March 18

The Worlds I’ve Wondered

 

PBY on the beach5th Maa-ni-laa Me-naak finalKra-vaalizardbirdgri-kakka

Discussions on the History, Flora and Fauna of the Destroyermen World from the perspective of Courtney Bradford.

As time goes by, this is where I will collect the meat and bones of Courtney’s “book,” The Worlds I’ve Wondered, and eventually post it as a separate semi-static category, still subject to editing and addition.  Your comments and observations are welcome!  I’ll include some of Courtney’s monologues from the series (few of which have ever appeared in the audios) and may expand on them with pics, maps–the works.  Or I may add entirely different “chapters.”

                                                           “The Worlds I’ve Wondered”  

Our History Here

(WINDS of WRATH)

 By March 1, 1942, the war “back home” was a nightmare. Hitler was strangling Europe and the Japanese were rampant in the Pacific . Most immediate, from my perspective as a . . . mature Australian engineer stranded in Surabaya Java, the Japanese had seized Singapore and Malaysia, destroyed the American Pacific Fleet and neutralized their forces in the Philippines, conquered most of the Dutch East Indies, and were landing on Java. The one-sided Battle of the Java Sea had shredded ABDAFLOAT: a jumble of antiquated American, British, Dutch, and Australian warships united by the vicissitudes of war. Its destruction left the few surviving ships scrambling to slip past the tightening Japanese gauntlet. For most, it was too late.

With several other refugees, I managed to board an old American destroyer, USS Walker, commanded by Lieutenant Commander Matthew Reddy. Whether fate, providence, or mere luck intervened, Walker and her sister Mahan, their gallant destroyermen  cruelly depleted by combat, were not fated for the same destruction which claimed their consorts in escape. Instead, at the height of a desperate action against the mighty Japanese battlecruiser Amagi, commanded by the relentless Hisashi Kurokawa, they were . . . engulfed by an anomalous force, manifested as a bizarre, greenish squall—and their battered, leaking, war-torn hulks were somehow swept to another world entirely.

I say “another world” because, though geographically similar, there are few additional resemblances. It’s as if whatever cataclysmic event doomed the prehistoric life on “our” earth many millions of years ago never occurred, and those terrifying—fascinating—creatures endured, sometimes evolving down wildly different paths. We quickly discovered “people,” however, calling themselves “Mi-Anakka,” who are highly intelligent, social folk, with large eyes, fur, and expressive tails. In my ignorance and excitement, I promptly dubbed them “Lemurians” based on their strong (if more feline), resemblance to the giant lemurs of Madagascar. (Growing evidence may confirm they sprang from a parallel line, with only the most distant ancestor connecting them to lemurs, but “Lemurians” has stuck). We just as swiftly learned they were engaged in an existential struggle with a somewhat reptilian species commonly called “Grik.” Also bipedal, Grik display bristly crests and tail plumage, dreadful teeth and claws, and are clearly descended from the dromaeosaurids in our fossil record.

Aiding the first group against the second—Captain Reddy had no choice—we made fast, true friends who needed our technical expertise as badly as we needed their support. Conversely, we now also had an implacable enemy bent on devouring all competing life. Many bloody battles ensued while we struggled to help our friends against their far more numerous foes, and it was for this reason I sometimes think—when disposed to contemplate “destiny”—that we survived all our previous ordeals and somehow came to this place. I don’t know everything about anything, but I do know a little about a lot. The same was true of Captain Reddy and his US Asiatic Fleet sailors. We immediately commenced trying to even the odds, but militarizing the generally peaceful Lemurians was no simple task. Still, to paraphrase, the prospect of being eaten does focus one’s efforts amazingly, and dire necessity is the mother of industrialization. To this day, I remain amazed by what we accomplished so quickly with so little, especially considering how rapidly and tragically our “brain trust” was consumed by battle.

In the meantime, we discovered other humans—friends and enemies—who joined our cause, required our aid, or posed new threats. Even worse than the Grik (from a moral perspective, in my opinion) was the vile “Dominion” in South and Central America. A perverse mix of Incan/Aztecan blood-ritual tyranny with a dash of seventeenth-century Catholicism flavoring technology brought by earlier travelers, the Dominion’s aims were similar to those of the Grik: conquest, of course, but founded on the principle of “convert or die.”

I now believe that, faced with only one of these enemies, we could’ve prevailed rather quickly, despite the odds. Burdened by both, we could never concentrate our forces and the war lingered on. To make matters worse, the Grik were aided by the madman Kurokawa, who, after losing his Amagi at the Battle of Baalkpan, pursued a warped agenda all his own. And just as we came to the monumental conclusion that not all historical human time lines we encountered exactly mirrored ours, we began to feel the malevolent presence of yet another power centered in the Mediterranean. This “League of Tripoli” was composed of fascist French, Italian, Spanish, and German factions from a “different” 1939 than we remembered, and hadn’t merely “crossed over” with a pair of battle-damaged destroyers, but possessed a powerful task force originally intended to wrest Egypt—and the Suez Canal—from Great Britain.

We had few open conflicts with the League at first, though they seemed inexplicably intent on subversion. Eventually we discovered their ultimate aim was to aid Kurokawa, the Grik, even the Dominion, just enough to ensure our mutual annihilation—removing multiple future threats to the hegemony they craved at once. But their schemes never reckoned on the valor of our allies or the resolve of Captain Matthew Reddy. Therefore, when the League Contre-Amiral Laborde, humiliated by a confrontation, not only sank what was, essentially, a hospital ship with his monstrous dreadnaught Savoie, but took some of our people hostage—including Captain Reddy’s pregnant wife—and turned them AND Savoie over to Kurokawa, we were caught horribly off guard. Tensions with the League escalated dramatically, though not enough to risk open hostilities that neither we—nor they—were ready for. (We later learned such had already occurred in the Caribbean, between USS Donaghey and a League DD, and that Second Fleet and General Shinya’s force had suffered a setback in the Americas at the hands of the Dominion.) But we had to deal definitively with Kurokawa at last, and at once. As powerful as he’d become, and with a battleship added to his fleet, we simply couldn’t risk our invasion of Grik Africa with him at our backs.

Captain Reddy conceived a brilliant plan to rescue our friends and destroy Kurokawa once and for all, and in a rare fit of cosmic justice, the operation actually proceeded better than planned, resulting in the removal of one long-standing threat, and the capture of Savoie herself. The battle was painfully costly, however, and the forces involved were too exhausted and ill-placed to respond when the Grik went on the move. Our hopes now depended on the insanely, suicidally daring defiance of some very dear friends aboard the old Santa Catalina. Captain Russ Chappelle steamed the ancient armed merchantman up the Zambezi and fought the Grik Swarm to a standstill, ultimately blocking the river with her own half-sunken hulk. Even then her fight wasn’t finished, and as reinforcements trickled in, the battle raged on. Finally blasted to utter ruin and with the Grik surging aboard, Commodore Tassanna brought her massive carrier Arracca to evacuate survivors, but Arracca was fatally wounded and forced to beach herself.

Thus, most awkwardly, began the Allied invasion of Grik Africa. Captain Reddy and our Republic allies to the south (to whom, incidentally, I was attached) brought everything at their disposal to support our people marooned behind Grik lines. Through daring, terrible suffering, and sheer force of will, “Tassanna’s Toehold” held, and a bloody beachhead was finally secured in Grik Africa, from which we could strike deep against the ancient foe.

On the other side of the world, the vile Don Hernan and the equally unpleasant Victor Gravois finalized a treaty of alliance between the cruel Dominion and the fascist League, and General Shinya pushed north in a race with Don Hernan’s General Mayta to secure the city of El Corazon and the fabled El Paso del Fuego. Mayta got there first and fortified El Corazon against Shinya’s and High Admiral Jenks’s inevitable assault.

And so the war began to build to an ever bloodier, more heartrending crescendo. Bekiaa-Sab-At and I, still with General Kim’s Army of the Republic, battled northward to join Captain Reddy and General Alden, smashing their way up the bloody Zambezi to the very heart of Grik Africa. The decisive engagement was fought in the ancient city of Sofesshk, in the shadow of the Palace of Vanished Gods itself. The balance (against the Grik, at least) had tipped in our favor. Or so we thought.

I was not at the Battle for El Corazon and El Paso del Fuego, of course, but the fighting in the city has been described in the most horrific terms. Ultimately, only valor and good fortune allowed General Shinya to evict General Mayta. But no Allied fleet remained to exploit this natural passage between the seas, or support the NUS  invasion of the Dominion from the Caribbean. Worse, the fascist League understood the strategic threat posed by Allied control of the Pass, and in concert with the evil Don Hernan, Victor Gravois finally began to gather the powerful League fleet he’d always craved for his own murky purposes.

And then there was General Esshk, of course, who’d escaped defeat in Grik Africa to build a new army and new weapons—and prepare a final, obscene plot to ruin the world if he couldn’t rule it . . .

 

Excerpt from the Foreword to Courtney Bradford’s “The Worlds I’ve Wondered”

 

University of New Glasgow Press, 1956