Rachel took a sip of water and heard a tender voice. "At long last we finally meet." Water dribbled from the glass onto Rachel's chin. She wiped her chin with her hand and turned to see Cole. He looked the same the last time she saw him. Same short brown hair and dark brown eyes that could hypnotize anyone. He wore a gray suit, with a white button shirt and black tie, the first time Rachel had ever saw him in a suit. She couldn't believe Cole Ashton; her ex-boyfriend was standing in front of her. Feeling uncomfortable, she began to fidget; running her fingers through her hair. She didn't know what to say or do.
Finally Cole broke the silence. "Hey, Rach."
"Hello, Cole." Rachel took another sip of water.
"I'm sorry about your mom."
"She was a great woman." Cole picked up a cracker
"I've been hearing that a lot lately."
"It's true, she really was. I've always thought a lot of her. She was always nice to me, treated me like I was her son."
Rachel took a few more sips of water. It was no secret that her family adored, actually loved Cole. They always thought he was the perfect man for her. It broke their hearts more than it did hers when she and Cole broke up. But Cole remained a close friend of the family. Whenever Rachel called home, her mother would give her updates about Cole. Even though Rachel acted like she didn't care, she was curious about what went on in his life. "She treated everyone like they were family."
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“Mornings were steel edged now, water on the village font ice-crisp. Instead of clear blue skies, tatters of clouds stuck fast between firs on the mountain slopes and leaves on the beech trees dropped yellow and rust to the forest floor. Some days our village floated upon a sea of clouds, forming an island, heralding the separation from the rest of the world that winter would bring.
Before I drifted into sleep, I lay on my sack mattress stuffed with dried corn-cob leaves and contemplated the stars. I wondered if the sky would look the same down on the Maremma plains. It was time to leave.
Tomorrow the men and older boys would be setting off. Boots had been mended; in fact I had lost count of how many old shoes I had studded with nails to help them last the eight-day journey down mule tracks and dusty mountain roads. Paolo, our neighbour, had a new pair of goatskin breeches and had proudly shown me his stick, whittled from chestnut wood in the evenings by his fireside. On one end he had skilfully worked a hook to yank necks of wayward sheep. Rossella, his wife, had wrapped chunks of pancetta in cloth and he had bought himself a sturdy green umbrella from the fair at Ranco.
I believed Mamma had no inkling I would soon be gone. Part of me felt bad; she wanted me hear her now she understood our brother, Francesco, was never coming back from the battle of Asiago. One of the shepherds who had come to have his clogs repaired told us the newspapers had reported the deaths of 147,000 men. And all for what? At the seminary, during a geography lesson, Fra Alonso had shown us the range of mountains called Altopiano where the battle had been fought. I remember hoping, for my brother’s sake, that those mountains were as beautiful as the Apennines he had left behind here. On the newly-erected monument in the square in Badia Tedalda, when everybody had disappeared after the commemoration service, I had crouched down and run my fingers over the raised letters of my older brother’s name: Francesco Tommaso Starnucci. I wanted to feel close to him, have some sort of connection. But instead all I felt were twenty five cold, metal shapes.
Since the episode with Fra Domenico, I vowed never to return to the seminary in Arezzo and I’d been making secret preparations. I removed Nonno’s moth-eaten wool cloak from the wooden trunk at the end of my parents’ high matrimonial bed. I’d been squirreling away morsels of pecorino cheese and wild boar sausage whilst Mamma wasn’t looking and wrapping them in a rag in readiness for my departure. And nothing was going to stop me.”
The adrenaline-racing second book in The Imprint Series
Fugitives from Startech, Jade and Aric follow their map to Dieter Copeland's house in the backwoods of Rutherford. While in hiding, Dieter teaches them how to connect with their alien metal. But their teacher is keeping his own deep, dark secret--a secret that could affect both their lives.
Aric and Jade grow closer, falling more in love, but being on the run has its drawbacks. When it becomes apparent that Startech will stop at nothing to recover their technology, the pair comes face to face with imminent danger, their fears and the truth behind the company that threatens their existence.
Ultimately, as Jade and Aric fight for their lives, they discover there is only one place they can go...
She asked the driver to turn around. Her cabbie could not drive fast enough to suit her. When she walked through the lobby of the Cinema 18, everyone was buzzing. She ran toward the crime scene but authorities had closed the hallway where she had been attacked. Her superhero had vanished.
Too late. Now what? Brandi’s hands were still shaking. Her palm felt cold against her forehead. Then, deep in thought, she was startled to hear a raspy male voice behind her.
“Brandi? Hi, my name’s Cody.”
She turned around. Her stomach, still in knots, leaped into her throat. His chiseled face was handsome in a home-on-the-range sort of way. His sculpted cheeks were partially masked by a rough-hewn beard — the obvious cover-up for scars visible through his whiskers. His nose had been broken at least once. This guy had been in some fights.
The Pirates cap he had worn earlier was now in his back pocket and his sandy blond hair wet around the sides. Did he know that his shirt had turned pink on the front? The blood spatters had faded together, partially washed off by heavy rains.
Was she face-to-face with a superhero? He was not as tall as she remembered. His fiery eyes that could have intimidated Lucifer earlier were now softer, like quiet blue waters. He offered his hand, but his shallow, forced smile told her he was not certain how she would respond. Was his shyness just an act?
Whew! His extended hand was attached to a massive forearm. His neck was wide and muscular, his body built to last, rough-cut from head to toe — a description that would make good print in her eyewitness report for the Gazette.
“I wanted to thank you,” Cody told her, “for savin’ my life earlier.”
She could hardly believe her ears. Was it a come-on? Was his voice naturally that raspy, or just a poor attempt to imitate Batman?
“You want to thank me? Shouldn’t it be the other way around?”
She extended her hand. It was cold and unsteady. Would he notice? His handshake was warm, ardent, but gentle — the same paw that had just mauled three professional tough guys. She tried to swallow her stomach back down into place but her mouth was too dry.
“Well, I would’ve been a sittin’ duck if you hadn’t deflected that guy’s arm. You showed presence of mind and courage.”
“Presence of mind and courage?” She snickered. “You mean for a girl?”
An unexpected encounter with a creature of song may have the power to change his fate.
Tribesman Misha is in search of a deer, hopeful of winning the hand of Tiva--next in line for leadership--and determined to secure his family’s prominence. When he finds a small song-bird-woman, who he names Raven, he’s sure fate is on his side. The creature can’t speak, yet her song captures his heart.
But is Raven the gift he thinks she is?
The end of the day nears, and he must bring home a gift for Tiva or risk losing her to the lowly fisherman, Rokkoo, a fate that would undo everything he's worked so hard for.
Fans of Chanda Hahn will enjoy this dark fantasy short story that transports YA readers to an enchanting alternate Earth where wonders are not always as fantastic as they seem.
His arm came off, and along with it, the sword. Maezy spun on her heel and jammed her blade into the next attacker. She wasn’t in the mood to dance around as they tried to grab her and instead, resorted to ending the conflict as soon as possible.
He crashed to the ground as Maezy yanked out the sword. “There's too many! We have to fall back!”
The world was a frenzy of armor and swords. Metal flashed in the bright sunlight. Elves preferred their swords, bows, and arrows to guns. Keeping to the rules of war etiquette, Maezy used the sword to deflect another attacker. This one, like the last, made a concentrated effort to pull her along with him. Refusing to be kidnapped, which she could only guess was his intention as he deflected her blows and tried to grab her, Maezy took the first opportunity to smash him over the head.
“FALL BACK!” The trumpet sounded as the Captain gave the order.
“Maezy!” The voice calling blended with the sound of another sword thwack!
“Hold on!” Maezy returned, as she parried, thrust, spun, and blocked again.
Sweat drip, drip, dripped into her eyes. The salty sting had her blinking double-time as she predicted her attacker's next move. His other hand reached out to grab her wrist and yank her off balance. With another parry, arm straining above her head, she reached for her belt, grabbed, and shoved her dagger into the heart of the warrior in front of her.
He collapsed without a sound.
Turning and leaping over fallen bodies, Maezy charged into another opponent who was about to strike one of her own down. Stabbing him through the heart, she leapt over his body and runs forward.
“MOTHER!” Screaming and pointing, she rushed to her mother's defense. Striking the new threat over the head with her sword handle, Maezy shoved him out of the way. His sword missed her mother by a breath.
Exhaling her own breath in a long wisp, Maezy helped block a sword thrust from the warrior attempting to behead her mother. “Why isn't your spell working?” Maezy cried.
“I don't know! There must be a counter spell blocking my own. They keep trickling in!”
“We need to fall back to the castle! You’re too exposed out here!” Maezy slashed and skewered several who charged at her and tried to surround her.
More men met their maker.
“Whose men are they?” she called.
“Your father's,” her mother returned.
That explained it. The king wanted her. They should have known he would resort to all out war. Her mother had told her this day might come. Tucked in their own realm, several dimensions away, Maezy hadn’t thought it would be possible for him to find out about her.
“RETREAT! FALL BACK!” The Captain's cries surrounded them and were repeated.
“FALL BACK TO THE CASTLE!” Maezy added her own cry.
Maezy's sword blocked, sliced, and rang out as the troops fell back and surrounded her and her mother. Soon, they were encased in a shield of men and armor. Their men continued to fight and block the Elf King’s men as they retreated.
At the bridge, they crossed as quickly as possible. Shields covered their heads as the enemy realized they were losing ground and resorted to arrows to take them out. Maezy noticed none of the arrows came too close to her.
They want me alive, she thought. Wouldn't father be angry if I was accidentally killed?
“WHAT DO WE DO?” Maezy shouted.
“I'M UNSURE! I NEED TO GET TO A QUIET PLACE TO ASSESS THE SITUATION!” Her mother tossed another fighter away with the flick of her wrist.
“TO THE CASTLE, MEN!” Maezy shouted to the nearest warrior.
They were inside the gates, doors closing even as the last few of their men streamed through. The doors stood open as long as they could before each steel-enforced structure slammed shut in the face of the intruders.
“Inside!” Maezy and her mother scrambled to the front doors, and launched them open. Servants scuttled back, and guards followed. “Keep them out as long as you can. We're going to find out how they came through.”
The Captain nodded and hurried back out the open doors as others took up their posts inside and out.
“Mother, what happened to the protection spell? How was he able to break through?”
“I don't know. I don't know! It's one of my most powerful spells. It should have worked against anything he threw at it. There must be someone else.”
Closing the doors to the library, Maezy returned her sword to her belt and began pacing. “I wonder how he even found us? We're within a whole other dimension! We need to reinforce the spell.”
Her mother sat on the edge of a chair and closed her eyes. Hands out at her sides, she took deep breaths in and out. Maezy watched her, eyes darted back to the door, and tried not to scream.
What can I do?
Spells were her mother's domain. Hers was fighting. She had grown up learning to defend herself for a day like this. The Elf King was a collector. Anyone with a special power he could possess was captured and added to his collection. Maezy didn’t want to be the one he caught next.
“Bring me the book, Maezy, and stop wearing a hole in the carpet.”
Doing as asked, she found the Book of Ancient Sorcery and ran it to her mother. “Should I call the others in?” Maezy wanted to know.
“No, we need them fighting with everything they have while I search for a solution. There’s only one-- No! It can’t be.”
“Mother, what’s going on? What do we do?”
“I have an idea. I don't know if it will work. I may need your assistance.”
Looking up, her mother's blood red lips smiled. “I'm glad you said that.”
Taking the stairs two at a time, Kayla nearly tripped. The world tilted, her vision blurred, and her stomach lurched. She grabbed the handrail. Icy coldness stung her fingers and she jerked free. A miasma enveloped her senses. The smell of lavender and kelp drifted like a heavy mist through the open glass doors from the moonlit deck outside. Light fixtures shaped like seashells flickered, illuminating gold carpet and avocado green walls. She clutched a folded note between gloved fingers…
I’m not wearing gloves! Kayla thought and shuddered. A loud “ding” announced the arrival of the elevator. Expecting to see the Lady standing inside, Kayla tried to run but stood frozen in place. The doors slid open and her mouth felt too dry to swallow. Her vision blurred—and cheerful passengers walked lazily from the elevator to the sunny deck outside. A balmy breeze filled the corridor and a shaft of golden sunshine gleamed across salmon-colored carpet and coral walls.
Kayla’s knees buckled. She gripped the solid wood handrail to steady wobbly legs and gulped deep breaths. What happened to me? Glancing at her shaking bare hands, Kayla wished she’d read the note before it disappeared.
“A simple vow for a complicated fate. Life and love proven through blood and flame. Choices changing destinies on a dime.”
After slaying the dragon and “rescuing” Olivia, Crown Prince Magnus will settle for no one but her as his bride - his final challenge to overcome before becoming King Magnus, Dragon Slayer.
Through trials of blood, fire, and death, Kaden has broken the curse confining him to a dragon’s form for over a century. With fire brewing inside him, he struggles to reach his beloved Olivia in time to save her - and his own sanity.
Unsure of the fate of her dragon, Olivia is consumed with grief. She consents to wed the prince in order to save the lives of her family. His advances push her to take her destiny into her own hands.
But deep in the woods trouble stirs, as an old enemy seeks to rectify a curse broken. The prize of a life earned must be stripped away again… permanently.
As the sunset over the headland at Kings Beach, an elderly couple watched as the passenger liner “Sun Beauty” sailed out to sea on its next voyage. The couple were in the twilight of their lives, and they had shared a beautiful life together. They had earlier that day, spent time with their children, grandchildren, and their great granddaughter while they celebrated their 38th wedding anniversary.
They shared a bottle of Muscadean, a white wine produced from white Muscat grapes grown in Ballandean, hence the name. A light, easy drinking aromatic semi-sweet white makes it perfect served chilled for that warm summer day picnic. They discovered the wine on a weekend visiting Queensland’s Granite Belt wine region and, at once it became “their wine.” Later on, the owners of the winery opened an outlet at nearby Mooloolaba, and while he could still drive, he managed to call in about once a month.
When the sun had set, he dozed off in his favourite chair, placed to take in the picturesque outlook over the entrance to Moreton Bay. She was comfortable with him dozing off, and she knew he was at peace. Although now in his eighties, they both liked to look back at the uncertain times, at the peak of World War two when they first met, and how over time, their love grew.
Although the population considered Australia to be safe at the start of the war, as Europe and Germany were on the other side of the world. Attitudes changed with Japan entering the war. Japan shared the same Ocean as Australia. Although Japan and Australia were successful trading parties before the war, with Japan attacking Pearl Harbour and making menacing overtures towards Singapore, Australia was now at war with Japan.
When Darwin was bombed for the first time in February 1942, the government played down the damage to the public. The general population knew nothing of other bombing raids at Broome, Mossman, Derby and even Katherine.
After the midget submarine attack on Sydney Harbour in May, it had become impossible to disguise that an impending threat became real. This became even serious when rumours began the spread about “The Brisbane Line.”
When it became seriously believed by the government and military that Japan would attack Australia, it needed to be quickly decided what areas should be protected. Because Australia was a vast island with the majority of the population confined to the southeast, in February 1942 General Ivan Mackay drew a line on the map of Australia. This line stretched from the coast north of Brisbane to west of Melbourne. Although no record of the “Brisbane Line” was being activated, many believed, (and some still do) that the line was implemented and all of the country north and west of the line was to be abandoned.
The other item kept from the public, concerned that during the twelve months between May 1942 and May 1943, 25 ships were attacked within forty miles of the New South Wales coast.
The government began to realise that unless they could control panic, large numbers of the population may abandon the major cities like Brisbane.
Because of its proximity to the Pacific battlefronts, Brisbane was the crucial point for resupplying the troops in battle. The Americans developed it as a Major Naval base, including a vast submarine base. In 1942, General McArthur set up his headquarters for the Pacific in Brisbane. Brisbane needed a civilian population to make sure the smooth running of so many essential services.
The government and the military were in a “catch 22” situation. Secrecy needed to be maintained for security, and yet, the population needed to be reassured of their safety. This, compounded by the military distrust of elected politicians, as well as the parliamentarian’s need to placate their constituents. A unique approach obviously was needed.
The member for Port Macquarie and now the defence minister, David Millar called an urgent meeting of his department heads to see if a solution could be found. Because of some of the difficulties, the meeting was held in Sydney. As it happened, in the same hotel that the defence department rented rooms, the senior media lecturer at Queensland University was with colleagues in a get together of their own. Tom Walker was the former editor of a major newspaper who also had extensive experience producing newsreel films. Tom and David were friends from the University of New South Wales, where they both studied. When the defence Minister ran into the media lecturer in the hallway, they made time to have a few drinks and reminisce about their university days.
It was during this time that the Minister started to conceive the basis of how Tom may be able to offer a solution to his problem.
Although they realised, the invasion of these cities by the Japanese would be remote; a specialist public relations unit still should be instigated. It could give reassurance through movies (newsreels) and newspaper articles that would show to the civilian population the defences were in place.
With Brisbane is becoming the headquarters for the allies command for the war in the Pacific, it would become necessary to play down the military importance of Brisbane as a target.
A by-product of these films would be to discourage a Japanese invasion, as they would show the Japanese Brisbane was too difficult a city to invade.
They finished their talk with Tom agreeing to put a concrete proposal together. He needed to show how it would also work including the resources needed. This plan was required to be able to be presented to the War Cabinet by the end of the week.
Being the driven person that he was, Tom was able to put the basis of his proposal together in just two days.
He approached the task as if preparing a lecture for his students. He defined exactly the end achievement needed. What would be the best way of achieving the result? What resources are needed? He was able to present a written proposal two days later.
To reassure the residents of Australia that there was no need to evacuate their homes and thus maintain a steady civilian population to enhance the war effort, I propose to set up the following civilian unit.
1. Reporting directly to, the Defence Minister, this unit will work, in conjunction with the military authorities, but the military shall have no control over the activities of the unit.
2. The unit would make newsreel motion pictures depicting the defence efforts of an area without divulging crucial information that the enemy may not know of.
3. The movies are to be processed and scripted before handing over to the distributors, who will then add the scripted soundtrack using their staff.
4. Regular newspaper and magazine articles are also to be produced.
5. Staff required would be
a. A General Manager to oversee operations and report to the Minister
b. A Cinematographer, who would produce the movies and supervising a cameraman. He would also act as the second cameraman.
c. A Journalist to write articles and the scripts for the movies.
d. A personal assistant to the General Manager who would also act as a secretary and other duties when needed.
e. A driver who must be competent in small boats and all types of motor vehicles. Would also be an aid in labouring and any other tasks as required?
6. The budget would be set by the Minister and vehicles, camera and other equipment to be supplied by the military where available. But the unit would buy directly when needed.
7. The Military are to supply accommodation including living, office and workshop space independently from the military accommodation. The Military is required to provide security for this area.
To his surprise, Tom received a call from the minister that afternoon is telling him it had been approved without alteration. A meeting was set up the next day with the minister and his senior staff. The chief of the defence forces would also be attending.
David told him the cabinet wanted this unit to be operating within a fortnight.
David arranged for Tom to use a parliamentary office in Canberra to enable him to get the ball rolling. Some of the minister’s staff members were allocated to generate all the legal and performance documents needed so that Tom could start with the recruitment. His first need would be for a personal assistant.
David suggested Jill Robertson, 32-year-old, a career public servant with the defence department. She had previously worked for David Millar before he entered politics.
She was married to Colonel Bob Robertson, an Australian military liaison officer attached to the British Air Ministry in London.
Her knowledge of the public service, politics and military protocols would make her invaluable in dealings with government and defence personnel. Not having any ties would enable her to travel as required.
David assured Tom that, as he would be operating a division of the Ministry of Defence and all members of his unit would be paid by the department, so would all expenses. In fact, even though there were shortages of materials and other supplies, Jill would order everything under the auspices of the department. Therefore, all suppliers would, under the wartime regulations, have no alternative than to supply the unit in preference to all others. This would also mean that the unit had priority over the three military branches.
All accounts would be forwarded to the department for payment. This also meant that all the unit’s civilian staff would be treated as Commonwealth Public Servants.
Tom was relieved that he would have no supply problems to hinder the operation.
Ministry Communications Unit
David arranged for an interview and within two minutes, Tom decided that she was ideal, and she wanted the job. Jill transferred to Tom’s unit that afternoon. Jill was an extremely good-looking woman. She stood about six feet tall with a body would make most Australian women envious.
Tom, hearing that the famed Australian filmmaker, Charles Chauvel, was in Canberra that afternoon, had one of his staff arrange for them to meet at the Canberra Hotel.
Although Tom couldn’t reveal much about the unit, he told Charles enough, so it was possible to ask if Charles knew of any suitable candidates for the Cinematographer's role. Charles had no hesitation in recommending Bill Munro, who had worked as an undergraduate cinematography assistant to Charles.
Bill, raised up, on his parent’s farm in central Queensland near Roma, went to boarding school at Toowoomba Grammar and a cinematography graduate from Queensland University. Being 22 years old and single would also be helpful.
As Bill was in Sydney, Tom met with him on Monday morning at an office that Jill acquired near Victoria Barracks.
In two short days, Jill arranged for working offices in Sydney and Brisbane, while the Army provided living and working accommodation near the Eagle Farm racecourse. The army also supplied a car in Brisbane and when required in Sydney and Canberra.
Over the weekend, Jill moved into the Brisbane accommodation while Tom, taking advantage of being in Sydney, met up with his two daughters. Both were staff car drivers at Victoria Barracks, which made it easy to catch up when he was in Sydney.
The meeting with Bill concluded remarkably successful, although he advised Tom that he needed a week to tidy up his current projects. He did, however, know of a young cameraman who would be ideal for them. Tom agreed to give Bill the week to tidy up and then, he was to join him at Eagle Farm the following Monday.
Tom also gave Bill the approval to employ the Cameraman, who lived in Clayfield, the next suburb to Eagle Farm.
On Tuesday when Tom arrived at the Eagle Farm property, he was impressed with what Jill had been able to organise, on such short notice.
She heard of an experienced journalist, Joe Grady. Joe, a feature journalist for the last ten years with the Brisbane Sun, had resigned from the paper with the intention to join the army.
Joe was thirty- years old and married to Joan, a nurse working in the burns unit at Royal Brisbane Hospital. Ninety percent of her patients were R.A.N. and RAAF personnel, injured while on duty in the Pacific. Both were career orientated although, Joe wanted to join the army. Jill met Joan several years ago at a conference, so on Saturday when she arrived in Brisbane, Jill gave her a call. She heard about Joe resigning, and she asked if he would see Tom before he enlisted. They made an appointment to meet with Tom on a Tuesday afternoon. Tom, being familiar with Joe’s work, looked forward to meeting him.
Joe and Tom hit it off at once. Joe could see the importance of the role and, even if he wasn’t to add a by-line to each article he wrote, he was allowed to keep copies for his resume after the war.
On Tuesday afternoon, the Minister arrived in Brisbane and called on Tom. He was impressed with the speed the unit set up. Tom explained that they could not arrange for film equipment until Bill came on board, the following Monday. He explained to David that the only position not filled was the driver.
David suggested that Alf Watson may be suitable.
Alf, a 23-year-old single man, grew up in Port Macquarie and worked on fishing boats. He had driven semi-trailers to market and is a good 'bush mechanic.'
When Alf was rejected by the army on medical grounds, because of his flat feet, he appealed to his local Member of Parliament and family friend (David Millar.)
As David had known Alf as the son of a friend, he never hesitated in recommending him to Tom. “Alf will be an ideal member of his team because of his driving ability, knowledge of the sea and his mechanical ability as well.”
When Tom called Alf, he jumped at the opportunity as he realised, it would be far more interesting than in the army, and he would still be contributing to the war effort.
Alf was on the next train north.
During the first week, Jill set up important meetings with the local Military commanders, where the Minister explained what was about to happen. He instructed them to brief Tom on the entire military (army, naval and air force) tasks surrounding Brisbane. They all agreed the first movies would centre on the sea approaches to Brisbane.
They felt most of the strategy for the defence of Brisbane seaways would be known to the Japanese anyway. There is only one shipping channel into Brisbane, and they were sure that the Japanese would have extensive charts. These would’ve been gathered before the war while Japanese cargo ships regularly carried cargo in and out of Brisbane.
Knowing the shipping routes, it would be a simple exercise for the Japanese intelligence to estimate where shore defences would most likely be located. Tom arranged for the Navy to take him on board for a journey between where they met incoming convoys and the Brisbane River.
This survey journey took place on Tuesday after Bill arrived. The first task he needed Bill for was to make a list of the photographic equipment he needed.
Jill would use her talents to make sure it was all available within days. Tom become amazed at what Jill could organise. He often wondered if Jill knew there was a war on and led to equipment being in short supply. If Jill asked for material, Jill got equipment. The acquisition of a truck and small boat created no problems for Jill.
The rest of that week the unit worked together and settled into their new roles. It was decided that they should wear army style work wear, and they were given “All Area” passes. This allowed them to enter restricted areas at any time. The unit was given the imposing name of “Ministry Communications Unit.”
They all now signed the Official Secrets Act and to make their job easier when moving around they were given talks on a broad range of military subjects covering all three services. They needed to be able to recognise all badges of rank for both Australian forces as well as American forces. They also needed to know operational requirements of the Navy as well as the army.
Their quarters at Eagle Farm consisted of a separate room for each person with shared toilets and showers except for Jill, who had her own. Joe had a room, although he usually stayed at home when not required. In the office block, they all had their workspace.
Alf was allocated an area allotted for his truck. This would be where he parked it, and could do any services that the army didn’t do. He also used a general store room that he stored any timber or other supplies that may be needed.
Bill had a comprehensive workshop where he could store all his equipment and prepare the film stock. All the processing of the film would be carried out at the Milton Kodak Laboratories.
The film, by its inflammable nature, was required to be stored in a special fireproof vault that somehow Jill found.
An American Air Force unit, being next to the Eagle Farm compound was ideal for meals. Jill arranged for breakfast and dinner to be taken at their Officers Mess while, lunch was sandwiches that Alf would collect after breakfast. They often joked about Alf being probably the only driver who ate in an Officer’s mess anywhere in the world. Jill had also arranged for tea making facilities to be available at their compound.
They started the day that they were to have their first journey with the Navy, by having the whole unit being assembled on the Hamilton wharf.
This was the same day that their cameraman, Fred Williams, joined them from the south coast. He signed the “Official Secrets Act” paperwork on the dock. Their vessel, a harbour tug, usually travelled through the channel with every convoy in the case of an incident.
As they departed the port, they looked at Fort Lytton on the southern side of the river. The fort had been erected to protect Brisbane from the Russians in the 1870s. The tugs captain pointed that the North West shipping channel ran from the Brisbane River to Caloundra. After leaving the river, the channel runs northeast to around Cowan Cowan on Moreton Island, and then it turns North West to Bribie Island where it then rounds Wickham Point at Caloundra and heads out to sea.
They saw defences at Cowan Cowan and again at Skirmish point on the Southern end of Bribie Island, and again towards the northern end of Bribie.
At the high points of Caloundra, they could see lots of activity and undoubtedly, a lookout or two. The tug captain told them of the trenches, barbed wire and other measures that extent to well past Currimundi.
On the return journey, they observed the tight formation of the ships in the convoy, and how the escorts weaved in front of the convoy. This was to make sure that no submarines were amongst them. The same procedure took place at the rear of the convoy.
Tom thought that the journey well worthwhile, but he knew a lot more knowledge of the defences would be needed. Before the planning of the projects could start he needed to be more familiar with all the activities around the Caloundra and Bribie Island regions.
A two-day fact-finding mission was arranged to take place on the Wednesday and Thursday of that week.
Tom wanted to have the cameras rolling by the following Tuesday. Meanwhile, there were meetings to be had with the printed press, as well as with the two newsreel companies.
Tuesday morning Tom met with the editors of the two local newspapers and explained his mission to them. They both agreed they would take and publish the articles Joe would write and give them by-lines of a staff journalist. They also knew that being a War Cabinet mission, secrecy of the source along with the need not to alter the transcripts were vital.
After lunch, Tom arranged for the team to meet at the Breakfast Creek Hotel. This was a “getting to know you” exercise. Tom stressed the importance of their job and he could take the luxury of relaxing for the first time since he had run into David. In only eighteen days the unit developed from a concept into a fully functional branch of the defence ministry. Jill commented that, in all her years in public service, she had seen nothing happen so fast.
At the beginning of a semester at the University, Tom had used the following exercise many times. It involved getting everyone to tell their life story to the group. They adjourned to a private room that Jill had organised and with jugs of beer on the table and a supply of nibbles Tom started the ball rolling.
“After I gained my degree at the University of New South Wales, I started out my working career as a cadet journalist with the Cumberland group in Parramatta. As a young man I met my wife, and we had two lovely daughters within two years. I became a feature editor for the whole group in less than ten years. When I was preparing an article to focus on the benefits of the new Harbour Bridge, I happened to stand right in front of the official party. I was amazed at the audacity of Captain de-Grout in cutting the ribbon. This led me to think words could never adequately describe the mood and reactions of the Premier and all the official party. The looks of amazement mixed with anger could not be captured in words alone. This led me to think about exploring the possibilities of working with film.”
“The following year I became editor of the Daily Telegraph and even though I enjoyed the work, I still had this nagging feeling about the inadequacy of the printed word.”
“I stayed there for three years before I joined the Cinesound Company as a journalist working on the scripts for newsreels. This led me to become a producer supervising the story choice and managing the film crews for them.”
“It was about this time that my marriage collapsed, probably because of the long and odd hours I worked, and it left me with the task of raising two teenage daughters by myself.”
“I realised that to bring up the girls, my life needed to be more organised, and I needed to be home far more than in the past. It was around this time that the media studies faculty at the University of New South Wales was put into place. I applied to join this faculty and became the first media lecturer.”
“War came along, and the girls were now young women. They both joined the WRAAC on the same day and now drive staff cars around Sydney.”
“About a month ago I was in Sydney for a meeting when I ran into David Millar, whom I had known from my student days. David suggested we have a few drinks, and it was during this time that the formation of this unit developed. David went back to Canberra and asked me to put a proposal together. Within two days David had presented my proposal to the Cabinet and Cabinet approved it unanimously.”
Jill was next to telling her story. She was apprehensive at first being acutely aware of her husband’s position and careful not to infer that her position in the public service had anything to do with her husband’s station in life.
“I was born in Sydney and spent most of my teenage years at the beach. I love the surf, and I am extremely motivated to be the best of whatever endeavour I undertake.”
“I went straight from high school into the public service as a clerk. I noticed those around me who sought a career in the public service had university degrees. This led me to enrol in a business studies program with a major in government studies.”
“An opportunity arose to transfer to Canberra that I jumped at. After all, Canberra was the place for an ambitious public servant to be.
Canberra was good for me as I started to get promotions even though still studying for my degree.”
“Canberra was also good for me as this is where I met my husband, Bob, a cadet at the Duntroon Military College. We married later that year and made a firm commitment not to start a family until later on.”
“Bob was more of an administrative officer and as it turned out the army is short of young administrators. They had plenty of leaders and field officers but, short of those with highly developed administrative skills. This was good for us as it meant Lieutenant, and then Captain and finally Major Robertson worked at Army Headquarters in Canberra.”
Setting aside her fear of the motorcycle, Luna embraced Nico, wrapping her arms tightly around his waist as if to prevent him from unraveling. When he pulled to a stop, she dismounted too quickly, and Nico caught the bike as it became unstable. Instantly, his eyes blazed and she noticed the momentary glare of admonition, but uncharacteristically, he didn’t scold her. Killing the engine, he inhaled deeply and his body uncoiled with the sound of the waves. Luna took off her helmet, releasing her hair into the cool mist blowing off the ocean. Closing her eyes, she could taste the salt on her tongue. All her previous attempts to get through to him had been abruptly curtailed. Ranting, he had called her an idiot and crazy, or he’d just hung up on her. Alone with him now, she hoped he would confide in her.
Holding hands, they walked silently along the deserted beach until Nico began to speak. His words spilled out like a confession, the way they did when he was in church with her. “I did a lot of shit, Luna, and I’ve distorted myself…I don’t even recognize who I am anymore. I’m more depressed than ever.”
“Please, Nico. You are a medicine man. A shaman. Great healers are often wounded. This is who you are, but you don’t have to destroy yourself.”
“Luna, I let everyone down. I fucked up. But I’ll get myself back together…and I will earn their respect back.”
Luna kissed the back of his hand, knowing the intimacy of an embrace would make him uncomfortable. “I’m here for you, Nico—whatever you need.”
When he turned to face her, there were tears in his eyes. “Luna, she’s a liar and she played me…she broke my heart.”
Luna understood he meant Élodie, and she could feel the weight of his sadness. There weren’t any words to say that would make it better. This time, she held him close, her cold nose against the warm skin of his neck.
Drew wrung his hands. Something else was wrong. Mitch had never seen Drew visibly upset. Even during those first days after Kendra’s death and throughout counseling, he had never displayed much emotion beyond sadness, loneliness, and the inevitable questions. But tonight, the young man’s discomfort was painfully evident as his eyes darted about the room and he pulled the coat tighter around him.
“This isn’t just about chapel, is it?” Mitch asked.
Long seconds of silence passed. Then, finally, “I crossed the line,” he mumbled.
Mitch froze. “What line?”
Drew’s hand scraped through his hair again. “With a student. I … I hugged her.”
Mitch barely heard Drew’s whispered words.
“She was upset … and about to cry—” He jumped up and retreated to a dark corner of the room. “I—I could be in trouble with my job. They fire men for this. It’s…it’s sexual harassment! She could press charges!”
Mitch followed Drew, his heart accelerating. “Take it easy. Don’t panic. Explain slowly what happened.”
Drew backed against the wall, his arms stiff at his sides, hands fisted. “I don’t remember most of it…just hugging her. I’m not even sure what we were talking about before.”
“Where did this happen? Who was it?”
Drew stared at the floor. “My office. I didn’t do it on purpose and the door was wide open.” He shook his head. “I can’t tell you who… I don’t want to get her in trouble.”
Mitch released the question, but he already knew the answer. “Was it Allison Bennett?”
Drew’s head snapped up, fear-filled eyes wide.
Mitch placed a firm hand on Drew’s forearm afraid his friend would run out of the house. “Relax. I know you. It wasn’t sexual harassment, and I’m sure Allison realizes that, too.”
He steered Drew back to the couch. “You didn’t cross the line. You aren’t her professor. You aren’t her dean. You aren’t her direct supervisor. You’re both university employees and you’re both responsible and single adults.”
Drew twisted his ring. “I feel like I cheated on Kendra.”
“That’s a natural feeling. But it’s OK to move on, Drew, as hard as it seems right now. The bigger problem is you’ve been holding your emotions in too long and someday they’ll come out.” Mitch chuckled. “Actually, I think they leaked out this afternoon.”
Drew groaned and pinched the bridge of his nose. “This can’t be happening. It’s not right.”
“What do you think of Allison?” Mitch wondered.
His friend opened his mouth then closed it again. Was he even breathing? Finally, “I like her.”
“Obviously,” Mitch snickered. “Why?”
Drew looked up as if searching the sky. The silence stretched on and Mitch gave him a gentle pat on the back.
He inhaled deeply. “She’s genuine and honest. She doesn’t try to impress you or turn the attention on herself. She’s a bit negative at times, yet she’s also warm and supportive. But this afternoon, she was hurting, and I wanted to stop the hurt.”
“Do you find her attractive?”
Longing replaced the fear in Drew’s eyes. “Most men would.”
“I’m not asking other men. I’m asking you.”
“Yes. She’s pretty.” Drew picked at the top button on his coat. “She’s also confident, intelligent, pretty, and articulate.”
Mitch tucked his laughter away. “You said ‘pretty’ twice.”
Drew catapulted off the couch, brushed past Mitch, and headed for the door.
“Would you like to be in a relationship?” Mitch asked, catching up with him.
“No! It’s too soon.” Drew stared at the floor. “I knew Kendra since we were freshmen in college. That’s a third of my life. How can I toss her aside so quickly?” Drew tugged at his wedding ring, and seeing his distress jerked Mitch’s heart.
“Kendra’s death has affected every area of your life: your job, your health, your faith, your hope for the future. She will always have a special place in your heart, which is where she belongs.”
“I don’t want to forget her.” His hand reached for his head.
Mitch gently grasped Drew’s wrist. “Liking a woman—being attracted to a woman is not going to make you forget Kendra. But that embrace was a decision, Drew. You made a subconscious decision to reach out to someone you care about. You’re moving on so let God do the leading. Don’t freak out when feelings emerge. Don’t run from them. You’re a vital young man with a broken heart that’s finally starting to heal.”
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