Jaws Fanfiction: Captain Quint Shark Hunter - 9. Chapter 9 From Sea To Shining Sea
Chapter Nine: From Sea To Shining Sea
After breakfast early Monday morning the recruits were mustered on the parade ground and issued with their orders. The urgency of war had curtailed the passing-out ceremonies. Where once there would have been a marching band, there was now a sole drummer boy, and the bleachers that were normally reserved for local officials and proud parents were empty.
The drill sergeant called each man forward, snapped a salute and gave him his destination and a sealed set of orders.
‘Abbot, USS Yorktown. Ackroyd, USS Lexington. Allan, USS Grampus. Alves, USS Indianapolis. Atherton, USS Yorktown. Baker, USS PC-496. Bennet, USS SC-694. Bloomberg, USS Montgomery. Brown, USS Indianapolis.’
Waiting for his own name to be called, Abel tried to figure the odds of his getting a posting in the Far East. By his reckoning he had about a fifty-fifty chance of being sent to one of the two main theaters of naval warfare: the North Atlantic, protecting the supply ships that acted as a lifeline to Europe, running mine-sweeping duties, and hunting German U-boats; or the Pacific Ocean, where the real fighting lay. That was where the war had begun and Abel was convinced that that was where it would end, and more than anything else he wanted to be a part of it.
With the drum beating insistently under the litany of the ships’ names, Abel felt a tingling sensation under his scalp as he was swept up by the noblest of emotions – patriotism. In his mind’s eye he pictured amber waves of grain, purple mountain ridges, wide rolling plains, alabaster cities rising out of the conquered wilderness – the whole rich tapestry of the greatest country on the earth girdled on both sides by shining seas. Having spent his seventeen years on Amity Island, the images that colored his imagination were taken from magazines and picture books: the faded stack of National Geographics that occupied one half of his parents’ single bookshelf, black and white photos of Yosemite and the High Sierra, a picture called Spring Turning that hung on the wall of Amity’s Town Hall.
Abel’s reverie was shattered by the sound of his name being called.
‘Quint!’ The sergeant levelled his gun barrel stare directly into Abel’s eyes. The recruit next in line hissed an urgent prompt, and Abel stepped forward and marched to the front. He executed a sharp salute, which was returned with an equal measure of precision and tension.
‘What’s the matter, sailor?’ The sergeant spoke under his breath. ‘Ain’t you ready to fight?’
‘I’m ready, sir.’
For an infintessimal moment, Abel thought that one corner of the drill sergeant’s mouth had turned up in a half-smile.
‘Quint, U.S Repair Base, San Diego.’
The sergeant extended a horny hand in which he held the sealed orders. Abel was transfixed by the white document. It trembled like a blade aimed at his heart.
‘Sir,’ he stammered, ‘there must be some mistake. I -‘
‘Fall in, sailor.’
Abel recognised the command in the voice and he knew that he was helpless against it. He had been trained to obey. He accepted his orders, saluted and marched back to his position.
The roll call of names and ships continued. Abel remained at attention. The orders seemed to burn a hole in his tunic pocket. There was a metallic taste in his mouth and his eyes stung.
Finally, after an eternity, the last name was called and the recruits were dismissed. They gathered in knots on the parade ground, seeking out those who shared their fate and with whom they would sail into battle. Amidst the crowd, Abel stood alone.
At the first opportunity he went to the camp commander and tried to get his orders rescinded.
‘Now, sailor, I understand your disappointment.’ The commander sat behind his desk, which was bare apart from an empty in-tray and a framed photograph of a woman in a white gown. ‘War is not just about combat. The work they’re doing out there in San Diego is vital to the war effort. Now, I can see from your record here, that you know boats. The sergeant says there’s no one who can strip down an engine like you. Those skills need to be put to work where they can do the most good. All your buddies there, going out onto the seas, they’re going to depend on fellahs like you to keep them afloat.’
‘But, sir …’ Abel let his cracked voice trail off into silence. He was afraid that his emotions would betray him.
The commander handed him back his orders.
Abel returned to his quarters and began to pack. Most of the company had already shipped out. Abel sat on his bunk and put his head in his hands, listening to the sounds of the departing trucks.