Savo is away on a secret mission, and I forgot to grab the key to the mini-burger.
So, as a one off, I gift you with John Johnson's epic fan fic piece...
After The Wave
by John R. Johnson
After The Wave
John R. Johnson
The District Commander
New Headquarters Building
7th USCG District
San Juan, Puerto Rico
William "Wild Bill" Elliott wearily watched the yeoman typing a form, he had been waiting almost two hours and was building a head of steam. He shook his head. If anyone else could express such disdain and haughty attitude, without saying a word, as the yeoman he had never seen it them. He wondered how long it would be before the new sector commander, correction the new 7th Coast Guard District commander, corrected her. Rear Admiral John Brimo had only been promoted a week before.
The Matinicus had anchored the day before and he had been ordered to report to the new district commander. Elliott had barely had time to greet his wife properly when his phone had rung and the yeoman said the Admiral want to see him as soon as possible. Well, if the district commander was that impatient to see him he hoped it was important. He had been planning to spend a couple of days with the family before diving back into the work needed to get the Mattie back in shape. He almost jumped when the intercom buzzed and the yeoman told him to go in.
"Lt. Elliott, it's a pleasure to meet you," Admiral Brimo said, returning Elliott's salute. "My message said at your earliest convenience. I expected you to take a couple of days with your family." He picked up the phone. "Yeoman, two cups of coffee, please."
"Yes sir, I thought you wanted to see me ASAP," Bill said. He wondered what the penalty was for strangling a yeoman who put her own interpretation on orders she relayed. "I figured you wanted a first hand account of what happened in the fight with the Venezuelan patrol boat."
"I read your report but I'd like to hear what happened and your reasoning for the actions you took," the Admiral admitted. He frowned as the yeoman put a cup of coffee down in front of Elliott hard enough to make the coffee slosh out of the cup and left the office. "As you know I'm from the aviation side of thing so I'm more familiar with air operations. And I had only been assigned to the air station a couple of weeks before the wave hit so I don't know the sea going personnel as well as I should. Start with the pirate ship where you rescued the retired marine and his men."
"Yes sir," Bill paused to gather his thoughts. "We had been at sea about three days..."
"And that's about all," Bill finished hoarsely. He had been talking almost non-stop for an hour answering the Admirals penetrating questions. "We were already closing the distance with the Alabama when the shooting started. I felt the most immediate danger was from the ship. The patrol boat only had time for a couple of shots at us and I think the P-3 Orion's appearance shocked them so much they froze for a minute. When they started paying attention to us again we were too close to the ship for them to get a clear shot at us. They might have fired a shot at us but we were behind the ship by then and I think they hit the Alabama instead."
"Very enlightening," the Admiral said. He looked at the clock on his desk. "Lt. as you may have heard the commandant has ordered an increase in anti-piracy operations. He has ordered the GALLATIN (WHEC 721) homeported in San Juan. A 378-foot cutter will enhance our operational capabilities immensely. The Eagle has been in Iceland since the wave and it's ordered to Seattle to the new Coast Guard academy. The Eagle will join the Gallatin in the Bahamas and be escorted to the Panama Canal with some other ships. So the Gallatin should be here in about two months."
"In the mean time we are going to follow your example and put larger crews on all our ships. We can't send sailors to Seattle for training so we are going to work with the Navy to set up some schools here in San Juan to train the new men on. Pick the men you want to send for gunnery training, electronics, engines and fire fighting. We have three week courses starting next week. It's enough to teach them not to shoot themselves anyway. Also, you and the other 110 ft. cutters are each being assigned four ensigns, they are all from the naval ROTC programs from the local universities." The Admiral was all business now. "My Yeoman has orders promoting your exec and engineering officer to Lieutenant (junior grade). It will be their and your responsibility to train these ensigns up to Coast Guard standards. Any questions so far?"
"Sounds like a good idea," Bill said. "If I might make a suggestion. I think each cutter needs to have a corpsman assigned. A lot of these islands have little or no medical care or trained personnel. A corpsman could treat the sick and injured when we visit the islands and we could transport critical cases back to a hospital in San Juan. But it means we will need more trained medical personnel."
"That's a very good idea," Admiral Brimo said. He made a note on his computer. "Any other suggestions?"
"Just one more," Bill answered. "I have a couple of kids I took on that I was planning on training as officers. They are bright and enthusiastic but they don't have the education to qualify for college. I thought if we could train them it would give them an opportunity and it would set an example for other kids in the islands. It would also help cement relations between the islands and the Coast Guard."
"I see," the Admiral said softly. He rocked back and forth in his chair for several minutes, looking out the office window, thinking hard. "Just what were your plans and how were you planning on teaching them?"
"I don't have definite plans yet, sir." Bill said. "I know what I want to do. I want to starting remedial classes for them and any other crewmembers, who want to learn, to bring them up to snuff on the basics of reading and math, also start teaching them leadership and navigation. I had an old time quartermaster chief when I joined. He insisted all the strikers under him learn celestial navigation. He didn't trust all the "new fangled" navigation aids. We still have navigation satellites but they would be easy to take out if someone has the will and knowledge and resources."
"Hmmm... I see," the Admiral repeated. He rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "Tell you what. I'll write up orders allowing you to sign them on as midshipmen. You'll have three months to get them up to speed. At the end of that time we'll test them. If they pass I'll see about getting them scholarships at the university here in San Juan or an appointment to the new Coast Guard Academy." He made more notes in his computer. "Good point about the navigation satellites."
" In addition to everything else you will be getting orders in a few days to escort a shipload of scientists to Florida. Seattle has ordered scientific investigations to check on conditions in the states. It will be about five weeks before they are ready to leave. So run as many of you crew through the new services schools as possible and start getting your ship ready." He stood up and held out his hand. "Good luck on your assignment, Lt."
"One other thing," Bill said. "I lost my gunners mate and I would like Bill Barron to replace him. Barron is the retired Marine Gunnery Sergeant. I enlisted him as a seaman but I would like to promote him to Chief. He showed he knows how to handle the bushmaster in the action against the terrorist ship."
"I guess you didn't get the word yet," the Admiral said. "The commandant sent out an all Coast Guard message authorizing unit commanders to promote internally until further notice. We aren't in a position to conduct service wide promotion exams just now."
USCGC Matinicus (WPB-1315)
USCG Station San Juan
Elliott saluted the JOOD and the quarterdeck then looked aft to where the laughter was coming from. His exec, BMC (Boats'n Mate Chief) Jose Cabrera, and engineering officer, MKC (Machinist Mate Chief) Don Perillo and retired gunnery sergeant now Seaman Bill Barron huddled together laughing at some joke. Before heading aft he gave the bulky manila envelops he was carrying to the messenger of the watch to be taken to the ships office.
"What's so funny, Jose," Bill asked? "I could use a good laugh after spending the afternoon with the Admiral and in the personnel office."
"Do you remember MKC Jack Slidell?" Jose asked?
"Sure we pulled a tour on fisheries patrol off Alaska when I was just a petty officer first class." Bill frowned in remembrance. "Had a knock out wife by the name of Jacqueline if I remember correctly. Jack and Jacky was what everyone called them. She was sure a looker but as hard as nails, didn't take guff from anyone, much less Jack. What about him?"
"He was stationed in San Juan at Air Station Borinquen about a week before the Wave," Don laughed. "That's why we didn't run into them."
"Well, when the Navy tried to slip a Navy captain in when the sector commander was killed they picked a Capt. Kalb," Jose picked up the story. "As you know things in the commissary and exchange are in short supply on a lot of items so whenever a shipment comes in from Europe or Seattle there is a rush on the facilities." He took a deep breath to control the laughter. "Picture it! All the wives lined up to buy things and this lady tries to shove her way into the head of the line. The woman she tried to get in front of told her to go to the back of the line. The lady drew herself up and looked down her nose at the other woman and said, 'I'm Mrs. Captain Kalb!'"
"The other woman looked her straight in the eye and said, 'I'm Mrs. Chief Slidell, we both fuck sailors. Go to the back of the line.' ... Oh Man!" Jose exclaimed. "I wish I could have been there to see it."
Bill almost started laughing when a little voice in the back of his head said. "Don't blow it now but this is the chance of a lifetime." His face turned red with the effort not to laugh. "Chief Cabrera, Chief Perillo, Seaman Barron, you all know it's against regulations to show disrespect to a commissioned officer. Well, I'll have to do something about that." He raised his voice and called the JOOD. "Have all hands fall in on the fantail in five minutes." He looked back at the other three. "You men wait here, at attention, until I get back."
Cabrera and Perillo stood with mouths agape, stunned. Gunny Barron put on his poker face. He had seen a few mustangs, after making officer, let it go to their heads. Sometimes they took a few days to get over it but others never got over it. Until sanity returned though it was never an easy time.
The three, braced at attention, could only answer, "Yes Sir!"
"Boatswain Mate Chief Jose Cabrera, Machinist Mate Chief Don Perillo, Seaman Bill Barron you have all been making disrespectful comments about officers," Bill said formally. "Do you have anything to say for yourselves?"
All three, standing blank faced, shook their heads.
"Very well. Chief Cabrera and Chief Perillo, attention to orders. Under the authorization of order number... well the number doesn't really matter at the moment... you are hereby promoted to the rank of Lt. (junior grade). Seaman Bill Barron you are hereby promoted to the rank of Gunners Mate Chief. Congratulations!" Bill said. The three stood like they had been struck by lightening. "Before I forget. Crew of the Matinicus you have done well and these three newly promoted shipmates will be buying for everyone at the Black Angus Bar after working hours. Dismissed!"
USCGC Matinicus (WPB-1315)
USCG Group Miami
100 MacArthur Causeway
Six weeks later
The Matinicus, followed by the cargo vessel carrying the scientists and coast guard personnel, eased toward the floating docks which made up USCG Station Miami. Elliott shook his head at what he saw. The CGC Chandeleur (WPB-1319), the CGC Farallon (WPB-1301) and the CC Valiant (WMEC-621) were still tied up to the piers. The CGC Dolphin (WPB-87354) and CGC Matagordo (WPB-1303) were tied up but listing, the Matagordo was listing heavily. There was no sign of the other cutters assigned to Group Miami, no way to tell what had happened to them or where they were when the Wave struck.
"Cdr. Nicholson, it looks like you'll be able to get the Valiant under way with minimal problems," Bill sighed. The Mattie and the cargo ship were crawling with coasties. Admiral Brimo had decided to send along extra personnel with orders to get the Valiant underway to San Juan. "Of course we won't know the ships condition until we can get a survey crew aboard. As soon as the boarding parties signal all clear we can tie up. Then the two Marine Recon squads the Navy sent along will try to start some vehicles and scout the city itself. I want to make sure everything is secure before the scientists are allowed to wonder around."
"Sounds good to me," Cdr. Nicholson said. He rubbed his chin slowly. "I brought a full crew, twelve experienced officers and eighty-three men, for the Valiant. If the ships are in good condition I think I'll try and get the Farallon and Chandeleur under way also. Lord knows we can use the assets and two more 110 ft. cutters will be a godsend." He sighed, "All my people will be tied up getting the cutters ready for sea. Do you think you could loan me enough people to start gathering the material the Admiral wants?"
"No problem, sir," Bill answered. He paused briefly. "I can understand getting all the supplies and charts and operational material from the base and District Headquarters but why the personnel records. Except for personnel still living I can't see the need and that space could be used for a lot more important things." He shrugged, "I'll make sure we keep a list of serial numbers on all computers and weapons, especially the ones that come from civilian sources."
"Ours but to do or die..." Cdr. Nicholson murmured. "I'll see your work details have copies of the Admiral's list. If you think of anything which might come in useful just add it to the list. I've already added several items." He rubbed his chin. "I expect you'll be ordered to remain in the area for some time. Headquarters and the Navy are going to want a report on the condition of military assets. The navy will be sending their own salvage parties soon but right now though they're busier than a one-legged man in a ass... never mind. I expect they'll be sending people soon, so you might start preliminary plans for salvage operations." He looked at the Miami skyline. "Personally I don't think Miami will ever be as big again, at least not for a long time. The only thing it had going for it was the beaches and weather that attracted tourists and retirees. It's going to be a long time before we see many tourists again."
USCG Group Miami, FL
100 MacArthur Causeway
Ten Days later
Elliott leaned tiredly on the bridge rail of the Matinicus and watched the Valiant, towing the Dolphin, accompanied by the Farallon and Chandeleur sail out of sight. The Valiant and the two 110ft cutters had been relatively easy to get ready to sail. But Cdr. Nicholson had decided to add the Dolphin to the mix. The 87 foot Dolphin had been a stone cold bitch to pump out in the time allotted and get ready to be towed to San Juan. It would need extensive work once it reached it's new home. Finding the supplies and equipment the Admiral wanted had been a job and a half too.
On top of everything else the Marines had reported large portions of the city, especially the older and more crowded sections, had burned down and also that someone had been looting liquor stores, banks, jewelry stores and malls and at least one pharmaceutical warehouse in the Miami area. The commander had immediately ordered complete radio silence and ordered the marines to find the looters and report back without being seen. "Why, oh why, couldn't the Marines have reported back before Cdr. Nicholson left. Then the commander would be the one to fill out all the reports and paperwork," Bill grumbled softly. In the meantime he was in command and responsible for the safety of the scientists.
"Sir, I didn't catch that," the seaman on watch said.
"It's nothing. Carry on," Bill said, turning as the exec stepped onto the bridge. "What's up, Jose?"
"Skipper, I just got word the marines are back and they have a civilian with them, Jose reported. "The watch on the causeway reported back by landline they have the marines in sight. They don't know if the civilian is a prisoner or with them willingly. They should be here in another half hour."
"Very well, have the marine CO and the civilian report to me as soon as they get here," Bill said. "Tell the cook to have some hot chow ready for the troopers."
"Skipper, I have Lt. Ingram and a Mr. Ron Daly," Jose said. "Mr. Daly is leader of a group of refugees and can provide some information about the looters."
"Sir, Lt. Ingram reporting as ordered," said Lt. Doyle Ingram. At Bill's nod he continued, "As per my orders I conducted a scout of the city. I found two groups of people. Mr. Daly and his people are refugees who arrived a few weeks after the Wave disappeared. The other group, the looters, are holed up to the southeast of Miami. I was unable to locate their ship in the time allotted but they have converted a self storage facility into a prison camp and have about a hundred and fifty slaves held there."
"Very well, write up a full report," Bill said, looking at Mr. Daly curiously. He saw a tall lean man wearing old cammies, about fifty years old, with salt and pepper hair. Mr. Daly had a rifle slung over his shoulder. Elliott's eyes widen as he recognized the Cadillac of sniper rifles, a Russian made Dragunov SVD.
"Mr. Daly, suppose you explain to me who you are and what you and your people are doing in Miami." Bill repeated, "Who sent you and why are you here?"
"Major Ron Daly of the Rhodesian Light Infantry and then the Selous Scouts under Colonel Reid-Daly, until we were disbanded in 1980. Then I took my unit to South Africa and served with 5 Reconnaissance Commando until I retired in 1995. You can call me Ron." He rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "Had me a good farm until the Wave. A lot of my men took up land nearby too."
He pause to gather his thoughts. "After the Wave things started to change. Government policies changed and then we started hearing about men disappearing and farms being raided and burned. Rumors that the government was getting rid of all white men and Asians, anyone not black. I got together with my friends and neighbors, there are about three hundred of us all told, and we decide to leave South Africa. We took all of our resources and managed to lease a ship to try to get back to England. After we sailed we radioed the British government and they told us we couldn't land there permanently, that we could pass through but not stay. Something about wanting a culturally and racially homogenous population." Ron grinned. "We had already fought off three pirate attacks when we heard the Wave had disappeared, so we decided to make for America. 'Send me your huddled masses' and all that. We are a mix of races and most countries are throwing out anyone not racially, hmmm... compatible. The ship dropped us off just north of Miami instead of the Carolina's like we requested. We are trying to get enough vehicles working to move further north, maybe to the mountains."
Elliott shot a quick glance at Lt. Ingram when Ron made the statement about his group being of mixed races. At the marines nod of agreement he leaned back on the bridge rail thinking.
"Would you be willing to help us fight the looters," Bill asked? "I don't think the looters know we are here but we can use the help."
"Take my word for it, Captain," Rod assured him. "They know you're here. You've got generators working and at night turn on floodlights around your base like it's a football field. The glow in the sky must be visible for ten miles. It's real noticeable since there aren't any other lights to drown them out. Ask Lt. Ingram here." The Marine nodded reluctantly. "But we'll help you against the looters. Seems like every time we move to a new country the first thing they want is for us to fight."
"Lt. Ingram, you and Ron get together and try to come up with a basic plan to take the looters," Bill scowled. "I'll be damned if I stand by while some assholes are keeping slaves in the United States of America. My great grandfather fought to put an end to that shit and I'm not going see it make a comeback in this day and age."
USCGC Matinicus (WPB-1315)
USCG Group Miami, FL
100 MacArthur Causeway
One week later
"That's about all we can do for now," Elliott looked around the planning group. "I think we've taken everything into consideration in our planning. At least until Murphy decides to put in his two cents." He looked down at the plans for the prison camp/storage facility where the slaves were held and the gated luxury condos next door where the looters were living. "To recap then, there are approximately sixty looters. Lt. Ingram, you and your men will take out the prison guards and free the prisoners. Mr. Daly, you will take forty of your men and try to capture or kill the looters. You say they're pretty lax as far as security is concerned so maybe you can move your men into position and take them before they wake up." He looked at his watch. "Start moving the men and equipment into position today and at five o'clock tomorrow morning we hit them. Jose, you will be in command here at the base and will have to sit on the civilian scientists. I'm going to take the Mattie down the coast a little ways and see if I can spot the looters ship. If there are no question lets get moving. Ron, could you remain behind for a moment."
"Ron, I understand that you have about three hundred men, women and children in your group," Bill said. "Lt. Ingram reports you also have a small herd of cattle, sheep and horses. Why did you bring those with you?"
"Aye, we brought some livestock, even some chickens." Ron said after a long pause. "We figure there will be some canned food available, at least long enough to get some crops in, but we are going to need fresh meat. There's no electricity and the petrol has been sitting in tanks for a year, so there's no telling how much longer it will be good. Wherever we settle it might be years before we see new supplies. So we figure we will have to be self-sufficient for the foreseeable future and not depend on what we can find. Why do you ask?"
"This came in from naval intelligence in San Juan," Bill held out the message. "Seems they have a report about someone raiding a town on the African coast right after the Wave disappeared. The raiders shot the local honcho and his lieutenants and stole a bunch of livestock. Kind of odd you and your group show up here not long after with a herd of livestock."
"Well, Skipper, I could lie to you and say it wasn't us but it would be a lie and we both know it." Ron eyed Elliott thoughtfully. "I will say the town we raided was the source of the last pirate attack on our ship. We killed them and took their loot. The local townspeople seemed pretty happy to see the pirates gone. So what are your orders and what are you planning to do?"
"We'll discuss that after we take out those looters," Bill said. "Headquarters seems to be leaving things up to me. When I asked for orders they pretty much said to handle it."
In position outside the looters compound
Ron looked through his binoculars at the back wall of the looters compound and at the prison camp across the road behind the compound. Four guards, who appeared asleep, by the back entrance to the gated condo compound and it looked like six guards around the makeshift prison.
He checked his watch and signaled the scouts to move out. At the same time he radioed the code word to the sniper teams on the roofs of the office complexes surrounding the living compound. The snipers assigned to the teams were better shots than he was and with the Barrett .50 caliber M82A1 sniper rifles with the 10X Leupold & Stevens Ultra Mark IV telescopic sights would take out any bad guys before they knew what hit them. The range was a little long, about a kilometer, by not impossible. He grinned and wondered what the Skipper would say if he found out Ron had raided the SWAT armories of two police stations to get the Barretts and the radios they were using. He checked his watch as the ten infiltration teams moved into the compound.
Lt. Ingram checked his watch and gave the signal for the marines to start their assault on the prison compound. The sky was already starting to turn gray and it would be light in another half hour. If they were lucky they could take the prison without firing a shot.
He saw several shapes merge with the guards and then there were just some dark lumps on the ground. He started running as fast as he could for the prison gate, coming to a halt at the corner of the first storage unit. A quick sweep with his M-16 showed nothing moving. All clear for now.
The marine with the bolt cutters ran forward and in a few seconds had the lock on the unit cut. The marine pulled the door open and suddenly staggered back, leaning against the wall gagging and heaving. In seconds a foul, fetid odor spread from the open door.
Lt. Ingram held a handkerchief over his mouth and nose as he looked into the first unit. There appeared to be about twenty men chained inside, from appearances several of them were dead. He staggered back outside.
"Gunny, get the medic up here now and get some water for these men." Lt. Ingram ordered harshly. "Pass the word that I don't want to see any of these bastards that did this. At least not alive."
"With pleasure, boss," Gunnery Sergeant Abraham Lincoln Karin said, looking inside the unit. "My people were freed after the civil war and I've heard the stories all my life. But I never realized what slavery is all about till now." His shoulders shook with rage. "I'll start getting the other units open and see what we can do to help these poor bastards." He walked over to one of the dead sentries and pulled back his boot to kick the body.
"Gunny, as you were!" Lt. Ingram ordered harshly.
"Sir, how could anybody do that to another human being?" Gunny Karin nodded toward the door of the storage unit. "He's was black! He knew the stories! So how could he do those things? Things like this aren't suppose to happen in America!"
"Gunny, we don't know that he was an American. He probably wasn't." Lt. Ingram said, "That being said you've seen it elsewhere. This is what happens when the rule of law breaks down. Even piss poor government is better than the chaos of no government at all. Then there's nothing to stop people from giving in to the darkest parts of their soul."
Ron had his back against the wall beside the condo's door, his partner, Corporal Nkomo, on the other side. It was time, the sky was already starting to turn gray with the dawn. He tried the door knob first and when it didn't turn his partner squatted beside the lock. In seconds the door swung open. They moved inside rapidly, covering all corners.
The first closed door opened onto an empty bedroom. The second room was occupied to judge by the snoring. Shouldering his FN-FAL rifle he slid his knife from the scabbard. He was moving toward the bed when he realized there were two people on the bed.
He froze, expecting a scream, when he saw the wide blue eyes staring at him, shifting back and forth between his face and the knife. The smile on the girls face surprised him but not any more than when she motioned him to come on. He sorted through his options. He could un-sling the rifle and shot them both, setting off the alarm, or he could knife the girl, she didn't look more than fifteen or sixteen, and then the man or...
The girl moved and Ron saw the chain around her ankle. Making his decision he signaled his partner to cover him. Rapidly stepping forward he drew the knife across the man's throat. The naked girl grabbed the knife as blood started spurting from the jugular, stabbing the man over and over in the chest. Her mouth open like she was screaming but no sound came out.
Ron took the hypodermic Corporal Nkomo handed him and stabbed it into the girls shoulder. She didn't even feel it until she fell over and rolled off the bed.
"All scouts, be alert for slaves in some of the rooms. Handle the situation as you see fit." Ron radioed the warning. He was already moving toward the next door.
The morning was noticeably lighter as Ron came out of the third condo. There had been one other slave in the rooms they had checked, a young boy. They had left him drugged also and headed toward their fourth lodging. That was when all hell broke out. There was a sudden scream and a pistol shot, then the sound of a rifle firing.
Ron rushed toward the door which suddenly burst open and a large latino man burst out, gripping a MAC-10. Before he could fire the man was picked up and thrown back into the condo. A hole the size of a quarter appearing on the man's chest, a spray of blood coming out of the exit wound in his back. 'Damn, you have to love that Barrett .50.'
It was another half hour before the last of the slavers were hunted down and killed. The price had been heavy, four scouts killed and two marines. Several had been wounded.
None of the slavers had survived. After seeing what the slavers had done the marines and scouts had been in no mood for surrenders. There had been a hundred and eighty slaves in the storage units. Seventeen were dead in their chains from starvation, lack of water and mistreatment, the others couldn't have survived more than a few more days.
Elliott tiredly stirred his coffee. He had been on the bridge of the Matinicus for the last eight hours as it sailed slowly parallel with the shore south of Miami, doing radar sweeps of the mangrove swamps and islands along the coast. Another half hour and he would head back to the Group. In the meantime he was taking the opportunity to get some breakfast and coffee. He had received a radio message from the shore parties that they had successfully taken out the looters and freed the slaves.
The intercom buzzed and he picked up the hand set.
"Captain, we have a large contact on the radar," the Officer of the Deck, Ensign Pulver, reported. "It's five miles southeast of us on a course for Miami and moving at about twelve knots. I don't think it has spotted us yet."
"Very well," Elliott said. "I'll be right there. In the mean time plot an intercept course and keep a sharp watch for any course change the contact might make when they do spot us. Call Chief Barron and have him meet me on the bridge."
Elliott watched the huge, rust streaked ship as it continued on course toward Miami. They must be blind on the bridge not to have seen the cutter closing on the ship from astern. There must be some crew aboard but he had seen no movement on the bridge or deck. Whoever was in command was a idiot.
Through his binoculars he could make out the name of the ship, Splendor of the Seas. He shook his head in disbelief. The last time he had seen the Splendor she had been sparkling white, no rust anywhere, a proud cruise ship of the Royal Caribbean Line. He had heard the Splendor had been at sea when the Wave hit. Then about a month later she had disappeared.
The Splendor's 867 foot length dwarfed the 110 ft. Matinicus. Elliott grinned, of course the Mattie had something the cruise ship didn't have, a chain gun. He picked up the intercom handset. "Any response to our hails on the radio," he asked? "I can't believe they don't at least have a radio listening watch. Oh well, we'll do it the hard way."
"Splendor of the Seas, this is the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Matinicus. Stop your engines and prepare to be boarded," Elliott's voice, amplified by the PA system, boomed over the water. "I say again, stop your engines."
"That got their attention," Bill remarked to Ensign Pulver. They watched men scurrying across the deck of the Splendor. "I hope they'll be reasonable and do this easy. Nope, it was too much to hope for. Now we do it the hard way." He sighed as the Splendor altered course and headed toward the beach three miles away. He straightened as he saw muzzle flashes on the ships dark bridge. "Gunny, put a warning burst on the bridge. Everybody else hold your fire for now but kill anyone who tries to return fire."
"Splendor, stop your engines before you run aground. You can't escape that way. Stop your engines!" Bill looked at the shore, judged the distance and ordered, "Engine room come to dead slow. Be prepared to reverse engines if it looks like we're going to run aground ourselves." He looked back at the Splendor as the Mattie dropped further astern. It looked like the crew were trying to lower four boats on the far side of the ship.
As Bill watched one of the falls on one of the boats hung up and the stern fell loose, dropping the six men aboard in the ocean where they were sucked under the ships hull. Men slid down the cables as the other boats hit the water. The men aboard the next boat tried to release the cables as soon as the boat touched water. The bow cable came loose first, the stern cable yanked the boat around causing it to capsize.
The last two boats hit the water. The crews managed to unhook the stern cables first and play out the cable on the bows, starting the boats engines. Finally, they gave the engines enough throttle to ease up on the bow cables so they could be unhooked. The boats, engines screaming, sped away from the Splendor throwing up a large rooster tail.
"Cigarette boats! Gunny, take them out! I don't want those boats getting away." Bill shouted. "Helm, full to port. Engine room, give me all you've got. If we don't stop those boats now we'll never catch them."
The Mattie steadied up on her new course, slowly gaining speed. With a clear shot the chain gun opened up. Elliott thought Gunny had missed until all the expensive gasoline and pricey plastic in one of the boats, with an explosive whoosh, went up like a roman candle. The final boat must have been doing sixty-five mile per hour when it hit an underwater obstruction and started cart wheeling through the air. Bodies and boat parts flying in all directions.
Elliott turned back to the Splendor heading steadily toward the shore. It was a couple of minutes before the ship seemed to shudder and hesitate and then continue it's drive ashore. Tortured metal screamed and collapsed as the ship forced it way through the sand and rock before finally coming to rest.
Elliott stood on the bridge of the Splendor. He had read the reports from the boarding party but it hadn't really hit him until he came over himself. Seated in the captain's chair was an emaciated, bearded man, wearing a ragged captain's uniform of the Royal Caribbean Line. There was surprisingly little blood around the two bullet holes in his chest. A thin smile of triumph forever on his lips.
Elliott looked at the chain around his ankle, just long enough to reach the ships wheel and bridge wing. Nearby was the bucket the pirates had given him to urinate in. The few survivors from the crew said the captain had been chained on the bridge ever since the ship had been capture a year ago. There had been over twenty-five hundred passengers and crew aboard the Splendor when she was captured. Less than three hundred still survived.
"I though you must be blind not to see me overtaking you from the stern," Bill said. "But you saw me alright and used the opportunity to take your ship away from the pirates. The pirates didn't know how to handle this large a ship so they kept you alive, figuring they could keep you under control, that there was nothing you could do. But you made sure no one would ever use your ship in such a way again. Well, Captain, I'll see that they don't forget you anytime soon."
USCGC Matinicus (WPB-1315)
USCG Group Miami, FL
100 MacArthur Causeway
One week later
"Ron, good to see you before you and your people pull out," Bill said. "You said you were going to head north, maybe to Georgia or the Carolinas, so we might run into each other again soon." He grinned warily. "I've been ordered north to check out the ports at Savannah and Charleston. I'm also suppose to drop off the Marines at Kings Bay in Georgia so they can secure the base and any submarines and nukes until the navy can send a ship and personnel to check everything out."
"We'll be pulling out at dawn tomorrow morning," Ron answered. "About sixty of the slave survivors have asked if they can come with us. About half will be going to San Juan on the ship taking the loot the slavers had collected. The remainder want to stay here in Miami with the men you are leaving to mind those idiot scientists."
"Speaking of the loot I asked headquarters about a reward for your help in dealing with the slavers," Bill said. "I'm sorry but they said no. All the jewelry, coins and art work are to be returned to San Juan. The cutter Key Largo will be here tomorrow to escort the ...ummm... recovered property back to San Juan. They will also be bringing enough personnel to watch over the scientists here in Miami and to provide small units to be stationed in Savannah and Charleston."
"And now as the poet said," Rod smiled. "It's time to put away childish things and speak of other things. What did your headquarters say about me and my people?"
"I'll tell you the truth," Bill said. "I asked but never really got an answer. I get the impression everyone wishes you would disappear down a black hole somewhere. They like the fact you helped with the slavers but then they think South Africa and Rhodesia. I think they can't get past the old stereotypes. But it looks like they've left it up to me again."
"So what have you decided, Skipper?" Ron turned a blank face toward Elliott. "You going to load us up and send us back to Africa?"
"No! I would recommend you take your people to north Georgia." Bill said. "There's farm land around the Rabun Gap area, north of Atlanta. It'll probably be years before any one in authority gets back up in the area." He shoved over a stack of papers. "These are grants from me for each of your personnel, giving them two hundred acres of reclaimed land, in return for your assistance with the slavers. Four hundred for the families of the ones killed." He looked at Ron's astonished face. "They probably aren't worth the paper they're printed on but it's official Coast Guard letterhead and might save you from a lot of charges and accusations in the future."
"Thanks, Skipper, thanks a lot!" Ron held out his hand. "If you ever decide to give up the sea then come on up. We'll save some land for you." He hesitated for a moment. "Skipper why are you doing this? It would be a lot easier for you if you just sent us back to Africa."
"There were two things which decided me," Bill said. "One is the fact that your party is multiracial. But the main one is your livestock."
"Our livestock!" Ron exclaimed. "What does that have to do with it?"
"It shows you are here to stay and to make homes," Bill said. "Anyone can claim they want to make homes here but bringing your livestock shows you're serious. You aren't here for whatever you can loot from the museums, stores and warehouses. You're here to build homes."