Young adult fiction featuring gambling, bandits, swordplay, probability and Bayes’ Theorem. An English teacher hopes to engage students with colorful STEM adventures. “In this outstanding collection, Tom addresses the chronic problem of our young women dropping out of STEM studies. His stories lend adventure to scientific thinking.”(~ Tanzeela Siddique, Math Instructor)
“The Adventures of Ruby Pi and the Geometry Girls”
By Tom Durwood
Tank Story A PLEASANT MORNING AT THE MONASTERY
Mathematics reveals its secrets only to those who approach it with pure love, for its own beauty. ––Archimedes
“What are these?” asked the pretty girl in the candy stripes, Madeline.
“These rows of numbers? They’re weird–”
“Stop it!!” replied the boy in the green-wool uniform.
“That’s the signal notebook –”
“But the numbers don’t make any sense!” pouted Madeline.
“Yes! Maybe that’s because they’re in code!”
The soldier added a brief oath. “Shouldn’t you be on your rounds anyway –”
The pair had been flirting most of the morning.
“No need,” replied pretty Madeline.
“Simone is doing quite well on her own.”
“Hey Simone!” Madeline called across the infirmary. “Fatso! We have volleyball this afternoon. Remember what happened last time –”
“Hey, give it a rest,” said one of the other boys.
Four schoolgirls, student nurse volunteers, in their candy-stripe uniforms and delicate white hats and clean white aprons, tended the wounded soldiers along the neat rows of cots. France was at war with Germany. Her soldiers needed mending. The lovely, forested grounds of the medieval Cloisters north of the village Montcornet were ideal for recuperation. Pleasant sounds of water running in a brook and birds trilling filled the open first floor of the nunnery. Simone moved among the patients’ beds, offering hope, pouring water, parsing out medications.
“Et ta gueule,” replied Simone. “Jump in any time.”
“Simone, you can see, even through your eyeglasses,” said Charlotte, cruelest of the three. “We’re busy conferring with the Security officers,” meaning the boys at the radios.
“Oh! Graisse cherie!” Rennie, the small one, chimed in. “You missed a spot! There!”
In the Spring of 1940, France needed all of her resources, all of her people and all of her history, to fend off the overwhelming force of the Third Reich’s blitzkrieg. Hitler’s Seventh Panzer Division dwarfed all opposition. The Seventh Panzer Division did not distinguish between combatant and schoolchildren, nor did it care to take civilian prisoners. Suddenly the radio crackled, sharp and loud and grating. One of the young soldiers pushed Charlotte off his lap as he reached for the radio dials. The makeshift hospital in the Medieval nunnery also served as one of Montcornet’s communications stations.
“What’s that?” asked Madeline suddenly. “That sound –”
Everyone stopped to listen to something new. A deep, guttural, reverberating boom rose, overtaking the radio’s thin squawking. It was like thunder rumbling from the basements. It was a radical, foreign sound, infinitely threatening and sharply out of place in that pastoral, meditative setting. A machine sound –Now they heard the snap of crunching branches. “JESUS!” Ilyn, the highest-ranking of the teenaged soldiers, pointed down the road which led to the monastery’s front drive and portico. He raised his binoculars. A monster had suddenly appeared in the road, It had somehow burst through the hedgerows. It was now shambling directly towards them no more than a quarter-mile away. Ilyn cranked the radio generator.
“Hello! Ready One! Ready One! HEY!” he shouted. “A NAZI TANK just pulled up –”
The creature’s rolling treads smashed over the low stone walls that neatly divided the road from the orchards.
“But what are we supposed to do?”
A jarring BOOM! sound –An explosive concussion blew them out of their seats and sent a shower of stone shards across the infirmary.
“Where did that come from–”
Bewildered, blinking, the soldiers and nurses sat where they had fallen. The artillery had struck above them. Now they heard bursts of rapid machine-gun fire –Two bodies fell from the second-story balcony onto the lawn in front of the portico.
“NO! No!” screamed Madeline. “CHARLOTTE. Char, nonono –”
Charlotte was not moving. She lay slumped unnaturally against the wall. Deep stains of blood scarred her nurse’s uniform. The blow had been terrible and violent —
“HEY! HEY!” Ilyn screamed into the radio microphone. “HELP! HELP US!”
Rennie cowered beneath a doctors’ examination table, streaks of blood in her hair –One of the boys at the radio started crying. Madeline moaned in fear, clinging to Ilyn’s leg.
“What do you mean?” screamed the desperate Ilyn into the receiver. A steady stream of chatter poured out of the speaker.
“How would I know what type of tank it is –”
“Königstiger,” shouted Simone from across a row of beds that had been knocked over. “It’s a Royal Tiger. Can’t you see –?”
She lifted a patient back into one of the cots.
“DUCK!” screamed Ilyn –THOOM!
The bellow of a second artillery round struck the back wall with tremendous ‘thunk!’ and detonated on contact. The stone floors shook with the impact. The system of masonry and archways supporting the Cloisters trembled. Outside, steel treads on the gravel road signaled that the death machine was rolling inexorably towards them. At seventy-five tons, the Königstiger was the heaviest tank in all the Third Reich. The Royal Tiger, most destructive tank ever built, led the Panzer corps. Its long-barreled, high-velocity KwK 43 88-millimeter cannon could penetrate five inches of armor at a range of two kilometers. It could kill you up close with two 7.92 MG34 machine guns. Driven by a 16-cylinder, 700-horsepower engine, the Royal Tiger could chase down a flock of Jeeps. Its metal skin of green and brown and charcoal gray marked its source, for surely this death dealer had risen from the caves of the nether regions, like its beastly brethren, the bloody-jawed Teuton serpent Jörmungandr. the undead draugr,who single-handedly slew Nerthus and plagued the armies of Nidhogg, and thrice-cursed Grendel, murderous denizen of the mead halls of Heorot.“HELP US! HELP!” Ilyn repeated into the radio microphone. The telegraph clacked in response. The tank shifted gears. Its motors whined and revved, turret adjusting as its guns took fresh aim. Ilyn stopped to listen to the earphones. He scribbled frantically in his notebook –Metal cranked. An orange-gold flame flashed –BOOM! Another round struck with a harpie-like shriek and a rain of heavy fragments and shrapnel.“My eardrums!” screamed Rennie. Blood seeped through her fingers as she tried to cover her ears. Ilyn fell to the floor, cut almost in two, his body blackened –Madeline redoubled her screaming at the sight of Ilyn’s bloody corpse. She slammed into the medicine cupboards in her hysterical effort to get away. Death stormed the Cloisters. Simone pushed Ilyn’s body off the chair.
She pulled trembling Rennie to her feet. She leaned over the transmitter and telegraph. She found Ilyn’s notebook and scanned through its pages. She stopped to look hard at one page in particular. Here is what she saw written there:
10 424 23 12 10 / 1 2 12 14 10 4 22 17 6 12 22 10 12 24 / 24 12 4 24
“What, Simone?” cried Rennie, buoyed by the sight of her friend taking action. “Can’t we go?”
She wrung her hands to try and keep them from shaking so hard.
“What’s it say?”Simone scribbled on a piece of paper. The furious Königstiger entered the courtyard with an angry, guttural Rrrrrrrr –Simone swept up a MAS-36 carbine that was leaning against the radio desk. She whacked hard and broke the lock on the weapons closet with the rifle butt. She swung the doors open.
“Come on Rennie! Help me carry this –”
With effort, Simone plucked one of the big rocket launchers from its rack. The American-made M1A1 shoulder cannon was a metal tube with attachments and dials stuck onto its shaft, five feet long and fifty pounds heavy.
“Here!” Simone grunted and bade her friend carry the back end of the bazooka. Rennie hesitated. In the courtyard, the terrible machine sounds came closer.
“It’s just us,” said Simone.“Either we stop this thing, or everybody dies.”
Rennie looked hard at her companion.
“All right.” Brave Rennie wiped her nose. “I understand. Simone, I understand.”
Publication Date: December 22, 2022 Publisher: Empire Studies Press Page Length: 147 Genre: YA fiction Twitter Handle: @TDurwood@cathiedunnInstagram Handle:@thecoffeepotbookclub
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Cathie Dunn (@cathiedunn)
Thank you so much for hosting Tom Durwood today.