Jorge reread the email and chortled in delight. One of his agents based in Nassau had gotten lucky. He'd discovered a disgruntled member of the Sea Song's crew. From this, Jorge knew all of his potential adversaries, but only the name 'Trenton' caused him to pause briefly.
Pavlov was not happy - not happy at ALL! He had been hired onto Sea Song's crew as a steward at the same time as Meesha. Both had attended the same maritime academy and were in the same class when the government collapsed and the school began charging enormous fees, which almost no one could afford. In school, Pavlov had secretly loved Meesha, but once aboard, Meesha discovered Gregor and then the old master discovered them both. Suddenly, with the old master's death, Meesha and Gregor were the co-owners of Sea Song and enjoyed the pleasures that unimaginable wealth could buy while Pavlov remained a lowly steward.
When Pavlov returned to Sea Song from shore leave he carried three things; a full bottle of very expensive Russian vodka, an email address and ten thousand dollars in American currency. His new part-time job was to listen to conversations and report anything concerning the ship's future schedule. A week later, while serving breakfast, Pavlov overheard Gregor and Meesha discussing a planned cruise to South America during the American holiday known as Thanksgiving. All the American boys would be aboard with their bodyguards but no parents. Another interesting fact he gleaned was that additional temporary armaments were being added to the yacht's superstructure.
"Is it rumored that someone will attempt to kidnap the American boys?" Pavlov asked Gregor in halting but very passable English.
After Gregor and Meesha took command, the whole crew was ordered to learn English - speak it, read it and write it - and until they did, all other languages were forbidden except in emergences. When no guests were aboard, the crew was one big happy very informal family, so Pavlov's question was not out of order. Pavlov even took some pride in laughingly being promoted to Chief Toilet Licker when Meesha became a co-owner.
"No my dear Pav," Gregor answered as he rubbed the steward's closest butt cheek affectionately. "We go to get very fucking valuable cargo. Others may want to fucking steal it from us, so we must be ready during our return."
Neither Gregor nor Meesha saw Pavlov turn rather pale under his dark golden tan as it suddenly dawned on him that this was exactly the information he was being paid to send. His other employers were interested in the valuable cargo. He imagined that there could be injuries or even deaths among his crewmates and friends, and even possibly some of the guests. The young Master was also at risk and he decided that he could not put anyone at greater risk by betraying the Sea Song. As soon as he was free, Pavlov rushed to his tiny cabin.
There were computer terminals in all the crew spaces. Everyone was encouraged to use them, both to surf the web and to send and receive emails from friends and relatives regularly. Meesha even saw to it that laptops (and a means of connecting them to the Internet) would be sent to crewmember's families if any were too poor to own one.
Pav sat at the desk in his cabin, thankful that his roommate was on duty. He had not previously used his email privileges only because he had no family or friends to write to. The crew of Sea Song had become his family, some became close friends and a very few, including his roommate, his lovers. He quickly logged on and hurriedly typed an email:
I WAS DRUNK AND ACTED FOOLISHLY WHEN I AGREED TO SEND INFORMATION YOU DESIRED. I CANNOT BE OF HELP TO YOU AND WILL RETURN THE FULL PAYMENT WHEN NEXT IN NASSAU.
He hurriedly sent the email and then deleted it from the sent file. He sighed and wondered at his total stupidity for even contemplating such treachery, and drunkenness was not an excuse. He had one more thing to do: he would confess to Gregor and Meesha and await his punishment.
While Gregor shouted at the top of his lungs for lunch to be delivered to the fly bridge, Meesha shook his head and once again demonstrated the use of the ship's intercom. Curiously, both requested lunch for three. As was their custom the co-captains ate their mid-day meal wherever they happened to be. Gregor's request was relayed almost as loudly verbally from crewman to crewman until it reached the galley. Pavlov shrugged and began loading a larger tray somewhat nervously wondering about his fate that would be pronounced in just a few minutes.
When his head cleared the deck as he climbed the circular stairway to the fly bridge he saw organized pandemonium. Workmen swarmed the area and the superstructure welding steel plates to the open railings. Gregor and Meesha sat like Indians on the padded storage box and he laughed at them for wearing hardhats while otherwise remaining naked. Gregor was reading when Pav arrived. Gregor grinned, patted the open space between he and Meesha. Meesha offered him a hardhat.
Pav suddenly snapped to attention after sitting the tray down near the co-captains so they could serve themselves. He blurted, "Steward Pavlov must report that he was disloyal to Sea Song and the entire crew, nearly putting everyone in extreme danger and even possible death. Steward Pavlov deserves whatever my co-captains decree as punishment before the entire crew so all are warned never to follow Pavlov's foolish path."
Meesha sighed in relief while Gregor nodded wearing a slight grin. Gregor again patted the seat indicating that Pav should join them.
Pav ignored the motion. He remained braced at rigid attention, even ignoring the sweat that had begun running into his eyes and down his body.
"SIT!" Gregor boomed with a raised eyebrow. Pav almost fell scrambling to obey the order.
Once seated Gregor plunked the yellow hardhat on the boy's head and gave it a resounding smack with the palm of his hand. Pav flinched. Gregor explained, "These are required by all near the work they do. No hats, no work, although if a plate fell on my head I think my head would emerge from my ass with the hat, but I think the hat would still be quite functional." he left Pav to consider the condition of Gregor's head. "Now tell us Pav, how were you a traitor to us and Sea Song."
Pav took a deep breath before answering, "I was on shore leave when we were last in Nassau for fuel. I was alone in our favorite pub feeling sorry for myself. I was drinking very good vodka," he glanced at Meesha, "the kind we could never afford as students." Meesha nodded. "My uniform announced that I was crew on Sea Song. A man approached and bought me another round before joining me without being invited. He was not my type," Pav shrugged, "but he was buying so I thought I would allow it to continue before I disappointed him by declining to go with him. He drew me out since he was a stranger and I would never see him again."
"Why were you feeling sorry for yourself? Meesha asked gently.
Pavlov's eyes lifted to touch Meesha's. "Because of you," he responded bluntly and continued. "I fell in love with you the moment I first saw you at school the first day, but then we were chosen by first classmen and I never saw you again except in classrooms where we were forbidden to speak. Then at the start of the second year our illustrious government took a shit and we all had to leave because no one could afford the tuition. I was with you in the long line applying for work as crew on a large yacht. I never imagined I would be hired but we three and a few others were. You two fell in love on the plane to Hamburg and I was again frustrated. We were both so inexperienced, we were made stewards, and you Captain, were made assistant helmsman."
"I am Gregor," Gregor interrupted. "We know our history, please get to the traitor part," he encouraged Pav.
"The man asked if I knew of Sea Song's future destinations. I answered no, but boasted that I could find out since I served you regularly and everyone talked of ship's business openly. The man then offered me a simple business opportunity. If I provided the ship's schedule I would be rewarded with American dollars. I saw no harm in doing this and I agreed. The man gave me a thick envelope, bought me a new bottle of our favorite vodka and gave me email address to use in contacting him. This morning, you told me of our trip to South America, the reason and the likely danger. I was horrified. When I could, I rushed off to send a message declining my further involvement and promised the return of the advance payment as soon as possible. Now I stand, rather sit before you awaiting my punishment for my traitorous actions."
Gregor grinned as if he hadn't understood Pav's confession. "Do you still have the vodka?"
"Yes Sir. Should I return that along with the advance payment as well? I have it hidden in the big freezer, way back where even the Chef's helpers are unlikely to find it. They are such pigs they would even drink it warm."
"Excellent!" Gregor shouted and then pointed. "You Pav, recover the bottle and meet us in our cabin". His grinning gaze shifted to Meesha. "And you my dear retired toilet licker bring our lunch and follow me!"
Pavlov was about to leave the fly bridge when he suddenly saw a workman using a torch to cut a hole on the starboard side on the control console. There were no controls or monitors there almost under where the Gatling gun emplacement was but all the wiring ran in that direction before plunging to the bridge below where they stood. "STOP YOU FOOL!" he shouted and ran unaware that all work stopped until the workmen could discover which of them was the fool. "Don't you realize that the wiring is under where you are cutting and why are you cutting a hole there anyway?"
The worker pointed to a bracket sitting on the deck. "That," he pointed, "goes here for a new search light." He stepped away from the open access panel and pointed. Pav ducked his head inside the small space and saw that the wires and cables were thickly bunched, tied with electrical ties and further wrapped with a thick insulating blanket near where sparks had been flying.
"Oh," Pav mumbled as he stood in front of the workman wearing an embarrassed blush, "good work, carry on." He executed a military about face and ran for the stairs unsmiling because he was still awaiting his sentence for treachery, but at least it seemed he was to have a drink or two before it happened.
"What just happened?" Meesha asked Gregor. "I did not know those cables were under there did you?"
Gregor grinned and retrieved the papers he was reading earlier, his brows lifted in surprise. "It would seem that our traitor has spent thousands of hours logged onto to the ship's computer but rarely on the Internet. Perhaps he has been studying the systems. Come, let us get to the cabin."
Pavlov arrived at the captain's cabin carrying a heavy silver ice bucket and matching stand. He walked with difficulty with the freezing ice and salt filled bucket held away from his body to avoid contact. Gregor pointed to a place near where he sat at a low table. He opened the bottle, filled three tall slim crystal glasses and directed Pav to take a chair with a frown and a glance before serving up glasses. They drank after a toast. Gregor looked kindly at Pavlov and began telling him of how they, with Evan, the soon to be young master, came to witness the execution of another steward at the hands of the old master himself. That steward was older and had been aboard several years. No crewmen at the time were allowed to know English because that was the language the Master and the powerful American Commissar Trenton used to discuss important business. It was discovered under harsh questioning that the steward could speak and understand their conversations very well and then went off to send detailed emails to his secret employer who was a serious and successful European rival.
Gregor and Meesha watched Pavlov pale under his rich tan, as he suddenly understood that email traffic was closely monitored and he was caught even before he confessed his duplicity just as the old master caught the three boys watching the execution. Gregor poured again and continued, "We were in a quandary because we witnessed that to which there could be no witnesses. We three decided to die like men and hopefully avoid being gutted and then have our bodies chopped into pieces before becoming food for the following sharks. We entered the Master's quarters and confessed. At first the Master was gruff and promised us quick headshots before he relented and congratulated us for our honesty even at the extreme expense of our lives. We realized suddenly that we had gained his complete trust. It was that night or early morning that he told us in Russian so that Evan didn't know that he was dying and required personal assistance. He chose Meesha to perform that roll while I was charged with the responsibility of teaching Evan French and Russian while he taught me English. I was also to act as his protector, to keep him safe at all and any cost. Now you, Pav have gained our trust above all other crewmen and need to be rewarded. What would you like to do with your promotion?"
"I am nearly speechless, do you mean this?"
"You are still alive are you not as well as half drunk." Meesha answered with a slight slurring of his speech.
Pav considered some moments before answering with hesitation, "I would love to learn the helm if possible."
"Fucking yes!" Gregor boomed. "Your first lesson shall be to take us to sea when we next depart this lagoon!"
"Thank you Captain!" Gregor frowned at Pav. Pav slipped down in his chair but a grin covered his handsome face. "Err, I meant Gregor. Tell me Gregor how is it that you are speaking such good English here, yet so bad when shouting orders?"
Meesha giggled while Gregor reddened and frowned. "I am responsible for that. I made him learn much as your namesake taught his dogs. I rang my bell after each successful lesson." Meesha explained while warding off most of Gregor's playful punches.
When Pav looked mystified, Gregor explained in simpler terms, "I could study each evening to my slave driving tutor's satisfaction or no nooky that night. Meesha hasn't my size or strength but he has the speed of lightening and the moves of an eel."
That frank admission brought peels of laughter from them all and harder when Meesha fell off his chair under the table. Pav was quick to pull him to his feet and was surprised when Meesha failed to let him go. Instead Meesha steered him to the bedroom while whispering loudly, "The big oaf will be asleep shortly while us eels will entangle each other on the bed."
Meesha was unaware that Gregor was following them closely "OAF?" he boomed. "I will show you both how an oaf performs at least twice and in turn I will make you each return the favor." He looked down on Pav wearing a lopsided grin. "But first, tell us what flavor you prefer, we have cherry, grape or orange?"
Gregor and Meesha were on the fly bridge when the giant plane came in low and circled the island to announce its arrival before it almost disappeared, turned and began to approach the runway. Cadets assigned the honor of driving scurried to their spit shined carts and began a race to the back of the island. Only a small portion of the mammoth construction where the plane would stop finally was built on the island, the rest jutted out into the water. From the air the island and the runway together looked vaguely like a hard cock with an irregularly shaped ball sack.
Gregor boomed happily, "BOSS, BOSS! De plane! De plane!" and began running with Meesha following, down through the yacht to be on the boat deck to greet the first arrivals while the entire crew lined all available rail space to cheer the first somewhat overloaded tender.
Evan's big jet barely rolled to a stop on the new Dagger Cay runway before the forward hatch opened as the steps were driven up just in time to belch eager boys pushing and shoving each other to be one of the first off the plane. Marc and Alex won the race only because they ignored the fasten seatbelt signs, stood at the hatch and simply held on while hoping no one missed their presence until it no longer mattered. They ran to the first of a long line of four passenger carts driven by proud naked cadets and then stood by the cart berating their friends and guards as slow pokes and assholes. Marc wanted nothing more than to board the Sea Song, race upward through the giant yacht straight to the crow's nest where he would find his assigned firing position behind one of the deadly mini-guns. He almost came in his shorts while he watched the video Evan recorded from The Military Channel. Almost from the moment they met, Alex and Marc were joined at the hip, but only if they were wearing clothing. At other times they were joined elsewhere until both were too exhausted to do more than simply sleep in each other's arms.
Alex, for his part was once again suffering from a renewed bout of culture shock and he wanted to stop first at Doug's home that was once a hotel. Then he wished they could just slow down to better ogle the handsome nude cadets who waved excitedly as they raced by heading toward the dock, the waiting tenders and ultimately the breathtakingly beautiful yacht, the Sea Song.
The co-captains greeted Marc and Alex with bear hugs despite the fact that they didn't know Alex. Gregor held him out at arm's length for a mutual once over and nodded their approval of Marc's choice of lover. "He looks good!" Meesha told Marc.
"Good? He's great. Just wait until you guys see him in action," Marc answered as he tried to break Meesha's hold.
"Just watch?" Gregor asked with a frown.
Marc giggled. "Fuck no," he decided to speak Gregor's language, "he's fucking great! He feels even better than he looks. Now let us fucking go or we'll have to break something."
Gregor howled at Marc's threat, "We fucking will but first a welcome peck?" He didn't wait for permission, but clamped his mouth over Alex's and sent his tongue on a tour of inspection.
"Holy shit!" Alex said breathlessly after the passionate kiss and his feet returned to the deck. He looked up at Gregor with a shy grin, "You guys must be the Russian bears."
"Fuck yes! We will meet later to explore further, yes?"
"Count on it!" Alex answered over his shoulder as he raced out of reach to catch up to Marc or risk getting lost.
Medi and Sean arrived by air after Chad and Rick tossed them to the deck. Meesha and Gregor scooped them up. "Ah, our favorite crown price and his drug lord friend! Welcome little ones!"
After welcoming kisses, Medi pushed away from Gregor. He giggled, "Favorite? Just how many of us do you know?"
Before Gregor could answer, Sean interrupted, "Will you stop calling me a drug lord? I've told you and told you we make PHARMACUTICALS!" he pointed back at JC. "He's the drug lord." When Sean saw JC's face color and drop he amended quickly, "Or I mean he was. Sorry JC."
Gregor looked at both youngsters and grinned. "You two may not board. You are not dressed properly! Clothings are not allowed!" Both boys were still wearing shorts. Both struggled to unbutton and unzip, but it was too late. Both felt themselves soaring through the air so far out that they had time to turn the toss into shallow dives as they entered the water. That turned the welcome into a free-for-all after Gregor shouted for reinforcements to repel boarders and the ten closest crew arrived to help. Medi and Sean swam back to the fun quickly and managed to be repelled twice more.
"Does your father ever rough house with you like this?" Sean asked Medi as they bobbed out of range while Evan got tossed and then Hans and Herman grabbed Gregor and Meesha and jumped with them and the crewmen followed signaling the end of the impromptu fun.
"No, he hasn't yet but he will when we visit for the holiday. I was raised as he was. I can think of no one except my uncle Huss who would dare, and not even him before we got to America, but once we arrive we'll arrange for things to change."
"You know what we should also do?" Sean asked.
"We should go to New York City on a holiday."
"When would we do this, during spring break?"
Sean grinned. "Nope, we should cut classes for a week and just go. We could take Sam and Jack and kidnap Chad and Rick so we'd be safe, plus the trip would be unplanned officially so no one would be waiting to snatch our asses."
"Take us where?" Sam asked after surfacing with his brother behind their two charges.
Medi turned, giggled and answered, "We are cutting classes in a couple of weeks and going on holiday in New York City and you'll be going along to protect us."
"Smashing idea," Jack said as sarcastically as possible. "You'll, no, we'll be caught straight away. You two will have your asses kicked, figuratively of course, while Sam and I will be shipped home in disgrace, and after your father gets his hands on us, we'll be posted as eunuchs guarding his harem."
"Come on Jack old chap, I'll protect you guys," Medi begged.
Jack and Sam had been warned that there could be some type of rebellious behavior and if it occurred, to let it happen, but it was essential to warn Bucky before it happened if there was time. He left both boys hanging on his agreement for a minute before he nodded. Both young guards found themselves sinking with Sean and Medi's lips attached to theirs.
At dinner that evening, a detailed briefing of the mission began. Hans, Herman and JC left nothing out, not even the fact that Bucky approved the plan and even was providing two fully armed Black Hawk choppers borrowed from Evan as back up in the event that JC's arch enemy, Jorge (the fat man hiding in Cuba) was able to muster a superior force in a timely manner and steal JC's massive inheritance.
By the time Jorge arrived safe in Cuba, he had already lost five billion dollars in cash. Then he discovered that JC's business, which he had bought and paid cash for, the ultramodern production facility and JC's more efficient distribution channels, had all been destroyed. To add insult to injury, most of Jorge's small production plants, which he thought were well hidden in the jungles, had also been raided and burned. Jorge knew JC was responsible for those setbacks as well, because JC used his infernal new stealth helicopter to track them down by following pack trains of supplies in and loads of the precious white power out to begin its journey to North America and Europe.
It was obvious that not everyone was happy with their assigned tasks during the cruise and at first they all besieged JC. The problem was that everyone wanted to fire a weapon, preferably one of the mini-guns. He referred all questions to Hans and Herman, all except Harmon with Huss and Spencer and Tommy. The four had been assigned to expedite the movement of pallets from the secret vault. When they were alone, he explained, "There are some sacks of colored gravel I wish you would look at to see if the gravel has any value. Since the sacks are stored in the strong room I assume that they are of some value."
"Gravel?" Spencer asked with perked ears. Harm was interested as well but yielded to his brother's expertise in recognizing and appraising gems. "What color are they and are any shaped like crystals with flat sides and maybe some sharp edges?"
JC raised his eyebrows. "To the first question, most are greenish, others have a red tint and still others are without much color. Some appear to be growing from a small plain stone or rock." He dismissed Spencer's excitement and turned to Harm. "I know of your interest in antiquities and there are some things I believe of value to collectors. My father had an established reputation of always treating the Indians fairly in trading goods for dollars and word of his willingness to buy spread throughout the countries of South and Central America. Both locals and strangely dressed natives appeared frequently with figurines, bowls, pots and things. Some are made of gold. Oh, there are also considerable amounts of jewelry. My father paid whatever the owner asked for each item plus a generous bonus since it was obvious that these artifacts came from long lost ruins or burial sites and would be extremely valuable yet very portable."
By then Harman was panting, "I hate to ask this but isn't it illegal in most countries to plunder ruins and burial sites?"
JC grinned and nodded. "Indeed it is, however not all such sites are known and who do you think guards those that are?" JC asked rhetorically. He continued, "I wouldn't be surprised if the guards traded their weapons for shovels late at night. After all, those buried are actually the guard's ancestors, and after all this time, the dead surely left behind those trinkets not needed to meet their Gods, so future generations are entitled to them to benefit their families in the here and now."
"Do you have a loop (jeweler's magnifier) with you?" Spencer asked his brother hopefully.
Harm rolled his eyes. "Sure, I always keep one stuffed up my ass somewhere," he answered sarcastically.
This initiated a rapid silent laughing conversation between Huss and Tommy. Huss took Harm's hand and Tommy took Spencer's. "Come on, we're going to search Harman for his loop," Huss explained with a laugh as he and Tommy towed the brothers, their respective lovers toward the dining salon doors.
Later, Pav ran through the yacht searching for Gregor and Meesha. He found them in Evan's suite, on the bed with Doug, Buck, Evan and Billy. "Gregor! Meesha!" he interrupted the three busy couples without hesitation.
Gregor was about to pull the boy down on the bed to join them until he saw the expression on Pav's face. "What has happened?" he asked.
"This," Pav answered thrusting a piece of paper under Gregor's nose.
Gregor read the printed email aloud:
IT IS OBVIOUS THAT YOU HAVE THE INFORMATION I REQUIRE. SEND IT NOW OR ANOTHER ON BOARD WILL EXTRACT IT FROM YOU AND YOU WILL HAVE NO FURTHER NEED OF MONEY OR VODKA!
Meesha kindly explained the situation to the others, stating only that Pavlov had been approached while on leave in Nassau and agreed to provide Sea Song's schedule, but then promptly reported to the co-captains. "We thought the matter concluded, but it now appears we have a real threat onboard. The question now is how to flush him out if he exists."
Evan shrugged. "We have to assume he does. I would have backup if I wanted something from someone I couldn't reach directly."
Gregor agreed, "Yes, I would too. It must be someone well removed from us or Pav would not be needed. The spy must not communicate with the boss man or he uses code since the monitoring software hasn't yet announced an email."
"I don't think there's a code," Meesha butted in. "if there was, it would have been given to Pav and incoming emails would be coded as well."
Pav took a deep breath before suggesting, "I will reply that I think the threat is false, which will force the boss to act quickly since he has no idea of our schedule. We could depart anytime. He will send instructions for my demise and the spy could be caught in the attempt."
Everyone but Evan agreed. "I think that you should cave in to the threat and report our departure date, just a few days later than planned. You're dead in any event; no one trusts a turncoat, a double agent, and when you have outlived your usefulness." he held his fists together and made a cracking sound as he bent them down to conclude his sentence. "If there is someone hidden on board he'll be ordered to off you as soon as your information is received so you can't have a change of heart and tell what you did, at least that's what I'd do."
"If Evan's right then the email ordering you killed will be in the clear too." Buck offered.
"Come on," Evan said grabbing Pav's hand and tugging him toward the salon and his computer station. He pushed Pav into the chair, then reached over and brought up Outlook Express. "Send it from here," he instructed.
Pav opened his own account first, entered an address and typed a short note:
I HAVE NO WISH TO DIE, BUT THIS IS THE END. CONTACT ME AGAIN AND I WILL TELL OF WHAT I HAVE DONE. WE LEAVE ON THE AMERICAN THANKSGIVING DAY, I THINK HEADING SOUTH PERHAPS TO A COUNTRY ON THE COAST OF SOUTH AMERICA. OUR DESTINATION CANNOT BE CONFIRMED.
After the message was sent Evan eased Pav out of his chair, sat down and brought up snoopy. Pav blinked in surprise as a view of well-lighted Sea Song from overhead appeared on the big screen. Evan zoomed down quickly before switching to infrared to sink slowly by deck. He glanced up to see Pav's expression was one of wonder. He zoomed in closer to a group of bright green bodies clustered together. "Wave your arms, Pav." Pav did as the Master ordered. When the boy looked at the screen again, one of the group in green waved back.
"That is me? This is most wondrous!" he exclaimed.
Evan dropped snoopy to the crew deck and the green figures changed to individuals in their bunks sleeping alone or in their bunks but not sleeping and not alone. Pav turned red when he realized what he was watching. "Switch to email monitoring, Master," Gregor suggested.
Evan shrugged. "Sorry, I don't know how. We should find Billie. Does anyone know where he is?"
Gregor walked to the door, opened it and shouted, "BILLIEEEE!" Meesha rolled his eyes. Shortly and with much grumbling, Billie appeared with Dieter, Tommy, Spencer, Harmon and Huss.
Billie sidled up to Gregor. "WHAT!" he screamed in the Captain's ear. He grinned when Gregor flinched. The other five in the group also grinned their satisfaction.
"We need to monitor the crew's incoming email. We think we have a plant onboard and we need to find him." Evan explained and yielded his chair to Billie. Billie moved snoopy to a smaller screen after reviewing the small amount of action in the crew quarters.
"Well, do we know anything about the chap?" Billie asked. Evan explained that he was most likely relatively new, since August or September, since JC joined the Family. He probably doesn't receive or send email very often if at all but does log on regularly to see if he has mail." As Evan listed what little they surmised, Billie's fingers flew. He paused briefly and glanced up at Pav. "Aren't you Pavlov, a very competent Steward? I believe I've enjoyed your service at table a number of times."
Gregor answered for Pav, "He was, now he learns the helm. He brought this problem to our attention."
"I see," Billie said not wishing to question further. If Gregor and Meesha were satisfied, he was. He highlighted another name, "Well then this is the only other chap who seems to meet your criteria. He works in the engine room. He's never sent an email but it seems he checks his mail after each shift. Let's check his schedule," he mumbled. "Ah, if he's true to form, he gets off watch at midnight. Shall I check his inbox now?" Everyone rolled his eyes at the absurdity of the question. They all knew Billie was a dedicated snoop. Tommy, the closest, punched his father's shoulder. Billie rubbed his shoulder overly dramatically. "Ouch! Now I've got a bruise, all you had to do was nod."
The big screen blanked and then flashed the words; 'You have mail.' Billie didn't ask as he opened the message. It read:
YOUR TARGET IS THE STEWARD PAVLOV. MAKE IT AN ACCIDENT AFTER YOU PUT TO SEA NOVEMBER 27.
When the assassin read the message in Spanish after his watch ended at midnight, he was ecstatic. Finally he had something to do. He knew most of the crew by sight having spent a goodly portion of time during his off watches on the fore deck.
After the order came down to learn English the crew quickly formed study groups and sat on the deck in small circles to laboriously convert Russian, French or German words into English. The boy, Pavlov was in the man's group by accident and was frequently summoned to the galley to serve officers or guests even when off duty. The assassin was fluent in French and Spanish but supposedly spoke no English and had difficulty in not correcting the others in pronouncing English words.
The man wondered briefly why or how Pavlov became his first target and then considered why he hadn't been told when he should disable the giant yacht. He knew he had been told not to communicate with his employer under any circumstances but he couldn't resist. He'd planted the small explosive incendiary device under an engine room console soon after he came on board, which would shut down the engines with the flip of a switch manually, or automatically if one of a myriad of sensors detected the slightest problem. Impulsively, he sent off his query.
The whole gang had assembled in front of Evan's big screen by the time the question was typed. Billie acted quickly while everyone's jaw dropped in surprise. The assassin and now saboteur would never know that his message had been diverted to the trash bin. After heated debate, it was decided (actually Hans and Herman decided) to simply watch the assassin's every move in the hope that he would reveal where the assumed bomb was hidden.
The assassin also didn't know that Sea Song was scheduled to put to sea at eight o'clock the next morning. The new weapons had to be checked and the operators, while excellent marksmen, needed to become familiar with their new amazing weapons and target practice was certainly in order.
Sea Song's engines rumbled to life at seven-thirty the next morning. The assassin sat up in his bunk instantly. He then flopped back down assuming that something was being tested that required the engines. He was almost asleep again when the sound changed as the engines were engaged at dead slow. He looked out his large rectangular port to see his view of the pinchers was changing as the yacht crept forward. He realized suddenly that the movement was to slacken the mooring cable until it could be dropped and the ship would be free. He also realized that they were putting out to sea that morning, not in four days, the twenty-seventh.
He jumped out of bed to sit in front of his monitor. He saw immediately that he had not yet received an email in answer to his early morning inquiry but that was unimportant just then. He typed:
WE ARE PUTTING TO SEA NOW!!! PLEASE ADVISE!!!
Everyone loved to watch Sea Song's dramatic arrivals and departures and the control room crew was no exception. The one seaman with no duties other than to monitor the traffic on one email account briefly joined his fellows at the rail to watch as the yacht was guided through the pinchers at breakneck speed while executing incredible and very exact course changes to line them up at the small opening in the unseen reef. His first inkling that he had been remiss was when a pinging sound penetrated everyone's laughter and cheering through the open hatch to the outside deck. He ran back in to his post to see a message had been sent successfully. The email account had to be monitored because the software was passive, going active only when there was unusual use or if certain key words or phrases were used.
The boy didn't even think of the consequences to himself or the Sea Song before hurriedly reporting his lapse to Billie via a direct radio link. Billie was standing on the fly bridge at the moment and slapped his ear bud in momentary shock because the sent message changed everything.
Gregor and Meesha stood closely to Pavlov's shoulders as Pav conned the ship through the pinchers for the first time. While the boy had never touched the wheel before, he had watched Gregor or Meesha repeatedly plus he studied and memorized every ship's log entry. The computer recorded every course heading, course speed and length of time on each course during every cruise from engine start time through shut down at their destination. This log wasn't printed but the information was stored in memory against future need for some reason.
Pav, Meesha, Gregor and all the other boys selected to attend the elite Russian marine academy were themselves elite because they were destined to captain the country's newest and finest freighters and tankers. Pav made full use of his photographic memory during his first trip through the pinchers and he appeared to be reckless in the extreme but he laughed with Gregor and Meesha all the way through the small cut in the reef. All three boys also wore their erections proudly.
The three lost their smiles after Billie advised them of the newly sent email. "Are we ready? Are all supplies on board?" Gregor asked Meesha. When Meesha nodded, Gregor climbed to the padded box. "An email has been sent announcing our departure as today so we must assume those wishing to stop us will speed their departure as well," he shouted. He turned to look down on Pav and ordered loudly, "Set course due south after we reach the shipping lanes. Go to forty-five knots now!" Sea Song's stern sank slightly as he bit into the water before the twin rooster tails blossomed. The ship heeled as Pav turned east heading toward the shipping lanes.
Billie managed to catch up to Meesha and Gregor before they got to the control room door. "Wait guys, you both look upset. I can explain, at least I think I can."
Meesha grinned inwardly but frowned. "So explain why the one responsible should not be beached if not worse. I am responsible for the smooth running of the control room, yet it is never smooth. I keep finding new inexperienced faces while the experienced disappear with disturbing regularity. Explain that!" Meesha demanded.
Billie had never seen Meesha so upset. He knew he would have to tread lightly since his lover Dieter, was involved. "Well you see Dieter needs all the experienced computer people he can find for more positions than he can fill from outside sources for Falconburg Limited. I'm rather afraid that he's discovered a small but steady source of Geeks in your control room. The practice is called headhunting.
"HEADHUNTING!" Meesha roared. "You mean he steals Sea Song's Geeks after they become competent after much patient training in learning both Falconburg's and our ways here? Where is Dieter? I will end his headhunting if I have to drag him before the Master who will assuredly hand him over to Hans and Herman who will explain the error of his ways!"
Billie scurried off to locate and warn Dieter that Meesha was out for blood and why. Just then two seamen wearing holstered side arms and nothing else except boat shoes made the mistake of departing the bridge. All the boys and all the crew had to be given some position during the mission so they felt they were contributing to its success. The result was that when and if an 'action station' was screamed, there were suddenly armed guards everywhere where none were actually needed and leftovers lined every rail fully armed. The two sailors had been assigned to guard the bridge to repel boarders if any got that far, but since the live fire exercise had been cancelled, they were off to a second breakfast. "You two," Meesha snapped.
The two hapless sailors came to attention. "Sir, yes Sir!" both responded in unison.
"Do you know Dieter Taylor who runs the Master's onshore business enterprises?"
"Sir, yes Sir!"
"Good! Find him instantly and drag him to the Master's quarters. If he resists, well, he need not be conscious for the journey."
Gregor was horrified at seeing and hearing Meesha's actions. "What are you doing love?" he asked. "You are badly over-reacting."
Meesha grinned after looking about to be sure no one was around as they headed down to Evan's quarters. "I am acting very mad. I am very good, yes? Dieter will be scared very white and no longer steal our Geeks when I am finished." When he saw Gregor begin to giggle, Meesha stopped him with a hard punch to a kidney. "Do not laugh and give me away or you will have no nooky tonight," he warned.
Gregor really laughed at that warning after stepping out of range of Meesha's fist. "Sea Song is full of willing nooky. I am unafraid of you." He boasted as they approached the guarded doors into Evan's suite.
Meesha resumed his performance although it was difficult to maintain a straight face, "You two!" he snapped at the two guards and then asked sweetly, "If you are guarding the Master, then why are we not properly challenged? We could be assassins in disguise!"
These two guards moved to block the doors with their bodies. One was totally intimidated but the other caught Gregor's wink and slight smile. He looked the two captains up and down. There was very little to see beyond two stunning darkly tanned bodies. Everyone wore their com units on chains around their necks as a matter of habit since belts were non-existent and useless except when they carried side arms. Meesha's was standard issue while Gregor wore two belts, holsters and weapons, all unique, gifts from Meesha last Christmas after the two watched a movie and an American General Patton wore similar weapons. The belts and holsters were hand-tooled leather and the weapons were matching forty-four caliber magnum revolvers, nickel-plated with ivory grips.
American videos were a favorite pass-time. The entire crew was enamored with Clint Eastwood and the many spaghetti westerns he starred in early in his career along with the equally popular 'Dirty Harry' series and frequently small groups would meet spontaneously, frown and then draw down on each other, fortunately using index fingers. Some would drop to the deck mortally wounded from both sides while there was always someone crawling to a dropped imaginary weapon. Those unfortunates found index fingers nearly touching their eyeballs with the victors chanting; "Go ahead, make my day motherfucker!"
The two guarding Evan's door were lovers and also intimates of Hans and Herman. Both were rather petite but extremely well muscled. As a mark of the esteem the Dobermans held the two late teens in, both were presented with the heavy fifty-caliber weapon that both Hans and Herman most favored. While both became moderately proficient in their use, both also packed thirty-two caliber Berettas in the small of their backs. Both were deadly experts with the lighter weapons, so the cannons slung low on their hips were there for show and intimidation.
"HALT! Who goes there? Identify yourselves or die like dogs!" the brazen redhead challenged and actually drew his heavy weapon but didn't raise it. He was pleased that he had watched so many DVD's to learn English and remembered so many quotes. His partner followed suit although with a sweat slicked hand. Gregor stepped away from Meesha and raised his spread hands to within reach of his prized revolvers. "Go ahead! Make my day motherfucker," the guard added calmly wearing a grin.
Meesha looked from Gregor to the guard and back again. Both stared with deadly intent. Both smiled. "Wait I was joking. Just let us pass." Meesha almost begged trying to diffuse the situation.
The guard raised his free hand with his palm out. "Not so fast 'pardner'. Your bodies could be covered with makeup so they resemble our illustrious captains, but there is a way to prove yourselves."
"How?" Gregor asked. He thought he knew since the guard's eyes had dropped and alternated between his and Meesha's cock.
Gregor was right. "You both must become erect," he said simply. "If you are imposters we will know since no makeup can stretch so far to match our captain's magnificence."
Gregor began to laugh at the size of the little brown noser's balls but was interrupted by Evan who pulled open the door. "What are you two fuck offs doing out here? Come on in, shit is happening in Cuba." Evan was about to close the door when he noticed his two guards in the process of holstering their almost useless cannons. "You two come on in as well. You can find out what's happening and relay it accurately to the rest of the crew so everyone knows what's going on." He put emphasis on 'accurately' so they knew to pay attention.
Almost the whole Family was in Evan's suite. The salon had been rearranged into some semblance of an amphitheater, with sofas and chairs closest to the giant screen and those without seats sat on the deck or stood arranged haphazardly behind the seats. John sat in Evan's chair guiding snoopy while JC leaned next to him so they touched cheeks while Evan resumed his position on John's other side. The two over-armed little guards sank to their knees near Evan. Both were enthralled by their close proximity to the Master and the overhead view of a harbor on the giant screen. "What do we look at?" the shy guard asked no one in particular.
"That's a real time view of a small deep water harbor on Cuba's north shore." Buck answered since they crowded him. The young guards nearly tipped over sideways when they looked over to see Buck. Like the cadets on shore, the crew also knew he was the revered son of the American God Father and the crew like the cadets, ranked him second in status only to the Master himself.
Buck grinned at their reaction and tried to calm them. "Relax, I don't bite."
"Says you," a voice said with a giggle from behind the two dazed guards while hands were placed on their upper arms to force them back upright. The boys looked back to see that Doug knelt behind them and actually was touching them.
Buck countered, "If I bit you, you deserved it."
John interrupted the beginning of a verbal joust as he switched to infrared and the screen turned green but more intense at the sterns of three of the four craft docked at a long pier. The three appeared to be identical, probably used for shore patrols; they were lightly armed with heavy machine guns mounted fore and aft. JC answered the obvious question after Medi asked. "They are so lightly armed because they are only intended to keep people from immigrating to America. Rafts made of inner tubes or old oil drums present no real challenges. I can't think of a reason anyone would sneak into that sorry country unless they were the occasional insane assassin."
John switched back to the real time view to watch the activity on the pier and patrol boats. He increased magnification until they could see that no one was wearing a uniform, just brightly colored shirts and shorts. Of course they wouldn't, this wasn't an official government action. They counted seventy-five armed men strolling from the warehouse at the foot of the pier. They looked like tourists about to embark on a day cruise, except for the weapons each carried. The men split into three groups and began to board the boats while crewmen onboard began to dismount the machine guns. They placed these on the decks below the heavy mounts and went to perform other tasks.
Gregor giggled in amazement and delight. "They do not lash the weapons down!" Anyone who had ever been on a boat of any size understood that leaving anything on deck unsecured was committing a cardinal sin and was tempting Neptune to snatch the article into the depths with the flick of an errant wave.
Suddenly, there was a belch of black smoke from the stack of the much larger fourth vessel. It too began warming its engines. Gregor's giggles died in his throat. JC leaned closer to the screen, "That is a destroyer!" he declared. He sighed in resignation and mumbled, "This mission is cancelled. Sea Song cannot hope to win against a warship."
Gregor's eyes widened. He waded through the sitting boys and pulled Meesha along in his wake. "That is very ugly. It is Russian, is it not?" he asked Meesha.
"Yes!" Meesha chortled. "It is, I thought all had been sent to be scrap long ago." He explained further after seeing frowns around the room. "This class was built to escort convoys during the second war. They were built very fast and cheap. They had huge magazines for storing depth charges and ammunition for the eight four-inch guns on board. I think they were capable of twenty-eight knots, which is not fast now but was then. Convoys averaged only eight knots and submarines, submerged, not much faster. That thing must have been given as a gift to Cuba after the withdrawal. That would have been cheaper than sail it home to be junked."
"Does it look like it's been upgraded, maybe for missiles?" Evan asked, already wondering if an anti-missile, missile system could be brought from Europe in time to be of use.
"Most doubtful, I think one or more turrets would have been removed for silos, and look at the mast. There have been no modern electronics added," Gregor answered as a smile returned to his face. "What of an armored hull?" he asked Meesha.
Meesha shook his head, "Doubtful, but there is no way of knowing without research."
Hans and Herman moved forward until they blocked most of the screen from view. They ended mild complaints from the boys with raised eyebrows while glancing back. "No armor," Herman stated definitively. "We have seen these before in the Mediterranean. They were used briefly to patrol one country's claim of two-hundred mile territorial limit." He grinned. "We found they break down often. Very old engines." He looked angelic and innocent at the same time. "One sank after engine room explosion and another was towed to port, disabled. The rest were withdrawn, never to be seen again."
Just then someone began pounding on the door into the suite while on the screen, a limo drove out on the pier. Evan glanced at the door monitor, grinned and released the electric lock before returning his attention back to the screen and the limo. "Would you two get out of the fucking way?" Doug asked Hans and Herman. Both looked his way with matching frowns. "Please?" he squeaked. The Doberman's smiled and sank to their knees, by Doug and behind their two protégées further compressing the group kneeling closest to the screen.
Herman pointed up to a small screen where there was a photograph of the assassin. He pointed as he leaned between the two teens. He whispered, "That scum betrayed us all. He should be in his cabin awaiting an email. Find him, bind him and put him in the big freezer. Broken bones and some blood are allowed but we have questions for him about a bomb. Take no chances, as we do not know his fighting skills. Is this understood?" Both boys stood and nodded and turned to leave wearing grim, determined faces. "Do you wish assistance?" Herman asked.
The quiet one answered with German steel in his voice, "We get laughed at because of our size. After this, there will be no more laughter on Sea Song. We do not need help."
"What the fuck is going on?" Marc demanded as he rushed through the door with Alex at his heels along with the two guards holding Dieter. Billie hovered behind the trio still managing to shed a tear now and then. Marc continued, "Why are we going so fast and what happened to our practice fire drill and why are all you motherfuckers in here?" When he was ignored, he grabbed Alex' hand and dragged him to where his brother Paul and his lover Morgan were ensconced comfortably on a sofa. He jumped into his brother's lap and pushed Alex into Morgan's.
"Hey bro, what the fuck is happening? We were supposed to have target practice and all of a sudden we're going like to somewhere important." Marc asked.
"Didn't you hear Gregor shouting that we had to leave in a hurry because we have a spy on board and he ratted us out?" Paul looked quizzical at his younger brother's dumbfounded expression then grinned, as both Marc and Alex turned red. He answered his own question, "You guys were fucking around up there weren't you?"
"Well Gregor's always shouting his ass off. While I was waiting I got nervous about firing that beautiful fucker and, well, Alex was busy calming me down. We heard Gregor hollering something but by the time I was all calm and we looked over the rail there was no one there so we headed down here." Marc looked up at the screen that held everyone's interest. His mouth dropped open. "Is that a destroyer? It looks like a destroyer. Is that motherfucker coming after us? Holy shit! Say who's the fat slug fucker oozing out of the limo? He better keep his ass dead center in the bottom of that bad boy or it'll capsize surer than shit." He giggled at his cleverness. "Come to think about it, it would be better for us if no one told him." Movement close to the door diverted Marc's attention. He watched two little dudes stand up in front of Hans and Herman, whisper a few words and then slip out wearing grim expressions. Without saying a word to anyone for a change, he pulled Alex to his feet and towed him to the suite's back door.
"Where are we going now?" Alex asked as they entered the landing of a stairwell and immediately exited through another door to pop out in the wide hallway in time to see the two little sailors board the elevator.
"Those two are on a mission for the Doberman's. I saw them whispering together and from their faces someone is going to be hurting real soon. Come on, let's follow them," Marc answered while watching the lights over the elevator door blink down and stop at the boat deck or crew quarters depending on which way they went.
The two went toward the crew quarters after they heard a cut off scream and several grunts from that direction. Marc and Alex drew their side arms before approaching a door that was ajar. Inside they found the two crewmen searching through drawers built into the hanging locker with their backs to the bunks on the opposite wall. A man was half lying on the bottom bunk with a very bloody face and apparently unconscious.
Marc did a double take at the man. The second time to see an undamaged eye open, see his captor's backs were turned and quickly reach up toward the bottom of the upper bunk. Without thinking, Marc took two giant steps forward and swung his weapon at the man's arm. The man screamed again. The crewmen turned and drew their two fifty caliber cannons and quickly leveled them at Marc and Alex.
"Whoa, slow down cowboys," Alex shouted as he raised his arms, "we're on your side," he added quickly.
The crewmen recognized Marc. He became famous among the crew after exploding a number of floating footballs with a rifle he'd never fired before back when the old Master still lived, although only one of the crewman had witnessed the event all knew the story that was by then richly embellished in retellings.
"Why are you here?" one asked as both holstered their heavy weapons. His accent was clearly German.
They second joined the first. "Yea, why'd you follow us? Didn't the big guys trust us to do what they told us?"
"You're an American?" Marc asked.
"Yea, so what's it to you?" the boy shot back defensively.
"Nothing, except I didn't know that there was any American crew on board."
"There's only me," he answered with a grin. He explained without prompting after a glance at his partner. "I was on vacation in the Bahamas actually on a gay cruise. We were in Nassau over night and I went out and found a gay bar. This good-looking Brit bought me a drink or four and then asked me to look at his etchings. I was hot to trot by then. We went out to the street and I followed him into an alley where he said his car was parked. The next thing I remember, I was crawling along the sidewalk in front of the joint. Henry found me about then and I passed out. I came back to life two days later and thought I was back on the cruise ship. I was on a ship, but it was this one. Henry was already a friend of Herman's and another guy was a friend of Hans', now I am and we're a team. By the way, my names' Barry and this is Henry." Barry and Henry shook hands with Marc while Alex looked over the unconscious dude on the bed.
"Hey Marc, I think you broke this guy's arm," Alex conjectured with a grin since the man's forearm was bent backward halfway to his elbow. He grabbed the guy's wrist and straightened the arm. The man screamed again and again became unconscious. "Yup, it's broken," he concluded.
Marc frowned and bent over to do his own evaluation. He worked the forearm back and forth several times. The man only moaned through his tears. "You're right, I did break it unless he always had two elbows." He looked up at the underside of the top bunk. "I wonder what was so important that he risked a broken arm to get?" he asked himself. He grinned in pleasure, "Ah ha! I just bet this is a remote that works something. Is this what you guys were looking for?"
The computer chimed to announce an email had arrived at that point. The four good guys crowded the screen. Barry opened the message.
DO NOTHING UNTIL AFTER A LARGE CARGO IS LOADED AND THE SHIP RETURNS TO SEA. YOU WILL BE INSTRUCTED THEN WHEN TO DETONATE THE DEVICE.
Alex frowned at the saboteur. "You motherfucker! You were going to sink us?" He lifted his foot and brought it down squarely on the broken arm. The man screamed again and rolled off the bed to the deck. Unfortunately he landed on his badly injured arm, which forced another scream of pain.
"Chill out Alex," Marc cautioned, "he wasn't going to sink us. The bomb is supposed to disable us. Remember they want the cargo." He looked at Henry and Barry. "So what do we do with him now?" Barry explained that he was to be put in the freezer until Hans and Herman could question him. "Why can't we question him? That would save time."
Henry nodded. "We weren't told to," he said regretfully.
"Did they say you couldn't?" Alex asked with a huge grin, which Marc joined, both looked hopeful.
Barry convinced Henry with a giggle and tug on his arm. "Come on Henry, we can still put him in the freezer later."
"Yea," Marc agreed. "We'll put him in the freezer after we look at the big empty boat deck. We could use the chain hoist to hold him upright. I know I'm not into beating a guy while he's laying down." His attempt to look angelic dissolved into giggles, malicious giggles.
Half an hour later, the big yacht's engines slowed to idle. The four boys listened at the stern for the following wake to slap the Sea Song's ass before they could open the wide stern door. The door was halfway down before they heard the dogs on the forward hatch being opened. Hans and Herman burst through expecting the worst since the two boys hadn't reported the success of their mission or anything else.
The sight that greeted the Doberman's brought smiles to their faces as they walked up to Henry, Barry, Marc and Alex who were lined up in front of the assassin. He dangled from the chain hoist four feet above their heads swinging gently with the rocking ship. The men saw that the man had been handcuffed with his hands behind his back and then the boys hooked the handcuffs over the big hook dangling from the hoist. Both shoulders would have been dislocated as soon as his feet left the deck and the pain would have been unbearable
"We got him," Barry said quickly. He turned and pointed. "See?" he asked as if the man was invisible.
Hans and Herman both grinned and nodded. "What is that small box taped to his chest?" Herman asked.
Henry answered proudly. "That is the explosive device we found in the engine room. It was hidden under the emergency control panel." He elaborated, "There are sensors everywhere on and around the engines. If there is a problem a light blinks there first and if the one who monitors the lights does nothing the computer reacts by cutting out that part of the engine after switching to a backup system with no loss of power. If that panel was damaged, the computer would shut down the engines instantly. That was the intent, shut down all power so we could be boarded, at least that is what we think. This useless scum does not know. He was following orders."
"Did you ask about a second device?" Hans wondered.
"We did and we are quite sure there isn't one." Henry looked up at Marc with a grin, "Please demonstrate our method of questioning."
Marc was still holding the small control box that worked the hoist. He pressed a button and the man rose slowly. Marc pressed another button down as far as it would go and the man appeared to be in free fall. The man bounced when Marc removed his finger and the hoist braked instantly. The man's scream was hoarse and he pissed himself.
"Good thing he didn't do that when you two were hanging from his ankles." Marc reminded Henry and Barry with a grin. Both boys shuddered at the thought.
Crewmen joined them and stared at their former mate with hate filled eyes. "Lower him," Hans instructed, "These men need the lift to launch some boats," he explained to four puzzled looks.
"Wait just a minute Hans. Target practice was cancelled so we could get the jump on the bad guys, but now we're sitting here dead in the water while someone is goes fishing?" Marc asked incredulously while scratching his head.
"Target practice will begin for you shortly using one of these boats as a target. Another will go ahead about twenty-five miles in front of us and will be used as a target for the cannon." Herman stated and expected Marc to start running back through the ship, up to the masthead.
Marc started laughing while Alex began sputtering. "If I know Evan, he had that reproduction build so it will really shoot cannon balls as well as blanks, but twenty-five miles? No way."
Alex interrupted, "Tell me we aren't going to sink that beautiful boat?" he asked as the twenty-five foot open fisherman was lifted from its cradle and began moving toward them at the stern door.
Barry touched Herman's arm to get his attention. "Sir, do you want that," he pointed at the assassin lying unconscious in the middle of the deck, "put in the freezer?"
Herman shook his head, "Not unless you would like to eat him. I think he has told you all his secrets. How would you dispose of him?"
Barry grinned. "We've talked about it and our way might sound harsh, but he was going to help kill us all, so we have a way if it's alright."
"You and Henry do it. Now is a good time while the others are here launching boats. After, I think everyone will think twice before making comments about your stature."
Barry nodded to Henry who ran to the passing boat on the hoist. A slashing motion stopped it. He climbed aboard to retrieve a life vest, which he tossed to Barry and then followed it to help his partner strap it carefully on the assassin. Neither teen looked up, they knew that all eyes were on them. They dragged the man to the edge of the door. The man regained consciousness at that point from the renewed pain in his shoulders and arms. He lifted his head to see that a life vest covered his chest.
Barry's voice was soothing. "Relax dude. Your friends are following us and they'll rescue you eventually. We don't want you to drown while you wait for them. You understand that since you were going to kill us, we don't want you on board any longer?" The man nodded weakly and closed his eyes. Barry and Henry eased his body into the water. He bobbed to his back and floated away with the wind and current.
By then, everyone was clustered together unmoving, just watching the man's head and the orange floatation that held it above the water. Barry broke away briefly and ran to the side. He returned to offer a small match box-sized remote to Henry. "Together?" Henry whispered. Barry nodded.
Two index fingers dipped into the deep recess where the button was. It was recessed so it could not be activated by accident. There was only room for one finger. Neither boy knew which was successful but there was suddenly a muffled thump. The man's head disappeared while the vest flew up surrounded by red tinged spray.
"Holy shit! That bang looks like it would have taken out all the engine room controls," Marc said with wide eyes.
"Yes," Hans agreed. "Bad guys would have, what is the expression? Shot themselves in foot if Sea Song had to be towed." He shook himself and looked around to frown at the continued inactivity, which got everyone back to the business of launching three boats. In addition to the big fisherman that was to race ahead, a tender was chosen for the boys manning the mini guns as a target because it had no speed. The third boat was a ski boat, which was fast and would retrieve the other two pilots.
Herman nudged Marc playfully. "Unless you wish to lose your firing station to another, you had best get topside," he suggested.
"Shit! If fucking Evan beats me up there, I'll have to throw his ass overboard to get my gun back." Marc exclaimed. He was unaware of the reaction his words caused until the hoist stopped and total silence prevailed on the boat deck. All the crew including Henry and Barry moved toward him. "Wait guys, I was just joking about tossing Evan." He turned and ran for the hatch; even abandoning Alex in his haste while Hans and Herman calmed the crewmen down into a laughing mob.
The two Dobermen departed with Alex and found Marc on the fly bridge talking with Evan as they stared down at the foredeck watching as what appeared to be a reproduction of an antique cannon was transformed into something else entirely. All the brass trim had been removed and the second of two four-foot barrel extensions was being locked into place. The simple breech had also been replaced with another far heavier and with a more serious locking mechanism.
"That is fucking awesome," Marc crowed.
Evan agreed, "I ordered a recoilless cannon but the engineers couldn't get any kind of range so they suggested this. They know it works, but it hasn't really been tested with live rounds. Its not really a cannon any longer, it's kind of a rocket launcher, ah, rather a guided missile launcher."
"Yes shit." Evan giggled at Marc's irrepressible enthusiasm.
"Can we pop off a few while we're waiting?" Marc asked while checking out the whole foredeck looking for the missiles.
Evan knew what Marc meant but had to ask anyway, "A few what?"
"You know, a few missiles."
"Sure a few. Do you know how much just one of those things costs?"
Marc turned haughty, "Well from your reaction el cheapo, they must cost a few grand each. I know! I'll buy a couple from you so you won't break your bank."
Early negotiations were interrupted by the sound of small boat engines on the port side. Alex leaned out to watch the open fisherman and ski boat race by. He moaned again as the tender motored by at a more stately pace. It was destined to serve as the target for the mini guns and since it was slower, didn't have as far to go to serve that purpose.
Buck and Doug arrived followed by Medi and Sean. Buck and Medi had been chosen as gunners on the fly bridge. Doug and Sean were to assist, whatever that meant. They assumed they were to lend moral support to their lovers more than to assist with firing the deadly little guns. Suddenly the two Gatlings came alive to begin tracking the plodding tender as it crossed Sea Song's stationary bow.
Evan looked heavenward and clicked a button on his transceiver. His voice boomed out over the entire yacht, "John, goddamnit! Stop playing with snoopy! Don't make me come down there!" he warned, but was grinning.
"Just testing! Sorry about that!" John answered also over the public speakers. Everyone could hear JC's laughter in the background. "Hey," John continued so everyone could hear, "we've been watching the bad guys and guess what?"
"Okay, I'll bite, what?"
"None of the four boats have air conditioning and everyone's already suffering. The patrol boats are overloaded of course and there's no room to move. Everyone's on deck looking for the smallest patch of shade and they're guzzling bottles of water. Those were designed for local waters so they're going to have to stop to be refueled and get supplies like water and food so when one stops they all have to stop. Good for us, but."
Gregor interrupted after a nod from Hans. He climbed to the padded box and boomed, "BATTLE STATIONS!" Every voice on the ship repeated the call as their owners ran to their assigned stations.
Barry and Henry started running to take up their assignment of guarding the Master's suite but Hans and Herman caught them both and lifted them to stand by Gregor and Meesha then quickly joined them. Herman explained away the boys' frowns, "Today you became Doberman's. You became ruthless to protect the Master and Sea Song. Now you learn command and to be sneaky using brains instead of just hat holding."
"As hat racks!" Gregor corrected with a laugh and shake of his head. "You should watch more DVD's to learn proper English!"
Herman ignored Gregor to click on the PA system. "This is lesson for today. Forward is bad guy boat blockading our progress. Tender is moving slowly. Sea Song will attempt to evade with speed and gunners will attempt to disable tender when and only when a good target is presented. You each have only two cans of ammo left so each round must count."
"What about us?" Toby and Terry, one of the aft gun crews asked with simultaneous shouts.
"Yea!" Vincent agreed with a roar of indignation. He, Jeff and Eric were hunkered down behind the twins. Officially they were there to lend support in any way they could but unofficially, like all the other guards they were there to protect their young charges even using their bodies as shields if necessary and all of the guards knew it and were ready.
Tommy, the second aft gunner was busy thumping Spencer's back so he would raise the same question. Both crews were positioned at the aft corners of the vacant helicopter pad and were protected by heavy steel panels that locked together to form semi-circles. The chopper had been left behind since it couldn't be protected and certainly would present too tempting a target if there was pursuit.
Hans walked to the aft fly bridge rail and whistled shrilly. Two crewmen appeared beneath him. They stopped by the pool and looked back and up. Each carried a rocket launcher and lugged a heavy box of rockets between them. "We will fire rockets for you, one for each. When they begin to descend, parachutes will open and they will belch orange smoke. They will float on water and smoke for two or three minutes. These will be your targets."
Tommy turned to Spencer again. His lips moved rapidly. Spencer shouted Tommy's question, "When can we start firing?"
Hans grinned as he watched Tommy raise his weapon's muzzle and traverse the sky, anticipating Hans' answer. Tommy was proved right. "When the chute opens. Sea Song will be moving away from your targets once we begin so you will have targets only a short time before two more are fired. Do not waste ammo." He cautioned before nodding to the crewmen.
While Hans was aft, Herman continued instructing the three forward gunners. He pointed to a tiny dot on the horizon. Everyone squinted. "The launch is three miles distant and moving from right to left. Sea Song's course will zigzag. Fire forward only," he raised his voice, "to prolong exercise, NOT DO FIRE AT THE ENGINE!" After receiving three nods, he winked at Gregor.
Gregor nodded and whispered into his microphone, of course Gregor's whisper was still like a foghorn so everyone braced their bodies waiting for the rapid acceleration. "Begin evasive maneuvers! Half speed forward!" At the same time there were two muffled thumps as two rockets were fired into the sky arching aft.
The big idling engines powered up and the jets were engaged. Sea Song started forward and then lurched and heeled to starboard. Medi, at the starboard gun and Marc, able to traverse one-hundred eighty degrees began to fire, walking the tell tail splashes toward the still distant target. Buck frowned impotently since he couldn't fire and Doug shot middle fingers at everyone within sight.
Tommy sent tracers skyward and aft, he was zeroing in on the parachute and when it suddenly disappeared the smoking rocket plummeted into the sea. Tommy sent his fist into the air several times while giggling silently at the twins. The one manning their gun hadn't fired yet until his twin fired a shot into his brain telepathically. "Aim at the fucking parachute, asshole. Tommy's already up on us by one." The twins' weapon began to chatter when the smoke was only fifty feet above the sea. The twins had an advantage they hadn't mentioned to the others. They had two brains and four eyes aiming at the target. The chute disappeared as the rocket touched the water but it was too late, the orange smoke continued to billow up until it disappeared in concentrated splashes. "About time. Okay, let me try." The one watching pushed his brother to the side, although which one actually pulled the trigger mattered not at all.
Sea Song changed course yet again by careening tightly on a reverse course to port. Buck got ready to fire for the first time as the bow almost aimed at the target. Doug and their guards began words of encouragement. He was squeezing the trigger when a puff of black smoke appeared above the doomed tender just before its fuel tanks exploded and the first flames rose fifty feet in the air. No one had to shout ceasefire; Marc and Medi just stopped and stared. Hans looked up to see Marc looking perplexed before his eyes settled on the back of Medi's head. Sea Song's engines went to idle.
Hans stomped to Medi, grabbed him by an arm and shook him like a rag doll. Sam and Jack moved to intervene until they saw Hans' wink before he rumbled, "Do not even think about protecting this one, Medi, who cannot obey orders." The two Japanese boys halted and bowed to Hans. Huss, Medi's uncle appeared suddenly. No one remembered that everything said was being broadcast over the PA system.
Huss was in a rage. He looked down at his nephew wearing an expression of total disgust. "You have disgraced and shamed me and yourself, now we will both be sent home to face your father to suffer his wrath. If you cannot accept simple orders now, I shudder to imagine how you could possibly make sound decisions when you become head of state, hopefully in the distant future, may your father be blessed. Your own father may have similar thoughts and choose one of your younger brothers to succeed him. In fact, I will make out papers to immigrate to these United States now to avoid watching our beloved country sink into oblivion under your incompetent rule!" With that, Huss slunk away with his head down as Harm tried to comfort him with an arm over his shoulders.
By then Medi was crying openly. "I am sorry, I didn't think."
Hans cut Medi off as he pulled the boy to the padded box. "That is correct, you didn't think and you must begin to for everyone's lives." Hans pushed him to sit down. "Sit here to watch, but do not speak." Medi assumed the posture of a dejected Indian. "Who is first alternate gunner?" Hans asked the ship.
"Ah, I reckon that would be me, ah, I guess," a disembodied voice answered with a distinct Texas twang. Little Pettie's head appeared long before the rest of his sleek muscular body. Pettie became an instant favorite among the crew as soon as he opened his mouth. He spoke English exactly like or better than the cowboys in the old DVD westerns, better even than Clint Eastwood. "Where all do ya'll want me?" he asked Hans bashfully.
Hans grinned and tried to imitate Pettie, "You all take Medi's gun for this exercise," he winked again. "Medi is in deep shit dog house."
"Huh?" Pettie responded. Hans pointed to Medi's weapon, "You are expert with a rifle, and you will become expert with that."
"Shittt," Pettie drawled, "them things ain't sportin' guns, they're just sprayers. If ya'll give me a good ole single shot twenty-two an' some game to plug an' I'll just put some meat on the table with no lead to pick out." He started toward the mini gun then stopped, sat by Medi and pulled him in tight with his arms. "Sorry little buddy, I sure wasn't expectin' this no how."
Medi sniffed and wiped his eyes before he looked up at the handsome, even beautiful face topped with blond hair that looked down upon him. "That's alright Pettie. It's my fault; I just had to be the first to sink a bad guy even if it was a target. You'll do very well. Chad, Rick, Jack and Sam will protect you as they did me." Medi's head sank as his tears began again.
The exercise resumed with the forward gunners plugging away at the bow section of the tender, which remained floating due to built in flotation. Both forward and aft gunners became comfortable with and adept at firing their deadly pieces. Pettie in the end continued to denigrate the mini gun. From the beginning he never 'walked' his weapon's discharge forward to the target, he just aimed. Fiberglass flew and bits of flotation floated away until the foreword portion of the tender sank and the mini guns fell silent, although only Pettie's gun had ammunition remaining because of economy of use.
Gregor nodded to Pav and he turned to leave the fly bridge. He was to resume conning Sea Song from the main bridge below them. And needed the practice in using the new helmsmen's chair which Evan had installed but which no one would go near except to sit in - careful to touch nothing on either arm. Only Pav dared to use the chair because he was the only one who had taken the time to read and digest the manual explaining its use.
Hans stopped and whispered to Pav and together went to Medi where he still sat hunched over trying to disappear into the upholstery. "Prince Medi?" Pav asked hesitantly, unsure how to address royalty. He continued after Medi looked up, "You have been reassigned to a new firing position. If you will accompany me, it is located on the main bridge at my side."
"What am I shooting?" Medi whispered and looked around. The only weapons left unmanned were the Gatling guns and he knew that snoopy controlled those. Hans didn't answer directly. Instead he picked Medi up and faced him forward just as the six-inch barrel of the renovated antique cannon rose facing the bow. "That? Holy shit!" he screamed, became reanimated and wiggled to be put down as if he were a toddler. He had no objection to being tossed into Chad and Rick's arms like a sack of grain as they rushed behind Pav along with Sean, Sam and Jack.
The new and as yet unused chair appeared to be something purchased at auction from a Star Wars prop sale. In fact whoever sat in the chair had total command and control of the entire ship. Until the moment Pav sank his tight butt into the chair everything contained in the manual was theoretical but as he leaned back, the chair came alive by adjusting to his body until he seemed to be nestled in an open womb. When he rested his elbows on the armrests, they moved back until the fingers of his left hand could reach all points on the touch screen that rose to meet them. On the right, his open hand easily grasped a button festooned joystick as it slid into his hand. He spun the chair backward and stopped, grinning foolishly at the open-mouthed boys and crew surrounding him.
Pav donned a light headset and said as professionally as he could manage, "If it pleases the Captain, bridge has the con at your command."
"You have the con, Commander, NOW!" Gregor replied as he lifted his hands from the wheel on the fly bridge and then looked down to see it turn slightly as power was boosted. No one on Sea Song failed to notice the new title. Gregor looked at Meesha sorrowfully, "We have just become dead lizards."
"I agree, but only until we master the chair for ourselves." Meesha suggested while towing Gregor by the hand down to the bridge to watch Pav at first until he was completely comfortable and then to take turns in the chair under his tutelage.
When the co-captains entered the bridge they found Billie and Evan trying to convince Medi that his new position had not been created to give him something to do, rather it was a very valuable post that they forgot to fill. Medi slid his little butt in the chair next to where Pav sat comfortably. "See?" he complained, "I can't see anything but these blank monitors. I even have to stand on the footrest to see out the bloody windows. Snoopy will control the missile just like he controls the Gatling guns."
Evan swooped in on one side of the chair while Billie moved in on the other. Billie worked a keyboard while Evan pushed Medi back into his chair and held him there as he pushed buttons on the chair arm while the blank screens burst into color. Medi's grin widened as his view out the big ports improved while the chair slid forward until he could easily reach the covered buttons on the console. "There you fucking grump, satisfied?" Evan asked.
"Yes, thank you." Medi squeaked as he looked out and by then could even see Sea Song's bow as well as a commanding view of the horizon.
Billie brought Medi back to earth by snapping his fingers in front of Medi's face. He pointed at two active screens. "Look Medi, here are two screens. One is blank at the moment and the other shows a simulation of the destroyer. See the cross hairs on the target? If that destroyer were within range but the human guiding snoopy decided that it wasn't a threat, snoopy would ignore it. It could even ram us. Humans have to tell it what to do. In this simulation I've told it the destroyer is a threat and snoopy is ready to remove the threat at the touch of a button but only if the button is pushed by a human hand. Snoopy will never decide a threat or take action unilaterally. Now, snoopy is tracking this target and will keep the crosshairs exactly where they are now so tell me where the missile would hit."
Medi leaned closer to the screen briefly. "I would say exactly amidships and right at the water line."
Billie agreed with a nod. "That's right. Snoopy has only one mandate; remove the threat, to kill it, to totally obliterate it. Snoopy is aiming at where the magazines are located. However there is one rather sticky wicket. We cannot sink this destroyer, if we did the international uproar would be unimaginable, but what we can do is stop it and here's where you become involved."
Medi's eyes were like saucers as he watched Billie use a simple toggle to move the crosshairs toward the stern and raise them to deck level. "I understand I think, I'm to simply have snoopy blow his ass off."
"Exactly right old chap and with a minimum loss of life, hence no international incident, at least hopefully." Billie agreed. "Now what say you touch off a missile before we have to get cracking south again?"
From that point Billie only directed Medi in how to acquire a target, in this case the hapless open fisherman twenty-five miles in front of them, moving slowly, crossing their bow thereby blockading Sea Song's forward progress. Medi soon had snoopy's crosshairs dead on target and looked up at Billie for further instructions.
Billie only glanced at Gregor, the only signal required. Gregor clicked on his microphone and began to shout, "ACTION STATIONS! ACTION STATIONS! BRIDGE MAKE EVASIVE MANUVORS AT SPEED! GUNNERS LOAD CANNON! SIGNAL WHEN READY!" The ready signal came back in less than thirty seconds.
Meanwhile, Pav fingered the touch screen in two boxes and at the same time pushed the joystick forward hard. Sea Song's turbines screamed as he jumped forward and was soon at fifty knots before Pav pushed the joystick hard to port (left). Sea Song answered by heeling steeply in that direction. Gregor, Meesha and the other crewmen merely adjusted to the violent maneuver by leaning in the opposite direction. The unprepared boys on the bridge adjusted by untangling themselves from the pile they formed against the port bulkhead.
Pav repeated the evasive maneuver twice more while Medi kept one eye on the all-important crosshairs and the other on the luckless boys and guards being thrown back and forth across the width of the ship all while laughing his ass off.
When Gregor was satisfied he shouted, "CLEAR THE FOREDECK! ALL PERSONEL CLEAR THE FOREDECK!" He looked down on a supremely happy Medi, "Are you ready?" Medi nodded. "FIRE!" There was a low thump followed by a whoosh and a puff of smoke that was blown away instantly by Sea Song's forward speed. Medi had his screen view of the fisherman set at maximum magnification. It was there one moment and the next it was simply gone, replaced by a very temporary hole in the sea and then that too was gone.
Sea Song resumed his course south to Venezuela, to the river where three impressive villas guarded the entrance, each one-mile apart. They knew they were three days ahead of their pursuers and with luck could load the priceless cargo and be finished and gone at least one day before the fat slug and his slower flotilla even arrived to blockade the river's entrance. They thought.
Sorry guys, I was trying to move this chapter through to a successful conclusion with Sea Song getting away but as usual I got wordy so we'll have to wait a bit. My editor, Emoe came through for me in this one by moving stuff around big time. I knew what I did was wrong but didn't know how to fix it. What he did was fantastic! Thank you Emoe!