Coffee Break Read – Starships and Lasers

Frisson chills fired through his neurons rewarding each spasmodic jerk that twisted the controls in his hand.
“Die ya bastards!”
The three defending Triggalin Type 2s, exploded into space dust.
Dipping round under the belly of the behemoth that hung in space like a pregnant whale, he eased back to flip the Fast-Flight Superstrata Mk.VI onto its side to get the targeting crosshairs perfectly aligned.
Somewhere in that hulking vessel was a woman called Jedrachilla and her lover Box. She had broken one heart too many and now, in the midst of this luxurious cruise she was taking, she would meet her well deserved and long plotted death.
It just meant taking aim for the middle decks where scanners showed the Premier Class cabins and staterooms were located, pulling up the targeting screen, locking on and –
“Ryan? Have you finished your homework yet? Yer dinner’s cooked and the bins need taking out!”

E.M. Swift-Hook

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Author feature: ‘The Girl with Acrylic Eyes’ by Greg Krojac

From The Girl With Acrylic Eyes, Greg Krojac's explosive new novel.

Coppélia was just a robot. She was expendable.

Rachel knew she might sound a little crazy, but continued her thought process.
 “What if Coppélia’s some new kind of super-weapon? Maybe someone’s planning to create an army of Coppélias, super-strong androids able to think on their feet and learn, adapt, and evolve to meet any situation and threat without requiring programming updates? I mean, I know the Terminator films are just movies, but what if Coppélia is the first of a breed of killer androids? I know it sounds mad, I keep telling myself it’s stupid. It’s something out of science fiction, but, then again, everything is science fiction – until it becomes reality.”
Karen looked at a photo of the android that she kept on her handheld digital photo album.
“She looks so harmless. But we’ve both seen her strength with our own eyes. And then Stumpy –.”
Rachel had no idea who Stumpy was.
“Stumpy?”
“The technician who was going to replace Coppélia’s face. He said he’d never seen anything like her before. She’s constructed differently to any other android, and the materials appear to be hybrid in nature, giving her superior body strength and resistance to damage. I don’t know how she managed to cut herself, but that’s not important right now. Who knows what’s going on under her skin, or what she’s capable of mentally. If her body is constructed using the most advanced materials and techniques, imagine what her AI must be like.”
Karen’s mind flashed back to the first time that she’d met the android, sensing a difference between the Coppélia she met that day and the Coppélia that now laughed at Luke’s lame jokes and joined in the banter of the team. How can an android understand humour? Her interactions with humans seemed so natural. It was as if the android’s personality was evolving – even in such a short space of time. She put the photo album back in her pocket and looked at her Detective Sergeant.
“I’m sorry, Rachel.”             
“For what, ma’am?”
“For involving you – you and the team – in something that I should maybe have left alone. Our job is to catch criminals, not to follow the white rabbit.”
Rachel shook her head.
“Are you kidding ma’am? This is the biggest adventure I’ve had in my life. Well, after marrying Dylan and having our daughter, Lydia. It makes all the boring stuff – like auditing sexdroid clubs – worthwhile. And I’m sure the others feel the same.”
Karen was relieved. It had been a nagging doubt.
“Are you sure?”
“Of course I’m sure, ma’am. I can’t wait to see where this leads us.”
“But what if it gets dangerous?”
“Ma’am, with all due respect, we’re cops. It goes with the job. And if there is an army of killer super-robots out there – even government sponsored – it could well be up to us to stop it from happening. We’ll be stars of our very own Terminator movie.”

The Girl With Acrylic Eyes was released on 7 July and is available now!

About Greg 
Greg was born in 1957 and grew up in Maidenhead, Berkshire. He is the author of six published novels: the Recarn Chronicles trilogy (comprising of Revelation, Revolution, and Resolution), Reality Sandwich, The Schrödinger Enigma, and now The Girl With Acrylic Eyes.
He currently lives just outside the city of Salvador da Bahia, Brazil with Eliene and their cat, Tabitha. When he’s not writing, he teaches English to Brazilian students and watches English football club Tottenham Hotspur matches on TV.
Oh, and he lives in the Tropics so it would be rude not to go to the beach now and then.

A Bite of... Greg Krojac
Q1:  How much of you is in your hero?

I have an active social conscience and am a humanitarian, so I think I may well have interacted with the android in a similar way to how Detective Inspector Karen Chambers interacts with her. The main theme of the book questions what consitutes a sapient life form and should that sapience mean that the life form should be afforded certain rights, such as those that we humans expect to be given. I believe that I would side with Karen’s conclusion.

Q2: Name the four people you would most like to invite to a dinner party.

The first guest would be Michael Palin, as I love travelling and think he would have a lot of fascinating tales to tell. 
The second was going to be Neil deGrasse Tyson but then I remembered that the guests don’t have to be currently alive. So, with that in mind, I’d invite Carl Sagan. He was such a visionary and such an intelligent man – we could all learn a lot from him.
While he was alive, Robin Williams gave so much pleasure to so many people. Celebrities die every day, but his death actually hit me quite hard. He was a very funny, warm, and compassionate man and fills chair number three.
I would like to have invited Tottenham (Spurs) and England footballer Harry Kane, but I realise I have no women in this group, so I’ll remedy that now. The final guest would be Marina Sirtis who played Counselor Deanna Troi on the science fiction series STTNG (Star Trek The Next Generation). I’ve had brief conversations with her via Twitter and she would be able to chat about two of my favourite things; STTNG and Spurs. She’s from London and is a passionate Spurs fan. And she’s a very funny woman too.
I think that the four of them would make for a very entertaining dinner party.

Q3: Why do you write?

I would be lying if I said that I didn’t write in the hope of earning decent money through my books, but that’s not the only reason. I also write for the sense of acheivement I feel when I publish a book coupled with the fact that I’ve created a legacy that will survive me after my death. Plus I enjoy writing and, being a ‘pantser’ (someone who doesn’t plan his stories in great detail before writing them), I love being as surprised as the reader hopefully is, when a story takes an unexpected turn.

You can find Greg Krojac on Twitter, Goodreads and his own website.

Sunday Serial XXXIX

They walked in side-by-side, to find Rod writhing on the floor with Bonnie on his chest. Anna, Danny and Paul were leaning against the kitchen table laughing at his discomfiture. He stood up with Bonnie in his arms; she was wriggling and frantically licking his face. He put her down, and rubbed her ears fondly.
“Did you miss your Uncle Rod? You did? Now then Anna Marshall, tell me what you are doing at Sam’s gaffe. As if I didn’t know… Naughty girl!”
She smiled seraphically.
“And aren’t I enjoying myself.”
He threw back his head and roared with laughter, before turning to greet Danny and Paul.
“Long time no see. You both well?”
Danny gripped Rod’s massive hand.
“Good to see you too, you fucking man mountain.”

Jim grinned, before grabbing Anna by her narrow waist and hoisting her high in the air.
“Hello little girl.”
She laughed down at him.
“Hello yourself. You cross with me?”
He put her back on her feet.
“Should I be?”
“I dunno. Have you been getting much shit from Pats?”
“Some. But me and Jamie understand.”
“And the others?”
“Well. Mostly the twins don’t give a shit. However, Patsy, Bill and Charlie have missed you a lot.”
“I’m sorry about the boys. But I had to do this for me.”
“You did. And Jamie made the little men understand that. But Pats wasn’t so easy to mollify.”
“I know that. And I’m sorry for any pain I caused her. Look. Me and Sam are having a party. On the thirtieth of October. To celebrate Sam’s big four zero. You want to bring Pats and the kids along? And your stupid fecking brother.”
“You sure Anna.”
“I am. Apart from anything else, l miss them all.”
“Yeah. They miss you too. Specially Pats. But are you ready?”
“Yes Jim. I am. Will you come?”
“Yeah. We will.”
“Okay. Party starts at half twelve, until whenever. Now who wants what to drink. Sam is world champion cappuccino maker…”
Danny and Paul wanted cappuccino but the Cracksman brothers requested tea. Sam grinned.
“You’ll be wanting that mahogany-coloured stuff…” he said as he got up to do his duties. He brought a tray of mugs to the table, and a tin of Anna’s home-made chocolate chip cookies. When sat back down, Jim gave him a straight look.

“Yeah,” Sam said, “before you ask I wholeheartedly endorse Anna’s invitation. I’d really like to meet Patsy in party mode.” Jim grinned and patted him with one of his huge hands.
“I reckon you’re a decent sort of bloke. So thanks. We’ll see you. Birthday present?”
“Nah. No presents. I’ve got enough stuff in my life.”

Then it got much easier and even became pretty hilarious as Danny and Rod vied for who could tell the rudest stories.

It was one o’clock by the time Anna started to dish up. Sam went to her side.
“Can I help?”
“No. Not unless…”
“Not unless what?”
“Not unless your knife skills extend to carving.”
“As a matter of fact they do. Mum thought it was a man’s job, so Dad learned to do it properly, and then taught me.”
“Well. Could you then. It’s leg of lamb and I always make a complete dog’s breakfast of that.”
Sam got out the carving knife and fork and set to work. Anna could scarcely believe the perfect slices of meat that flew onto the serving platter, but she pulled herself together and dished vegetables and gravy into plain, white bowls and jugs. Then she bullied Paul into helping her lay the table. Very soon everyone was bellied up, helping themselves.
“Nobody,” Paul said in tones of delight, “cooks lamb quite like Anna. Though I have never seen it carved this beautifully before. Props to Sam.”
“But,” Rod interspersed, “ain’t it a bit creepy having your meat carved by a surgeon…”
“What? Like Sweeny Todd?” Anna giggled.
“Very much like,” Sam waved his knife and fork theatrically. “Beware the wrath of the surgeon…”
“Oh yeah,” Anna elbowed him in the ribs. “What wrath would that be? This is a man who thinks honking your horn at a dog in the street equals road rage.”
Jim smiled. “Sounds good to me. I dunno why people have to be getting shitty all the time. Life is too short…”
Rod snorted. “You sure it’s you and me that’s the twins? Sounds more like you and Sam were separated at birth.”
And then the insults really started flying. Even Sam joined in and Anna laughed until she all but cried.

When the plates and serving bowls had been all but licked clean, Sam cleared the table, while Anna retrieved something from the top of the steamer which had been sitting happily atop the Aga.
“Christmas pudding anyone?”
Rod got up from his chair and literally crawled across the kitchen to where he could kiss her feet.
“I really, really love you,” he asserted dramatically. “It isn’t too late to leave the black guy and marry me!”
She poked him with her toe.
“Go and sit down you moron, or you won’t get home-made Christmas pudding with brandy butter and clotted cream.”
He groaned and crawled back to his seat. Paul patted him consolingly.
“Brandy butter and clotted cream. She knows how to turn the screw…”
Sam wiped his eyes and got up to fetch the cream and the brandy butter. In passing, he kissed Anna on the top of her head.
“I’ve been laughing so much I hurt. Can you make them stop?”
“Not without withholding Christmas pudding, and if I do that we may have a riot on our hands.”
“Probably better not then. I’ll just suffer…”
She patted him consolingly before dishing up three large portions of pudding, two smaller ones, and one tiddler.
“Can you guess whose is which?”
Sam pointed to the big three.
“Rod, Jim, Paul?”
“Yes. And these are you and Danny.”
“Good. I’ll just put on the coffee machine and the kettle. Then I’ll come watch the monsters eat.”

Jane Jago

‘Copter

‘Copter, ‘copter, at low height,
O’er the village every night,
What strange brand of villainy
Brings you out at three thirty?

‘Copter, ‘copter overhead
Whilst I’m sleeping in my bed
Well, I was until you came
Now I can’t get to sleep again!

‘Copter, ‘copter now you’re gone
Just before the break of dawn
An hour left to close my eyes
Before the alarm tells me to rise!

The Working Title Blog would like to apologise to the shade of William Blake.

Weekend Wind Down – The Train

Every day except Sunday, the little train climbed the vertiginous track up the mountainside from San Bernardina in the valley to the saint’s basilica high on a rocky crag. And on every day except Sunday, pilgrims crowded the carriages and formed orderly queues to kiss the feet of the Madonna of the Sorrowful Countenance.

On Sundays, twice a day, for both the morning and evening devotions, the children of the orphanage in the valley climbed the railway track to the basilica to pray. It was a harsh climb, sweatily suffocating in summer and icily treacherous in winter, but nobody ever thought to give the children a break, and they spent six hours of the day either on the climb or on their knees in silence on the stone floor of the Madonna’s chapel.

At one time it had been suggested that the children might be given a simple noonday meal in the refectory with the monks of the abbey that crouched at the foot of the basilica, thereby saving them from two of the perilous climbs. But it never happened. Father Abbot was a stern man, and a greedy one, who saw no need to share with the thin little children from the valley. So the orphans toiled in the heat of summer and the cold and darkness of winter. None fell by the wayside, because none dared, knowing that nobody cared enough to rescue them should they fall. 

And that was how matters stood on a Sunday in December, when the cold was such that even the stern-faced nuns handed their charges extra woollen socks and hot stones wrapped in rabbit skin in the hope of staving off frostbite. The first climb of the day was accomplished in pitch darkness, with only the flickering lanterns carried by the nuns to illuminate the treacherously slippery railway line. To be honest, they almost didn’t make it, with one significant casualty being Mother Superior herself, who was half carried into the abbey by two of the biggest children. Even that would have gone unremarked had there not been a Hellenic doctor attending to Father Abbot’s stomach problems – and, unbeknownst to that worthy, also reporting to the Bishop on the conduct of the basilica and its satellites. This man took one look at Mother’s leg and pronounced it broken. He had the woman carried off to the sanatorium where he splinted the limb and administered laudanum for the pain. 

After morning service, Father Abbot regarded the orphans with a jaundiced eye, but even he could see that it would not be possible for them to return for evening service if they went back to the orphanage now. He thought for about five minutes then sent them home with the explicit instruction that they were not to return that day. He also ‘suggested’, although the suggestion was more in the nature of an order, that the choir nuns should remain to attend evensong. He was not an imaginative man, nor a kindly one, so he didn’t see what could possibly go amiss with two novices and a lame postulant leading upwards of thirty children down an icy railway track in the snow. 

So the children went, and the nuns stayed.

Night fell and the snow blew into massive drifts that groaned and sighed in the wind. 

The Abbot congratulated himself on having had the forethought to send the children home, while the nuns luxuriated in the heat from the great log fires that rendered even the Abbey’s massive stones warm to the touch. Down in the valley there was also warmth, even if it was only found in the kitchens, and, for once, there was sufficient pottage for all.

But nobody gave a thought to the orphans and their minders. What would they? Nobody at either end of the track thought anything was amiss. The inhabitants of the abbey thought the children back in their bare, cold dormitories, and the two old servants left behind in the orphanage naturally assumed that some sort of human compassion had prompted the Abbot to keep the children where they were safe.

The storm raged for three days and three nights before a cold blue dawn when the wind fell away and the sun shone on a pristine scene. Soon after that dawn, the rail crew arrived to clear the tracks so the little train could once again begin its duty of carrying the faithful into the high thin air. The men were about halfway up the mountain when one of them noticed a foot sticking out of the snow that was piled haphazardly on the track and the black pines that bordered it. These men had seen death before, but even so they cleared the snow with care, uncovering the body of an elderly woman in a brown habit. One of the workers had been an inhabitant of the orphanage before his luck changed for the better, and he recognised her.

“That’s Berthe,” he said, “she’s from the orphanage. She was never bright enough to become a nun, but they kept her as a sort of unpaid servant. Wonder what she was doing out here.”

“She weren’t the only one,” came a voice from further up the track.

In the end they uncovered two more bodies, dressed in the blue of novice nuns.

“It’s almost as if,” the foreman mused, “they was bringing the kiddies back down the tracks.”

“Surely not. Surely even Father Abbot has more kindness in him than that. And anyway, where’s the childer?”

“I dursn’t think,” the man who had suffered as an orphan shivered. “But us shan’t know until us gets to the top.”

They worked on in unusually grim silence until they reached the tiny halt at the top of the tracks. One of their number trotted up the steep path to the basilica and its abbey. He returned with puzzlement writ large on his honest features.

“They won’t believe us found three bodies.”

The foreman blew out his formidable moustache.

“Won’t them? Well then us shall just take the deceased down to the valley and put them in the hands of the Constable.”

Which is what they did, and that was just the beginning. The disappearance of thirty-two children, ranging in age from four to fourteen years made worldwide news, but the children were never found. There was an enquiry, and a lot of stern-faced men made a lot of discoveries they could have made years before if they had ever looked. Discoveries that closed the orphanage and replaced the greedy Abbot with a man of grace and humility. 

But it was all too late. The basilica passed out of public favour and the little trains no longer plied their trade up and down the vertiginous track. 

Today, you can barely discern where the rusted rails once ran, and the basilica and its abbey are no more that tumbled piles of basalt blocks. All is peace on the mountain now, although they do say that cold moonlit nights still see a procession of small figures toiling up the track blowing on their cold fingers and stubbing their frozen toes on the unforgiving wooden sleepers…   

©️jane jago 2018

It’s not

It’s not as if I cared she said
It’s not as if I cried
It’s not as if I banged my head
And wished that I had died
It’s not as if I missed his voice
It’s not that I was sad
I knew that leaving was his choice
It wasn’t all that bad
It’s not as if the bed’s too big
Or if I feel alone
It’s not as if I missed the pig
But I wish he would come home
©️jj 

The Thinking Quill

χαιρετίζει τους μαθητές μο,

It is I, your beloved pedagogue and guide to the less lucent corners of the labyrinthine literary milieu, Moonbeam Farquhar Metheringham IV, author of the much spoken of science fantasy classic, ‘Fatswhistle and Buchtooth’. I am here, lissom and tanned, reborn from the ashes of my pre-vacation self like a phoenix and freshly returned from my Mediterranean meanderings around the Greek Islands.

Whilst there, I undertook some language lessons from my travelling companion, Stavros. This had the salutary effect of making me consider the rudiments of grammar, syntax and such basic building blocks from which a writer constructs the complex edifice of a story. It dawned upon me with a flush of guilt and horror that I have not given enough – if indeed any – time to ensuring that you, my beloved students are entirely au fait with the marvels that comprise English grammar.

So, I shall not delay further and will introduce my new project which will, along the way, unveil for you such mysteries as the correct use of the Oxford comma and the importance of not splitting your infinitives!

How to Write Right  – Lesson 1. The Write Apostrophe.

Ah, I hear you say, with a cherubic grin at your own cleverness, this will be one I know! And yes, of course, you will want to then say how an apostrophe stands in for a missing letter or letters, as in:

Balthazar, his book becoming Balthazar’s book. Or when does not becomes ‘doesn’t. But these are the simple uses that every school child will have ingested along with maternal lactic secretions. I shall not spend more than the briefest amount of time on them.

In brief: use an apostrophe to show possession or omission. The only difficult bit is when words have the ill-considered affrontery to end with ‘s’ or to be plural, but there the rule is to omit an extra ‘s’: the boys’ toys or Stavros’ biceps. There may be a few exceptions to this, but we are considering the rule not the breaking of it.

There, now we have that out the way I shall come onto the far more pertinent and valuable part of the lesson: the use of the apostrophe as an essential ingredient in science fiction and fantasy nomenclature. As an author of the genre of speculative fiction that blends both those mighty tributaries into a single majestic torrent – science fantasy – this is an arena in which I can be considered fully expert.

The importance of the apostrophe in naming characters, places and mysterious technological or magical items is immense. With a single tiny stroke, it imbues a name with something not of this world. One apostrophe adds a hint of mystery. Two will make the name ring out visually and three imbues the owner of the name with an aura of unmistakable potency.

This veritable grammatical magic wand, inserted into even the most commonplace of names can elevate your story from the level of dull and mediocre to that of intriguing and innovative. It speaks of mystical matters or loathsome lifeforms, alien abilities or high brow high-tech . But, student mine, be aware of the danger of adding more than three apostrophes to any one name. The effect then is inverted. What was dramatic and original suddenly becomes trite and overplayed. Too many and the bubble is burst. Less is more, my pupil. Less. Is. More!

I will conclude with a powerful demonstration of this marvellous device and you may see for yourself how the humble apostrophe transforms a name, whisking the reader away from the everyday world and into a new and unknown realm, there to hover eager and awaiting, for the story to unfold before them – the story you are writing!

Take my own name: Metheringham

One apostrophe:

Met’Heringham
Metheri’Ngham
Methe’Ringham

Two apostrophes:

Meth’Erin’Gham
Me’Theringh’Am
Metheri’N’Gham

Three apostrophes:

M’Eth’Er’Ingham
Metheri’Ng’H’Am
Me’The’Ring’Ham
These speak most eloquently for themselves and so I rest my case. I shall return next week with another grammatical gem to galvanise you. Until then, I bid you farewell.

Moonbeam Farquhar Metheringham IV

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Celebratory Coffee Break Read – Gloriana

When we were first setting up the Working Title Blog, this was the first piece ever posted before we launched to see how this whole blog thing worked... You might have missed it back then so here it is again for you to enjoy!

“It is entirely in your own hands archbishop,” the slender red-haired woman in the huge gilded chair spoke coldly and deliberately, “but you and your confederates have ensured that the majority of the populace believes in one virgin birth so I fail to see your problem.”

The ancient, and cadaverously thin, prelate stared at her for a long moment while the muscles in his jaw worked. He obviously wanted to say something but in the end he lacked the courage and subsided into fulminating silence.

“And you Master Cecil. Do you have nothing to say?”
The richly clad figure of Her Majesty’s spymaster in chief bowed floridly.
“This, your Majesty, is either a master stroke or the biggest mistake a reigning monarch ever made. With the greatest respect, we will not know which it is for many months yet.”
“Agreed, there is an element of risk but I would know whether you are with us in our great endeavour.”
Cecil dropped his world-weary pose and bowed his head.
“To death and beyond, Majesty. To death and beyond.”
“You can serve us best by remaining alive,” the Queen spoke with some asperity although her narrow dark eyes warmed a little as they rested on Cecil’s beaky face.

The third man came forward and bent the knee before his sovereign.
“Parliament will uphold whatever your majesty chooses to do.”
“My lord Essex was ever the gentleman,” the Queen laughed although it was a mirthless sound. “The lords temporal range themselves alongside us, as does Master Cecil’s organisation, which just leaves the lords spiritual to declare.”
Essex looked at the cleric with something akin to loathing.
“You are either with us, my lord archbishop, or you are against us. We have no time for you to mull over your decision.”
The stubborn old man in the cope and mitre stared at his queen.
“Do you even begin to know what you are asking?”
She regarded him for a long moment.
“We are perfectly well aware. But what would you have us do? Marry England to some foreign prince? Elevate one of our noble families above the others?”
The archbishop looked at her marble pale features with dawning respect.
“No, Majesty, I would have you do neither of those.”
“Then give me an alternative.”
The old man bowed his head.
“There is none. I stand corrected. The church ranges itself beside you.”
“Good.You may all leave us now.”

The three men bowed themselves out of the room and as soon as they had closed the door behind them the figure in the huge chair allowed her shoulders to sag just a little. A large sandy-haired man, dressed plainly in leather and homespun, stepped out from behind the rich hangings and came to kneel at her feet. She smiled down at him.
“It appears,” she said carefully, “that our plan has the support it needs. Now it is for you to do your part.”
He lifted one small foot in his large, calloused hand and brought it to his lips.

In due time Gloriana, the virgin queen, gave birth to a strapping red-haired son. She called him Henry after her great father, and he ruled wisely and well as did his own son and the son of his son, and the son of the son of his son….

© jane jago 2017

An Alternative 4th of July!

An extract from A Time of Need by Brent A. Harris an alternative history in which Washington is a hero - but on the British side...

Point of Departure
Braddock’s Road, Monongahela River, British America
July 9th, 1755.

In retrospect, General Edward Braddock realized that he should not have survived. Maybe the French ambush had gone awry. Maybe someone had been out of place. Maybe he had just gotten lucky. He experienced, if only for a fleeting instant, a feeling that things should be different. But now, he was engaged in the chaos of battle, on the brink of defeat. Retreat was his only option.
Personally, the French and the Savages could have the damned Ohio Valley and the damnable heat that went with it. His red woolen coat stank, and his white uniform blouse had long since turned yellow. His red silk sash wrapped loosely around his chest. The summer humidity made his buff breeches sticky, wedging uncomfortably under his saddle.
Despite this, his allegiance laid with his uniform and he would not betray it. Braddock held his hunting sword high. He wove between cypress semi-evergreens and massive white oaks. On some of those trees, scalps of his men were hung like trophies. He passed them and his stomach tightened. His mount was his fifth, the others had been shot out from under him. His men had lost the will to fight. Many were dead, of those who lived, most fled. Still, Braddock rode on among his remaining men.
As far as he was concerned, everything around him—the undrinkable water of the Monongahela River, mosquitoes, venomous vipers and Savages—was literally trying to kill him. Those things weren’t to be found back home in Scotland and his nice thick uniform would have actually served him quite well in the highlands. But, like everything in the British Colonies, what served well at home was often a hindrance here.
He spied his aide-de-camp, a young Yank—sweaty and flustered—not meters away, returning from the head of the column to the rear. Braddock rode to him, then quickly recoiled and reared his head back in disgust. “You smell like the wrong end of a horse.” George Washington cut an imposing figure when on horseback. But not today. Up close he looked pale and wet. Several folded blankets padded his saddle, most of which were soaked in a slick, brownish mess.
“We are overrun, sir. We cannot hold,” Washington said. Sweat poured freely over his face, but his mouth and eyes remained dry. “The Ottowan and Potawatomis Natives are breaking our ranks. The French are keeping us penned-in.”
The Scotsman gave it one last thought, then said, “If we cannae hold them here, then we must fall ba—”
His horse bucked, as if stung by something sharp. Braddock grabbed ahold of the reins, but it was too late. He couldn’t get a tight enough grip on them. He felt light, then the sensation of flying. His sword flew out of his hand and his sash came undone. He was off his horse and falling through open air. He heard the snap in his leg before he felt himself hitting the ground. His right leg, below the knee, twisted sideways against the momentum of his fall. Then, his beast fell dead on top of him and crushed Braddock’s broken leg. He let out a bellow of pain which rivaled that of the cannon firing nearby and matched the haunting war whoops of the Savages encircling his men. The next thing Braddock knew was that two of his men held him propped up by the shoulders.
“Do I have your orders to call for retreat?” Washington was above him, still on his horse.
Braddock’s leg was about to overwhelm him. Everything felt distant. He managed to nod slowly. “Aye.”
“Very well, I shall carry the orders myself to the men and drag them away if necessary. If we cannot have victory, we shall at least share no shame in our withdrawal.” Though Washington was very nearly on his deathbed, Braddock thought, he didn’t act the part. Washington actually shot him a look of concern, then spoke to the two men. “Get the General to safety.” With that, Washington turned away.
The two men attempted to haul the wounded General back up the road, keeping the weight off his leg, but it was little use. Braddock gasped. “No lads, let me rest a bit.” He turned a finger behind him, “there, get me up on the rise, steady as you can.” He grunted with each step.
A moment later, he looked down, just in time for him to see his aide-de-camp fly down the hill. Braddock heard two distinct shots fire, both muzzle flashes aimed at Washington. If either of them hit, Braddock couldn’t tell, but Washington rode on. Bloody ‘ell that luck.
Braddock was a General in the best equipped, best trained army in the world. One British soldier was worth ten savages. Or, so he thought. The wilderness challenged that assumption. Washington pushed him to accept that things were different here. Braddock had at first sneered, as if a Yank knew anything about proper British soldiering. What Washington did not know or understand was that Braddock had changed. He had adapted his method of soldiering to face the peculiarities of the New World. Apparently, Braddock thought, as he saw the destruction of his army all around him, he had not changed them enough. Perhaps, in the future, he should take his aide’s advice closer to heart. Maybe Braddock had underestimated him.
Later, when the British had made good on their withdrawal, he was not surprised to learn that they owed much of their orderly departure to the work of Washington. The sickly, flux-riddled Yank had performed more admirably then even some of Braddock’s best Generals. They would all live to fight another day as they made their slow and arduous way to Ft Duquesne to liberate the Ohio Valley from French invasion. Thanks largely in part to George Washington.
Braddock would not have believed it had he not borne witness to it himself. Maybe the Yank had enough British blood in him yet to make a proper soldier. Braddock raised an eyebrow as he tried to envision the youth in a bright red British uniform instead of the Colonial rags he wore. In his head, the result was smashing. “Hmm,” he said to no one in particular. “Who would-ev’ thought?”

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