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Ant__.
02-28-2007, 01:11 PM
My fellow Kaleuns and Skippers to be.
Welcome to the March Short Story Competition! This is the thread in which to post your entries.

As with the Screenshot Competition, The prize each month will be a fantastic, unique and personalised certificate for the winner, signed for authentification by me and then posted out for you to proudly display on the wall in your 'Control Room'. I'm negotiating at the highest levels to attain planning permission for a SH Short Story Library - But! You wanna library? You need plenty of stories to fill it! Wink2

The Certificate that is up for grabs: Will your name be on it?
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v642/antsmith/MARCHSToryCERTSample.jpg

*No Screenshots

*Minimum 1500 words - no maximum, just use your common sense - we're not writing 'War & Peace' here!

*Part stories are welcome, plese include links to previous parts when you post your entires.

*Submissions from the 1st of the month to 18th midnight GMT. Then the voting thread will be opened and that will close on the last day of the month at midnight GMT when the winner will be announced.

*Any forum member can enter, any forum member can vote - even if they don't enter a story . It takes time and effort to put together a short story. Entrants welcome comments, good or bad about their work so please feel free to say what you thought of the entries when you vote - the writers appreciate feedback!

*Stories must be genre themed of course, but with SH4 imminent, stories can be based on or around the US/IJN theatre too - even more inspiration for you budding authors!

I wish you all the very best of luck, any questions please PM me.

Ant__.
03-01-2007, 02:01 PM
Ok, I'll bite the bullet and start us off. Some of you may recognise this, but it has not been entered into any competitions previously, and has been changed somewhat. This will be in several parts. I hope you enjoy it.

'The Guest' is the story of a U-Boat Radio Operator and Gunner who loved nothing more than to get an enemy flyer in his crosshairs. Through a bizarre turn of events, little did he know he'd end up sharing a bunk and risking his entire crew and boat to keep one of those pilots alive.

The hatch was slammed shut and dogged, cutting off the waterfall of cold seawater that cascaded down. Around me, cut off from the daylight now took on an eerie glow, and I blinked my eyes to adjust, panting heavily trying to capture my breath. An uneasy calm pervaded the room. Those of us now in the control room stood aghast, unsure where to place our eyes.

The salt water dripped from him to the floor plates as he leant against the bulkhead coughing hard, a hand held aloft to steady his shaking whether through the cold or just fear I couldn't say. His fleece-lined jacket, having absorbed so much, now sagged like a full baby's nappy and let go a thin stream of salt water which ran down his sleeve, dripping from his elbow. Looking him up and down, his boots were well made I noticed, plenty of stitching where it mattered. Strong laces. Made to last, I thought.

"Make depth 100 feet, turn to 90 degrees, 6 knots" the Old Man called out. We had to leave the area quickly, in case more came. Like dominoes running around the room each of us returned to face our stations and make the appropriate adjustments to valves and wheels and charts. All the while the only sound was the dripping of water falling to the floor from his sopping wet clothes. Nobody dare speak, not even to acknowledge the orders given. We just got on with it.

His eyes widened at hearing this order, as if starting a rollercoaster ride, the route the twists and turns he did not know. He braced himself with both hands above him now, his trembling fingers curling round the pipe work that snaked across the low ceiling. The boat tilted downward and we began our descent.

"They'll come looking for me, and when they do, they'll find you, and it will all be over," he said with a threatening under tone to his voice. Still coughing. It was as if time itself had stopped.

Without turning round the Old Man put down his cap on the chart table, ground his forehead with the palm of a hand, and suddenly said aloud, "Such confidence! You are lost at sea! So sad, the letter to your girlfriend has already been typed out and the envelope sealed! There is nobody looking for you. Nobody will come" He said, shaking his head slowly. "They are filling your seat back home already preparing another foolhardy lamb to the slaughter"

"Caught YOU though, didn't I. Put some holes in your Tower too I reckon" he replied.

It was like watching a bar brawl about to erupt back in the flea ridden, red lampshaded bars in the back streets of Lorient. The pit of my stomach turned over and I'm sure I stepped back a few paces as if to give them room. My back was against an array of pipes and hand wheels. I couldn't move any further.

The Old Man's face wrinkled as he turned around from the charts, his eyes squinted in rage. "Yes, yes you did catch us, and yes it appears you hit my conning tower" he replied, as if appeasing a young child desperate to impress his elders. "However I would remind you of your new found situation. You are a guest aboard my U-boat, and your welfare during your stay is at the discretion of... me!" He bellowed, jabbing a finger at his own chest.

"Jesus, you make it sound like you've done me a favour. Surface your damn sub and let me off, I'll swim back, thanks all the same. Sorry about the conning tower and all that. Bill the White House for the repairs OK?"

Through the watch glasses on the bridge I'd witnessed men, their ships torn out from under them, flailing in oil slicked seas, only to inevitably slip below the surface and I would tell myself they would re-appear just after I shifted my gaze from them. A part of me deep inside refused to believe or accept that part of my job was to actually watch torpedoed sailors die. But now I was convinced I would watch a man die before me. The Old Man would finish him there and then with his bare hands. The only law here was the Old Man's I reasoned. I held my breath and swallowed hard as the Old Man crossed the Control Room and squared up to our guest, inches separated their noses. Both breathing heavily, awaiting the first move, neither broke eye contact with one another. The atmosphere rocketed from tense to electric. He was going to kill him right in front of me. How my heart raced.

"U-boat. U.....boat" The old man said very calmly and slowly. "Only enemies of the Fatherland put to sea in Submarines'. Remember this my friend; because it was a U-boat, my U-boat, that might just have saved your life. But I haven't decided on that yet"

Turning to me the Old Man spat, "Anton, clean him up, and get him changed. Take Otto with you. Then record in the log the arrival of our guest. I will be through in fifteen minutes"

I'm certain I was shaking as I motioned with my hand for our guest to proceed through the hatch towards the Officers Mess. Our progress was slow, our guest looking all around him, taking in everything, after all he had never seen inside a U- boat before. I pulled together an assortment of sweaters and long trousers of various sizes as I went. I figured he would probably want to keep his own underwear, besides none of the crew would give up any.

I gave him a first aid kit. He accepted it, looking at me blankly. I stared back at him saying nothing blankly. Then I came to and realised he needed a mirror for the cuts on his forehead and chin. Otto scuttled out, returning with a shaving mirror, and having wiped the grime off it with his cuff, passed it to him. The silence was uncomfortable and I knew I'd have to speak.

"Where are you hurt? I see some blood on your shins, and your face of course," I enquired.

"Did that bailing out. I was kinda in a rush, as you can imagine. Didn't expect to be stopping here and I didn't fancy sinking. That's what you boys are best at you know, disappearing below the waves and all that" he replied sarcastically, drawing his hands down in front of himself and wiggling his fingers at the word waves in a submerging motion.

He remained remarkably confident, for someone in his position. I remembered what The Old Man had told him about being our guest'. I said nothing, giving him the bundle of clothes as he stripped off and dropped the wet heavy flying suit to the floor. The cuts to his shins made me wince; deep angry red stripes ran diagonally from his knees to just above his socks.

"Jeez, don't that whine get on your nerves? I mean, man, how do you sleep with that going on? How do you sleep at all in this thing?" He was referring to the noise the electric motors were making.

"It's only because we are running fast. Normally you don't notice and you can sleep fine" I offered.

"Hell yeah, guess so. Get used to it huh? Funny tho', we're like way under the surface yeah? and it don't feel like it. Smooth as ain't it? A bit like flying really you could say, on a good day mind. Shut your eyes and you could be 100 feet up or down I'd say"

"Really? I have never flown. I have always believed you can fall out of the sky quite easily, but you can't fall out of the sea, I confessed. We are quite deep now, things are different down here compared to the surface, much calmer, unlike when you, erm, arrived"

Straight away I knew that last comment had soured the conversation. He was opening up, making an effort to make conversation as he pulled on the dry clothes and with one comment I reminded us both about how he came to be here and the atmosphere dried up. His face disapeared as he pulled the blue woollen sweater over his head and pushed his hands through the arms.

"Anton, that'll be all. Leave us and update the log. Send some coffee in for us would you please". The Old Man stood in the doorway, under his arm rolls of charts and maps. Between his fingers he clutched wax pencils, a slide rule, compass and 2 cigars.

Our guest shot me an odd look. I was unsure if it was meant to thank me for the clothes, the electric motor explanation or simply that he knew things were about to get serious and didn't want me to leave.

"Yes, Herr Kaleun" I said and ducked through the hatchway. I returned to the radio shack and pulled the logbook from the shelf. My heart was beating so fast I couldn't think straight. Closing my eyes I relived the last three hours...

All had appeared well, no cause for concern. Day 6 of our patrol from Lorient. The weather of September 1943 still had the feel of summer, not the impending bitter winter that we knew would come so soon. The sunrises were beautiful, if you were lucky enough to be on watch at that early time of the day, and the seas remained relatively calm. We were in no rush, never exceeding 6 knots on the surface or submerged. We had a good boat, a good crew a fine mix of experienced Officers, and the younger less experienced Ratings were keen to learn and serve.

Suddenly the boat lurched forward and a hellish piercing noise shrilled out. Like a loose fan belt on a damp morning, in this confined space, the sound hurt our ears.

"All stop! Reports! I want reports!" shouted the Old Man.

Footsteps clattered over the footplates. Men were pushed out of the way onto their bunks. Into the control room the Chief of the Boat came blundering through, panting out of breath and sweat beading on his grease smeared forehead.

"Herr Kaleun, You need to see this, in the engine room. You must come. Anton, bring a flashlight" he beckoned to us both. We stooped and followed him through the hatch aft. The further aft we got, the stronger the acrid stench of burning became.

The engine room was always was a place of awe to me. How the builders fitted these great engines, with all their pipe work, valves, handles, dials, tubes, and wires into such a tiny space defeated me. Where on earth do they start? How can someone think so, so, three dimensionally? How does that pipe come out from there, snake across the ceiling, down the wall and connect perfectly with the valve over on the far wall? I often wondered. What amazed me more perhaps were the men who worked here, Bending, leaning, stretching to reach the smallest inaccessible places. The engines were like their children and they lavished affection on them all hours of the day and night.

This is what they were doing as we arrived. Covering our mouths with our cupped hands and squinting through the smoke we stood with the Chief.

"Are we on fire? What is burning Chief?" The piercing noise had subsided I realised, and we didn't need to shout.

"Herr Kaleun, the drive bearing on the port engine has overheated that's the smoke, and the drive shaft has broken from its couplings it may have bent under the excessive torque" The Chief explained apologetically, pointing at different pieces of machinery as he spoke, shaking his head in resignation"

"It explains why we've had irregular revolutions on the port shaft Herr Kaleun" he said gravely.

The boat rocked as we surveyed the damage in silence, the smoke clearing now the engine had been stopped. "Explains what exactly Chief?" I asked, completely mystified.

"We're snagged, it's all I can think!" gasped the Chief, his hands held aloft, as if I should have known all along.

"Snagged? .....Snagged?" the Old Man shook his head. He was as confused as I was.

The Chief ran a filthy hand through his even filthier hair, took a deep breath, and steadied himself. His small dark eyes focused on the Old Man, "Kaleun, I think we have something snagged round the port propeller. Whatever it is I fear has got behind the prop and wrapped around the external face of the drive shaft. I saw it happen in Bremen once, a training boat. That time it was a sail that had come free from a fishing boat and left to sink Herr Kaleun"

My heart skipped a beat. Drive shaft. Drive bearing. Torque. Couplings. This was serious.

"Remedy, Chief? Give me a remedy" asked the Old Man impatiently, raising his head up and stroking the 6 day neck stubble he had acquired since leaving port. He was remarkably calm I thought, for someone who had just been told his boat had lost half, possibly more of its propulsion.

"Who's got a diving certificate?" was all the Chief had to say.

Immediately the whole boat was alive, orders were shouted from compartment to compartment as we worked our way back to the Control Room. The Old Man was pointing to various crew members, some bolting off their bunks in response, others dropping Potato peelers into large pans to follow us, grabbing wet weather gear from lockers and running to keep up.

"Periscope sweep then surface if all is clear. Double watch crews, Flak guns ensure as much ammunition is bought up, not just the standard rounds. Prepare this message for BDU please, Anton: Suspect a propeller has fouled. Loss of propulsion. Surfacing to investigate'

The hatch opened before we were properly clear of the surface. Sea water poured down and fizzed through the deck plates. Normally the Old Man would have reprimanded us for this miss-timing, but now. Up we went.

"Tie on! Tie on!" urged the Old Man as we slipped tentatively on the slimy wooden decking, our boots awash as small waves broke over the stern, we hooked on our lines to the cables that ran the length of the boat. The sky was overcast, low grey clouds rumbled overhead. The air was damp. It reminded me of when I was a child, and the same weather would bring lightning. I remember I'd think to myself The sky is tingling!' and sure enough Lightning would flash across my bedroom window. Everything was definitely tingling now: Me, the sky, the boat and the sea as we stood at the stern, peering down at the props as the small waves slapped against the rudder tops.

Huddling together, the three volunteers teetered at the stern and after a persuasive stern look from the Old Man stepped off into the water and swam around to the props.

"We can't hang around Godammit! Get under!" bellowed the Old Man. One by one they gulped air deeply into their lungs and disappeared below the surface, their ropes snaking after them as they groped around trying to find what had snagged the port prop.

The Old Man took the chance to light a cigar, and offered the chief and me one, which we eagerly took up. I felt a bit guilty as I drew on it, savouring the mellow taste. Two heads bobbed up from the stern, one holding what looked like the end of a rope.

Herr Kaleun! We have it!" he shouted, spitting seawater from his mouth. It's a fishing net! It's wrapped round and round behind the port propeller, we can't pull it off with our hands, we'll have to cut it away!" he cried out, wiping the water from his eyes. Having found the problem, he looked ecstatic.

In hostile waters known for it's allied air patrols with reduced propulsion. Repairs would take time. The Chief look worried. The Old Man looked furious.

PART ONE ENDS.

Ant__.
03-01-2007, 03:34 PM
*No Screenshots

Thanks Foehammer, but please refer to the rules.
I'm sure you could remove the screenshots and still enter your patrol report, as a short story, with some expansion on what you have already written perhaps? http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/25.gif

William66th
03-06-2007, 11:27 AM
Subsim has been sent the invitation, I have been sick so they got it six days late. For that I apologized to them.

Hopefully we will see some of there stories here as well.

Good luck to all
Time to get writing, and keep up the great work

Ant__.
03-07-2007, 03:36 AM
Thanks William66th. Yes, it will be interesting to see some entries from Subsim http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/25.gif

William66th
03-07-2007, 10:46 AM
Ok Well we have our first subsim member story and I feel it is really well done. For now I'm going to have the subsim members email the story to me and then I will copy / paste it dirrectly into the forum. I do not make any changes to the text or format. The members at subsim are having are hard time logging into the forum or even following a link. UBI forum seems to require that each person viewing is or has to become a member.

William66th
03-07-2007, 10:57 AM
Our first subsim member short / story is here!
Below is the story as emailed there have been NO changes made to format or content.

Subsim Member Name: Brag

------------------------------------------------
The Outsider

by Alex Braguine



The boatswain's whistle on deck made me jump.

So far, all I knew of the replacement commander was that he owned a nice canvas bag with pockets and leather straps. A messenger had delivered it together with orders to be ready to sail immediately.

Ever since Wilhelmshaffen Willi rolled his car, almost killing himself, and sending Schiller and Vogler to hospital, things have been a mess. The U-551 should have left on patrol a week ago. Cutting their rest period short, Deckert and Hartenstein, replaced the injured officers, and to my disappointment, a Lieutenant Hegel from the training division was given command of the U-Boat. Life wasn't fair.

#

The new captain reached the bottom of the steps. He carried a neatly folded plaid blanket draped over his arm. "Hoffman? He said as he glanced around the Zentrale.

"Jawhol, Herr Kaleun." I snapped to attention.

"Would you like to take the boat out?" he asked. For a moment I thought this showed good judgment as I had done four patrols out of Lorient and he was new to the area. But a U-boat commander doesn't ask. He orders.

I clicked my heels and answered. "Jawohl, Herr Kaleun."

He nodded and stepped into the forward compartment where his bunk was, next to the radio and hydrophone stations. He spread the little child's blanket over the bunk and gave me a sheepish grin. "I've had this since I was seven. It brings good luck."

That's all we needed, a superstitious captain, a poor replacement for Wilheshaven Willi. "Herr Kaleun, I have inspected the boat and we're ready for sea."

"Very well. Have the electric engines stand by. I'll be on the bridge shortly."

Topside, it was a beautiful, warm April afternoon. On the dock, the usual crowd of nurses and malingering sailors were on hand to see us off. I saluted the crowd and the band broke into When You Return. They must have thought I was the captain.

Hagel came through the hatch, looked around and said, "Whenever you're ready."

"Let go the stern, engines ahead slow, full starboard rudder." I watched the bow strain the spring line and the stern move away from the dock. "Starboard engine astern slow. Port engine standby."

The boat began to move backwards, releasing the strain on the forward spring line. "Let go forward. Engines ahead together. Rudder twenty degrees port."

Hagel said," In U-boat School this maneuver would have given you full marks."

"Danke, Herr Kaleun," I said. This wasn't U-boat school. This was for real. I've been on war patrols since the beginning of the war. First on the U-2, a type II canoe with three torpedo tubes and hardly enough fuel to do a tour of the harbor. Then, with captain Willi on this boat, we were the first to arrive to our new French base.

The boat gathered speed. We went past the southern docks and made a hard turn to starboard and headed down river. Hegel had a folded chart in front of him and kept his head swiveling like a comical marionette smoking cigarettes.

Like in all rivers, navigation out of Lorient is a bit tricky. Hagel kept distracting me with a barrage of questions. Finally, we were in open water. Except for the possibility of ending crushed at the bottom of the ocean, I still had no idea of our patrol destination.

"A new heading, Herr Kaleun?"

"Oh, yes," Hagel said as if coming out of a reverie. "Clear Ile de Groix to the south."

The man's lack of concrete orders was unnerving. "New heading two, two zero," I ordered, thinking our destination was probably somewhere west of Spain. I imagined Donitz assigned us this easy patrol area in consideration for a new commander. "Are we in for a pleasure cruise, Herr Kaleun?"

"Sinking ships is never a pleasure, Herr Hoffman." Without another word, he left the bridge.

I could see that with this captain, this patrol was not going to be a pleasure at all. I took comfort in the warmth of the afternoon and the blueness of the lightly rolling sea. Screeching seagulls followed us, probably thinking we were a fishing boat.

Deckert, a short blond with a humorous face came on the bridge. He had been the navigator on the U-94. "Are we still on a mystery Cruise?' he asked.

I nodded. "At what time is sunset tonight?"

"I'll look it up when I prepare for the evening star shots." He looked at the sky. "Nice weather."

If I was commander of this boat, I would have sent the lazy navigator below and demanded an immediate answer. But, I bit my lip.

I was about to call the captain for further instructions when he appeared out of the hatch. He scanned with his glasses, lowered them and kept looking in the direction of the receding Ile de Groix.

"A new heading, Herr Kaleun?"

"Yes. Three two zero."

"But that's northwest."

"As it was when I was a cadet." He smiled. "We're heading toward Iceland."

"I thought . . ."

"That we were going to warmer waters."

"Well, that was my impression."

"The British will have to fly a few extra miles to find and bomb us."

"Jawhol, Herr Kaleun."

"The reason I was delayed at flotilla headquarters is that the British are invading Iceland."

#

Frustration mounted among the crew on the third day when a Condor reported a tanker less than three hours steaming from our position.

"That will require for us to backtrack," Hagel said.

Fuming, I exed the intercept plot on the chart. Meyer, the boat chief shrugged and gave a weak smile. With Wilhelmsaven Willi we would have been steaming at full speed to intercept such a fat target. Sitting on the chart table I furiously puffed on a cigarette.

` "Schiff gesichted," the call came from the bridge, I glanced at my watch, 12:54. Of course, the sighting would come just before lunch was served. I rushed to the bridge.

40 degrees off the port bow a tramp materialized out of the haze not more than 3,000 meters away. We had ideal conditions for a surface attack.

I was about to ask the captain for full speed ahead, when he said, "Periscope depth."

We may as well sit down and have lunch, I grumbled between my teeth. This was going to be a waste of a good torpedo.

"New heading 340. Speed five knots. Up scope."

The captain was overdoing it, we could easily be in a good firing position without straining the batteries.

After a few observations, Hagel lowered the scope without giving any targeting information. I was ready to give up. On our return I would ask for a transfer.

I kept glancing at my watch, we were surely beyond firing position and could clearly hear the thumping of the freighter's machinery.

"Gun crew, prepare to man the gun as we surface. New heading 070, speed seven knots."

The guy was nuts. At this range the freighter's deck gun would massacre us.

"Blow ballast."

I braced myself on the ladder, waiting to follow the captain to our certain death.

#

I leapt out of the hatch for the UZO.

The instrument was not needed. Like a great wall, the stern of the freighter rose in front of the sub.

"Astern, full," the captain ordered.

"We're too close to fire," Gunner Schechter bellowed.

No **** If the boat had teeth we could chew the freighter's rudder.

"Fire when you have 50 meters."

Our screws churned astern.

Blam! The gun fired. I ducked as the shock wave slammed into bridge and rudder debris clanked against the conning tower. I peered over the bulwark. The gun crew were still at their stations, seemingly unhurt.

Now we really had 50 meters.

The gun fired again.

This time we got a shower of water.

"All engines stop."

With its rudder gone, the ship kept going straight, the screw no longer whipping water.

Another shell exploded. A stern-plate buckled and popped rivets. Methodically, Schechter was enlarging the hole and the freighter's stern began to settle.

The hole was now big enough; the gunner was able to fire right into the depths of the ship.

A muffled rumble escaped the wounded freighter.

"Astern full," yelled the captain.

We were a hundred meters away when the sternmost cargo hatch soared into the air like flying platform for American trucks.

A five-ton truck splashed into the sea not more than ten meters off our hull, dousing the gun crew.

"Difficult to explain to BDU that one's boat was damaged by a collision with a truck," the captain said.

Fortunately I didn't have to laugh at his stupid joke. A chain reaction of exploding munitions erupted and engulfed the freighter. Within minutes the Maria Sinclair sank, leaving a field of debris floating. We couldn't see any boats or survivors.



The rest of the afternoon we kept steaming at 14 knots, to make up time wasted on that tramp.

I got off watch at eight bells, just before sunset and headed for the Funker's cubicle to hear the news. "Anything exciting, Funker?"

"Nein, Herr Leutnant." He handed me a typewritten sheet that would make the rounds of the submarine and pointed at a sheet pinned to his cork bulletin board. The word Montmartre was written on it with a thick grease pencil.

"What's that?" I asked.

"Herr Kaleun said to listen for, and copy, any messages to or from Montmartre and to let him know immediately."

"Keep your ears open." I hung my binoculars on my foul weather gear peg and went to the officers' mess nook.

Hagel and Janeck, the chief engineer, sat on the settee. Hegel, who always insisted serving his officers was ladling the brown muck everyone on the boat called mystery Eintopf. Only the lentils were recognizable. I called it fart fuel.

I sat on the stool next to Janeck and took the soup plate offered by Hagel. "What's this Montmartre station, we're monitoring?'

"It is a neighborhood in Paris. That's all you need to know. But I want you to remind the Funker on your watch to listen for it."

Another delightful dinner with Captain Hagel.

*

The weather got cruddy. A swell from the southwest clashed with waves created by a northeast wind, giving us an uncomfortable ride. Despite the unanimous agreement by the officers that we should reduce speed, Hagel drove the boat at 12 knots, endangering the bridge watch. Any moment, I expected to hear the dreaded call of man overboard.

#

We were having tea just before the first dogwatch when Funker called from his cubicle, " A Montmartre message, Herr Kaleun."

Like a maniac, Hagel pushed Janeck aside and bounded for the radio nook.

After he picked up the message flimsy, Hagel sat on his bunk for a few moments. His voice boomed above the din of waves smashing on the hull, "Increase revs for fourteen knots."

We were in the hands of a madman.

My eyes rested on the torrents of water that poured every few seconds through the conning tower hatch. Enough water was coming in to keep the bilge bump going all the time.

With dread, I put on my leather jacket , foul weather coat and tied the chin strap of my sou'wester hat. Deckert would be happy to get relieved five minutes earlier and before the boat increased its already suicidal speed.

I was on the second step of the ladder when Hagel's voice made me freeze.

"Hoffman, stay below. I'm going upstairs."

Hagel's habit of using civilian terms, like upstairs instead of topside, irritated me. I took two steps down and looked at the captain with what I thought would be a quizzical expression.

"No need for both of us to be on the balcony in this weather." He hung his glasses on his neck and clambered topside. Like a useless, bloody idiot, I couldn't think of anything better to do than get into my bunk.

Dripping water all over the place, Deckert came in. The Old Man is going to drown as all," he muttered, letting his sou-wester flop onto the deck. "We have nearly a force ten gale."

"Maybe a wave will wash him overboard."

Deckert gave me a strange look, removed his leather jacket and wool jersey. He wrung the sweater.

The sub took a wild dive. Water from Deckert's jersey splashed on me instead of the deck. The vibration of racing screws stopped as water covered the diesel air intakes. From the Zentrale came the roar of a waterfall.

"Crazy," Deckert said. "One can't even sleep in this weather."

"If I was captain, we would be riding this storm submerged to thirty meters."

"Ja, one can't do anything in this weather."

Again, the screws raced as the stern popped out of the water. I wondered how much punishment the engines could take.

#

The following morning, our world was limited to dirty gray waves marbled with foam and flying spindrift that punished our faces when we were not underwater, drowning. Towering seas crashing on us had forced us to close the conning tower hatch. By five o'clock I had given up trying to make intelligent sweeps for signs of ships; or even checking if the lookouts on the bridge were still onboard. All one could do was hang on to the handles of the bridge's coaming and duck when waves engulfed the bridge. Several times I've been knocked off my feet. Only my belt and steel cable attached to a U bolt kept me aboard. My eyes burned, hands were numb. I couldn't think straight. To have people on the bridge under these conditions was a cruel joke. We were useless. To hell with the captain. I sent two of the lookouts below.

Half an hour later, instead of somewhat rested lookouts, the captain came on the bridge. "Courage. No storm lasts forever," he yelled into my ear. I couldn't answer as a cascade of water jerked me against my tether. I managed to grab Hagel and shove him against the periscope housing before he got washed away.

I spat water and handed Hagel a safety belt.

He gave me a wry smile. "I should explain . . .

Whatever he was going to say got drowned by another wave.

"Send the lookouts downstairs."

The sailors didn't wait for me to repeat the captain's orders.

#

I don't know how long I had been like this, in a state of semi-consciousness, my hands locked on the bridge bulwark and my face buried between my arms.

"There, you see." The captain's voice brought me out of the dark hole my mind had retreated to.

I looked up. The roar of the wind had subsided. Instead of flying spray, fog drifted over the clashing seas.

Hagel took the towel he had wrapped around his neck and wiped his face. "I use bad weather to run on the surface undetected."

Embarrased, I nodded.

Deckert's voice came through the Zentrale speaking tube. "Permission for the second watch to come to the bridge, Herr Kaleun."

"Granted." Hagel slapped me on the shoulder. "A good breakfast will go well now, Ja?"

The stale, pukey-smelling air below almost made me gag. I staggered to my bunk and dug out a packet of HB cigarettes from under the mattress. It has been what, two days that we haven't submerged? The thought bothered me. When visibility was limited, Willi would have submerged every two to three hours to listen for ships. Whereas, we have been racing blindly. The fog bothered me. I exchanged my thoroughly soaked sweater for the dry one I never wore topside and went to get breakfast.

#

When my next watch came up, the sea was still choppy and washing over the deck but not threatening to swallow the bridge. Visibility had improved to maybe a thousand meters. According to the dead reckoning plot, we were 200 miles from Reykjavik. We still didn't know what our destination or mission was. Bloody Montmartre.

The ripping noise overhead made me wince. I looked to port. "Alaaaarm," I yelled into the speaking tube. "Clear the deck!"

Out of the fog, a large, white moustache under its bow, the gray shape of a destroyer raced for us. A flash came from its number two gun. Another shell ripped overhead.

The boat was already diving when I dogged the top hatch shut.

In the Zentrale, Hagel was on the observation scope. "Tribal class," he said.

"Passing ten meters," the boat chief announced.

I took a deep breath and grabbed the ladder. We could clearly hear the destroyer's screws coming up on us.

"Arrest the dive," Hagel ordered. "Down scope."

The angle of the deck leveled.

This crazy captain was suicidal. "Herr Kaleun--"

Hagel raised his finger. "They can't drop charges from their stern and hit us without blowing their own arse up."

The destroyer roared overhead.

"Wasserbomben," the hydrophone operator announced.

Maybe they'll blow their own limey arse and ours right along with them.

"Ahead flank."

The whine of the electric engines grew.

"Ten degrees starboard rudder."

Four explosions shook the boat and raised the stern.

"Continue fast dive to 200 meters."

"Destroyer slowing engines."

All idle men to forward torpedo compartment," the captain yelled.

I stood aside as the off-watch engine and aft torpedo crews raced forward.

The angle of the boat increased to 20 degrees. We started going down fast.

"Destroyer turning, Herr Kaleun."

"Passing twenty meters."

"Engines ahead slow."

The reaction to seeing the destroyer rushing toward us, guns blazing began to affect me. My legs grew weak. I sat on the map box at the foot of the ladder.

"Passing thirty meters."

We won't be deep enough when the ash cans start dropping.

Everyone's gaze was upward as if they could see the destroyer coming overhead.

The rapid thumping of screws grew louder.

"Ahead flank."

"Passing forty meters."

"Wasserbomben."

****, the destroyer had anticipated our move. I tried to keep the mental image of where that verdamte destroyer was.

I flew across the control room. Lights went out. My ears hurt. Explosions made it impossible to hear anything else.

I came to. The noise of high pressure water entering the hull made me jump to my feet. Metalic taste of blood entered my mouth.

Dim, emergency lights came on.

"Forward torpedo compartment flooding."

"Port electric motor inoperative."

"Damage control party to forward torpedo."

"Passing seventy meters. Dive out of control, Herr Kaleun."

My mind searched for a mental picture of my childhood. I wanted to be somewhere else. I needed my mother.

"Hoffman!" The captain's voice almost made me snap to attention.

"Herr, Kaleun?"

Hagel waved his finger toward the forward hatch. "On the cupboard above my bunk there's a bottle of cognac, would you see it's not broken?"

I glanced at the depth meter needle. Going through eighty-two meters. At the angle the boat was in, I almost slid toward the forward compartment. And what was I doing? Going on a fool's errand for the captain worried about a stupid bottle of cognac. I found it wrapped in a towel. "It's not broken, Herr Kaleun."

"Bring it over."

"Passing one hundred meters. Still uncontrolled." The only thing the chief had under control was his voice.

I climbed toward the Zentrale hatch pulling myself up with my free hand.

"Engines astern one third."

The destroyer's screws grew louder.

The boat was quickly tilting toward vertical

"Wasserbomben," the hydrophone operator announced.

I handed the bottle to the captain.

He waved me off. "Ahead flank."

"One forty meters . . . one fifty."

Six explosions shook the boat.

"One seventy."

We were dropping like a stone.

"Blow forward ballast tank."

As it escaped the ballast tanks, water roared like a hundred toilets flushing.

"Hoffman, place that bottle in the chart box. We'll start passing it around once we reach two hundred and fifty meters. At least we'll die savoring one of the world's greatest gifts to mankind."

"Should I swirl it in my mouth or swallow, Herr Kaleun?" Deckert asked.

"When the pressure hull is crushed, death is instantaneous. Swallow quickly," The captain answered, chuckling.

"Dive arrested, but we're still sinking slowly," the chief announced. "Two hundred an ten meters."

As if to emphasize the chief's words, the hull gave out a loud groan.

Looking like a wet survivor from a shipwreck, Oberbotsman Steiner entered the Zentrale."Torpedo tube two is damaged. We have shored the breech door, but it still leaks. I wouldn't go any deeper, Herr Kaleun."

"Thank you."

Eight depth charges exploded in quick succession but a good hundred meters from us.

Half an hour later, after dropping 36 depth charges, the destroyer cranked up its engines. The sound of screws vanished to the southeast.

Schemmler, the torpedo officer came from the forward area. "Herr Kaleun," he said in a grave voice. I don't know what the state of that torpedo in tube two is. With the door blown away and torpedo exposed, it could arm itself."

Hagel nodded. "And after some time self destruct?"

"That's what I'm afraid of."

I thought of the little propeller in front of the torpedo slowly turning as the boat moved forward. How many hundred revolutions it had to make to trip the trigger mechanism?

"Auftauchen," Hagel ordered. "Can we shoot the torpedo?"

"Nein, Herr Kaleun. The ram pressure will blow the torpedo tube door completely off.

"Hmmm, Ja." Hagel closed his eyes and pursed his lips.

Deckert and his lookouts clambered up the conning tower ladder.

"This is what we'll do,"Hagel said with a faint smile on his face. He then told the chief, "Once we surface go slow astern. This will relieve water pressure on the torpedo--Decker?

"Jawhol, Herr Kaleun," Decker answered from the conning tower.

"Turn stern to the seas and keep the boat facing that way. If you see enemy ships, signal them that we surrender. Is that understood?"

I was shocked by the captain's words.

"Instead of the water ram, we'll use air pressure to launch the torpedo. Hopefully the fish will slide out and plop into the ocean."

Since air could be compressed, the shock on the breech would be reduced

The number two-breech door was partly unhinged and was firmly shored by a thick piece of wood and a jack propped against a torpedo rack. I had volunteered to to operate the vent valve. If the door breech blew and flooded the torpedo compartment, the few people, who escaped the sinking U-Boot would only die slower than those remaining inside.

"I'm ready," I yelled.

The watertight door slammed shut.

I concentrated on the rhythm of the boat. It was essential to apply air pressure at the moment of least resistance: when the bow was high, and hopefully the tube's muzzle out of the water.

As the boat moved stern to the waves, this was harder to estimate. Several times I was ready to open the valve but thought the moment was wrong.

Now!

I closed my eyes and quickly spun the vent valve.

My ears popped. A shrill whistle came from the breech.

The whistling stopped and I could hear the gurgle of air and water in the tube.

I moved to the speaking tube. "Herr Kaleun, I think the torpedo's gone."

#

At least our mad race toward Iceland was over. We kept the hatch to the torpedo compartment closed and the compartment pressurized to two atmospheres. But we still proceeded north-northeast at 3 knots when we should have been heading slowly toward the nearest shipyard, which was Brest. But that was also tricky as we were in no condition to submerge. What in the hell is Montmartre and why won't the captain tell us what the mission is?

I brought the subject up during dinner. "Herr Kaleun, it is naval tradition that the objective of a mission is revealed to the crew once at sea. The men are preoccupied. Why are we taking such risk when we only can use the stern torpedo, can't even submerge. In reality we're no longer a fighting vessel."

"Not a fighting vessel, Herr Hoffman?" Hagel put his fork down. I could see he he boiled with internal rage. His hand shook slightly as he lit a cigarette. "We are vulnerable. If we are attacked again, the boat will sink. I don't plan to sacrifice the crew. We will surrender. Therefore the mission will remain a secret until we complete it."

The icy tone of Hagel's voice and the venom of his stare almost made me shudder. It was obvious he hated my guts.

I had read several accounts of mutiny in the high seas. Hagel was driving the crew toward such a moment. I was sure if Shiller and Vogler were still on board, they would have agreed in arresting the captain and heading toward a base.

Janeck, the boat's chief, finished chewing his pork cutlet. "I wonder if the Tommies share their rum ration with prisoners?"

"I'm going to the bridge."

I had to slide out of the settee to let Hegel out.

Cookie brought a pot of coffee. "The captain didn't stay for his coffee?"

"You really pissed der Alte off, " Janek said after Cookie left.

"As an officer, I felt I had to say something. With each mile we travel away from base we reduce our chance of survival."

"Even in peacetime, U-boat service is dangerous. Remember how the Graff Spee ran over one of our boats?"

I shook my head. Janek would certainly not back me up.

#

During the night, the wind shifted to north and soon died. Bright stars replaced the overcast. In the real world of a sailor, this would have gladden the heart. But according to our dead reckoning plot we were not much more than 120 miles from Iceland, now in British hands. Airplanes would ruin our day. I glanced at Hagel. He had been on the bridge for nearly 36 hours. He stood, his arms wrapped around the bulwark, his chin against his chest.



A few minutes before twilight, I was about to call Decker for the first star shoot in a week.

"Message from Montmartre, Herr Kaleun," someone shouted from inside the conning tower.

Hagel jerked awake and went below.

The night began to pale when Decker and Botswain Feldman came to the bridge. Quickly, Decker made three star observations, while Feldman marked the time and wrote down the elevations. When they were finished, I asked, "What's the Old Man doing?"

"He's deciphering a message." Decker scurried below.

With alarm, I realized we had nearly unlimited visibility. The sea had changed to a deep blue with the occasional whitecap here and there.

A whistle drew my ear to the speaking tube. "Bridge, new heading, one-six-five. We're going down to decks awash, speed four knots."

Finally we were doing something sensible.

Decker returned to the bridge, this time to relieve me. With a wide grin, he said, "We're going home. The Old Man expects you to join him for breakfast."

"Guten Morgen, Herr Kaleun," I said, glancing at the cognac bottle on the table.

"Nehmen sie platz," he answered with a tired smile on his face. "Have a cognac."

I poured a dollop into a mug.

"Prosit. Here's to Operation Montmartre. It is a resounding success."

"Oh?"

For the first time since he came on board, Hagel smiled. "Montmartre was a metereological station in Iceland. The British invasion forced them underground and we were part of the rescue operation. With the weather clearing, an airplane picked them up at dawn."

"I'm glad to hear that."

"Not as glad as me. My wife, was the chief metereologist there."

The End

------------------------------------------------

Story by: Brag
Forum: Subsim
------------------------------------------------

Ant__.
03-07-2007, 10:57 AM
Ok Well we have our first subsim member story and I feel it is really well done


Excellent! Let's see it William66th! http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/25.gif

As for fourm access issues, I'll request a meeting with BDU to discuss this and get back to you.

TheRealPotoroo
03-07-2007, 10:35 PM
Aargh! Only 10 days until the deadline. Where does the time go?

I'd read Brag's story before, it's been on his website for a while. Mine is progressing, I just don't know where the time disappears to.

Ant__.
03-07-2007, 11:12 PM
As for fourm access issues, I'll request a meeting with BDU to discuss this and get back to you.


OK, following a meeting at the highestlevel, I'm informed there are no apparent forum issues. Subsim members need only to set up a Ubi 'account'in the normal way in order to post on the forum. They will be unable to post as 'Guests'

@ Pototroo - only 10 days left til the deadline - indeed, but there is a simple solution - forego sleep in the name of creativity! http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/16x16_smiley-very-happy.gif

William66th
03-08-2007, 10:11 AM
This is just a reminder that time is running and running fast so get your stories in if your writing them.

Mine is almost complete and should be up in the next few days.

Come on guys we need some interest here

Ant__.
03-08-2007, 12:49 PM
William66th - can you / have you updated your thread on the Story Comp over at Subsim?

I'm re-assured from the highest levels that all those guys need to do is register in the normal way here and they will be able to post directly. In the meantime of course, I appreciate your help with posting on their behalf http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/25.gif

Ony ten days left to post!!

William66th
03-09-2007, 09:25 AM
Yes I did infact, I ask people to register with the UBI forums. Hopefully still have enough time. I'm going to PM a few people over at Subsim who have written stories in the past and see if there intersted in writing for us.

Ant__.
03-09-2007, 02:03 PM
Good work my fellow Kaleun http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/25.gif

Whilst on the subject... How are works coming along from the 'Ubi' camp? Whilst I appreciate we all have demands outside of the forum*, A show of hands to indicate work in progress would be encouraging http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/25.gif

*Sleep = over rated, you can get by without it, try it! http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/16x16_smiley-very-happy.gif

miss_behavin_57
03-10-2007, 05:54 AM
Good day!

At the encouragement of William66th, I am posting "The Marlena Hessler Story" here for your viewing. I know the rules ask not to post a book, but this is it as it is. I hope you will forgive me for the length.

Also, this was written during the first phase of Wolves at War, or WaW1, if you will. Therefore there may be a few errors in my references.


Prologue

While playing over at Wolves at War They have one section in their forums called "War Diary." This is where one can post their boat's logs, tell an "in character" story, etc.

On Marlena Hessler's third patrol, she ran into a bit of a problem. After an air attack in the Denmark Strait, the flooding was at a higher level than the pumps could handle; therefore, after blowing ballast three times, she was able to surface her boat and abandon it.

At WAW, when you're in trouble, your flottille commander will make every effort possible to get other boats to your area to effect a rescue; so basically, you are interacting with other players.

I started writing in the War Diaries, what was intended to be a very short story about the demise of U-406 and subsequent rescue of her crew. Well, once I got started I was on a roll and it is now at page 84 in my 'Word' documents.

This has been an ongoing story as it has had to be written as the actions of others took place. When you see radio messages in the story, those from other boats or FdU, are the actual messages from them, not written by myself. You may see reference to a bar in the story called the Drakkar. This is the Flotille forum where one can enter 'in character' posts. I only mention that now as reference to it will come up in the story that I am about to post.

My reason for posting it here is that there have been some WAW members greatly enjoying it and I have been PM'd and asked to post it over here as well.

I welcome comments but for those would-be critics, bear in mind that much of this was written in haste as sometimes the other players involved had to wait on messages from U-406 before they could play their mission in SH3 appropriately.

Hope that you enjoy it.

Cheers!

Miss Behavin'



Chapter One Her Last Dive

At 15.11 hours, on the 30th of March, the watch spotted an enemy aircraft approaching from the southeast. By my standing orders, an alarm was immediately given to crash dive to seventy meters, simultaneously with a turn hard to port to throw off the approaching aircraft's aim; more commonly know as a knuckle' maneuver.

Since the 17th, we had received such attacks on an almost daily basis, sometimes twice in the same day. It was almost becoming routine. This time it wasn't.

We had a good twenty meters of water above us and still diving rapidly when a large explosion sounded and rocked the boat, throwing many of us to the deck, despite how much we were hanging on in preparation. Fuses blew, and numerous seals were leaking but all that was forgotten beneath the ominous sound of men screaming orders and the sound of inrushing water in the forward compartment; and no small amount at that.

The repair crew, headed by Leutnant (j.g.) Willi Niebling, was immediately moving into the stricken compartment. In the meantime we listened as other depth-charges detonated; fortunately, not as close as the one that pounded us just a moment ago.

Within a few minutes, Niebling had rushed back to the command room, a look of dread on his face and before even speaking, I could tell by his entire demeanor that he bore no good news. "Kaleu Hessler, we must stop diving immediately and prepare to abandon the boat!" he exclaimed.

For a fraction of a second I looked at him incredulously, wanting so much for this to be some form of crude joke. I knew better though, even as the thought crossed my mind. Willi, wizard that he is in the quick repair of the boats various systems, would never be known for a thriving sense of humor. By then we were at fifty meters and still diving. I immediately ordered trim to level the boat and bring her back toward the surface.

In less than a minute he explained the situation; the main cause for alarm being a breach in the pressure hull itself. The incoming volume of water was at least twice what the pumps could handle and within minutes there would be no saving the men forward. On that note I gave the command for all men forward of the radio room to abandon those compartments. They wasted little time doing so and as the last one came into the command room, the hatch was closed and sealed.

In that short amount of time, we were now at seventy meters. The boat had leveled out to some extent but was still resisting our attempts to begin ascending. I ordered the ballast tanks blown which was immediately done but no visible effect took place. Two more applications of pressurized air were required before the boats nose was pointed at the surface and we began rising. I knew that little pressurized air remained to be able to do so again, and how long we would have on the surface would, most likely, be quite minimal.

Ringlemann, my XO, was given orders to prepare the crew to abandon the boat. Meanwhile, I headed to the radio room to prepare an SOS for Seaman 1st class Wiese to get out immediately upon surfacing. The fear was quite evident on his face and I gave his shoulder a firm grip as I assured him that I would not leave his side until he went out ahead of me. I had no intention of any of my crew leaving this boat after myself. I would be the last.

We did not have long to wait. I could hear the crew getting ready as they began crowding toward the control room. I found myself focusing on the myriad sounds of the boat that had become home to me. I could not help but wonder if it would be the last time I heard them for the sea was rough above us and I knew our chances for rescue would be slim at best. I could only hope that the aircraft that had attacked us would radio our position to a nearby enemy destroyer; and even then, would they be able to mount a rescue, or even try in such heavy seas. I hoped so. Lasting out the remainder of the war in a POW camp would be much more preferable to slowly succumbing to the cold of these Icelandic waters.

It was only minutes before we broke surface but it seemed like an eternity. Many thoughts and memories came to mind during the interlude. I wondered if my picture would soon join those on the memorial wall at the Drakkar. A gnawing feeling of despair began settling over me like a death shroud and I tried to fight it off, attempting to keep my wits about me to do all until my last breathe to save these men; men who so desperately depended upon me to bring them home. It was at that moment that a calm befell me and I would be told later that a warm smile came to my face. I was remembering a warm hand squeezing mine as we parted company to prepare for war. Were his feelings the same? Would he think of me much after I was gone? I could not say, but I knew then that I was not going to give up without a fight.

At that moment, hatches were thrown open and the crew were making good their escape, safety lines lashing them together once on deck as they inflated the rafts. Escape to what fate we did not know, the only certain thing being a cold watery grave if we remained with the boat too much longer.

Wiese was already pounding away on the telegrapher's key. I willed him to move faster as water could now be seen trickling under the hatch between us and the forward compartment. My subconscious wanted to panic and flee yet at the same time I could feel a non-present hand holding my own as if assuring me that there would be enough time. "Done!", Wiese exclaimed, jumping up from his seat to race toward escape. Another explosion rocked the boat and from above I could hear the screams of injured and terrified men. For a moment, ridiculous as it was, I thought that somehow one of the forward torpedoes had detonated. Then the sound of an aircraft reached my ears through the open hatch and I knew that the enemy aircraft had come back to finish the job. Could he not see that the job was already done; that we were abandoning the vessel?

Rage made a red haze fill my vision as I followed on the heels of the radioman. The second explosion had apparently hit alongside the command room as I could see water streaming in through multiple gashes in the hull and in the short time it took me to grab the rungs of the ladder, the frigid water was up to my knees.

As I came onto the tower, the carnage that greeted me put a knot in my stomach. I could see at least four men dead, their bodies ripped asunder, and I suspected there were more I did not immediately see. Blood was everywhere and crewmen were yelling at me from the life rafts. On the heavy swells they were struggling to keep the raft in position, while at the same time the u-boat was rapidly settling beneath my feet.

As I climbed over the railing to leap to the relative safety of the flimsy raft, my ears were filled with the roar of the bombers engines and my skin crawled with fear, expecting any moment for another bomb to make mincemeat of all of us, or to be chewed up by bullets from the aircrafts gunners. I landed half in, half out of the raft and got thoroughly soaked by icy water before numerous hands grabbed hold of me and pulled me the rest of the way in. The feared rending of jagged shrapnel or searing hot lead did not come however. Apparently the bomber crew could see that we were finished and circled us a number of times as we did our best to stay together; struggling in the heavy seas to lash the rafts together and take care of our wounded. I turned to look back at the 406 just in time to see the tower slip below the crest of a wave, never to be seen again by the eyes of man.

I could not say exactly how long the plane circled us but eventually it turned and headed off to disappear to the east; most likely heading to a base in Iceland. Had they radioed our position? Had anyone picked up our transmission? There was no way of knowing. All I knew for sure is that if rescue did not come soon, only by a miracle would they find us in these seas; and then would we even be alive. I could already see many of the men shivering and I realized that my teeth were chattering too as I tried to help comfort one of the wounded men that was aboard our raft.

Time seemed to have come to a standstill. Minutes dragged on into what felt like hours yet, checking my watch with numbed fingers, only one hour had passed since our attacker had disappeared. This was the worst part now, the waiting, utterly helpless to do anything as the bitter cold seeped deeper into our bones. As I listened to the keening wind, one could imagine how ancient mariners came to believe in the sirens that lured unwary sailors to their deaths. We had all become quieter, each crewman turning within himself as though to conserve that last bit of energy and internal warmth that bred life. I was struggling to keep my eyes open, the cold sapping away my strength and the wind singing to me as a lullaby beckons one to sleep; a sleep from which one would not wake.

A hand shook my arm and I struggled to be free from it, resenting its intrusion into the peaceful calm that was settling over me. Then I could hear others crying out and as the hand shook me again, someone calling my name, I forced my eyes open and shook my head to clear it. The hand that had forced me awake was that of the radioman, Wiese, and with effusive gesturing, I realized he was pointing at something. I squinted to look in the direction he was indicating and though my face was numb from the cold, I knew that I smiled for I saw the green eyes of the man in my thoughts. I yearned to feel his touch once more. Then my vision cleared and the eyes became one, and it grew nearer. In a moment the single glowing eye became that of the green starboard navigation lamp of a trawler that came looming into view, riding the swell of a wave. Many of the crew were crying out to get their attention, although I knew that they would not be heard over the wind and roar of the sea. Despite that, even I cried out with joy that we were to be clutched from the jaws of what just a moment ago was certain death.

A few of the crewmen had flashlights and were waving them about. Those on the trawler evidently saw them as its bow soon swung in our direction and slowed, the vessel making just enough headway to maneuver closer; crewmen gathering on her rolling deck as lifelines were being prepared.

Within minutes we were being assisted aboard. For many of us, including myself, quite literally as we had become too cold and lethargic to be able to do much of anything. It was no mean feat by far as the heaving sea made it difficult to keep one's footing, let alone do much else. Under different circumstances and were my spirits in better condition, I would have been amused by the look of shock when the fisherman helping me aboard realized that the U-boat commander was a woman! As cold and tired as I was, my mind was still working and I could not help but wonder if I could work that to our advantage.

The crew were being led below but I refused to leave the deck until I saw the last of my crewmen brought aboard. The look in my eyes must have told the fishermen that I meant business and rather than have an undesirable scene on a pitching deck, they decided to leave me be whilst they retrieved the rest of my crew. Turning my attention back to the proceedings, it was then, to my horror, that I realized one of the rafts was missing. Apparently the lashings had given way in the rough seas and the raft drifted silently away from the main group, nobody the wiser in their cold, huddle state. My eyes scanned the horizon and claws of doom clutched at my heart when no sign of it could be seen.

We had been drifting for almost two hours before the trawler found us. Seven of my men had been killed during the second attack of the enemy aircraft and it was quite likely that more would succumb to their wounds before they could receive proper medical attention. If this missing raft were not found, and soon, there would be eight more added to that list. I wished to stay topside while the vessel searched for them, but the authority of a British Sten gun cradled in the arms of an insistent fisherman turned guard overrode my wishes and I was escorted inside.


================================================== ======================


Chapter Two It's Not the Queen Mary?

Unlike the rest of my crew, I was led up to the bridge to meet Captain Gestur r
Jhannsson, master of the vessel. His age was hard to determine as he bore the weathered look of one who has spent many years at sea. Forced to guess I would have put him in his forties somewhere as he was developing a bit of a paunch, which age was making more difficult to avoid. So far I had seen no one wearing a uniform of any kind and the captain was no exception, dressed in somewhat rumpled slacks and a heavy, grey, pull-over sweater. The Sten-gun held by my escort had been the only thing of a military nature I had yet seen.

Even though he had already been informed that one of those rescued was a woman, there must have resided some doubt for he was obviously taken aback as he turned to look at me. His eyes were of a piercing Nordic blue and I could not say that I was overly pleased with the way he was looking me over. My chin was lifted in a defiant state and I gave him my name,

"I am Oberleutnant Marlena Hessler, commander of the U-406. I have men who are hurt and I would be appreciative if you could provide any medical supplies that you may have on board. There is also another raft with eight men aboard. I am hoping that you will be continuing your search for them as well."

For a moment, he continued to silently look me over in a speculative way. I returned his gaze with an equal air of quiescence. After a moment he spoke and I was fortunate that German is a predominant language in Iceland. The dialect was different, more of the Old Norse' but I was accustomed to this from having grown up around my grandfather who sometimes spoke in a similar way.

"So, Germany is getting so desperate that they are now sending women to sea, eh?"

I did not care for the haughty tone of his voice and had to bite my tongue to stifle the reply that immediately came to mind. I chose a better path of discretion to answer instead with a repeat of request of aid for my wounded and continued search for the missing raft.

With an air of impatience, he informed me that they would indeed continue to look for the other raft, albeit, with little chance of finding it in these sea. The rolling deck beneath my feet reminded me of the conditions outside and with a sinking feeling I had to mentally concede that he was right. There was little hope for my missing crewmen.

He followed with, "We will continue to look, at least until you and your crew are handed over to the British or the Americans, whichever comes first."

He turned his attention momentarily to a another of his crew on the bridge to order him below with their medical kit for the prisoners. For this I thanked him. All the while, my mind was racing in search of some advantage. It could only be a matter of hours at the most before a destroyer or the like could rendezvous with the trawler. Looking out the forward windows at the condition of the sea, however, made me wonder how on earth they hoped to be able to transfer us to the larger vessel. As it was I was still impressed with their skill in plucking us out of the water without anyone getting hurt or lost overboard.

I was opening my mouth to request to be taken to my crew when another fellow entered, a look of hesitation as he glanced first at me and then the captain. Impatiently the Captain asked, "Well? What is it?"

The one who had just entered hesitated, as is wont to do for bearers with bad news.

"It is the American destroyer Captain. They claim that they will be unable to conduct the transfer of prisoners in these seas. We are to take them to their military facility at Hvalfjordur."

You could almost see the poor fellow cringe. Looking at the captain, I could see why, as a vivid red climbed up his neck and into his face like a rising thermometer.

"What," he bellowed! "And how do they expect me to profit from a load of German prisoners. A fine price THEY will bring at the fish market! This is outrageous!"

The young man, who must fill in as their radio operator, chose that moment to make good his escape. I am certain that a corner of my mouth lifted in a smirk. The vessel could be making no more than six knots and at that speed it would be a good six days to Hvalfjordur, plenty of time for us to take advantage of any opportunity should it arise. The captain was now pacing, at least as much as the small confines of the bridge would allow. As looked back at me I quickly forced any look of smugness from my face, replacing it with one of sincere commiseration. Actually, I did feel a little sorry for him, but in light of my situation and that of my crew, was thankful for the extra time before we were turned over to the allies.

"I am sorry for your inconvenience Captain. I suppose that it is little consolation that you have my gratitude for rescuing myself and my crew."

Flinging up his hands with an exasperated, "Bah!" he wheels about to face me.

"Did they not already know that I have you aboard, I swear to God I would be tempted to cast you all back into the sea. This is disgraceful! Coming back with empty holds. I suppose there will be some compensation, but nothing to what a hold full of fish would have brought."

For a moment he stood there and glared at me, his countenance one of contemplation. In the meantime, I watched his heightened pulse rate in the bulging blood-vessels at his temples while wondering how many more years would go by before this man suffered a massive stroke.

After a moment, his rage began to subside and his shoulders took a slight slump. I mentally relaxed for I could tell that he had just become resigned to returning home empty-handed, so to speak.

He removed his cap to run a hand through his hair and with a sigh,

"Alright then, nothing to be done for it. How much trouble are you and your bunch going to be to me?"

At this point, I offered him a reassuring smile.

"None at all Captain; providing, that is, that we are treated within the mandates as called out by the Geneva Convention for prisoners of war."

The exasperated look was beginning to return. The man was a fisherman and it was obvious that he was clueless as to what the Geneva Convention dictated. Seeing this, I then attempted to give a brief rundown of what, as our captor, was expected of him.

I couldn't help but be a bit amused as his look of exasperation was quickly turning to one of astonishment.

"What do you think this is!?" he exclaimed, "some sort of luxury resort!? This is a fishing trawler, not the Queen Mary! How do you propose I am to provide these things that you say are in this Geneva Convention; and how do I know you are not just making all of that up?"

I was doing all that I could to keep the bemused smile from spreading across my face, but his arms were starting to wave up and down as he spoke and I could not help but be reminded of a little toy clown I had as a child. It was on a stick and its arms and legs would go up and down when you pulled on a string.

"No need to get excited Captain. I am not asking for all that. I am well aware of your limited resources. Anything you can do Captain, anything. Blankets. Some hot food perhaps? They will be grateful enough for that."

With that he relaxed somewhat.

"Yeah? And what is in it for me if I do, eh?"

That look' was coming into his eyes again and I sighed to myself, thinking that this was going to be a very long six days if I did not play my cards right.

Letting all of my tiredness show, "My undying gratitude Captain, for one. But for right now, I too could use something to eat, not to mention a few hours of uninterrupted sleep. I am still cold, hungry, tired; I stink, and would like to see to the conditions of my crew. I assure you that at this moment I am the farthest thing away there is to being anything resembling social graces."

This seemed to get through to him and he looked at me in a different light of awareness, finally realizing that I, as well as the rest of my crew, were exhausted from the hell we had been through over the last three hours.

"Alright then, I will see to these things, but don't expect anything fancy."

He then ordered my guard to take me to see my crew and afterwards to be ensconced in his quarters. As I was led away, I was hoping that the dcor of his quarters did not include him.


================================================== ======================


Chapter Three - Fish Stew and Sten Guns

I was led to the vessel's mess room where I was greeted with the sight of twenty-nine men crammed into a space designed for half that. Perfect, I thought, they should all feel right at home. My XO, Leutnant Ringelmann, as efficient as ever, had the men arranged about the room in a fashion that, amazingly enough, still left just enough space where one man could maneuver about, either to disburse food or where one could get back and forth to the head.

The wounded were placed on the outer fringes nearer the door so as to ease Ringelmann's access to them, a necessity, as he was also my boat medical officer. When the war started, he'd already had over a years worth of medical school under his belt so, by default, was elected to the position.

The space was small and the air stale, but it was relatively warm; and a palace when compared to being tossed about in a liferaft in freezing waters. Blankets had been distributed, albeit many had to serve for two, there just not being enough to go around, and some of the men were still finishing what smelled like some sort of a fish stew. It smelled wonderful. Others had already drifted off into an exhausted sleep.

So, Captain Jhannsson was perhaps not the gruff and recalcitrant savior he made out to be. There had not been time enough for all of this to have been distributed after our discussion of the matter. I was grateful to realize that my men had been seen to as soon as they had been brought aboard.

As I stepped into the room, no more than two feet actually as any farther I would be in the way, Ringelmann, who was just finishing tending to one of the wounded, noticed my presence and rose to greet me, relieved to see that I was alright.

My first inquiry was to the condition of the wounded. Most would probably be alright with minor shrapnel wounds but two of them, Dorwald and Theil, he did not hold much optimism for. Medical supplies had been provided but even so, those were limited and there was only so much he could do under these circumstances. They needed a hospital. All of this, he explained to me under a lowered voice.

Looking over the men and the space available, of which I could see only enough for one, probably Ringelmann's, he regretfully accounted as to how this was the best he could do in fitting them all in here. Gesturing to the one space left, next to the wounded, he offered to share with me as he would probably be up most of the time anyway.

Smiling and giving his shoulder a squeeze, "It is alright Albert. Captain Jhannsson has insisted that I utilize his quarters." Albert, to whom I will refer as such from here on, narrowed his eyes in suspicious inquiry.

I shrugged my shoulders, knowing where his thoughts were going, "I don't know, perhaps. We'll just have to hope that he is a proper gentleman and merely being a good host, no?" Albert didn't look convinced.

Aware that our guards, fishermen turned soldiers, were only a few feet behind me just outside the open door, I switched to French, knowing that Albert spoke it fluently. With a sly smile, I winked at him and said, "Have you seen that horrible thing on the side of that fisherman's neck?"

Albert glanced past my shoulder then smiled. In French he replied, "Not a flutter of an eyelid. In fact, they seem more interested in keeping their distance, at least as much as they can on this small tub."

For a moment, I could see a longing look in Alberts eyes as he watched them and the scent of cigarette smoke reached my nose. Albert was a smoking man and one didn't get to enjoy them very much when aboard a consistently damp and enclosed U-boat. Reverting back to German, I turned to my captors. "Gentlemen. Is it possible that I could persuade you to part with some of those for my men?"

Our guard with the cigarette paused, looking past me at all of my men then, with a begrudging but conscientious expression, produced from a pocket an almost full pack. Taking it, I gave him the most charming smile I could muster and beseeched, "Two? Please?"

Seeing him balk at that, I reached up and unfastened the top button of my blouse. A startled look came across the guards face and I realized that he thought that I was up to something else entirely. Men! From around my neck I removed a delicate gold chain that supported a small gold crucifix and extended it to him in offering.

He was lifting his hand to take it when Albert stated with a bit of alarm, "Kaleun Hessler! Did you not tell me that your mother gave that to you as a gift when you graduated the academy?"

"Yes Albert," I replied. "But that's not important right now."

The guard's hand has frozen in midair and a guilty look had come to his expression. Withdrawing his hand, he told me to keep the cross. He could not take that, but would get my men more cigarettes. I graciously thanked him then turned back to Albert, handing him the pack of smokes. "Do you still have your lighter?" I inquired.

"Of course," he answered. "You should not have done that; and I am glad that he refused it. I know how much that means to you. I would not have felt comfortable in taking them."

Gesturing to the men then looking back at him, "Albert, right now, you and these men are what is important." Switching back to French, "Know this, that should the opportunity arise, I will do whatever I have to do to secure our escape and return home." Like a good chess-player, I was already thinking six moves ahead and told him, "If one of the guards comes and asks for my headache medicine, be prepared for anything and ready to move. Be sure to inform the men. Until then, sit tight and look as harmless as possible."

We both looked at the men, all of them either prostrate or sitting, many of them asleep, then at each other with a smile. Albert exclaimed, "I don't think that will be too hard to accomplish. Headache medicine?"

With a bit of an embarrassed smile, "Oh shut up. I had to think of some sort of signal didn't I? You want better than that, go hire some spy from Etappendienst. We're not finished yet."

Alberts expression turned to one of concern. "Be careful, okay?"

I tried to reassure him with a smile, unsuccessfully I think. Inclining my head toward our guards, "These are fisherman Albert, not soldiers, but even then, yes, I will be careful."

Before I could turn to leave, he grasped my arm. "Fishermen, yes, but just remember, those Sten-guns are not fishing hooks."

I nodded and with that, turned back to my captors. Reverting back to German, "I am finished now. Thank you for looking after them."

They looked almost embarrassed by my gratitude, rough men accustomed to an even rougher life, but I suppose that to them, regardless of whose flag we sailed under, we were all sailors in one fashion or another. I was relieved with the conviction that my crew would not be mistreated. The one who had escorted me to the mess room, motioned ahead with the wicked-looking muzzle of his weapon and I stepped out of the room to retrace our path.

Along the way, trying to sound casual, "So many prisoners. Don't you think you should break out more weapons?"

"Two are all that we have," he replied, a trace of disgust in his voice. "The British weren't very generous in giving them out to civilians."

To belay any fears he may have had in this regard, I stated, "Well, no worries Leifur. I have ordered my crew to behave themselves. The war is over for us."

He seemed surprised that I knew his name and I explained that I had heard his companion outside the mess room address him so, which indeed I had. He seemed pleased by this and although I would not swear to it, I had the feeling that this fisherman who shared the same language as mine, would have been more happy to see us back to our homeland than handed over to the allies. It is something that I made a mental note of and tucked away for further use if need be.

I was guided to a different door rather than back to the bridge. Opening it revealed what was obviously the Captain's quarters. Despite his rumpled appearance when meeting him on the bridge, the room was surprisingly neat and orderly. Upon entering, my escort reached in to grasp the handle and closed the door behind me. I waited for the sound of a lock engaging but did not hear it. So, they did not seem to be too concerned that I would pose any trouble. All the better. Without going so far as to search the drawers, I performed a cursory search of the room nonetheless. I was not so foolish as to believe that anything that could be used as an effective weapon would be left for me to find.

I had been in the room no more than five minutes or so when there was a knock. Whoever it was, I suspected the Captain, I told to come in and as it opened, it revealed instead the ship's cook who entered with a tray laden with bread, real butter, a bowl of the same fish stew I had smelled earlier in the mess room and, of all things, a steaming mug of coffee; and not that horrible ersatz stuff either! As the aroma of it reached my nostrils, I inhaled deeply. My God! I didn't think anybody could even get the real thing anymore, what with the war and all. I couldn't even remember the last time I'd had real coffee. The cook actually looked apologetic that this was all he could offer. Right now it looked like a feast to me and I thanked him gratefully, assuring him that this was perfectly fine. Once he was satisfied that I was more than content with the offerings, he left, looking quite pleased with himself. I smiled, wondering if he had ever waited on a woman before.

The heady aromas emanating from the simple repast were overpowering but not as much as the coffee. Seating myself at the small table I took a sip of the brew and found it amazing how one could find something so precious that had before, been so common. Taking my time with the coffee so as to savor it, I sampled the stew and found it tasting even better than it smelled, a trace of rich spices to enhance yet not overpower it. I found myself wondering if the cook was as good a fisherman as he was a chef.

Initially, I'd had no appetite when we were hauled aboard the trawler but as I ate, I discovered that I was starving. It is amazing how much stress and exhaustion can take out of a person. The stew was made short work of, the last dregs being sopped up with a piece of bread, and I was in a state of repose, enjoying the last of the coffee when there was a knock on the door before it opened, Captain Jhannsson stepping in but leaving the door open where I could see, beyond him, my erstwhile guard, Leifur. The crew were not as attentive as I would have preferred were I in the captain's shoes, yet he was not being entirely foolish either.

"I'm sorry, am I intruding?" his gaze momentarily going to the unfinished remnants of my dinner.

"Not at all," I replied. "I was just finishing and taking the luxury of enjoying your coffee. We can't get that anymore in Germany unless you wish to pay an arm and a leg on the black market for it."

He actually smiled, something I had come to believe he was incapable of. "Well, it is not available in large quantities, but there is more if you want it. I hope that the meal met with your satisfaction. I trust that you are satisfied with the arrangements provided for your crew. I fear it is the largest room available, short of the hold itself."

Tempted though I was to ask for more coffee, I was finding it harder to think clearly as my exhaustion was finally starting to get the better of me. As good as the coffee was, the bunk was starting to look far more inviting. I glanced longingly at the basin where clean towels hung and a fresh bar of soap lay waiting.

By something in his tone I sensed that the coffee was perhaps not as easy to come by as he would have me believe. "No, thank you Captain. It was delicious, but at this point, I think I would like nothing more than the opportunity to clean up and get some sleep. Thank you for the use of your cabin."

"Not at all. I seldom use it other than to sleep and for that I can trade off with my first mate. Please, make yourself comfortable."

I could see his eyes make a brief examination of the room, perhaps trying to ascertain if I had been rifling the drawers or cabinets.

Seeing this, I disarmed him somewhat by saying, "Captain, I just want you to know that I appreciate the trouble you have been put to in our regard. I will do all that I can to make sure we are no more trouble to you than we already are; and, um, I would not be so rude as to profane your hospitality by going through your things." At least he had enough decency to look embarrassed by having suspected that I had already done so.

"Besides, the only thing I could have possibly been looking for, I see you have tucked in the waistband of your trousers." my eyes lowering to the butt of the French "Lebel" revolver.

My last statement made him look even more uncomfortable. It was obvious that he was not accustomed to carrying it. I took note that the butt pointed toward his left side, indicating that he was left-handed, making it all that much easier for myself, being right-handed, to grab hold of it were the opportunity to arise. One more little fact to tuck away for future possibilities.

His hand gesturing toward the gun, "You will have to forgive me, but, even with your assurances, you cannot blame me for taking precautions."

"No apology necessary Captain. You do not strike me as a foolish man." Actually, they all seemed more careless than I would have expected, but then, I also reminded myself that these men were not soldiers, hence accustomed to being in the vicinity of dangerous people. Of course, I was not about to tell him as much. Just one more thing in our favor.

Clearing his throat, I could see that he was having difficulty with something when, with a sincerely regretful inflection, he informed me that they were turning for home where we would be turned over to the Americans. This meant that they were abandoning the continued search for my missing crewmen aboard the wayward raft. Knowing that there was practically no chance of his finding them anyway, it pained me, but I silently nodded in acquiescence.

"I am sorry Frau Hessler," he said, then turned for the door, for a moment lingering, watching me as that earlier look came into his eyes again. "You will want to rest now."

My eyes fell to the wedding band he wore and as he was about to step into the passageway, I said "Captain, your wife. She must miss you during your long stays at sea?"

He had stopped when I addressed him and at mention of a wife, I could see a brief grimace of emotional pain wash across his countenance. For a moment he said nothing. He just stood there. Then with a look as though a great burden were upon his shoulders, he said, "Not any more," then turned and left me to my own company.

I rose from my seat and went over to close the door, offering Leifur a genial smile before doing so. There was a latch upon the door and although it looked relatively flimsy, unable to stand up to any sort of serious forced entry, I bolted it anyway. I then went to the basin and, with many thoughts coursing through my mind, proceeded to strip and clean up as much as the small confines of the cabin would allow. As much as I would have liked to crawl under the inviting quilt just as I was, I could not afford to be caught unready for anything that might present itself. A fresh uniform would have been nice, then I immediately felt guilty as I thought of my crew, disbursed about the floor of the mess while I luxuriated with a sink bath of hot water and soap, and a warm, comfortable looking bunk awaiting me.

To atone, I quickly donned my salt encrusted uniform and crawled into the bunk. I didn't have the heart, however, to foul the sheets therefore I lay between the blanket and the quilt, pulling it in about my shoulders as I nestled into the embracing comfort of the mattress and coverings. I could smell the maleness of Captain Jhannsson on the pillow and as exhaustion and sleep overcame me, a smile came to my face as my thoughts drifted to another, one with eyes of green.


================================================== ======================


Chapter Four - A Plan Foments

As tired as I was, I slept fitfully, the sound of depth charges exploding near our boat, to be repeated over and over. It was then that I woke to the sound of someone pounding on the door.

"Frau Hessler, please. Do not make me break the lock on my own door."

I recognized the voice as that of Captain Jhannsson and while trying to clear the cobwebs and fading nightmare from my head, "A moment, please!"

I quickly rose and went to the basin where I took a moment to splash cold water in my face, the better to waken and bring myself to full alertness. From there I went to the door and, slipping the bolt, opened it to find Captain Jhannsson, my guard Leifur, and the cook all congregated outside in the narrow passageway.

"Frau Hessler, you had us a bit concerned. Do you sleep as late when aboard your U-boats?"

I glanced at my watch to discover that it was almost oh-eight-hundred hours. I felt my face flush with embarrassment. This must have amused the Captain for he bore a wry smile as I stepped back from the door, allowing him and the cook to enter. The cook, whose name I later learned was Gstav Helgason, went past me to set a tray on the small table. Again, there was bread and butter, a cup of coffee, and something whose look and aroma reminded me of a Quiche. He gave me a smile and looked as though he would like to linger but a gaze from the Captain sent him on his way; not, however before I was sure to thank him, mouthing the words, "It looks delicious." I found myself amused by the thought of shanghaiing him to be MY cook.

I was about to express to the Captain that I would like to dine with my crew but remembering the crowded conditions where they were, I remained silent, deigning not to. By now, they had probably already eaten anyway.

Again, the door was left open where the Sten-gun wielding Leifur could see and hear everything within the room. The Captain gestured toward my waiting breakfast, "Please, Frau Hessler, do not let me keep you. It will get cold. When you are finished, let Leifur know and he will take you to your crew. I imagine you would like to see them again; perhaps to verify that I am abiding by your Geneva Convention rules."

He turned to leave as I was sitting down to the table but paused upon reaching the door. Turning to look at me, "Tell me Frau Hessler, why did you ask me about my wife last evening?"

My mind was racing as when I had asked, my thoughts weren't very polite ones; at the moment only trying to ascertain what his intentions might be toward myself.

"I don't know really. I saw the ring, and more than that, I sensed something about you. Sadness, loneliness," shrugging my shoulders, "I really don't know for sure."

His gaze turned to one of inner speculation as he nodded his head. "Perhaps. I was merely curious as it seemed a strange question from one in your situation." He nodded and turned to leave then caught himself once more. "I was thinking Frau Hessler; perhaps you would be kind enough to join me for dinner this evening. I usually eat alone but . . ."

"I would be delighted to Captain Jhannsson," I replied quickly, hoping that I did not sound too eager.

He smiled, pleased by my answer. "I will send for you then at that time," then turning and disappearing into the passageway.

Leifur, reaching in to close the door, "Is everything alright Frau Hessler?"

I paused in lifting the mug of coffee to my lips to look at him. Offering a forced smile as everything certainly was not alright, "Under my current circumstances Leifur, I suppose they are good enough. It will have to do won't it?"

He looked a little embarrassed by his question and offered an apologetic smile as he quietly closed the door. I didn't actually wish to dine with Captain Jhannsson yet at the same time, did not wish to anger him or do anything else that would give him inclination to detain me with the rest of my crew. As long as I was out here, there was a better chance that I would be able to take advantage of any opportunity should it arise. I have never considered myself a very good liar nor in possession of any credible acting qualities. I was praying that he did not detect anything amongst my thoughts other than resigned cooperation until we made port. As I made to partake of the excellent breakfast Gstav had prepared for me, something about Leifur's weapon nagged at the back of my mind. At the moment I could not determine what it was for the life of me.

Finishing breakfast and savoring the cup of coffee while entertaining various thoughts, I quickly discarded one scheme after another. Regretfully, the coffee was soon gone and I rose to use the facilities in the cramped water closet adjoining the Captain's cabin. Pausing afterward to freshen up at the basin, I picked up the tray of empty breakfast dishes before opening the door to inform Leifur that I was ready to visit my crew. Already informed by the Captain that this was to be allowed, he simply nodded and stepped aside so that I could precede him.

Allowing myself the risk of a brief glance at the Sten-gun, it struck me like an electric shock as to what had been niggling at me regarding his weapon. Hope raced through me as I pondered the possibilities and I quickly attempted to cover any sign of my countenance arousing suspicion with Leifur by continuing down the passageway while saying back over my shoulder, "You must get awfully bored standing around all day guarding me. Doesn't that thing get heavy after while?"

His quick smile in reply to my query showed that he believed himself forgiven for asking such an obviously stupid question earlier. "Not really," he countered. "We are going back home with an empty hold so I suppose I must earn my pay in some way. Besides, this is much easier than the myriad of other tasks the Captain could have me doing in the meantime."

With my back to him as we continued down the passage, a slight smile came to my lips for the pieces were falling together; I had a plan.


Chapter Five - Dorwald's Song

As I entered the Mess, my escort remained outside to converse with his counterpart. Albert, my XO and boat medic, rose from where he had been tending the two more serious of the wounded. Wiese, my radio operator, came forward and, nodding a greeting, took my tray where he then disappeared through another hatchway to the galley.

"How are they," I asked, nodding my head to Dorwald and Theil. I noticed that they now lay on mattresses, probably appropriated from the trawlers crew quarters.

With his back where the men could not see his face, he gave me a grim look that told me all I needed to know. "Dorwald will be lucky if he makes it another day. He has internal bleeding and infection has set in. Theil, I just don't know. His wounds are serious but he is stubborn."

I could see the exhaustion on Alberts face, dark circles beginning to form beneath his eyes. I would be surprised if he had had more than a few hours of sleep since our rescue; and I would order him to rest but I knew he would only disobey me. His frustration was obvious as well. I knew he had the skill to do more but without the facilities he was all but helpless.

With a sigh of utter resignation, Albert's shoulders slumped, "He knows he is dying, Kaleun. I have spoke with the captain and he assures me that he has given me everything he has. I believe him. He himself sent down the mattresses so as to try to make them more comfortable. There is a little morphine but I have been using it sparingly; saving it for when it really gets bad."

Feeling as helpless and frustrated as Albert, I knelt down next to Dorwald. His brow was beaded with the sweat of a fever and his pallor was that of a corpse. I took his hand in mine and as his morphine-dilated eyes opened to meet mine, I forced a smile to my lips with the vain hope of encouragement. I tried to remember how old he was but the memory failed me. I knew he couldn't be anymore than eighteen or nineteen, twenty at the most, but I doubted it. He looked so small laying there.

My heart was breaking. These men had put their trust in me to bring them home and I was failing them. In his other hand was a small wallet-sized photograph. I nodded to it and with barely enough strength to lift his arm, he handed it to me. In the photo was a young girl, certainly no older than he was. "Your girlfriend?" I asked; to which he replied with a nod and a smile of his own.

"Her name is Marlena, just like yours Kaleun. She is beautiful isn't she?"

This was more than I could bear yet I had to, for his sake. I was the one who had brought him to this final chapter of his far too short life and no one else could bear the responsibility but me. I bit the inside of my cheek to prevent a sob escaping my lips and nodded. With an indisguisable quaver in my voice, "Yes. She is very beautiful." Handing the photo back to him, "You are very lucky Dorwald." He took the photo back and gazed at it, a smile on his pale features.

"Is there anything I can do for you?" I asked, wishing that I could do far more than I could.

He looked back at me, his hand clutching the photo dropping slowly back down to his side, and for a moment he looked like a shy little boy as he nodded. Opening his mouth a few times as though to speak, he seemed reluctant and I had to encourage him. "Go ahead Dorwald, what is it?"

I realized that the Mess had grown silent, the focus of the rest of the crew directed solely on myself and Dorwald. His voice was weak and I could tell it was a struggle for him but he spoke nonetheless. "I have heard it said that you sing Kaleun Hessler."

Having posting problems due to size. To be continued......

miss_behavin_57
03-10-2007, 06:00 AM
His eyes looked into mine as I held his hand, a fragile glimmer of hope lighting his eyes. My mind raced with panic, recalling that as of late my singing debut was usually at the Drakkar and even then, only when I was well on the way to being thoroughly inebriated. I may sound fine to a bunch of half-drunken U-boat captains and officers, but now? Here? Despite myself, I found myself nodding in confirmation. "Is there any song in particular Dorwald?"

In barely more than a whisper, he replied, "C'Etait Une Histoire D'Amour"

It was a very popular French love song by the acclaimed Edith Piaf. I knew it well, often humming it to myself when thinking of someone I had come to regard as special.

I nodded and, taking a deep breath to compose myself, I started.

J´ai connu des jours magnifiques.
L´amour tait mon serviteur.
La vie chantait comme un´ musique
Et elle m´offrait des tas d´bonheurs
Mais j´en achetais sans compter:
J´avais mon cœur dpenser.

C´tait un histoire d´amour.
C´tait comme un beau jour de fte,
Plein de soleil et de guinguettes,
O le printemps m´faisait la cour
Mais quand le histoir´s sont trop jolies,
a ne peut pas durer toujours.
C´tait une histoire d´amour.
Ma part de joie, ma part de rve,
Il a bien fallu qu´ell´ s´achve
Pour me faire un chagrin d´amour.

Et tant pis si mes nuits sont blanches,
Tant pis pour moi si j´pleur´ tout l´temps.
C´est le chagrin qui prend sa r´vanche.
Y a qu´le chagrin qui est content.
Vraiment, il y a de quoi rire.
J´ai l´impression d´vouloir mourir.

C´tait un histoire d´amour.
C´tait comme un beau jour de fte,
Plein de soleil et de guinguettes,
O le printemps m´faisait la cour
Mais quand les histoir´s son trop jolies,
a ne peut pas durer toujours...
C´tait une histoire d´amour
Dont rien dsormais ne demeure.
Il faut toujours que quelqu´un pleure
Pour faire une histoire d´amour[/i]


Halfway through, a peaceful smile had encompassed his young face and by the end his eyes were closed; his breathing so shallow that for a moment I thought he had died. With a panicked look I turned my gaze to Albert but he smiled and grasped my shoulder, "He is only asleep. I will look after him now. It is a good thing you have done for him."

I rose on trembling legs, for a moment looking at the rest of my crew and I was met with reassuring nods. I could feel warm tears running down my face but I didn't care by then. Their expressions still showed an unfaltering trust in me; a trust I did not feel I deserved.
Even the guards outside the door had fallen silent, mesmerized by the somber atmosphere.

I wanted so badly to just let go. To just let all my sorrow pour out, but not yet. For a while longer I had to be strong. Too many were still depending on me. It would come though. Of that I had no doubt. One can only hold in so much. For now, it had to be forced aside, letting my frustrations and anger focus on the moment at hand.

Speaking in French again, with the two guards so close at hand, "I have to talk to you Arnold. I have a plan but right now it is too quiet here. Soon though." While speaking, I made it a point to periodically glance down at Dorwald so as to lead the guards to believe that we were discussing him, perhaps in a different language so that he would not realize we were discussing his impending demise. I could not afford to have them get suspicious now that my plan was so close to realization. I broke away from Arnold and killed time by moving about the crew, stopping here and there to speak to some, offering words of encouragement but not so much as to cause any excitement. To the few officers and non-coms I could trust to maintain a stoic expression, I explained a bit more in detail, for the most part to just be ready and wait for the XO's signal.

As conversation amongst the crew slowly regained its former level, I returned to Arnold, to explain what I had in mind. He looked at me with an expression of utter dismay. "Have you lost your mind?" he exclaimed. "You're going to get yourself killed! What good is that going to do anybody?"

"Keep your voice down and get hold of yourself. You'll be attracting their attention," shifting my eyes toward the open doorway where the two guards stood on duty. So far we were lucky as they were ensconced in their own conversation and seemed little enough interested in us. In a beseeching tone, "Albert. If we believed what you said every time we take a risk, we would all scuttle our boats right in their pens and nobody would leave the harbor."

Resignedly, he nodded in agreement. Once he had recomposed himself to a reasonable level, I went on to explain more of the details, including what I had noticed about Leifur's weapon. This last revelation caught his interest significantly and I could tell it was all he could do not to look toward Leifur with surprise, hence possibly alerting him to something amiss.

He still didn't like the idea but when challenged to come up with something better, he had to concede that he couldn't; nothing short of simply rushing them while they were both together. Shaking my head, I told him no. The doorway was too narrow to allow more than one man to pass at a time and they always leaned against the opposing bulkhead where they could look into the Mess. It might work but it might also get a number of our men killed too. I have heard stories about the nasty effectiveness of a Sten-gun, especially in close confines, and I didn't want to see it demonstrated here. I was not willing to risk any more than myself until I could be certain that the firearms were in the hands of my own people instead of Captain Jhannsson's. Now it was just a matter of waiting.

Under escort of my guard, I returned once to the captain's cabin under the guise of needing the use of the facilities. While there, I used a piece of scrap paper to fold together a small packet not too much larger than a postage stamp. This I filled with the powder from one of the bottles in the medicine cabinet, folding over the flap and sealing it as best I could with a dab of Kolynos dental cream. This I pocketed, washed my hands, then rejoined my guard to return to the Mess.

More time in casual conversation was spent and Albert asked me of my plans once again; shaking his head in disbelief that I intended to attempt carrying it out. As midday drew near, Gstav, the trawler's cook, came through lugging a heavy-looking tureen with a basket of sandwiches tucked precariously under one arm; by the aroma, I guessed corned beef. I offered the assistance of one of my men and after a short conversation with our guards, this was allowed, one of them going along with them. Many of my crew were stirring in anticipation of lunch and I did a double-take when I noticed four of them in the corner playing cards. I shook my head in wonderment. Leave it to a bunch of sailors to have a deck of cards, even when abandoning ship in the middle of a tossing sea.

Albert, fearing my impending actions, utilized his medical knowledge to enlighten me about various nerve points on the human body and how I could possibly use them to suppress an attacker when unarmed. He covered the carotid sinuses in the neck, but focused mainly on the hypoglossal, vagus and glossopharyngeal nerves, warning me that with the first one I could easily kill my opponent were I not careful with it; showing me just how he estimated one should properly strike for the best effect; glancing at the door first to make sure Leifur was not watching.

I studied Albert for a moment, a bit stunned. "I thought you were studying to become a doctor?" I said, with not a small amount of surprise in my voice.

Albert merely shrugged his shoulders, "What can heal, can also kill. I prefer the former myself, but..."

"I feel sorry for anybody you ever get in a bar-fight with," I retorted.

By then, Gstav had returned along with the crewman I had sent to assist him. To the delight of my crew, he informed them that they were next as he disappeared into the galley. As their conversation was picking up, Leifur called me to the doorway and informed me that the Captain would be pleased if I joined him for lunch.

This caught me a bit off guard as I wasn't expecting to be seeing him until this evening. On the other hand, I could not prepare any more than I already had and the waiting was the worst. Looking back toward Albert, "Well, earlier than expected, huh?" giving him a slight nod. "By the way, you got my headache medicine upon leaving the boat didn't you? I feel one coming on." He nodded knowingly and with that I turned and left the Mess, preceding Leifur down the passageway.


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Chapter Six Hard to Swallow

By now I was familiar with the route and by Leifur's direction proceeded directly to Captain Jhannsson's cabin. Leifur, by now, had come to be so lax around me that I almost felt sorry for him; almost. From behind me he reached around to knock on the door and I used the opportunity to turn allowing more room for him to do so. At the same time it gave me a better view of his weapon; all the better to ascertain that its condition was still the same as before. To my great relief, it still was.

As tempted as I was to grab it from him right there, I suffered no illusions that although Leifur was no bigger than most average men, life aboard a trawler was no environment for weaklings and that he'd probably overpower me. Even then, unless I was immediately successful, there was still the Captain just inside with that Lebel revolver of his. No, I thought to myself, stick with the plan.

From inside came the Captain's voice, "Come in."

I gave Leifur a disarming smile and opened the door myself to step in; as before leaving the door open with Leifur left standing just outside. The Captain was standing beside the table which had been set properly, a tureen of soup centered with corned-beef sandwiches to the side.

He looked genuinely pleased that I had accepted his invitation and with a rather self-conscious bow, greeted me and invited me to sit. I had to give the poor fellow credit, at least he was trying.

After I had seated myself, he addressed Leifur, asking him to close the door before he himself took a chair. Well, I thought, this is new. The ante has just been raised. Gesturing to the door, he asked, "Do you mind?"

I shook my head, "No, of course not."

He looked slightly uncomfortable; as though there were things he wanted to say but did not know how to go about it. "It's just that, well, I thought we could speak of other things more openly without others . . . well . . ."

Knowing that I had to keep him off guard and without suspicion, I reached across the small table, resting my hand on his. "It is alright Captain, really, I understand."

This action on my part came as an obvious surprise to him and for a moment nothing was said. At the same time, I did not fail to notice that he did not withdraw his. I left mine there long enough to send just the right signal before retrieving it. A distinctly disappointed look came to his eyes as I did and I pretended not to notice; instead turning my attention to the fare lay out before us. Besides the sandwiches, on bread that was still warm from the oven, there was again fresh coffee but this time, one could not help but notice that there was also an opened bottle of wine to one side. I lifted the lid on the tureen to better smell the exquisite aroma emanating from within.

Captain Jhannsson explained, "It is Saltkjt og baunir, a soup of lamb, split peas, potatoes, onions, carrots, rutabagas, and smoked bacon. It is one of Gstav's specialties.

It smelled exhilarating. With my mouth already watering, I threw all pride aside and ladled a generous portion of it into the bowl provided for me. Between that and the corned-beef sandwich, which by it's size was a meal unto itself alone, I was going to be stuffed. I couldn't see any point, however, in engaging my plans on an empty stomach and I still needed a little time to build myself up for what I was going to do.

"Tell me Captain; is there anything that Gstav does not specialize in? Everything I have eaten prepared by his hand has been excellent."

"I will be sure to tell him that you approve," replied Jhannsson. He smiled, watching me eat for a few moments before starting himself. "Oh, my apologies. You would like some wine?"

As much as I would like to, I had to keep a clear head. "I know it may violate etiquette, but can we wait until afterward Captain. I would like to be able to savor it. I fear where we will be going it is going to be a long time before I get the opportunity again."

His hand paused at the bottle then retreated, "Yes, of course. Quite understandable."

He seemed pleased by that. Perhaps in anticipation that I was in no hurry to eat and get back to my men. He ate more slowly than me. It looked as though he was building himself up to talk about something that was not comfortable for him. After a few moments, I found that I was right.

Laying down his fork, his hands clasped together on the table before him, "You had asked about my wife." A single statement.

With that, I paused as well, looking up at him. He was not looking at me but staring intently at his hands. I could easily see that this was not easy for him. I really did not want to hear his story. I did not want to become close to any of these people; especially one whom I may very well be killing in the next few minutes. Nonetheless, I had to play the game. Anything else that kept his attention away from anything suspicious was all the better. "Really Captain. I can see that it pains you. You do not have to tell me about it."

"No, I want to." For a moment his eyes met mine and I could see his need. From what he had said before I could only presume that she was dead. I could see in those eyes that life had not been easy for him since them. His gaze had gone back to his hands. "Please." His voice was barely audible. "It will be the first time I have spoken of it with anybody."

To encourage him, I said, "Then perhaps you should Captain. It is not good to hold things in for too long. I am right here."

For a brief moment he looked at me again, grateful, before returning his focus to his hands. He actually looked, scared. My God, I thought! Was this man falling in love with me? Impossible! He scarcely knew me. Yet, the signs were there. I silently prayed that he was not. I would never make it in the spying business. I have always had the tendency to care about people too much; especially when they are hurting.

He started by saying that his wife had been dead for over two years now, a heart attack. He had been at sea at the time and she had already been buried a week upon his return home.

I would have liked to have eaten a bit more but to do so would have been rude, not to mention making me look indifferent to his suffering; and I wasn't either. In a short time I was going to attack this man. I had my self and my crew to think of. If nothing else it was my duty. He was certainly not making it any easier.

I was forced to listen as he continued on; talking of their long years together and of how close they had been. I found myself feeling like a cold hearted bittch as I reached across to lay my hand on his. A false comfort for him as I was already altering my plan to meet the setting.

In my pocket was the packet of bicarbonate of soda. He would not look at me as he spoke and it was the perfect time to slip it into my mouth, biting it open to let it mix with my saliva. While it began foaming, I would have bit the inside of my cheek hard enough to draw blood and then let the red foamy mixture escape my lips as I pretended a seizure of some kind. Perhaps overdramatic yes, but enough to alarm him and draw him close to give aid where I would have then attacked; attempting to get his gun from where it rested in his waistband.

Now none of that ruse would be necessary. The Captain was completely immersed in his story as he poured his heart out to me. Taking a deep breath, I rose from my chair, coming around the table to position myself behind him, resting my hands on his shoulders while giving them a gentle squeeze. He was completely oblivious to my ill intent and rambled on. I could clearly see the vital nerve points that Albert had shown me and I took another breath in anticipation for my next move.

Closing my hands into fists with the thumbs extended, I mentally counted to three then, as hard as I could, rammed the tips of my thumbs into the hollows just behind his jaw and under the earlobes. The result was spectacular to say the least. Captain Jhannsson head snapped back as his whole body convulsed in a spasmodic jerk, at the same time a sharp grunt of pain escaped his lips before he went slack and slumped over. I was hoping that the sound of that did not travel beyond the door but I was wasting no time in pulling the Captain back in his chair so that I could access his revolver.

There was a light knock at the door, "Captain?" It was Leifur, an inquisitive tone to his voice. For a moment I was in a state of panic as the weapon would not come free. Taking a quick, deep breath to calm myself. I recognized the problem and worked the gun free from his waistband, the front sight having gotten caught on the material.

The knock was repeated, more urgently this time. "Captain, is everything alright?" His voice was becoming increasingly more concerned.

I let go of the Captain, allowing his body to slump over to his left against the bulkhead beside the table. Quickly checking to make sure the pistol was loaded, I turned to face the door, "Everything is fine Leifur, but please, do come in."

I watched as the handle turned and the hesitant Leifur poked his head inside. Had the situation not been more grim, I would have laughed as Leifur's eyes went wide upon seeing the Captain slumped over and then turning to me to find himself looking down the wrong end of a gun barrel.

The moment was tense and I feared that he would bolt. Even if I tried firing, with only his head poking in, I would most likely miss. My fears were alleviated however as he seemed frozen in place, his pallor growing paler by the second. For a moment I was afraid that he was going to faint. I highly suspected that this was the first time in his life someone had ever pointed a gun at him. The Captain could have done a better job of selecting his guards. Poor Leifur, I actually felt sorry for him. The Sten-gun was harmlessly slung over his shoulder.

"Leifur, listen carefully. Your Captain will be okay," I was hoping anyway. "Come in now or you will not be." His eyes kept jumping back and forth from the inert form of Captain Jhannsson to the threatening maw of the pistol. "I like you Leifur, but do not make the grave mistake of thinking that I will not shoot you if I have to. Now, come in and shut the door behind you."

My words finally seemed to have sunk in. He swallowed nervously and did as ordered, turning to close the door after doing so. Doing that, he turned to face me again, a hurt expression as though I had betrayed him.

"I'm sorry Leifur, but if you follow my instructions, there is no need for anyone else to get hurt. First, carefully unsling your weapon and lay it on the floor."

Doing as ordered, Leifur slowly slipped the sling from his shoulder; but then, his gaze shifted to his Stricken Captain. "You said there would be no trouble! I believed you!" He jerked the gun up; leveled the muzzle at me and, closing his eyes, squeezed the trigger. I almost shot him right there out of fear that he may have discovered his oversight. It wasn't necessary however as the weapon did not fire. As he opened his eyes in puzzlement, I let out the breath I had been holding. He looked down at the Sten-gun with a bewildered expression.

"Now Leifur, put it down. I swear before God that if you try that again, I will indeed shoot you." His shoulders sagged in resignation and he complied, bending over to place the weapon on the floor. At my command he then kicked it over where it slid to my feet.

Without taking my eyes or aim from him, I squatted down and picked up the ugly little machinegun. "From here on Leifur, I think you should stick to fishing only," as I raised a thumb to flip the safety off. If he looked betrayed before, his expression now turned to one of utter defeat.

To my right, I heard a moan from Captain Jhannsson, and could see him beginning to stir in my peripheral vision.

Leifur's eyes widened. "He really is alive! I thought you had killed him."

"No Leifur," I replied. "I don't want to kill anybody and if you cooperate, it will not have to happen. Now go over there and see to your Captain. I imagine he will welcome a drink of that wine to help alleviate the pain.

miss_behavin_57
03-10-2007, 06:02 AM
Chapter Seven Don't Drop the Ball

While Leifur was assisting in restoring the Captain, I was sitting on the edge of the bed, relatively safe in the small room with the table between myself and them. Full consciousness had returned to Captain Jhannsson and for the moment was silent as he gently massaged where I had struck him. I was expecting bullets to fly from his eyes toward me but instead he wore an expression more of hurt than anything else. He had been opening his heart to me, the first person for him to do so since the death of his wife, and I had not repaid him in a very kind manner. I think I would have preferred him mad.

"I am sorry that I had to do that Captain, truly I am; but I did not think that you were going to hand over your pistol simply by my asking..."

He shook his head in disbelief. The look of anguish had not entirely gone away. I was wishing that it would. "So," he said, "just what do you propose to do now Frau Hessler? Sail this boat all the way to Germany?"

"Now, now Captain. Don't be facetious. You and I both know that this vessel does not have enough fuel for that; and I highly doubt that we could convince the allies to loan us any along the way. Simply put, I intend to secure the freedom of myself and my crew and see to our safe return to France."

"My plan is simple, it's as full of holes as your fishing nets, but as long as nobody tries to become a hero, no one will get hurt. With the exception of breaking my neck with your own hands, I don't think you want that any more than I do."

While talking, I had removed the magazine from the Sten-gun and pulled back the bolt to eject the round from the chamber, all the while keeping the revolver close at hand. To my surprise, the chamber was empty. Looking at Leifur, a chastisement came to my lips but he already looked miserable enough so I chose not to rub it in. Somehow, I did not think I would be so lucky as to find his counterpart with the other machinegun quite as careless.

Removing all of the cartridges from the magazine, I then locked it back into the weapon. Setting it down and picking up the revolver, "What we're going to do next could go any number of ways. Leifur is going to take this Sten-gun and return to the where my men are. He is going to tell his counterpart that you wish to see him and take his place at the door. Leifur, you will wait five minutes after he leaves and then tell my XO, Ringelmann, that I wish my headache powders and then hand the weapon to him. Of course, I expect you to inform him that it is unloaded. You will then lead him back here."

Leifur's eyes were wide, his head moving side to side in denial. The look of pain had gone on Captain Jhannsson's face; now he just looked amused. "Do you really think that I am going to order him to do that?" he said.

"Yes, I do." I replied, "Because I am going to sit back down in my chair and be holding this pistol in my lap under that napkin there. It will be aimed straight at you. Should anything else occur other than the return of the other guard, I will shoot you. When he does, you will order him to lay down his weapon."

Now the Captain was looking disgusted. "After what I have told you, do you really believe that my life is that important to me anymore?"

I was expecting something like that. While formulating my plan, I had also come to the conclusion that Leifur was not of the heroic sort. Like most, he was the type who kept his head down, followed orders, and got by. I was praying fervently that I was right.

"No Captain, I don't. But I do believe that you still care about the welfare of your men, just as much as Leifur cares about yours." Shifting my gaze to Leifur, "Do you believe that I will shoot your Captain?"

He thought about this for a moment then slowly shaking his head, "No Frau Hessler. I don't believe that you will. You are not a murderess."

I looked at him with a sad expression and sighed. "That is too bad then Leifur. You force me then to go to an alternate plan. You will have only yourself to blame for the results." I rose, pistol in hand, and picked up the pillow from the bed with the other. Placing it over the muzzle to suppress the sound, I aimed it directly at the Captain who stiffened in preparation for the shot, "I am truly sorry Captain; this is not the way that I wanted it."

"No! Don't!" Leifur cried. "I believe you! Alright? I believe you, and God dam you for it!"

Lowering the pillow, but still keeping the revolver pointed in their vicinity, I took a deep breath as I sat back down on the bed. Leifur's expression of emotional pain was even worse than the Captain's had been. I think he had truly come to like me a bit and now I appeared to him as some dark, cold-hearted murderess. A good thing for me that they did not see through my bluff. A chill ran through me as a little voice spoke in the back of my mind, "Was it bluff? Really?" The part that chilled me was that I could not truly answer that. All I knew was that I was prepared to go to great extremes to see to the welfare and safety of my crew.

With great anguish in his voice, Leifur apologized to Captain Jhannsson. "I am sorry Sir, but . . ."

"It is alright Leifur," said the Captain. With a sigh, "By my orders, do as she says."

I was opening my mouth to speak when Jhannsson continued, "You had better get hold of yourself first though. Sveinsson is going to get suspicious if you go there looking as you do. Here," passing the bottle of wine to Leifur, "drink some of this."

My thoughts were the same, of which I was about to say something when the Captain spoke up. Leifur took a couple of good swallows from the bottle, looking at me with a countenance of utter contempt. By now, the Captain looked merely resigned.

Jhannsson was looking at me as he said, "Do I have your word Frau Hessler that none of my men will be harmed?" Leifur followed it with a mumbled, "For what that is worth!"

I was surprised to find that his remark actually hurt. I did not feel good about what I had to do, but the welfare of my crew was of more importance.

"Yes Captain. With your cooperation I give you my solemn oath that I will see to the safety of your men as much as my own."

With that, he nodded, then turned to Leifur. "Are you ready then?"

Leifur still looked more agitated than I would have liked but I supposed it would have to do. Where's a good actor when you need one, I thought to myself. Taking no chances, I handed the unloaded Sten-gun to Leifur with my fully extended arm so as not to have to get any closer than necessary; stepping back afterward.

"Tell Sveinsson that I have remembered something I wanted to ask him about that work he did last week on the engines," the Captain said to Leifur. "Also tell him that you are not feeling well and that he is to come back and relieve you immediately after seeing me."

Leifur nodded, then to me, "Anything else?"

I shook my head no, but reminded him, "Five minutes Leifur, then . . ."

Cutting me off, "Yes!" I know, hand over the gun and headache powders. I'm not stupid!" an angry Leifur retorted. He really didn't like me anymore I thought; as he turned and went to the door, opening it, then disappearing into the passageway. Well, for better or for worse, the ball was rolling.

I went over and closed the door then came back and took my place at the table. Doing that, I then rested the pistol in my lap as I draped the linen napkin over it, effectively concealing it from view by anyone coming in the door.

"Thank you for your cooperation Captain. I really don't want anyone to get hurt."

With an unmistakable sound of disgust in his voice, "Please Frau Hessler, do not insult me with your banal apologies. I'm cooperating for the sake of my crew and that only. Don't take it for anything more than that."

His words cut to the bone. It hurt, for I truly did care about his loss and suffering. On the other hand, this made it easier. I chose to remain silent and sip my coffee while waiting for Sveinsson to arrive; or for all hell to break loose, one or the other.


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Chapter Eight Countdown


Leifur approached Sveinsson who languished against the bulkhead opposite the doorway to the Mess. Fearing that Sveinsson would see the deception in his eyes, he kept his gaze downcast as he relayed the Captain's message.

"I thought he was with that German woman," Sveinsson exclaimed.

"He is," replied Leifur, but you also know how he is when he gets his mind on something too. Go on, he is waiting."

Sveinsson was looking apprehensive. "Well, I hope he isn't going to ***** at me about those injectors. I told him they were not the right ones; but did he listen to me? No! Say, Leifur. Are you okay? You're not looking so good."

"I'm not feeling so great," which wasn't exactly a lie for Leifur, "I don't think the Saltkjt og baunir is setting with me too well."

Meanwhile, my XO and some of the others were already aware of my being up to something when I had left. Word had spread and the level of conversation was subdued as they waited for whatever was going to happen. The attention of my XO, Albert, was peaked as he eavesdropped on the conversation going on outside the doorway. There was no knowing what was happening but at least he had heard no gunfire; so far anyway.

Leifur's thoughts were awhirl. He wanted so badly to do something. Something that would put everything right, but he was so afraid. What if he messed up, What if he got the Captain killed. Would she really do it? She had seemed so nice before. Maybe he'd just better do what the Captain said. He just didn't know.

"You look like ****!" said Sveinsson, "Maybe if you're sick, I shouldn't leave you alone to watch the prisoners then."

Oh no, thought Leifur, this isn't the way it's supposed to go at all. "No, I'll be okay, really. If I feel too bad, I can always call Gustav out here."

"Gstav!" exclaimed Sveinsson, "He'd most likely shoot his own foot off!" Sveinsson rubbed his beard as he contemplated his friend's appearance. This didn't help Leifur's nervousness and beads of sweat broke out on his brow.

Sveinsson frowned. "I think we'll call Gstav out here anyway. You look like you're about to keel over." Sveinsson stepped to the doorway and Leifur started to protest but closed his mouth as his counterpart just raised a hand halting further dissent.

Gstav Helgason, the trawlers chef de extraordinaire" poked his head out of the galley whereas Sveinsson motioned him over with a jerk of his head. "I want you to stay out here with Leifur and watch the prisoners until I get back," stated Sveinsson. "He is not feeling well, which was a definite fact regarding Leifur's mental state at the moment. "Leifer, give him your gun. No, wait," as Sveinsson eyeballed Gstav, thinking that he had probably never handled a firearm in his entire life, "instead, you watch the prisoners Leifur, but Gstav," turning his attention to him, "if he looks like he is about to pass out or something, you take it and watch them, okay?"

Gstav didn't look overly enthusiastic about the idea but nodded a quiet assent. With that, and somewhat reluctantly, Sveinsson headed off down the passageway to find out what the Captain wanted to ***** about this time.

With a bleak expression, Leifur looked at his watch and made a mental note of when five minutes had passed. Gstav was immediately fidgety. "I can't wait out here!" he exclaimed, "I have things going in the kitchen!"

Almost relieved to have anything to talk about that would take his mind away from what he was doing, Leifur replied, "Sveinsson will kick your butt if you don't do as he said."

With an air of bravado, now that the burly Sveinsson was not present, "No he won't," said Gstav, "not if he doesn't want to be running to the head every ten minutes again." Defying Sveinsson's instructions, he flipped the towel he had been holding over his shoulder and proceeded back through the Mess to disappear into the realm of his kitchen.
Leifur couldn't help himself; a snort and chuckle escaping his lips as he remembered the scene of Sveinsson running for the head with a panicked expression; unbuttoning his trousers along the way. At least he was smarter than Sveinsson. It is not a good idea to get your cook irritated with you. He glanced at his watch again.

From within the Mess, Albert had taken note of Leifur's preoccupation with the time and turning his head, gave a slight nod to the other officers and non-coms. They discreetly nodded in return and carefully, so as not to attract attention, positioned themselves so as to be able to better spring to action when the moment arrived. It was right then that they all involuntarily jumped when a muffled, distant gunshot reached their ears from the passageway, some of them rising to their feet in a state of apprehension.

Leifur's head snapped in that direction, looking back down the passageway, then as quickly at his watch. Four minutes had passed. My God he thought, what is happening. Has she killed him? His face screwed up with worry, trying to decide. Then he remembered, the gun was unloaded, there was little he could do if these men decided to rush him. Looking into the Mess, he was startled to see that they looked like that was precisely what many of them were about to do. Marlena's hunch had been right. Leifur was no hero. Four minutes was close enough. At that, he stepped into the Mess, extending the Sten-gun in an unthreatening fashion to Albert whose eyes, needless to say, had gone wide with surprise. With a resigned sigh, "She said to tell you that she needed her headache powders."

Leutnant Ringelmann quickly overcame his shock and grabbed the weapon from Leifur's hands. Giving Leifur a shove toward the door, he exclaimed, "Lead the way! NOW!"

A procession of officers, non-coms and crewmen, led by Leifur and Hessler's XO armed with the Sten-gun, stormed rapidly up the passageway toward the Captain's cabin; along the way Albert pulling back the bolt to ensure that the weapon was ready with a round locked and loaded in it's chamber. He brought up short when to his dismay, the bolt stayed locked back because of the empty magazine. His mouth agape, he looked at Leifur questioningly. Leifur cringed under the accusing glare. In defense, "She did it, not me!"

Albert shook his head in disbelief, wondering just what the holle he was supposed to do with an empty machinegun. Nonetheless, with the sound of that gunshot echoing in his mind, he removed the magazine thus allowing the bolt to go forward, locked it back into place and, with a deep breath of resolve, resumed his hasty progress toward his Kaleun's location, hoping to holle that he didn't meet with an armed confrontation along the way.

miss_behavin_57
03-10-2007, 06:02 AM
Chapter Nine Roundup Time

For Marlena, time seemed to have stopped altogether. Leifur had left only a few minutes ago but the passing moments of tense silence between herself and Captain Jhannsson seemed interminable. He was behaving himself, but his icy glare did not make me feel any more comfortable than I already was, which was very little to say the least. Keeping an eye on him with my peripheral vision, I chose not to meet his eyes directly but put on an air of casual indifference by sipping my coffee while we waited. Inside, however, I was anything but calm. I was tense, at any moment expecting to hear chaos as my plan fell apart like smoke in the wind. What seemed like an hour later, yet was less than ten minutes after Leifur's departure, there was a knock on the door. "It's Sveinsson sir."

I looked up at the Captain, who seemed hesitant. I raised a brow and reminded him that I held all the aces, or at least I hoped so, by tapping the underside of the table with the barrel of the revolver. "Remember our agreement Captain."

He sighed and nodded, then countered with, "Yes, just make sure that you remember yours." Turning his face toward the door, "Yes Sveinsson, come in."

The door opened to reveal a curious, but fortunately not suspicious, looking Sveinsson, his hand still holding the doorknob while the wicked-looking Sten-gun lay cradled in his other arm, a finger laying across, but not in the trigger guard. He looked at me, discounted my presence, then returned an inquisitive look to his Captain. No, I thought, do not make the mistake of thinking that Sveinsson may be as careless as Leifur.

Our position within the room was such that my left side was presented to the doorway. With great care so as not to expose the revolver lying hidden on my lap, I turned the muzzle to bring it's aim toward Sveinsson's presence; at the same time, lowering my left elbow into my lap while holding the cup of coffee. This posture helped to hide my actions as I raised the muzzle of the Lebel. I dared not look down, wishing not to distract Sveinsson's attention away from the Captain.

"About the engines, Captain?" Sveinsson inquired.

"Yes, Sveinsson," replied Jhannsson, "Do come in, and close the door please."

The guard frowned at this, now expecting something more lengthy than just a question or two. In a posture of resignation, he stepped inside, turning to close the door behind himself. I chose this moment to look at the captain, giving him a curt nod to continue with my instructions.

As Sveinsson turned back to face us, Captain Jhannsson said, "Put your weapon down Sveinsson, we have a situation."

I inwardly groaned, thinking I could have thought of something less alarming to say; then perhaps the Captain meant to say exactly what he had. A deep frown permeated Sveinsson's features as his mind attempted to take in what was going on. The look did not become him, making him look almost Neanderthalic. His eyes, now filled with suspicion, flitted back and forth between myself and the Captain. Then they dropped to my lap. I had set the cup of coffee down and by doing so, had revealed the black maw of the pistol aimed at his torso.

I was hoping that he wouldn't, but we don't always get what we wish for. In that brief instant, dawning came to his eyes as they went wide, his other hand coming across to grasp the mean-looking little machinegun as it was already starting to swing my way. The startled "No!" that spewed forth from the Captain's lips was drowned out by the loud report as the revolver bucked in my hand.

Although the Lebel is generally considered underpowered, at such close range, the 8mm, 120 gr. chunk of jacketed lead, moving in excess of 800 feet per second, proved quite effective as it caught Sveinsson just under his sternum. He stumbled back hard against the wall and a look of disbelieving surprise encompassed his features. The focus was leaving his eyes as his legs began to give way, allowing him to slowly slide down the wall, the Sten-gun still clutched ineffectively in his right hand.

Captain Jhannsson, his face suffused with rage, was immediately on his feet, his chair falling backward and I whirled on him, the pistol aimed at his chest. "Sit down!" I yelled at him.

"You gave your word!" he barked at me.

"I gave my word that I would ensure the same safety as that of my crew. I did NOT promise that I would not defend myself! You knew as well as I that he was about to fire. It is as much your fault for saying what you did, "We have a situation? Jesus Christ! What did you expect him to do? Present flowers?" I retorted.

It wasn't supposed to happen this way. The Captain was trembling in a apoplectic rage, his hands clenched into fists at his sides. Fearing he would try something, this situation had to be disarmed, and quickly. Attempting to get control of myself, my system on edge with the adrenaline that was coursing through me, I forced myself to speak in a tone less than a scream, "Sit down," I repeated. It was then that I could hear booted feet thundering up the passageway in this direction. I was fervently doing a mental prayer that it was my men and not any of the trawlers other crewmen. Not wishing to take my eyes off of the Captain, I nonetheless risked a quick glance at the Sten-gun still clutched in Sveinsson's cooling hands, trying to assess if I could get to it before the approaching throng arrived; not to mention doing so without having the Captain launch himself at me if I did. Deciding not to take the risk, I kept the revolver trained on the Captain and waited for whomever was coming. I was not pleased with doing what I had done, but in the same light, perhaps it would serve a purpose, an example that this was not a game. There would be no doubt from any now that I would do whatever was necessary; no more bluffing; if I ever was.

I did not have to wait long as Albert burst through the door, empty machinegun at the ready, his battle-ready gaze taking in the scene. Not realizing until then that I had been holding my breath, I gasped as I finally allowed myself to breathe. The Captain, seeing that the fight was lost before it even got started, sat down heavily. Seeing that Sveinsson would no longer be a threat to anyone on this world, Albert quickly explained that he had met some of the trawlers crew just as he reached this door. One look however at the Sten-gun in his hands quickly had them turn-tailed and heading back the way they came.

Taking control of the situation before something else went against us, I instructed Albert to take the weapon from the dead Sveinsson and secure the radio room. With a curt nod, this he did and was immediately off, a couple of non-coms on his heels. In his absence, a couple of my crew came into the room, one of them being Leutnant Pfennings. I instructed him to take the empty weapon that Albert had left behind. He would find the bullets concealed under the pillow on the bed. Finding the cartridges, hastened to load the weapon, looking at me for directions after doing so.

"Leave Schuller and Zinke with me, then, with the rest of the men, round up the trawler's crew. They can be placed in the Mess; and don't harm any of them unless absolutely necessary. Anyone who does will answer directly to me." All the time while saying this, I was listening for any further sound of gunfire and was relieved that so far there had been none.

Captain Jhannsson looked deflated, the fight gone out of him. He was sitting at the table, staring at his hands, a resigned look about him. Getting his attention, I ordered him to his feet and the three of us escorted him back to the Mess that had so recently been the prison for my crew. What crew there was that had not vacated when Albert led the charge to my rescue earlier, had been conscripted into the search for the trawler's crewmen, leaving only the wounded behind. Overhead, I could hear booted feet and the muffled chaos of orders being given as they were rounded up.

Upon entering the mess, the cook Gstav had been nervously peering out of his kitchen but had ducked back into hiding as soon as we had entered. Instructing Schuller and Zinke to round up the personal effects of our crew and move them over near the door, I ordered the Captain to have a seat at the far end of the room. I then approached the kitchen, wary as I reminded myself of the assorted array of sharp objects Gstav had at hand in there.

Standing just at the edge of the doorway, without exposing myself, I called out for Gstav to come out of there. His frightened reply was that he was afraid that I was going to shoot him. I could tell from the sound of his voice that he as somewhere at the far side of the galley so, taking a small risk, I stepped into the doorway to see him against the far wall, a rather nasty looking butcher knife clutched in one hand.

Sighing to myself, "Gstav, what are you doing? Do you really want to use that?" I inquired, now holding the gun in a non-threatening posture at my side. His eyes darted back and forth as though looking for an escape from the room. To his misfortune, there was only one doorway and I was standing right in the middle of it. "No, not really," he replied; then with more conviction, "But you're going to shoot me!"

"Gstav, listen to me. Why would I want to shoot you? Your cooking is fabulous and were I to do so, which I have absolutely no intention of, my crew would most likely mutiny against me in retaliation."

That elicited an embarrassed grin out of him. Lowering his blade, "Really?" he said.

"Yes, really!" I replied. "Look. Your crew still needs you, my men still need you, and I need you. If your cooking was a man, I would seduce him." Gstav grinned, flushing with embarrassed pride. "You are really wasting your time here. You should be cooking in a fine restaurant." He had unconsciously put the knife down, attuned and eager for more compliments. I was beginning to wonder if the crew of this boat realized how lucky they were. I continued to ply his ego with culinary compliments until he had all but forgotten his earlier fear. In the meantime, I could hear my crew escorting those of the trawler into the Mess hall. Stepping farther into the Galley so as not to invite a foolish attempt by one of the trawler crew to go for my gun, I continued talking to Gstav until he was satisfied that no one meant him any harm, certainly none amongst my crew. I teased him about how, given my choice, I would like to kidnap him for my own personal cook. With that he was happy again and was going back to what he did best. Nonetheless, glancing at the rack of knives, I made a mental note to leave the revolver with somebody to maintain an attentive but non-threatening watch on him.

Coming out to assess the current situation, Albert explained to me that the roundup went relatively well for the most part. A few resisted and one turned into a scuffle but the presence of the Sten-guns quickly humbled any over-enthusiastic sense of resistance. At this time, others were transferring my wounded to the more comfortable bunks of the trawler crew. I could not help but notice that Dorwald was looking much worse and it tore at my heart that there was nothing I could do for him.

I instructed Albert to set up a rotating watch, based more on the number of bunks available than anything else and to make it clear that I would not tolerate any pilfering of belongings from the vessels crew. It would not go well with them if I learned of it.

I took a few moments to explain to Jhannsson's men the situation and that as long as they behaved themselves, no one would be hurt and that they would be treated humanely. With a little cooperation, this would all be over soon enough and they could get back to their lives as they were before coming across us. With that, I handed the revolver over to another of my officers with instructions regarding Gstav, then collected Wiese, my radio operator, and headed for the wireless room. We had a message to get off. I just had to figure out how to code it so that the allies, who would no doubt intercept it, would not be able to decipher the important parts. On the other hand, there were things I wanted to be sure that they understood perfectly; like our possession of hostages. I was hoping that they would be our life insurance.


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Chapter Ten Woolgathering

Seaman 1st Class Wiese stopped tapping the telegraph key. "Whew! That is it, Kaleun Hessler, finished. Do you think they picked it up?"

I looked at the clock on the bulkhead over the radio; 1242 hours. That was a lot of message to send and I offered Wiese an apologetic smile. "Thank you Seaman Wiese. We can only hope so. But then," patting his shoulder, "you get to do it all over again in four hours." Poor Wiese groaned in mock despair but smiled as I knew that he was eager to assist in any way he could to help get us out of our predicament.

It had now been twenty-one and a half hours since sending our SOS from U-406. By the logs and charts aboard the trawler, Leutnant Pfennings placed us, as near as he could reckon, at the grid coordinates of AD5378. Albert, who had been invaluable in helping me get command of this vessel and everything assessed and in order, was standing by.

"Well Albert. The die is cast. Now we will see. Set course for AD2833."

Albert smiled, "Jawohl, Kaleun Hessler." He turned on his heel and exited the radio shack; heading for the bridge to see my orders carried out. The confines of the small radio room was stuffy so I stepped outside to get some air and clear my head. Albert knew as well as I that there was no doubt that the allies had intercepted that message. Even before it was finished they had probably already scrambled aircraft and were out looking for us. All we could do was hope that they had not gotten a fix on our radio signal and pinpointed our position precisely. If not, that might buy us a little more time. Either way, I had no doubt that they would eventually find us. The weather had that strange quality to it that leaves one guessing as to what it is going to do. Frankly, I was hoping for a cloud ceiling that would put their aircraft on the ground.

Would the hostage ploy work? All we could do is hope so. If not, then we were sailing to our deaths. No armor, guns, nothing to fend off any attacking aircraft; just bluff. At six knots, eight if we wanted to risk an engine breakdown, which I certainly did not, we would be at the rendezvous coordinates in nineteen hours; roughly 0700 hours tomorrow morning.

There was no way of knowing if there was another U-boat in the area. It was quite possible that by now they had expended all of their torpedoes and were halfway back home by now, if not already there. I looked out to sea, squinting my eyes as if I were silly enough to believe that I would see anything. Are you out there my love. I snickered to myself. My God Marlena, how could he possibly have any idea how you felt, I mused. What, one lingering touch of hands before dashing off to another session of holle. I shook my head in self-flagellation. Marlena, you are being pathetic. Do you really think he would be interested in somebody who may very well be dead before this war is over? Probably not.

But, it was all I had. Even if they were false hopes, they were hopes nonetheless. I glanced skyward. What about you God, are you listening? Just once, that's all that I ask. Let me live just long enough to feel the caress of those warm hands one more time, that's all I ask. That's not too much is it? No fortunes. No requests to live forever. I've never asked You for much, just a touch, that's all I ask for now and then you can take me; I will go happy.

I realized that I was not alone and shook myself out of my reverie to see Wiese standing at the railing alongside. He had a silly grin on his face and I could feel the heat as my face flushed with girlish embarrassment for having been caught woolgathering.

I grinned back, "What are you looking at Wiese, and what's so funny, eh?"

Wiese wiped the grin from his face but I could still see it lingering there just beneath the surface. "Nothing Kaleun Hessler. I was just wondering that's all."

"Wondering what?" I inquired.

His young features were all seriousness now as he replied, "If that's what it's like?"

I threw him a puzzled frown, "What on earth are you talking about, make sense sailor."

He smiled again, and, looking a little embarrassed himself now, he said, "Love, Kaleun Hessler; if that's what love is like?"

His statement startled me. Did it really show? Was that truly what I was feeling? Then I thought of his green eyes that changed hue with his mood. His charm, his wit, and even his sometimes silliness. Then the sum of it all struck me. Yes, it was; and I could feel that smile come to my face again.

Wiese's cry of delight snapped me out of it again. "That, Frau Hessler! When you get that smile, that look. Is that what love does to you?" He had that silly grin again and for the first time I really looked at him. He was so young. He'd have still been in school when the war started. What with the war and everything that goes with it, it was most likely that he had yet never experienced a true relationship with a girl; at least nothing beyond an evening of delight and an empty wallet to show for it in the morning; and for the first time I was truly scared, no, terrified. With the exception of some of my non-coms and officers, they were all just like Wiese, so young; and I was responsible for all of them.

Clearing my throat and recomposing myself, I said, with a mock tone of stern reprisal, "And what do you know about the subject Wiese. Go on with you. Get back to your station in case (albeit unlikely on open band) someone responds to our transmission."

Wiese turned his head to look amusedly at the open door of the radio shack only a few feet away. "But Kaleun Hessler, I can hear it just fine from here. Besides, everyone knows."

Now this really startled me. "What do you mean, everyone knows?" I demanded.

The tone of my voice had apparently changed and the grin fled from his face. He now looked like he was regretting ever asking. He was casting a sidelong look at the radio shack as if it were a den to escape to as he was attempting to stammer out a reply.

I realized that perhaps I had been harsh. Not meaning too, only that this revelation had set me off balance. I grasped his shoulder, giving him a gentle squeeze of reassurance. "It's okay Wiese. I did not mean to snap at you. I was just surprised that's all." In a gentler tone, "Now, would you please tell me what you meant by, everyone knows. Knows what?"

My flare of emotion had now startled Seaman Wiese and he was reminded that this was his commander he was talking to. Looking like he'd rather be anywhere else than here, "Just that, well, that you are in love Kaleun Hessler. You get that look all the time, more so when it is slow and nothing is happening."

I realized that I was frowning and Wiese must have taken it the wrong way for he quickly added, "Nobody is making fun Kaleun Hessler. We are all happy for you."

With that he clammed up, nervously fidgeting about. I smiled at him and told him it was okay. Though I know that I didn't really have to tell him, I reminded him to be sure not to get out of earshot of the radio. With that I walked off, leaving Wiese standing there with a forlorn look as though he feared he had revealed something that he wasn't supposed to.

I headed forward, dumbstruck, amazed that I had not noticed this. Everybody? My God! How many times had I been seen daydreaming, gathering wool as some put it. And to think that I had been complemented in the past for being observant of details. I snorted a derisive laugh at that. Now that was a joke. I was now disgusted with myself. To the crew I must look like some whimsical schoolgirl; her head in the clouds with romantic fantasies.

I must have had a sour lemons' look on my face as I came onto the bridge for Albert did a double-take then asked what was wrong. With a tone of vexation in my voice, I told him what Wiese had told me. "Why didn't you tell me Albert. How long were you going to let me wander about the boat looking like some whimsically romantic schoolchild?"

Now it was my turn to catch somebody off guard as Albert looked genuinely surprised. "I thought you knew Marlena. There is practically nothing that you miss. I just assumed that you knew."

Albert had been the one person aboard the boat whom from day one I was able to speak openly to about almost anything, especially where the boat or crew were concerned. I had trusted him assiduously. I was angry and did not attempt to hide it. I knew I had to get a grip on myself but right now I was feeling more the woman than the U-boat commander and I didn't want to. The loss of my boat, the downward trend of the war, losing members of my crew, Dorwald down there dying and nothing I could do about it, being in . . . .

Yes, say it . . . love.

I fled the bridge to step outside. I could feel Albert's presence as he followed me. Turning to face him, "I'm sorry Albert."

Looking completely perplexed, "For what? For being human?"

"Oh, I don't know," I replied. "I'm being such a woman!"

With that Albert looked amused. "Well, you will forgive me for saying so Kaleun Hessler, but most have taken notice that," ahem, "you are one; and if I may add, one helll of a woman as well."

"I can't afford to be Albert. There are too many things at stake, lives if nothing else. I have to be strong."

"And you are Marlena! More than you apparently know. You inspire this crew Marlena. They would follow you anywhere and I can tell you for a fact that there are more than a few who have bloodied their knuckles against those who would berate you. He's one lucky S.O.B. and I'll bet he doesn't even have a clue. Have you ever said anything to him?"

I shook my head no. "Does anyone else know who it is Albert? Anyone amongst the crew?"

"I haven't told them," he replied. "Oh, there have been a few who have asked but I tell them nothing; only that when you are ready for them to know, then they will know."

We were mutually silent for a moment, then he added, "They're behind you Marlena; and know this, that should he ever hurt you, there's going to a boatload of pissed-off U-boatmen looking for his sorry arse.

I started laughing. He had done it again. Albert always did have a knack for drawing me out of my darker moods. He was smiling at me and I shook my head in exasperation. "Well!" I snipped, "He'd just better not piss me off then, huh?"

We both turned and watched the sky for aircraft and silently bemoaned the realization that the seas were picking up again.

miss_behavin_57
03-10-2007, 06:03 AM
Chapter Eleven So Close Yet So Far

Sleep had been fitful at best. Looking at my watch showed 0334 on the morning of April first and I was considering abandoning the idea of getting any decent rest when a hand was shaking me awake. "Kaleun Hessler," the hand shook me again, "Kaleun Hessler, wake up! It's an aircraft!"

The word aircraft brought me instantly awake and I flung back the blankets, swinging my legs to the floor as I was grabbing for my trousers. The hand belonged to Chief Petty Officer Dbner and I asked him what time it was as not the least amount of light was coming in through the porthole. He did not immediately answer which caused me to look up at him as I was starting to pull my trousers on. Before retiring, I had stripped down to just my blouse as a nightshirt and Dbner's mind was obviously elsewhere while he was enjoying an unobstructed view of my legs.

"Dbner!" My raised voice broke his lascivious musings and with a start, he reluctantly brought his eyes to meet mine, coming to attention at the same time; well, as much as one could on a rolling deck. "Jawohl, Kaleun Hessler!"

Hastening in completing my dress, "Are the prisoners being taken on deck as instructed?" glancing at my watch.

"Jawohl, Leutnant Ringelmann is seeing to that now," he replied. As I was fastening the last few buttons, I was amusedly watching Dbner's face turn an interesting shade of red as the realization came over him that he had been caught openly voyeurizing his Commander's legs. "Go ahead," I told him, "I'll be right there." Chief Petty Officer Dbner did not hesitate to make good his escape

There were far more serious happenings occurring lately for me to start overly worrying about my privacy now. I had long ago all but given up on much of that anyway once I had taken command of a U-boat. Privacy aboard a submarine is an extremely rare thing, when one can find it at all. As I started tying my shoes, I became more aware of the pitching deck. Oh-six-thirty, almost at our rendezvous point. The rolling of the vessel told me that the seas had grown during the night. The deck would be dangerous out there. Remembering my word to Captain Jhannsson regarding the safety of his crew, I hoped that Arnold had the foresight to be using safety lines.

Throwing on my tunic, I made my way to the passageway and up to the bridge. I had to go outside for part of this journey and the bitterly cold air all but snatched my breath away. After numerous watches on the tower of a U-boat, you would think one would get used to it. You never do. The vessel was shrouded in a thick haze of fog and it always struck me as strange that the wind did not dissipate it. It was still very dark with only a faint glow beginning to line the horizon and pausing to glance up before entering the bridge, I was not pleased to be seeing stars twinkling in the night sky. There would be no hindrance to aircraft today.

Bright work lights had been turned on over the aft work deck where my XO, Leutnant Albert Ringelmann, would be gathering some of our prisoners where those in the aircraft could plainly see them. This is where the gamble came into play. Those lights made us a sitting duck of a bulls-eye. I had mentioned hostages in the message sent out yesterday. Would the allies take that into account or just think that we were bluffing and blow us out of the water. I hoped to holle that they were taking a close look before making any hasty decisions.

Leutnant Pfennings was on the bridge and I looked at him inquiringly as I came into the relative warmth of the interior. "Well?"

"It's hard to make out Kaleun Hessler," he replied. Definitely four engines, most likely one of their B-24's. He, like all the others, knew the risk we were taking, but if he felt any fear, he hid it well behind a calm demeanor. Continuing, "It has already made two passes. That pilot is crazy! Any lower and he will be in the water next to us. Kaleun, we are almost at the rendezvous point, your instructions?"

With the seas running like they were, I did not have to spend any time thinking about it. "Maintain enough rpm's to run with the sea. Even were the water calm, we have to keep our engines running. It may be the only way a searching U-boat will be able to find us." He acknowledged my commands with a nod then turned to look out the windows as the roar of the approaching aircraft fell upon our ears. I could feel myself tense in anticipation of an attack but it did not come. Too dark to make out the type of aircraft, he was however, low enough and close enough that I got a fleeting glimpse of blue exhaust flame from the powerful radials as it flashed past. Looking back at Pfennings with raised brows, "He really is crazy!"

Neither of us had to speak of our major fear, next to that of being attacked by enemy aircraft. Even if there were a U-boat out there to rescue us, there wasn't a snowball's chance in holle that we could conduct a transfer in seas this rough. Somebody would wind up going overboard and getting crushed between the hulls of the two vessels. Not to mention that there wasn't a U-boat commander out there who would be crazy enough to surface while any planes were around. All we could do was hope that the seas would alleviate and that that aircraft would be unable to send an accurate fix on our position for the next one to find us.

The large aircraft made a few more low passes before climbing to a safer altitude. It was a tense moment each time he did. I've no doubt that they were on their radio to their command requesting instructions; monitor or attack? I could only imagine how tense those fellows exposed on the aft deck must have felt. After a few moments, and to our great relief, the aircraft backed off. Unfortunately, however, it did not go away entirely, but maintained a constant distance in a lazy circle around us. By now it was light enough that the plane could be made out and it was indeed one of their large Liberator bombers. I now knew how it felt to be a bug caught out in the open with nowhere to hide; just waiting to be crushed at any moment.

After while, the door to the bridge banged open; having been caught by the wind and jerked out of Albert's hand. He secured it and stood there a moment, blowing into his cupped hands to warm them. I would have liked to have offered him some hot coffee, but under these conditions, the cook Gstav would be doing good to be able to offer anything more than cold sandwiches. After a moment, he thrust his chilled hands into his pockets and reported that the prisoners had been taken below; needless to say both Germans and Icelanders alike grateful to be back in out of the cold.

"We were out there long enough for them to get a good look," he reported. "I suppose I don't have to tell you that what we're doing is against the Geneva Convention."

I countered with, "Desperate times, Albert; desperate times." We were both silent for a moment with our own thoughts, then I asked him, "What do you think?"

He looked contemplative for a moment then said, "I think that your hunch is right."

I waited for more and after a moments thought on the matter, he acquiesced. "I have no doubt that yesterday's transmission was intercepted and that they are now waiting for a boat to show up for us. They already got ours and can now get us any time they want. We're now the bait for something better. The real question is how long will they play the game. Unless these seas subside, there is no way that we are going to be rescued today. How long will they be willing to dangle us on the end of their line waiting for a big fish to take the bait?"

I shrugged my shoulders, "I don't know, who does. Actually, I don't think they will attack us at all as long as they believe the crew of this vessel are still aboard. We are harmless to them now and the scandal would be devastating if the news of it got out. If anything, I think we'll know that they've given up on a rescue boat showing up about the time we see a destroyer coming over the horizon. If there's one nearby, which I'll venture there is, or soon will be, they're staying out of sight so as not to scare anyone off until they're ready to spring the trap."

"So," he replied, "Unless these seas subside and those aircraft go away, it's only a matter of time then before they scoop us up like a school of minnows in a seine net and we spend the rest of the war as POW's."

As much as I hated to admit it, I had to concur with him. There had to be a way. Just what? "Not if I have anything to say about it Albert. On the other hand, the trick with walking a fine line is knowing when to give up before I get us all killed. I'm just not ready to give up yet."

With that, I turned my back on him to gaze out at the sea, signaling that the conversation on that subject was over for the time being. In the haze of the fog my mind's eye could see his face, his green eyes searching. Are you out there my love? The drone of the ever present aircraft provided background to my thoughts. If you are, for God's sake peek at the skies before you show yourself.

The day seemed interminable as hour after hour ticked past on the trawler's chronometer. Between the rolling sea and the dashed hopes of surveillance aircraft departing only to be replaced with another soon after, sometimes even before the first one left, the glimmer of hope in being rescued began to wane as exhaustion took over. Bracing oneself against a rolling deck soon takes a lot out of you and after a whole day of it, conversations had subsided to a melancholy silence and tempers were short. Unlike a U-boat, we could not descend to a depth where our progress was calm. We had no choice but ride it out.

My message had been well over twenty-four hours ago and if there was a boat in the area, he could have easily been here by now, but then, perhaps not if he had to stay submerged all this time because of the aircraft menace. All I knew was that we had so far seen nothing. Of course, it would have taken a miracle to spot a scope on these seas anyway. He could be almost right alongside and we probably wouldn't spot it. By now, there was no doubt that the enemy knew our exact coordinates and one plane would go away only to be replaced by another.

Studying the charts, looking for anything that would provide an epiphany, something of a plan began to form in my head. A weak one yes, but it was something. I searched their charts for more detailed ones of the Iceland coast and finding one, began to piece it together. An hour later I was explaining my idea to Albert and my other officers.

"I don't know," Albert pondered, "it could work, but only if there's one of our boats in the area, and if the sea is still rough . . ." he trailed off.

"It's not going to be as rough in one of those fiords," I stated, "and regardless, this position is blown. The allies know we are here and they're going to keep watching until a U-boat shows up so they can blast it out of the water; or give up altogether and have a destroyer down on top of us."

I knew, just like me that they were hoping beyond hope that those planes would go away, and somehow we would be able to board a rescuing submarine and be out of here. They also knew just as well, that between the aircraft and these seas, it wasn't going to happen. Just nobody wanted to openly say it.

Albert broke the contemplative silence with, "It's something anyway. More than we have to hope for the way things are right now. It's your decision Kaleun."

Yes, I thought, ultimately it was my decision. I suppose there was a small chance that the skies would become untenable for aircraft and possible that the seas would calm; and it was also quite likely that rather than let us get away under both conditions, they would call a destroyer in here to snatch us up. It could be even worse. If there were no destroyer, they just might decide after all to sink us on the spot before letting us sail off to God knows where.

Taking a moment to look each one of them in the eye, I then stated, "Alright then, it is decided. We continue with our routine pattern, running with these seas and holding this position, hopefully, making them believe that we aren't going anywhere. After it becomes dark," looking at my watch, "which will be in a few more hours, we try to slip away."

"Do we send a signal to BdU?" asked one of the others.

As much as I would have liked to inform command of our plans, we didn't dare, not yet. We couldn't afford to tip the enemy off that we were changing anything.

"No, too risky," I answered.

Turning my attention to Leutnant Pfennings, "The weather?"

"More clouds Kaleun," he replied. "With God's will and a little luck, we'll have a good overcast by nightfall," he finished with a smirk.

Without the slightest jest in my voice, "Let us hope so Pfennings, let us hope so."


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Chapter Twelve Jhannsson Goes Home

Oh-seven-hundred hours, the fifth of April, found us in a dense fog that mandated sharp lookouts posted at all times. We had made it to the inlet but our speed was down to a crawl. We had come so far that I didn't want to end it now by running us aground or, more likely, tearing the bottom out on jagged volcanic rock, much of which Iceland was made up of. The seas had calmed down, much to the relief of everyone below, but had been replaced with this pea-soup we were trying to see through. I'm not sure which was worse. On the bright side, however, it made it a holle of a lot harder for the enemy to find us too.

Pfennings, who had always had a good sense for the weather, had been right. The night of the first had indeed become more overcast with a lowered ceiling; just the ticket for putting those damnable aircraft on the ground. After more than half an hour had passed since the last one had shadowed us, we had decided it was then or never and turned the prow of the trawler eastward, somewhat.

We could have been here the day before but there was no guarantee of how long the weather would hold in our favor. I feared that if it did not, the allies would have planes all over the place trying to find us again. I held no doubt that one of the courses they would have searched would have been the shortest one heading directly toward Iceland. Therefore, we didn't take it; instead, opting for a roundabout course that resembled the arched flight path an arrow would make when fired for maximum range.

The days preceding arrival to our current position did not bear much worth mentioning as nothing noteworthy had befallen us along the way. We were all jittery though and on more than one occasion the watch would call out an aircraft warning, having us all jumping to our feet, believing he had heard one only to discover it had been a false alarm. Of course, whoever had made the call was always embarrassed and received a fair share of ribbing for it, but I did not wish to discourage it. Better false alarms than to have my watch discount the sound of approaching engines as his imagination and give late warning; not that there was a whole lot we could do about it if there had been.

After three days of rough seas, false sightings, and now the requirement of straining all of one's senses to keep us off the rocks, much of the crew were exhausted and I'd had my XO reduce the watch to shorter shifts. The passing of Dorwald on the morning of the 2nd, even though expected, had not helped the general morale either. Theil, the other seaman with serious wounds, had fared better and was still with us but Albert informed me that he could not last much longer if he did not get care soon; more than he was able to provide with what he had at hand.

We had entered Breidafjordur Bay and since the fog prevented taking a sighting with the sextant, we were following much closer to the northern shore than one would deem safe. It served two purposes however, allowing the watch to hear the surf breaking upon the rocks somewhere off to our left, while at the same time, reducing our chance of discovery by aircraft by hugging the coastline. I also wished to avoid being seen by any of the fishing boats from the Eider colonies that dotted many of the islands within the bay.

By that afternoon, the fog had cleared enough that dead reckoning and a lot of luck found us, surprisingly enough, at our first destination, somewhere along the coastline just west of Reykhlar. Studying the charts, we determined that Captain Jhannsson and his crew could walk to the township in no more than four to five hours. This is where we would put them ashore.

Albert informed me that many of the crew were not overly happy by this decision but I told him I had given the Captain my word. Putting them off elsewhere did not guarantee that they would find shelter before nightfall. I was not going to risk their freezing to death before they could find succor.

"What about one of those islands and fishing villages?" he had asked.

"And risk their having a radio that he would get to even sooner?" I replied. "No, and that's the end of the debate Albert. I gave my word."

Albert knew that when I got that tone in my voice, there was no arguing the issue with me; my decision was firm. I knew that as soon as Captain Jhannsson found a radio, he would immediately be contacting the authorities and the search would be on for us again, if it had ever stopped. By putting them off here, and at this time, it would be dark by the time they reached Reykhlar. That would increase our chances of slipping away unseen; albeit not without the dangers of running aground on any one of the myriad of islands along the way.

During our few discussions while enroute, I had informed the Captain of my intentions, and of where we would put them ashore. At the same time however, I had taken care to misinform him of our intentions to head back out to sea for I had no doubt that upon reaching civilization, he would inform the allies of any of our plans he had managed to learn.

While my men saw to lowering the vessel's dinghy, I had the Captain and his crew brought up on deck. Under my orders, they had been provisioned with cold-weather gear and provisions, even though they could make Reykhlar shortly after nightfall. I wasn't taking any more chances with their lives than need be. I had given my word.

A gravelly shore that one could easily and safely reach lay off to port about one hundred meters. Not a few of his crew seemed surprised that we were releasing them, having expected more sinister doings with their disposal.

"So Frau Hessler, this is it then." More a statement from Jhannsson than a question.

"I'm afraid so Captain." There was little I could say that would make things any better so I chose not too.

As his men were getting into the boat, the Captain studied me for a moment then sighed, "You know I have every reason to hate you, but I find that I cannot. I wish that we could have met under better circumstances Marlena," the first time he had referred to me by my given name. A longing look had come to his eyes. He nodded to himself, as if he were conceding to an inner revelation. "You are one holle of a woman Marlena and, whoever he is, he is a very lucky man. I wish you both luck." he turned and climbed down into the dinghy with his men. "My God!" I thought. Was there no one who did not know?

As the small boat pulled away from us, his back was to us. I waited a moment to see if he would look back, but he never did. Still watching them as they neared the beach, I told my XO, "Get us out of here Albert, ahead standard."

We chose a route back out that would follow the coastline again but, now that we could see, one not quite as close to the shoreline's menacing teeth of jagged rocks. The night was, for the most part, uneventful, to which I had no complaint. There were a couple of tense moments during when aircraft passed close enough to be heard, their Leigh lights searching the surface ahead of them. There was no doubt of who they were looking for and a shiver ran through me as I realized that should they find us again, they would not let us escape a second time. Their presence in the bay told me that Jhannsson and his men had made it to safety and, despite the added risk for us, I was glad of it.

With the fog gone, the first light of dawn on the sixth saw us rounding the promontory near Ltrabjarg where I ordered the helmsman to follow a course close in to the shoreline. Despite the increased dangers, the cliffs and shore would help conceal us from searching eyes, whether from the sea or the air. It did not have to be said that a sharp lookout was kept on the bow for deadly rocks that may lie hidden under the swells. I hoped that this tactic, although much longer than a direct course, would help conceal us from our pursuers until we could turn into the inlet of Amarfjordur. It was there that I hoped to secure a hiding place until I could decide what to do next. I could not help but wonder if we were just postponing our inevitable capture, or worse, but as long as the fuel and food held out, I was not giving up. My one regret was that Gstav Helgason's culinary skills were going to be sorely missed.

miss_behavin_57
03-10-2007, 06:04 AM
Chapter Thirteen The Language of Music

Concern had been expressed regarding the possibility of our being spotted from shore. This could not be helped and had to be viewed as the lesser of two evils; being spotted by a civilian who would, hopefully, just pass the sighting off as one of the many trawlers that plied the waters off Iceland, or, risk the scrutiny of allied military intervention. One thing in our favor is that this trawler bore little difference from the many others out there and I was hoping that the allies would be hard-pressed to single us out from the others. I had even gone so far as to have anyone exposed to view, such as the watch, wear the foul-weather gear and coveralls of the former crew over their uniforms.

As I pondered our situation, I knew that the odds were stacked against us. We were far from the last coordinates we had given to BdU. Five days had passed now from the time we said that we would be there. The allies knew of our existence in their waters and were busily searching for us, and the list went on and on. For all I knew, Ubootflottillekommand had given us up for lost, or captured by now. They would be well within reason to have done so. Hope was becoming harder to hang onto and my mood today was not a jovial one. On a brighter note, as I glanced up at the clock, 21:45 hours had seen fate smile upon us once more with the passing of another day without us being found by the enemy. Still, my inner dread only made me wonder what tomorrow would hold for I was fresh out of ideas. To send another signal long enough to give our status and coordinates would only have the enemy aircraft swarming down upon our heads again. No, I was having a very difficult time maintaining hope of our rescue.

I was sitting at the table in the former Captain's cabin studying charts and looked up as Leutnant Pfennings came in to tell me that we had just completed rounding the promontory and were on a southeasterly course following the southern shore of the Amarfjordur coastline. I instructed him to follow it for a few hours before beginning a close scrutiny for any potential places where one could hide a trawler.

I had not turned my attention back to the charts for more than a few moments before Wiese, my radio operator, burst into the room, winded from his headlong dash from the radio shack. "Kaleun Hessler! Come quick!"

My first thought was a communiqu from one of our boats and I was quick on my feet to follow him back to the radio-room. All that met my ears upon our arrival was a tune that I could not help but smile at as it brought back pleasant memories of better times and someone I sorely missed. J'attendrai was very popular at that time and it was known amongst the crew that it was one of my favorites; not so favorite though as to warrant Wiese's breakneck race to bring it to my attention. I was about to inform him that although I appreciated his attention to my musical preferences, I had considerably more important things to think about at this time. I had to admit that I was disappointed and not a little irritated that he had drug me up here just for this.

Before I could say anything however, he was thrusting a sheet of foolscap at me. "Look, Kaleun! A message! It has to be! Once the music began . . . "

Weise's excitement was obvious and I tried not to get my hopes up too much as I took the message from him. It had been in Morse and, with nothing better to do, he had been translating it into something readable. It read as thus:

NORWEGIAN TRAWLER KAMPETORSK 735 REQUESTING ASSISTANCE IN SEARCH OF LOST COMPANION STOP
NORWEGIAN TRAWLER KAMPETORSK 735 REQUESTING ASSISTANCE IN SEARCH OF LOST COMPANION STOP
PROCEEDING WESTWARD AT LOW SPEED STOP
KAPT PETERSEN

The combination of 735, the number of Wolfgang's boat, along with his last name at the end of the message, albeit with a T versus a D, was too much for coincidence. My heart leapt with joy and I could feel my eyes welling with tears as Weise and I looked at the speaker as the last few bars of J'attendrai reached our ears.

Had one been watching us they would have thought us mad as both Weise and I burst out in joyful laughter. I could not help myself and threw my arms about him and we danced about in the close confines of the radio shack in jubilation.

It was then that Albert and a few others, alerted by our mad dash through the boat, reached the door to find us in this embrace, madly giggling with joy and jumping up and down.

Albert blinked a few times with shocked amazement, no doubt thinking perhaps we had both received a massive jolt of electricity from the radio circuitry and had lost our minds as a result. I caught sight of him in my peripheral vision and, quickly remembering myself, broke free of Weise and turned to face Albert, extending the message for him to read himself. Regaining my composure, I still could not wipe the idiotic grin from face. "It is him! He is coming!" I exclaimed. "Yes!"

Albert was still looking at me somewhat nervously as he tentatively reached for the foolscap. "Who is coming," he inquired. "Kaleun Hessler, get hold of yourself."

Smiling at him, I sang, "J'attendrai, Le jour et la nuit, j'attendrai toujours, Ton retour."

My XO was becoming even more alarmed looking. With a hiss of exasperation, I elaborated, "Wolfgang! Herr Pedersen and the U-735! HE is coming!" I exhorted.

His look of dismay turned to a frown as he still tried to make what I was saying come together in his own mind. As I began explaining to him, he read the message and not only his face, but those of the others outside the door began to light up with renewed hope. One of them could not help himself and dashed off to tell the rest of the crew, his proclamations of "They're coming for us!." Fading into the distance as he disappeared below. I could soon hear the cheers as this news spread amongst the crew. I had not been the only one who was having difficulty in maintaining hope.

Turning to Weise, who sat at the telegraph key in anticipation, I took a few moments to think. It was dangerous, sending a broadcast, but I HAD to let him know that we were still out there and not dead or captured. I had to keep it very short though or the allies would be sure to triangulate our location.

Committing myself to it I told Weise, "Send this then, ICELANDIC TRAWLER NACHTGESPENST ENROUTE STAND BY MAYBE 24 HOURS. 406 KM AWAY. HANS DRAKKAR

We crowded around Weise as he took the note he had written as I spoke, adjusted the gain on the transmitter, and began tapping out our message. It would have to be enough, I dared not send more.

After he had finished, Albert looked at me questioningly, "Nightghost?

I simply smiled and told him of one of our many conversations at the Drakkar that involved music. There was one of those catchy little tunes that came out in '39 called Das Nachtgespenst (The Nightghost) , and both Wolfgang and I had laughed over the fact that as much as we liked it, it was one of those numbers that drove you crazy because you couldn't get it out of your head once you had listened to it. We had even more chuckles over it because I used to hum it to myself but in my mind, I had replaced Das Nachtgespenst in the song with "Etappendienst."

"So," I went on to elaborate, "I think that the combinations of Nightghost, 406, and Drakkar, will be more than enough to let him know whose transmitting.

Albert looked at me shaking his head, but at least he didn't look like he thought I was crazy any more. Then again, maybe I was; crazy in love anyway.

He chuckled at my ploy then asked, "What now?"

"Well first," I replied, "we all get out of here before we crush Seaman Weise here. After that," I took a breath, "I don't know. I need time to think. I am afraid to meet him on open waters. There are just too many planes."

From there we went back to my cabin to discuss our options with instructions to Weise to call me, no matter what time, should any more messages come through from Pedersen.


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Chapter Fourteen Shhh! Be Quiet!

We were still discussing plans in regard to how we could safely rendezvous with U-735 when a seaman, pausing to catch his breath, knocked at the open doorway, "Kaleun Hessler, the radio room." Again, at the mention of radio, I was immediately on my feet and heading that way, Albert and others following.

We arrived at the radio shack to hear Morse still coming through, Weise concentrating as he deciphered the code onto a piece of foolscap. Glancing at the clock showed the time at three minutes past the hour. I watched anxiously as Weise kept writing, one slow letter at a time. He knew I was standing there and without looking up smiled, an enthusiastic nod of acknowledgement accompanying it.

A moment later, the Morse signal stopped and Seaman Weise tore off the paper from his pad and handed it to me. As I began reading, the first bars of " La Vie En Rose" began coming from the radio speaker. A smile spread across my face as I listened to the music, part of my attention on that, the rest on the message.

THIS IS KAMPETORSK735 STOP
GOOD EVENING HANSUR YOU OLD GHOST STOP
LOOKING FOR YOUR BUCKET SINCE WE LOST OUR NETS STOP
HAVE CLEANED OUT CARGO BAY READY TO RELIEF YOU STOP
GOT AT LEAST A CRATE OF BOLLINGER IN THE NET STOP
THE GERMANS ARE STILL SINKING MERCHANTS STOP
SHOULD WE SEND THEM A THANK YOU NOTE? STOP
KAPTN PETERSEN

The wild elation that overcame me when his first message came through was past and, with Albert, Lt. Pfennings, and others crowded around the door behind me, I managed to maintain a decent degree of composure as I read. I had gone through the message quickly the first time and was now reading more slowly as I looked for hidden meanings.

The music was still playing when a frown began to replace my smile as an alarming realization dawned on me. Weise, an efficient sailor, always made it a practice to write in the time of a transmission at the top of the page. Looking at that, and then at the clock Weise would have used, I realized that a little more than six minutes had passed by the time the last refrain finished coming over the speaker.

My eyes were focused on nothing as my minds eye built a picture of a U-boat slipping along the surface, the radio transmissions visible like lightning flashes one sees in the cartoons at the cinema. Far off, an evil grin spreads across the face of an enemy observer as he watches them, one hand penciling in a large "X" on a map of the U-boats position while his other goes to a the black handset of a telephone, the wires trailing off to a nearby airfield.

Albert could tell something was wrong as he watched my expression turn to one of dread as my complexion paled. A note of alarm in his voice, "What is it Marlena? What is wrong?" he inquired.

"Too long," I said, the reply coming out as a whisper. My feelings of dread were quickly being overrun by anger as I repeated my answer at a more audible volume, "Too Long, dammit! He is transmitting too long! The allies are going to get suspicious and sooner or later, an airplane is going to look for a trawler that isn't there."

Albert replied with a counter to my worries that there are scores of trawlers out here, messages going back and forth all the time. The chances are slim that they will single his out.

I turned, looking at Albert directly. I knew that maybe I was overreacting but I could not help it. We were all jumpy; lately even seeing enemy airplanes under our bunks like a childhood boogeyman.

Rubbing my forehead to alleviate the headache I could feel coming on, I replied, "Yes Albert, you may be right but I don't wish to take unnecessary chances. Surely our last message told him who we are. The allies aren't stupid Albert. They know we are still out here somewhere and they are going to be expecting us, sooner or later, to transmit something. Yes, there are many trawlers out here, but how many of them are transmitting music!? If I were in their shoes, I would be looking for any form of clue. They are certainly not going to expect us to transmit our position openly, like an invitation to a birthday party. They're going to be looking for something different, something unusual that doesn't fit a pattern."

Talking more to myself now than anyone in particular, "As much as I hate to transmit until I have something concrete for him, I have to tell him to SHUT UP!"

But what, I mentally asked myself. I thought about it for a few moments, trying to figure out how to keep the message as short as possible. My anger was quickly subsiding, to be replaced again by a feeling of foreboding. The poor man was trying the best he could. I was so nervous now. To be so close to deliverance . . .

"Alright Weise, send him this."

Weise was already prepared as I began dictating my message.

TRAWLER NACHTGESPENST ENROUTE STOP
OUR NETS OKAY BUT NEED PATCHING STOP

I paused for a moment, hesitating. Do I dare send him more? Will the allies pick up on it? I shook my head in perplexion , Weise waiting patiently for me to continue. At least it would give him an idea of our general locale, someplace closer than our last coordinates, which were much too far away now. I continued.

REMEMBER OSKAR LOSING HIS NETS AT AMARFJORDUR STOP
STOP TRANSMITTING NOW STOP
RADIOMAN WORRIED PAST HIS BEDTIME STOP

I paused again, thinking. Too much already. I could only hope that he would focus on Amarfjordur and Worried.

Weise asked, "Will that be all Kaleun?" his hand drifting to the telegraph key.

I started to nod an affirmative, then changed my mind. "No, send him this too."

BAD NEWS MY SISTER MARLENA IN LOVE WITH SCOUNDREL WOLFGANG STOP
KAPT HANS DRAKKAR STOP

A big grin spread across Weise's face, "Jawohl Kaleun Hessler!"

Without looking, I knew that the others were grinning too; but I didn't care. I still might never see him again and I had to let him know. A bar from an old Marlena Dietrich tune came to my mind, "Can't help it."


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Chapter Fifteen The Tide Turns

01:00 7 April

I was lying there in my bunk, trying to force myself to sleep but to no avail. Mentally I was exhausted, yet I was wide awake. I could not get my mind to stop with the myriad of thoughts running through my head. I was hoping so much that Wolfgang would read my message correctly and head for Amarfjordur; at the same time dreading that the enemy had read our message just as clearly and would be lying in wait.

As much as I wanted to give the order to head out to sea to meet him, I was too afraid to expose the slow Trawler out on open water. Even if we did, we had so little to go on concerning his whereabouts; at best somewhere north or northeast of us as he made his way along the Iceland coastline. No, I knew we were doing the best thing. Keep hidden until something more concrete of a plan came into play.

Upon rounding the promontory into the inlet, I had left instructions for those on watch to maintain a sharp lookout for anyplace we could possibly tuck this tub reasonably out of sight.

As a knock sounded on my door, I gave up all hope of sleep for the time being. Rising up on one elbow to turn on the small bedside lamp, I made sure that I was decently covered then said, "Yes, enter."

The door opened to allow ingress of Lt. Albert Ringelmann, my XO. Expecting news of another radio message, I made to prepare to get up when Albert raised a hand in a halting gesture. I paused to inquire, "What is it Albert?"

He sat down on one of the chairs at the small table and removed his cap to run a hand through his hair. "Well, we just passed what appeared to be a small cove that looked suitable for hiding, inasmuch as one could tell in the dark, but there's one small problem."

I remained silent, waiting for him to continue.

Seeing that I had no remark at the moment, he carried on, "Not more than ten minutes ago, we passed a small dock; an occupied dock."

This got my immediate attention, and wrapping my blanket about me, I sat up. "Were we seen? Was there an alarm?" My mind raced, wondering why nobody had alerted me if there had been.

Albert raised both hands in an appeal to calm me. "No, no." Albert replied. "There was no alarm. But it is most likely we were seen, and if not, at the very least our engine was heard. Petty Officer Reinhardt had looked at it through the glasses and said that there was a sentry, the glow of his cigarette giving away his presence in the darkness. We would have been close enough for him to have heard our motor but Reinhardt said he did not seem alarmed."

My brow furrowed as I pondered as to why there would be a sentry. I remembered studying the charts and nothing was shown in this vicinity, one of my reasons for choosing this inlet to hide in.

Before I could relay my thoughts, Albert answered my question. "There's also a launch of some sort. A military launch," he added.

"How do you know it was military?" I asked. "It's very dark tonight."

With a bit of a sardonic grin, he said, "Because civilian vessels do not have guns mounted on their foredecks."

My brow rising in question, he went on to explain that Reinhardt was most adamant about the gun, saying that its silhouette was plain enough to make out. Albert described the boat as being in the neighborhood of sixty to seventy feet long. The only thing military I could think of in that size range with a deck gun was possibly a British Motor Gun Boat or Torpedo Boat.

"And the sentry was not alarmed by our passing?" I asked Albert.

Albert shook his head. "No. Reinhardt said that he continued smoking his cigarette as though our passing was a common enough occurrence; nothing worth making note of."
He looked thoughtful for a moment. "Reasonable enough I suppose. I imagine he sees a fair number of trawlers going about their business. He most likely thought we were just another one coming in after being at sea catching fish. Short of our U-boat activity in the area, there is no other German surface activity around here. No reason for him to be alarmed."

He looked at me with an inquiring gaze to see if perhaps I could add to that but I could not and shook my head to that effect. My brow was furrowed again as the ghost of a plan was coming to mind. A grin began to appear on Albert's face. He knew that look.

"Shall we continue on and look for someplace else to hide?" he asked tentatively.

"Looking up at him, I said, "No, turn back. That inlet, how well would it hide us from this launch?"

Albert shrugged his shoulders, "In the darkness, it is hard to say. You could not make out too much in detail. From where it is docked now, yes, it probably would conceal us well enough. During daylight, and if he passed it with somebody happening to look that way, I honestly don't know."

"Alright then, we'll take that chance." I replied. "Have the helmsman turn back and head for and into that inlet. Dead slow. I don't want anybody hearing our motor or be tearing our bottom out on hidden rocks. I'll be up on the bridge shortly."

With that said, Albert smiled and nodded an acknowledgement. Rising from his chair, he turned and left the small cabin, closing the door behind him. I threw back the blanket and quickly dressed. Taking a moment to look in the small mirror over the basin I shuddered and was thankful that Wolfgang could not see me right now as I examined the dark circles beginning to form under my eyes. Well, nothing for that right now; I had bigger concerns.

--------------------------------------------

A few moments later found me on the bridge peering into the dark as I looked for this inlet Albert had apprised me of. Since I had just come out of a lighted room only moments before, I knew that it was unlikely that I would see anything, my vision being unaccustomed as of yet to the darkness.

It wasn't very long before one of the watch spotted it and, with his voice low so as not to carry far, brought it to the attention of those inside the bridge. I could make out only vague outlines as the watch gave careful instructions to the helmsman, making small corrections as we approached it. Our speed was at a crawl, barely enough to make headway as I saw the dark outlines of rocks loom up on both sides of us as we entered the small cove. In the darkness they looked close enough to reach out and touch but in reality were probably much farther apart than that.

I stepped outside and after a few moments, the watch reported that he could make out nothing of a manmade nature. Passing instructions for the watch and others whose night-vision was critical to cover their eyes, I had one of the searchlights turned on long enough to make out our surroundings and then turned off. It was on for only the briefest of moments but what it revealed was enough. We were in a very small natural cove surrounded, by the most part, by tall vertical rock. On the far side however, away from the sea, the shore looked to be black volcanic gravel that sloped gently into the water. The slope continued on shore to head upward, curving gently to the right until disappearing from view between massive columns of sheer rock. This would do; this would do just fine, I thought.

I gave instructions to proceed deeper into the cove until the prow of the trawler grated against the gravelly bottom. I then had them kill the engine and all went silent, only the sound of the water gently lapping the shore evident to our ears. After so many days with engines running, the crashing of the sea, and the keening of the wind, the sudden silence was like that of a tomb.

After what seemed an interminable spell yet was no more than a couple of minutes, Albert asked, "So, what now? We certainly dare not send any messages with that launch so nearby. At the speed that thing can move, it could be on top of us within a few minutes. His voice sounded loud in the deathly quiet of the night and even he thought so for he quickly lowered it.

I've no doubt that there was a mischievous grin on my face and I almost snorted and had to bite my lip to keep from openly laughing as his eyes went wide as I said, in a conspiratorial whisper, "We're going to steal it!"

A few minutes later, after he had calmed down and the incredulous look was dissipating from his features, I told him to bear with me. I instructed him to collect Lt. Pfennings, and four non-coms which I named and to meet me in my cabin. I would explain my plans there.

--------------------------------------------

Back in my cabin, a sleepy-eyed Dortmund, our cook from the U-boat, was setting down a pot of coffee, the last of it, and a platter of hastily prepared sandwiches before being dismissed to return to his bunk. Although I had had little sleep, my mind was clear as those requested began filing into the confines of the small cabin. Helping myself to a sandwich and cup of coffee, I instructed the others to do the same and make themselves comfortable. As was their right, the two officers took the chairs at the table and, since I was too anxious to sit down, a couple of the others sat on the edge of my bunk; the remaining two standing at ease as they leaned against the bulkhead.

I let them work on their sandwiches for a few moments and get some coffee into themselves before I addressed them.

"First of all, Reinhardt, I need from you a complete description, to the best of your memory, what you saw where that boat was docked."

I listened as he explained that had it not been for the sentry smoking, he would have most likely not noticed it at all. Once he had looked through his binoculars however, the large lenses, which not only zoomed everything in, but also had the properties of amplifying to a small amount, what little light was generated by the stars, allowed him to be able to make out a few more details that he had earlier been unable to see.

Where the dock was situated, it was semi-protected by a half circle of rocks that projected out into the water. It was no place, he said, where he would ordinarily leave a boat tied up in a storm but he went on to also explain that there was a small boat house as well, albeit not large enough to house the craft he had seen tied to the dock. From the dock it was easy enough to make out the framework of a wooden stairway leading upwards as the wood was well-weathered and the silvery gray of it was quite visible against the darker background. He apologized that he was unable to see where they went, as they seemed to stop perhaps three or four stories up. From there, nothing but darkness.

"Alright gentlemen, here's what I'm thinking." I paused a moment to make sure that I had all of their attention, an action that proved unnecessary as all eyes were now focused on me.

"On the charts, nothing at all is shown here. However, the allies, or somebody, has gone to a lot of trouble to build a dock and boathouse here as well as a flight of stairs leading up to whatever they have up there. I certainly don't believe they would have gone to so much trouble just for someplace they could stop to make a head-call; and last I knew, the sport of bird-watching has declined a great deal during the war. They have something up there. Something important enough to go to the trouble of building a dock for it so that it can be serviced; there being few roads in Iceland, most communities and the like being serviced by sea."

I paused long enough to take a sip of coffee and allow my observations to sink in on the others.

"If it's something important, say something like a radar installation, I would imagine Etappendienst would like to know about it."

Albert looked a little irritated and responded, "Excuse me for saying so Kaleun Hessler, but don't we have problems enough right now without conducting espionage missions for Etappendienst?"

I smiled at Albert, patient until all of my plans could be heard. "Yes Albert," I replied, "We do have our problems, which is exactly why I want to commandeer that boat. This thing we are on now will only do six knots, eight if you don't care how long the engine lasts. If that vessel Reinhardt spotted is a British MGB or MTB, it's going to be able to do what, at least twenty-five knots?"

Some of the others affirmed this with silent nods.

Continuing, "What puzzles me is that Reinhardt spotted only one sentry. They seem awfully lax here, but then, you said as much yourself Albert, what is there for them to be alert about? Nonetheless, before making a grab for it, I want to know what's up there. Undoubtedly there is going to be at least a radio of some kind for them to communicate to wherever their headquarters is at. At the very least I would like to take out their communications ability before somebody can raise an alarm on it when they see their boat merrily heading off to sea at full speed."

"With all due respect Kaleun," responded Lt. Pfennings, "Where do we go with it once we have it? We still have no idea where Herr Pedersen is at."

"And that, Lt. Pfennings, is why we sit tight for right now. In my last transmission, I mentioned Amarfjordur. I am hoping that he picked up on that and will be coming this way. I am also hoping that once he is out there, my arm swinging in the direction of the inlet, he will send a short message indicating as much. Besides, it will also give us the opportunity to watch, from a relatively hidden location, to see if there is an increase in enemy surface or air activity, indicating that they are on to my message. Let us hope to Holle not."

"Once we are in possession of that launch and Wolfgang has contacted us informing us of his close proximity, we send a red herring to the enemy; a message indicating we are heading to sea to rendezvous with one of our U-boats. Under the cover of darkness so as not to arouse the suspicions of anyone on shore who might spot us, we head out to the mouth of the inlet with both boats, lock the rudder straight ahead in the trawler, send our message, then set the throttle at full, abandoning it to it's destiny while we all race back in the launch. By the time an alerted aircraft reaches the area where we transmitted from, I'm thinking fifteen minutes at the absolute soonest, we will be well away from that spot and on our way back to meet up with Pedersen and the U-735. All of the allied attention will be on following that trawler in hopes of netting themselves a U-boat, or blowing the trawler out of the water. Either way, it takes the attention off of us."

I stopped, looking at them with an enthusiastic smile, waiting for their response. The room was silent, all of them looking back at me, not a few of them with their mouths agape.

After a moment, Albert regained his wits and said, "Are you crazy Marlena? Even if your plan worked up to that point, what on earth makes you think Pedersen will surface with an MTB zooming about over his head. Not only that, what if that launch leaves before Pedersen gets here?"

My feathers were not ruffled. I just KNEW this could work. "Well, regarding the boat leaving before he gets here, we'll take it before it can. Secondly, getting Wolfgang to surface is easy, once we know he's out there, you know darned well that his soundman is going to have his ear glued to that hydrophone. With a wrench, or whatever is handy, Weise will tap out in Morse on the hull of the launch that it's us; come up and play."

"At the very least, his curiosity will get the better of him and he will at least raise his scope to have a look. That's when I'll stand on the foredeck naked and wave to him."

With the last statement, Reinhardt choked, having been taking a sip of coffee and snorted a good deal of it out his nose. He began coughing, his face turning a furious red while one of the others pounded his back vigorously to help him breathe.

"Sorry Reinhardt, I was only joking about the naked part."

His eyes streaming tears, he was finally getting some air as he raised a hand indicating he was alright and I was forgiven.

"So gentlemen, I have decided. It is time to take matters into our own hands instead of fleeing about willy-nilly until the allies either kill us or capture us. We have an opportunity here. Let's make the most of it. I plan to send a reconnaissance team up there just before daybreak to get more intelligence on what we're dealing with." Letting my gaze linger on the non-coms and Lt. Pfennings, I added, "That's going to be you."

This announcement sobered them quickly, the non-coms snapping to attention in recognition of my orders, Reinhardt barked, "Jawohl Kaleun Hessler. It will be an honor. We will not let you down."

I told them to stand at ease and informed everyone that it was not that many hours until daylight. I suggested that they get however much sleep they could until then.

The men filed out, Albert lingering a bit longer. "So when did you become an agent for Etappendienst? You're crazy you know."

I smiled at him. For the first time since losing our boat, I felt at ease, crazy enough as that sounds. I had a plan and something to act on. Chaos and uncertainty always did drive me up the wall. Looking at Albert, "I highly doubt Etappendienst would be interested, and as for the latter, yes; I am aren't I?"

I winked at him and turned in preparation to return to my bunk.

Albert, shaking his head in consternation, let himself quietly out of the cabin and closed the door.

I snuggled into the warmth of the bunk and in no time at all I was sleeping a restful, dreamless sleep.


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Chapter Sixteen Hide and Seek

0630 April 8

I felt like my head had no sooner touched my pillow when the touch of a hand was waking me up. It was Albert.

"Marlena, wake up. It is time. The reconnaissance team is preparing."

I blinked my eyes a few times to get the sleep out of them and sat up. "Where," I asked.

"In the Mess," he replied. "It will be getting light in half an hour."

I was getting dressed as he spoke. Albert, always the gentleman, keeping his back turned as I did. "Go ahead Albert; I will be there in a few minutes."

As he left, I was running the plan through my mind again. Having rested since last night, I could see all kinds of holes in it and was having second thoughts. Perhaps it would be best to try to meet up with Pedersen's boat on open water. I thought of going farther into the fjord, but I didn't want him to have to come in there for us where the allies might find him more easily in the narrow confines; although I had heard that their sonar did not work very efficiently in such conditions. Not knowing for certain however, I was not going to put him to any more risk than he was already taking based on second-guessing. No, we would stick to this plan. As I closed the cabin door behind me on my way to the Mess, little things still nagged at me, like that single sentry on that MTB for example. Even on a relatively safe post like Iceland, I just did not see the British being so lax. It wasn't like them; especially this late into the war.

As I stepped into the Mess, those present came to attention where I informed them to carry on. Dortmund, our cook, handed me a cup of coffee. I thought we had run out last night and looked at it and then him with a raised brow. He shrugged apologetically and explained that he had used the grounds from the last batch but had run it through twice. I sampled it and although it was not as strong as that made with fresh grounds, it was still a far sight better than the stuff back home. Dortmund was watching apprehensively to see if I would approve. I nodded my approval to which he relaxed and then went about those preparing to depart, disbursing mugs of steaming coffee to each of them. It could have tasted like the brimstone from beneath Satan's feet and I would have still approved. Dortmund was doing the best he could and that was all one could ask.

Turning my attention to the immediate activities, the team, composed of Lt. Pfennings, Petty Officers 1 cl. Reinhardt, Bauer, and Kriegel, had dressed in cold weather gear that had previously belonged to the trawler crew. I did not have to tell them that if they were captured in civilian attire that they could be shot as spies; of this they were well aware. Nonetheless, not a one of them faltered in their preparations, some of them cutting up with jokes to cover their pre-action jitters. They were in the process of using soot from the boats oven to smudge their faces and hands with camouflage. The worst was over for them now that they were actually doing something. The waiting before doing so is what's always the worst.

The two Sten-guns had already been given to them and I handed the Lebel revolver, previously liberated from Captain Jhannsson, to Lt. Pfennings. "Remember, no heroics. Just find out what's up there, how well defended, and come back."

Pfennings nodded and tucked the pistol into one of the pockets of his coat. I watched as they completed their preparations, their soot-blackened faces making them look like a bunch of abandoned street waifs. I wanted to offer them some encouraging words but I never was very good at speeches. A moment later, Albert poked his head in the door and said, "It's time."

I followed them up on deck where we proceeded to the bow that was beached on the gravelly shore. An improvised ladder of knotted rope was draped over the side and before they could depart, I offered them a "Good Luck" and "Be careful."

Before a grinning Reinhardt disappeared over the side, he responded with , "Don't worry Kaleun, we will be alright." I could not suppress a small chortle as his white smile on blackened face made me think of an actor in a minstrel show. My features became stolid as I wished that I shared his enthusiasm. As they splashed ashore in the frigid waters and disappeared off into the darkness, it was now our turn to wait.

miss_behavin_57
03-10-2007, 06:05 AM
Chapter Seventeen An Imprudent Eagle

My officers and I sat in the Mess drinking re-brewed coffee while we watched the clock move at a snail's pace. At one point, Ensign Roth looked up at it and in an exasperated tone asked if it was broken. I couldn't help but look at my watch to see if he was correct. All of us were as tense as a stretched piano wire and my ears were tuned for the sound of gunfire; although it would be unlikely that we would even hear it, tucked away as we were down in this little cove. Dortmund had prepared a breakfast of reconstituted eggs and smoked kippers. Apparently the others were as tense as I for very little of anyone's breakfast had been touched. I just couldn't generate any appetite until my men had returned safe.

A little past an hour later, the sun was lighting the eastern sky. The cove where we were hidden, however, was still in shadow from the looming cliffs surrounding it. The bland colors of the weathered fishing boat, combined with the shadowed cove, proved effective in hiding it from all but the closest scrutiny from sea. I had still not made up my mind what we would do if they were captured. We could not stay put for the enemy would then be looking for the means by which the men got there, yet at the same time, we no longer possessed any weapons with which to effect there escape. My stomach turned at the thought of abandoning them to save the remainder of my crew, but rather than see us all marched off to a P.O.W. camp, I did not see where I had any other recourse.

I glanced at my watch again, the sixth time I had done so within the last ten minutes, when one of the watch poked his head in to inform us they were back. In an instant we were all up and out on deck to greet their return; my first action quickly looking them over in making sure none of them were injured or wounded.

Other than being a little chilled from wading through the frigid waters to climb back aboard, they all looked just as fit as they were when they had left. We soon had them below getting warmed up and debriefed.

Leutnant Pfennings, who had led the reconnaissance party, described that what appeared to be a weather station. He went into detail explaining that there were three structures, the main one housing a radio-room, suspected due to the large antenna tower outside, kitchen, and living quarters. The other two were a small storage shed with the last being a generator house. Near the top of the stairway that led down to the dock we had spotted the night before, he explained that there was a timber framework that supported a hoist that was most likely used to haul up drums of fuel for the generator as well as other supplies too heavy or bulky to be carried up the stairs. As I had suspected, he also made note that there were no roads leading into the facility; nor anyplace suitable for landing an aircraft, thereby making the installation entirely dependant upon the dock below for their supplies.

When I asked about defenses, staff, and the like, Lt. Pfennings grinned and shook his head in bewilderment. "That's the part I don't understand Kaleun," he exclaimed. "Very minimal in numbers and not alert at all. Not a single sentry was posted above. Also, the living quarters is not large enough to support both the staff for the station and MTB crew as well."

He described that by their count, there was only eight men in all, including the single sentry down below watching the boat. If you subtracted an absolute minimum of four to crew that torpedo boat, that left three to man the weather station.

I corrected him saying, "You said there were eight, Leutnant Pfennings." His grin got even wider as he was apparently saving the best for last.

"Yes, I did Kaleun Hessler." He paused a moment for dramatical effect. "Well Kaleun, first of all, they're not British, they're Amerikan; U.S. Army. Second, man number eight is, what they call in their army, I think a Colonel." He backed his suspicion by describing silver eagles on his collar as the only indication of rank. Having browsed some books before back in Germany regarding the rank structure of foreign armies, I knew his deduction to be true.

I nodded, acknowledging his guess, my brow pursed in thought. What on earth was a Colonel doing clear out here, I thought. "And how do you know that there were not more perhaps sleeping in their bunk-room?" I asked.

"Because Petty Officer Kriegel sneaked up to their windows and had a peek," replied Pfennings.

I stiffened as I thought of the risk they had taken in doing that. Kriegel saw this and hastily explained that it was quite easy. Their guard really was atrocious, obviously expecting no visitors of any kind, let alone us; and they all looked quite cozy inside the warmth of their little house. He didn't think that any of them looked all too eager to go outside if they didn't have to.

"And if one of them had seen you peeking in?" I countered with a somewhat displeased tone.

Lt. Pfennings spoke up in Kriegel's defense. "I will accept full responsibility Kaleun Hessler. I had the same thoughts as you, thinking that there surely had to be more and that those we could not see were most likely still asleep. We had to know and I thought that since they would be asleep in that section of the structure, the risk would be low in having a look." He paused to see my reaction, which was still not overly excited over the risk they had taken. Therefore he continued, "And had they seen us Kaleun, I believe we could have taken them right then and there with minimal effort. Only the Colonel is wearing a sidearm. They have a couple of those Amerikan machineguns their gangsters use, and those are on racks on the wall in their radio room. I had Reinhardt stationed just outside the door prepared to burst in and surprise them if Kriegel had been seen. Kriegel said there were other sidearms but that they were hanging in their belts in the bunk room."

I raised a brow of reproach at this revelation and, seeing this, he hurried on to express his suspicion that the boat belonged to the colonel. He did not look like he had been there as long as some of the others as his uniform was still relatively sharp when compared to the rumpled appearance of some of the soldiers.

With that he was finished and waited, while I mulled this over, to see if there was going to be any further reprimand. Well, I thought, it was done and they had been lucky that no one had seen them. They had risked their lives on what could still quite easily turn into a fool's venture so I decided not to.

"You and your men did well Leutnant Pfennings," I commended, "Now get yourselves some breakfast."

They all relaxed in unison and sat down at the table where Dortmund was already bringing out platters of eggs and kippers while other crewmen were exhorting them for more of their story. Motioning to Albert, I left the mess and proceeded to my cabin where I invited him to take a seat.

"So," I asked, "What makes this place so important that an Army Colonel is here yet not so important that their security is almost criminal?"

Albert could not answer this and we were both silent as we reflected on the information that they had obtained.

As I mused over the possibilities, I felt a wicked little smile come across my face as a plan came together and I heard, under Albert's breath, "Oh Scheie! Now what?"


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Chapter Eighteen There Be Pirates!

"How long do you think we're going to have before anyone starts wondering where the Colonel is at?" asked Albert.

"I don't know for certain," I replied, "but if they call in here looking for him, I am relying upon him to be very convincing that everything is alright."

Albert chuckled. "After that performance earlier today, I would think so. Be careful with him though. Every time he looks at you I can see murder in his eyes. He wants you dead real bad!"

It was almost 3 p.m. We now occupied the weather station and possessed eight Amerikan prisoner's of war, our grand prize being a full bird Colonel of the U.S. Army; not to mention having liberated a former British Motor Torpedo Boat and a smaller launch located in the boathouse.

Albert and I were discussing our next plan of action while sitting in the rather luxurious settings of the main cabin aboard the torpedo boat-***-pleasure craft. I am not ordinarily a lover of scotch but I had to give the colonel credit, as I took another sip from the leaded cut-crystal glass, this was really very good, as far as scotch went.

As it turns out, the vessel, amongst other equipment, was given over to the Amerikans when they took over occupation, allowing most of the British military personnel to go home and be reassigned to more critical areas of the war. As it was all but impossible to get about to the various locations on Iceland by any other means than by sea, Colonel Weyland, who was now our prisoner, had taken it upon himself to claim the boat for his own personal use; utilizing his power in rank to have it outfitted quite comfortably. I found it a pity that I could not figure out a way to take it home with me.

Based upon that morning's reconnaissance mission led by Leutnant Pfennings, we used the information to formulate a plan and capture the enemy weather station. The operation went so smoothly that it was almost sinful. Pfennings had been right. Their lack of proper sentries was shameful to say the least, and had this Colonel been under my command, I would have had him court-martialed for gross dereliction of duty. Interrogation of the prisoners had revealed that the only reason that there was a sentry on the dock was to forewarn the Colonel above of the imminent arrival of a superior, which was unlikely to happen, but even more so to protect his cache of liquor from being pilfered by the men manning the weather station.

Before assaulting the installation, it had been my suspicion that getting any information or cooperation out of a Colonel would be extremely difficult. Therefore, immediately after capturing them, I'd had him separated from the enlisted men, which was common procedure anyway.

Well out of earshot or view of the Colonel, one of them was taken away where, under the duress of a liberated tommy-gun being pointed at him, he was made to remove his uniform whereas one of my men of similar size donned it. Shortly after, I had the Colonel brought to the open door of the weather station. Careful to have arranged our charade so as to have the sun shining toward us, hence making details more difficult to make out, I informed him that I fully expected him to be difficult so I had arranged a special show for him.

With that said, my crewman, dressed in the Amerikan soldier's uniform, was marched out into the open a good fifty yards away; again so as to make it impossible for the Colonel to discern this man from one of his own. I myself could only make out silhouettes of those involved with the sun almost behind them as it was. The "prisoner" was standing just in front of the two guards who had marched him out, his hands tied behind his back. One of the guards, turned to look in my direction and said, "Kaleun?"

That is when I said to proceed. The prisoner' was shoved where, preplanned, he fell forward on his face; very convincingly too. It must have hurt and I made a mental note to give him extra liberty later on for his performance. Having spoken amongst my crew to ascertain the correct English words, from his place on the ground, he gave a very convincing terrified scream, in English, of "Please! No!" It was then that the guard who had shoved him raised the machinegun and fired a burst of six or seven rounds into the dirt a few feet to my crewman's side. The impact of the bullets, as well as the muzzle blast, made him jump involuntarily but, from where we stood, it looked all that much more convincing. One could not tell that he had not just been shot in cold blood.
As the infuriated Colonel rounded on me and cut loose with a stream of obscenities that I will not repeat here, I was praying that none of my men outside would start laughing, hence making the Colonel suspicious of something "Rotten in Denmark."

Allowing him to vent for a few moments, I then asked him if he was finished. By then he had so winded himself and his face was so red, I seriously worried that he was about to have a stroke. For the moment he could only glare at me with absolute hatred. I then proceeded to inform him that this was an example of what would happen to the others if he did not cooperate, fully. Needless to say, he was very visibly shaken as he was led away. The whole point of this ruse was to persuade him to be convincing, under threat of killing another of his men, should somebody call here looking for him.

Meanwhile, the Amerikan prisoner was given back his uniform, no worse for the wear other than a bit of dirt, most of which was easily brushed off. For the time being we kept him isolated from the others so that the rest would think that we had indeed just executed one of their own. As I had suspected, they were all far removed from the war and this was the closest they had come to actual physical violence. We had them scared ****eless and quite cooperative; for the moment anyway. On the other hand, a frightened person can become desperate and dangerous too. Strict orders were given not to become lax in guarding them.

The Colonel was not overly liked by the enlisted ranks and although they would only give name, rank, and serial number when questioned about other things, it was not too difficult to extract from them information about Colonel Weyland. As it turned out, we discovered that the station itself was nothing more than what it appeared to be, a weather information gathering station located on the end of a lonely promontory; certainly nothing important enough to require the presence of such a high-ranking officer as that of Colonel Weyland.

His whole reason for being here was weather, nothing more; unless it was perhaps to make periodic escapes from his responsibilities in his military role here in Iceland; a role of which we had not been able to ascertain as of yet. The Colonel had been a university professor teaching meteorology when the war broke out. Like most other patriotic Amerikans, he joined the lines at the recruiting stations and his education and diplomas all but guaranteed him an officer's commission. How he had made it up to Colonel, nobody had a clue. All these men did know was that he made their lives miserable every time he came out here to relax aboard his personal' yacht and dabble in meteorology; at the same time treating them like they were his personal servants or something.

I did not expect them to love me for it, then maybe they would, but I had full intentions of taking Colonel Weyland off their hands, returning him home with us where I would turn him over to Etappendienst. I did not personally care what he did here in Iceland or how he had managed to make Colonel, all I wanted was his boat. I supposed I could leave him here but figured Intelligence would appreciate the gift. Either way, his career was finished, whether as a prisoner-of-war or when his upper command discovered that he had so easily allowed the enemy to capture him and this station.

Having their radio logs deciphered by one of my crew who read and spoke perfect English, we discovered that the station submitted general reports every Monday supplemented with additional reports should they detect an imminent change in the weather. It was now Saturday and I was hoping to holle that we would be aboard Pedersen's boat and well on our way home by the time Monday rolled around.

As I sat there with needle and thread, replacing insignia on my tunic, I could not help but chuckle at the mental image of the look on Weyland's face when we captured him. We had begun our assault on the station at precisely noon that day, guessing that some of them would be sitting down to their mid-day meal; meaning fewer of them moving about and possibly spotting one of us before we could carry off our plan.

One team, consisting of the majority of the crew, had gone above by the same route that the reconnaissance team had taken that morning. They were armed with the two Sten-guns while I, still aboard the trawler with a few men, was armed with the revolver. As the time drew near, the engine was started and we carefully made our way out of the cove and proceeded slowly toward the dock; just another of the myriad of trawlers seen passing to and fro in their business of catching fish.

Earlier, I had gone through what remained of the personal effects of the previous crew. I didn't expect to find much of a feminine nature but did find a scarf with a horridly ugly flower print on it. This I put over my head, tying it beneath my chin. Perhaps it had belonged to the crewman's girlfriend or wife. I suppose I'd never know. All of the insignia was removed from my tunic whereas it was then turned inside out, revealing the satiny lining, which from afar, made it look more like something of a woman's coat. My white blouse underneath would suffice but with what I had planned, needed something roomier so borrowed a white shirt from one of our larger crewmen. I remember giggling after putting it on, thinking it made me look like I was wearing a tent. The trousers would not do however and there wasn't a thing aboard the trawler that even remotely looked like a skirt.

Dortmund, seeing our dilemma, took a bedsheet and, using various foodstuffs and iodine from the medicine cabinet, did a surprisingly reasonable job of creating a flowery pattern that would pass a glancing inspection. It would never make Paris fashions but was good enough for what we intended to do. This was wrapped about my waist and secured. My shoes looked too regulation so, in the guise of a fisherman's wife, I donned a pair of old work-boots that had belonged to one of the former crewmen. They were so big, yet the smallest to be found, that I had to wear four pair of socks to keep the things from literally falling off my feet. That was good enough though as I wasn't going to be goose-stepping anyway, effecting by my plan, nothing more than a shuffle. The final coup de grce was a pillow, carefully plumped and rounded then stuffed under my shirt. My left arm across my stomach to hold it in place while beneath it lay concealed the Lebel revolver.

Midshipman Staats, spoke fluent Dutch so was selected to portray my husband. Although German was a common enough language on Iceland, I didn't want to press our luck, so, Staats replaced his uniform with clothing from the crews possessions and made a very convincing-looking fisherman, including the smell. I don't think these had been laundered recently for the smell of fish was quite aromatic, to say the least.

As the trawler eased up to the dock at about ten till twelve, the sentry, whose attention was entirely upon our boat, was trying to wave us off. His look of dismay was compounded by the view of what appeared to be a fisherman and his pregnant wife; Staats holding my arm and assisting me to the dock, all the while rattling away in Dutch for a doctor while I moaned and carried on like I was being murdered.

I had been present when my cousin Trudi had her baby and still remembered the spectacle well. In fact, well enough that I knew that I was in no hurry to go through that ordeal myself! I definitely remembered enough of it to be able to give a believable performance of a woman in the advanced throes of labor.

It must have been quite a scene for any who could have witnessed it. The soldier on the dock was becoming more panicked, insisting that we could not dock there. I was drowning him out with my overdramatic moans and screams, and all the while Staats was rattling away with a machinegun staccato of Dutch, none of which the Amerikan soldier understood.

Staats made a very convincing job of looking the nervous would-be father for he didn't have to act that part. He was already nervous as a cat having kittens as all we had was that revolver which looked pitifully inefficient when compared to the sinister-looking Tommygun that the sentry had. At least he had it slung over his shoulder so as to free both hands, all the better to gesticulate that we weren't supposed to dock here.

I chose that moment to collapse and lie on my back on the dock, which, as planned, only served to panic the soldier even more. To this soldier, he was utterly convinced that he was about to witness a baby being born right there and then and wanted nothing to do with it! No Siree Bob! He had given up trying to get us to leave about the same time we heard "What in Sam Hill is going on here soldier!"

As it turned out, it was the Colonel who, rather than being up above, had come down to his boat to select some choice tidbits from his personal stash for lunch. God forbid that he should subject himself to eating K-rations with the rest of his men.

The soldier stepped back quickly, allowing the Colonel to come forward, thankful that there was somebody else here to handle this female crisis for which few men knew how to cope. As the Colonel squatted down to have a better look, he exclaimed, "Jesus H. Christ! This woman's having a baby! That was when my hand slipped under the pillow and came back out with the business end of the revolver pointing right between his eyes. At the same time, Staats, who also spoke very good English, instructed him to tell the guard to put his weapon down on the dock and step away from it..

At such close range, there was no missing and the Colonel was very well aware of it. Begrudgingly, he did as ordered and, with the exception of my wounded, the balance of my crew aboard the trawler, came swarming out of their hiding places onto the dock. The Thompsen was immediately taken into custody by my own men and by my orders, the two were taken aboard the MTB while we awaited the results of the skirmish above, which as it turned out, didn't amount to much at all.

As the Colonel and sentry, still in stunned disbelief, were taken below, a burst of laughter escaped my lips and some of my men looked at me. I just shook my head and they passed it of as a release of nervous tension. Had they known the truth, or had I articulated with what I had been thinking then, I imagine not a few of them would be laughing too but I didn't want an uproar from below gaining the attention of any above if the assault party up there was not fairing well. Still I could not suppress a smile as in my head I was rattling off Pirate jargon of, "Aaargh! Avast ye me hearties! Shiver me timbers as this fortress be our'n!"

Not knowing at the time how things were progressing up top, one of my crew manned one of the AA guns on the MTB and swung the muzzle upward. Although it proved not necessary, it would have been a woeful experience for anyone other than my own crew had they poked their nose over the stair-railing above.

Tying off the last stitch, biting off the thread, then donning my tunic, I thought to myself, "Okay Wolfgang, we've done our part. Where are you?"


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Chapter Nineteen The Witching Hour

The initial elation over our easy success in capturing the weather station had worn off. Now everybody was restless with anxiety as we waited for word from U-735. The trawler had been tucked away again, out of immediate sight inside the little cove, and the worst of our wounded had been transferred to the MTB, which is where Lt. Ringelmann was staying to watch over them. Seaman Scheil was still hanging on but Albert was not optimistic that they would be able to save his leg. One way or the other, the war was over for him.

Five of the enlisted prisoners were confined and under guard in their bunk-room. A sixth, under close scrutiny, was manning their radio, and the seventh, the one we had used earlier that day to perform our execution' ruse, was still being kept isolated from the others down below in the MTB. The rest of his friends still believed him dead and for the time being, I wanted to keep it that way; hence insuring their cooperation lest the same happen to them. As far as Colonel Weyland, he was bound and kept with those of us who had elected to stay in the weather station's radio room. This included me, Midshipman Staats, for his expertise with English, and currently, Petty Officer Reinhardt who kept a watchful eye on the Colonel, one of the Thompsens cradled across his lap.

Wiese opted to stay at the radio aboard the MTB and monitor the frequency that Pedersen had transmitted on previously. Some of the men had been dropping in on him so much that I finally had to order them to leave him alone. He would notify us if anything came through; of course, after issuing such orders, I couldn't help but feel somewhat guilty myself for dropping' in on him periodically. He would greet each visit with a solemn shake of his head then we would both sit there, staring at the radio as if willing a message from U-735 to come through.

I had tried to persuade Wiese to turn in earlier and let another relive him but he declined, insisting he was fine. I knew otherwise as I could see the fatigue on his features, but he had such a pleading look in his eyes that I decided to allow it for a few more hours. Operation of the radio was his forte and it was important to him to be the one who received the message that would save us.

The hours rolled slowly by with nothing other than occasional chatter on the radio completely unrelated to us. It almost drove one nuts though as you would be sitting there quietly with your own thoughts only to jerk your head up every time a peep of a sound came out of that speaker.

It was 22:00 hours and although I new that they would not sleep soundly, I had earlier ordered much of the crew to turn in. A bunk had been moved into the radio room for the Colonel and he appeared to be asleep, although I doubted it. His breathing did not match that of a person deeply immersed in slumber.

After numerous protests earlier, he had been threatened with being gagged and since then, had remained relatively quiet. As he still believed that I had cold-bloodedly murdered one of his men, his hatred for me was intense and I was taking no chances; keeping his hands bound and under close guard. Despite the warning that more of his men would be shot if he failed to cooperate, the Colonel knew that he was in a dire situation and I would not put it past him to try something stupid, given the opportunity.

The changing of the guard had just taken place and those relieved had exited the building to head off to their bunks aboard the trawler. It was our plan that when the time came for us to depart, those on the trawler would stay put; while the remainder of us would head down to the MTB and then meet them at the cove where they would then transfer to the Torpedo Boat. The trawler would be left behind where it was my hope that one day the original owner, Captain Gestur r Jhannsson, would be able to retake possession.

Those prisoners not going with us, which were all of them except for the Colonel, would be bound so as not to be of any hindrance in our escape. The soldier imprisoned aboard the MTB would be released but by the time he would be able to climb those stairs from the dock and release his friends, we would be well on our way to rendezvous with the trawler. They would be helpless to do anything about it as we had taken possession of all of their weapons and the radio would not do them much good when shredded with bullet holes.

It had been our plan earlier to use the trawler as a red herring to the enemy, sending it unmanned on it's way out to sea, however, with the advent of Pedersen coming into the fjord combined with the speed of the MTB, I decided this would be unnecessary and, if anything, would only slow things down once the ball started rolling. On a personal level, I was glad of it anyway as I had already done enough to poor Captain Jhannsson without causing him the permanent loss of his boat as well.

It was twelve past the hour and I was seriously considering turning in my self for awhile when Seaman Schuller burst through the door, bent over trying to catch his breath while extending a scrap of paper in my direction. "It's them, Kaleun Hessler!" he gasped. I grabbed the message from his hand and scanned it quickly, my lips moving wordlessly to the words of the message.

NORWEGIAN TRAWLER KAMPETORSK STOP
TO KAPT DRAKKAR ON TRAWLER NACHTGESPENST STOP
NEARLY HOME STOP
WILL SPEAK TO SCOUNDREL WOFGANG IN 2 TO THREE HOURS STOP
HE IS A VERY GOOD LISTENER STOP
HOPE TO SEE YOU SOON STOP
KAPT PETERSEN STOP

Clutching the message with both hands, I brought it to my lips and said a silent prayer of thanks. Those of my crew present in the radio room were motionless in anticipation. I lifted my eyes and, with a smile, I said, "Two hours. We move at midnight." My statement was met with jubilant conversation amongst the others. Even including the time it would take for us to get down to the MTB, collect those at the trawler, then be on our way, it would take no more than an hour at the most to reach the middle of the fjord where we would then shut down so Wiese could signal them with Morse by banging on the hull with a hammer. Reading between the lines in his message, I had no doubt that all their senses would be attuned for any sort of signal or message from us. I smiled as I imagined the look on Wolfgang's face when he saw the vessel we had made good our escape on.

I reminded Reinhardt and Staats to keep a close eye on the prisoners while I went down to the MTB to send a reply. It was a little more than twenty past ten when I reached the torpedo boat. I had composed my message along the way and Weise was waiting, all previous traces of tiredness vanished with the excitement of imminent rescue. Those of my crew aboard the MTB had already been informed of the message and had gathered around Wiese while waiting for my arrival. I relayed my message to Wiese who, after jotting it down, immediately began transmitting.

10.27 April 8

WILL MEET AT MIDDLE OF FJORD STOP
NORTH OF BOLUNGARVIK STOP
AFTERWARD WILL BUY DINNER THERE STOP
FAMOUS FOR SMOKED HERRING AND BLUE VELVET CAKE STOP
YOU WILL LOVE NEW BOAT
SEE YOU THEN STOP
KAPT DRAKKAR

Wiese's expression bore that of a puzzled frown as he hadn't a clue what I was sending but did not pause to ask, knowing that we had been communicating in rhymes, riddles, and music from the beginning.

After he had finished, I explained to him that I still feared the enemy intercepting our message so, decided to send them on a wild goose chase if they did. Rather than have them scouring Amarfjordur with their aircraft, I chose Bolungarvik well away to the north. I was counting on Wolfgang to remember the cake we had at the Drakkar some months back in honor of one of the boat commander's birthday. It had been "Red" Velvet Cake, but I didn't want to risk giving too much information to the allies. There was no such thing as Blue" velvet cake but I was counting on them not to know that.

We would just have to hope that Herr Pedersen or one of his crew would realize that the combination of herring and red' velvet cake indicated "Red Herring" in regards to Bolungarvik; another ruse to throw off the enemy. He would know that I would have been hard-pressed in the time allowed from the last message to have gotten that trawler up there from Amarfjordur. I was just glad that it was almost impossible to hit one of these MTB's with a torpedo should he become alarmed before we could message him; but then there were those acoustics, hence my addition of new' boat in the message. I just hoped that the warning would be enough to make his hand pause on the "fire" button, despite our being an MTB.

Even in the event that he did fail to pick up on the clue and turned around, with the speed of the MTB, we would be able to race ahead and periodically pound a message through the hull until we got close enough for him to hear us. Wolfgang was no fool though, he would know.

Wiese was grinning like a loon, shaking his head in wonderment, "Perhaps you should go to work for Etappendienst after this Kaleun."

I replied with, "Who says that I don't now?" raising one brow. This threw him for a loop and his eyes grew wide. Although I didn't, I left him with that to ponder over as, with an amused smile, I turned to one of the seamen and gave him orders to go over and alert the crew on the trawler to abandon it and get over here. We had some time to spare and I didn't want to waste a single minute when it came time for us to depart.

---------------------------------------------

For once, the time passed pretty quickly as we prepared for our departure. All of the crew at the trawler had come over and some of them were topside assisting with tying up the prisoners. I'd had the guard doubled up for this as I did not wish for any of them to try something foolish at the last moment. It probably wasn't necessary when they all just about jumped out of their skins when the report of one of those Thompsens opened up right in the next room. Reinhardt had just emptied a magazine in the process of turning their radio into Swiss cheese. The look on some of their faces told me that they still were not entirely sure that they were not going to be killed before we left.

Colonel Weyland had been escorted down to the MTB and secured snugly aboard. We had still not released the soldier held prisoner there and I wasn't there when the Colonel saw him, just as healthy as the day before he believed we had shot him, but I was told that the invective that spewed from his lips would have made a ***** blush. The crew got a pretty good laugh at his embarrassment of being so easily fooled.

Including the Colonel, there would be thirty of us aboard the patrol craft and it was a real snug fit to say the least. Of course, all of the bunks went to the wounded with the rest of us fitting ourselves in wherever we could. Along with me, and my XO, many of the men chose, despite the chill, to stay topside. Leutnant Pfennings, who was qualified on flak guns, chose a position at one of the two 20mm twin Oerlikons and sent one of the men to man the other. I silently prayed that we weren't going to need them.

By now it was ten minutes shy of midnight. By Pedersen's last message, he would either be in position or be there within the hour. That was close enough for me. The order was given to release the dead' prisoner and as the three powerful engines rumbled to life, his bonds were removed and he was seen to the dock.

As we pulled away, I could see his receding figure standing there as he watched us tear off across the fjord. The moon was out tonight, which I would have been perfectly happy without, for it made the white froth of our wake stand out like a signal beacon. I was really hoping that if the allies had intercepted our message, they would fall for my ruse and be concentrating their surveillance on Bolungarvik instead of here. I did derive some peace of mind in the fact that they would be looking for a trawler rather than one of their MTB's.

"Well, there he goes," mentioned Albert, "He'll have the rest of them loose in another ten minutes."

With my face into the wind, the speed of the craft was exhilarating and I found myself wondering why I hadn't gone for Schnellboots instead. At Albert's comment on the actions of the American soldier, I shrugged my shoulders in dismissal. "Little enough any of them can do now." I replied. "They'll be cooling their heels until their next supply vessel shows up or somebody comes around to see why there hasn't been any radio transmissions. By then we'll be well on our way home."

I had no sooner uttered those last words when Albert quipped, "What in holle is he doing? Does he think he is going to pursue us with that launch?"

At that I looked back myself. We were well enough away that details were difficult to make out but in the moonlight it could be seen that, rather than head up the stairs to the aid of his comrades, he had opened one of the doors to the boathouse and had disappeared inside. Others of the crew were curious now too, alerted to his actions by Albert's comment, and were trying to get a look when Zinke, who was on watch with a pair of binoculars, screamed "Down!" At the same time I saw a small blossom of muzzle flash. "What the holle!" I thought when the flash repeated itself and the distinctive whine of a ricocheting bullet whined off of the boat. By the time there was a third flash, I was ordering Lt. Pfennings to return fire.

A moment later, the twin barrels of the Oerlikon had opened up and I had dropped down, or had I fallen, behind what little cover there was on deck while others of the crew were scrambling to do the same. I was trying to figure out why the pounding report of the AA guns, as they ripped the dock and boathouse to splinters, was sounding farther and farther away when it was only a few meters from me. The night had been cloudless but I looked up nonetheless to see what was obscuring the moon and making it darker. The last thing I remembered was the taste of blood on my lips as the report of an explosion reached the MTB when some of Pfennings 20mm rounds found the fuel tank aboard the launch.

The resulting blast completely destroyed the smaller craft and boathouse and the night sky was lit up as the wreckage of the dock and stairway began to blaze. To all of this, however, I was oblivious.

miss_behavin_57
03-10-2007, 06:07 AM
Chapter Twenty Cutting It Close

I was watching the inferno as what little remained of the boathouse, as well as the wooden dock and stairway, went up in flames. There must have been a rifle overlooked somewhere in the boathouse or launch and, instead of immediately going up to secure the release of his counterparts, the prisoner we had released decided, for whatever reason instead, to throw some parting shots our way.

He had only gotten off three or four shots before Lt. Pfennings opened up with the Oerlikon; hence silencing him as well as setting the entire dock array ablaze when one of the 20mm rounds found the fuel tank of the smaller launch inside the boathouse.

"Well," with a certain degree of smugness in my voice, "he won't be doing that anymore shall he Marlena?"

A voice cried out in alarm, "Leutnant Ringelmann!" My nerves jumped to attention as I turned to see what our new crisis was, half expecting to see a destroyer or the like bearing down on us. Instead, I would swear that my heart literally stopped beating for a moment, as in the sharpened shadows cast by the moonlight, lay the prostrate form of Kaleun Hessler; with Petty Officer Eckermann kneeling over her.

I could not say if I threw Eckermann aside or what, for I truly do not remember, but in a flash I had replaced him as I first checked for signs of life. Besides other duties, I also served as the boats medical officer as, before the war, I had been just shy of my second year in medical school. How I wound up as second to Kaleun Hessler was another story altogether that we shall save for another time.

A wave of elation came over me as, contrary to my expectations, I found a strong pulse at the base of her neck on the carotid artery. No sooner had I tersely called for it, when her upper torso and head was disclosed in a restricted pool of light that escaped between Eckermann's fingers as he clasped them over the lamp to prevent the light being visible nowhere else but upon our commander.

A despairing "Scheie!" escaped his lips as the light revealed a pink, bubbly froth at her lips; a lung wound! I called for help to get her below where I could get more light as well as, more importantly, get her in out of the cold. I did not have to ask twice as more than enough willing hands helped me lift her and carry her down into the cabin of the torpedo-boat.

Despite the crowded conditions, crewmen made way as we carried her to one of the few remaining bunks that was not already occupied by one of our wounded. With Eckermann's assistance, I removed her tunic and popped buttons as I tore open her blouse. I found what I expected; a sucking wound just below her right breast. The soldier had most likely been using either an M1 Garand or a British Enfield rifle, both of which were very powerful just like our Mauser 98K. Due to the military's use of full-jacketed bullets, which greatly reduced or eliminated altogether any mushrooming effect, I expected, and hoped, to find an exit wound. If there wasn't it would mean that the bullet had most likely been deflected by bone and had bounced around inside her chest cavity creating catastrophic damage. That she was still alive and breathing, albeit with some difficulty, I doubted this was the case and I shouted for something airtight to cover the hole with before her lung collapsed entirely. Pulling her up enough to allow my hand to slide beneath her, I was relieved to find the exit wound I was hoping for.

A piece of rubberized cloth, haphazardly cut from somebody's slicker was handed to me and, before applying this over the hole on her chest, I dusted the wound with sulfa powder from the MTB's first aid kit. Asking for another patch', I dusted the exit wound beneath her right shoulder blade and covered the hole with the airtight material. Results were instantaneous as her labored breathing improved dramatically. Carefully holding the patches in place with my hands, thick pads of medical gauze was placed over them and then, with Eckermann's assistance, her torso was wrapped with bandages to hold it all in place. There was little more I could do for her now but pray that there was not too much internal bleeding. I knew that she was not hemorrhaging or we would have lost her by now. There was morphine but this would be saved for when she was conscious and should the pain be unbearable. All we could do now was make her as comfortable as possible, keep her warm, and pray that they had brought medical equipment and personnel more qualified than myself.

Had there been anyone to see, the patrol-boat continued steadfastly on it's way across the placid, cold, moonlit waters of the fjord. A peaceful setting as if all was well with the world.

-----------------------------------------------

While working on her wounds, I had heard the Colonel say something but as my English is poor and I was thoroughly absorbed with saving Kaleun Hessler's life, I had made little out of it other than remembering hearing the unmistakable sound of somebody's fist making hard contact with a jaw. No more was heard from the Colonel.

Not that she was out of harms way by a long shot, but the worst of the crisis was over so I now had time to take in my surroundings and see what the commotion had been about regarding our captive.

Assigning Eckermann to watch over her and to send for me immediately should her condition appear to worsen, I turned to find a good many of the crew watching me. Their breathing seemed as if in a single collective pause as their searching eyes tried to read mine for news regarding Kaleun Hessler's fate. It had been a very long day and now I could feel the exhaustion and all I wanted to do was sit down somewhere. This luxury I could not afford however, as there were still other things for me to see too; what with command now resting upon my shoulders. Summoning as much calm to my voice as I could muster, I told them that her chances were very good. This seemed to be all they wanted to hear and they all visibly relaxed, as best as one would under such circumstances, some wanting to shake my hand for saving her.

I elected not to tell them that if our rescuers did not bring sufficient medical help and medicines, I would be highly surprised if she lived to see Bergen again. These men had already lost many of their comrades and, being so close to rescue, I did not wish to plunge their morale any more for the moment. Between now and the time we boarded U-735, I would spend little time away from her side. She was one holle of a woman and commander. There was not a man in her crew who would not follow her to holle and back merely at the asking. I thought of the man who commanded the 735, having met him a few times myself at the Drakkar, and how much she loved him. For her sake, and maybe his too, I just hoped to holle he was worth it.

Regarding Colonel Weyland, who lost no love for our commander, I learned from Midshipman Staats that he had said, during my harried attempts to save her, that should she die, he would personally, after the war, find the soldier who had shot her and give him a medal. Surrounded by men who all but worshipped her and were inspired by her leadership, that was a poor thing to say and most certainly the wrong place to say it. Staats, without a word, had hauled off and cold-cocked him as hard as he could with an uppercut to the Colonel's jaw.

I saw to Staat's swollen knuckles, informing him that I would have to stitch one of them that had busted open as soon as I had the sutures to do so. The Colonel I saw to in a more leisurely fashion, not being, to honestly say, that I cared a great deal regarding his welfare. From the look of the Midshipman's knuckles, I was surprised to discover that Weyland's jaw was not broken. He was certainly going to be hurting when he came to and would undoubtedly have more than a few loose teeth to show for his stupidity.

Glancing back at Marlena who lay in a semi-restful state of repose, I wearily ran my hand through my hair and realized that I needed some air. Weaving my way through the crowd of sailors who had crammed into the cabin to look over their commander's state, I made my way topside and inquired how much longer to the rendezvous site.

I was surprised to learn that our ETA was only another fifteen minutes, twenty at the most. I hadn't realized how fast time had slipped by while below seeing to Marlena's wounds and talking to the crew. I turned my face forward where I watched the reflection of moonlight ripple across the black midnight waters of the fjord. I did a silent prayer in my head pleading that this be the last of our tribulations. I just didn't think I had the strength to deal with any more troubles; I was so tired.

Ten minutes later I was beginning to think that my prayers had been heard when Wiese, whose face I could see was pale even by the light of the moon, silently came up to me and handed me a message. Apparently he had not divulged the content to any one else as there were a few who had followed him in anticipation of learning what it was. Worry showed on their faces as Wiese's countenance foretold no news of a pleasant nature.

Ever since the launch back at the weather station blew up, taking the dock and stairs with it in an engulfing torrent of flame, the fear that the fire, which could be seen for a great distance, would attract the attention of enemy aircraft or worse, the arrival of an investigating destroyer or other warship. I countered this fear with the realization that regarding us, they would be looking for a trawler and not one of their own military vessels. Even if we were seen, we would most likely be passed by with little or no attention given to us.

That peace of mind had just ended. Reading the message told me that the prisoners we had left behind had freed themselves from their bonds and had somehow managed to transmit a message alarming the allies of our whereabouts and escape. It read:

ATTENTION ALLIED COMMAND
SURVIVORS OF SUNKEN UBOAT ATTACKED AMARFJORD WEATHER STATION.
TAKEN PRISONER COLONEL WEYLAND AND COMMANDEERED MTB
LAST KNOW POSITION HEADING NORTHEAST FROM STATION AT FULL SPEED.

I had personally seen the damage done to their radio when Petty Officer Reinhardt had emptied a magazine of .45 caliber bullets into it from one of the captured Thompsens. I knew full well that there was no way that radio would ever function again. It left no other explanation than that they must have had a spare or replacement unit out in that storage shed. At the time, we had considered taking out the antenna tower but did not have explosives at hand and had apparently made the mistake of assuming that there were no other radios as none had been seen in the radio-room. A cursory search of the other structures had been made when we captured the facility but it must have been overlooked or in a crate marked as something else.

As my stomach turned with the implications, I went about informing the crew and making sure that the AA guns were manned. By this stage of their pursuit along with the damage we had caused at the weather station, I was not overly confident that the presence of Colonel Weyland would prevent the enemy from blowing us out of the water.

"How close are we!" I inquired of Pfennings, our navigator. "We're there" he replied, "maybe another five minutes."

"This will have to do. Stop the boat! Kill all engines!" I commanded. I instructed Wiese to start transmitting whereas he went below with a hammer to start beating out in Morse on the hull of the boat, our message of arrival to U-735."

I prayed that he was here and all but right under us. After that message went out from the weather station, I did not give us more than thirty minutes, and more likely less, before aircraft would be scouring this area. If we were not aboard U-735 by then, there would be no way he could safely surface and we would have no choice but to surrender when Allied vessels arrived on the scene; that is if they didn't commence firing on us outright. Time was running out and the outcome was no longer in our hands.

As the thuds of Wiese's hammer boomed out a hollow-sounding message through the water, all eyes that could scanned the sea for any clue of Pedersen's boat as well as the night sky for the imminent arrival of the enemy.


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Chapter Twenty-one - Too Stubborn to Die

8:43 p.m. April 13, 1944

My mind was befuddled as I struggled to get to the surface. My limbs felt as though they weighed a ton and a great pain filled my chest; I knew I'd been hit. Breath would not come to me and I realized I would soon drown should I not make the surface. Through the water above, I could still see the blurry Leigh light of the enemy bomber and knew that only death awaited me on the surface. Maybe better to just let go, to embrace peace and sink to the depths to join so many of my colleagues who had preceded me.

Distant voices I could hear and though some were strange to me, others I knew; Ringelmann, Pfennings, Dortmund, Wiese, and many others. My crew, even if only a few, were still alive and as long as they were, I could not give up. I could not abandon them, as much as the peaceful darkness beckoned to me; and him, my green-eyed Viking, I had fought too hard to give up now.

My head broke the surface and I cried out, "Wolfgang!"

As my vision cleared, the Leigh light became that of the lamp over the radio operator's station. My breathing was shallow, but I was breathing, and it tasted sweet. As my head began to clear, I recognized my XO, Lt. Ringelmann, "Albert," hovering over me and gently mopping the perspiration from my face.

Albert turned his head to call for the Doctor but found, instead, Kaleun Pedersen who had hastened to my side when I had called out for him, an expression of abject worry furrowing his brow. His hand grasped mine, gently holding it between his as Albert encouraged him, "The fever, it has broken. I'll get the doctor."

As Albert left, Wolfgang moved closer, his face near mine. I peered into his green eyes, and although my chest felt like someone had hit me with a sledgehammer, I felt as though his life force flowed into me through our touch and I could not help but feel a warm smile come to my face. My mouth and throat was dry and I fear my plea of , "Don't let go of me Wolfgang," came out more like a croak than anything audible. He understood though for his hands tightened on mine and shaking his head, a fire of heartfelt adulation burning in his eyes, he said, "Never, my love."

Letting go only long enough to help me raise my head while he lifted a glass of water to my lips, he continued to assure me that I would not be lost to him. Over his shoulder, I could see someone arrive who looked like a doctor and it was with great obvious reluctance that Wolfgang moved aside to make room for him. With a stoic expression, the doctor began checking my vitals but my eyes were not for him, not once leaving Wolfgang's; a gaze that connected us as surely as though our hands were still grasped.

As the doctor proceeded to inspect my wounds, recollection of the last few days was rapidly coming back to me, most of which had been explained to me by either my XO, Albert, Kaleun Pedersen's XO "Bernard," or Wolfgang himself; who had incessantly been at my side whenever duty did not require him elsewhere.

Only an hour or so past midnight, on the morning of the 9th, U-735 surfaced to successfully rendezvous with the captured patrol craft on which we'd made good our escape. With utmost haste, everyone was transferred aboard and the little vessel was left adrift to be reclaimed by the Amerikan navy. Less than five minutes later, the powerful search-lamp on the Amerikan-built bomber swept over the water where, only moments before, the tower of Pedersen's boat had disappeared below the surface. Fortunately, their ASDIC-bearing destroyers were farther out and we would be well away from the area by the time one could arrive there. For now, we were safe.

At the time, I had only been semi-conscious and had struggled to stay alert enough until I knew for sure everyone had been safely brought aboard. Focusing on the pain of my wound, this helped me to do so while Bernard assured me that all of my crew was aboard and the wounded were being seen to by a medical staff that had been sent with them. Kaleun Pedersen had been busy at the time personally flitting about in seeing that everything was being seen to and the safety of the boat made good with our descent and flight from the rendezvous area. I remembered thanking him and that I had never given up hope that they would find us. Even better now, I knew the mettle of the man to whom I'd lost my heart to.

During the following hours when consciousness punctuated my sedated sleep, Wolfgang was at my side more often than not; and when he wasn't because of his duties, somebody else was. It was as though a perpetual guard had been placed over me so as to warn death, should he arrive at my bed, to move along; he had no business here.

Between Wolfgang, Albert, Bernard, and the myriad of crew that came through to see and wish me well, both of the U-406 as well as the U-735, I learned that Kaleun Pedersen's boat had been retrofitted into something resembling a submersible hospital before it had left Bergen. The only torpedoes aboard were in tube one through four, all others left behind to allow the forward torpedo room to be converted into a barracks. Even the rails and hoists for handling the torpedoes had been removed so that room would be available for carpenters to build a network of wooden scaffolding to be used as bunks. The same had been done with the aft torpedo room as well. In this fashion, enough bunks were available for the large number of men aboard to work a rotating watch.

The officer's mess had been converted into a respectable surgery, whereas the petty officer's quarters now served as a sick-bay for the treatment and recovery of the wounded.

Members of my crew who had not been wounded, had been incorporated into manning Pedersen's boat for he had come with only the bare minimum of crew so as to make room for mine when they found us. I was pleased to learn that all of them worked together in a professional manner and the atmosphere aboard our rescue vessel was jubilant with renewed hope.

Although I did not remember doing so, I had been somewhat embarrassed to learn that I had threatened to shoot the doctor myself if he let a single one of my men die and had even demanded my .45, the M1911 I had liberated from the Amerikan Colonel, be brought to me. Needless to say, this order had been prudently ignored. Despite the pain that this caused, there were a few times, in my desire to see for myself the conditions and care being given to my crew, I tried to rise from my berth only to be forcefully restrained from doing so. After a few repeated warnings from the doctor, he made good his threat and was keeping me mildly sedated. I'm still not sure if that was to keep me in bed, or if there were ulterior motives just to make sure that I did not indeed come hunting him.

Those crew that I had lost, as well as the fate of the missing raft, haunted me and was quite often on my mind. This dread was lessened somewhat by the good news that the two worst cases, Thiel and Imme, would survive their wounds; and Thiel would even keep his leg, although it would still cripple him enough that for him, the war was over.

The unpropitious Colonel Weyland had been incarcerated in the aft torpedo room and placed under heavy guard. He thought far too highly of himself to consider trying anything that would get him killed and hence soon became a silent, deflated figure of a man and left alone to contemplate his future at the hands of his captors. Regarding him, I personally did not give much thought or care, other than that he was treated within the dictates of the Geneva Convention. His usefulness to me was past and I only hoped that he possessed knowledge that would prove valuable enough to warrant the trouble of bringing him along.

The following day, I took a turn for the worse when, despite the best efforts of the highly skilled doctor, I became somewhat delirious with fever and he kept a closer watch over me in fear that infection had set in. I remembered little or nothing of that time but had seen others in the same state before and only hoped that I did not ramble on too much while in this condition. There were some things I had to say but these were words reserved only for the ear of my beloved Wolfgang.

My thoughts were brought back to the present when the doctor finished examining the progress of his treatment and redressed my wounds. Satisfied with his findings, he allowed a smile to assail his normally stolid demeanor and, rising to his feet, he said to Wolfgang, "She's past the worst of it Herr Pedersen. I am confident that she is going to recover fully. Providing no further problems develop, I imagine she will be up on her feet in a month."

A big grin came to Wolfgang's face as I found myself glaring at the doctor and saying, "Two!"

Turning his attention back to me, a tone of assurance in his voice, "Oh, no, Oblt. Hessler, in spite of your wounds, you are a very healthy woman. I am confident that you will recover quickly and be back up and about in no more than a month."

I think Wolfgang was grinning because he knew me better and understood what I meant the first time. The doctor's browse rose when I repeated, "Two, two weeks. I do not have time to languish about in a hospital bed any longer than that. Save it for those who need it more than I."

Shaking his head and turning back to Wolfgang, "Does she not realize the seriousness of her wounds? Is she always this stubborn?"

Nodding his head in silent acquiescence, Wolfgang's grin only grew wider as he moved closer in place of the retreating doctor to, once again, hold my hands in his.

Moving off to attend to his other patients, I clearly heard the doctor muttering, "I feel sorry for the foolish man that ever marries that woman."

miss_behavin_57
03-10-2007, 06:08 AM
Chapter Twenty-two - One More Engagement

21 April 1944

06:24

The boat was secured and an overwhelming silence flooded throughout when the motors, after days on end of continuous running, were finally shut down.

The fever I had suffered a week earlier had left me feeling weak at the time, but I felt that I had gained sufficient strength to be able to exit the vessel on my own two legs. When I expressed this desire however, I was met with a resounding "No!" not only from the doctor but from Wolfgang, Lt. Ringelmann, Bernard, and at least a few others. It came out so simultaneously that it was almost as if it had been choreographed and I could not help but laugh and concede. There was no doubt whatsoever that I had been overwhelmingly outvoted. The thought of protesting crossed my mind but I could still see worry in Wolfgang's eyes and I could not bring myself to do anything that would cause him undo anguish. I therefore allowed myself to be secured to a stretcher in preparation for disembarking.

While I listened to the hustle and bustle of the crew shutting things down and exiting, I allowed my mind to lazily drift back over the last week. I could feel the heat of a blush still come over my face as my memory went back to a few days after I had recovered from a fever-induced delirium, when Lt. Ringelmann had leaned close to whisper in my ear some of the things I had said in my incoherent state. I had been extremely embarrassed, to say the least; and especially when he informed me that I had been rambling on about the names Wolfgang and I would choose for our children. He tried to assure me that only a few had heard this and that it was kept discreetly secret amongst them. I was highly suspicious, however, that he was not being entirely truthful with me on this.

Raising my hand up so, for the hundredth time, I could look at the beautiful engagement ring Wolfgang had placed there; I realized that he'd had it for some time, even before engaging in this rescue mission. My vision blurred with tears of joyous emotion as I played back in my mind the little celebration he had held in the mess today when he announced our engagement. I would swear to this day that the cheer that went up from both crews would have drowned out all but the absolute closest of depth charge barrages. Despite doctor Wankel's protestations, even I got to enjoy some of the celebratory Bolinger '39 that had been broken out for the occasion.

Afterward, every crewman who was not otherwise occupied with duties or bedridden by their wounds came by to personally offer their congratulations. I could not help but be amused by the thought that Colonel Weyland, even were he allowed to come forward to do so, would most likely not be offering me any form of congratulations. There was no doubt regarding the venomous feeling he harbored toward me; and I suppose no one could particularly blame him.

All of my crew that came by, expressed right then and there that it was their desire to sail with me again once I got another boat and I returned their loyalty with an oath that I would do everything possible to see that they would stay with me when I received a new command. I knew that this would be difficult to do as many would most likely be reassigned to other boats during the time of my recovery in hospital. I would have to remember to bring this up to Kommandant Hellstrom to see if he could pull some strings for me.

I was still looking at the ring, a peacefully content smile upon my face, when another approached my side. Before even looking up to meet those green eyes of his, I knew that it was Wolfgang and, despite others moving by, he bent to kiss me before telling me it was time. Able crewmen, under the watchful eye of Wolfgang, took hold of my stretcher and, as though handling fine china, carefully extricated me from the interior of the boat.

As I was brought down the gangplank, I could see that a surprisingly large crowd had gathered and they began to applause. It was my sincere hope that this was in recognition of Herr Pedersen's rescue efforts as I certainly did not feel worthy after having lost my boat and more than a few of my crewman. Would THEIR families be applauding were they here? I did not think so. Many of the faces were familiar to me and I scanned the crowd looking for old friends, especially Klaus and Adolf, but I did not see them. It was as well that I could not know that they had been lost on patrol and I assumed that they were currently engaged at sea or on leave.

As I was carried toward an awaiting ambulance, Kommandant Hellstrom approached and, with obviously sincere pleasure in seeing my return, offered his congratulations. I promised him I would be back soon and to have a boat ready for me but he countered it with a certainty that I would, but first to concentrate on getting well. Before they could lift me into the ambulance, Wolfgang was there and before God and everybody, gave me another kiss; much to the joy and cheering of the crowd present. I really wanted him to come with me but reminded myself that when all was said and done, we were both still officers in the Kriegsmarine and he still had much to do in seeing to his crew and other official matters before he could call the day quits. Nonetheless, our eyes did not part until the doors were closed and I could feel the vehicle start moving on its journey to the Bergen hospital.


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Chapter Twenty-three The Escape Artist

9 May 1944

It had been just a day shy of three weeks since my internment at the Bergen hospital. Even though Wolfgang had been there at every opportunity, and many were my visitors, my idleness was beginning to get the better of me and to say that I was anxious to get out of there would be an understatement. It was starting to show in my demeanor too as even the nurses were beginning to avoid me unless they absolutely had to. I could only imagine the derogatory nicknames that I had been labeled with; all probably well deserved. I do not make a good patient. I had even snapped at Wolfgang a few times and I felt horrible for it. He had been such a dear, even sneaking in goodies for me that one would never see on a hospital menu. I really needed to get out of there.

The medical staff and care at Bergen hospital were excellent and I felt a hundred times better than I had upon my arrival three weeks prior. It was 11:00 p.m. and the ward had grown still with most of the patients asleep. I could hear the lowered voices of the two nurses on night duty and make out enough of their conversation to determine that they were preparing to attend to a patient who had come in the previous day with serious wounds that required constant attention and redressing. I knew that even with both of them, this would take at least fifteen minutes and probably a little longer.

Sitting up I swung my feet to the floor and immediately regretted moving so suddenly as I sat there for a moment waiting for the dizziness that had washed over me to subside. I had been off my feet for over a month now and it had certainly taken a toll, not to mention my wounds. Carefully standing up, and profoundly hoping that no one else was awake, more for my own modesty due to the insufficient coverage my hospital gown gave to one's backsides, I began to make my way to the nurse's station, making sure to stay well within the many dark shadows cast by the few dimmed lights that remained on.

No cries of alarm or inquiry called out and with one ear attuned to the activity of the nurses, I slid into a chair at their station and began quickly searching through myriad of papers and forms. After a moment, luck was still with me as I found what I was searching for. I was fortunate in that the attending doctor who looked me over every morning actually had handwriting that I could decipher. Studying his signature on some other paperwork, I practiced it a few times on a notepad until I was relative sure that it would pass a cursory examination.

Even though I could not see them, I glanced in their direction and listening momentarily to be sure that the night-duty nurses were still actively engaged. I then proceeded to carefully fill out the blank discharge form that I was guessing would be the one that would be put with my chart by the authorized doctor. I had considered indicating that I was to be released for return to full duty status but on second thought, decided that might raise too much suspicion and hence, questions that I could not answer. Writing in a script in a reasonable facsimile of the doctor's handwriting, I indicated that I could return to light duty for a period of no less than four weeks before being returned to full-duty status.
Examining his signature one more time, I carefully transcribed his endorsement to the appropriate line at the bottom of the form.

Putting everything back in their proper places, I rose, with papers in hand, and stealthily made my way back to my bed. With the exception of the discharge paper which I placed behind all of the other papers on the clipboard hanging at the foot of my bed, I hid all of the other practice' papers far beneath the mattress where it would be unlikely that any attendants would find them even when changing the bedding. Only if they were to turn the mattress would it be likely that they would be discovered.

By now I could feel a twinge of pain from my wounds and a slight shortness of breath. I congratulated myself in having enough foresight to have indicated a return to light' duty as I'm not sure I could handle an entire day on a full regimen. When the nurses returned to their station, I waited for them to notice anything out of the ordinary but after half an hour, no mention was made of it as I drifted off to sleep; a self-satisfied little smile upon my lips.

The next day, shortly after breakfast, the doctor came through on his morning rounds. After asking a few questions regarding how I was feeling, he spent a moment looking over my charts. While doing so I silently prayed that he would not go all the way to the back and discover the bogus release form I had hidden there the previous night. My luck held and he hung the clipboard back on it's hook at the foot of my bed. Smiling, he started to inform me of how much longer I would be there but before he could get out enough for the attending nurse to hear, I spoke up indicating that he was the doctor, who was I to challenge his decisions. He looked at me a bit strangely for a moment, blinked, and then wished me well until he would be seeing me again the next morning. "Not if I could help it," I thought to myself.

Listening carefully for anyone approaching my room, I slipped from under the bed-covers to make my way to the clipboard and, removing the discharge paper I had forged the night before, placed it directly on top of my charts.

About half an hour later, housekeeping came in to change the linens. I could have gotten up to make their work a bit easier but stayed put so as to make it more difficult for them to lift the edges of the mattress so as to tuck the sheets under. I certainly didn't want anybody finding my practice' forgeries until I was well away from there. I asked them if they knew whether or not anyone had yet notified my HQ to send over some clothing for me so that I could return to base. Of course, they didn't know but assured me that they would inform the charge nurse of my inquiry.

They apparently didn't get in any hurry to do so as it was almost an hour later before said nurse came into my room. She gave me a curt nod of greetings and went immediately to my charts, a frown pasted upon her face with one brow rising in surprise upon discovering the discharge paper. In the meantime another nurse had come in but held her silence while her senior was reading the form.

Her frown deepened and when she said, "This will not do," my heart sank as I realized she had seen right through my ruse.

"I would not release you so soon," she stated to me, "but then, I am not the one who makes those decisions. For the life of me though, I wish that he would learn to use the proper forms!"

Turning her attention to her subordinate, "Olga, take this and a correct' discharge form to the doctor and tell him this must be filled out again."

"But nurse Agnetha, he has just gone into surgery," the nurse replied, "I cannot interrupt him there."

Charge nurse Agnetha would have frowned even more deeply, if that were possible, and studied the forged document again. After a reprieve from believing I had been found out, I was certain that if she studied the paper much longer my ruse would discovered, therefore, I took a small sip of water from the bedside glass and faked a small coughing spasm. This worked in diverting the charge nurse's attention and she watched me carefully until the coughing stopped. I assured her that I was alright and had only choked on the water. This seemed to placate her somewhat but she repeated that were it her choice I would be remaining here at least a few more weeks. "You should be more careful," she warned, "especially so soon after recovery." Turning to the other nurse, "Very well then. At least he is one of the few doctors here whose writing you can actually read. Take this and type it up on the correct form. We can get his signature on it later. In the meantime," frowning at the bogus document, "this will have to do."

She then informed me that my Kommandant would be informed to send someone over with a uniform and transportation to return me to base. She explicitly reminded me that I was returning to light' duty only and not to overly exert myself for at least another two weeks.

It was still plainly obvious that she was not pleased at my release and I fervently prayed that the doctor's surgery would keep him too busy to question for at least a few hours.

A little more than an hour later, one of the female secretaries arrived with my uniform and informed me that a staff car was waiting out front. I had to be careful not to rush too quickly and hence bring on a wave of dizziness but at the same time, did not wish to dally any longer than absolutely necessary lest I run into the doctor in the hallway. In a few moments I was dressed and was enjoying the fresh air and sunshine on my face as we stepped out of the hospital and proceeded down the walk toward the waiting car.

miss_behavin_57
03-10-2007, 06:08 AM
Chapter Twenty-four It's All in the Wording

Getting back to the base, I made a temporary detour to my quarters to check my appearance before reporting to Kommandant Hellstrom. Looking in the mirror, a pale face stared back at me, but then, that was nothing unusual in the U-boat service. I had also lost some weight during my ordeal and the fit of my uniform was a bit loose. There was nothing to be done for that however, so it would have to do. Just a hint of make-up did wonders to conceal my sallow complexion and, with a deep breath of commitment, I left my quarters and proceeded across the compound to the Administrative building.

Along the way, I decided to delay a bit and have a look in the pens. Most were empty, apparently most of the boats still out on patrol, but in pen number three was U-1019, a new VIIC/40. Dockworkers and technicians were scurrying over the boat preparing her for service with some of the latest goodies' that the Kriegsmarine had at hand and I could not help but hope that this boat was my next command.

On the quay alongside, I saw a familiar profile and coming up behind him, I tapped his shoulder. "Leutnant Albert Ringelmann I presume?"

At the sound of my voice, my former XO spun around, confronting me with an obviously surprised expression at seeing me so soon out of the hospital. "Kaleun Hessler! What are you . . ." For a moment he was without words while I stood there grinning at him like the cat that ate the canary.

Finally overcoming his surprise, "We did not expect you to be released for at least another few weeks." Glancing at my torso where the Amerikan bullet had passed through me, puncturing my right lung along the way, "You are healed? You are feeling well?"

Placing a reassuring hand on Albert's arm, "I am fine Albert. At least fine enough to be out of that hospital. I was going crazy in there!"

Albert still looked surprised. "So, how did you manage to talk the doctor into releasing you?"

I didn't immediately reply, looking at Albert with a sheepish grin, and I had to bite my lower lip to keep from laughing outright. Albert started to get the look he always did whenever he thought I was up to something. "He DID release you, right?"

I waved the release papers in my hand as I turned to start walking to the Kommandant's office. Albert was right on my heels. "Why are you grinning like that? You're always up to something when you do that."

Putting on my most innocent expression, I glanced back at him over my shoulder. "But whatever do you mean Albert? I'm not up to anything; just returning to duty like a good Kaleun."

Albert narrowed his eyes. "Now I truly know you are up to something. That is the most guilty looking innocent expression I have ever seen; and I know you too well.

Stopping I turned around and placed my hands on Albert's shoulders, my face only inches from his. "Okay, here's what's going on. I forged the doctor's signature on a release form and checked myself out." Albert's eyes began to widen. "I expect anytime, starting from tomorrow on, that the hospital is going to be calling over here to report me missing. So, for now, I need to get into the Kommandant's office and report in before they do."

"Gott im Himmel Marlena!" Albert cried, "Have you gone mad? They'll have you up on AWOL charges!"

I just stood there looking at him with a smug smile on my face. He knew me well enough by now to know that I rarely entered into any situation without more than one angle to fall back on. After a moment, "What?" he inquired.

"First of all, I don't recall ever hearing or seeing any orders telling me to stay there. Second, that is a civilian hospital with a civilian staff. Now they certainly can't bring any charges to bear, can they."

Wagging a reproachful finger in front of my face, Albert retorted with, "No, no, no. I distinctly recall when we were exiting the boat that Kommandant Hellstrom ordered you to get better."

Laughing, then abruptly cutting that off as it still hurt somewhat to do so, "Well of course he did silly; but note, he said get better, not stay in the hospital. Well, I'm better, and I can finish healing up back here at the base."

Albert rolled his eyes and slapped his hand to his forehead. "How do you get away with these things?"

With a facetious little smirk, I replied, "My charming personality, perhaps?"

It was right then that I realized that Albert was still here instead of having gone out on another boat. It had been three weeks since our return and although I had asked Kommandant Hellstrom, no, pleaded was more like it, for my remaining crewmen to stay under my command, I did not really expect that to happen and had assumed that most, if not all of them would be reassigned to other boats during my stay in the hospital. With a ponderous frown pursing my brow, I asked, "Albert? Where have you been reassigned?"

Now it was Albert's turn to tease and a broad grin spread across his face.

Punching him lightly on the shoulder, "Albert, come on, don't play games with me. Why are you still here?" With a dawning realization, my eyes went wide as it came to me, "The 1019, that's your boat isn't it! They gave you a command?" I was so pleased for him. Albert was dammed good and deserved it. During our time together I had learned as much from him as he had from me. "That is fantastic! I am so happy for you!"

By now, Albert's smile had faltered a bit and he held up a hand halting me from any further accolades. "No, they have not given me my own command yet. The 1019 is to be your boat once you are deemed fit for full active duty again. It will take longer than that anyway to get her ready for front service."

I was genuinely disappointed for him and it showed. "Not all news is bad Marlena," his grin reappearing, "I am still here, as well as the rest of the surviving crew of the 406, because you got your request. Kommandant Hellstrom pulled some strings and has kept all the men together until you return to duty. We're all still under your command."

A squeal of delight pierced the air as I wrapped my arms around him in a fierce hug; only to be immediately cut short as a sharp pain stabbed at my ribs. Clutching a hand over my not-so-completely healed wound, I still could not help but grin. My crew and I had been through so much together and it had grieved me to think that we would all be separated. Regaining my composure as the pain subsided, "This is great news Albert! You know I would love nothing more than to see you get your own command, but until you do, I wouldn't have another XO at my side."

At this, Albert smiled, "It will come, Marlena. Perhaps you will get command of one of those new boats they are talking about and I can have your leftovers, hmm? In the meantime, you'd better settle down or you're going to have yourself back in that hospital again. What are you going to tell Hellstrom when he learns you sneaked out?"

Drawing myself up and with my most haughty tone, "I did NOT sneak out, thank you very much! For your information, I walked out the front door in plain sight of everybody; well, everybody except the attending doctor." After a pause, "Oh, I don't know Albert. I'll just have to convince the Kommandant that I can finish healing perfectly fine right here and at the same time be useful, even if it is helping with some filing in the office. Anything would be better than lying in that hospital for another two weeks. I'll think of something to tell him."

With that, we both turned and proceeded on to the Kommandant's office. Coming up the steps to the Administration building, my navigation officer, Leutnant Pfennings, was just coming out, his attention currently focused on some papers he was reading. I was smiling when he glanced up then did a double-take when he realized it was me. My early' release caught him completely by surprise and he halted in his tracks. "Kaleun Hessler?"

Without losing a beat in my stride, I gave him a cheery smile and waggled my fingers at him in greeting as I passed him and entered into the main foyer of the building. As I proceeded down the hall to Kommandant Hellstrom's office, Albert remained behind to fill Pfennings in.

Passing through his outer office, I placed a finger over my lips, beseeching his aide to silence, and went straight to Hellstrom's door. Knocking on it smartly, I stood there grinning foolishly at his astonished secretary until I heard from within, "Enter." Opening the door I stepped within to find the Kommandant pouring over a pile of paperwork. Others may not have noticed but for those of us who had been around him awhile, I could see how haggard he looked. Our losses were hitting him hard.

Bringing myself to a position of attention before his desk, I executed a salute and exclaimed, "Oberleutnant Marlena Hessler reporting for duty Sir!"


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Chapter Twenty-five Shall We Dance?


Fifteen minutes later, I came out to find Ringelmann and Pfennings milling about waiting for me. In response to their anxious looks, I smiled and gave them a thumbs up. "So far, so good. He made no mention of my early release so apparently the hospital has not contacted anybody here since I left. Who knows, maybe I'll get lucky and they'll completely forget about me. Come on, let's go to the Drakkar. I could use a drink or two."

Neither of two officers looked entirely enthusiastic about my ruse remaining undiscovered but remained silent as we turned and headed toward the unofficial watering hole for the 11th Flotille officers.

My XO and Nav officer were both curious as to my reception by the Kommandant so I went on to explain that yes, he was a bit surprised to see me back this soon. A good thing I did not mark myself as fit for full duty. He'd have never believed it. On the other hand, he was more than glad to have me back and since I was restricted to light duty for a few more weeks, Kommandant Hellstrom had no doubt that they would be able to keep me busy helping with the incessant flow of paperwork. My enthusiasm left something to be desired, yet it was better than lying around in that hospital; and at least being here I could keep up on current affairs.

My running about since leaving the hospital that morning had, by now, my wounds throbbing painfully with each beat of my heart. Of course, this business I kept to myself but I was looking forward to getting off my feet and downing a few cognacs to deaden the pain. They had given me medication for it but I preferred not to take it as it made me drowsy; besides, cognac tasted better anyway.

The three of us paused outside the Drakkar as I took in the crest I had painted some time back and reflected on the memories it generated. "Seems like a long time ago doesn't it?"
Ringelmann and Pfennings nodded silently then followed as I pushed the door open and proceeded inside.

Pausing momentarily to allow my eyes to adjust to the relative gloom of the interior, I could see that there were very few men present, and most of them were strangers to me. Most of the other boats must still be out on their patrols. Sweeping my hand to take in the myriad of empty tables, "Grab us a table gentlemen. I'll join you in a moment."

As the two men headed off, hailing the bartender as they went, I moved over to stand before the Memorial wall; looking over the faces I remembered being there before, as well as taking in the new ones. My eyes lingered on my cousin Bruno and many were the memories of years past. He had been so patient with me when he would take me hiking in the Alps. I found myself wishing that I had a bouquet of Edelweiss to lay here for him now. He never failed to pick some for me.

My eyes slowly scanned over the others, pausing here and there as memories of better times came to mind. Coming to Klaus Hilgendorf, I paused to study his face, my hand raised to let my fingers caress his face. Although my thoughts were silent, I heard myself saying, "Oh Klaus, what are you doing up here?" He had become a good friend and would be missed dearly. Turning my hand, as if the man in the photograph could actually see, the lamps over the photographs made the diamonds in my engagement ring shimmer with sparkling light. Smiling, I told the silent image, "Look what Wolfie went and did. I'm in for it now aren't I?"

I light touch on my arm told me that I had company and I turned my head to see the bartender, Heinrich, at my side, his expression that of fond compassion. "It is so good to have you back with us Frau Hessler. You really had us all on pins and needles there for a while." Smiling, he extended his hand to offer a snifter of cognac. "On the house Frau Hessler. One of your favorites, Domaine Guy Lherauld, 1936. Welcome home. I have sent the bottle to your table."

Overwhelmed by his honest sincerity, I took the small tumbler and, being careful not to spill it, stepped forward to give him a light kiss on the cheek. "Thank you Heinrich. It feels very good to be back. You're going to be at the wedding aren't you?"

His expression took on the countenance of being appalled at the thought of missing it. Drawing himself up, "They would have to shoot me to keep me away! I would not miss it for anything. So, is it true? Little Wolfie' if it is a boy and Gertrude if it is a girl?"

My mouth dropped open in surprise; my thoughts racing back to the U-735 and Ringelmann telling me about my delirious ramblings while in a fever. Closing it and narrowing my eyes as I turned my gaze to my XO sitting across the room. "So, a secret he said. Only a small handful, he said."

Quickly regaining my composure, I put on a smile that might have made a tiger think twice before pouncing. "Well Heinrich. I would think it would be best if I got the marriage out of the way first before we start talking of children, don't you?"

Heinrich knew that he had stumbled into something but wasn't quite sure what. Stammering, he was attempting to regroup. "Ye.. ye.. yes! Of course, Frau Hessler. I did not mean to imply ..."

Laying my hand on his shoulder to calm him, "It is alright Heinrich. You have done nothing. I am going to go join the others now. Oh! One more thing. Might I possibly have a glass of water please?" Heinrich, nodding and turning to go to the bar, paused as I added, "With ice!"

"Of course Frau Hessler, right away." Heinrich scurried off behind the bar and in short order came back to hand me a tall tumbler, filled to the brim with crushed ice and water.

Offering him my sweetest smile, I said, "Thank you Heinrich, you're such a dear." Raising the snifter of excellent cognac to my lips, I took a sip as I peered over the rim of the glass at the back of my target, bearing dead ahead, at anchor; engaged in animated conversation with Pfennings, unaware of the impending attack.

Sauntering over to the table, Ringelmann was seated with his back to me, leaned forward, his elbows resting on the table. This posture presented the back of his neck quite nicely above the collar of his tunic. It was here where I tipped the tumbler of ice water to pour the entire contents down the back of his neck.

Expecting as much, I stepped back in time to prevent myself from being bowled over as, with a scream like that of an incoming eighty-eight shell, he leapt to his feet; his chair tumbling and rocking the table where Pfennings was gallantly saving the drinks and bottle of Domaine Guy Lherauld from certain disaster.

Some laughter was drifting over from some of the others present as Ringelmann spun around, his fist drawn back to waylay his assailant. This, however, quickly unclenched and his eyes went wide when he realized it was me. "My apologies Kaleun Hessler. I thought . . . "

Cutting him off, "You blabbed!"

This set him back and for a moment his face bore a look of complete confusion until I enlightened him. "Aboard the 735, after my fever? You said it would stay a secret? My delirious ramblings? Little Wolfie or Gertrude?"

With the last said, the color coming to his face told me right there that had indeed told others. Pfennings was slouching down in his chair looking as though he wanted to slide under the table and hide. I really wasn't angry. I was more embarrassed than anything else; but I wanted him to sweat a little bit.

Looking thoroughly chastised, my XO stammered out an apology, saying that he had only told a few others. Of course, these few then told another few, and so on and so on. By this time, I doubted there were very few who were not aware of the complete litany of my delirious ravings. Deciding he had suffered enough, I very primly took a seat and smiled at him. "Besides," I said in a nonchalant manner, "I have changed my mind. If it is a boy, I was thinking more along the lines of Albert Bernard Wolfgang Pedersen."

I took another sip of my cognac, grateful for the deadening effect it was beginning to have on my wounds while letting this set in with Albert.

Albert continued to stand there for a moment longer until the little light finally came on. As hard as it would be to top it, he actually looked more surprised than he did when I poured the ice-water down the back of his neck. His mouth dropped open to speak but nothing was coming out. Reaching down, he grabbed and righted his chair so as to drop into it, a stunned expression still covering his face. Finally regaining a small measure of composure, "Frau Hessler, Marlena . . . I . . . I don't know what to say!"

Leutnant Pfennings had straightened back up in his chair, now grinning like a loon at his compatriot's embarrassment.

I continued to smile at him for a moment before replying. "There's nothing to say Albert. You took care of our wounded. You saved Wiese's leg. Lord only knows how many more we would have lost had it not been for you; and Albert," pausing to make sure I had his full attention, reaching across to rest my hand on his, "there is no doubt that you saved my life. Naming my first-born son in honor of your actions is a small payment in return. You're going to make one holle of a doctor when this war is over."

Albert was completely flabbergasted and as the initial shock wore off, it was replaced with a huge grin. "You are serious, Marlena? Really?"

With an exasperated huff, "Of course I am serious! Albert, what happened out there, I could not have done it by myself; and I am eternally grateful."

Our discussion is interrupted when Lt. Geissler, the LI of 735, enters the bar and after spying us, strides over to join us. We are informed that Wolfgang is not far behind so I turn in my seat to face the doorway.

True to his word, Oblt. Pedersen and Lt. Bernard enter a few minutes later. In an instant Wolfgang spies his LI and comes straight to our table. My eyebrows rose in surprise as, for the first time in ages, he is very clean and well-groomed with a close shave, hair cut to fashion and wearing newly pressed navy blues crowned by the old yellowish cap.

His green eyes see only me and his demeanor shines with a beaming smile as his warm hands take mine.

A spark of desire grows in intensity as his hands take mine and he lifts me to my feet. My eyes are locked to his as he tells me, "Marlena, my little pirate! I would be the biggest idiot if I ever thought they were to keep you for any longer time. Capturing a trawler, escaping with an American Schnellboot, saving your boys .... They had no chance to keep you longer had they? Still you go on surprising me, still you do. Oh Marlena!"

We both embrace in a long, passionate kiss, our arms entwined around each other, oblivious to the cat-calls and applause of those around us. Any pain I may have been feeling from my wounds earlier has vanished and I cannot take my eyes from him as we retake our seats to engage in friendly conversation amongst our friends.

After a short while, Wolfgang leans back and, picking up the glass of cognac I had poured for him, raises it in a toast, "My friends, life is a mystery for us all, for some it ends too early, for us we got another chance.... and remember when getting it, grab it before it slips away leaving you empty handed. Now a toast for the eleventh.....and for love.........Prost!"

Everyone there raises their glasses in salute and tosses back their drinks, myself included. Turning to the bartender, Wolfgang calls to him, "Heinrich, put it on....please you know which one don't you....."

A moment later, a very popular tune by French artist Rina Ketty fills the room. Wolfgang turns his attention back to me. "Kaleun Hessler, may I have the honor?"

A smile spreads across my face while at the same time my vision blurs with tears of happiness as I rise to join him. We move to the corner by the phonograph where we start gently dancing to the music that meant so much to our survival and rescue by the man I have come to love more than life itself.


Ende

William66th
03-10-2007, 08:57 AM
Whilst on the subject... How are works coming along from the 'Ubi' camp? Whilst I appreciate we all have demands outside of the forum*, A show of hands to indicate work in progress would be encouraging

------------------------------------------------Hey Realjambo I'm not sure what you mean by this? Sorry little slow this morning. I have recieved to people replies back from PM's in the Subsim community. As for UBI forum I'm going to start a new thread asking for story writers and interest. One of the members from subsim should be posting in the forum soon.

My story or chapter is almost complete but I think by adding these new writers I have shot myself in the foot lol, as they have far more superior skills then I.

Thanks for all the help, look for the post sometime tonight. If you do know UBI members that like to write patrol reports or stories please PM the invitation, if not for this months for next months. I would love to see this take off and become as popular as the screen shot contest.

Thanks again for everything and keep up the great work.

Ant__.
03-10-2007, 09:08 AM
As for UBI forum I'm going to start a new thread asking for story writers and interest


Thanks for all your efforts to date http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/25.gif but you've confused me http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/blink.gif Do you mean you're going to post a new thread within the Ubi forum General Discussion to promote more participation from Ubi forum members? I'm just trying to understand. I look forward to reading your entry too.

Ant__.
03-14-2007, 09:14 AM
Goodness me, after miss_behavin_57's mammoth contribution, this is just a gentle reminder that the deadline for submissions is midnight GMT on the 18th, so if you intended to enter, or have a half finished story on your desktop, best be quick! http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/25.gif

TheRealPotoroo
03-14-2007, 09:10 PM
I won't make the deadline. Alas, I don't happen to have a spare novel sitting idly by. http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/16x16_smiley-wink.gif

miss_behavin_57
03-15-2007, 02:44 PM
I'm sorry. I didn't mean to intimidate anyone with the length of my story. I was asked to post it here and did; won't happen again.

regards,

Ant__.
03-15-2007, 05:38 PM
I'm sorry. I didn't mean to intimidate anyone with the length of my story. I was asked to post it here and did; won't happen again

Miss_behavin - I don't think you have intimidated anyone with your entry - granted, it is long - thers's no escaping that, but you are welcome as an entrant as any other forum member here. It's a great read and I'd be sorry not to see you post again in any consequent story competitions on the UBI forum.

William66th
03-17-2007, 08:38 AM
I agree with realjambo, I had to print it out by using copy/paste to read it but it was an awesome read. Keep up the great work. The story im writing would take up the same space or more if i posted it all at once.

Anyway im down to the wire but should get my chapter done before closing.

Great job

William66th
03-17-2007, 08:49 AM
Short Story Contest Entry
Continued from U-66 Story
Chapter 7
If you would like to read the prior chapters feel free to read them here:

U-66 Parts 1-6 (http://www.subsim.com/radioroom/showthread.php?t=106063)


------------------------------------------------
Chapter 7
------------------------------------------------
It was so hard for me to stand that I also tied myself off to the conning tower and held on as tightly as I could. The bow of the U-66 would appear and then disappear as if being swallowed by the sea. The young man had now cautiously climbed out onto the pitching deck and tied off. He took out the home made patch and tried to apply it to the where the radio antenna enters the U-boat. I watched the man, probably no more then twenty years old, do a job that most men twice his age could not do on the best of days. The small figure disappeared behind the deluge of rain water as the storm strength increased.

I'm not sure but for some reason I decided to turn and look again at the bow as it crashed through the pounding surf. I could barely see the bow of the boat through the drenching rain and I could no longer see the horizon. I squinted my eyes and wiped the water away for a better view, but still could not see a thing. The horizon was gone, completely covered by a wall of water, a wall of water that was quickly moving in our direction.

I screamed as loud as I could, "Wave Hang on!" as I tightened my grip and ducked down, but I doubt the man heard me. A few seconds later I was thrown forward smashing into the UZO mounting brackets before being tossed to the hard deck. A torrent of water washed over me and I felt as if I had fallen overboard. I grabbed the harness that was wrapped around my waist. I was still alive and onboard.

My mind raced to the thought of the man trying to fix the leak. I came to my senses and stood up. My heart skipped a beat, as gazed on the lifeless body of the young crew member. His harness still firmly attached to his body and the boat. His body slammed into the hull with each passing wave, like that of docking bumper. I yelled down into the command room for some help. Two sopping wet bodies came crawling up the ladder to greet me. Within a few seconds the three of us created a plan to bring the lifeless body back onboard. A second huge wave crashed over the U-66 tossing the three of us onto the metal deck. I helped the two men up and tied them off using some rope that was stashed away for docking. The two men standing next to me were older then most of the crew but were very experienced and I knew that they could handle the job. I once had to place my life in there hands and I never doubted that they would save me. Now it was there turn to pass that gift on to someone else. We formed a human chain that reached from the bridge over to the swinging body. It took several tries before we eventually managed to undo the harness and slowly pass the crewmember back towards me. I took my numb hands and grabbed the lifeless body from them. I struggled as it took all my might to pull him back onto the bridge and lay him down. I looked him over and could not find any signs of life. The poor kid looked like hell though. His entire body was battered from head to toe and the harness had actually begun to cut into his skin. His forehead had a large laceration that was bleeding out and down his face. I felt pity for the young man who was only doing his job.

I screamed for a medic, who only seconds later was there to at the top of ladder. He reached up through the entrance of the coning tower signaling us to pass the body on down to him. Below him was another line of men, also here to aid their fellow crew member. It only took about five minutes and the lifeless body was hauled back onboard and taken back sick bay.

The storm strength continued increase, impressing even me with its furry. I ordered everyone to go below deck and we closed and locked the hatch. It was a very risky thing to do but I had no choice. To leave any crew on the bridge would be an act of madness and a waste. Within seconds they could be tossed from the bridge into the frigid sea and without a second to even cry for help. The swells in the ocean were already swallowing the entire submarine. It was then that I made the decision to head back towards home. The U-66 was useless in battle until the repairs could be made. We were as blind as a bat and could only navigate above water on a clear day. I made my announcement to the crew and could see the mixed emotional responses among the cheering and gripes. For the seasoned crew members it was a sigh of relief. It was a chance to go home and see friends and family, if even for a few days. To the recruits and green members it was a postponement of combat that they had trained for.

The Tiger Shark began a shallow turn towards our new heading and home. She shook violently as each wave smashed her hull. The vibrations felt like that of depth charges as they explode nearby. The smallest task onboard the boat was now a chore. We could not stand up, walk, or even sit firmly on our seats without holding on to something. As long as this storm kept up, we were in for a long ride back to port.

It was a very slow process indeed; with our engines at half thrust we could only make two maybe four knots. I sat up in my bed, steadied myself, and then proceeded to walk to the command room. On the way I stopped by the sonar and radio crew stations. The crew sat with there heads buried in their hands, exhausted and sick. Work on the hydrophone and sonar continued but the machines were still dead. The electricians had tried everything to bring these important machines back on-line and failed. There was nothing they could really do for it but they continued to try and why not. There was nothing to do for most of the crew who were not on duty. I had suspended all practice drills due to the violent weather. It was hard enough for me to walk around the confined spaces of the sub without falling. Just before leaving the sonar station I glanced aft, the crews sprits were down and it was easy to tell. The laughter, card playing, cheering, and joking had been replaced with silence. Many of the crew clung to the racks trying to sleep, while others just seemed lost. The sea sickness among the crew continued to grow, and only the toughest of men could resist the nauseating feeling deep inside. There were times I just had to stop and force myself to keep it together. Just imagine the worst feeling in the world you have had when on a boat in rough seas, now simply triple that, that's how it felt. When your on a boat, if you wish you can still go outside and view the your surroundings maybe even take in a little fresh air. On a submarine you rock back and forth and have no bearing on where you are. There is no fresh air once the hatches are closed so when the first person vomits the smell only gets worse. The smell has gotten really bad in this boat since the storm.

I reached the command room and ducked through the hatch. The demeanor inside was the same as that of the crew. My officer greeted me as he always did and informed me of our status and situation. I looked to my left and fumbled with the wet chart showing our position. We did not make much headway in the last six hours. I walked to the center of the room and climbed into the conning tower. I grabbed my shirt and wiped the lenses of the observation scope off. The observation scope slowly rose out of its protective housing and I saw the bow of the U-boat come into view. We must have entered some very dense fog durring our trip. The observation scope shook and then all I could see water. I raised the scope a few more meters to get a better view and keep it from being constantly swallowed by the raging sea. I circled a full 360 degrees but could not see anything. If the scope wasn't looking at thick fog then it was simply covered by a large swell. I lowered the scope back into the protective housing and climbed down into the command room.

I tapped my XO on the back and asked for his opinion.
"If we continue to burn fuel at this rate, we may not have enough to make it back." He looked at me now inquisitively, and I know I had his undivided attention.
"We are running the engines now at standard and only making two knots" I pulled him over to the chart. I placed my finger on the map and drew an imaginary line back to port, while continuing to talk.
"If the storm continues then we will use more fuel then we have, I'm thinking about shutting down the engines now and waiting this storm out. If we do that we are sure to have ample fuel to make it home."

The officer looked at me and nodded his head in approval to the plan.

"All stop" I ordered the engine room.
Slowly the lights started to dim as the large diesel engines wound down.
"Keep the rudder centered and bow pointed into the wind"

I explained the new plan to the officers and crew in the command room.
"We can not keep fighting this storm, at the rate we are consuming fuel we would not make it home" I continued my little speech, "So we are going to wait the storm out, we will keep the bow pointed into the wind and waves. This will keep the rolling to a minimum. We will then switch over to battery power for all electrical needs. The only time I want the diesel engines to run is for recharging the batteries." I want a watch crew to man the observation scope at all times, but no one is to go out on the bridge."

My crew went to work the minute I finished speaking and did not ask a single question. I guess they saw the wisdom in my plan or simply just trusted me. It didn't matter; my crew always knew that I would not gamble with their lives. We had been through hell and back and learned to rely on each other through it all.

My mind raced back into a time where I was about twenty years old and was serving as an officer onboard the U-21 She was an older boat, a VII class that the crew had lovingly given the name "The Leaky Teaky." I learned a lot on that small boat, everything from swabbing the decks to commanding her crew, and everything in between. I also remember learning to trust your fellow mates and especially your commanding officers. There were times that they would shout out orders that were crazy, sometimes even deadly. I would stand there and bite my tongue as my mind crazily raced around for the answer. The one time I did open my big mouth ended with a stern reprimand, swift punch to my gut, and two weeks of cleaning detail upon returning to port. That also did not include the time spent onboard cleaning out the bilge area. After that I never questioned authority again, well at least not out loud. When we first went into combat onboard "The Leaky Teaky" I learned that the captain was not the heartless soul he appeared to be on the outside, but rather cared about each and every person on his boat. He would not risk his crew unless it was a matter of life or death. From that point on I decided this was the way to run a boat and to make it my goal to do it better then those who taught me.

I wondered if my crew on the U-66 understood my decisions and took them to heart, or if they viewed me like a "heartless soul." Were they following orders because they were afraid of punishment, or had they learned to trust me even with their lives. Its questions like these that can keep a captain awake at night.

"Captain, I need to speak with you for a minute."
The words cut into my thoughts and practically startled me. I had become so used to the somber atmosphere and quietness that the man had to ask a second time before I acknowledged his presence.
"Sir, can I have a word please?"

I gazed over at an older man that had started to go grey. The sad thing is that the man was only in has early thirties. I guess sometimes this job can really get to you; I'm surprised my hair is still on my head. The medic signaled me over to the next compartment. I stepped through the hatch and could instantly see what he wanted. To the left of me was a small bed with blood stained sheets covering it. The smell of stale blood instantly overtook me and I starting taking shallow breaths through my mouth. The blood stained sheet covered all but the mans head, but his head was also wrapped in a bandage.

It was the same man whom, hours earlier was trying to save the vessel. He now lay motionless in the bed. IVs were hung from a makeshift stand and the lines ran down disappearing under the bloody sheets. His face was unrecognizable; the smile the young man had been wearing days ago had disappeared, replaced by a comatose scowl. His eyes, though bloodshot, struggled to focus on me. I could not believe that he had survived such a punishment and my heart broke for the man. The medic also seemed to gaze upon the man with amazement. He reached over and pulled back the sheets to reveal an even more traumatizing display. I knew earlier that the harness had cut into the man waist when we pulled him to safety, but with his shirt on I could not tell how bad. More bandages cover the mans waist and they too were saturated in blood. The medic reached down and pulled the bandages from the man. The injured boy never even winced in pain as the bandages were slowly pulled away from the open wound. I wanted to look away but I knew the doctor wanted me to see this. The image that I saw was one of pure horror and would remain in the mind for all time.

The minute the pressure was released from the wound it began to hemorrhage. The medic grabbed my hand and placed in on the wound.

"Hold your hand here and keep pressure on the wound, while I grab a new bandage."

I did as I was told and placed my hand over the gaping wound. The blood felt warm to the touch and the injured man struggled to breath. With every breath the wound would open wide. I turned my head the other way to avoid the horrid site. The image of the gapping wound was just too much. I looked for the medic but he was no where to be found. I turned my head back and saw my hand completely covered in blood. I applied even more pressure to the wound but not matter what I did I could not stop the bleeding. The medic finally appeared with some new dressings and began placing them on the injured man.

"You can move you hand now, sir"
I slowly pulled my blood stained hand away from the wound as the doctor quickly placed the dressing over the injury.

"Sir, here you go!" The medic said as he tossed me a damp rag. I began rubbing my hands furiously together and tried to wipe the mans blood onto the rag. My mind began thinking thoughts that held me directly accountable for the injuries to this man lying in front of me. It took several tries but I manage to successfully remove all the blood from my hands. The medic pulled me aside and began speaking.

"Amazing the harness saved his life but is now slowly killing the man." He paused and looked my straight in the eyes.
"I don't think that I need to tell you but this man will die if we do not get him back to port."
"I have done all I can, Sir" but can not stop the bleeding from the abdomen area." The doctor looked back across his shoulder trying to hide his tears.
"I have given him morphine for the pain, enough to make him comfortable, but it's all I can do."

I put my hands on the doctor's shoulder
"I know your doing the best you can, keep up the good work."
"Keep me informed on his condition"

The older man seemed comforted by my words but I know in my heart, he felt helpless and responsible. I guess as captain I am not the one with the hardest job after all. I also knew that this man would probably die before we reached the port. I cleared my head of the thought and the grotesque images and stepped back into the command room.

Several days passed before the storm subsided enough for me to post a lookout crew on the bridge. It was one hell of a ride until that day. Durring the trip there were several injuries but nothing serious. Most of the injuries were cause from items that were not tied down, the others from crew that were literally thrown from their post or racks. As for the U-66 she remained battered and bruised but made it with only slight damage to the forward deck and observation scope. We were now only several hours away from home and the boat had a new sound. It was the sound of hope and relief. Preparations had begun to dock and I had only a skeleton crew on watch. The calm sea was a beautiful site and one that I missed for the last week. The gulls had come back to scream and torment us as we slowly crept forward. We still did not have our radio or hydrophone but we were in friendly waters now and only a few hours from being home. Let the engineers and technical people deal with that. I had a long awaited appointment with my comfortable bed and hot meal. Well I had an appointment with a lot more then that but they were what I craved the most. I should also add the hot shower into that list. I walked back to my quarters and began packing up my belongings.

I had a huge grin on my face at the thought of home and all the things I used to take for granted. I made the bed and grabbed the captain's log placing it in my leather bag.

"Aircraft spotted sir, long range" The watch crew called down into the command room. This was something I was used to hearing the closer we got to port. I paid it no mind and continued packing my things, a few minutes later the message was repeated.

I slowly got up and walked towards the command room. I asked for a status report. The XO responded.

"Sir, watch crew has reported several aircraft long range."

The urgency in his voice suggested a problem and I decided to take a look myself. I climbed the ladder and took a look with my binoculars. The watch officer pointed his finger in the direction I needed to focus. I placed the binoculars up to my eyes and focused them. A large group of aircraft was coming in from the north but I could not tell what kind they were or the markings.

The noise of the piston engines continued to grow louder by the minute and I strained to see the make of the aircraft, but still was not able to. In the distance I could see the port and several cruisers, it all seemed very tranquil and no one else seemed to be alarmed.

"Keep an eye out, they must be ours out practicing formation flying." I ordered the watch officer. I turned to view the port through the binoculars and I could see the people on the docks. It was a sight that almost brought tears to my eyes. We were home finally; we had survived yet another mission from hell. I went back to my thoughts of family, friends, warm showers, hot meals, and all the other things I missed and took for granted. I watched the port slowly emerge from the fog. It grew bigger by every passing minute. Every moment we came closer to setting our feet on dry land.

A huge explosion erupted behind me and I spun around to catch the last glimpse of fire erupted out the large guns on the destroyer. A second explosion came from the main guns and then the anti aircraft guns opened up. The once peaceful scene was turning chaotic and I still had no idea what was going on. Then I felt a piercing pain, a pain I never felt before in my life in my left shoulder. I screamed in pain and dropped onto the metal deck. Next to me, was what was left of my watch officer's body, completely shredded by bullets. His blood and flesh spattered all over the bridge and me. A second wave of bullets could be heard ricocheting all around me and a third crewman screamed in agony. The sparks of the bullets hitting the U-66 blinded me or maybe it was the severe pain in my side. I didn't know what it was or what had happened. I did know one thing for sure. We were under attack!

"All hands to your stations, we are under attack!" I tried to scream through the agonizing pain
"This is not a drill!"
------------------------------------------------
To be continued.....
------------------------------------------------

Ant__.
03-17-2007, 05:14 PM
Thank you everyone. Deadline is in just over 24 hours time. I'll then open the voting thread. Any Kaleun or Skipper to be with a sleep problem - you still have time to write up that patrol report and submit it!

Cavit8
03-18-2007, 12:55 AM
Is there still time? I've just started writing and I don't want it to be in vain. How many hours left?

Ant__.
03-18-2007, 03:06 AM
Is there still time? I've just started writing and I don't want it to be in vain. How many hours left?


Welcome Cavit8. I don't know where in the world you are, but the deadline is midnight GMT UK time tonight. I'm posting this at 9:06am Sunday - so you should be able to work out the time difference, if there is one, from that. http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/25.gif

TheRealPotoroo
03-18-2007, 03:13 AM
Originally posted by Cavit8:
Is there still time? I've just started writing and I don't want it to be in vain. How many hours left?
There'll be an April competition.

Cavit8
03-18-2007, 03:59 AM
Originally posted by Realjambo:
Welcome Cavit8. I don't know where in the world you are, but the deadline is midnight GMT UK time tonight. I'm posting this at 9:06am Sunday - so you should be able to work out the time difference, if there is one, from that. http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/25.gif

Awesome! I'm in South Africa and I'm on 1 500 words now with some pork bangers cooking and my eggs waiting to be scrambled. A rather late breakfast, but hey, this short story competition is fun!

Cavit8
03-18-2007, 04:01 AM
Originally posted by TheRealPotoroo:
<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content">Originally posted by Cavit8:
Is there still time? I've just started writing and I don't want it to be in vain. How many hours left?
There'll be an April competition. </div></BLOCKQUOTE>

Super! Thanks for the answers. Work has been hectic so I haven't had much time to write a story. If I miss this deadline I'll meet the next one.

Ant__.
03-18-2007, 04:30 AM
You can always post part stories if you wish too.

geoffwessex
03-28-2007, 10:24 PM
Sorry - just bumping this to the front page again.

Cavit8
03-28-2007, 10:44 PM
I'm still working on my story; I obviously missed the previous deadline. When's the next one?