‘The Shark Boats’ snippet

This is a snippet from my new novel ‘The Shark Boats’, available in full from Amazon.com . Enjoy…

The Chang Kai-Shek and the Franco rounded the stubby cape on their starboard, and John deKuyper gazed into hell. No more than two miles away, the heavy cruiser and a light cruiser sat bombarding the shore. Their guns were raised – it’ll take time to lower them, thank God – but they were surrounded by three escort ships, arranged in a rough triangle. The escorts were firing their own guns up at wherever Reiner was.

So many guns were firing so continuously that, now the noise barrier of the cape was gone, the roar was deafening. The whole area was shrouded in dull grey smoke, and every couple of seconds a flaming red burst erupted from one or another of the ships’ guns.

Holy hell, deKuyper thought. And Reiner’s in the middle of that, along with Quintillian and the others.

That thought made what he was about to do seem rational.

“Go! Go! Go!” he yelled into the radio mike for Fordham’s benefit.

The Chang’s RPM needle hit the far side of the dial as the boat surged forwards. To his right, the Franco was doing the same thing.

“Go for the big one,” deKuyper ordered. Shaking hard. “Kill it!”

I can’t do this. This is insane. This is bugfuck nuts. They must collectively have five hundred times our tonnage. A thousand times.

Orders were orders. Duty was duty. And they were already rocketing toward the heavy cruiser at what the gauge said was forty-eight knots.

Ahead, the enemy ships had noticed their presence. The big cruiser was starting to move, well within a mile and a half’s distance now. Guns were starting to swivel down.

Instinct, not thought, singled out the nearest destroyer as the worst threat. Smaller guns would de-elevate faster and they’d have to pass right by the thing. But couldn’t waste torpedoes on it. Facing the broad side of the cruiser, but the stern of the destroyer at about a twenty degree angle. About half a mile from the big cruiser – barely more than a mile from the two shark boats, and getting closer.

Can’t do anything. No. Can.

“Guns fire on the nearest destroyer! Distract and cripple her!” deKuyper shouted.

The fore gun crew began to aim. A burst of gunfire, over the still-deafening noise of the shore bombardment; deKuyper’s head whirled to the right. One of the Franco’s machine-gunners must have fired prematurely. Nerves, probably. Couldn’t blame him.

The destroyer’s stern guns were lowering.

They fired.

Boom. Boom, went explosions somewhere between deKuyper’s and Fordham’s boat. Huge noise. Waterspouts.

Boom. Boom. Boom.

The corvette opened up. More gunfire.

They have shark boats of their own around here somewhere. How do we deal with those?

That’s what machine-guns are for. When we’ve finished raking the destroyer.

More waterspouts and explosions, all around the area.

BOOM.

One of the big cruiser’s fore guns fired. A huge waterspout rocked the Chang, a hundred yards ahead of it. deKuyper absently noticed that he was drenched. It didn’t matter.

“Oh God oh God oh God,” Kaye was muttering. He held on for dear life.

“Yee-haw!” Fordham’s voice came over the radio. “Ride `em, cowboy!”

Water everywhere. Waterspouts everywhere. Blazing muzzle-flashes. Thrumming engines. For a moment deKuyper’s view coalesced into a burning conceptual gestalt of fire and noise.

Get out of it, John!

It was hard. It was easier to view the spectacle absently.

Snap the fuck out of it or you’re going to die!

Groggily, he fought himself back to his senses. Gripped the wheel again. Kaye had leaned over in the meantime – how long had it been? A few seconds, probably – to hold the boat steady.

He nodded a thanks without looking up at the young officer.

They were within probably four hundred yards of the destroyer. The Franco fired its cannon, and deKuyper realized he had one of his own.

“Fire, damnit!” he shouted. Somehow the two-man crew heard him above the roaring of the engines and the constant rolling thunder of the big ships’ guns. Above the clattering din of heavy-caliber machine-gun fire, both incoming and outgoing now.

His lead gunner made a final calibration and fired. An explosion bloomed amidst the aft battery of the destroyer.

Somebody cheered.

The aft battery fired as though nothing had happened.

This one’s dead on, thought deKuyper. Swerved the boat – realizing that he could swerve the boat.

The destroyer’s shell exploded within ten yards of the Franco. The blast rocked the boat sideways, almost throwing Kaye out of the cockpit. The second lieutenant had drawn his pistol and was holding on with only his left hand. He fired the pistol at the destroyer. The noise was unnoticeable amongst the massive general din of guns and engines and exploding shells, but the hot brass casing landed squarely on deKuyper’s bare forearm. Minor stinging pain.

The engines of the boat, pushed past their redlined maximum, kicked deKuyper’s backside like the mechanical bull he’d once tried riding on a dare.

They began to pass the destroyer. The Franco swerved right, the Chang Kai-Shek to the left.

“Eat lead, you commie sons of bitches!” Fordham yelled, as both shark boats’ quad fifties raked the destroyer’s decks. The Franco’s cannon boomed, the shell punching a hole clean through the side of the destroyer, which was turning, turning so that both fore and aft guns could go into action.

Incoming fire. A bullet scored a deep line along the top of the control panel, missing deKuyper by inches. Other rounds were striking home on the deck, punching right through the light wood surface. One of the Chang’s gun crew was wounded but trying to load a shell anyway, right arm clasped to an obviously hurting side while he helped his partner manhandle the three-inch shell into the breech.

A triple array of explosions followed by waterspouts. Three of the big eight-inchers firing nearly simultaneously and landing at about the same place, seventy or eighty yards ahead of the two zigagging shark boats. The destroyer was behind them, now – chasing them, it looked like to deKuyper when he glanced back.

No damn time to worry about the destroyer. The cruiser was their objective. Easily within a mile now. Slowly picking up speed.

Wasn’t sure how much range these torpedoes had. Theoretically they were good for up to five miles. deKuyper had heard the same rumors everyone else had heard about that.

Now? Then we can break away?

No. He only had one run at this. Better make it count.

“Stop zagging at half a mile when I do,” he told Fordham. “Straight run and fire when I give the signal.”

“Straight run? They’ll zero in on us and blow us to pieces!”

“They’ll probably do that anyway,” deKuyper yelled back without thinking. “You want it to count or not?”

More shells. Waterspouts. Three quarters of a mile. Five eighths.

Half a mile.

The Franco exploded like a matchbox stuffed with gelignite. Splinters of wood and metal flew everywhere, propelled outwards by a big blazing fireball.

Oh, fuck.

No chance to run now, even if he wanted to. Maybe there’d never been a chance.

“Ready torpedoes!”

They’d just have to do the job with two rather than four. He aimed the Chang amidships of the cruiser.

Kaye fired his pistol again, and again. Another bit of hot brass stung deKuyper’s left forearm. He flinched, and the boat swerved to the starboard a fraction.

“Will you fucking quit that?” he yelled at Kaye.

Kaye nodded, shouted something inaudible of his own, and emptied the rest of his pistol’s magazine at the cruiser.

The torpedomen probably couldn’t hear deKuyper either. Oh, shit. They were readying their torpedoes anyway. They knew from training what going dead straight, this close to a target, meant.

He just hoped they’d know when to fire.

They did. Fifty feet into the run the torpedoes slipped off their racks and slid into the water. deKuyper saw their trails begin to lance towards the big cruiser, but he didn’t have time for more than a glance. He was swinging the Chang away, turning her in a wide arc to get as far the hell from the rest of the fleet as possible. One of the destroyers was coming around the bow of the big cruiser.

The second destroyer’s guns fired. Waterspouts close, so close that they rocked the Chang hard, tipping forty-five degrees to port. Kaye was thrown loose and his .45 went flying overboard. The fore gun crew lost the shell they’d been reloading.

Bullets raked the Chang from somewhere – a lucky burst, deKuyper hoped, and no more than that. Through the din of the gunfire he heard someone scream.

Zig-zagging away. Then an explosion. A big one, with an overpressure wave. He turned his head for a moment – saw a fireball blooming above the aft section of the cruiser. Secondary explosions seemed to be happening.

They have shark boats around. Time to get the hell out before they arrive. Surprising they haven’t already.

He hit the throttle harder.

If you like what you’ve read here, you can get the full thing at http://www.amazon.com/The-Shark-Boats-ebook/dp/B00EZHY8S4 .

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