By Roger Ross
Based on Characters Appearing in After America by John Birmingham. Also Based on Characters Appearing in Secondary Mission WW Fanfic Cmdr Havoc by Andrew “Havock” Porter.
WARNING – Some NSFW language and situations. You have been warned.
Financial District, Manhattan, New York City Federal Controlled Area
“Tell me, again, please, why it is you dragged your half-recuperated carcass out of bed to go on this fool’s errand?”
The very large man wedged behind the wheel of the dented and dusty Range Rover battled with the shift in a futile attempt to slow down in time to weave around the mid-street pile-up of taxis that would never take another fare, a losing battle from the sound of grinding rising from the gear box, just scowled and mumbled around his cigar, “Well, Miss Jules, word was they was lookin’ for some rated seamen to help out on some search and rescue ops and I was sick of lying around and I figured you were probably bored too and it might be nice to spend a day at sea to blow the stink off us as it were”.
“Rhino, my man, how is it that you think that a day of patrolling in a polluted bay off the coast of a dead city and potentially mixing it up with pirates and other assorted scum constitutes a leisurely day at sea?”
“A Rhino is a sensitive creature Miss Jules and you could hurt his feelings with such talk as not so long ago we were some of that ‘assorted scum’ as I recall.”
Lady Julianne Balwyn couldn’t stifle a smile as she replied, “Point taken. OK then. Drive on Jeeves and please blow some of that foul smoke out of your own window would you”?
The Range Rover pulled around the corner slowed to a stop before a road block surrounded by sandbag bunkers armed with .50 cal machine guns and a couple of armored personnel carriers for backup. “They sure are taking port security seriously now aren’t they”, said Rhino as an MP in full battle rattle and his backup walked up to the window and requested IDs and work orders. Rhino handed over the requested documents and waited patiently for the MP to work through them. Looking at the IDs and then looking at Rhino first and then taking an appreciably longer look at Jules, the MP handed the documents back to Rhino and said, “You can park your vehicle over there sir and then head over to the command hut for an assignment. Keep your IDs prominently displayed and don’t stray from the general area as there is a standing shoot and ask questions later order in effect. We’ve had some trouble with infiltrators testing security.”
“No problem son, and don’t call me sir, I was a Chief and we work for a living.”
The MP laughed and signaled for the gate to be opened and passed the Rhino and Jules through.
Temporary Naval Coast Patrol Command Center, Staten Island Ferry Terminal, Manhattan, New York City Federal Controlled Area
The command hut, really a very large tent, was a scene of controlled mayhem as Jules and Rhino were intercepted by a sailor situated just inside the door. The sailor scanned their documents and directed them in the direction of a desk further inside.
Moving against the crowd they made their way to their destination, a desk manned by an ensign fronted with a neatly lettered sign that said Civilian SRO Assignments. He took their documents and wasted little time getting down to business. “Your role will be search and rescue for any asset requiring assistance in your assigned area of responsibility. Scuttlebutt is that something big is going down today and we’re heavy on boats and short of trained personnel to man them. I see you’re rated to skipper utility boats so that’s where I’m sending you. What about your crewman?”, he said looking at Jules, “What can she do?”
Rhino blew a smoke ring and responded, “Let’s just say that she can play a deck gun like a Stradivarius fiddle.”
“Good enough” the ensign replied, “Because we’re short of shooters as well so it’ll only be the two of you, a medic and another shooter out there.”
“Mighty thin, dontcha’ think?”
“Well, the idea is that when you get there all the shootin’ should be over. Just sign here.”
The Rhino signed the orders and pocketed a copy.
“Good luck and please bring my boat back in one piece.”
“Oh yeah” chuckled Rhino, “We’re real gentle with equipment”.
Onboard UTB-41387, Lower Bay, New York Federal Controlled Area
After greeting his “crew” for the day Rhino piloted the old, but well maintained, utility boat away from the dock and guided her gently into the sea lane between Ellis and Liberty Islands on the right and Governor’s Island on the left and set a course that would take them into the lower bay. There they’d check-in with SRO command for their assigned area of responsibility. It felt good to be back at the helm of a utility boat and it took Rhino back years, “Oh, yeah, I was fulla’ piss and vinegar back then.”
“What was that Rhino?” Jules asked as she prepped the deck mounted .50 cal just aft of the open helm.
“Oh, nothin’ Miss Jules, just reminiscin’ is all. Don’t mind an old salt”.
A low rumbling bass, quickly building in intensity, brought him out of his revelry and he stepped back away from the helm he began searching the sky eventually finding what he was looking for. Reaching over he tapped Jules on the shoulder and pointed skyward, “Well, would you look at that.” The flight of the squadron of B-52s and leading attack aircraft coming in from the west rumbled over the bay and, climbing, continued out into the open ocean. “I wonder what the propeller heads are planning this time; looks like they’re not heading for the city.”
Jules, shielding her eyes, stared after them as they droned past. “I don’t know what they’re after either but I hope they give them a jolly good rogering before they can get to us.”
The utility boat made its way under the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and continued out into the lower bay. Rhino steered a general course that would take them near the center of the bay so as to be best positioned when, or if, a call came in. Rhino took a moment to radio in to SRO command to report their readiness.
Forty five minutes or so of slow trolling along the gentle swells and enjoying the salt air ended with what sounded like rolling thunder. Looking east Rhino could see flashes of exploding ordinance. The explosions continued for close to 15 minutes before they stopped as quickly as they started. “Holy Hannah, someone took one helluva’ pasting. I hope that whoever they’re giving it to doesn’t have anything that can reach them.”
As if on cue the radio broke the sudden silence as SRO Command hailed them.
“UTB-41387, you have a task order. Over.”
“Roger, SRO Command, this is UTB-41387 ready to receive. Over”
“UTB-41387, you are to proceed at your best speed to the following coordinates, latitude, 40.500747, longitude 73.838425, and begin S&R activities. We have one downed bomber out there and we need to get that crew back. Over.
“Roger that SRO Command, UTB-41387 is to make way to latitude, 40.500747, longitude 73.838425, and begin S&R activities. What the hell happened?”
“Word is that some hotshot colonel decided that it would be a good idea to showboat and do a low flyover of the engagement area. Evidently, he got his wings clipped by a survivor with a SAM.”
“Roger that SRO Command, UTB-41387 out.” Rhino turned to his crew of three and shouted, “Grab onto to something cause we’re about to see what this ol’ girl can do and we don’t have time to turn back if you go overboard”. With the warning given, Rhino pushed the throttles forward and the Cummins diesel responded with a throaty growl and quickly got up to speed. Soon they were flying over the waves, with no clue whatsoever of what they would find when they got there.
Onboard UTB-41387, Atlantic Ocean, Latitude, 40.500747, Longitude 73.838425,
As they approached their designated search area Rhino brought them onto a heading that would allow them to begin a standard grid search pattern. “Keep an eye out for any emergency rafts or parachutes and one eye out for any unfriendly types as well” Rhino instructed as he tuned their radio to the frequency for emergency transponders. It wasn’t long before they picked up the monotonous beeping of a transponder nearby and soon after that the volunteer manning the gun on the foredeck shouted back that he had spotted one of the bright orange emergency personal life rafts about 100 yards off their starboard bow. Rhino eased the utility boat in that direction, taking his time and keeping an eye out for anyone floating nearby. As he eased closer to the raft he could see that there were three people in flight suits hanging onto the sides of the raft, waving and yelling for his attention.
Jules and the Rhino quickly hauled the downed air crew into the boat as the medic unpacked his gear in anticipation of treating injuries. Ejecting from a wounded bomber was not the most gentle of activities. The crew was shaken-up, all suffering from various bumps and contusions and one of them had a broken leg, but that was the worst injury and at first blush it looked like all of them would pull through.
One of the airmen with captain’s bars on his flight suit grabbed Rhino by the arm and said, “You’ve got to find Colonel Porter and Lieutenant Van den Hurk. The Colonel kept us in the air long enough for us to eject and the LT’s chute fouled and we didn’t see her reserve deploy until she was almost in the drink.”
“What’s your name son?”
Captain Hernandez, sir.”
“Now don’t go getting’ all formal on me son, I’m just a retired Chief that happens to work for a living. But if your Colonel and crewmate are out here I will sure as hell do everything that I can to find them. So, just lay back and let the Rhino do what he does best. What heading was that bomber on when you ejected?”
Captain Hernandez replied, “She went in west by southwest of here. We saw the Colonel’s chute deploy but he was too far away for us to get there.”
Rhino turned back to the helm and set a course to look for the downed Colonel. Captain Hernandez laid back and closed his eyes as he felt the boat come up to speed. He was surprised to hear a cultured English accent asking him if he would like some water or whether he needed anything else. He opened his eyes to see a striking woman standing over him, bottle of water in one hand and blanket in the other. He could only stutter a “thank you” as he took the proffered bottle and drank it greedily. “Mam, may I ask you a question?”
Jules turned back to the Captain, “Sure, go ahead.”
“Did that really big man say that his name was Rhino?”
Jules, laughing, replied, “That he did, and do yourself a favor and don’t go asking him about petting any kitty cats.”
Completely confused, Hernandez just nodded and laid back thinking, “I must be delirious. Thank god that I decided to fly planes.”
As Rhino continued on a course that he hoped would bring him to the downed Colonel and Lieutenant he heard Morse code coming over the emergency transponder frequency of the radio.
“Hey, Jules, c’mere and tell me if I’m hearing what I think I’m hearing.”
Jules made her way to the helm and listened to the radio, “Sounds faint, like a short range signal. Let me see if I can boost the signal”. Jules fiddled with the radio a bit and the beeps came in much clearer. “I’m a little rusty but it sounds like a group of people talking back and forth. Very odd, it sure doesn’t sound like any kind of conversation you would expect out here.
The longer that Jules and Rhino listened to the transmission the more confused they became. It sounded more like a pack of drunken louts at a sporting event than any kind of nautical activity they would have expected this far out. Jules broke the silence saying, “Did I just hear what I think I heard?”
“Well, if you just heard, ‘It’s my turn, you’re taking too long” then, yeah, you heard right.
They continued to listen to the broadcast and mentally translated the conversation, “This one is for the marines fly boy”
“Don’t break him, I want another go around.”
“Oh yeah, a little skinny, but any port in a storm I say.”
“My turn to salute the colonel”
“Hey, I think I have enough squid ink now.”
With that last comment Jules looked at Rhino and said, “Oh my god, do you think he was captured by pirates and they are sodomizing him?
“We’ll find out soon enough, that signal strength indicates that we should be right on top of them - odd that we haven’t seen another boat yet. Keep a sharp lookout. I don’t want to walk into an ambush before we have a chance for a little payback.”
Moments later Jules spotted the bright orange personal life raft and pointed it out to Rhino. Once again slowing the boat to keep from swamping the small raft Rhino came to a stop and looked down to see an unconscious man draped over the side of the raft with his legs in the water. There was blood everywhere on the sides of the raft and in the water and Hernandez came to the rail and said, “The Colonel” as he and Rhino quickly pulled the man onto the utility boat. “Thank God he’s breathing”. Rhino did a double take as something else stood out as extremely odd about the scene; there were dozens of dead squid floating on the water. What the hell kind of mess did they sail into? This guy was only out here for a couple of hours. Rhino laid the unconscious man down on the deck and let the medic get to work finding and treating his injuries. Jules looked over at Rhino from behind her machine gun and shrugging her shoulders said, “There isn’t another boat in sight anywhere. Where did those signals come from?”
“Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, as soon as the medic tells me he is stable enough to move we are tearing ass out of here.”
The medic, finding no open wounds on the front of the Colonel turned him over to search his back. Gagging, he jumped up and ran to the rail where he spewed his breakfast over the side. Rhino turned to look at what caused the man to lose it and though he thought that he’d seen just about every human depravity since the wave changed the world there was nothing that could explain what he was looking at. The Colonel’s flight suit looked as if it had been chewed through around his buttocks area and it was plain to see that was the source of all of the blood.
Jules gaped at the Colonel’s bloody orifice, stifling her gag reflex, and muttered, “Christ almighty, who in the hell did that to him?
Rhino replied, “We’re not waiting to find out”. He turned to the medic and said, “Get your ass over here and help that man. If he bleeds out it is on your head and you don’t want to answer to me.” With that he turned back to the helm and as he began to push the throttles forward another burst of Morse code sounded from the radio, “Hey, Big One, don’t be so fast taking our boy toy”.
Jules, an incredulous look on her face, looked at the radio, at Rhino, at the Colonel and then back at Rhino then realizing someone was speaking to them she began swinging her gun in an arc behind the boat looking for a target while saying, “Where the hell did that come from?”
“Look down cutie, maybe you can play next” came from the radio.
Jules looked overboard and saw a dolphin with a metal harness and headset strapped around its head and body, almost like tactical radio gear for a soldier, and what looked like a short radio antenna mounted just behind the dorsal fin. Another spurt of code came over the radio, “Yeah, sweetheart, you like what you see? I got a little something for you, come on in, the water is fine”. Jules saw more movement in the water and made out several more dolphins, all similarly attired in that unbelievable gear.
“Fat fucking chance of that happening shark bait” Jules replied, stopping short as she realized that she was fending off the advances of a randy dolphin.
The radio chatter continued, “Just throw the skinny one back in and we’ll call it even. I think I’m in love. Or, better yet, push the fat one out, he’s got more cushion for the pushin’ and he’ll float” Jules could swear that the dolphin was laughing as it rocked its head back and forth while emitting a high pitched squeaking sound. The squeaking suddenly ended in the equivalent of a dolphin scream as Rhino emptied the clip of his semi-automatic .45 into the head of depraved creature.
Watching the dolphin sink out of sight, Jules turned to Rhino and said, “I think that’s our cue to get the hell out of Dodge as you Yanks like to say.”
Rhino ran to the helm and pushed the throttles all the way forward and the boat quickly gained speed. The dolphins kept pace, leaping gracefully in the wake of the utility boat, but not able to overtake her. Eventually the dolphins fell behind and a fading Morse code message was received, “We know what you look like fat man so I wouldn’t go swimming anytime soon if you know what’s good for you”. That was the last message received until Rhino called in their status to SRO Command and piloted them back to the docks where an ambulance was waiting to take the aircrew for treatment. Thankfully, the Colonel did not gain consciousness during the entire trip.
Temporary Naval Coast Patrol Command Center, Staten Island Ferry Terminal, Manhattan, New York City Federal Controlled Area
The naval Captain, Flinthart was the nametag on his uniform, sitting across the desk from Jules and Rhino said, “That has got to be the damndest after action review that I have ever heard. Dolphins you say? Wearing metallic harnesses and speaking through the radio using Morse code? Are you sure it wasn’t pirates that raped that colonel?”
Rhino, as titular commander of the SRO spoke for the pair, “I know it sounds crazy, but I swear on my sainted mother’s grave that is exactly what happened.”
“Well, there were always rumors about the intel geeks trying to train dolphins to find subs and that kind of thing. But this sounds like something from a B-movie.
Rhino just shook his head, “It was insane. It was almost like those dolphins had a personal vendetta for the poor guy.”
Just then the doors to the Captain’s office burst open and two men in suits walked in and closed the door behind them. The one on the left flashed credentials and without preamble one of them launched into what sounded like a practiced speech, “I am Special Agent Birmingham and this is Special Agent Murphy, what happened today is a matter of national security and is classified as above top secret. You are to never speak of this to anyone, ever. If you do so, trust me, I will find out, and you will be hunted down and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Do you understand?”
Rhino and Jules looked at each other and simply nodded assent.
“I am glad to see that you are cooperating. Considering what you two have been up to recently, I would say that cooperating is the wisest decision you have made in awhile. Now, I would strongly suggest that you two make arrangements to leave the Federal Controlled Zone and get about your business elsewhere.” Evidently saying everything they came to say, the agents turned and left, closing the office door behind them.
Captain Flinthart looked back and forth between Jules and Rhino and said, “Who are you people? Belay that, I don’t want or need to know. I believe that we are through here. Good luck to you”. With that dismissal the pair stood and walked out.
“Jules, before we go, I want to stop over at the hospital and see how that Colonel is”.
“Do you think that is wise at this point?”
Rhino considered her point as he cut and lit a fat cigar, “Hell, girl, for as long as you’ve known me now has that ever been a consideration?”
Mercy Class Hospital Ship, USNS Comfort
Jules and Rhino peeked around the curtain to see a nurse removing a pair of surgical gloves and tossing them into a pan filled with bloody bandages, “Its OK, you can come in as long as you don’t wake him. He is resting comfortably but he still has the occasional screaming fit”. It didn’t look so comfortable to Rhino. The poor bastard was situated on his knees with his ass in the air, supported by a complex harness and pulley system and it looked like his face was pushed into his pillow.
“How is he doing nurse?”
“Oh, he’ll be fine … eventually. The physical wounds are healing. It is the mental wounds that are going to take time. I doubt he’ll ever be fit to fly again. A shame, really, I’ve been doing this for over fifteen years and this is the first case of man rape I’ve ever seen. What kind of depraved people could do such a thing? A Captain Hernandez was by earlier, another boat recovered the body of the last member of their crew, and he was confirming the identity, and when he saw Colonel Porter it was everything he could do to not break down.
“Well, thank you nurse, we’ll just be going now.
“I’m glad you stopped by, this poor soul is going to need all of the support he can get. I mean, not only raping the poor man but tattooing him as well? Barbaric.”
That stopped Rhino dead in his tracks and as he turned back he asked, “Did you say tattooed?”
“Yes sir, it was on his buttocks. Looked like a prison tattoo – the ink was imbedded under the skin with a large needle or some other sharp object. Almost like a tribal design – doesn’t make sense”.
Rhino, remembering the dead squid around the Colonel’s raft mumbled, “Like a needle sharp tooth, maybe?”
The nurse paused, “I guess so, but I don’t think that something like that would be possible.” Anyway, it was gibberish”.
“Do you mind if I take a look?
“Well, I should protect the patient’s privacy but if you can shed any light on what it means, then I guess it would be OK”.
The nurse drew the curtain around the bed and pulled the Colonel’s gown aside to display a series of crudely formed dots and dashes etched into the fleshy part of his buttocks. As Rhino and Jules stared at the pattern it came into focus:
. - - . . - . . . . . - - . . - - . . . - . …
- . . . . . - - . - . . . .
As realization dawned as to what she was looking at Jules hands flew to her mouth in an attempt to suppress the inappropriate laughter bursting forth. She turned and quickly fled down the corridor with a “Rhino, I’ll see you outside” over her shoulder.
Shocked, the nurse looked at Rhino angrily, “What was that about. I don’t see the slightest thing funny about this poor man’s situation”.
Rhino replied, “Mam, that isn’t a tribal pattern, That is Morse code.”
“OK, so, what does it mean?”
“I think it means that our dear Colonel here has a boyfriend”.
“What are you going on about?”
Rhino, slowly shaking his head said, “Mam, it says “Flipper’s Bitch”.