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Friday, May 29, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 10

Vice Admiral Gus Waber adjusted his Stetson so that the hot Australian sun would not be pouring full into his face. He grunted. He already had an uneven tan (not that he wanted a tan at all) and he'd be damned if he was going to get all sunburned on his face.

It wasn't that he couldn't take it. He'd been redder than a tomato when he'd fought in the revolution. That little insurgence had been hell on Waber. He found himself in a hospital for close to a year after that, with everything from heatstroke to influenza, plus a few broken limbs. He had been promoted from captain to admiral after the revolution, though, so he couldn't complain too much.

The man was a real beast. He was huge, but somehow not obese. He was old, but had a fiery youth most children would never have. He was dashing, striking, a prima donna. He was like an ox, with a grip that could crush rocks. His hair was cropped short and he had no beard, but sideburns. He always insisted on being the center of attention, and when he wasn't, he'd damn well see that attention was shifted to him.

Off in the distance, he heard the whine of a small motorboat. He leapt to his feet. That was surely the politician. He'd forgotten who he was, some member of parliament or something, come to wail on the military for some reason or other. Probably because of all the money that seemed to disappear into the abyss.

Waber laughed. If only the politico knew. Well, pretty soon he would know. As the motorboat docked, Waber swaggered unhurriedly to the docks.

He was a rattish little man, who definitely seemed more at home yelling at bureaucrats than in a military base. He clutched a briefcase tightly in his arms. He looked green from the ride over. Still, Waber thought, men like that were strong. Waber knew he could never face the heat of a whole parliament. In some ways, politicians had to be a lot more dangerous than soldiers.

"Welcome to Project Leviathan, sir! Vice Admiral Gus Waber, it's a pleasure."

Waber shook the man's hand forcefully, and got nothing but a limp fish in return. The politician said his name, but Waber forgot it instantly. This could be a prickly situation. Waber had been in unpleasant situations before where he had forgotten people's names. Oh well.

"The committee’s sent me here to see just what the hell you people are doing with our money, admiral. I must say the government is very displeased. The Commonwealth can't afford to be wasting money, not right now."

Waber nodded knowingly.

"Well, sir, you know we have to keep a standing Navy and all, especially with the Horse banging at our door..."

"You've barely got enough ships to call it a flotilla! Maybe a fishing fleet!" exclaimed the politician derisively, "The Australian government's funneled billions of dollars into the Navy, and we've seen nothing. In fact, we've seen a dramatic reduction in production of vessels and sailors."

"That, sir, is because of this project, I'm afraid. If you'll follow me, please."

Waber strode briskly and purposefully toward his destination. The little politician scrambled after him, practically running just to keep up with the admiral.

"What is this project anyway, admiral? The government has no records of a Leviathan Project anywhere. I should know. I've spent the last week combing every inch of our top secret projects. Nothing."

"That's because this is beyond top secret. No one is allowed on or off of this island, nor is anyone allowed communication with the mainland, or any of the outside world for that matter. Nothing but diversion of funds. Well, that was until you came here today."

"You mean this is a completely isolated project?"

"Mm hmm. No one knows about it except the people on this island. And most of them don't even know about what it really is. None of our men here have families, sir."

The politician nodded. He looked around and saw that the whole island was surrounded by barbed wire and guards. He swallowed nervously.

"So, ah..."

"What is it? Well, Leviathan was begun shortly after the Aborigine Revolution."

"Ah, yes, I fought in that."

Waber looked at the politician suddenly with awe.


"Third Armored Division. I was at Canberra."

"No shit!" exclaimed Waber, "I was off the coast of Canberra! Well, shit!"

Waber wrung the man's hand, now full of respect.

"Well, I suppose you know better than most, but after Canberra the Navy realized that sea-to-land combat would be pivotal in future wars. If it hadn't been for the Russian Navy coming to help us out, our land war would have been lost."

The politician nodded.

"I knew a lot of good Russian sailors."

"Well, anyway, the Navy decided to create a project that would give Australia total sea supremacy. A project that would create a single ship. A single ship that could stand toe-to-toe with whole fleets. It was originally called the Supership Project, but over the years the name was changed to Leviathan."

"A single ship that could fight whole fleets? No ship could do that unless it was...enormous."

"And expensive."

"I see. So the Navy's been diverting almost all of their funds to your Supership?"

"Mm hmm. 8 kilometers long, weighing 548,000 tons. 90 457-mm. guns, 120 155-mm guns..."

"All right, all right, admiral. I don't need a whole speech. It's a strong ship, I get it. This had better be one hell of a ship, though. So, where is it?"

"You're standing on it, sir."

The politician looked around. There was nothing but dirt and grass all around.

"The island?"

"Yup. The island is completely manmade. This is the ship, covered by a couple of tons of dirt and grass. Not a bad size for a couple years and a couple billion, huh?"

Waber reached down and rubbed away some dirt to reveal a metal trap door. He lifted the trap door, and gestured for the politician to enter. Waber followed the man.

"This is fantastic!"

The politician looked around with awe.

"She's fully complete, too. Just finished her in the last month. Not a moment too soon, either."

The politician turned to Waber suddenly.

"What do you mean?"

"Well, I mean that there's a war starting. Mongolia is invading Russia. I truly believe it won't be too long before this turns into World War III. But, more importantly, our friends are already under attack. You know we never could have solved the Aborigine Revolution without the help of the Russians."

"Well, if we hadn't treated the natives like 2nd-rate slaves in the first place..."

"Yeah, I know. It's a sentiment all of us soldiers who lost friends have. It's over now, and the Aborigines were victorious in getting the treatment they wanted, but we won the war. And we never would have won the war if it hadn't been for the Russians' help. And the Russians were at a hard time then."

"Russia's had a hell of a time for the past, I don't know, couple of centuries. I can't even remember how many revolutions and wars they've had."

"But I can remember one - one where they helped out Australia. I want permission from the government to make war on Mongolia. And I want the Leviathan to do it."

The politician was suddenly lost in thought. Australia was a rich country, so it could financially afford a war - but could the Australian people afford a war of nerves? If the Supership went out and succeeded, the politician figured he could allow it to continue fighting, but if it failed... And how could a ship the size of a small country float?

"I'll go back to parliament," he said finally, "And propose that the Leviathan go into battle against Mongolia. But that's it - I don't want a full-fledged war on my hands. I think I have enough sway to pull it off, but, dammit Waber, you and your Supership had better really be worth it. I mean really. Or there's a good chance you'll be court-martialled for misappropriation of funds - that's embezzlement to you. Win, Waber, win."

"I will, sir. Thank you."

The politician nodded and left. Gus Waber prepared his ship for battle.

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