Distant Thunders: Destroyermen | Chapter 23 of 37 - Part: 1 of 5

Author: Taylor Anderson | Submitted by: Maria Garcia | 3002 Views | Add a Review

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CHAPTER 12

Walker was about to float again. All Baalkpan had turned out to watch the momentous event, it seemed, and no one really cared anymore if the strangers in the bay knew about it or not. It was a time of miracles. So incredibly devastated by the battle that had once raged here, Baalkpan had become a center of industry, connected with most of the known world by wireless communication! People had built aircraft and flown them over this very bay! Aryaal was retaken and Grik prisoners were on their way here! In the amazing dry dock, weeks of scraping, welding and riveting, heating and rolling Japanese steel into new plates, and a final, thick coat of red paint had resulted in this collective achievement. Even if anyone had desired to keep Walker’s rebirth a secret, it wouldn’t have been possible. There was no question Imperial spies were present. In fact, knowing they would be, Letts had counseled Adar to invite the Imperial personnel. Their leaders might feel a little foolish learning the ship they’d been so concerned about had been underwater all this time, but the majority of the Imperial sailors who’d come to watch at least acted as excited as everyone else.

Water coursed into the dry dock and swirled muddily around the fresh red paint and wooden braces. Slowly, the polished bronze screws dipped beneath the torrent and constant shouts of encouragement came from men and ’Cats on the old destroyer’s deck as they relayed reports from below that all was dry inside. There was a shudder, and the ship eased ever so slightly from the cradle that had held her upright since the water was drained from the basin. Cheers reverberated off the many new buildings when the support beams were heaved from the flood. Line handlers were careful to keep the ship positioned where she was, lest she bump against beams or pilings that were not yet free. Within an hour, all the beams had been withdrawn, and once again Walker floated free and easy, supported by her own sleek hull. The pandemonium the sight inspired was difficult to credit, and even more difficult for those who hadn’t been there for the battle to understand. Tears erupted from hardened warriors from many clans, and many a Marine was misty-eyed as well.

In some ways, she looked like a different ship. Her guns and torpedo tubes had been removed, as had the big blower, refrigerator, and the tall searchlight tower. A temporary wooden deck was laid over the openings left from the complete removal of her shattered aft deckhouse. The short mainmast aft remained, defiantly flying the Stars and Stripes, but the tall foremast had not yet been reinstalled. The bridge was vacant and the fire-control platform was bare. Everything that could be removed and reconditioned ashore had long since been taken off, and she floated considerably higher in the water than anyone had ever seen her. Still, she floated. All her parts, possessions, and weapons would be returned to her, as would, ultimately, her crew. For now, she floated almost empty of the things that made her what she was; there was no roar of blowers, no machinery noises; she still slumbered, still resting from her grievous wounds, but she was no longer dead. She’d risen from the grave and it was only a matter of time before she’d awake once again.

“Look! Oh, look!” cried Sandra, tears streaking her face.

Beside her, Princess Rebecca hopped up and down, clapping her hands. “Oh, Lady Sandra! Is she not the most beautiful sight?”

Lawrence didn’t understand his friend’s attachment to the ship. It was but a thing. He was thrilled that it would again become the weapon it had once been, and that made him happy. He was also glad his friends were happy—for whatever reason. He hopped lightly and clapped too, imitating Rebecca’s gestures. Dennis Silva stood beside him, fists clenched at his sides, a sheen over his one good eye. Suddenly, he raised a hand and blew his nose in his fingers. Absently, he started to wipe them on Lawrence’s plumage.

“Mr. Silva!” Rebecca scolded, suddenly eyeing Dennis.

“A little snot won’t hurt him! Runt’s gettin’ all frizzed out. Prob’ly oughta’ comb a little grease in his hair.” Under the princess’s continued stare, Silva sighed and wiped his fingers on his T-shirt.

Unexpectedly, Lawrence had begun growing a crest on top of his head that Silva compared to a cock roadrunner’s. Among the Grik, the only real “crests” of any kind they’d seen had been on dead Hij. Since it was now known the Hij were almost universally older than their Uul warriors, Bradford had ecstatically proclaimed “their boy” must be nearing adulthood, different species or not.

Letts, Adar, and Spanky moved through the throng to join them.

“A hell of a thing,” Spanky said, his own eyes a little bright. “I never would’ve thought it.”

“I had no doubts,” proclaimed Adar. “Once you were over the shock of losing her and had a plan, I knew, sooner or later, Walker would float again. You Amer-i-caans are amazingly ingenious.”

“Couldn’t have done any of it without your equally amazingly ingenious folk,” Alan Letts reminded him.

“Where’s Karen?” Sandra asked. “She should be here!”

“She’s not feeling too well,” Alan said, a little self-consciously. “She’s no bigger than you, and with her being somewhere around seven months along . . .”

Sandra laughed. “She’s big as a house! I know. Don’t worry; she’s fine. But she is a little big.” Her eyes twinkled. “I still say it’s twins!”

Alan pretended horror. “Don’t say that anymore!”

Over the tumult, they heard a rising drone and looked at the sky. Not to be outdone, the Air Corps was putting in an appearance. Three planes, or ships, as Mallory demanded they be called for some reason, wobbled overhead in a semblance of a formation. He’d finally won approval for his force to be called the Air Corps, even if most of its pilots were naval aviators. His insistence on the seemingly contradictory term confused everyone. Ben would be at the controls of one, Tikker another, and young Reynolds the third. The Air Corps had eight planes now, and with the implementation of Ben’s improvements they’d been declared perfected as far as the fundamental design would allow. Within weeks, there’d be two dozen airplanes and they’d face the distinct problem of having more planes than competent pilots.

Sandra hugged herself. It was all finally starting to come together. After all their hard work and sacrifice, she was beginning to feel, well, optimistic. The war had really just started, but with all the new naval construction under way, the professional army they’d begun, the allies they had working along the same lines toward the same goals—they had airplanes, for goodness’ sake!—and now with the resurrection of Walker . . .

“Mr. Chairman,” she addressed Adar, “we must transmit the news to Captain Reddy at once! He’ll be so pleased!”

“It has already been done, my dear, with careful observation to details! I expect he is watching the proceedings with us, through the eye of his mind, at this very moment.” He grinned and blinked amusement. “I took the liberty of sending your warmest love as well.”

Sandra blinked back more tears and hugged the tall Sky Priest.

“Now, ain’t that the damnedest thing?” Spanky asked. They all turned to look where he stared. Sister Audry, surrounded by a few dozen ’Cats, was standing near the pier mumbling something none of them could understand. Adar caught a word or two, but over the hubbub, any meaning was lost. The nun finished speaking and brought the fingertips of her right hand to her forehead, down to her stomach, then to her left and right shoulders. The Lemurians with her copied the gesture.

“Say,” said Silva, “does this mean our good sister’s a ’Catechist?”

“You idiot,” Spanky groaned, “you don’t even know what that means!”

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Alice
Great book, nicely written and thank you BooksVooks for uploading

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