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Lady Jane Under Fire
The Lady Jane’s map room was a scene of frantic searching. David James had searched high and low for a map or simply any information on shallows and rock formations to the port of Lüderitz, but to no avail. Eventually Blackmore and George Nance had joined the search, but they too came up empty handed. It was an urgent situation but not one that compelled them not to search thoroughly. But none of them found any specific information on the port. Inwardly Blackmore was cursing Gordon Bellagon. The owner of The Lady Jane was notoriously miserly on measures such as up to date maps. Despite asking, Blackmore’s request had obviously gone unheeded or forgotten. More than once Blackmore had mused that Bellagon’s desultory attitude would end in the death of one of his crew.
“It seems we may have to take soundings from a crew in a longboat, slowly rowing ahead of us.” Blackmore watched the men’s reactions. His first officer looked askance at his captain, a familiar shake of his head told Blackmore what he wanted to know. George Nance immediately volunteered for the duty.
The dull thud ashore didn’t register with any of the men at first. It was the low moan and rushing sound of a shell flying over the ship’s superstructure that made them pay attention.
“That was a shell. Fired from the shore,” James said, turning to Blackmore.
“Get all hands onto lookout and get the master-at-arms to breakout the weapons, then meet me on the bridge. We may have time if these rebels are amateurs,” Blackmore ordered, trying to keep his voice flat and low. Inwardly he feared the worst. A direct hit may do some superficial damage, or it may sink the ship. It all depended on the shells being fired and the ability of the gunners. It was an unknown situation and one where he felt safer taking his chances moving his ship out to sea. Blackmore raced to the bridge and used the communications tube to call up the engineer and order him to make full steam as quickly as possible. It would take minutes because he knew his new engineer was a professional and Blackmore thanked god for that. Arthur Collins in charge would have been another story. Blackmore waited as he heard and saw his ship come alive. He scanned the shore for any signs of a field gun but could see nothing. The town seemed deserted.
David James entered the bridge just as another muffled boom came from the shore. Both men raised their binoculars and looked for tell-tale signs of smoke.
“There, port five degrees.”
Blackmore turned his gaze left and saw the lazy smoke rising just as a shell hit the water a few yards to starboard. Blackmore grabbed the tube and blew. “Engine room, get me steam now or we’re all dead.”
Precious minutes past and all was still, except for the slow rumble and hissing coming from below decks. Eventually the engineer called back and told Blackmore he could get underway, slowly.
“Ahead slow,” Blackmore said in a cold but tense voice.
Another boom from the shore and this time the shell hit the water only feet away from the ship’s stern.
“Helm! Punch it! Give us all the speed you can. Get us out to sea and use your best judgement. Don’t sink my ship, laddie.”
“Aye, sir,” the helmsman said with a wry smile, “I’ll do my best.”
Blackmore stepped out of the bridge and looked astern to see the water beginning to churn and his ship slowly, painfully edge away. Another boom from the shore and this time Blackmore feared the worst. “Clear away from the stern,” he managed to shout to his crew when the shell hit his ship. The stern exploded into a mass of flying steel, smoke and belching flames from the high-explosive shell. Blackmore instinctively ducked into the bridge until the deadly shower of steel had ceased.
As the smoke cleared Blackmore left the bridge and ran astern, down steps three at a time, running toward the gaping hole that was the stern of his ship. A crewmember, or what was left of him, lay crumpled before him, his mangled head crushed by a capstan as the blast had hit him and shot him back, until his body was stopped by the immovable capstan.
“I think that’s Carsson,” David James said as he ran up to Blackmore’s side.
Blackmore was ashamed he hadn’t recognised the seaman’s red bandana that he always wore around his neck. “Get the doctor up here… just in case,” Blackmore said, then walked toward the stern to assess the damage.
David James managed to reach the steps up to the bridge when the next boom came. He turned and looked at Blackmore, just as Blackmore turned to look at him and then the shell hit The Lady Jane and the fiery explosion blasted both men off their feet.
Blackmore hit what was left of the stern railings before darkness overcame him, but not before he heard a distant voice shout out, “She’s sinking.”

Copyright Tom Kane © 2019

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MARCH 15, 1931

APRIL 15, 1912



















This is a first draft, so please forgive spelling & grammatical errors. Context and characters may change between now and the final publication date.

When published as an eBook and paperback at the end of the spring of 2019, this book will be the first in a trilogy: The Brittle Sea, The Brittle Land and The Brittle Sky.

As a English expat author living in Cyprus, you may think my life revolves around cocktails by the pool. You would be wrong. In ten years on the island I’ve had my fair share of adventures and interesting experiences.

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Living in Cyprus: 2015 here

Hitler’s Secret Atomic Bomb here

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