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Under the Surface · Original Short Story ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 2000–8000
Semper Fortis
“Vampire, Vampire! Bearing 290!”

“Weapons free,” snapped Captain Grayson. “Hard right rudder, set course two five degrees, all ahead flank. Set General Quarters.”

The bellow of the USS Cooperstown’s gas turbines ramping up to full speed came almost instantly, a tribute to many hours of drill time the captain had put his mismatched crew through en route to their dangerous mission. It still would not matter one bit if the ship did not fight its way through this attack.

“Missile away,” called out the Air Warfare Officer, a fuzz-cheeked young Japanese boy with the tragic nickname of Junebug, who looked like a child in his baggy navy uniform. His age did not affect the speed at which his fingers danced over the controls before the roar of the departing missile had died away, priming a second shot in case the first one missed. Launching without confirmation was far from normal Navy procedure, but Grayson was operating about as far away from the staff pukes who had written the manual as was earthly possible, and he would rather waste a missile on a false contact than have some Chinese fighter jockey paint a US flag on the side of his jet.

“What have you got on that vampire?” growled Grayson while trying to hold onto something solid to compensate for the tilt of the ship in the tight turn.

“Range twelve klicks, speed subsonic, missile locked and closing,” snapped Junebug, followed almost instantly by the Electronic Warfare Operator by his side.

“EWS says it’s a Chinese TL-10, dropping down to sea-skimming… damnit! No contact!

“That’s a miss,” said Junebug, his voice dropping to something closer to calm. “It’s still out there, closing. Time to impact one minute.”

“Course nine zero degrees,” snapped Grayson. “Chaff and flares ready.”

“Second vampire detected,” rattled off the AWO as if it were a video game. “Missile away.”

“No ship on radar other than a fishing boat,” said the Surface Warfare Officer, who was as old as the missile jockey was young. “Told you we should’a Harpooned it the minute we saw it. Brace for impact?”

“Brace for impact,” called out Captain Grayson, shocked out of his momentary mental paralysis by the grizzled old veteran. “All hands, brace for impact.”

“All hands,” shouted the duty officer into the intercom, “brace for impact, port side. This is not a drill. Repeat, this is not a drill.”

“Yes! Second contact destroyed,” snapped the AWO. “Take that, you chinks. First contact should be above radar horizon in ten— NOW!”

The Rolling Airframe Missile launcher coughed, sending a streak of red fire out against the ocean just moments before the countermeasure launchers thumped, both driven by the video-game reflexes of a sailor who most probably had not been born when the ship’s keel had been laid down.

“Right full rudder,” snapped Captain Grayson before the tactical officer grabbed him and dragged him to the deck.

“Everybody down!” bellowed Petty Fuentes. “Hit the deck!”

The sharp ‘Blaaaat’ of the CIWS punctuated an explosion to the aft of the ship, making the armored windows of the bridge shake, but not burst into deadly fragments that would have shredded every person who had not flattened. Captain Grayson staggered back to his feet with the rest of the bridge crew, barking out a quick, “Damage?”

“Radar good,” said the teenaged AWO over the ringing in Grayson’s ears. “No contacts.”

“Minor shrapnel damage to the flight deck, no fire.”

“Do you want to kill that Chinese fishing boat now, Captain?” Command Master Chief Petty Officer Fuentes punched in the coordinates of the mentioned boat with experienced fingers that had most likely done the task a hundred times in drills.

“The missiles didn’t come from the fishing boat,” said Seaman Dikes at the electronic warfare station, which shared a display with his young friend. “See that, Hiro? They came in with a fishhook turn from behind the island.”

“That’s not much of an island,” said Seaman Junebug. He poked one thin finger at the display and traced a circle. “If they were more than a few hundred meters back, they could shoot over it, but if they’re huddled up to the side—”

“Yeah, that’d give SSM’s a fit.” Dikes grabbed a post-it note off the stack next to her and scribbled a ship-shape on it. “I’d stick a missile boat at anchor against the shoreline here and use the fishing boat to spot for it. There must be a few hundred Chinese PTs with T-10s still floating.”

“Most of ‘em carry four,” cautioned Junebug, who turned his attention back to the radar screen with an abrupt jerk.

“If you children are done,” cautioned Petty Fuentes, “we have a spotter to kill. If I can get the radar to lock onto it.”

“Shit!” Seaman Dikes jabbed at her EWS console. “They’ve changed their transponder to squawk a Greenpeace code and turned off their radar.”

Several months ago in the middle of the on-again-off-again Wet Firecracker War, Greenpeace had triumphantly announced how it had hacked both forces and introduced viruses into their weapon systems so that China and the US would be forced to declare peace. The Americans blamed the Chinese for using Greenpeace as a proxy for their military. China remained quiet. A month later, Greenpeace’s headquarter in the Netherlands vanished in a truck bombing with radioactive waste sprinkled in the explosives, but that did not help the chaos left behind.

“Harpoon’s are out,” said Fuentes. “They’re all Block Three and got corrupted firmware updates, so they won’t lock on with the surface radar giving them targeting cues. Transponder gives us a clean target, but I don’t have anything for you to hit it with, sir. Should I arrange a boarding party again?”

“Not with that potential patrol boat out there. We’ll take it out with Sea Sparrows when the time is right. Set course two eight zero, slow to full speed so we don’t stress the engines. How long to launch an observation drone?”

Captain Grayson bit his bottom lip while staring out the bridge window, wishing that he could just get to where he needed to launch the helicopter rescue mission instead of screwing around with the scattered remnants of the Chinese coastal forces. It would be nice to have a task force sweeping into the assault with a few hundred Marines, a wave of cruise missiles to take out any fixed defenses, and the air cover of a carrier battle group, but the only carrier that had survived so far was the USS Vinson tied up in a dock in the radioactive ruins of San Diego, and Grayson felt confident that it would remain there until it decayed into rust before Fleet would get up the courage to put it out to sea again.

“We’ve got the Blackjack stowed to make space for the chopper,” said his executive officer, Lieutenant Commander Stack, who had been arranging things for their primary mission during the initial attack and just stumbled onto the bridge. “There’s some concussion damage in the area, but we can’t bring it out and the helicopter both. We can get a Wasp up right now if you want.”

“Do it. Our helo has top priority once we get clear.” Grayson forced himself to breathe slower, waiting for the sound of another incoming missile or torpedo— “Spotters to the sides,” he relayed to his XO. “Watch for torpedo tracks. It’s not much, but we’re nearly deaf at this speed, and I don’t want to loiter. And ready the Nixie.”

“Aye, sir.”

The blue-green underwater laser plotter on the bow should be able to pick up an incoming torpedo track or an unexpected underwater mountain, but Grayson was not feeling very lucky. The US Navy had left far too many state-of-the-art hulls littering the seafloor around China’s coast to make the aging ship he was in command more than just another statistic if he got sloppy. The buzz of the launching drone was at least a little comforting, although it left his EWS operator doing double-duty with the Apple laptop tied down to the side of her station. There should have been an official Navy installation for the device with a Navy guide and Navy procedures to follow involved in every shipboard system, but the first nuke that had gone off in the San Francisco harbor had scattered the US forces in order to not give the unknown enemy a concentration of forces to hit. The important Navy ships had gotten first pick of the replacements and supplies after that. The older and more slipshod ships with flakey electronics systems and patchwork weapon systems had to scrounge for what they got, which was how Grayson wound up with a pair of Japanese teenagers working the Cooperstown’s digital eyes and ears.

“Drone aloft and relaying,” said Seaman Dikes. “Headed for the fishing trawler, ETA four minutes or so.”

“Negative. Take it over Quinpeng Island.” Grayson moved over to the laptop and looked over Dikes’ shoulder. “Keep it high.”

“Too high and we won’t see the patrol boat,” said Dikes, but she did raise the nose of the drone and gained altitude.

“I don’t think that’s a patrol boat up there. Commander Stack, remember that report we had of the Chinese welding one-shot missile tubes to their Kilo class subs to make up for their torpedo shortage?”

“Yes, sir. That’s awful shallow water for a sub, though.”

“If I’m right, that’s a good thing.” Grayson pointed to the digital chart and the fuzzy aerial photo of the tiny island. “Those subs are getting really old, and submerging one does not guarantee it will come back to the surface, particularly since Russia started shipping them booby-trapped spare parts. Every time they dive, that’s more wear and tear on their batteries, and a greater chance of something rupturing. They’re almost blind against our own subs, and the Chinese have sunk more than one of their own by accident. So if they strip them of all their torpedoes but one salvo and leave them docked beside an island like this—”

“We should be expecting a torpedo, I presume?” The XO measured several quick distances on the digital map. “We’re within their range, if they dogleg it.”

“The closer and dumber we get, the more the Chinese captain will like it. The fishing boat isn’t trying to get away, is it, TO?”

Fuentes scowled at the digital display. “No, sir. Our present course and speed will let us pass Quinpeng Island in thirteen minutes, and intercept the trawler in about twenty.”

“Right about there.” The captain’s finger tapped the map display. “Right where we go past the island. The water’s shallow, just perfect for mines. I’ll bet there’s a minefield laid from the edge of the beach down to the deeper water on both sides of the island. If that is a sub laid up over there, they’ll have spotters up on the hill by now, and there’s not a darned thing they have to do but watch the big, dumb American ship go plowing into the minefield and blow up. And if we do miss the mines, they can put a shot right into our tail when we drive by. We’d never pick up the sub on radar with that island next to it, and our active sonar would be worthless. They wouldn’t even have to submerge to periscope depth.”

“So, we scrub the rescue mission, sir?” Commander Stack zoomed the display out and measured. “Two hours until sunset and thirty kliks out from our planned position. That’s cutting the chopper’s fuel reserves tight. The zoomies aren’t going to last too many days out in the woods without all the luxuries they’ve gotten used to on base.”

Their primary mission resulted from the Air Force ‘quietly’ sending seven B-21 bombers into China to deal with what the Americans called a geosynchronous satellite laser swatter, but the Chinese called an ‘experimental satellite defense platform’ several days ago, but one of the bombers had caught a golden BB on its way back out and crashed. Fortunately, the burning bomber had remained on autopilot after the two man crew ejected, crashing twenty minutes later into a forest somewhat north of the USS Cooperstown’s present position. Unfortunately, one of the pilots of the most sophisticated flying machine on the planet managed to prang his simple parachute into a tree and break his leg, so simply hiking to the shore and waiting for a rowboat was right out. This section of the coast was slightly less radioactive than the straits between Taiwan and China, so the pilots were not likely to glow in the dark if their rescue were delayed by a day or two, but…

“Seaman Hu, is the fishing trawler broadcasting any radio signals?”

Hu nodded, although the chubby Hawaiian kept his eyes closed, concentrating on the headset he had plugged into the ship’s radio systems. Grayson doubted he had even moved during the missile attack, because nothing could distract the Chinese immigrant when he had his mind set. “Their radio operator has a terrible Gansu accent, but they’re broadcasting in the clear with code words, so I don’t think they’ve got a current encryption key for their scrambler. Did you want to challenge them, sir?”

“Standard command, heave to and prepare to be boarded, yes. Repeat at intervals. Try to sound German.”

“Ja, mein Kapitän.” The young linguist turned to his microphone with statico commands while Captain Grayson held a quick bridge conference, sketching out the details of his plan of action and keeping an eye on the drone’s video feed. Since the hacked surface radar network fed both the Harpoon missiles and the 76mm gun, accurate targeting of the fishing trawler was nearly impossible, but there was no such issue in giving the top of the small island a high-explosive massage.

Firing single shots and adjusting the fall of the shells provided enough smoke and dust to allow the drone a single pass over the island, revealing a bustle of activity around a slim shape in the water on the other side.

“I think we can arc the shells enough to scare them,” mused Fuentes.

“Kill ‘em, don’t kiss ‘em is what my old Surface Warfare instructor always used to say. Take another pass over the peak of that island. I think I see their observation team.” Grayson waited until the drone lined up on the stubby peak and pointed with one finger. “Target laser and set up fire mission, five rounds rapid.”

“Aye, Captain. Seeker, five rounds rapid on the way.” The slow, steady thumping of the 76mm gun abruptly turned into a staccato thumpathumpathumpa, followed by a brief pause as the ammunition feed switched back to standard high-explosive. The top of the island fairly erupted in flames on the screen, with the distinct image of a human being, or at least most of a human body flying up into the air before the signal was abruptly cut by a piece of flying debris.

“That should do it,” said Grayson. “Ready the decoy, Dikes. Junebug, give me two Sea Sparrows on that target up ahead.”

The words had barely left his mouth before the roar of two RIM-162 ESSM missiles filled the bridge, streaking downrange to the fishing trawler like bright dots, then big puffy clouds of airburst detonation.

He did not expect the massive explosion that followed, a blast so strong that Grayson blinked and turned away with the instinctive motions of somebody who had seen one nuclear explosion and did not want to see another. The detonation was far too small to be a nuke, but the tower of flame and smoke rising from the target could probably have been seen in Taiwan.

“Holy shit,” murmured his XO. “Glad we didn’t board that ship.”

“Take a memo, Commander Stack. As of this point, we no longer board enemy fishing vessels in the vicinity for resupply, no matter how low on fuel we are.” Grayson checked the course plot, and took a judging look at the nearness of the island. “Dikes, drop the decoy. Helm, bring us around to two five degrees, slow to twenty knots. Go to ECM blackout state.”

“Course two five degrees at twenty knots, aye. Powering off all radiation sources,” echoed the XO.

Behind them, the crew rolled what looked like a fifty-five gallon barrel off the fantail, but on hitting the water, it rapidly inflated a huge mylar balloon with several small flares, making an oddly-shaped heat source that was boosted by a digital recorder squawking on both radio frequencies and through several speakers in the main body. It never would have passed through the Navy procurement system, and it only lasted five minutes or so, but the captain had approved making several of them out of scrap at the last port call, and certainly no enemy would ever anticipate seeing a giant inflated dog or mouse bobbing in the ocean. Besides, it had turned into a bit of a creativity contest for the stressed Americans, who were halfway around the world and needed something to distract them.

“Twilight Sparkle is broadcasting,” said Dikes, taking a look at the rear camera on the bridge and watching the glittering silver alicorn bob in the waves of their passage. “No other signals detected.”

The island crawled by at the slow headway the Cooperstown was making on traveling to the other side of the island, but the activity on the bridge more than made up for the slow pace. Another Wasp drone was prepared for launching, the VLS system was programmed for an ASROC launch, and the surface warfare computer system was being purged and reset to clear the lockouts that the Greenpeace hacks had activated.

“Seems a little overkill to use an ASROC and a Harpoon on the same target,” said Seaman Junebug once he had the system set up.

“There is no overkill,” said Hu, “there is only Open Fire and Reload.”

“Amen.” Captain Grayson checked the surface plot again. “Launch the Siren. Let’s give that sub something to watch other than its ass. And prep the gun with laser seeking rounds.”

The countermeasures launcher gave a solid thud and the British rocket popped up into the air, rocketing to a spot a few kilometers further west and deploying a parachute before broadcasting a radio signal designed to look like the Cooperstown’s radar.

“Coming up on the intercept point. Launch the Wasp but don’t turn on the camera until it clears the island.”

“EM free launch, aye.” Seaman Dikes tracked the dot on her laptop screen while the XO counted down the time. “Coming up on signal in fifteen. Fourteen. Thirteen.”

“Harpoon set to Vector Launch,” said Fuentes. “Main gun loaded with seeker rounds.”

“ASROC programmed and set,” said Junebug.

“And… we’re live.” The Wasp drone’s camera began transmitting, and an image of the rocky nitche where the sub had been resting filled the screen, only the submarine was moving away from its safe anchorage with a few crewmembers still scrambling to get down the hatch before it dove.

“Launch,” said Captain Grayson. “Surface action, no radar. Bring the gun around, just in case they miss. Ready with guided rounds, slow to ten knots.”

The thunderous double-whoosh of launching shook the bridge, one missile roaring up at a low angle before it dropped the solid-fuel booster and extended its wings, while the other shot nearly straight up.

“Harpoon approaching programmed turn,” said Fuentes. “Radar active, homing on any target it can find.”

“ASROC is still falling,” said Junebug.

“High-frequency screws, dopplering away.” The sonar operator, who had been nearly silent to this point, regarded his waterfall display with his nose almost pressing against the glass. “Looks like two torpedoes, fired at the location of the Siren decoy.”

“That was too close. Dikes, is the sub laser designated yet?”

“Aye, sir.”

“Give him five guided rounds, standard.”

Between the gun rounds punching holes in the top deck, the Harpoon missile ripping into the conning tower, and the late-arriving torpedo from the ASROC, there was not much remaining of the Chinese submarine as it ruptured and sank. The torpedoes were still running, so Grayson kept the Cooperstown still and silent until they ran out of fuel. Then he brought the ship back around to the leeward side of the island and considered his next move while the ship secured from General Quarters and some of the screaming tension eased out of his nerves.

Sinking a submarine and a decoy trawler did not bring him one step closer to rescuing the Air Force pilots, because the Chinese defense forces may have been chopped up and distracted by nuclear strikes and internal rebellion, but they still had guns and bombs a plenty to pursue one obsolete US frigate once they got their act together. Seaman Hu interrupted Grayson’s musing with a quick hand motion beckoning the captain over while holding a hand over his microphone.

“Captain, I’ve got somebody from the Chinese command calling on the same frequency as the fishing trawler was using, asking for a status report. I don’t think they had a chance to send a message before we blew them up.”

Grayson considered his situation, weighing the survival of his ship and crew against their assigned mission and the certainly alerted Chinese forces. “Do you think you can impersonate our exploding friends?” he asked. “We’ve got a burning ship we can claim was us, and I’m not sure if the sub got a message off.”

Hu just grinned. “I bet I can have them asking us to bring them some fish.”

“No glowing sushi for the Chinese military,” cautioned Grayson. “Keep it simple, as long as they stay off our fantail for the evening. If the helo takes off at sunset with extra jerrycans of fuel, we can have the Air Force pilots back here by sunrise and be gone.”

“Yes, sir.” The chubby Hawaiian gave Grayson an abbreviated salute before returning to his microphone, leaving the captain to see to the rescue mission preparations.

Then came the worst part.

In combat, every order he gave could make or break the ship. The SH-60A vanishing off into the darkness was a factor he could not control. He had given the helo everything he could think of, from a forged transponder code the ESM operator had pulled off a military transport some distance inland to several recorded responses in Chinese in case they met one of the air-defense artillery installations. The only thing he could do was sit and worry in the darkness, with the ship running civilian lights and Seaman Hu snoozing by the radio in case of an unexpected query.

The USS Cooperstown steamed in glacial circles, no more than two or three knots, just enough to keep the towed array from snagging on the ocean floor and the passive sonar ensign busy marking out other ship traffic in the formerly busy waterway. He took a few short naps in the peaceful darkness, broken by a curious Chinese fighter who overflew the area shortly after sunset, and the sonar operator talking to one of the other sailors about an old Chinese nuke boat rattling and clattering in the general area of Grayson’s planned escape route back to Taiwan.

The dawning sun had just begun to paint the horizon in dusky red shades when the Coop’s helicopter skimmed into view, making the difficult landing in one smooth attempt and shutting down the rotors. Grayson immediately gave the orders to turn for open waters at a slow cruising speed, ‘sailing casually’ as the helmsman like to call it. There were no holes in the helo, or injuries to the disembarking crew other than the aforementioned pilot’s broken leg, so a small section of tension on Grayson’s heart lifted. The rest would not go away until the ship was once again docked on the far side of Taiwan, and even then Captain Grayson would still have a part of his soul onboard.

Far too many ships had fallen over the last few years for Grayson to believe he was going to make it through this war alive. Death would come for him by blazing missile or silent torpedo, and the only thing he could do until that day was do his duty to his country, his crew, and his oath.

He took a few peaceful hours to stare out across the waves and soak in the beauty of the morning before returning to his cabin. Tomorrow there would be another mission, and he needed to rest.

O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won,
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

— Walt Whitman
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#1 · 2
· · >>georg
In the twenty-four hours:

Since reading this story, I've been trying to find a way not to damn it with faint praise. But faint praise is really all I've got.

It makes me think of a situation I've been in more than once where I find myself listening to a stranger talk about something he and his friends did in a Dungeons & Dragons game they played a couple nights ago. All I know about the people involved is that they're fellow sapient beings, the stakes are nothing but basic survival, and the telling is heavily reliant on jargon I only kind of understand. A tricky problem is presented, it gets solved in a clever way with our poor bastards not dying for their country while making the other poor bastards die for theirs, and the story ends.

It's pretty much the definition of pulp fiction, and I have no suggestions, author. I would personally prefer a story that has more to it, but that's just me.

#2 · 3
· · >>Cassius >>georg
Sorry, author, but your attempt at using famous poetry to give this something 'more' fell flatter than a pancake.

The story relies far too heavily on things nobody in the audience understands. It's great to worldbuild, but this dives on the assumption that the world has already been built and everyone present knows it. At times it gets outright confusing as the story-specific lingo attempts to mesh with real-world terminologies with only partial success. Had the story been less dense in its new vocabulary, I might have enjoyed it a lot more.

Kudos for an effort at being creative and different, but it takes more than that to make a story interesting.
#3 ·
· · >>Cassius >>georg
I've stopped towards the last part. All this babbling is unpleasant to read for a non native. I get the basics of the story, the characters, their goals, but I don't get the rest, what is really the story, what all this is supposed to mean.

I'm sure some people here are part of your audience, unfortunately, I'm not amongst them. I'm trying to decide wether I should abstain or downvote this. I'll abstain for now, I think.
#4 · 5
· · >>georg
This story feels like a fever dream. All this spewing of military terminology like >>PaulAsaran and >>Fenton speak of really is more a cause for confusion than giving flavor to the setting. But really, that's not even scratching the surface of what an oddball story this is. The further I went into reading this story, the more baffled I became, and the more convinced that the story was a parody of itself.

This story is so pulpy that even critically acclaimed genre writer AndrewRogue would consider this to be too genre for his tastes. It plays into its own tropisms so hard that I felt the author was winking at me the whole way, and the story itself had grown self-aware. It conjures of memories of the film Battleship. I kept expecting Warrant Officer Rihanna to appear and aliens to interrupt the fight.

There are a plethora of really odd details in this story, from the opening dialogue screaming "Vampires, Vampires!" (immediately conjuring up the idea of literal vampires in my mind) all the way through to its conclusion. I found myself laughing a lot, but it was a laugh of confusion, like when you're watching Tommy Wiseau's The Room or a Neil Breen film. What's going on in frame is just so strange that you just can't help but laugh at how strange everything is. Every time I found that I was coming close to getting my footing, the story would blindside me some bizarre decision or strange detail.

Like the fact one of the female characters is referred to as "Seaman Dikes."

Or that fucking Greenpeace hacked all the United States and China's weaponry.

Then Greenpeace gets nuked.


Or how a Hawaiian is established as a Hawaiian and then in the immediate next sentence referred to as Chinese (like are we to infer Hawaii is part of China now?).

Or that there's an inflatable balloon Twilight Sparkle is in this.

If bloons had entered, I would swear to god this was his story.

I felt my mind imploding as I read this. Little comments like that just and the long-winded relentless expository style just never allow the reader to catch their bearings and really get a grasp of what the flying fuck is happening. A slower paced, less frantic style with much less dialogue would help quite a bit for the overall readability of this story. Establishing what the hell is going on at the beginning would help as well.

This story is like 75% dialogue, 25% narrative. But the narrative is usually restricted to very long block paragraphs of straight exposition with tiny bits of detail funneled in. It's like listening to a conversation where you have no idea what is really going on, and only have a vague idea of what's happening. It feels like there are two distinct segments to this story: dialogue parts, and narrative parts. There's a lot of narrative dedicated to the necessity of certain devices and why they exist, or talks about procedural affairs, but there's barely anything that establishes setting, what's going on in the scene, why is this specific vessel being attacked, what's its purpose, what they're doing there, what the characters think of the situation, who holds perspective, what our enemies look like, why we started fighting to begin with, what certain orders mean, and a plethora of other things required to get a grasp on what the flying fuck is going on.

I could go on about this, but it's like watching footage from a movie depicting the Pickett's Charge, except you're Monokeras, and you don't know anything about the American Civil War. You get a vague sense of what is going on, but you don't know the significance of anything that is happening. Also you don't get to actually see Pickett's Charge, you only really get to see a bunch of generals talk about what is going on.

Man is there a lot of dialogue that could be cut. A lot of it is flavorless busywork of Character A telling Character B what to do, or Character C saying something happened, and not much of it communicates any kind of character between the cast. The relatively large cast all sort blends together and everyone sounds the same and talks the same way. Some characters have minor informed characteristics to barely separate them apart, but this is never really felt in any of their interactions.

And then the story ends with an abridged version of O Captain! My Captain!

Don't do this unironically. You're not going to beat out Dead Poet Society.

I'm sort of at a loss of what to say about this story. It sort of bookends on a note that it does nothing to earn, and really is lacking in so many aspects presentation that I can't tell if it is a deliberate omission by an author trying to make a parody or just a poor, yet sincere attempt of co-opting something like Hunt for the Red October.

But not on my slate, so you don't need to worry.
#5 ·
· · >>georg
I'm having the same reaction as everyone else, but I wanted to add a note:

It's a hell of a task to start a story with an action scene whilst also trying to introduce all your characters' backstories and appearances all in one go. I felt like my attention was getting yanked in a different direction every sentence—from action, to dialogue, to history, to dialogue, a character's appearance, and so on. All the while I'm desperately trying to piece together a world that seems to exist in your imagination a lot clearer than it exists in your entry. It's just too hard to follow.
#6 ·
· · >>georg
I'm okay with the unfamiliar military jargon at first, understanding that it's for flavor, and trusting that the story will make the scenario clear in other ways.

Well, you gotta do that last part. It's giving smaller puzzle pieces, such as the characters and tech, but it's too much work to assemble them all together into a big picture. Give me the outer frame, at least.

At the second mention of "vampire", my mind already loses that initial trust, and I feel like I have no idea when or where this is taking place. the past? the future? fantasy world?

en route to their dangerous mission.

What mission? I get that in a story like this you might want to keep it hidden from the audience at first to build suspense, but in this case it feels a lot like the author is just glossing over it. Yeah, they're on some mission. You don't need to worry about it. I don't need ALL the details and exposition, but you can't mention something like this without at least some hint.

His age did not affect the speed at which his fingers danced over the controls before the roar of the departing missile had died away, priming a second shot in case the first one missed. Launching without confirmation was far from normal Navy procedure, but Grayson was operating about as far away from the staff pukes who had written the manual as was earthly possible, and he would rather waste a missile on a false contact than have some Chinese fighter jockey paint a US flag on the side of his jet.

ack, really clumsy sentences. trying to communicate too many ideas at the same time.
#7 ·
· · >>georg
My stream of thought reactions, for the most part.

It took me several beats to realize that they were probably not talking about a literal vampire. My first reaction was 'hey wait, I thought vampires don't like water'.

As much as I like the video game reflexes bit, I'd think countermeasures would be automated once enabled.

It seems like a bit of a stretch for a virus to remain in the system for that long. I suppose it gives a reason for the defenses not to be automated, though.

San Diego is radioactive ruins? Just what kind of war is this?

Okay, so they're not just playing dumb and sailing towards a sub for the hell of it. It would have been nice to have known their mission sooner, though.

Given how hot this war is, I'm very surprised by the level of restraint they're showing by asking the trawler to be boarded.

Ah. So much for the boarding.

Hmm, the helo comes back, but no word on if it succeeded or not. Would've been nice to have some closure there.
#8 ·
· · >>georg
tl;dr: A competent enough parody(?) action story that ends up being surprisingly hard to penetrate due to a very cinematic writing style and dense lingo.

Hoo. This one was a tough read. Cinematic style works in narrative form sometimes, but you have to keep in mind the limitations of text. For example, introducing multiple characters in the middle of an action scene is generally not going to stick effectively because of the way text frames them. You can do that in a visual arena where you'll have particularly distinct elements to the characters (costuming, appearance, etc), but in text? Eesh it is hard to track them, especially when you use different tags for them.

Similarly speaking, the story ends up being pretty hard to read because of the amount of jargon being thrown around.

There are definitely some amusing elements and funny world concepts (at least I assume they're supposed to be funny), but the effort required to dig them out is pretty above and beyond what I'd expect for this sort of story, again because of the density of information as presented. This really is a super cinematic story, but I for once unfortunately mean that in a negative way. Really stop and consider whether certain things which work well in cinema are really going to carry effectively in narrative!

This would be a really solid little action comedy with some cleanup.
#9 ·
>>Baal Bunny
>>Miller Minus

Ok, we’ve determined that I’m not going to make a million bucks writing the next Red Storm Rising. Yes, Semper Fortis is mine, and also the US Navy’s motto.

First, let me address some of the obvious complaints. It’s choppy and abrupt because I didn’t do my usual series of cleanup passes due to real world issues.

-It’s highly technical war porn, because that’s the genre I was aiming for. Exercise those writing muscles by practicing thing you don’t with poni.

-It *is* pulp fiction, after all. A few hundred million books with that angle have been sold, so *somebody* likes them. Can you blame me for seeing if I’ve got what it takes to write me into a five-room mansion with a pool?

- ‘vampire’ is the word used for incoming missiles, while ‘missile’ is used for *outgoing* missiles, due to the (80’s era) radar track showing an inverted ‘v’ for them and an attempt to prevent confusion during intensive activity.

- Seaman Dikes is based of a *real* sailor. ‘Seaman’ is the word used to address all low-level Navy enlistees, which can lead to really odd combinations depending on the branch of the service. This unfortunate lady has a last name of ‘Guzler’ Now say that out loud.

- The use of intensive cyber warfare to disable active weapon systems is an area of ‘Anybody who knows anything can’t talk about it’ which is just downright scary. That, and how many ship systems still use an older version of Windows.

- Greenpeace in this story is not nuked. Their headquarters is truck-bombed with radioactive isotopes sprinkled in the bomb residue, a ‘signal’ that the Russians like using with their defectors. (see recent history involving nerve gas used to attempt murder on a defector in Britain)

- It is a *constant* frustration to me in Star Trek/The Last Ship combat scenes where the actual military maneuver and fire is sacrificed on the altar of the good camera shot. A trained weapon systems operator or starship pilot should be given some slack.