Distant Thunders: Destroyermen | Chapter 32 of 37 - Part: 1 of 3

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

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CHAPTER 21

Irvin Laumer’s eyes jerked open and he leaped to his feet when he heard the scream. Everyone was exhausted and he’d been taking a short siesta in the shade of a leafy lean-to on the beach. Only an idiot would do such a thing under the standing trees on Talaud Island. It took him an instant to realize the scream had come from the workers near the sub. Sprinting through the loose sand, he yanked the 45 from his holster and jacked a round into the chamber.

“What the hell’s going on here?” he shouted. The screaming had stopped, but there was still a lot of shouting and confusion around the work site.

“One of the ’Cats was just walking across the gangplank to the boat,” Danny Porter said excitedly, “when this jet of water, like a highpressure hose, knocked him off into the water! As soon as he fell in, something . . . got him!”

Irvin looked at him incredulously, then eased a little closer to the basin they’d begun excavating around S-19. There was a lot of water down there, and nothing they could do about it. Some soaked in through the sand and more came in with the tide when the sea was running high. Sometimes the boat actually floated. “What was it?” Irvin asked.

“How the hell am I supposed to know?” Danny demanded. “There’s all kinds of weird, murdering critters running around on this place! It’s a miracle we survived here as long as we did before, and we were idiots to come back to it!” Danny brought his voice under control. “And if that ain’t enough, we’ve got that thing scaring the water out of everybody!” He pointed at the mist-shrouded volcano in the distance. When they’d been marooned on Talaud Island, the volcano occasionally rumbled and made the ground shake, but for the past few weeks, it had been venting almost constantly. Sometimes it belched heavy clouds of ash that settled on them and got into everything when the wind was right. Sometimes it just made creepy noises. A time or two, they’d had spectacular light shows in the middle of the night. Nobody in their group really knew squat about volcanoes, aside from a few historical accounts, but the overwhelming consensus was that the Talaud volcano was building up to something big.

The problem was, they were stuck there—marooned again, in a sense. Simms’s consort had been little more than a freighter, and once she’d off-loaded the equipment, machinery, fuel oil for the steam boiler, and the hopefully required diesel, she’d sailed for Manila for more supplies. Simms had remained, lending her crew to the labor and as a safety measure in case, for any reason, they had to abandon the expedition. But even Simms and Captain Lelaa were gone now. They’d sailed two days before to rendezvous with a little squadron of feluccas led by Saan-Kakja’s brother to intercept and at least pinpoint Ajax’s position.

Irvin understood why Lelaa had to go, but it left him and his crew in a pickle. Simms had taken the newly repaired transmitter, and the set on the boat was irreparable. Tex was trying to build another set like Riggs’s design from the parts at hand, but it was slow going. In the meantime, they were at the mercy of all the terrors Walker had once rescued them from—the dangerous predators including the nocturnal tree git-yas, as Flynn had called them, bizarre creatures that looked and acted like a cross between a Grik and a sloth that dropped on unwary prey from above. There were other things, almost ghostly things no one had ever really seen or had a shot at, that could snatch a man and run faster than anything ought to be capable of. Then there was the mountain, of course. Now . . .

“Did anybody get a look at it at all?” Laumer asked of the creature that got the ’Cat.

“Well, it was kind of blotchy,” Sid Franks volunteered. As the carpenter, he would now have to repair the damaged gangplank. The jet of water had enough force to blow off the handrail. “It swirled up when it . . .” He stopped, staring at the water.

“So whatever it is, it’s still in there?” There were nods and Irvin sighed. “Must be a sea creature. Came out of the water last night when nobody was looking and moved in.” He shrugged. “Only one thing for it.” He turned to Midshipman Hardee, who, along with a ’Cat who’d been dubbed Spook, had increasingly taken on their ordnance duties. “We have to get rid of this thing before we can get any more work done today. Get some of the grenades and all the small arms. Make sure you issue them to guys who know how to use them.”

The armed guards who protected the workers from the denizens of the jungle were summoned, and with the distribution of the four other Krags and the single Thompson (all the small arms had been retrieved from the submarine on Walker’s previous visit) a total of eight riflemen, one submachine gunner (Danny), and Irvin Laumer armed with his pistol prepared to face whatever was in the water. Six grenadiers had simple, ingenious devices quite similar to the grenades the Americans were accustomed to. They were virtually identical in form and function, although the fuses weren’t as reliable. There could be as many as ten seconds or as few as two before the things went off, so there was never any goofing around after the spoon flew.

Irvin nodded at the first ’Cat grenadier. The idea was to chase the creature aft, toward the screws, where the water was shallower. There they hoped to get some shots at it. The grenades weren’t powerful enough to damage the pressure hull of the submarine, but Irvin told them not to throw the things too close to it anyway. With a returning nod, the first ’Cat pulled the pin and dropped his weapon in the water. A few seconds later, a geyser of spume and white smoke erupted into the air with a dull thump, and this was the signal for the next grenade. A high, splashing column of water that dissipated downwind followed another ker-plunk. A third grenade went off. Then a fourth. Suddenly, out of the spume of the fifth grenade, something . . . terrifying . . . scrambled up out of the excavation directly at Tex Sheider. At first glance, it looked like a mottled black-and-green spider, but it had a tail sort of like a lobster and long, thin claws to match, making it at least ten feet long. One of the claws clutched the partially shredded body of the ’Cat workman.

“Holy shit!” was all Tex had time to screech before it blew him off his feet with a concentrated burst of seawater. Instantly, the monster lunged at him.

“Well . . . fire, damn it!” Irvin yelled.

Danny opened up with his Thompson, spraying chunks off the beast in all directions. The black powder loads under his bullets created a fog bank of white smoke around him. The thing recoiled from the impacts and writhed in agony. The other riflemen had recovered somewhat from the sudden appearance and attack and were scrambling to shoot without hitting one another. Irvin stepped forward, firing his pistol. He’d never fired any of the new loads before and was surprised not only by the smoke, but by the significantly greater recoil and loud boom that came with every shot instead of the usual sharp bark. The hideous creature turned to face him and he steeled himself for another blast of water. This time, however, there was only a meager, bloody splurt, and as he emptied his magazine, the creature suddenly flopped on its back and began to spasm violently. Irvin ran to Tex and grabbed him by the shirt, dragging him farther from the dying beast. Tex seemed unconscious, and where his shirt had torn, Irvin could see a dark red impact point on his chest.

“Cease firing!” he shouted at the men and ’Cats who were still shooting at the creature. Any twitching movement was sufficient proof to them that more bullets were called for. “Get over here! Help me with this man!”

Irvin was feeling for a pulse when Tex suddenly groaned. “Oh, Jesus, that hurts.” He gasped.

“What does?”

“What do you think! It feels like that thing squirted a fourteen-inch shell at me!”

Irvin gently tore the rest of the shirt away. The red mark was already turning black. “Lie still! You may have some broken ribs! No wonder it was able to knock the ’Cat off the gangway! You’re lucky it didn’t stop your heart.”

“I think it did, for a minute.”

“Well . . . we don’t have a real doctor. Sid knows a thing or two. Should be able to tell if anything’s broken. You’ll be taking it easy for a while, anyway.” He motioned for some ’Cats to move Tex under the lean-to he’d been napping under. “Danny, form a detail to bury our man,” he said, referring to the half-eaten ’Cat. “And get that damn nasty thing’s corpse out of my sight!”

“Yes, sir,” Danny said. Only later did it occur to Irvin that the man had called him “sir.” He raised the 1911 Colt and looked at it. Filthy. The new rounds might work okay, but they sure dirtied up a gun. “Mr. Hardee, you and Spook gather up all the weapons that were fired and clean them thoroughly. Step on it, too. No telling when we’ll need them again.”

Irvin sighed and looked at the submarine while workers either resumed their tasks or performed the duties he’d just ordered. Somehow, he’d managed to last until no one was looking before the shakes overtook him. For a long moment, he just held his trembling hands tight against his sides, waiting for the spell to pass—hoping it was just a spell. He’d been wondering more and more whether he was ready for this. In the past, he’d always had someone to turn to, to turn things over to when it started getting rough. Now he was it. He had to come to grips with that. Ultimately, that was the real test Captain Reddy had given him, and in an even greater sense it was the test he’d set himself.

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

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