The Amazing Adventures of Sara Corel
A novel by Toomey
Chapter Thirty-nine: The
Angel of This Place
Dark, cold, still,
The secret depths disgorged their multitudes,
Rising slowly to the air and dawning light
Where sailors waited unaware,
Their thoughts and eyes cast elsewhere
In anxious foreboding.
Great Kraken arose in spoils of ink,
Ensnaring vessels with flailing coils
That, as in legend, o'ertopped
The tall ships' lofty mainmasts
And bent them into the sea,
Sweeping decks of screaming morsels.
Wrought havoc and destruction
Pressing mightily among the helpless fleets,
Dashing hulls and hopes alike
In the wake of its tumultuous passage
Marked by sinking hulks.
Giant Cyclopes, Poseidon's ill-begotten sons,
Hurled boulders like the terrible artillery
Of erupting Ætna's infernal broadsides,
Crushing sturdy ironclads
And swamping lesser vessels
With the frothing tumult of their falls.
From rocky shores the Sirens called
Their age-old songs of unendurable longing,
Luring the hapless into Magan's ungentle clutches.
Far from the fray, where lonely pickets sailed,
Neriads beckoned, mermaids frolicked
And the minds of men slipped into madness.
Sara streaked to
the scene. It was bad, but men were reorganizing and turning to
meet the seaborne challenges. Determined
crews fought off the Krakens' grasping tentacles with pikes and
cutlasses, chopping them into sushi as Captain Nemo's men had
done. Destroyers raced to intercept
Leviathan, sowing depth charges in its path until it spouted
red, rolled over and plunged back into the abyss. The Cyclopes were ranged by concentrated barrages until
they had been picked off one by one. Marines drowned out the
seductive plaints of the Sirens with blood-curdling screams, gunfire and
diesel-engined Higgins boats in sudden amphibious assaults on
their perches. Elsewhere, various and sundry monsters, sea serpents,
dragons and bare-breasted enchantresses
were dealt with methodically.
coordination between wide-ranging naval elements mediated by
Sara's simultaneous radio translations, the tide turned swiftly.
Most of the damage was to the older ships, from galleys to
galleons and frigates to pre-dreadnaught steamers. The powerful
gun platforms of the great battleships -- drawn close to shore
to provide devastating artillery support throughout the valley
-- had been unmolested.
It all proved to be merely a
Outside each of
the four straight walls of the city, gigantic columns of the
Heavenly Host had been ascending like enormous flocks of great
soaring birds being carried aloft by thermals. The edge of one
wide circle of wingéd soldiery crossed the mouth of the valley
past the ship-choked anchorage of the broad bay. Several legions
had toiled laboriously to a ridiculously high altitude that had
probably taken them all night to attain. When their orbit took
them to within barely a mile of the water's edge, they suddenly turned ninety degrees,
tucked their wings against their bodies and angled directly for
the capital ships at terminal velocity like thousands and
thousands of skydivers. They weren't carrying tubas.
Sara began her warning
too late. The concentrated blasts of the twelve onrushing Valkyries
slammed into her simultaneously, the lightning-like discharges from
their blazing eyes creating an electromagnetic pulse like that of a
nuclear explosion, surrounding her with coruscating waves of
superheated plasma that disrupted her kreening and all radio
transmissions in the valley. She was suddenly and unexpectedly rendered
blind, mute and temporarily disoriented. The brilliant fireball
distracted the eyes of the fleet from the plummeting horde.
The descending warriors
unfurled their wings at the last minute and swarmed onto the decks of
the major combatants and -- with sword and spear -- overwhelmed many of
the surprised and unprepared crews, battling from wheelhouse to bilge
in overwhelming numbers. Few of the sailors had sidearms, and most of
the Marines were ashore manning barricades or chasing Sirens.
On some ships, a
few quick-thinking chief petty officers barricaded themselves
and their men in vital areas, securing watertight doors against
the invaders. The feathery legionnaires turned out not to be technically
backward and soon deployed commandeered welding torches and
explosives to break through. Even
worse, they proved able to operate the big guns and other vital
machinery. They must have had some
interesting choir practices. Turrets began to traverse
navigation at least let her know which way was up, and she
streaked away from the scene like a wrong-way meteor. The
Valkyries did not shake off so easily -- it seemed that they
were as fast and agile in the sky as she was -- and they kept
up the pressure, covering her with energy no matter how much she
twisted and turned.
she looped back
to the ground, crashing into the desert at a point she figured
was at least a hundred miles away from the valley. She hoped
they would not be able to pursue her through solid rock. At any
rate, they didn't try -- they didn't need to. Sara was as
effectively cut off below ground as she had been under their
she wondered. I can't sit here forever.
made her way slowly back to the surface, trying to probe ahead
of her, looking for a gap in their coverage. She came up close
to Skuld, who spotted her
immediately. Sara was shocked at what she saw.
goddess was shrunken and shriveled, positively anorexic in her
appearance. She made no move to renew her attack.
strong, Sara Corel," Skuld told her. Her voice was weak.
grief!" Sara exclaimed. "You OK? What happened?"
out the utmost measure of our energies upon you," she
replied. "We have been diminished -- as it appears you
have not. Your fall was but a ruse, as I suspected. The others
seek replenishment. My turn will come soon."
As if in
response, a monstrously huge and prolonged bolt of golden
lightning crashed into the warrioress, melting the rock around
her as she endured its fury.
Jove," Skuld exulted as the smoke wreathed around her from
the charred remnants of her clothing. She
was nearly her old self, sparkling with renewed vitality,
muscles rippling as she stretched, bosoms swelling with power and
pride, arcing wildly. "Another such blessing and I shall be ready to begin
Sara didn't need
a second hint. She was off at once as another bolt struck from
Olympus. It wouldn't take long for all of the sisters to be
rejuvenated and take up the chase.
Back at the sea
battle, the surviving commanders were frantic. With Sara online
again, a counterattack was organized in the brief moments before
the Valkyries returned. Destroyers and cruisers began to clear the decks of the battlewagons with
small caliber suppressing fire while hastily armed crews and Marines swarming
from the beaches on anything that could float (including a
number of swift triremes) clambered aboard as best they could.
Daring ship-of-the-line captains rammed the larger ships
and sent boarding parties over via masts and spars, establishing beachheads that
could be expanded and exploited as more armed men came
Host fought back, the great naval rifles under their control
wreaking terrible damage at such close quarters, though -- for
a while, at least -- their
rate of fire was very slow and their aim left something to be
desired. On-the-job experience caught up with their apparently
excellent training quickly.
A few of the captured ships started to move ponderously
from the anchorage, threatening to put them out of reach of
rescue. On others, well-armed sailors and Marines made
quick work of the sword-wielding fliers and retook the ships.
Some vessels were locked in stalemate, Heavenly Hosters commanding the guns
while the crews held the engine rooms. The besieged crew of the
Musashi managed to purposely run it aground where shore parties could
board it. The Kirishima suddenly blew up as the fierce battle to
retake it surged back and forth through her narrow passageways.
superbattleship Yamato, the battleships
Prince of Wales, Tirpitz,
Haruna, Fuso and
Szent Istvan, and the battle cruisers
Scharnhorst and Lutzow steamed away
toward the carriers just over the horizon. The human commanders realized
what that meant, but with Sara out of commission again -- and
the blazing plasma surrounding her making radio communications
impossible -- there was no way to warn them, since the Heavenly
warriors had made sure to cripple all the seaplanes. To top it
off, Triton or Oceanus or some such god whipped up a nice, thick
fog bank for them to disappear into.
There was no
choice but to go after them with everything they could scrape
together. It was obvious that the intent was to neutralize the
naval artillery of the humans, but the threat to the carriers
was one that couldn't be ignored. They and their destroyer
escorts were being held back as a reserve, hoarding
irreplaceable fuel until the situation became clearer, so there
would only be a few CAPs in the air and certainly not torpedo and
AP-bomb equipped planes ready to engage a surface fleet.
It took a while
to regain control of the remaining capital ships, giving the
Heavenly Navy time to put some distance under their keels, and
in the process, the battleship Hiei and battlecruiser Queen Mary
were sunk. As the cruisers and destroyers set out in pursuit,
the feather-boy's battleships broke back out of the fog in a
very respectable line-abreast, executed a reasonably
well-managed ninety-degree turn, and let loose several devastating
broadsides before turning another ninety degrees to disappear back into the
convenient fog bank.
Chaos reigned in
the human navies as ships maneuvered desperately. There was
little actual shot damage, but there were crippling collisions.
The commanders realized that the gods and their minions were
damned clever opponents, closely coordinated and highly
prepared. The primitively armed Heavenly Host had unflinchingly
suffered appalling casualties to accomplish their missions and
knew how to make the best of what they had captured. They now
outnumbered the humans in capital ships -- and they had the Yamato, an armored island with the biggest guns to ever grace a
seagoing vessel. And it had been noticed that the four captured fast battlecruisers
had not been seen. They would come within gunnery range of the
carriers in about two hours, likely appearing as friendly forces
out of the mist.
Yamamoto assumed command of the remnants of the human fleet,
trying to establish order in half-a-dozen languages with signal
lights, flags and sign language. The enemy had an hour's head
start before the battleships Arizona,
Roma, Barham, and battlecruisers
Repulse and Hood finally charged out
of the bay behind a screen of cruisers and destroyers.
Damn! Where was
Aloft, the Legions of the Heavenly Host
Wheeled in shimmering glory,
Higher and higher in singing multitudes
Of thousand and thousands
And thousands of thousands --
Every eye beheld them.
Until, with a shout like one great voice,
They fell toward their waiting foes,
Plunging more rapidly than nervous aim
Could track the darting figures
Weaving through the air
Above the human lines.
While far behind the distracted ranks
The mouths of Hell opened up,
Disgorging swift minions of
The damnéd regions below,
Easy riders on black-chromed Harleys
Falling unlooked-for upon the unprotected rear.
The powerful wings of man were set ablaze,
Bombs exploding amidst the pyres,
Spreading confusion and despair.
Attention wavered from the threat above
To gauge this new calamity --
And then the plummeting armies struck.
They had assumed
from Sara's reported experience with them that the flying
warriors of the Heavenly Host would be lightly armed pushovers,
but as it turned out, they were highly skilled in the use of
their swords and spears and had no problems at all converting
captured weapons to their own use. They had evidently had a very
long time to prepare for this conflict, and were utterly
fearless. They were secure in their essential immortality --
whatever happened to their perishable present bodies -- and in
their rapture refused to acknowledge the pain of injuries. When
incapacitated or captured, they simply died -- joyously. There
were so damned many of them, and their sudden dives put them
quickly into hand-to-hand situations where modern weapons were
not as effective -- even downright dangerous to comrades in
Most of the
humans' preparations had been focused inward, toward the obvious
threat from the valley. The reserves behind the front lines were
almost entirely primitive armies -- Amerindians, subcontinental
Indians, African tribals, Tatars, Assyrians, Huns, hoplites,
Romans, Medieval foot and cavalry, Samurai, Chinese, Muslims --
with precious few firearms. Nearly all radio traffic was
being jammed by the Valkyrie's attacks on Sara, and field
telephones weren't much good under the circumstances, since --
in many cases -- it was impossible for the higher-level
commanders to communicate with them even face-to-face.
gruesome-looking bikers were in among the planes and artillery too
quickly for the front-line troops to do anything about it, and
they were up to their asses in feathers anyway. It would have to
be left to the spear-chuckers to save the human army's most
modern assets. To their credit, they moved out quickly under
their own initiative to engage the highly mobile raiders.
They turned out
to be pretty effective. Some Hottentot jammed his assegai
through the spokes of a hog, sending its rider flying, and word spread quickly in spite
of the language barriers. Sioux, Arab and Mongol light cavalry
cut off and channeled large groups away from some of the
surviving makeshift airstrips, and Hellene phalanxes and
elephant troops hemmed them in.
corps of Infernal commandos was ridden down by the gleamingly
armored massed chivalry of five centuries of European knighthood
in a thundering charge. Sturdy yeomen loosed deadly clothyard
shafts, and crossbow bolts and arrows passed like clouds across
the face of the sun. Elsewhere, the disciplined lines of
Roman legions relentlessly ground the cyclists beneath their
shields. In another place, thousands of chariots rolled like
lawnmowers through the tangled ranks of choppers, led by the
sons of Pharaohs and ringlet-bearded Persian princes. Tribes of
howling savages mopped up stragglers and isolated pockets of
In the front,
the lines held, and in the rear areas, the menace was destroyed.
Though short, it had been one hell of a fight, simultaneously
involving every single human unit in one way or another. Though
the attackers had been wiped out, human casualties were
horrifyingly high, a Pyrrhic victory of staggering proportions.
More than half of the aircraft had been damaged beyond use, and
most of the larger artillery pieces. Even some of the armored
vehicles had been knocked out with salvaged grenades and
commandeered bazookas and anti-tank weapons.
Worst of all,
nearly every oasis had been intentionally fouled by some poor
devil whose sulphurous black blood had rendered the water
poisonous. Canteens and goatskins had been half-drained before
this was discovered by unfortunate soldiers seeking to slake
their thirst. There were scant reserves. The only alternative
was within the city, alive with sparkling fountains -- and
whose gates opened to pour forth fresh multitudes of Heavenly
These were the
avatars of earthly heroes from Valhalla and other warrior
Paradises, led by Thor, Heracles, Samson and Gilgamesh. It was
time for the humans to face themselves in battle.
were cleared and engines warmed up, ammo was salvaged wherever
possible, motors turned over, and units made as ready as they
could be. The isolated commanders tried to assess their
situations. Too much had been lost, communications were a
complete shambles, the desperation of thirst stared them in the
face, the navy with all its vital firepower was inexplicably
abandoning them, and there was no way to contact the carriers or
coordinate what air support they still had.
Damn! Where was
Sara had her own
problems. The Valkyries had discovered that their combined
firepower was insufficient to knock Sara out, but it didn't take
all of them at the same time to accomplish their secondary
purpose of disrupting radio traffic and her kreening. They
alternated in and out so that some of them could be recharged by
Zeus' thunderbolts while the others kept up the barrage.
Sara had been
counting on them to run out of steam so that she would be able
to take advantage of the lulls to catch up on her communications
duties, so she just tried to wait them out for a while. When
that didn't happen, she began to analyze their patterns,
discovering that the unique energy signatures of each Valkyrie
switched off for short periods. There was a predictable
rotation. Not that it did her any good to know that -- they
were using enough juice to keep her cut off.
Why did each
one have to break off for so long? she wondered.
Experimentally, she gained some altitude and -- sure enough --
the intervals grew longer. Ha! They had to be grounded in order
for the rejuvenating blasts of Zeus/Jove to work.
worked her way higher and higher and further out to sea. Maybe
if she got far enough away she could at least enable humans to
establish some kind of radio contact with each other. The
Valkyries caught on, though, and they all moved in together to
drag her back. It got to be interesting then.
incredibly powerful. Steel ran like water in their hands,
mountains trembled at their touch. Their sinews were not of
earthly stuff, but possessed the incalculable power of the limit
of man's imagination. Now their heavenly physiques swelled
mightily to accomplish the will of the gods themselves,
straining beyond mortal comprehension, past human belief,
calling on resources that drained Chaos itself. The
concentration of vast forces made the space around them twist
and tremble, and time and reality became less certain as wave
states collapsed toward a naked singularity of impossibility.
propulsion was of a different order altogether from hers. Sara's
finely tuned gravitational forces were unbalanced and disrupted
by their efforts, making her grip on the mass of the planet less
stable. Even her inertial guidance system was affected and she
found herself becoming disoriented, unable to control her path
with accustomed confidence. The sisters acted like a dozen
churning tugboats surrounding and guiding an ocean liner,
forcing her inexorably to a position over the city.
gave up struggling and the shieldmaidens quickly resumed their
rotation to receive invigorating blasts. To the onlookers below,
it seemed as if a second sun lurched drunkenly through the sky,
from which blazing goddesses descended and ascended while
thunderbolts flashed and pealed.
Too late, Sara
realized that she didn't dare simply streak off to break their
grip. For one thing, she couldn't be sure if she would plow into
the human forces like a meteor, or if she would be flung into
empty space with no hope of a swift return. For another thing,
she still was determined not to fight them, and breaking free
would inevitably injure them. If she could break free...
She had to do
something. Time she could no longer accurately measure was
slipping away. She knew that the Valkyries' fanatical commitment
to restraining and blinding her meant that they considered her
participation in the battle to be invaluable, so the humans must
have great need of her by now. She couldn't let them down.
she thought, this is my dream, dammit. It had to
be that somewhere deep inside of her, some part of her was
controlling all of this. She plunged inward, seeking a clue, a
hidden file, a doorway through which she could escape this hell.
Every lead, every possibility, every stray thought or memory was
examined and queried. It was hopeless. There was nothing to
realized that she could only go forward to the end of this game,
whatever it took to do so. She had to remain true to her
beliefs, but it was obvious that she was being forced to make a
decision. Reluctantly, she accepted the inevitable. She must
fight the Valkyries.
of the carrier forces knew that something had gone horribly
wrong. They heard the frantic radio chatter about sea monsters,
but it had seemed that the navies had gained the upper hand --
when the radios suddenly filled with static. A little later,
there was a short respite from the interference, and the radios
blared even more frantic orders about boarding parties
and retaking ships. Before any sense could be made of it, the
static was back -- this time seemingly for good. So much for
their alien helper, they thought.
Scout planes had
been out since even before dawn, but whatever they saw was still
unreported. More scouts were dispatched, with orders to return
and report via signal lights. An extensive patch of fog had
risen from the water, something heretofore unseen on this
cloudless world. It made them apprehensive.
They were at
battle stations and strike aircraft were standing by, ready to
launch at a moment's notice. But no calls came for air support,
and launching prematurely and aimlessly could be useless or even
plenty of aircraft -- way too many, in fact, even though the
roster of carriers was impressive. The US was represented by the
Hornet and Wasp, along with a number of
jeep and escort carriers. The Imperial Japanese Navy had
contributed the Shokaku, Taiho,
Hiryu, Ryujo and
Shinano, all so crowded with airplanes that
many had to be shoved overboard so that planes could be
launched. The Brits had the Hermes,
Eagle, Glorious and
Royal -- though that ship illustrated a problem peculiar to
In some cases,
ships had gone down with nearly all hands, like the Hood, who
left only three survivors when Bismark blew her out of the
water. There were also plenty of sailors killed in action whose
ships hadn't sunk, and there were a few ships that had been sunk
in combat without losing many men. The Ark Royal had been
torpedoed, but the only reason it sank was because of really, really
bad damage control. The whole crew had been rescued and taken to
Gibraltar, only twenty-five miles away.
or agency was running things, they'd done the best they could.
So Hood was fully crewed by her own men (determined not to
let that happen again), while Ark Royal was filled
with casualties from dozens of other ships. Except for the
Swordfish pilots, nobody aboard really knew what to do. It was a
miracle they hadn't accidentally blown the boilers or scuttled
her. There were varying numbers of newbies on nearly every ship,
so the battle efficiency of most of the navy was not exactly
At least the
language difficulties among the carriers was manageable, since
half of them were Yanks or Brits and there were a fair number of
UCLA graduates among the Japs.
A scout finally
appeared. There was no way it could land on the crowded decks
until a first strike had been launched. Then the hangars could
be emptied for a second strike, and afterwards planes could be
recovered to be rearmed and refueled.
The scout signaled,
"No ships in harbor. One BB beached. Many wrecks, debris.
Fleet not sighted this bearing."
This was not
good. Now what...? Launch a strike? Against what? Run away?
Where? They turned into the wind, dispatched more scouts and got
the pilots into their birds.
battlecruisers broke through the fog at flank speed, on a course
that would take them past the carriers. One of them signaled,
"Enemy fleet sighted, surface action expected," and
gave coordinates, speed and heading that would put them far to
the east of their present position, going away from the
anchorage, presumably with the human navy in hot pursuit.
read, "Intelligence indicates second enemy task force bearing
this position. We are steaming to intercept. More elements
following." They gave more coordinates, in the opposite
direction from the valley and far out to sea.
Well, crap. The
planes were armed for ground support missions, not a naval
battle. But they understood that time was of the essence and
decided to launch everything they could get in the air, sending
the Japanese east and the Americans and British seaward to meet
the threat to the carriers. Meanwhile, they would rearm the rest
of the planes with the proper ordinance for a second strike before bringing them up from
the hangars, and hope that the battlecruisers could protect
them. Large numbers of subs and U-boats, running on the surface,
began to make their way to the area, hoping that they could find
targets in the coming meleé.
plane appeared and essentially confirmed the cruisers' messages,
giving a slightly better fix on the developing battle to the
east. It didn't take long for the two groups of planes to
disappear over the horizon, seeking enemies that would not be
plane's robed signalman tapped the pilot on his right wing and
gave a thumbs-up. They banked away toward the city. When the
plane ran out of fuel, they just climbed out of the cockpit and
flapped the rest of the way back to Heaven.
"Send forth your mighty to do us
The heroes of legend bellowed.
Great warriors and conquerors
Renowned in name and deed
Strode resolutely forward
To greet their kinsmen with iron and blood.
Vikings beheld their own hallowed dead
Selected for Valhalla by their valor,
The brave facing the bravest
Who sometimes faced themselves --
The soul of a man
Pitted against his honor.
And so it was in every corner
Where glorious death had sent
The essence of a man's fighting spirit
To Heaven as its just reward,
While his soul lay buried
Against this fateful day.
The clanking behemoths of the Russian motherland
Had no such illusions,
Charging straightaway into the fray.
Heracles made believers of some
By tossing them aside
Like little things.
Samson had no fragile jawbone
This time to dispatch Philistines,
But with a sturdier cudgel --
Gleaned from an ass
With a diesel engine --
Laid about him with deadly gusto.
Mjolnir flew from Thor's steel glove,
Hammering the Panzers
Like so many tin cans
On a barnyard fence,
The targets of a boy's slingshot
With hapless men inside.
Striding among the contending armies,
Bringing cheer to his comrades,
Leaving death in his wake.
Hidden by his cleverness,
No missiles found him.
was a poker player. He was accustomed to gambling -- it was
part of his style. He had a good instinct for when he was being
bluffed, and that's what he was feeling now. The enemy had
disappeared into the fog in the general direction of the
carriers. Even if they could catch up to them, it wouldn't be in
time to do
much good. Besides, the four fast battlecruisers would be able
to do enough damage to the carriers to disrupt flight
operations, whereas the slower battleships would not be able to
pursue them effectively. If the carriers ran away from the
battlecruisers, then delaying Yamamoto's fleet would be
irrelevant, other than as a good excuse for a battle.
No, there was
something else planned for the big guns of the stolen
battleships -- other than denying their use to the humans, and
tying up the pursuing fleet.
If I were him,
thought the admiral, I'd let the battlecruisers deal with the
carriers -- who are in for a nasty surprise -- and use the fog
to double back to the beach. So the only naval shore bombardment
would be mine. It made chilling sense.
He drew diagrams
as best he could for the German and Italian captains, wrote
dispatches to the American and British captains in precise
English, and had them delivered to the torpedo boats alongside
to try to find their intended recipients in the fog. He hoped to
take the battleships with him and let the rest of the fleet try
to catch up to the battlecruisers.
With luck, some
of them would rendezvous in the clear, west of the headlands.
Maybe they would surprise the enemy this time. If
nothing else, at least they would be able to lend some
fire support to the armies.
The army commanders, cut off from each other,
independently came to basically the same
conclusion -- the situation was completely fubar. There was
no effective fire control for the artillery they had, rendering
it as dangerous to their own men as it might be to the enemy.
Nobody knew where anybody was anymore. The armored blitzkreig
had ground to a halt in the unfavorable terrain, with the
crushed lead vehicles blocking any usable paths. Infantry had no
clear objectives and were either milling around or completely
immobilized. The few planes that were in the air had no guidance
from the ground at all and were having great difficulty
distinguishing friend from foe. The bombers might have been able
to blow the hell out of Olympus and maybe stir something up, but
couldn't get near it because of the radiant furball hovering
overhead. Nobody knew what had happened to the navy...
ships!" a lookout cried. Others around the rim of the
valley took up the cry and commanders with binoculars trained
their glasses on the sea.
goodness, they sighed to themselves. Maybe there's hope
The line of
battleships moved majestically, parallel to the shore, big guns
swinging inland, seeking targets.
distance, they couldn't tell that the crews had wings.
valley, Sara wrestled the Valkyries. Sensing her determination
to finally fight back, they held on with all the monumental
power they could muster. Two sisters were clamped to each of
Sara's legs and another pair were fastened to each arm. Two more
seized her waist, one fastened herself to her back and the last
one locked her thighs around her neck, wrapping her arms behind
deliberately, Sara broke their supernatural grips, intending to
make them wear themselves out in contesting her. One by one, she
turned the tables, until at last, she was clasping each of them,
binding their wrists together with a grip that could not be
broken in Heaven or on Earth.
ever-increasing fury, they struggled futilely, pushing and
pulling, tossing and turning. They could not break free, even
though they called up reserves of energy that made the entire
valley tremble. The fabric of space-time nearby began to tear,
and blackness could be seen through the rips. There were
terrible voices in the air as gods rushed to their assistance,
but Sara would not relent under their added onslaught.
struggles waned, the awful energies faded, the desperate contest
ended as the sisters, unable to reach the ground to receive the
lightnings of Zeus, shrivelled and were consumed, even as they
refused to yield or cease, expending their final dregs in
chief, was last to go. With a tiredness that carried the burden
of her entire immortality, she smiled at Sara and bade her
farewell, "For we shall meet again in a better place, my
love. And there I and my sisters shall do unto you the honors
that you have earned." She flashed with glory one more
instant, providing a fitting pyre for the empty husks that Sara
still held. Their ashes drifted through her fingers.
Above an empty
ocean, pilots suddenly changed course. Within the blanketing fog
bank, ships altered their headings and rang up battle speed.
Submarines and destroyers who had been silently escorting the
carriers began plotting firing solutions for a surface
engagement with the four battlecruisers. A disorganized
collection of battlewagons came together into a classic
formation and emerged from the mist, crossing 'the T' with
calligraphic precision. Artillery pointed confidently at new map
grids and lanyards tightened. Armored vehicles acquired targets.
Infantry formations began to move purposefully. Planes banked
into screaming dives.
Sara was back.
The airwaves hummed. The tide turned.
took bloody hell from the battlecruisers for a time. Explosions
tore through the hangars of the Hornet,
Hermes, Shinano and
Shokaku, where crowded planes laden with fuel were being
rearmed. The escorting destroyers charged suicidally, throwing
torpedos at the cruisers with abandon. Evasive maneuvers took
the battlecruisers into the jaws of hungry submarines. Smoke and
confusion blanketed the area while the carriers sped off,
flinging planes into the sky as fast as they could be brought on
Out of the fog
raced the remaining destroyers of the fleet, followed closely by
the cruisers. Shells flew back and forth in deadly arcs, but
within mere minutes, the threat had been sent to the bottom.
aircraft finally had meaningful destinations, flying the close
air support missions that had originally been planned. They
began a steady rotation with the other carrier-based planes from
the surviving flat-tops. Their presence proved to be
planes were used sparingly but tellingly. Slowly drifting Zeppelins
gave the commanders perfect intelligence of the carnage below,
directing Stukas to deliver pinpoint strikes so close to their
own lines that the soldiers could read the serial numbers of the
A rocket salvo
from a P-51 dispatched Heracles, and a helicopter gunship took
care of Samson. Gilgamesh was eventually run over by a Tiger
tank from behind while being distracted by the Ninth Kentucky,
who -- with a battalion of Johnny Rebs -- was whoopin' and
hollerin' fit t' raise th' dead. Thor got caught with his pants
down, a consequence of his contest with Sara a couple of nights
earlier. He managed to get away for a while, but without his
hammer. He was finally overwhelmed by a Red Chinese human wave
the best of his opportunity. All of his ships fired off every
one of their guns before the ships of the Heavenly Host had a
chance to bring what guns they could bring to bear around. The
enormous Yamato was at the head of the column and was hit by
just about every one of Yamamoto's ships. Unfortunately, it
managed to keep firing with its two forward turrets until it
ripped Repulse apart with its 18-inch projectiles.
The Szent Istvan
took several hits from the Roma and exploded. The smoke from her
wreckage obscured Tirpitz for a few critical moments, which was
probably a good thing for the humans. Arizona and
traded several salvos with Prince of Wales until the American
ship lost the use of two of its turrets and caught fire. It
drifted away and began to list. The Bismark's excellent fire
control and high rate of fire finally shredded Prince of
which slowly turned turtle and sank. Yamashiro fought a losing
battle with Fuso and Haruna. A magazine explosion literally
ripped her in two and she went down rapidly. Roma and
ganged up on Fuso, silencing her guns, then turned their
attention to Haruna. They did a great deal of damage until
Yamato put an end to Barham.
Bismark finished off Haruna and
then concentrated desperately on Yamato.
Roma joined him, but
neither ship was able to silence the superbattleship.
meanwhile, ignored everything else and went after Tirpitz,
Bismark's twin. She had something to prove and launched
everything she had at Tirpitz, who returned the favor with
gusto. Though their guns were pretty well matched, the
battlecruiser's thinner armor was proving to be a real problem
-- again. Tirpitz had superior fire control and a higher firing
rate, but Hood had a more well-trained and experienced crew.
Using speed and ship handling prowess -- and taking advantage
of the smoke and drifting wrecks -- Hood managed to run astern
of Tirpitz. Though riddled with holes from stem to stern, she
held her advantage long enough to gain the upper hand. Tirpitz went
dead in the water and lost power to the aft turret. Though she
was slowly sinking, Hood kept up a relentless fire until Tirpitz
was an almost unrecognizable pile of junk. Still, she remained
afloat longer than Hood, but was no longer a menace.
Yamato tore most
of the superstructure completely off Roma. Two of her turrets
continued to fire until a pair of 18-inch shells ripped the bow
off. Roma fired a final round from one of her aft guns as she
slipped below the surface, with no effect. That left the Bismark
alone against the behemoth.
The beached Musashi had been given up for dead. She lay half
over on her side with the muzzles of her two forward turrets
buried in the sand. The aft turret was at a bad angle, but when
the tide of battle brought the enemy into a firing solution, the
enormous rifles -- the twins of her sister ship Yamato --
belched flames. All three gigantic projectiles found their
marks, and the mighty Yamato was fatally crippled.
squadron of torpedo bombers showed up to finish the job. The
Bismark reported ready for shore bombardment and was soon joined
by the returning cruisers and destroyers, along with a
patched-up Arizona. The naval artillery finally went to work.
With newfound confidence
The armies of man cast down
The hosts of Heaven and
Stormed the gates of the city.
The walls were breached in a hundred places
And men marched into Paradise.
Fighting did not cease on the golden streets --
More multitudes poured from the citadel.
From house to house
The invaders made their way
Until resistance was crushed and
One last bastion remained.
Within the glittering palaces
The gods held final court
While the last remnants of humanity
Ascended the sacred ways
Devoid of ceremony,
Seeking no audiences.
With dreadful accuracy
Men called their own potent fire
Down upon the hopeless defenders --
Though Zeus lashed out with terrible effect
Until Vulcan's forge was toppled.
Other thunders were overthrown.
At last the uttermost sanctum was violated
By muddy-booted conquerors
Staining once-perfect marble floors
With their own blood and their gods',
Who bestowed a final benediction
Upon mankind -- and perished.
the horrific aftermath in the darkness of that final night.
Fires blazed from a thousand sources, reflecting dully from the
bottom of the choking reek that covered everything. The valley
was paved with the dead from both sides. Craters and mangled
equipment were strewn across the shattered landscape. The
beautiful city had been carpet bombed into oblivion. The central
mount was ruined and not one monument remained unbroken. Even
the Great Pyramid had crumbled.
The few men who
had survived were completely spent, falling wherever they were
in utter exhaustion. They would sleep through the next day --
if there was a next day.
Her slow flight
at last brought her to a pile of rubble that had once been
Olympus. A rock face had been newly exposed to the air -- or
maybe she just hadn't noticed it before. As she came around to
its front, she gasped at what she saw in the red flickering of
the sullen flames.
A titanic figure
was fastened to the stone, arms spread wide, feet pinned
together, great iron spikes driven through wrists and ankles. She
descended quickly and yanked at
the nails to free him. They did not budge.
with surprise and pulled harder. They still did not move. She
didn't understand and tried again, very deliberately. The spikes
refused to yield to her.
opened his eyes and looked down at her. There was blood on his
brow from a thorny bush that grew out of the rock above his
head. He croaked painfully, "Who...?"
Sara looked up
at him, slightly exasperated at her inability to set him free.
"Hi. I'm Sara Corel. I'm trying to get you loose, but something seems to be wrong."
He smiled at
her. "Ah, Sara. Tell me if it is done."
What...? You mean the battle? I guess so. All the gods are dead,
as far as I know."
one," he said. "It is time."
pulled himself painfully to her side, covered with his own blood
and that of his comrades, clutching a battered musket with fixed
didn't recognize him. His entire demeanor had changed, becoming
hardened and grim, determination coupled with a strength that
carried him past exhaustion.
He nodded numbly
and croaked, "Ma'am."
Where's the rest of the Ninth Kentucky?"
last. I did m' duty, ma'am. None of 'em suffered."
I'm so sorry..."
here's th' last of 'em, ain't he."
She looked up at
the Titan. "Prometheus...?
am," he acknowledged.
"He is the angel of this place. The one in charge. I think
he arranged for all of this somehow."
Nate nodded. He
sounded bitter. "I said that if'n I was the last t' fall of
all my comrades, there'd be Hell t' pay."
remember," she said.
He raised his
musket, blood glistening blackly on his bayonet.
she shouted, springing between the two. "He's the key. We
have to get to the next level -- or something. You
your place to come between us, Sara," Prometheus told her.
stand aside, ma'am," Nate told her, gauging the distance.
"I have had a great deal of experience lately in endin'
others' misery. I aim to end his -- and mine. He's the last,
and -- of all my company -- so am I. I will finish it."
He gently but
firmly pushed her aside, in spite of her protests.
time," Prometheus sighed again.
Nate lunged with
the final particle of his strength, driving the bayonet deep
into the Titan's side. His momentum carried him over the edge of
the cliff, dragging his musket with him. He fell noiselessly.
Sara tried to
leap after him, but somehow lost her footing and fell to the
ground, shouting out in frustration.
Prometheus gasped, "It
She sprawled at
his feet, looking up at him helplessly, not knowing what to think or
what to do. The enormous weight of the days' events bore down
palpably, confusing her and making her unaccountably weary --
an unfamiliar physical sensation that disturbed her, even
understand -- didn't want to understand. It was too
much. "What... What's happening...?"
miracle," he replied, and closed his eyes.
© Patrick Hill, 2000