Tropical Storm Ryan
Wednesday morning began with standard shipboard routine. We had the ships at yellow alert the whole time, so everyone was walking on eggshells. I ran through the combat drill again with all the senior officers after lunch and then we settled in to wait. The clock seemed to stand still as the day crawled on and my anxiety climbed. About 19:00 hours a messenger tapped on my door.
"Sir, you're needed on the bridge to receive a classified message."
"Thank you, I will be right there." I closed the file on the Larcanzo Family and headed to the bridge. When I arrived Travis and Shane where waiting for me.
Ensign Baker stood. "Admiral on the Bridge."
"As you were, gentlemen. What is going on, Captain?"
"Cal requested a secure channel. It's set-up and waiting for you."
"Let's hear what he has to say." I picked up the mic. "Cal, it's Dale. We have the channel secured."
"Thanks Dale, I have FBI agent Matt Payne with me. He has some new intel for you."
"Matt, what have you got."
"A shit-storm, Dale! Hector Larcanzo is on his way to the dock now to talk to Mario Sanchez. He has his nine year old son with him and both of my deep cover guys are acting as his bodyguards."
"FUCK" I yelled and everyone on the bridge paused for a second. "Okay, Okay, first we have to make sure we know where that child is at all times. I do not want that kid hurt. Baker, get Admiral Warren and Colonel Time on this channel immediately."
"Cal, you at the command center at the house with Kyle?"
"Yup, he is right here with us."
"Okay, great, keep him handy. We may have to modify this plan on the fly." Ensign Baker signaled me, he had the other two on the channel. "Admiral Warren, Colonel Time, we just got some new Intel." I had Matt explain what was going on.
"Agent Payne, can you get a message to your guys." Colonel Time asked.
"Yes, we can" I could tell Matt was on edge as his voice was a little shaken.
"Okay, tell your people, when we storm the building, get the kid and Larcanzo out of there ASAP. We will check outr fire toward them if we can identify them. Tell them when they step out of the vehicles to scratch their head or something. Kyle, watch for whatever signal you and Payne figure out and paint those targets blue. That will update our night vision goggles and we will see them as friendly. Payne, make sure you tell them if they have to fire, to make it look real. They better go wide because if a shot comes within a few inches of one of my people, they will ignore the friendly signature and engage and my people don't miss."
"Got it." Matt and Kyle responded at the same time.
"Now, do we know how many people he is bringing in with him?"
"It's just him, my two guys, the boy and a driver. Larcanzo never travels with a big entourage unless he feels threatened. You are in his territory; he would never expect someone to do this."
I didn't like it but couldn't think of what else to do. "Okay, get everyone up to speed on the changes and make sure everyone knows! We will not be responsible for killing that kid. Colonel, I want an updated plan in one hour."
We broke up and just as I was getting ready to leave the bridge, Shane spoke up. "Admiral, may I ask why we don't just take out Larcanzo while we have him in our sights."
"I thought about it, Lieutenant Walker, I really did, but our job is to get Nick back and I am not going to risk that, plus we are not assassins, and definitely not in front of a nine year old boy."
"Okay everyone, let's get to work. We have a long night ahead of us."
Colonel Time presented us with a modified plan an hour later. We would not take the senior officer's quarters as that was the most likely place Larcanzo and his son would be. We would neutralize all the guards and grab Nick. After the command team began its evacuation with Nick, one of the frog teams would go loud and fire a shot that would cause the FBI agents to react and start to extract Larcanzo and the boy. We would engage but keep our shots wide. There was much debate as to whether or not to take the senior officers out, but we were concerned that we would hit Larcanzo or the boy, so we decided that we would only take that shot if needed. As we were finishing our briefing, we watched as the satellite image showed a limo pulling into the warehouse. I didn't catch a signal but two target markers changed blue and two changed yellow. We had determined that we would use yellow for Larcanzo and son. The driver was marked in red. We watched as they climbed the stairs and headed into the room the senior officers had been using. One of them was obviously Mario Sanchez.
We all started getting our gear ready and going over our weapons. I sat there with my team, making sure we had everything we needed. I reread the radio call signs. Committing then to memory was very important.
Frogs = Scuba Teams
Mike 1,2,3,4 = Marine Platoons
Charlie = Command Team, My Team
Mike Charlie = Marine Commander, Colonel Time
Helicopters were designated by Ship and Hotel i.e. Tango Hotel=Tornado Helicopter
Big Brother was Command Center in Norfolk
Fleet was By Ship name
Nick was Target November
Hector Larcanzo and team where target Zulu
At 23:00, I went up to the bridge. "Ensign Baker, notify the fleet go to General Quarters."
"Aye, Sir, General Quarters."
I watched as all the lights on Cyclone blinked out and we were bathed in the red combat lights. Out on the water, Blizzard went dark, then Tornado and then Hailstorm and Squall.
"Sir, Cyclone reports status as General Quarters"
"Blizzard at General Quarters; Hailstorm at General Quarters; Squall at General Quarters; Tornado at General Quarters."
"Very well. Get me Admiral Warren on a secure channel, please."
I paced for a second. "Sir. Admiral Warren, on secure channel"
"Admiral Warren, this is Admiral Ryan. You have command of the fleet, Sir."
"Thank you, Admiral Ryan, I have command. Now, go bring our boy home. Good Luck out there"
I headed back down to the bow to get ready to launch our boat. As we got ready, I noticed a whole collection of zodiacs gathering. It was go time. Just as I stepped into the boat I saw, the choppers carrying the Marines take off. They flew overhead and disappeared into the black sky above us. I was amazed at how quiet they were. I put my radio earpiece in and could hear the pilots coordinating their maneuvers. After they dropped their passengers, we began our race towards the coast. Just as we were passing, Cyclone picked up speed to sprint to her position. We sped off and reached our first rally point.
"Frogs at rally point Alpha"
"Mike 4 at rally point Bravo"
"Charlie 1 at Rally point Charlie."
"Frogs are wet. Boats returning to fleet."
"Mike 3 in position, ambush established"
"Mike 2 in position"
"Mike 1, give me 2 minutes"
Kyle's voice came over the radio. "Mike 3, you have a single vehicle approaching. Do not engage; it's a civilian vehicle. I repeat, do not engage."
"Roger that big brother. Weapons tight"
"Mike 1 in position"
I looked at my watch it was 01:58, the last three hours flew by.
"Okay, looks like they are starting radio checks again. Stand by" Kyle's voice was smooth and reassuring. It made me feel better to know that he, as well as Cyclone and the fleet, could see the big picture "Radio Checks complete. Colonel, at your command."
"This is Mike Charlie to all ground units. Execute operation Safe retrieval"
A chorus of "Rogers" followed and our little boat started to pick up speed.
"Mike 1, gate guards neutralized."
"Mike 2, perimeter guards neutralized"
"Frog 1, docks secure"
"Move to phase 2. Mike 4 and Charlie 1, move into position."
I could see the docks as we approached at a break neck speed."
"Fleet in position; waiting for extraction"
"Mike 4, on the docks and moving to the eastern side of building."
"Frogs in position; awaiting final assault orders"
"Mike 1 in position covering the south flank."
By now, we had clambered up to the docks and were moving into position. "Charlie, in position." No sooner had Todd said it then the door in front of us opened and one of the guards stepped out. David flew through the air and landed on him with a grunt. He rolled off and there was a huge knife sticking out of his chest. The door was still open and we could see into the building. At any second, someone from inside would walk by and see us.
I keyed my mike "Charlie 1; our position is compromised"
Colonel Time responded immediately. "GO, GO, GO, all units, GO."
The three guys in front of me darted through the door and I heard the soft patter of the silenced guns. I stepped though the doors and ducked behind a pile of wood pallets. I saw that our first target was down. I could see on my night vision goggles, enhanced with the data from the satellites that the frog teams and marines were equally effective. We slowly crept up the stairs, stopped at the top, and waited.
"Frog 1, door guards down. Go HRT"
We rushed past the downed guards; the three guys leading kicked in the door and fired. I ran in behind them and saw Nick tied to a bed. David cut the ropes.
I raised my goggles. "Nick, it's Dale. Can you walk?"
"Fuck, Dale, am I glad to see you." He stood and was a little wobbly. Todd grabbed one side and David grabbed the other.
"Target November Secure. Charlie moving to extraction."
Kyle's voice came over the radio. "Target Zulu is on the move. Check your fire." Max leaned out of the door and fired a short burst at the ground near the FBI guys to get them to go the other way. They returned fire but came nowhere close. "Zulu is headed for the east stairs. Mike 4, pull back and let them pass, engage, but leave an opening. They are headed for the car."
We grabbed Nick and went down the north stairs and out into the night just as the two birds were landing. We rushed to the choppers and loaded Nick. I turned and watched as the limo crashed through the doors and raced for the gate. I jumped onboard and we lifted off.
"Mike 3, this is big brother. The limo is headed your way from the south plus you have reinforcements in route from the north. Do not engage the limo. Buy us some time with the reinforcements."
"This is Mike Charlie. Begin extraction."
"Squall approaching dock"
"Hailstorm approaching dock"
"Tornado, this is Mike 3, stand by to fire, target marker gulf 1, on my command"
We were in the air, racing, and headed towards the water.
"Charlie Hotel feet wet; moving to Cyclone."
"Fire gulf 1"
"On the way"
A few seconds later, there was a huge explosion to the north of us.
"This is Mike 3. Good hit, Tornado."
"Roger that. Standing by"
Mike 3, Mike Charlie, Move to extraction point bravo, Air transport in route."
We landed on the deck of Cyclone and immediately left the helipad. Cat met us with a stretcher, put Nick on it and took off for the infirmary. I ran for the Bridge.
"Update" I shouted as I walked in.
"Squall and Hailstorm have shoved off and marine 3 is being picked up now. Sir."
"This is Tango Hotel we have Mike 3 and are returning to Tornado."
"Baker, any casualties reported."
"One wounded. Our bird is headed to Hailstorm now to retrieve him. Sir, frog team one has a prisoner."
"Not sure how it happened, Sir, but they do."
"Do we know who?"
"Not yet, Sir. He is unconscious and seriously wounded"
"Get him transferred to Cyclone ASAP."
"This is Tango Hotel. We are feet wet. Be on deck in 3 minutes."
"Roger that, Tango Hotel. Let us know when you are down." Jessica's voice was clear as a bell.
"Squall is pulling alongside to transfer the prisoner, Sir."
"Okay, have a marine team secure him in the infirmary"
Travis walked on to the bridge and walked right over to me. "The hell with protocol." He kissed me. I smiled.
"Tango Hotel, on the deck."
John's voice came over the radio. "Job well done everyone. Make best speed to rally point foxtrot."
Travis trotted back to his bridge and I could feel Cyclone pick up speed.
"I am headed to the infirmary"
As I walked, the adrenaline started to kick into overdrive. With Max and Todd following me, I ducked into a head. Thankfully, they stayed outside. I started throwing up and then just sat there shaking for a bit. I heard the door open and looked back to see David come in. He walked over, crouched beside me and hugged me. "The good guys won this battle." he stood and turned to leave, stopped and turned back around. "Don't worry, it passes. It helps if you do some rigorous exercises; burns off the adrenaline. The team would be thrilled if you joined them in the cargo hold for a run in about an hour. That is how they will burn it off."
"Thanks, David." I stood, cleaned myself up and headed to the infirmary.
The marines on duty all snapped to attention but no one yelled out. Something I had noticed before and meant to ask Travis about. I caught Cats attention and she came over.
"What's the damage, Doc?"
"One broken leg. It appears that when our prisoner over there," She indicated a closed off curtain. "got shot by a Marine, he fell off the second story balcony and landed on one of our guys. That is Lieutenant Gaithers. He was in charge of the frog team that pulled both out"
I turned to look at a short stout man in his early thirties. "Lieutenant, could you explain to me why you took a prisoner?"
"Sir, when he landed on Lance Corporal Ceteras, We had to pull him off. He was pretty badly wounded but he was still alive. If we left him, he would have bled to death. Sir, I just can't leave someone to die like that. If it means I am to be reprimanded or fired, Sir, then, it was still worth it."
"Relax, Gaithers, you are not getting fired or reprimanded. You did the right thing. We may be warriors but we can never lose our compassion. Tomorrow morning I want to see you and your commanding officer." I patted him on the shoulder. "Doc, is our guest awake?"
"Barely, we had to strap him down just to stabilize him but he won't let me give him any painkillers and he won't tell us who he is."
I walked over to the curtain and started to open it when Baker came crashing through the door. "Admiral, a Mexican naval patrol boat is hailing us."
I turned and immediately headed back to the bridge. When I arrived, Travis was speaking Spanish through into the radio. "What's going on?"
"They are demanding we heave to and allow them to board us"
"Are we in international waters?"
"Yes, they are saying they have reason to believe we were involved in a raid into Mexico."
"What's the SOP (standard operating procedure) here."
"Well, if we hadn't been involved in the raid, we would cooperate, but we would also notify the nearest US Navy or Coast Guard ship or installation."
"Okay, let's do that. Tell the Mexicans we are notifying the US authorities that they are attempting to board a US flagged commercial ship."
Travis picked up the mic and began explaining in Spanish. David grabbed another Mic and took a slip of paper from Ensign Baker.
I looked over at Shane. "Lieutenant Walker, let INS command and the rest of the fleet know what is happening, please."
David looked back "US Coast Guard Station Corpus Christi is sending out a cutter to assist."
"Thank you, Travis. Notify the Mexicans we are coming to a stop, but they cannot board until the coast guard arrives. Max, we need to hide our prisoner and tell Cat to sedate him."
"Coasties will be here in 15 minutes."
Travis looked at us. "They are not happy about it, but they will wait."
The Mexican Navy ship pulled alongside us and stood off about 50 meters. The 15 minutes ticked by slowly. As the Coast Guard cutter came along side us, I told Travis to show the senior officer to my ready room.
I posted Max and Todd outside the door. I pulled out the file about the eco terrorist and began making notes. A few minutes later, there was a rap at the door and Max poked his head in. "Admiral, Captain King has United States Coast Guard Commander Rogers to see you."
"Show them in please."
I stood and shook the Commander's hand. "Gentlemen, please have a seat. Can I have someone get you some coffee, Commander?"
"Thank you that would be nice. So, what seems to be the problem?"
I launched into my explanation of following a suspected eco terrorist boat right up to Mexican waters. When they crossed into Mexican, waters we stopped monitored them for a bit, then turned around, and headed back to sea.
"Admiral, why didn't you notify the Mexican authorities?"
"Of what Commander, a single small coastal ship docking in Mexico. We suspected they were part of the terrorist group based on how close they got to an oil rig we were protecting. We have no real proof."
"Okay, I will go over and chat with the Mexican Commander and see if we can't get this resolved. If they insist, are you okay with them sending over an inspector?"
"One inspector, and if you don't mind Commander, I would rather one of your people accompany the inspector."
"Of course, I will do it myself."
The Commander left and the cutter pulled away and circled around to the Mexican Navy ship. We all went to the bridge to wait. A few minutes later the commander radioed that, we were cleared to continue but the Mexican Navy was going to lodge a complaint with the state department that we had violated Mexican territorial waters. We acknowledged and got under way.
"Travis, remind me to have Carl send that Commander a nice bottle of wine."
He laughed. "Cat says whenever you're ready she can wake the prisoner."
"Let's go find out who we kidnapped."
We walked to the Infirmary and went straight to the cubical where he was being held. I pulled the curtain aside just as the man sitting in the bed looked up.
"Well, Mario Sanchez. Seems we have a bit of a situation now, don't we?"
"Mr. Ryan. I demand that you release me at once."
"Mario, relax: no one here is going to harm you. We are going to get you all fixed up and then send you back to your master. I wonder how things will fare for you if I let it leak that you were working for me the whole time."
"You can't do that, He will kill me."
"Then think carefully before you say anything, I want two things, the name of the person in INS that has been feeding you information and I want you to figure out how to settle this dispute without any more bloodshed. You have until we get back to Norfolk to give me your answer." I turned and marched out of the Infirmary.