Castle Roland


by Ken Barber


Chapter 12

Posted: N/A

Storm Front

Max got a little drunk with us and ended up spending the night. He and Greg really hit it off. On Sunday, Cat had to work a shift at the hospital, so we five guys just lounged around by the pool all morning until Max took Greg home. Carl had scheduled an appointment for him on Monday morning and they had emailed me and Mark his resume. I wasn't sure where I was going with this but there had to be something we could offer the kid.

Monday morning Carl and I were in the office at 8 a.m. Cyclone was doing a video conference with the command center and I wanted to see Travis. The conference was pretty standard. The engineers wanted to know if they noticed any issues with the ship. Cat spoke with the lead corpsman to see if he was having any issues. Cal asked Travis about the situation Friday night and how the new OPS officer was doing. After everyone was done, Cal stood up.

“Everyone, give Mr. Ryan the room please. He needs to have a private conversation with Captain King." He winked at me on the way out.

Travis's was beaming that smile that makes me melt. "Hey, babe, how are things holding up on the home front?"

"Other than you and Shane being missed terribly, all is great. I had a run in with Doug Mathis Saturday afternoon at the Mall."

"Great. Did you kick his ass?" He laughed.

"Actually Greg almost did."

"And who is Greg?"

"He's a young kid who was walking by and heard Doug calling me a faggot. He almost laid Doug out right there on the spot. He is a nice kid in a difficult spot so I have HR interviewing him for the new daycare center. It's what he wants to do. Plus I think him and Rick really hit it off."

"Rick? Anything to concern Shane?"

"Oh god, no. Rick is way to smitten with Shane, actually I think he and Max might become an item."

"Max? Bodyguard Max? He's gay?"

"I know, right. I was totally floored by it also. I guess our gaydar is malfunctioning. Since I met you, no one at all shows up on it."

"You are so sweet. I can't wait to see you in two weeks. I miss you so much."

"I miss you to, babe. It will be soon though. Poor Shane and Rick have to go another month and a half."

"Actually, I have some satellite time tonight and I was wondering if we could video in at the house. I’d let Rick and Shane talk to each other since I get to talk to you during the briefings. Shane doesn't get any sat time until Thursday."

"Sure, what time?"

"7:45, as captain, I am allocated thirty minutes, but I will only use fifteen minutes like everyone else."

"Okay, captain. We’ll see you and Lieutenant Walker tonight at 7:45."

"Okay, babe. Have a good day. I miss you and love you."

"Miss you and love you too."

We ended the connection and I wandered back towards my office. On my way, I passed John's office and decided to stop and chat.

“John, are you busy?"

"Not at all, Dale, what’s going on?" He set some files aside and beckoned me into a chair.

"I wanted to talk to you about Doug Mathis. First, I know you handle senior officer problems and I should have contacted you and I am sorry."

"Dale, it’s absolutely fine. I have my hands filled with Task Force One so the less I have to do with Task Force Two, the better. I want to apologize for putting you in that situation. When I was trying to staff Cyclone, I just skimmed officer’s files and I didn't look at disciplinary reports. I am sorry you got stuck with a problem."

"Thanks, John. Maybe we should talk to HR, files for officers with say two or more disciplinary reports should be flagged somehow so we know to take a closer look at them. I don't want to black list anyone, but I think it should be brought to our attention so we can make the choice."

"Good idea, I will get a policy drafted and run it by legal and HR; then send it to Clara for your signature."

"Great, well I’ll see you later then."

"Actually this afternoon, I am your senior trainer. It's just going to be logistics and not tactical, so make sure you have some coffee with you." he laughed.

"Good tip John, see you this afternoon."

When I got back to my office, Greg was already there, thirty minutes early for his appointment. He looked good in a suit.

"Good morning, Clara, Greg."

"Good morning, Mr. Ryan."

Clara smiled. "Good morning, Mr. Ryan. I see you know your 10:00 a.m. appointment is here."

"Thank you, Clara, and could you pull his resume from my email and start a file on him please."

Clara came into the office five minutes later. "Here is his resume. When Carl scheduled the appointment Saturday, Karen had security begin a background check. Here is what they have so far. No criminal or police records. They have his current address; it's not far from here in an apartment complex, fairly quiet neighborhood."

"Well, we are fast and efficient. The kid has had a tough life and needs a break. He wants to study early childhood development, but can't afford to go to school. I think the suit he's wearing belongs to Max."

"Are you thinking something in the daycare?"

"Yes, I just don't know what yet?"

"He has some college, and one of the entry level positions is as an assistant to the Programs Director. It would be a good start for him. Salary is like $32,000 a year to start, but we would offer tuition assistance. The position would teach him a lot and the Programs Director is Peggy. She is fantastic. Essentially, he would be her extension in the Injured Heroes Initiative. "

"I like the sound of it. Do we have a list of open positions yet?"

"It's not complete, but Mark and Ashley, the daycare director, have put together a starting list with job descriptions. Basically, if we fill two more care providers and the Assistant Programs Director slots, we could start taking kids next week. Ashley would like to have her own on-duty nurse’s station as soon as possible, but for now we can use the nurses in the Infirmary here."

"Actually we might be able to get Greg to help us there also. His mom is a pediatric nurse. She and Greg have been raising his twin sisters alone for the last four years when her husband ran out on her."

"What an ass!" Clara was pissed.

"Clara, my gosh, the language." I laughed.

"Oh shush. If she has been a Nurse for a while, we could try to offer her the medical director position; then she can recruit two other nurses to fill out the day care staff. The only thing is that we created the INS Internal Medical Director position to cover both the Infirmary and the daycare medical staff. It comes with some really great benefits and a pretty hefty salary. I think we were looking to offer between $75,000 and $85,000. If she is a licensed nurse practitioner, we could offer her $20,000 to $25,000 more because we wouldn't need to have Cat review her cases as much."

"Let's see how this goes with Greg, and then we can discuss his mother."

Mark came in and introduced me to Ashley Reed. Ashley is the Director of Family Care here at INS and, as such, is in charge of the daycare. I gave them both a copy of Greg's resume and told them everything I know about him.

Ashley lifted her head up from the file. "Mr. Ryan, please do not be offended by my question, but I want to make sure I am clear on what's going on here."

"Fair enough, Ashley, and please call me Dale. Ask your question."

"Thank you. Are you telling us to hire this guy or asking us to interview him?"

Ashley, I am asking you to interview him, but I am also asking you to give him a bigger chance than you would ordinarily. I am not directing you or asking you to hire him. Whatever you decide in the end, I will accept. I don't know the first thing about running a daycare. So you have the final say."

"Thank you, Dale. I can tell you that his resume looks really professional. While his background may not make him the perfect candidate, it at least makes him the strongest that has applied so far. Let's get him interviewed and see if we can fill this slot. I have four interviews this afternoon with potential child care providers. Hopefully we can have this operation up and running early next week. I did want to discuss with you the possibility of expanding the program to offer low cost daycare to emergency service personnel. We are the only daycare service nearby that runs 24 hours a day. It wouldn't take a whole lot to handle a few more kids and it would help offset the cost of the free daycare for employees and injured veterans."

I nodded. "I like were this is going. Can you draft me a proposal? I will take a look at it. Now, let's get on with the interview."

I picked up the phone and asked Clara to send in Greg. He entered, and I introduced him to Mark and Ashley. They lead the interview and asked some really good questions. Greg, while nervous, was spot on. This kid was brilliant. After they completed the interview, they asked Greg to wait in the outer office.

After he left, Ashley turned to me. "Dale, I don't know how you do it but this guy is perfect. I can see him taking over for Peggy in a couple of years. Mark, I know we have a budget for this project, but I think we should offer him a little more. That way he is more likely to stay with us for the long term."

Mark nodded. "We can trim the budget somewhere else and, if this proposal of yours pans out, it could mean a bigger budget all together. Originally, we were going to offer a starting salary of $32,000 a year plus medical and dental. What did you have in mind?"

She nodded. "I was thinking $36,000 or $37,000. If we can get him in and then we expand the program, we can promote him slowly. To get him to Program Director, we would have to get him up to $65,000 at least and that is a big climb from $32,000."

Mark looked at me. "Dale, what do you think?"

"Well, obviously, Greg is a personal friend so on that regard I agree with Ashley. This is a business, however, and if we can do it and stay in budget then I say let's get the kid going."

Mark nodded. "We are all in agreement then. I am going to offer him $35,000 because I know I can trim the additional $3,000 out of the budget. First step is to make his responsibilities include that of the day shift supervisor. That's one less supervisor we have to promote."

Ashley and I both agreed and we called Greg back in. When he walked in, I could tell he was very nervous. Ashley stood to meet him.

"Greg, we would like to make you an offer. We would like for you to consider the position of Assistant Program Director." She went on to explain the position and its responsibilities. When she was done, Mark explained the compensation and benefits package to Greg and he could not help himself at the end - Greg had a huge grin.

"I accept. Thank you so much. I will not let you down."

Ashley shook his hand. "I noticed you are currently not working. Would you be able to start tomorrow with an orientation?"

"I am sorry, but I have to watch my sisters tomorrow. I could start Wednesday."

"Greg, we run a daycare. Have your mom and you come first thing in the morning before your mom goes to work and enroll your sisters in our daycare program. What school do they attend?"

"Central Elementary."

"Before you leave today, I will give you a packet that explains all the info you need for your sister’s daycare. In the packet, is a form that allows us to access the school records and medical records. Have your mother sign those forms and fax them back to us. We’ll do the rest of the enrollment for you so all your mother needs to do is sign the completed paperwork tomorrow."

"Wow, okay, so what time should I be here tomorrow?"

"Depending on your mother’s schedule I can meet you at the daycare facility at 8:30."

"That should be fine. She doesn't work until 10:00 tomorrow."

I stood up. "Perfect. Ask your mother if she would meet with Ashley tomorrow morning also. Ashley, Greg's mother is a pediatric nurse."

Ashley raised her eyebrows. "Really. Greg, do you know what level of nurse she is?”

Greg smiled. "She is a nurse practitioner. Why, what's going on?"

"I would like Ashley to talk to your mother to see if she would be interested in taking on the position of INS Internal Medical Director."

Greg had a huge smile "That would be awesome!"

After they all left my office, I got busy. The rest of the day flew by and my training with John was pretty dry, but we got through it okay. That evening Greg joined us for dinner at Rick’s invitation. After dinner, I excused myself to my office and got the satellite communication system up and running. As soon as I was connected, I went to the doorway.

"Rick, can I see you in my office for a second, please."

"Sure, Dale, what's going on?"

"Come on in and take a seat." Travis still hadn't logged on so I needed to stall.

"I was wonder if you applied to Virginia Culinary Institute yet?"

"Oh, that, yes and they accepted me. I just need to come up with the first semester’s tuition and then I can start. The next set of classes I need don't start for a month so I have that long to get the money saved. With what you are paying, it shouldn't be a problem."

"Just have Carl write them a check and get started."

"Dale, you don't have to do that."

"I know that, but look at it as an investment. International Waters is going to be huge and you are going to make me even wealthier."

"Wow, thanks, Dale, you really are awesome!" Just as he said that Travis's face came on the computer. He winked and I saw him turn the computer around to face Shane. I did the same and all of a sudden Rick's eyes lit up. The sound linked up a second later and all I heard was "Oh my god, babe, I have missed you so much!"

I walked around and saw Travis standing in the background. With both of us forgotten for the moment, we waved and both left the room. I am not sure if Rick and Shane even noticed us leaving. Fifteen minutes later Rick came running out and gave me a huge hug.

"Dale, you are amazing. Thank you for that." He then went on to tell us what Shane has been doing and how he has been doing.

About 8:30 Max came walking in. "Mr. Ryan, I am done for the evening. Is there anything you need before I go?"

I looked at Greg who was staring at Max with goo-goo eyes. "Max, you are more than welcome to stay and have a glass of wine, if you would like."

"I would like that very much, Dale." He joined us and sat right beside Greg.

Over the next two weeks, I was kept very busy with training and setting up the new Injured Heroes Daycare Program. We opened the daycare on the Monday before I was to fly to Dubai. We had a huge press conference and even got Senator Warren to give a speech. Greg was really on the ball with the program and Peggy, the Program Director, was thrilled he was with us. His mom, Donna, accepted the position as Director of Internal Medical Programs. Cat, technically the senior medical officer in the fleet, loved her and they were planning some cross training between fleet and internal. Max and Greg where getting closer and closer; and finally went on a date. Neither of them would talk about their dates but both were on cloud nine for a few days.

I met with an architect to discuss the possibility of adding onto the house or building a pool house and guest house. I went over my list of needs and wants and told him to come up with some options. He was not really excited about the addition idea, saying something about the original design would suffer.

Finally, the day had arrived when Cat and I had to leave to catch up with Cyclone. I could tell we were both very nervous and excited. Excited to see our boyfriends, but nervous about our responsibilities on the ship. We spent the morning going over reports from the convoy route. Everything seemed to be pretty quiet. In the afternoon, Max and Carl took us to the airport where the company jet was fueled up and waiting. Carl would fly to Dubai with us and then return on Sunday afternoon. We had a short stop in Paris to refuel. The customs inspector in Paris was very polite and friendly. Since we did not get off the plane, it was a very short inspection and then we were back in the air. We arrived at 3:30 in the afternoon on Saturday. I felt like I had been dragged through time. Cat and I were both exhausted. Carl, on the other hand, was as chipper as always. I wanted to hit him, but restrained myself. Travis met us at the airport with Shari, our Dubai office manager. Cat, Carl and I checked into the JW Marriot suites we had booked and promptly fell asleep. I awoke a couple of hours later to Travis massaging my back.

"Morning, Baby, or should I say good evening?"

I rolled over beneath him and looked into those amazing eyes and that sexy smile. "Morning, Beautiful, I have really missed you."

"I have missed you even more." He leaned over and kissed me softly on the lips. The soft kiss turned to a hard passionate kiss and we began tearing our clothes off, making out the whole time. He threw me back on the bed, kissed me again and shoved his hard cock into me. This was the first time we were having sex without condoms as all our tests came back clear. He stopped once he was fully inside me and just rested it there. He began slowly pumping in and out of my ass. I could feel every inch of him and I was craving more. The pace slowly picked up until he was ramming all nine inches in and out. I was in ecstasy. Soon he was unloading inside of me and, for the first time, I felt every blast of warm cum spray into me. The sensation was too much to handle and I began shooting. It was so powerful that it hit me in the chin and sprayed onto my cheek. Travis leaned over and licked it off and then kissed me again. We lay in bed together, with him holding me for a few minutes.

I rolled over and looked into his eyes. "I love you"

He smiled that smile again. "I love you, too. Now, we have to get up because in about an hour we’re having dinner with Her Highness, Sheikha Lune Al Qasimi, Minister of Foreign Trade."

"Damn it. Really? Why?" I knew I was whining but I just wanted to lay there in Travis's arms.

"Because she invited us and you don't turn down a member of the Royal Family's invitation to dinner."

We got up and showered. Carl had had the hotel do a rush cleaning of my dress uniform for dinner. A limo took us to a really beautiful restaurant. Dinner with the Sheikha was very nice and she was a wonderful, intelligent woman. We discussed all sorts of different aspects of INS relationships with Dubai. I had not realized that, outside the US, this was our largest office and dock facility. Our smaller ships were almost always out in this area doing anything from escorting oil tankers and cargo ships to transporting very wealthy and nervous business men. After dinner, we went back to the hotel and I fell back to sleep.

Sunday morning at 5 a.m. we headed to Cyclone. Saying goodbye to Carl was actually kind of difficult. He had been with me since the beginning of this mess. I settled into my quarters and small office. Monsoon and Hurricane where departing at noon with the tankers and we would depart a bit later and catch up to them. This was done just to make it easier on the Port Authority in Dubai. Six ships departing all at once was a big enough challenge.

At 6:15, Travis tapped on the open doorway to announce his presence.

"Morning, Admiral. Captain's Marsh and Willibey will be arriving in a few minutes for breakfast and the final briefing."

"Great, I have to do a briefing. Let me get some notes together."

He laughed. "I do the briefing for you. If you want to review the material again, it's all in the folder on the corner of your desk, but it is just the entire mission briefing plus weather reports and new pirate activity reports."

"It sounds good. I am looking forward to meeting Marsh and Willibey. John had really high praise for them.”

"You’ll love them. Marsh is a typical good old boy from Georgia. Funny as hell though. Willibey is a stiff upper lip Brit, until you get a drink or two into him and then he is a riot."

I just stared at him for a second, "It sounds like you guys have been partying the whole weekend."

He chuckled. "Don't get jealous. They are both married, with kids and very open minded though, so no issues there. Marsh is actually the one that reprimanded Mathis the last time. Apparently, he was bulling a young ensign. Marsh himself overheard it and wanted to strangle the crap out Mathis. Oh, but he is pissed as hell we stole is OPS officer for our XO."

I laughed. "He will just have to get over it."

"Spoken like a true Admiral. I will send someone for you once all senior officers are in the wardroom."

"Thanks, Travis."

I was reviewing the mission briefing when Ensign Barker tapped on the door.

"Morning, Ensign."

"Morning Sir, Captain King asked me to let you know all the senior officers and Captains Marsh and Willibey are in the wardroom, Sir."

I stood up and stretched. "Thank you, Ensign."

"You are welcome, Sir. Just to be sure, the wardroom is just down this hall to the left."

"Good thinking, I probably would have been wandering around the ship for days before I found it."

He laughed. "Enjoy your breakfast, Sir; I will see you on the bridge later."

"Thanks, Barker."

I found the wardroom pretty easily and as soon as I entered, someone shouted.

"Admiral on deck!" Everyone stood at attention.

"At ease, everyone. Sit down and relax I don't think jet lag will let me handle you guys jumping and shouting every time I walk into a room and damn near scaring the shit out of me."

Everyone laughed and sat back down. Travis introduced me to Eric Marsh and James Willibey. Breakfast was surprisingly good, not Rick’s cooking, but pretty top notch. Shane was quiet most of the morning. I could tell he felt as out of place as I did when the guys began talking about who they had served with and times they had run into each other. Cat found out that Willibey's senior corpsman had been with her when she was aboard a carrier. David and Marsh were old friends. While Marsh ribbed Travis a little about stealing him, I could tell he was really proud of him. I knew within a few minutes that I was going to like these guys. I brought up the topic of my lack of experience, just to see how they felt.

Willibey laughed. "Dale, most of the admirals, in all the world's navies, while more experienced than you, don't have a lick of common sense. You on the other hand, are aware of the most important thing a commanding officer can be aware of."

"And what is that?"

Marsh had been nodding, and picked up where Willibey had left off. "You are aware that you don't know everything and are not afraid to admit it."

Everyone agreed and David looked at me. "Dale, you have a natural talent of putting people in the right place at the right time. This is the finest group of officers I have ever met and we will not let you down."

That was followed by some cheers and general chest pounding. After breakfast, I went on a tour of Monsoon and Hurricane. Both were stunning ships and I could see they were running with a level of efficiency I could appreciate. We saw the two frigates and four tankers off and then got Cyclone ready to depart. During all the craziness Master Chief Hanson found me in my office.

"Hey, Tony, come on in and sit down for a second."

"Thank you, Sir. I just wanted to say I am really glad that the Mathis issue was resolved before we left port. That guy had me really concerned."

"Thanks, Tony. Next time you see an issue like that, bring it to me right away. I respect your insight a lot and I count on you. You and Billets see a lot more of what's going on here than Travis or I do."

"I will do, Sir."

"Tony, the door is closed. You can call me, Dale."

"I appreciate that, Sir, but that's a bad habit to get into on the ship."

"I can respect that."

After he left, I headed for the flag bridge to watch Cyclone as we left port. The flag bridge crew where all at their stations.

"Admiral, Monsoon and Hurricane have reported the convoy is formed and beginning its move to Capetown."

"Thank you Ensign Miller. Are there any difficulties?"

"None reported, Sir."

Barker looked back over his shoulder. "Sir, Cyclone reports ready for departure."

"Okay, tell the Captain to take us out."

"Aye, Sir."

We departed Dubai and began racing to catch up with the convoy. Since the convoy was only moving at ten knots and we were running at twenty knots, we caught up to them in an hour. It was a beautiful day and I was really appreciating the picture of Cyclone’s bow cutting through the water. The shipping lanes were pretty crowded and Travis maneuvered her through them like an expert. In no time at all, we caught up with the convoy and took up station just outside of visual range behind them. Not too long after we met up with the convoy, Travis came to my office.

"Cal and John are setting up a video conference with us. Something is happening that they want to brief us on. I had comms redirect the call here."

Oh boy, let's see what's going on." I logged into the INS video conferencing system and selected the flashing Urgent Briefing Icon. The screen showed Cal and John in the command center. They both looked like they had just gotten out of bed.

"Morning, guys." I knew this had to be urgent and I was getting nervous."What's up?"

"Morning, Dale, Travis. I guess its afternoon for you. There has been an incident in the Gulf of Aden we think you should be aware of." Cal's facial expression said it all. This was a big deal.

This really got our attention as we were getting ready to enter the gulf of Aiden in a couple of hours.

Travis leaned over. "What happened?"

John took over the briefing. "Okay, first you need to know that this is not public knowledge. The Brits are trying to keep this out of the media until they get a handle on. The only reason I know is from a friend over at Langley. Sometime late last night, early this morning, your time, the British lost contact with one of their small patrol boats, the HMS Clyde. The Clyde reported a luxury yacht flying UK colors signaled them for assistance in a small cove. The yacht reported engine trouble and The Clyde went to assist. A few minutes after the report, the Anti-Pirate Task Force received an automated signal that the Clyde was under assault. There has been no further radio contact or sighting."

"John could it be some sort of malfunction." I was still hoping for the best.

"We are pretty sure the Clyde has been captured. The automated signal has to be manually triggered and then it bursts sends a three second signal for thirty minutes. If there was a system malfunction, it should have automatically triggered the distress beacon after that. Plus, the HMS Mersey immediately went to investigate. She arrived on the scene about one hundred and twenty minutes after the signal was sent and neither the Clyde nor the yacht was found. What they did find, is very disturbing - three dead Royal Marines and one dead civilian in the water. The civilian hasn't been identified yet, but they are pretty sure it's the yacht’s owner. "

Travis was taking notes. "What does this mean for us, John?"

"Well it gets uglier. First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Milton Winthrope was touring the Anti-Pirate Task Force aboard the Clyde."

Travis and I both just looked at each other. "John, are you telling us that pirates have kidnapped the British Secretary of the Navy?"

"That's how it looks to us. We have to assume this was not coincidental and they somehow knew he was there. Also, we cannot rule out a bigger terrorist plot here either. The entire Anti-Piracy Task Force is scouring the Gulf of Aden and the Brits have launched their entire Gibraltar Squadron. The squadron should be on station within 24 hours. You need to be aware of two things. Firstly, the Brits are going to be a little shaken up, and probably trigger happy. If you see any British ships, give them a wide berth. Secondly, most international assets are focused on the Gulf of Aden which means it is very secure right now; however, that also means the east coast of Africa is not covered."

Travis looked up from his notes. "I see two options Admiral. Once we clear the Gulf of Aden, we could push further out to sea and stay clear of the coast. The problems there are the frigates are going to be low on fuel, as it is, by the time we get to Cape Town. If we push further out, we will need to stop in Madagascar for fuel. Plus, if we do have a problem, we will be further away from assistance. We could keep to our course and mind our own business. The only problem there is with little to no Anti-Pirate Task Force ships, we are really on our own."

I nodded. "Thanks, Travis. I think our best option is stay alert and stay on course. If the pirates or terrorists are crazy enough to mess with us, we do have three heavily armed warships and a company of marines at our disposal. I don't want to underestimate our adversaries, but I think we can handle anything they throw at us. Let's bring Cyclone into visual range of the convoy. It’s a show of force, if you will."

John, Cal and Travis all agreed with me. After the conference, Travis went to brief all the officers and I went to the flag bridge to radio the two frigates captain’s and brief them. They agreed with my call to stay on course. We decided to do some convoy wide drills later that night. I radioed the tanker captains and explained that we had reason to believe pirates captured an armed patrol boat in our operating area. I felt bad about keeping them in the dark on some of the issues but I didn't want to be the cause of it leaking to the press. The rest of the evening went quietly and at 20:00 hours Travis and I were sitting in our quarters looking at the specs of the Clyde. I called the flag bridge and told Ensign Miller to begin the drill. A few minutes later the loud speaker blared out.

"Captain to the bridge, Captain to the bridge"

Travis smiled. "Let's see how this team works." He pulled out a stopwatch and began a timer and darted out to the bridge. A minute later the speaker blared out again.

"Admiral to the Bridge, Admiral to the Bridge."

I hustled off to the flag bridge. As soon as I walked in, Ensign Miller gave me the report.

"Sir, Hurricane reports radar contact with a vessel matching HMS Clyde's signature. This is a drill."

"Thank you, Ensign. Send the order for all ships in the convoy to go to General Quarters and mark the time."

"Aye, sir."

The message went out, and within seconds an alarm klaxon sounded five times. All the lights in the bridge went off and red lights came on. I was watching Monsoon through the binoculars and she suddenly disappeared as all her lights went out. The Klaxon repeated five times.

"Sir, Cyclone reports at General Quarters."

"Thank you. Please mark the time."

"Sir, Hurricane reports at General Quarters."

"Thank you please mark the time"

"Sir, Monsoon reports at General Quarters"

"Mark the time, please."

I looked at my stop watch and all three escort ships were combat ready in under four minutes. I didn't have anything to judge it by, but I was pretty impressed. We waited two more minutes for the tankers to respond.

"Sir, CCC2 reports at General Quarters."

"Sir, CCCs 1 and 3 at General Quarters"

"Sir, CCC4 at General Quarters."

"Thank you. Mark the time all ships in the convoy at General Quarters as 20:17."

"Aye, Sir, all ships at General Quarters at 20:17."

"Give the order to stand down. When all seven captains are ready I want to do a video conference with them all"

"Aye, sir"

I left the bridge and stopped by the wardroom to get a cup of coffee. The conference went well. We were all pretty happy with the results. The oil tankers took a little longer than I would have liked, but they are not trained paramilitary vessels. According to the Captains, our marine detachments on each vessel were ready in less than two minutes. For the rest of the night, Travis and I monitored reports from the Anti-Piracy Task Force. By morning, there still was no word on the Clyde. The rest of the day went pretty smoothly. We ran two more General Quarters drills and Travis ran a compartment fire drill. Towards the evening I decided to do a night air drill, just get the helicopters off the deck, circle the convoy and return. I was on the radio with the frigate captains and they both announced that their crews would complete the drill fastest. So Travis made a bet, a bottle of scotch to the first crew to get their bird back on the deck and secured. Cyclone, at least, was buzzing with anticipation, the crews all wanted to win the race. When the drill started I timed Monsoon, Ensign Miller timed Hurricane, and Ensign Barker timed Cyclone. The birds lifted off within seconds of each other. Most off duty crew were on deck watching and cheering. Hurricane’s pilot was a little more daring and flew a very tight circuit, which gave them the advantage. They beat Cyclone by 4.5 seconds and Monsoon by 6 seconds. I radioed Hurricane and congratulated the captain, flight crew and deck crew. Hurricane would have bragging rights for a little while.

That evening we received word that the Anti-Piracy Task Force would be pushing their search operations south of the Gulf of Aden starting tomorrow night. We should be well ahead of their larger ships but some of their faster, smaller ships might even over take us. The following day went pretty smoothly and everyone was settling into routine. At 19:00 hours we cleared the Gulf of Aden and began our turn south for the run down the African coast. About 21:00 hours that night, Travis and I were called to the bridge as Comms had just received a message from the HMS Mersey, a British small patrol vessel in the same class as the Clyde. She would be passing within five nautical miles to our starboard side. She was doing advance recon of the coast for the search mission. We stayed on the bridge until she was no longer on radar and then Travis and I headed to bed.

We were in the middle of some very intense sex when the intercom scared the crap out of us.

"Captain to the Bridge, Captain to the Bridge."

Travis kissed me and threw his uniform on and hustled to the bridge. I got up and began getting dressed just in case I was needed.

"Admiral to the Bridge, Admiral to the Bridge"

I rushed off to the bridge. As soon as I arrived I heard the radio.

"Mayday, Mayday this is HMS Mersey. We are under attack from the captured HMS Clyde and two unknown vessels."

I grabbed the radio mike.

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