Another book idea

Joseph Black
Nina’s Captain log
October 12, 1492

In the course of fifteen minutes Michael incinerated all but one of my ships, killed half my crew, and effortlessly detained the survivors on shore. What really shakes me up, however, is that after talking to this strange man over the course of that first evening I held no anger towards him and realized my destiny exploded unimaginably beyond that of a ship’s captain. By dumb luck I was introduced to the most powerful man on the planet who revealed to me technology I could not have imagined just the night before. I move forward balancing on the knife’s edge of serving Michael and keeping the world from thinking I’ve gone mad.

Michael stole another glance at his wristwatch while sitting on the beach with the native population he recruited to his cause. “Any moment now.” he said to nobody in particular. His son, Michael Junior, had acclimated from the journey surprisingly quickly given the last minute change of plans. Despite being terribly exhausted, Michael worked nonstop to build the necessary defenses. While not perfect, he knew arriving any sooner would have potentially jeopardized their guest’s itinerary.

One of the younger natives jumped up and pointed out towards the sea. The excitement quickly spread throughout the group and everyone took up their preassigned positions. Four small groups moved out along the beach and the rest gathered at the newly constructed trebuchet. 

The three ships steadily sailed towards the beach utterly unaware of the danger ahead. The crew of the ships could hear a series of different pitched drum beats as they approached the shore, but they could not have imagined the sounds were trigonometrically isolating their position. Soon the crew realized that the sounds were occurring in a regular order– each drum was struck between one and five times. They theorized this was some type of local welcoming tradition and continued on course.

Their theory was disproved when all four drums were struck five times and an unknown flaming object was launched at them from the trees at the edge of the beach. It exploded approximately 100 meters directly above the ship closest to the shore. Before any of the crew could react to this new development the entire ship and most of the crew was covered in a flaming sticky mess. The remaining crew below deck were unable to abandon ship and quickly drowned as the ship retired itself with amazing efficiency. There were no survivors.

As the second fireball launched from shore the crew of the second ship were much more eager to abandon ship. While not a direct hit, the sails were solidly on fire and everyone on board realized any attempt to save the ship would be a fool’s errand. With the exception of a few severe burn victims, the crew was able to swim to shore.

As the Captain of the remaining ship, Joseph Black only had a few moments to decide on a fight or flight strategy. This became a moot point as an ever increasing percentage of his crew jumped overboard and began the trip to the shore. Not having resources to put them on trial for mutiny, Joseph dropped the anchor, gathered the remaining crew on the dinghy, and reluctantly headed towards whatever new fate awaited them on the beach.

After identifying Joseph as the leader of the group, Michael walked towards the Captain and slowly circled around him a few times before sitting down in the sand at what seemed to be a surprisingly intimately close distance given the recent events. “Whether or not you offer it, I accept your complete and unconditional surrender.” Michael explained. “Please remove the thoughts in your head of retreating to your remaining ship. Your crew is physically exhausted from your journey, you lack food and fresh water, and by now I don’t think I need to convince you that we can convert that last ship into a useless fireball before your first crew member could reach the dinghy. If one of my men is attacked one of your crew will be killed. If one of my men dies three of yours will lose their lives in a drawn out and very public manner. Can I trust you to convey this information to your remaining crew?”

Seeing no other viable options, Joseph kept staring out at the ocean and slowly nodded. While the ropes used to restrain his hands seemed be constructed from local vegetation with the potential of being worked loose over several hours, he reluctantly agreed with his new captor that, at least for the time being, any attempt at espace would significantly increase the odds of his crew becoming more dead than they already were.

“Every thought racing through your head at this moment in time is wrong.” Michael explained. “Suppose for a moment I tasked you with maintaining an earthen dam. During times of heavy rainfall the downstream village’s existence depends on you keeping the water from traveling over the top of the structure. Once the dam is breached the water quickly erodes the soil and an irreversible cascade failure takes place. The question I ask you now is this– are you angry with the very first drop of water that flowed over the top?

Disarmed by this new direction of the conversation, Joseph looked directly at Michael while considering his reply. “No,” Joseph answered. “The water didn’t intend to destroy the dam.”

“Exactly! In fact, if you splashed around in the water right beforehand it would be a completely different drop of water that went over first. But that small change doesn’t change the outcome. You still would have failed in your duty.”

Michael paused to take a sip of water from a canteen from his belt. “Now imagine another scenario where a single human had the ability to destroy all the people of a given religious orientation. Let’s call him Adolf.”

“Ok, but it doesn’t seem very realistic that one man could wield such power. And what would be the benefit of killing such a large civilian population?”

“Oh, no, not killing, I said ‘destroying.’ There is certainly dignity in death. But to destroy a race involves carefully planning a systematic method of arbitrary plunder, rape, murder, and enslavement. Allowing them only enough resources to reproduce and continue the cycle of humiliation. Yes, I killed most of your team today, but I’m not going to let history repeat itself and turn them into little more than livestock to serve my needs. 

Noticing his fingernails digging into the palms of his hands, Michael paused and took a deep breath. “So here is my dilemma– you are somewhere between a drop of water and Adolf. At some point in the past you chose to get on that ship. You chose an adventure with the hopes of acquiring something new at the possible or probable expense of someone you have yet to meet. How should I deal with this situation?

“I never really liked the word ‘should’. It seems like it was invented to give people a justification to do what they already had their mind set on in the first place.”