful, clever woman than to one of my ugly old sailors. She laughed and again muttered some curses about feringee sailors being crazy. I said we were certainly crazy, but we were also very successful. I then offered to make my first mate share my cabin and give her his quarters with a regular allowance in addition to bonuses if she came. Eventually she agreed.
So you see it was really somewhat less romantic at first than the captured princess story we usually tell the so called "nobles", but in the end we fell in love just the same. In spite of, or perhaps because of our mutual rough upbringing, we were more cautious and cynical, than some, but I found her utterly irresistible, no matter haw hard I tried to resist. Apparently she felt the same attraction even though she was even more cynical about men than I had become about women.
We always train new sailors in swimming, if they don't already know how, so many of the men volunteered to give her training in this one task that required a somewhat less modest level of dress. I made it clear I would be doing the teaching in that arena. Her Cousins watched me like a hawk, but they agreed that would be best. I actually had the same ulterior motives as my men in that we all knew how tightly a new swimmer clings to their instructor, but I had no intention of taking advantage of it. Women that don't want me have little interest in me, so I worked to build a genuine interest instead of something less noble.
She was suspicious at first, but later came to trust me. I was quite surprised to find she really was a fair hand with a sword, excellent with a chakra, and the best sharpshooter we have! She is also our head medic and is often in the galley teaching the cook (also female) new recipes. I found that the swimming lessons were accepted as necessary, but she didn't get excited about anything until I showed her a Kentucky long rifle complete with a small sniper scope we had developed and attached. I had to work hard for her attentions, but with that rifle it was love at first sight for her!
When I demonstrated it's range and accuracy, she got the look in her eyes that European men reserve only for the madness that gold brings out in them. She then gave me an intense look and demanded to know what I expected in exchange for this treasure. I said I want you to use it on my enemies. She agreed, and even asked for a set number of heads in exchange for the right to keep the weapon (which was very high tech for the late 1400s). I set the number high at 100, because I wanted to ensure she stayed as long as possible. I was surprised at how soon she earned the weapon in my service.
We continued to dance around the feelings that were developing for one another. European men often have foolish ideas about Gypsy women having loose morals, but that is because they only are allowed close contact with that sort of Gypsy women. The others are not allowed to get too close to the European men, because while their clothing may appear less modest, their morals about that subject can be as strict or even more so, and Radha was the daughter of a Chieftain!
In time, we finally gave in to the passion and the love, both, all at once in a madness that was all consuming! We agreed to try to be somewhat business as usual during the day even though I found it hard to be away from her at night. One day, without even asking me, she simply moved her things into my cabin and advised the first mate he could have his quarters back. He was a good sport about the whole thing especially when I gave him his pick of the recently captured ships to take as his own command.
Over time, Radha showed that she had learned well at the feet of her Grandfather how to command and lead men in battle. When any of them questioned the appropriateness of her giving them orders, she didn't stand on traditions, such as having them flogged, she simply blackened their eyes and sent them back to work. I asked about it, and she said it was something she learned from her brothers, that letting anyone else do her fighting or punishing for her simply made them more sure she was not a threat, but when she beat them hand to hand, they never forgot the lesson, so she didn't have to teach them again and again. It wasn't our normal approach, but it always worked for her.
She did not rise to my second in command due to any relationship with me, but rather. because her clever mind could think through an enemies strengths and weaknesses, as well as our own, better than any of my men. I made it clear that she earned her rank, and she made sure that any who doubted it got a chance to find out just how good the Indian style of hand to hand fighting really was. That generally shut them up fast enough, but if not, I pointed out how her number of enemy dead stacked up to theirs, and that generally quieted the room. It wasn't something they liked to be reminded of.
The one thing that remained for an explanation of our far flung island empire and how we have managed to keep at least a few ships of many types in many times is to explain how we found our way back to the future, and learned to travel back and forth to different times. We returned to the Mediterranean eventually, and set to work regaining any wealth we had expended by attacking Ottoman ships again. This time, my luck finally ran out as I got a large piece of ship's hull driven through my intestines by a cannon blast. The peritonitis that set in was even beyond Lady Radha's (vice-admiral Narasimhan) Ayurvedic medicine to contain.
She had heard long ago about how we came to her time with the great ship, and now, as the acting admiral, she commanded our crew to go back through time in search of a cure for my infection. Most of the crew saw little profit in going far enough into the future to render our weapons rather ordinary and even a little obsolete, but she just told them to get on one of the other ships if they didn't want to go. We readjusted crews a bit and finally managed to find enough persons still somewhat homesick for parents, wives, or children to want to try the return voyage. She claims some even came along out of loyalty to me, or perhaps a sense of adventure, but who knows really.
It took a few tries, as the passage had to be made in the opposite direction and the speed of travel combined with the time of day seems to be the factor that picks the time we come out in. In the end we found ourselves at a 20th century modern hospital for tourists on Bermuda where my very weak condition was still salvageable with modern antibiotics and surgery. While I was recuperating, I learned that Lady Radha had dreamed up the great cover story that we were a business that had recreated the great sailing ship to take rich people on pleasure cruises and show them how the old sails and guns worked. This proved to be so popular that one billionaire, who had always dreamed of piloting a pirate ship (we let him call it that since it suited him) and firing the big cannons, had bribed and pulled strings until we found that our entire crew had modern identification papers and documents stating we were born and raised there in Bermuda. He also arranged to help us purchase a few needed things like modern medical supplies, several 50 caliber WWII machine guns, and ammo, as well as other modern "hunting rifles" etc that we quite honestly stated we needed to help fend off modern pirates.
It seemed that modern pirates had become such a problem to this billionaire, who happened to have a subsidiary the sold arms to South American and African nations, that he understood perfectly that large cannons were just to inefficient for small jobs. We have since then visited him from time to time, though we always have to make sure not to show up before our first meeting as it would not only confuse everyone, but our documents would have an impossible date that way. We also got our "passports" updated every time we came to visit, but preferred to spend most of our time in earlier centuries where our enemies could not out gun us.
We have since then found other time portals similar the one in the Bermuda triangle in various areas around the globe, and have supported many battles in many times. Unfortunately, the closer time gets to the modern age, the more we have to operate very low key as the history books and photography gets problematic. We remembered well the stories of the Spanish Inquisitors and understand the fact that any technology too advanced or strange will be perceived as Witchcraft, or at least bring out the worst of the predators among those seeking to take it away for their own profit. As such, we swear all Captains and crews to secrecy about the location and even existence of the time portals.
Naturally we trade information and even technology with other time travelers we meet that we feel will not be careless about it, but we take a very dim view of those that are careless or too much bent on total domination with futuristic weapons. We also have strong dislike for businesses or governments that enslave, torture, or allow their troops to use rape as a form of entertainment. As such we always have a wide choice of enemies in any time line. We forbid such behaviors among our own privateers and work to improve the lot of all professional privateers. We think that in exchange for much better treatment than that received by rather similar men of fortune dubbed pirates, we should be able to demand a much higher level of standards and discipline among those working under our own banner. As such we must enforce our own discipline internally, and unfortunately, sometimes fatally, for the protection of all members of the Covenant of the Kraken.
Chapter 4 Trouble down South (or Back in the Heart of Dixie)
Velvet Brown, aka Velvet Jones, Union Spy, time traveling bounty hunter, and agent of the Interstellar Time Travel Activity Regulation Confederation (it has a shorter name in the interstellar common dialect, but so what) found herself facing the terribly unappetizing prospect of keeping her promise to sleep with fat old General Davis (a distant cousin to Thomas Jefferson Davis, soon to be president of the Confederacy), but he had taken her along on his inspection tour of Herr Thunnar's weapons development Lab and factory. She would just make an excuse afterwards and run away to avoid such unpleasant duty, but she might have to get back in again at a later time to see how their weapons were progressing. Oh well. She was her usual charming and disarming flirtaceous self, a regular scarlet haired Scarlet O'hara right out of her favorite movie "Gone With the Wind", but she still saw only end of the war level technology being newly developed now in 1856. Surely they had started on the really bad stuff or would do so soon and were keeping it hidden. She had already detected electricity and signs of wireless radio communications going on here. Oh well, she might have seduce Herr Thunnar himself to get any real dirt on the place, but he seemed quite a cold fish, so that might be rather difficult. She finally excused herself to go to the necessary and then opened her purse. She had the usual makeup and a trashy novel, which had made the guard leer when he inspected her purse, but her blush was convincing and it distracted them from searching much further.
She then pulled out what she was really hiding in her bosom and scanned for hidden cameras or other observation devices. when it appeared to be clear, she reached much further into her attire to remove a very strange but wonderful alien artifact. It had a large yellow eye about 1 inch across with a wrapping of what appeared to be polished steel cables around it. When she pressed a hidden button it unfurled itself, tested out it's six metallic arms, it's bright amber light, mini ray gun, pincer claws, cutting saw arm, and then used it's locomotive and magnetic arm to begin slowly climbing up a metal cornice on the wall. When it ran out of iron to cling to, it turned on, or rather it's remote pilot turned on it's supper directional magnetic well and pointed it first up to levitate slowly up, then onto the ceiling Where it removed a metal grate (they had actual modern ventilation here) and went through it on it's actual mission to find out what they are hiding in the New Orleans Arms Manufacturing plant. she didn't have to worry about tit further as it's remote pilot could easily take whatever pictures he needed, hide until dark, then use the stun beam if necessary to knock out any guards before using the magnetic well to make it's way home. Naturally once it got outside the fortress there would be no metal above it, but New Orleans had plenty of metal, and it was waterproof enough to crawl home on the ocean floor if it really had to. Wasn't alien technology grand? Oh well, she had to deal with General Davis and stuffy old Herr Thunnar now. He was a clever one, so she had better not get too drunk! He thought he had given them the slip, but his puppet master type companion used a special kind of inexhaustible power supply for his armored and ray shielded vehicle, one that looked just like her little remote unit. fortunately hers had a somewhat less inexhaustible power supply that didn't glow on every temporal and energy sensor around like his did or she would have never smuggled it inside. She just hoped it got enough on this one trip, so she could ditch General Davis quick. Unfortunately her scandalous affair had to continue for many years due to the very dangerous potential of this Herr Thunnar and his little green one eyed friend.
I, Admiral Ramon Leon del Mar, had been a time traveling privateer for almost 15 years when Velvet Brown Came swishing onto my ship pretending to be a typical southern Belle just wanting to meet the dashing Captain that commanded such a fine ship. Her hoop skirts and incredible looks as well as winning charm got her past most of his guard and managed to get the Attention of their very short and incredibly young looking Sergeant at Arms Cannonball Joe. He had grown up on this ship and had earned his place there in spite of his young age and somewhat damaged hearing (from too long around explosives). He was old enough to appreciate her looks, but professional enough to stop her from entering the Admiral’s cabin. He said that Captain smith (AKA Admiral Leon del Mar) was meeting with the first mate I (AKA Vice Admiral Narasimhan who also happened to be Leon del Mar’s wife and Joe’s mother, but that’s another story) and they could not be disturbed. He would not have let her through, but she whispered in his ear that she had urgent business with Admiral Ramon Leon del Mar and Vice Admiral Narasimhan. All she got for her trouble, was cannonball Joe’s usual response of “What?…I’m sorry young lady, but I can’t hear to well. Could you say that a little louder?” At first she thought he was toying with her, but one of the sailors told her he really can’t hear too well, but he’s a great master at Arms just the same. They offered to translate, but she finally just gave up the charade and told them all loudly who she really wanted to see. In the end the sailor took her and Cannonball Joe to the Captain’s quarters, since they clearly couldn’t discuss real names so loudly in a soon to be Confederate port of Savannah when they were making away with a Union Ship of War the USS Constitution. It had actually been off traveling the globe for many years already and was just in port for repairs, but it wouldn’t do to have the Admiral’s Spanish Privateer name spread around at this dock as the Spaniards weren’t too friendly with the South right now. Perhaps I should back up a little and tell you more about how this came about.
It had been about 15 years since we chased a privateer with a strange steam engine in his sailing schooner through a time portal so far into the past, that I found myself Captain of an American Warship, the USS Constitution a few years before the “New World” had even been discovered by the Europeans. I had given up thinking about my home and family having built a new family and connections several centuries in the past, but once we discovered the time travel could go both ways, thoughts of family and kin started to gnaw at everyone, well at least us Yankees from the 1860s. Sooner or later we were bound to return to the place and time from whence we had come. It was actually my wife, vice Admiral Radha Narasimhan that was brave enough to try the first return to the future, and even then only under extreme circumstances. I had been wounded badly by wood shrapnel during a sea battle with the Ottoman Empire, and I was dying of internal infections due to perforation of my intestines. There were no doctors in the late 1490s that could save me, so she told any sailors too frightened to make the attempt to move to another ship, then made for the islands in the Bermuda Triangle that she knew was the portal that had brought me to her long ago.
Vice Admiral Narasimhan was The granddaughter of a light skinned Kashmiri Sikh who married a Gujarati Gypsy woman near the mouth of the Indus River Delta. Her father was a very dashing and courteous English privateer who had charmed her mother and kept her like a wife for as long as he lived. She had learned English from her father, Ayurvedic medicine, from her mother, Vedic astrology and mathematics from her grandmother, and the arts of war, weapons, and Indian martial arts from her Grandfather. She tried to steal Admiral Narsimhan’s purse, cut him up a bit when he tried to stop her from getting away, then finally agreed to work for him as an interpreter and a spy. She eventually fell in love with him and later rose to be the Vice Admiral of the inter-temporal (multiple time lines and centuries) international confederation of privateers that called itself the Covenant of the Kraken. She earned her place there with cunning, ingenuity, toughness, and a command presence even more breathtaking than her incredible exotic beauty. She also beat any of the men that questioned a woman’s place among the crew nearly senseless until word got around what a bad idea that was. She still had to break in a few new sailors from time to time, but had learned to ensure her “lessons” didn’t damage them too badly for them to work the next day. Any other officer would simply have had them flogged for disrespect, like in the British Navy, but it was important to Vice Admiral Radha Narasimhan that no one questioned how she earned her place or dared suggest that her good looks and the favor of the Admiral was the only reason she had risen to the second highest place in the entire Covenant of the Kraken.
My crew members with families they were close to had been very sad until they learned we could make it back through time portals. They talked of little else since then. They desperately wanted to go home, albeit with Covenant of the Kraken approved, stories about where they had been and how they came across goodly fortunes in gold before their return. It took us several months of experimentation to figure out how the portals work well enough to hit the century, much less the year, that we wanted. Fortunately we managed finally to return to a time only a few months after the time we had entered the very first time portal. We were several years older and wiser, but our families had mourned for our presumed deaths only a month or two. As the Civil war was about to start, none of the men could actually resign from the union navy, but I had already assured them I fully intended to be listed as killed in the line of duty and would be happy to help them fake their deaths any time they wished, so they could relocate their families and resume duties aboard “Kali’s Hourglass” with us. Their “approved” story about following a privateer and profiting from the adventure was actually true, although the profit came from many ships over several years rather than one large haul. They were warned though that in time of war any prizes they admitted to capturing on board a US vessel would be confiscated and put the war chest. As such I helped them carefully hide most of their wealth in European banks and advised them to carry only a handful of gold coins home with them.
We were exhausted as all of the time travel sites we had found ranging from the volcanic islands near Bermuda to the waters above the sunken Island of Atlantis in the Sargasso Sea all caused us to enter an area where a gravity well caused us to become so heavy that we plunged to the deck and eventually were knocked unconscious by extreme gravitational distortions during the time travel itself. We had learned to tie the ships wheel in place and lower all sails before entering between or over such locations. We often located them by following hints in local legends about disappearing ships, and sometimes, like the first time, by following one of those ships who was in the process of disappearing on purpose.
During our recent series of time travel experiments we actually managed once to end up in the time of my favorite historical inventor Archimedes. The famous Greek inventor Archimedes is reported in the history books to have been killed in the Roman invasion of the Greek Island of Syracuse, but we actually wandered into the middle of that mess, getting lots of arrows in our hull and actually sank a Roman trireme, without actually trying when he tried to sink us by ramming only to find that our hull was too strong to be successfully damaged that way. We had some trouble translating their Latin, but we eventually learned that one of the reasons they wanted so badly to capture Syracuse was to capture Archimedes who had caused them so much trouble for so many years. We pulled out all the stops and snatched him out of the struggle just before the end. Unfortunately we couldn’t stop the massive assault on Syracuse (besides I don’t like to re-write history books, because I don’t know what would happen if I did)
Archimedes absolutely loved our modern engineer’s workshop on the ship, his tools, and his ideas. We stopped first on an island we had been renting for centuries from Portugal that we kept and maintained as a hidden base. We were surprised to find it well populated, and even more surprised to see it flying the flag of the Covenant of the Kraken above it’s well built fortress. All of this was new to us, but the inhabitants knew exactly who we were and advised that I had, or rather would soon establish this as a permanent base in the early 1500’s and it had been kept that way ever since. The Sargasso Sea is avoided by superstitious sailors and sensible captains alike due to the fact that wind driven ships are often stranded in this place in central eastern Atlantic where the winds seem to die away on most days all together. Archimedes was also fascinated by a locomotive steam engine which we had recently purchased. Surprisingly he understood the technology to some degree as he was one of the earliest inventors, but did not have the technology and materials available to create such a powerful version. He helped us in the process of installing it on board as a secondary means of locomotion for “Kali’s Hourglass” our flagship. We soon found that the Sargasso Sea was now much less of a problem for us, but is still an area largely avoided by others.
I then escorted a cargo ship full of captured trade goods along with our crew members that wanted to return to their families, back to our home port. I felt it was really important to allow those crew members who had been devastated to leave their lives and extended families to rejoin them, even though service in the Union Navy still would separate them most of the time even if they lived through the impending terrible war. I allowed each of them to read a 20th century report on the horrors of the “US Civil War”, or read it to them if they could not read, and then allowed them to decide. Actually Naval battle is not one of the worst areas to be in that war, but it was bad enough. I was not prepared to be questioned and reprimanded about the poor state of our uniforms, the extreme wear the ship and guns wear appear to have gone through, or the obvious changes on the ship, so we separated from the cargo ship as soon as the port was in sight. So far as they know, we were lost in that terrible storm off the coast of Bermuda except for the survivors who were being delivered now working for their passage home on this Spanish cargo ship. The ship had a submarine escort, a fascinating invention that I was eager to learn more about, so we were unafraid to leave her otherwise unattended for the return journey.
I had really wanted to deliver the men myself and simply make up a story about our grand adventure, but in the end, I could not bring myself to take the replacement crew into the madness of the world of time travelers when their families and nation was in such danger, or to abandon the empire of privateers we had forged in the Covenant of the Kraken. I even fancied I might get a promotion and a fancy new uniform, especially if I handed over the ship with it’s new steam engine, but I was unwilling to tamper with the future or to risk losing control of the ship that had been my home for the last 7 years. In the end, we made for Savannah instead. It was about to become our enemy, but that made it easy for me to gain the discretion of the locals with a smile, a wink, and a handful of gold. They were quite pleased to see that the USS Constitution was in the hands of “private citizens” now, so long as it wasn’t hitting their shipping. It was more of a curiosity for them than any military power now that it’s innovative design had been made almost obsolete by the new clipper ships which were much faster even if less sturdy and less able to mount heavy guns.
We sailed to Savannah, right after I sent a letter home to the Cherokee territory (Eastern Cherokee) to make port for repairs and supplies. While the news of our ship being missing from the Northern fleet would have gone around, the Southerners knew they would soon be at war, and were actually quite happy to see that the ship appeared to be in the hands of pirates instead of those Damn Yankees! We were often met with a knowing smile and a wink on the docks while we all pretended not to know why. They made repairs, for a heavy price of course, to anything that needed it and even upgraded the size of our gun deck cannons from 24 pounders to the new powerful 64 pounder guns. While this made the ship sit a bit lower in the water, especially with the steam engine on board (which we made certain they never got a look at), they advised me that the new guns would be needed as the militaries, both north and south, were reportedly experimenting with thicker hulls and even metal plates on the exterior of their ships.
We had actually already installed thin brass plates on the inside of our own vessel, which was another thing we claimed was scavenged from the French Privateer, but that provided only very modest strength. It was primarily useful in that is greatly reduced the wooded splinters blasted into the bodies of our crewmen when a cannonball managed to penetrate our hull. In the previous centuries, that had not been necessary, but a few late period Ottoman Ships and shore batteries had actually done some real damage to ship and especially to the crew causing us to make that small improvement. Standard metal cannonballs do relatively little damage to the ship, especially when they hit above the water line, but the wooden fragments they spray around the breach can maim or kill large numbers of our gunners with every strike. The thin brass plates did not stop the cannonballs, but only those struck by them directly would be injured as they allowed only the ball to penetrate and stopped most of the wooden shrapnel from following it through.
Shortly after we arrived in Savannah, I was approached by a beautiful southern belle by the name of “Velvet Jones” I kid you not that she introduced her self as Miss Velvet Jones, though of course I suspect it was a false name, and she was smooth as velvet had ever been. She had long red hair, curled like most southern belles, with bright green eyes and appeared to be around 20 years of age. The locals knew me simply as Captain Smith. As such I was quite surprised to hear her call me by my Spanish name of Capitan-General Ramon Leon del Mar as she entered my cabin.
I’m Admiral Ramon Leon del Mar, High Lord Admiral of the Covenant of the Kraken, time traveler extraordinaire, yet today, I’m just plain confused! While my wife, Admiral Narasimhan, is usually fairly calm and professional, this flirtatious southern belle was really getting her Gypsy temper up. She may even have recognized that she was having a very uncharacteristically emotional and personal reaction to this young woman that her husband could not understand at first, as she finally just stated quite plainly (in Hindi) that if he really wanted the company of this cheap floozy, she would leave the two of them alone and go see to the ship, and otherwise, she would actually prefer I toss the floozy into the sea, so we could get some work done. Actually this was just a manner of speech, because if she actually thought I was interested in the girl, she would be more likely to offer her a Gypsy woman's fight to the death or at least toss the woman overboard herself, than use a foreign tongue to see if I wanted her to absent herself until I was finished talking to someone she intensely disliked.
While Miss Jones clearly did not understand Hindi, the venom in her tone and expression clearly did not escape her gaze and I found it interesting that she was assessing not only my wife's face, but her movements, her weapons, and even flicking to the razor edged chakrams twined and hidden in her clothing. I found myself wondering about our guest while I gazed at my wife to collect my thoughts without giving too much away. Is she a thief, a spy, what? How does she know who we are and is she trying to suggest we pay blackmail money or what? I finally just decided to be blunt about it and ask directly, but struck on an idea that would be both honest and yet put my guest off balance as much as she had us.
Somehow I rather doubt that your proffered name of Velvet Jones has any more resemblance to your real name than my current appellation of Captain John Smith (thought up by the oh so imaginative shipyard master whom I bribed, apparently not enough, to be discreet), but that is of little interest to me right now. What I really find myself wanting to ask is if this is really your natural manner of speech or is this heavy honey and cream southern drawl just for my benefit? If it is, then you should know that in my wife's culture, flirting with a woman's husband, even the light sort of banter which is, I realize, an innate part of a Southern Belle's charm, is considered an insult to the man's wife back in India. She is apparently taking it as such, and I must inform you that any insult to my wife is something that I will take personally.
The beautiful face that had been intently gazing at the razor edged chakram my wife was fingering snapped her attention back to my face and looked horrified! Her honey smooth manner and speech actually dissolved for a moment into confused sputtering such as: "Oh my..Well I...I do declare I never..." and ending in simply gazing at the floor a few moments to recover her dignity and focus. When her eyes met mine after that they were all business, and I realized how much of her appearance of extreme youth and innocence had been a very talented job of makeup and acting. (I immediately thought a con artist then or perhaps a clever spy and was forced to shake off musings about how useful such a one might be to our own organization) Her voice and speech pattern changed little, but the playful flirtaceous quality, considered charming by most southern gentlemen, was gone however. She then answered in a more serious tone "The southern drawl is actually my native tongue, so to speak, but I can easily speak more like queen Victoria if you prefer. The playful banter is considered disarming, charming, and puts most men in this part of the world at ease, because it assures them that I am exactly what they want me to be, a lovely empty headed female. I should have known that would not be useful in your case, but I'm afraid it has become a bit of a habit since I returned to my own century in preparation for this great war between the states. I am actually Louisiana Creole with the family name of Brown, but that little fact is not very helpful in this time period due to the lascivious nature of the so called "Southern Gentlemen" around pretty Creole girls. As for my first name, it really is Velvet. I always rather liked it myself, but you may call me whatever you prefer. (I was of course thinking My own century? This is getting interesting!)
She then turned to my wife and apologized profusely and attempted to explain that complimenting a man's looks and pretending at least a mild attraction to him was simply a courtesy in this time and place as well as a means of getting him to underestimate his opponent in business as well as other matters, and that she meant no disrespect. Radha, looked to me as if to ask if that were true. I acknowledged that it was, at least here in the south and that we might find this useful information if future dealing in this area. That brought a faint, albeit somewhat predatory smile to her lips, and she seemed to relax a bit seeing this lady as a local version of the sort of clever thief she had been forced to live as back in the Moslem ruled India of her youth. The redhead then asked that we accept her apology and try to understand that she really is here purely as a representative of certain parties interested in "retaining" our services for a very important matter. I understood the lawyer speak, just barely, but knew Radha did not as it was some of the new "jargon" of that most terrifying new form of pirate, the dreaded attorney's of law. I asked her to speak more plainly. She stated that a powerful group seeking to prevent having their business and personal interests disrupted by time travelers such as ourselves have formed a large and powerful interplanetary organization that acts as a sort of police to minimize unnecessary or abusive use of or release of technology in inappropriate time zones.
My wife's hand went right back to her chakram and mine went to my pistol immediately tensing up for a fight! She actually looked quite frightened and with excellent reason! She said, "Oh no, you misunderstand me! It's not you they want to find. No, they really like how well you have maintained discretion, and I am more of a diplomat and a gatherer of information than any sort of enforcer of rules, so please understand that you are not being threatened or questioned in any way.
Her composure was so completely shaken and destroyed that I actually felt sorry for her at this point and was sufficiently convinced that it was at least unlikely that she was here to blackmail us or attack us. My experiences with my own wife had made clear to me and all of our crew how an apparently delicate flower could sometimes be a deadly tiger in disguise, but I did not feel the spine and cold blooded nerve of an assassin or soldier in this one. Either that, or she had a better report than I imagined on how dangerous it was to have me at her front and Radha standing to the side and little behind her when we were feeling threatened. Anyone with an ounce of self preservation that really knew us would find that a very frightening place to be.
Hmmmm. That will certainly bear further observation, but for now, I decided to play the hand out and see where it went. I rang for our aide and asked him to send up some tea and scones and asked if there was anything else our guest would like. She took a few deep breath's and said "At this point I feel I may have just used up one of my nine lives and could use something a bit stronger than tea if you please". I offered her a bit of fine brandy which she drank thankfully, and said she would need to wait on the aide to come and go before giving all the details, but, in short, there was someone that was being, well, a very bad, bad boy, that was in the process of gathering funds to build a very large network of arms manufacturers that would be developing very advanced weapons for the time period out on an island near New Orleans. They first thought he intended to simply disturb everything by profiting from selling to both sides, but it appears he plans to put all his stolen technology in the hands of whichever side he thinks will give him the greatest advantage. It appears that Northern General Officers are too conservative and slow to change for his purposes, but the Southerners at the highest levels realize they will need a stronger advantage than simply courage and what they see as "God's grace for the righteous" to defeat the heavily industrialized northern states. If he can rise to a position of power among the southern leaders and use advanced technology to secure their victory, he will be positioned to conquer other nations as a power behind the throne, so to speak. If he operates true to form from the past, he is likely to assassinate the president at some point and make it appear to be an act of terrorism by their enemies, so as to justify taking over as a supreme military dictator in a time of martial law. Of course the emergency will not ever be over until he is the supreme ruler of the planet.
We both just stared at her silently for a moment or two and thought about this. I finally said, "You are suggesting that this madman is planning to use death rays and the like in this century without expecting to rouse the entire planet against him. I mean, he may be strong enough to handle that, but killing off too much of the population might deplete his work force as such, so world conquerors usually try to divide and conquer rather than make themselves obvious as a world wide threat right away." Now it was Miss Jones’ turn to smile a very satisfied smile. "I am pleased to see they have not underestimated your intelligence and your ability to see their position on this. No, he actually plans to use mostly only end of the civil war era technology such as repeating rifles, gattling guns, armored war wagons, rapid loading Hotchkiss rotating cannons, breech loaded Wahrendorff guns, mines, early submarines, and ironclad ships, but consider what it would mean if these late period and post war technologies were made available in large quantities at the very start of the war. Either side could be overwhelmed easily before they could develop any means to defend against them. Not only that, but if, as you say, he pitted one nation against another in their hurry to gain favor with the new super power, he could easily conquer the planet although he may underestimate the difficulty of actually ruling and maintaining any world order among humans. We are, after all, a very chaotic and rebellious species. (OK, so no it was getting really interesting. Humans? Species?)
What you don't know is that my employers take this one bad boy much more personally than most as the man known as Herr Thunnar is actually a 21st century arms merchant who also happens to be a time traveler. He is a problem, but only a very minor one. I don't know how much you know about our universe, but we are definitely not alone, and the one actually pulling the strings behind Herr Thunnar, is not from this world. He was exiled from his own planet when he tried something very similar there. Actually they would have executed him, but he was powerful enough that a surrender was negotiated in which exile was offered , minus his time travel device, in return for cessation of hostilities and surrender of his doomsday devices. He made off with more technology than intended including a hand held particle cannon which kills everything, including electronics, without physically destroying things or leaving long lasting radiation behind. The problem is that he also has means to detect any others of his race as well as the power supplies their technology runs on including their very clever time travel devices that look rather like a shiny little ball. Fortunately, the only one he managed to make off with was so small, about the size of a baseball, he has mostly only information files and a few exotic weapons, but was forced to gather financial resources before building arms factories etc. This allowed us, or me rather, to track him here. He then moved back about 10 years to give time for set up and preparation as the war will likely start when Lincoln is elected next month.
I looked at her in a very calculating way and asked her to define the term "from another world" for me please. I said I had read a 1960s Encyclopedia Britannica and much of the 18th through mid 20th century science fiction, but found the quantity of it too vast for my available time constraints in the only visit I made to 2010. Was she suggesting our "Bad Boy" that she wanted stopped was small enough to travel around inside a baseball? She looked for a moment like she was very deep in thought staring off into space, then said, "He has decided to meet you in person." She then pulled out a bizarre little object, smaller than her delicate hand, that appeared to be made of metal, glass, and who knows what, and then she set it up on the table with one great yellow eye about the size of a 20th century quarter and metallic arms that were actually moving around it like a miniature Octopus. It had two metallic pincers, a studded wheel that could pull it around, a soft yellow light glowing from what appeared to be a beautiful bit of amber in the shape of a ball on one tentacle, a cutting wheel that whirred on another, and a small device that looked like a miniature space gun from "Buck Rodgers" on the other. It was so bizarre that many of our somewhat superstitious crew might have run screaming from the room, but Radha simply clutched her amulet on her prayer beads and was quietly chanting her favorite Sanskrit mantra of protection. I hoped she would chant one for me while she was at it, but I found the thing fascinating none the less!
Chapter 5 Strange Things Come in Small Packages (or Working for a Robot)
I then got an even more surprised look on my face and said to Miss Brown, "Your employer is a robot?" She giggled and said, no, that is just his armored transport device. It's called a "Beholder" because the eye is actually a partly organic, partly cybernetic, err...robotic, structure that can see fine detail in many different spectrums of light or even in total darkness and can transmit the information great distances. His can even send information across time lines, but that's another story. It also has projectile, particle, and radiation shielding, the light producing amber bulb can also cause an opponent to fall unconscious if used the proper way, and the small arm that appears to end in, what you so colorfully referred to as a 'death ray' is surprisingly powerful for it's size although he uses it mostly to cut through doors, locks or similar obstacles. It produces a powerful rapid firing pulse laser, if you know what that means. It can easily cut through most materials although a few heat resistant things such as granite are more difficult to cut. naturally I would not tell you all this, but he wants you to know as he plans to allow you the use of a very similar unmanned version of this asset, so they can observe your progress and communicate with us. The one he sends will be remotely piloted, but they cannot do so across time lines, so they will have to train your most clever worker, preferably someone with a steady hand and good eyes like a sharpshooter, to operate it. It will be less powerful than the original as it cannot have their type of power supply or really any kind of power that the target can detect, but this black market version does exist which can do much of what the original can if we can train your user to control it well. You need to know what it can be used for as you will need all the help you can get.
While I was listening intently, I never lost rack of my original question and tried again with "So he is smaller than the little robotic device?". She got that far away look again then said, he will step out a moment so you can see for yourself, but can't do so for long as he can't breathe our air. The eye in the center slowly lifted open and a small green object shaped rather like a green soybean with a large, for his size anyway, single yellow eye in the middle blinked at me. It then waved one of it's 4 tentacles around in my direction and made some soft sound. The Sanskrit chanting behind me got a little louder and I got very still myself feeling my own skin begin to crawl, but when the eye closed again, I simply sat back down slowly (it seemed I had risen to peer more closely without even realizing it) and said I think I will join you in that Brandy now. Actually forget that, Radha, how about we break out some of the special Kraken brand rum. she nodded silently without ever breaking stride in her Sanskrit chanting of the Triambicom, then shifted to the Gyatri Mantra. I poured a large glass for each of us and then refilled our guest's glass with our favorite special brand of rum, took a long swig and said, "so tell me again, what exactly he wants from us."
She said, "I am a bounty hunter and a spy, and I am very, very good at what I do, but the "Confederation" needs someone to destroy this renegade and it will have to be another time traveler that is human, familiar with the area and century, that can be trusted to be effective under pressure and not overly abusive of whatever technology they uncover in the process. The Confederation is the term they use for the group of boys with really, really big toys that insist of tempering the activities of time travelers like us. Think of them as time travel police if you wish. they are utterly ruthless, but not unreasonable most of the time. They don't expect us to avoid all interference with time lines, but rather to limit our activities to clever use of technology in ways that will not seriously re-write the history books, but rather be seen as local myths about sorcerers, unexplained small outbreaks of plague, or superstitious stories from sailors. In fact they tell me that easily inhabited planets like ours are so rare that they actually encourage interference with cultures or groups that threaten the survival of the planet, so long as we either avoid being too obvious or clean up our mess after wards by killing anyone that learns too much before we are done.
They are not nearly as interested in the fate of our species as they are in our planet's ecosystem. While this representative cannot breath our atmosphere, some of their members can and often do while disguising themselves as humans. They even try to curtail the experiments that the Greys have been conducting on humans now that it is generally agreed that humans are actually an intelligent species. Somehow the greys argued that make fission bombs didn't prove what they consider to be intelligence of a significant enough level to be worthy of protection, but they have been fouling the fuel tanks of whaling ships for centuries as whales got sanctioned far earlier than humans. In fact they couldn't even get anyone excited about humans or get so much as a research grant, if you know what that means, for what was considered to be just another bunch of violent hairless monkeys on the edge of the galaxy until we stumbled across time travel. Time travel disturbances coming from our planet really got their attention and the Time Police were sent to assess and monitor any possible trouble we might be generating. They were amazed to find that mere humans had actually discovered gravity wells and ways to survive time travel through them without any apparent outside influence creating them or training the mindless animals they thought the humans to be how to harness such fabulous vortexes.
It's actually a good thing that the time police members aren't human. I'm afraid we don't have a very good tack record for what humans do with advanced technology when they encounter cultures less competent at destruction than themselves. In any case, they need someone who can take on very dangerous people that, like yourselves, keep very dangerous toys under lock and key. Your records indicate that you have voluntarily followed the intent of their policies without any pressure or influence to do so even when use of your high tech. weapons might have saved the loss of life of some of your crew. You have always managed success with minimal disturbance to the time line, yet you have proven yourselves superior strategists and warriors. That is why you are being contacted now.
You will need, well probably will need, much more advanced weapons for some of the work than anything they have ever licensed humans to use before. You would be expected to return any military grade (their military she meant) weapons, but in this case, everything will be pirated copies that use less durable materials , unusual and more limited power supplies, and are made off the books so to speak. They will be unregistered in general, but naturally you will be held responsible for how they are used and what you do with them.
One of them, a rather ugly, but functional version of a particle cannon, is particularly nasty, but it seems Herr Thunnar is developing early air forces using rocket driven gliders to drop early forms of torpedoes. They would be very effective against your ships and your machine guns are unlikely to take them all down in time. The particle cannon can actually fire radiation in a stream that will have an effect similar to the 20th century 'neutron bomb' rounds that were fired in the 1980s from midsized artillery cannons. Your double barreled shotgun will also be modified to launch heavy mortar type rockets or a special rocket that the particle cannon can charge that will be equivalent to such a neutron bomb round, but this is to be used only if all else fails. The basic particle cannon is much more subtle and will cause minimal harm to the environment if fired at aircraft rather than at the fertile area of the island.
The small Beholder Robotic Device can be remotely piloted to scout out the area and possibly even assassinate Herr Thunnar and his little puppet master, but the pulse laser may not be effective since he will be in a similar ray shielded conveyance. It is possible that the particle cannon may be able to damage the ray shielding however. That remains to be seen. We will give you what I was able to glean when I charmed my way into a personal tour of the arms factory from Herr Thunnar, but naturally there will be much I don't know. You will be taught how to use these devices before you go, and any other reasonable request will be considered. I wish you luck, for all our sakes."
I said in mock surprise "You aren't going with us? Won't you be disappointed to miss the party?" she simply replied that she was not a warrior. That was our department. she got the information, but we were being hired to enforce the "Confederation's" will. I said "I still feel some loyalty to the US even though I am retired from that military as you already know, but we run a profit oriented confederation of our own. It consists of profit minded privateers who don't generally go gallivanting off to get themselves killed without some profit in it for them. This sounds like a very dangerous assignment likely to cost many, many lives, so why would we want to go?"
It was her turn to be surprised at first, but she got that far away look again and said, "Oh, I thought he had explained that part. Mental communication is very fast, but I can't eavesdrop on such conversations. He says your mind is too hard for him to read easily, which is one reason he chose you and your wife. Your minds are shielded through some sort of mental discipline practices, but if you permit, her can probably communicate that part to you. It feels pretty strange the first time though, I should warn you."
When I agreed, I felt a powerful presence in my mind, similar to the presence I feel when doing Hindu meditation practices to reach out to the Gods, but it was colder somehow, more clinical like a doctor or a scientist. It showed me various high tech weapons such as miniature, short ranged stunners, a pistol that fired small rounds the size of large musket balls that exploded like grenades or could fire a small pulse laser, like the one previously mentioned to melt through metal locks and such or even an enemy's armor. He also showed what the particle cannon could do taking down the crew of an entire fleet, but that we would be waiting several days before it would be safe to clear the rotting corpses. I gave him an image back of what I knew my crew's reaction would be to such things making their life long training as sailors and warriors useless. They would feel they had been demoted to mere gravediggers and become so depressed and drunken with rum that they would become useless to me, so I had no intention of using it for any of our normal activities. I think I felt something like joy in response to that. It seems he was very happy understood how damaging abuse of technology could be to the culture as well as the ecosystem and that he wanted us to stay careful that way. I then understood he meant to let us keep the devices, but the pirated versions had such limited battery life that they would not last long if we used them very often. I made an image of him giving more energy packs in return for future services and got the same happy feeling. I sent my own feeling of contentment in agreement although I also made a mental note to use the energy packs as little as possible so as to avoid the need to do more big favors for these people as long as possible.
We called a war council, then made sail for our supply depot near the Bahamas area time portal. We had also arranged a 99 year lease of those two time portal volcanic islands and kept the area heavily patrolled and defended. We did not molest time travelers that seemed to know what they were doing, but we occasionally rescued ones that were new and very confused or whose ships were foundering due to mental and physical damage the crew had sustained during the passing. We gained some rather interesting crewmen that way from various centuries. when they had rejoined us, we gave very little information about high tech. weapons we were carrying, but gave general descriptions, instead of what we expected the defenders to be using.
We periodically are forced to track down and capture wayward crewmen that try to sell our secrets. As that is directly against the code of the Covenant of the Kraken, it forces us to quite literally cut out their tongue before throwing them to the sharks. I find the whole thing repulsive, but it is the only approach that has successfully reduced the number of executions necessary for violation of our oath of secrecy. We even keep the tongues nailed to the main mast of "Kali's Hourglass" as a reminder. As such I give out as little dangerous information as necessary to our sailors, especially the less trusted ones working on ships other than our flagship.
We generally time travel one ship at a time, because it so hard to hit the same time exactly that it may take weeks to rejoin our fleet otherwise, and only certain ships with very trusted captains had charts showing where the time portals lie. As such we keep a standing fleet of privateers and/or mercenary heavy escorts for local merchant ships (depending on what is more profitable at the time) in most decades from the late 1400s through the civil war era. After that time, sailing ships become pretty obsolete, and we are a bit old fashioned about moving completely away from sail. In fact, the Kali's Hourglass" has helped against the Nazis, by mounting torpedo tubes while continuing to be a sort of rich person's pleasure ship, but it was far from ideal.
In modern time periods we generally pretend to be a recreation of ancient pirate ships, complete with functional cannons, and trade fantasy cruises to rich people with pirate fantasies in return for needed supplies, modern medicines, gold, gems, modern weapons etc. We teach them how to sail, to load and fire cannons, and how to do as much sweaty sailor type work as they are up to before getting them drunk on Kraken rum and sending them home to convince the local (often South or Central American) government officials to let us buy or do whatever we want, so long as we don't hurt anybody in the process.
This time, we would actually not be able to time travel at all as we were told, by Miss Jones, that the last few operatives that time traveled to try to take out Herr Thunnar before he could get up to full operation, had been located and captured almost as soon as they appeared. Her employer suspected he had gotten a good temporal distortion monitor up and working that alerted him every time someone entered his decade. They were routinely met by a powerful fleet of ironclads and all but one such group of operatives, (Airship Isabella) who used a heavy weapon on them, then escaped through the time portal, had been captured. As such we would be forced to just sail right up when he was nearing the height of his power and try to stop him before the presidential elections next month that would start off the Civil War. We would also have to destroy, unfortunately, the lovely toy factory he had developed and recover any plans for his weapons. We would, ;however, be able to keep anything we found, under the limited weapon license issued to us by the temporal police.
The plan at this point was to gather our most heavily armed and armored ships already in this year, then wait off shore sufficient distance to be discreet while I, and "Cannon Ball Joe", Archimedes, and Angus approached the island in a small ship offering a chest of gold as an initial installment from a large Northern bank interested in investing in Herr Thunnar's inventions. Cannon Ball Joe is actually only 12 years old and my only son by Radha, but he is such a natural little God of War, and such a mathmatical and mechanical genius, that he rose to become the cannon master, until his hearing suffered sufficiently from nearby exploding round that he now has a tendency to say "what?" a lot until he the speaker raises their volume or he can manage to read their lips. While that was not very helpful in the middle of a naval engagement as Cannon deck master, he continued to be the best in our fleet at estimating ranges, direction of movement, adjusting indirect fire, and planning the most effective ways to use our cannon against an enemy. In fact, he invented most of the incredible devices and gun carriages that allow our guns to angle up enough to get maximum range, shift aim right or left 45 degrees (a big feat in those days, and even push themselves back into firing position through simple application of recoil ramps, locking devices, and gravity. As such we made him the Master of Cannons for "Kali's Hourglass" and adviser to the Cannon masters for all of our fleets. We really needed him along to estimate the actual weapon potentials and limitations of those weapons we would be inspecting and later fighting against.
Cannonball Joe is still young enough to be easily underestimated, so he was pretending to serve as my young valet. While growing up on ship, Joe also learned every form of martial art either of us knew and every weapon we had encountered, so he is also quite clever and quite deadly in a fight. Angus and Archimedes were along as well, partly to see all the man's toys and give me a good guess what we were up against, and partly because Angus and Archimedes' unbridled joy and enthusiasm for new inventions is so disarming. I would have believed them to be just technical advisors to a rich weapons merchant investor myself if I didn't know better.
Herr Thunnar was suspicious, but we arrived at a time when his factories had become fully functional, yet were running low on funds and looking for investors to provide money for materials, and more importantly buy the weapons he manufactured. While he did not want to sell any arms to the Yankees, (he claimed they hadn't been adequately tested for safety and reliability yet) he was more than happy to accept their gold as a loan. (probably because if the south won the war, he could refuse to pay the loan back and make it some kind of war retribution allotment) This was the perfect cover as we were allowed to observe demonstrations of some of his weapons as proof of viability of his business.
The most impressive weapons, to me at least, were the breech loading and repeating rifles, cannons, and Gatling guns. I don't think he would have shown this to Yankee investors at all, but rumors had already gotten out about those inventions and there was too little time left for the Yankees to do anything about it.
The war wagons were also very interesting. They appeared to be a refined version of the plans for the first American Steam driven tank circa 1911. All the technology for such things already existed, but had not been assembled in this manner or on this scale. We did not get a look at his gliders, but he did show us the unmanned robotic steam, compressed gas, and/or clockwork driven self propelled carts used to carry a single large bomb each and then fall with excellent effect over into simulated enemy trenches. As they were well enough armored to require a direct hit from a cannon to stop them, they were likely to manage delivery of their 200 pound exploding cannonball like payloads into union trenches.
We gave him the first installment in gold and then set the robotic "Beholder" device loose (when Joe went to the toilet he released it into the sewer) to find out more about the place and it's secrets. It has a magnetic pulling locomotion wheel as well as some sort of magnetic or gravitational well type thing that allows it to levitate through the air like magick! I'm told the military grade piloted versions can do this anywhere using some sort of gravity gun, but that this one uses magnetic pull on whatever iron is in the direction it wants to travel. It somehow restricts the pull to a very narrow angle and uses that to move it's rather modest weight around as though it could float on air. Just the same, Joe could not resist a quick peek into a locked room (he picked the lock...such precocious children, what's a father to do?) That unfortunately set off some sort of electronic alarm (something Joe had not been trained to anticipate) and we found ourselves faced with pulling out advanced weapons or allowing ourselves to be arrested.
As we were separated from Joe, I naturally opted to wait. I figured that Joe, and the little robot could probably get us out of this before the invasion. What I didn't figure on was that Radha gave the order to set sail as soon as we were arrested. That turned out to be a pretty good idea on some level as Herr Thunnar was uncertain what to do with us. Just because my servant picked the lock on a door didn't tell him for certain we weren't really investors. After all, what Union spy would possibly be trusted with 500 pounds of gold bars?
When a similar device to our little Beholder robot levitated into the room, I thought at first that Radha had lost her mind and was going to take a very direct approach. Then I felt the slimy touch of an alien mind trying to claw it's way into my own. Oh no! We forgot about this possibility. I could resist it, but was uncertain how the others would fare under such probing. When they got down to Cannonball Joe, he just kept pretending he couldn't understand what the man was asking him, so I finally told them my servant was mostly deaf, and I had picked him for that reason, so he wouldn't be able to repeat any conversations heard around him.
I apologized for his rash behaviors, and offered, like a banker, to make good any damages caused. I later found out that efforts to probe Joe's mind simply encountered reruns of Sponge Bob Square pants and some crab creature arguing with a little villain that looked suspiciously like his attacker. As the off worlder was unfamiliar with 20th century TV, he found this very puzzling and may have ascribed it to oddities in young human reactions to the probe.
Archimedes was so excited about all the new inventions, he couldn't think about much else, and we hadn't actually told him or Angus much in any case. In the end, Herr Thunnar came to the conclusion we actually worked for some foreign power interested in the designs, which wasn't such a bad thing, and while he said we might be somewhat underhanded in our methods, our gold was good enough. We were told we would have to be detained a bit longer while our stories could be checked out, but we were untied and treated like guests albeit in a stone room with a metal locked door.
I was much less surprised than my companions when I heard the guards make some kind of exclamation, then fall to the floor followed by the metal door getting red hot around the lock and finally spraying molten metal in a thin stream into our room as the laser began cutting the lock out. I pulled my companions back and shushed Joe when he said something about "you go girl", whatever that means, (to his mom I assume who was clearly operating it by remote. Soon we were moving fast down a hallway stopping only to carefully step over unconscious guards picking up weapons as we went.
The Beholder robot led the way to the service elevator used by the servants (yes they had electric elevators and many other strange, for the 1800s anyway devices) Radha apparently had been level headed enough to scout out an escape route prior to rescuing us. Unfortunately a silent alarm had already been tripped and we had to turn back into the center of the fortress. We found ourselves in an armory at one point, so Joe and I took the opportunity to gather up some grenades and cannonball sized bombs along with the opportunity to change into Confederate Uniforms and began pushing a cart full of explosives and a few lanterns hurriedly down the hall.
When someone called to us, we told them the prisoners had escaped and ships sighted on the horizon, so everyone was being told to go to general quarters. That got them lively enough, and not too surprisingly, was about to be sounded anyway as our ships really had gotten close enough for their radar, yea, they had it even though it wasn't on their sale brochures (apparently only for Herr Thunnar's home defense use). We kept trying to get to the coast, but were blocked in every direction. I knew that would not only leave us trapped, but made it impossible for Radha to use the particle cannon, at least on anything other than aircraft. at that point, she told us through the Beholder robot (tiny loudspeaker somewhere on it) that she had to give some invasion orders and use the radiation cannon on some rocket powered torpedo bearing gliders coming in.
She didn't have time to train anyone to replace her on the robot controls, and Joe was the only other person with video game experience, so she suggested we get as high as possible in the tower right above us and us explosive to block some avenues of approach. When she could get back to us she would be able to use the robotic ray gun to put sniper fire on anyone outside, if we could place it near a window and just use grenades etc to keep people from coming up the stairs. She said they would probably have to fight their way in to get us.
As we were right under the tallest tower, I reminded her to be careful not to hit us with the particle cannon and wished her happy hunting. She said the homing chips the aliens had given us gave her our exact coordinates and could even be linked to the cannon so as to sound an alarm if any such chip was close to the angle of fire. Then she signed off. We gave up being subtle at that point and took out the first few that questioned us with blades, but finally had to use repeating rifles on some.
When we made it to the tower, Archimedes pushed the up button on the elevator and the rest of us started lighting fuses on the large rolling bombs, then rolled them like large bowling balls (an truly excellent sport I must say!) down all four halls (one in each cardinal direction) that lead to this central tower. Fortunately we made it into the elevator before anyone thought to shut down power to that area, and the guards on top weren't expecting us yet.
The bombs went off just as we started rising destroying the elevator controls on the first floor and collapsing all tunnels leading to that one and only access. This great tower in the center of the fortress was intended to be like a castle keep apparently, a final fortress within the surrounding fortress with only one way in and one way out, well unless you could fly.
We discovered when we reached the top that many had actually flown out of the glider bays in the upper floors, but they had already launched or were too busy preparing to launch to pay much attention to us other than to salute the rank on the uniform I had stolen. Even the soldiers on the top floor were caught off guard when I stormed in hurling curses about incompetent guards and why were they not doing something about the intruders that had blown down the doors downstairs and were heading up the stairs even as we speak! the junior officer in charge ordered some of the men to take some automatic weapons and go downstairs to try to hold them off until the guards could get there. He then ordered someone to bolt the doors.
When he turned around to see what the right flash of amber light behind him was about, he caught a brief glimpse of me pointing a strange device at him with a large yellow eye that I was wearing like a strange ring. He was then blinded by the same amber light his men had been exposed to just before everything went dark. Cannonball Joe said "It's a damn good thing you know how to work that thing manually dad!" I glared down at him and said "Don't call me dad while we are on an away mission Sergeant, and by the way, who told you it was Ok to curse?" He looked surprised, then offended saying, "But Dad... you said every curse word I've ever heard just now, I mean Admiral Sir." I finished checking our prisoners then turned to him with a serious look (we had to get this ungentlemanly behavior under control after all) and said "That was different. If an officer starts cursing at his men it is to let them know the situation has become dangerous, it's well...so they know something is terribly wrong, because officers aren't supposed to ever curse. Didn't your mom, I mean Admiral Narasimhan teach you that? Cursing at the young Confederate officer was a ruse used for a specific purpose. It got the junior grade officer so flustered that he didn't have time to recall that he had never seen a Major that looked like me, and the scramble to react that my cursing caused among them gave me a chance to use the stun ray on them. Now make sure that door is well bolted or else toss some grenades down the stairs to finish them off!" Joe went off muttering something about "You know Admiral, there seems to be some irony in worrying about my gentlemanly behaviors while telling me how to kill someone more efficiently." I was busy at the time, as I had already thrown lit grenades down the stairs to make sure none of those guards came back up and the blast of the grenades conveniently saved my Cannon Master from risking a good flogging for insubordination that day. (or at least it gave me an excuse to pretend I didn't hear him)
I got them all busy manning the Gatling guns and rotating Hotchkiss Cannons mounted on top of the tower to kill as many of the Confederates as possible before the fleet tried to land. The entire fortress was meticulously constructed to ensure that there would be no place for anyone on the ground to hide from the last ditch defenders in the main tower and we had an amazing amount of ammunition stockpiled. As such, the 4 of us caused as much damage initially as the fleet was likely to do when they landed. Most of the soldiers finally abandoned the fort or else got deep inside the fortress walls where even the cannons could not reach them.
We managed to pin the remainder down with the combination of Gatling guns, long range sniper rifles, and the repeating rotating cannons until a few brave souls tried coming forward with armored wagons. While that protected them from bullets, they had considerable difficulty aiming the guns high enough to do much damage to us at the top of the 100 foot tower, but one actually opened the top to reveal a large built in mortar that might actually be able to hit our position. They even had large round that exploded on impact which blew a small hole in one of the lower walls into the flight deck below, but the tower was thick enough that it would take several such rounds or a direct hit through one of our windows to cause any real damage. They also didn't realize that the top of their armor was weaker than the rest, so when we managed to reposition the rotating cannon, it chopped them to pieces.
While this was happening the fleet was bearing down on the island. We had only 5 ships to their 20 Ironclads, but while they had much bigger guns, they were not prepared to manage any kind of accuracy at extreme range. We on the other hand had been training to use 105mm howitzers, circa 1950s model, courtesy of a Colombian Army General and his mistress who had fantasies about spending the night in the captain's quarters of a "real pirate ship." Each of our ships were firing a single 4 inch barrel gun, so they defenders actually laughed at the prospect. They were prepared to repel much larger rounds without damage, so they just stayed battened down and mostly ignored the range locating fire.
One Monitor version Ironclad did fire a 64 pound shell at max range, but they couldn't elevate the gun high enough to reach the extreme range they were being fired at from and they had orders to stand fast until further notice, so they just waited for the torpedo gliders to destroy this apparent nuisance. They were quite surprised when one of these 20th century high explosive shaped charge rounds blew straight through the top of one and set off a powder magazine inside destroying it with a single lucky shot!
Right after that over 100 howitzers on the decks and firing out of modified gun ports fired in a line formation on their fleet. By the time they realized how much damage they were taking, it was too late for them to get away or attack. One of them was destroyed just as it got within range, but unfortunately they hit and utterly destroyed one of our ships in the process!
Admiral Narsimhan ordered the closest ship to render aide, but all others were ordered to press the attack and to fire on all the shore batteries on our side of the coast as soon as they came within range. Just then the alarm went up about incoming aircraft. Admiral Narasimhan opened fire on one of the three columns of gliders approaching, but as they had no electronics for the electromagnetic pulse effect to damage, they just kept coming. She then fired again and a few of the pilots screamed load enough to hear their agony even at long range, then plunged out of control with blind eyes and 2nd degree burns to their face. About that time our machine gunners opened up, but had trouble hitting anything from that range, so she gritted her teeth, reminded herself they had already suffered a lethal radiation dose already, then fired at them a third time until every member of that courageous group of flyers went out of control.
Their torpedoes had no homing devices, so they had to be launched up close and with good aim, but one managed to destroy one of their own ships just as the last of the gliders in that column fell around their line of ironclads. The other two columns of about 20 gliders each were closing fast with deadly torpedoes visible below them, so she gave the order for our one airship and 3 biplanes to close with the middle column and for all the ship based antiaircraft guns to aide them, because she could not fire on that column with the particle cannon for fear of hitting Admiral Leon del Mar (and her own son, who was supposed to be out of there by now damn it!) She then let go with a merciless barrage of x-ray radiation so hopped up in power that they equaled the killing power of gamma rays at the far left column, while machine guns both above and below focused in on the middle column bearing down on them.
The middle column was surprisingly able to fight back fairly well with light hand held machine guns that shot down two of the biplanes, so the airship revved up her steam engines pouring out smoke to catch up with the faster biplanes and then finally turned broadside to make all three machine guns able to fire at once. Three of the gliders got close enough to drop their payload, but at extreme range. One of those torpedoes hit causing one of our ships to begin going down alarmingly fast. Another was still holding onto his torpedo and making a beeline for our flagship. They got all the rest, but this one had made it through.
She could use the particle (actually radiation) cannon and risk killing her family or just wait to be destroyed. Like her grandfather had taught her, she took a deep breath and refused to accept an impossible situation. She grabbed her beloved Kentucky long rifle with modified scope, sited in on the pilot, and put a ball through his head. His glider came down off course, but the torpedo engine activated as soon as it hit the water anyway.
They might still be hit as they were sailing right at the torpedo’s path. she grabbed the bullhorn and ordered the Quartermaster to make an emergency turn hard to port now! He knew better than to question if she realized this would throw the crew and cannon around and did as he was told. The ship, all of our ships in fact, had intentionally attacked from the windward side to give our ships and aircraft the wind advantage. In this maneuver; however, that meant that our own sails and our momentum threatened to tip the ship over in such a sharp turn and in fact the sea came rushing in our gun ports as well as cannons crashing into walls and sometimes crewmen, but she made it, or rather the "Kali's Hourglass" made the turn, righted herself and just missed being destroyed by the primitive, but very deadly torpedo.
When they got within sight of the shore, she was pleased to see that the fortress was in chaos as she was now down 2 ships and her other two support ships were busy saving what crew they could from the two that were hit. Fortunately the chaos generated seemed to leave the shore batteries, even with their heavy, rapid firing guns, a bit confused and less efficient than they had been in practice. They still battered our flagship badly and killed many of our crew before we established a safe beach head for the marines to land on.
By that time one of the other ships had caught up to send out more marines, so she went back to her controls of the Beholder robot, while one of our Commodores commanded the ship and another the landing parties. Inside the tower things were starting to get a bit rough. They finally thought to turn some of their shore batteries around, not an easy feat, and were shelling the tower with large enough guns that it seemed the tower itself might collapse. We had enough elevation to do heavy damage to their gun crews and did so as fast as possible, but it was starting to look grim.
One of the walls had finally been fully breached and soldiers were trying to make it up the stairs. they actually were foolish enough to try the elevator first, but Joe put several really large exploding shells in the elevator rigged with a pistol to fire directly into the firing detonator just as the door opened. Archimedes had thought it up of course, but Joe and Angus were the wizards that put it together quickly while Archimedes kept reloading my revolving cannon. We then left Joe to roll grenades down the long stairwell as needed to hold them off, while we rained hell on them from above!
Just then the Beholder Robot came back to life and started crawling rapidly up a metal panel on the wall, around the window frame (also iron) then positioned at the top of the window sighting in apparently on something. I heard Radha's voice asking if we had any wounded. She tried to sound calm, but I knew from her voice she was truly afraid to hear the answer. This was the first time I had ever heard fear in her voice.
I quickly assured her that her mantras had been effective and we still had all our limbs, but the confederates weren't doing as well! On the other hand, I said that our tower had been breached and something with very heavy armor, too thick for our guns to penetrate was rolling toward us on the roof of the lower structures.We were trying to keep them from opening any hatches with various weapons, but something large was raising up that our rounds didn't seem to be able to damage and it looked nasty!
Just then she focused in on the thing and a voice we didn't recognize spoke up through the robot's loudspeaker. It was the honey rich voice of Velvet Brown saying "git ya'll behind as much stone and metal as possible. That looks like a radiation cannon, military grade! We didn't stop to wonder how a person so far away was monitoring our transmissions, even though we knew the robot recorded everything, we just ran into the hall with Joe, shut the metal door behind us and got on the floor.
About that time a race began. It was race between snipers. Admiral Radha Narasimhan was one of the best shots alive, but she wasn't used to firing weapons with a joystick and she wasn't even sure what to shoot in order to disarm that weapon or if her little ray gun on the beholder robot could even dent that heavily armored covering. (ours looks like a mangled mass of bare wiring, scrounged 1980s electronics and a few impossible gadgets mounted on a medieval crossbow frame, but this thing looked like something out of Buck Rogers with heavy armor plating! she didn't know how to kill the weapon, so she aimed for the one firing it. Herr Thunnar, alias Herr Eichmann of the Nazi SS, had finally cracked the code to time travel and he certainly wasn't going to let these upstarts, from where ever ruin his chance to make the third Reich a reality! they had failed in 1944, but they would not fail this time!
He was still thinking these thoughts and charging up the particle cannon for a maximum force burst when a very tiny pulse laser ricocheted down his unusually sturdy mirrored periscope and through his left eye into his brain. His brain first boiled, then exploded from the heat of this rapid pulse laser firing through his eyes and skull again and again. The vehicle kept moving forward until it ran into the wall, but the weapon never fired. the vehicle was so heavily armored that the surrounding soldiers could not get into the vehicle, so it just kept turning endlessly trying to drive through the wall of the tower.
Then a very small device, one that looked just like the beholder robot, but with better shielding left the control room near where the armored vehicle had come from. Radha might not have seen it, but it hovered over to the armored vehicle and burned through the lock on the hatch, so soldiers could enter, before it turned it's one large yellow eye on her. she fired once and sent it spinning, but it's ray shielding and armor plating was too strong for the laser to do any damage.
It disappeared expecting the soldiers to enter the vehicle and use the particle cannon to finish the robot and everything else in the tower, but the fools could not figure out what the weapon was for and were afraid to fire something so strange looking without instructions. What was Glitzzzzzzz to do? He could telepathically advise them how to operate it, but most of these silly humans got so frightened by the direct contact with his superior mind that they panicked and ran to hide somewhere. That was the good thing about Eichmann. He was already dead inside, where emotions were concerned, so he just found terrifying things somewhat interesting.
Glitzzzzzzz tried it anyway on a few nearby soldiers with predictable results, so he took total control of the mind of one, knowing the mind would probably be destroyed after wards, but what did that matter? Unfortunately all the panic and fear in the air from other soldiers caused so much psychic interference he couldn't keep good contact at much range and he didn't dare approach close to that vehicle with another "modern" weapon pointed at him by what appeared to be a competent operator.
How in the FRACKKK!!! did they sneak another one of those in without him knowing? Oh well, he would have to try something. Even if the human got zapped, he could try hiding behind him and use his claw arms to fire the weapon. It would elevate enough to do the job that way if he fired it long enough on full power. He tried levitating close behind the man as he made him run toward the armored vehicle, but the laser made this one's head explode too! he dropped with the corpse and hid underneath it deciding what to do.
He then used one claw to hold a small reflector out so his great eye could see if the other Beholder was looking his way. He then took a moment to congratulate himself on how well this unit was operating under combat conditions. He was very pleased with himself and overwhelmingly proud of these cybernetic organism eyes he had invented. It magnified enough to see even through the mirror that the other Beholder pilot was scanning for a target.
When the other robot turned it's eye to scan the other direction, Glitzzzzzzz used the crawling arm to sneak out from under the body, took aim and fired. FITZELLGLICK!!!! He just hit the saw tooth arm and knocked it off the window sill. He would have to do better next time.
He then levitated away through the chaos to find a better firing position. It wouldn't do to fire twice from the same location after all! Admiral Narasimhan knew that those she loved were in serious danger, but she had to put that out of her mind, focus, and just breath while she levitated from window to window looking for the other Beholder. What was it that Velvet had said? "The eye can see at almost any range in any light, through smoke, or even in no light at all, but in order to get a clear view of difficult targets, the ray shielding has to be weakened temporarily if using a reflective infrared beam to locate non-warm-blooded objects. It would need to use that reflecting infrared beam, she reasoned to locate another metal target without a hot engine or people inside. The infrared sight, however made the Beholder more visible in the infrared spectrum and required temporarily making itself vulnerable of that or other special lighting sight systems, but only if someone hit you right in the yellow eye.
She hit on a plan and hid in the shadows inside the tower scanning all the windows shifting from one spectrum to another. finally she caught a brief glimpse of an infrared targeting lighting unit, then zoomed in on the other beholder. It had been on only for a fraction of a second, but she had him anyway. Now if he just held still... She remembered what her grandfather the great Sikh warrior had taught her long ago about calming the mind by calming the breath and then stopping the breath just before gently squeezing the trigger. A pulse laser flashed, but missed just as she squeezed the trigger on her joystick sending a single pulse through the great yellow eye of his military grade Beholder ending once and for all the world dominating schemes of Glitzzzzzzz the invincible!
Mopping up the rest of the soldiers wasn't so difficult now that Herr Eichmann was dead and they had no clear direction. Modern artillery barrages around the base of the tower finally took the heart out of these brave men who finally surrendered. Admiral Leon Del Mar was reminded by Admiral Narasimhan that they were not allowed to leave any witnesses behind, so he set about having wounded treated and prisoners taken aboard every seaworthy vessel left.
Naturally they stripped the island of it's secrets, functional weapons, ammunition, plans etc. The rest was put down in the metal furnace if it was too badly damaged to repair or use for parts. After the fleet passed through the time portal, the confederate soldiers that survived the ordeal were offered positions in our 20th century modern fleet where America was no longer having any kind of Civil War, the slavery question was already settled, and people would considered die hard confederates just a typical drunk in the deep South. Most of them accepted the offer. The rest eventually got locked up as mad men or simply drank themselves to death. Such is the price of war.
When Velvet Brown caught up to us, she acted like her employers thought we were trying to pull a fast one, but I simply explained that we lied to the confederates, something I never do to my own people or to friends (if I can possibly help it anyway) and told them the sorcery that brought us forward in time was irreversible. That way they couldn't get into much trouble if they refused to work for us and started talking about crazy inventions (which were now obsolete) or time traveling pirate ships etc. We handed over the military grade equipment with the inexhaustible fuel cells and kept the pirated versions which were not as attractive, but worked just fine. We didn't offer to return the remote control Beholder robot, and they didn't ask.
The only other thing we asked for was a large supply of the homing devices and trackers they were using to monitor us there. for some strange reason they really liked that idea. We figured out later that they must have better tracking units than the ones they gave us, because they found us remarkably fast in the 20th century, and obviously liked the idea of tracking us in the future, especially when we still had an unregistered particle cannon on board, but we needed to track our own sailors for exactly the same reason, so we deal with it until we find a better way to track them. Radha finds it much easier to locate missing crew now as her remote control Beholder robot, which has a nearly inexhaustible fuel cell by the way, can track, locate, saw or melt through their bonds, and stun any captors without much trouble. If we find them selling secrets or technology, it can also stun those present, and wait for us to get there to clean up any evidence. It's a short life, but a merry one! See you next century!