Excerpt: Extinction and Kapitan Gore find a target

Image taken through a periscope

Kapitan Gore and Extinction find a victim.

In chapter 20 of Carbon Run, Brother Martin Scribb of the Penitents of Saint Francis is rising in the ranks of the corsair submarine Extinction. The sub prowls the Arctic Ocean, searching for ships carrying a valuable, illegal cargo. In this excerpt, Kapitan Gore finds what he’s looking for.

The decision to accept Kapitan Gore’s offer of “freedom and wealth” came easily to Martin. He had known plenty of the alternative since his disidentification, and although he still held hope of finding Molly Bain and the possibility of redemption in the eyes of the larger society, Martin saw Extinction as a way to hedge his bets. Gore would extract some sort of price for his generosity, though Martin had no idea what that price was.

One day, the captain invited Martin to the control room, where every officer, male and female, greeted him with contempt. Martin recognized Nelson, whom Gore introduced as his executive officer. Lurking near a holo-console was Reason, Gore’s tactical officer and well as chief thug. Continue reading

What’s for breakfast on the corsair sub ‘Extinction’?

Cockroaches eating a sandwich

Cockroaches are a unplanned protein supplement aboard Extinction.

In this excerpt from chapter 16 of my novel-in-progress Carbon Run, Martin Scribb, a brother in the Penitents of St. Francis, eats breakfast aboard the corsair submarine Extinction. The crew of Extinction call themselves “the damned.” Martin points to one character’s “brand,” which is a raised marking on the forehead indicating the planet’s worst criminals. Reason is one of the submarine’s petty officers, or “bosses.”

Reason herded Martin’s group into the crew mess, a narrow cabin with a long aluminum table. Benches lined each side of the table, which was covered with stains of all colors and crawling with cockroaches. The shit-colored insects were fearless, running up to each bowl of cornmeal mush placed in front of the damned as if they were puppies eager for scraps from their masters. Through his years of privation as a monk with the Penitents of Saint Francis, Martin learned to ignore crawling visitors, brushing away the submariner roaches with his hand. New crew refused to eat the gruel. Eventually, hunger forced them to dip their unwashed spoons into their food, which varied in consistency from watery chunks covered with an oily sheen to thin papier-mâché. Experienced crew valued the insects as protein, and they swallowed the unlucky bugs who slipped into the gruel and drowned. Some were eaten before their legs stopped wriggling.

Martin savored his meals, remembering the days in the hot sun of the eastern reaches of Pacific West when a drink of water was all he could expect for days on end. He relished chewing on a piece of gristle or a sliver of carrot. On some days, moldy crusts of bread appeared, which the damned devoured in seconds. The scraps came from the bosses’ mess, or the captain’s cabin. As he sized up his shipmates, he noted that none were starving, though none were thriving. The cook–an unseen psychopath–was adding nutritional supplements to the gruel, possibly antibiotics as well. Ranchers once did such things to cattle and sheep. Why not do the same thing to the damned? Continue reading

Yo-No-No!

Nothing has done as much to revive the popular interest in the Golden Age of Piracy than Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, which started in 2003 with Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. That’s good for maritime history geeks; at least it got people asking interesting questions when they visit the local maritime museum. The trouble with franchises is that they multiply like a disease, and the latest Johnny Deppisode is threatening to turn this POTC plague into a pandemic.

The newest picture, aptly subtitled “On Stranger Tides,” pits Capt. Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) against Blackbeard (Ian McShane) in a four-way race to find the legendary Fountain of Youth. The other two contestants are Sparrow’s sometimes nemesis / sometimes partner Capt. Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) as a royal hireling (Wha?) and a good chunk of the Spanish Navy. Confused yet?

Then add two love duets, one between Sparrow and female pirate Angelica (Penélope Cruz) who says she’s Blackbeard’s daughter, and another tête-à-tête between Philip, a young religious sailor (Sam Caflin), and a mermaid (Astrid Berges-Frisbey), whose sisters would just as soon rip your throat out with their vampire teeth (there’s Twilight DNA in these sexy monsters) than take you on a midnight skinny dip. The Jack/Angelica thing works, but the man/mermaid thing seems dropped in to lighten an otherwise very dark mood in this dull picture.

Of course, the Pirates of the Caribbean flicks are never about interesting characters or a logical story. They’re all about an atmosphere fed by 11-year-old male fantasies of endless swordfights, silly accents (I love Rush’s, by the way), and tri-corner hats. If that’s what delights you about the Pirates’ shtick, by all means, see Number Four. But if you want an engaging, logical story with characters you can care about, re-read Treasure Island. At least Robert Louis Stevenson knew when to quit while he was ahead.