Serenity: Full Circle – Chapters 7 & 8

CHAPTER SEVEN

 Trade Off

Martin said, “It’s time; we need to contact them on the bulletin board and agree to an exchange.”  The true demands of the abductors had not been given to either Interpol or Europol.  Martin had posted on two boards one was the decoy bulletin board the agencies were following extensively.  The other was the real contact board, known only to Martin’s internal security team and Serenity.

Martin had arranged for his CFO to be the courier carrying fictitious bearer bonds to a non-existent meeting that law enforcement was overseeing.  The second posting was the one in earnest.  Martin knew that only he could be the courier, supposedly carrying the real ransom of the NCC-5 coding.  Within an hour, Stiles had arranged for a response to turn up on the first board, with help from the Die-Hex/Corp.’s IT department, distracting law enforcement.  The real response came a few moments before that response so that the timing would coincide on the first board.  A meeting was arranged for the next day at five in the afternoon.  The kicker was that it was in the port city of Valencia, about one hundred eighty miles as the crow flies to the east-northeast of Madrid.  Colby had Stiles set up the company business jet and put it on stand-by.  All Marc and Eyan could do was load up a company SUV with all they had acquired and depart for Valencia, a three-hour, fifteen-minute drive, as it turned out.  They needed to get there and survey the lay of the land ahead of the meeting.  Soon after they were on the road, the Sat phone rang and Marc answered it.  There had been a new message from the abductors, saying that Colby was to go alone to small coastal enclave on the northern outskirts of Valencia, named Port Saplaya. There, he would proceed to the North beach side of the marina to the grassy area, out in the open, and wait to be contacted.  As soon as Marc terminated the call, he patched his computer into the Sat phone and clicked on the Google Earth icon.  Seconds later, he had located the enclave and was surveying the general vicinity.  He pulled up his e-mail program and asked Stiles back at Villa De Martini if Die-Hex/Corp. had any holdings or business in the Valencia area that may be of help.  In what was returned instantly, Marc was informed that yes, indeed, they had shipping and receiving facility for their Mediterranean parts suppliers with one large, and two smaller, seaworthy craft and one other business property.  He said he was making contact with them as soon as possible, so that they might facilitate anything Marc and Eyan might need.  He also passed on all their contact information.  When they drove into the city, they grabbed some fast food and then proceeded to Die-Hex/Corp’s sub-location.  It was just south of the Port Americas Cup Marina and a large commercial shipping compound.  When they had arrived, they were greeted by Hector Delgado, the manager.  He said, they had been told to suspend operations and do anything they could to assist.  He continued, saying that there were three other people working at the facility, if they needed further help.

Hector remarked that he had a one-ton cube-service truck, and a half-ton pick-up, besides the watercraft. Marc was genuinely impressed with Stiles organizational skills.  He was always one step ahead of the program.  And he had selected management personnel that seemed to know their own core competence.

Marc had all of their equipment transferred from the SUV to the cube truck.  It had all the local markings that were of Faxsilteck/Shipping, and not Die-Hex/Corp., as the SUV had.

Madrid

Things were progressing as planned; Jok, from Interpol, had become a fixture in the control room at the estate, as things progressed.  He may as well have had his cell phone surgically implanted.  He was constantly engaged in useless conversation.  At dinner, Martin had suddenly become ill and retired to his third floor domicile.  About an hour later, his personal physician arrived and was shown to his private quarters.  After thirty minutes, the doctor came back downstairs and announced that Mr. Colby was suffering from intense bout of GERD, compounded by severe exhaustion.  Jok, once more disappeared into “Cell Neverland.”  Stiles, on the other hand, was exceedingly happy with the way things were progressing.  Martin was now out of the limelight and preparing to fly to Valencia; Jok was downstairs, still chasing the fictitious cyber-tail.

Within the hour, Martin had made his way out a private exit to the garage area of the estate and got into the back seat of an employee’s vehicle. He was successfully able to exit the property without being seen.  Soon they were nearing the private air terminal at Madrid’s Barajas airport.  The driver entered the mag-card gate to the private hanger of Die-Hex/Corp and he then drove into the hanger through the automated garage door at the rear of the hanger.  The aircraft was pulled from the hanger just before Martin boarded the aircraft for the thirty-minute flight.  He moved to his seat, sat down and loudly exhaled, he was realizing he was not used to this type of stress and the faster it was over with – well, all the better.  He could hear the jet engines begin to spin-up as he buckled his seatbelt.  It began to taxi, when he felt a jerking motion in the cabin as the aircraft came to a halt.  The pilot opened the cockpit door and said, “We’ve got a problem, sir,” as he reached for the cabin door lever, and opened the door dropping the steps.  Before Martin could unbuckle his belt, agent Dara Petersen was standing at the cabin door saying, “Going somewhere, Mr. Colby?”

Colby, somewhat embarrassed, spoke up saying, “Agent Petersen, what a humbling surprise.  Won’t you have a seat and I’ll try to bring some light to this unfortunate fiasco.”  She stepped into the cabin of the aircraft, keeping her back to the bulkhead and her eyes on both Colby and the pilot.  Colby asked the pilot to return to the cockpit, while he and Petersen had a conversation.  Petersen sat down in the opposite seat between the door and where Colby was seated.  Colby reiterated that the abduction and everything that Interpol had reported was factual.  He began to layout the variations from what she knew, bringing her up to speed with his team.  When he came to the true demand of the abductors, he then asked her what her security rating was within Europol.  At that query, a questioning expression – nearly imperceptible – flashed across her face.  She said, “Mr. Colby, I am a senior advisory agent to the anti-terrorist team and, even more, a member of Europol’s first alert security detachment for WMD’s.  Are you seriously questioning my clearances?”  Now he could tell by the tone of her voice that she was becoming a bit perturbed.  He said, “I’m not trying to be smug, but please, try to understand the problem that I’m facing.  This could deeply affect the financial security of a large portion of the globe including both the EU, and U.S.  Have you been briefed on a Nano Security Firewall system referred to as NCC-5 Code?” Her reply was, “No, not in depth, but I’ve had rudimentary information cross my desk; it’s a Bio code that renders positive identification of individuals without exception, although I’m not certain how.”  Colby replied, “Well, that’s an extremely simplified vision of it, but it’ll do.  The Coding used in tandem on multiple individuals will create an exponential firewall.  This wall can virtually be used to secure anything that is either controlled or created by a computer.  It’s now in use in almost every nuclear facility on the planet, not to mention securing all the warheads being stored for the U.S. and NATO, as well as bank vaults, and repositories.”  Petersen once again spoke up saying, “But how does this code tie into your granddaughter?”  “My company, Die-Hex/Corp., developed the NCC-5 Code,” he said. He didn’t need to say anything else.  Dara was a quick study and had already arrived at the conclusion.  She said, “So, do know who the real extorters are?”  Martin said, “We’ve made educated guesses but they’re still just that.”  He stood up and walked to the cabin door and said, “Are you along for the ride?”  She said, “Can I call for assistance or anything?  And, yes, I’m in.”  Martin answered saying, “No, but thanks any way, I think we have it handled.”   As he closed the cabin door and slapped his hand on the cockpit bulkhead then returned to his seat.  The engines began to rotate once more.

On the way to Valencia, Colby filled her in on the progression and events coming up, and said that Marc and Eyan had gone ahead to map out the plan.  Dara asked where he had come in contact with Marc and Eyan and, more importantly, was he sure they were qualified?  Martin said, “Do you remember the stand-off situation with the American President a couple years ago?” She acknowledged saying, “Of course, it rocked the world back on its heels.” He said, “Marc and Eyan were the two shooters called in by the Secret Service.  Marc was the one that actually took out the gunmen holding the pistol to the President’s head.”  Dara said, “How did you get this information?  It was never released that I knew of.  We — well, Europol – never knew who the shooters were.” Martin said, “I have some, let’s say, well-placed friends in my circle that rarely fail to help me out, especially when I make it a personal request.”  Dara did not display the slightest reaction, but she was both surprised and certainly intrigued with the information.

A few minutes later, the aircraft began its decent and moments later, the familiar screech was heard as the tires touched the runway.  They taxied to the private executive terminal and shut down.  Before they had covered the twenty-five yards across the tarmac to the terminal, Eyan and Marc had emerged from the entrance doors and were walking briskly toward them.  As they approached, Marc quietly said to Eyan, “I didn’t realize that she was part of this equation.”  Eyan had no time to respond.  Martin could see the look in Marc’s eye, and decided to nip it in the bud saying, “Agent Petersen has agreed to assist us in our extracurricular activity.  Are there any complaints?” Marc, a bit surprised, smiled and said, “Real talent is always appreciated.” Martin said, “She’s up to speed and I’m quite sure she’ll be of added value to the team.” As they entered the terminal, a young man of about twenty-five walked up to Martin and said, “Señor Colby, I am Santana Callas, your driver.  Your car is this way, Señor.”  Martin and Dara walked outside and got into the full-sized Mercedes sedan parked next to the curb.  As soon as Marc and Eyan pulled around from the parking lot and joined them, they all quickly made their way across town to the Mediterranean Shores.  The boutique spa was just one more of Colby’s holdings.

It was 10:00 p.m. by the time they had all gotten their rooms and were beginning to re-assemble back at Martin’s suite.  Marc was the first to return, he asked Martin how Petersen suddenly became part of the team.  Martin reiterated the confrontation at the hanger, and then said, “I haven’t a clue how she knew what was going on.  My driver at the estate, Miguel, drove me to the airport in his car.  I was down in the back seat all the way there.  I just don’t know how she knew.  He’s an ex-National Policia Sergeant from the Drug Enforcement Division.  He’s been through a two-week course at Skills Driving Academy and also has had escape-and-evasion chauffeur training in the States.  That training also covered client security, like watching for cars tailing and vehicle sequestering, but he obviously just didn’t see anything.” Just then, both Eyan and Dara arrived at the suite.

Marc started the briefing, beginning with an overview of the Porto Saplaya enclave and the grassy area that Martin was to wait on before being contacted.  One of the first questions that emerged from Marc was, “Martin, could this be a setup to take you out of the picture?  The reason I ask is, after surveying the grassy area today, we found at least four perfect locations that could be used by us or them to dispatch a target with one shot.  I’m sure this could be why they picked the area. They could see any one coming for at least a hundred meters; it’s on a jetty out in front of the marina on the seaside.  If this is a take-down, you need to be aware that Eyan and I are going to be useless to protect you from being abducted.”  After a short pause, Dara spoke up saying, “The code – what’s been done with it?  Will they know it’s bogus right away, or will it take them some time?” Martin said, “People, the whole point of this is to get Laurel back.  I just – I don’t really care if I’m in danger or not.  As for the code – anyone who knows my company developed it – well, would probably know in a heartbeat that it’s fake, but I have to take that chance.”  Dara said, “We can’t let you just walk into harm’s way without a backup plan in place.” Eyan chimed in, saying, “We need a fast boat just in case they take you aboard a vessel of some kind.  We have the shore side covered.”   Martin said, “The Spa has a cigarette boat they use for advertising.  It’s made for offshore competition racing but, most of the time, it’s used for taking special guests for thrill rides.”  Eyan said, “That should do the trick for anything they might come up with.  We also have the SkipJac from Faxsilteck.”  The SkipJac was a converted dual-screw, 62-foot fishing trawler with an open hold behind the main deck cabin.  It looked like anyone of a hundred other working boats that are constantly moving up and down the coastal waters.

The plan was beginning to take form; Marc was to take up a position of cover across the marina inlet to the south within the marina’s boat storage area.  Hector Delgado would skipper the Cigarette boat.  He and Dara would motor in and moor it near, or at, the fueling dock of the Saplaya Marina.  Marc’s vantage was a mere 40 meters across the inlet to Colby’s purposed position.  Dara was to be eye-candy with Hector on the go-fast boat.  Eyan was to be on a dual-outboard, 18-foot runabout, anchored just to the north of the marina jetty, about one hundred meters off shore, playing fisherman.  Stiles was to arrive during the night and would take up position on shore in the parking lot near the exit, just in case things went inland, instead of to sea.
CAPTER EIGHT

Fail-Safe, Or Not

They all tried to capture a few hours’ sleep before setting up the operation in the pre-dawn hours.  They all wanted to be in position before the sun shed light on the plan.  Stiles was the perfect driver; he had spent several years living in Valencia as a younger man.  He arrived about three in the morning from the airport.  He would drive a non-descript rental car and watch the entry road to Port Saplaya from the nearby off-ramp of the expressway.  The meeting was set for five in the afternoon.  The communications equipment they had secured a few days earlier was now in use by the team. All had the ear pieces and voice-activated com gear and, all but Martin, had the Sat phones as a backup, just in case separation range became a problem.

It had been an uneventful morning and was approaching 4:30 in the afternoon when Hector and Dara idled into the marina on the cigarette boat.  Even at idle the two V-10 engines of the craft with their non-fettered exhaust, created a guttural tone which was impossible to ignore, when it was in reasonable proximity.  As the craft moved passed Marc’s position, Hector was in the skipper’s seat; Dara was lying on her stomach, head propped up on her arms.  She was on the aft deck on a large towel wearing a thong, sunglasses and not much else.  Her top was untied and most likely Hector had applied the vast amount of tanning oil on her back.  For the first time, Marc took a hard look at her; she was stunning.  She had always been wearing conservative pants suits, either black or brown with a white blouse.  Her hair was always pulled back and rolled into a bun.  As Hector was tying off the mooring lines, she reached back and tied the top strings of her bikini, but not before displaying a vast amount of cleavage.  Marc was more than a bit distracted as he watched her.  She must have spent all of her off time, and half her salary, on tanning salons.  She was dark golden brown but the dead giveaway was that there was not a single tan line visible.  She stood up and began to help Hector secure the boat.  She had a sculpted body and moved around the craft like a gazelle.  With her hair windblown, and hanging down to the middle of her back, she appeared amazingly sensual.  When she had suggested the pleasure boat at the dock while planning the mission last evening, Marc had nearly laughed aloud.  He wasn’t laughing now; just staring.  He snapped back to reality as a large inboard boat at the private docks fired off its engines.  This was very unsettling to Marc.  He never allowed distractions to interfere with business.   As he once more glanced over his shoulder in her direction, he wondered how he could have been so close to this beauty the last few days and not even noticed her potential.

He heard a crackle over the ear piece then Eyan’s voice saying, “We have two inbound boats with at least six bogies aboard; four in the large craft, two in a runabout, over.”  Marc tapped his microphone twice with his index finger indicating that he understood the message.  The jetty protecting the marina was about 300 yards long with a right-angle exit.  Marc’s position allowed him vision straight out the jetty, but not beyond.  A few minutes later a medium-sized cabin cruiser, maybe 28 to 30-foot, entered the end of the jetty.  Marc keyed his mic saying, “Heads up; we have visitors from the sea.” Letting everyone know, especially Stiles, who was nearly a quarter-mile from the waterway.  Martin, and his driver, Miguel, who had flown with Stiles, were parked in the northwest quadrant of the development, hopefully out of sight.  Marc’s com clicked once more and Eyan said, “The small boat just anchored off the jetty and they’re now fishing.  But I don’t think they’ll catch much with no bait on their hooks.”  The cruiser slowly edged its way up the jetty toward the marina.   As the boat approached Marc’s position, he pulled out his smart phone and engaged the HD video camera.  He wanted to get as much footage as possible of the people on the boat.

They pulled into the slip right next to Hector and Dara and one of the men jumped to the dock and quickly went into the mechanic’s office. The others were busy tying off the craft, when he returned with the guy from the office, and the two men began refueling the diesel tanks on the vessel.  Dara, to all of their delight, got out of the boat and walked to the office.  Hector was the only one whose attentions were not on her; he was busy trying to detect any movement in the cabin of the cruiser.  She emerged from the office with a bag of chips and walked back to the boat dock.  She asked the attendant to add the chips to the tab along with the fuel they had taken on.  Marc watched as she carefully teased the group and kept their attention, while Hector managed to look from another angle into the cabin from the dock.  After she got back into the boat, Hector asked the attendant if he could moor the craft at the end of the fueling dock, as he was waiting for some friends from Saplaya villa to join the boat.

As soon as Hector and Dara had moved the cigarette boat 60 feet down to the end of the dock, he reported on the com that he was able to see at least one other person below deck on the cruiser.  Both Eyan and Marc acknowledged the information.  Marc looked down at his watch; it was about ten minutes before five in the afternoon.  Martin had not yet started for the marina.  As Marc’s index finger started to press the transmit button on his com unit, Miguel keyed his unit and said, “Señor, Colby is en route to his meeting.”  Marc keyed in and said, “OK, everyone – heads up and watch for the unexpected, if that’s even possible.”  A few minutes later, Marc spotted Martin walking from the far end of the triangular patch of grass that bordered the jetty on Marc’s end.

When Martin had reached the middle of the field, the cabin cruiser fired up its dual turbo-diesels, cast off its mooring lines, and then began to back out of the fueling docks.  The field of grass across the inlet from Marc had a cement walkway with boat tie-offs every twenty-five feet or so.  There were several picnic benches spread out on the grass along the cement embankment.  Martin had been briefed by the abductors to sit at a specific bench.  Marc had positioned himself directly across at a right angle to the table so as to not to have the cruiser in his direct line of fire.

Eyan had been watching the runabout with the two men for at least 25 minutes.  He raised his anchor and began to go through the motions of securing his fishing gear, knowing he was being watched the whole time.  Marc heard his com click, then Eyan say, “I’m going to see if these guys have had any luck fishing.”  He paused, and then said, “Wish me luck.”  Marc once again tapped the com mic twice with his finger in acknowledgement.  Eyan, idled the boat toward the runabout, waving his right hand as he approached.  All the while, he steered the craft with his knee, while his left hand was appropriately coveting a Glock 21 fitted with a Retten-14 silencer.  He was about 20 feet away, when one of the two men reached into a bag on the seat of the craft.  Eyan could see the grip of an Uzi emerging.  His training automatically kicked in, along with the fact that he was a lefty. The Glock came up to firing position so fast that even Eyan was surprised.  The first round struck the man with his hand on the Uzi before it had cleared the bag.  He dropped to the deck, never having seen it coming, with a rather large section of his skull now missing. The second man sitting in the captain’s chair had secured a hand gun and was raising it to fire, as Eyan squeezed off a rapid double tap, one impacting the man’s shoulder the other was center mass.  Eyan keyed his com and simply said, “Two down.”   No one answered his conveyance, but all understood.

The cruiser was now edging up to the embankment; two men jumped ashore and held the mooring ropes tight.  This was what Marc was hoping would not happen.  They didn’t tie off to the normal docking positions, instead stopping at an obtuse angle.  Marc’s vision of Martin was totally blocked.  Two other men went ashore.  He heard a scuffle and some guttural tones, then they pulled Martin aboard the craft; the others ashore jumped on and the engines began to bellow loudly.  The paradigm was quickly shifting.  As the boat began pull away from the shore, Marc alerted the team saying, “We’re headed out to sea.”  Hector and Dara had already untied their craft and were backing out of the slip as Marc gathered his equipment and was moving toward the water’s edge.  As the craft maneuvered close to the edge of the embankment, Marc jumped onto the fore deck, tossing his equipment to Dara as he moved to the cockpit of the craft.

The cruiser was just clearing the right angle exit of the jetty when Marc exchanged positions with Hector, assuming the driver’s position.  As Hector began falling into his seat, Marc began throttling up the cigarette craft but he only accelerated a short distance, and then backed down the throttle staying within the confines of the jetty.  He had an idea that could help keep Martin safe and, at the same time, keep them within striking distance.  As they reached the right angle exit of the jetty, Marc brought the craft to a halt.  He keyed his com unit, summoning Eyan to their location within the jetty.  He did this, knowing that the people aboard the cabin cruiser would be watching for any craft in pursuit.  The cruiser was now under full power and heading eastward out to sea.

As Eyan approached, Marc signaled him to come aboard.  Eyan responded quickly — dropping the anchor of the boat and jumping on the large craft in one swift movement.  Marc turned to Hector, and asked what the cruising speed and range was for the cigarette boat. Hector quickly looked out to sea, noting the calm weather condition, and then said, “Right now, with the four of us aboard, maybe 135 miles an hour and we can easily travel 300 miles, or more.  The Balearic Islands, Ibiza or Mallorca were all in range to the east.”

Marc took inventory of the boat’s capabilities. It was equipped with the latest running gear and weather radar with extended range.  The craft had everything they might need for what he was planning.  Marc sat back down and asked Dara to switch seats with Hector.  He knew the area, and could help get Marc’s plan into action. Marc explained that he wanted to ID the cruiser on the boat’s radar, then pull out and travel at a right angle so as to not alert them that they were being followed.  He estimated that the cabin cruiser was good for – maybe – fifty miles per hour at cruising speed.  He pulled out of the jetty and turned southward, away from the cruiser.  Marc then accelerated to fifty miles an hour. Hector was glued to the radar as soon as the cruiser was at the apex of the radar’s ability; Marc slowed down until it disappeared off the screen, then turned to a 15-degree angle to the path of the cruiser and began to pour on the speed.

They were now traveling at around 80 mph.  Within three or four minutes, the other craft reappeared on the radarscope.  If the other craft saw them on their scope, it would appear that another boat was traveling out to sea, but in a slightly different direction.  Also, if they had lost radar contact with the cigarette boat heading south, they would have no way of knowing it was the same craft reappearing on their screen.  Hector regularly piloted the converted trawler to the off-shore islands and knew most of the ports well.  He plotted the course of the cruiser and said that he believed that it was headed for a port on the southern tip of Ibiza.  Marc surmised that if they pushed the craft hard, they could pass the other boat and then cut back to the port in Ibiza, and be at anchor before the other craft arrived.  Marc began to accelerate a few moments later; they were skipping wave tops at 125 miles an hour.  Marc had piloted many small craft in the Navy and even a few fast ones while on missions with the SEALS, but nothing with this much power.  He tapped his com unit and asked Hector if he knew how much horsepower the boat had.  He nearly swallowed his tongue when Hector said, “1,224 horsepower for each twin-turbocharged engine.” He was thinking — 2,448 horsepower.  It was easily the most powerful earthbound vehicle he had ever piloted.  He had another inch and a half of throttle, but thought better of it.  Twenty minutes later, he backed off the throttle and began his turn back to the north, toward the port.  Hector had not lost track of the cruiser.  It was on the same heading as it was when it departed Victoria.  Marc checked out his gauges, noting that his fuel was just short of 1/2 full. He asked Hector when he estimated the other boat would arrive.  Hector thought for a second, then said, “Perhaps twenty or twenty-five minutes.”  Marc asked him to direct them to the port fueling docks.  It was now approaching six in the evening.  It was mid-summer in the northern latitudes. They still had almost two hours of daylight and another hour of twilight to work with.  The fuel tanks were being topped off when Hector said, “They’re changing course and slowing down, and the direction doesn’t correspond to this port.  Their heading is now north, up the western side of the island.  Hector signed for the fuel and cast-off the lines, then they turned toward the port’s exit and briskly made way.

They quickly rounded the lower point of the island and hit open water.  Marc once again pushed the craft back up to over 100 mph.  Within five minutes, they were approaching visual proximity of the cruiser.  Marc brought the craft down to 25 mph; the bow dropped and began plowing the water.  Hector was busy studying the radarscope, then suddenly reached for some binoculars in one of the many storage compartments.  He rose up and began scanning out over the bow of the craft with the binoculars gripped tightly.  Hector said, “Stop here.”

He could see the cabin cruiser slowly plowing into a protected harbor next to a large private yacht and proceeded to drop anchor.  As they approached the harbor the name on the yacht was revealed as Orion’s Cradle.  It was at least a 30-meter hull by design; and had sharp angler features; it most likely was laid down in one of the Nordic countries.

Dara moved to the forward cockpit and adjusted the frequency of the two-way radio.  She then called out for emergency assistance. Within a few minutes, a National Policia port substation had responded.  She identified herself as a Europol agent giving her assignment number, which would confirm her identity.  She then requested information regarding the ownership of the yacht and port of origin.  Within minutes, she had a rundown on the information.  The ownership was listed to a Swedish textile corporation.  Marc glanced over at Eyan, only to see him shaking his head.  She was very good at her job, and always seemed to be ahead of the curve.

Hector requested a ship-to-shore connection when Dara was finished with her conversation. He put a call into Stiles and filled him in on the location and situation. Stiles said he would be airborne within the hour and that he and Miguel would acquire a boat and join the group before midnight.

Marc asked Hector to relay a request for Styles to bring the remaining equipment in the cube van with them on the flight.  The harbor that the yacht was anchored in was used by a few resorts and a small enclave of very high-end private villas with some scattered retail shops near the water’s edge.  As night began to fall, they made a decision to wait for darkness, find a protected area within the harbor to moor the craft, and then go ashore.  A while later, after securing the boat, Marc and Dara, following a walkway along the water’s edge, made their way to one of the restaurants and ordered food for everyone while sitting at the bar area watching the yacht.  Eyan and Hector stayed aboard the boat, just in case something happened aboard or around the yacht.

As they sat there, Dara plied the bartender saying, “That’s a beautiful ship, does it belong to someone that lives here?”  The barman responded saying, “It showed up three days ago, but no one knows anything about it. No one comes ashore; the only activity was they unloaded that cabin cruiser from the rear deck with the onboard crane two days ago, and then it disappeared until this afternoon.  Everyone’s been talking about it.” He moved off down the bar to serve another customer.  Dara said, “The more we learn, the stranger it gets.”  Marc turned to her and said, “How did you know something was up with Martin back at the hanger in Madrid?”  She smiled, and said, “A girl has to have her secrets.”  She went on to say, “It was Miguel.  We were watching everyone at the Villa, but he left over two hours before he normally left work.  And when he turned in the opposite direction of his home and entered the expressway, I knew something was up.  I just followed them to the airport.  Then Colby rolled over as soon as I went aboard the airplane.”  Marc said, “I’m happy you’re working with us, rather than against us.”  Just then the food came and Marc paid for it, as they were gathering up the sacks.  Dara said, “Me, too,” displaying a subtle smile.  Marc paused a millisecond, then returned the smile.

Walking back to the boat, Marc said, “That bathing suit today on the boat worked to perfection.  Those guys couldn’t keep their eyes off you.  For that matter, it was a bit difficult for me.”  Dara replied saying, “Well, I knew I couldn’t dress as I normally do when I go to the beach.  I had to wear something, but I really hate tan lines.  It’ll take at least two weeks to get rid of the lines I got today.”  When Marc looked up, she wasn’t smiling, she was dead serious.

When they got back to the boat, Eyan was on the two-way radio talking to Stiles.  When he finished, Marc tossed him a bag with his food in it.  Eyan said, “I think I have a plan to help us see what’s going on over at the yacht.  I had Stiles get us some dive tanks and gear and some gallon zip bags.”  Marc was with him all the way. Dara on the other hand had a quizzical expression on her face, along with Hector.  Marc turned and said, “The zips keep a pistol and ammo dry down to about twenty feet, even deeper if you keep the bag inverted.”  Eyan continued on saying, “I think we need to dive as soon as possible.  Who knows what’s going on over there and the sun comes up early this time of year.”

It was not a small harbor, but it was shallow.  The yacht was anchored about 120 meters off shore but still within the harbor.  The draft of the ship and common sense precluded it from moving closer into shore.  Not long after midnight, Stiles and Miguel were near.  The radio was turned down and the squelch was turned up to weed out the static and skip interference.  Marc heard a small boat entering the harbor; he keyed his radio and said, “Stiles.”  Stiles keyed his radio twice, and then said, “Private com.”  Marc slipped on his ear receiver and touched his throat mic, then directed them to his location.  Within the hour, after a meeting of the minds, Marc and Eyan were in the water silently swimming toward Orion’s Cradle.

As they approached the ship at a depth of twenty feet, the moonlight was penetrating the water enough to clearly see the anchor chains.  They surfaced next to the stern chain; they were shielded by the ship’s hull from the bright moonlight.  They silently took off their air tanks and attached them to the chain.  After moving up to the teak sports deck that was mounted just below the fantail, they undraped their weapons discarding the zip lock bags.  At this point, as a group, they had come to the conclusion that Martin, along with his granddaughter, had been taken as hostages until they were sure the NCC-5 coding was the real deal, which it wasn’t.  Now, the only avenue left to pursue was to try a bold move and hopefully surprise them in a swift and silent assault.  Stiles and Dara, along with Miguel, were in the small runabout that Stiles and Miguel had arrived in.  They were moving as quietly as possible, trying not to be obvious, toward the yacht and also the harbor entrance with running lights on.

Marc rose up, looked across the deck quickly, and then ducked down just as fast, indicating to Eyan that he saw no one on the fantail.  They moved to opposing sides of craft and looked once more, quickly, down each side deck walkway.  Still, there was no one in sight.  Both moved up over the rear railing onto the fantail, then took cover behind the nearest object of opportunity.  Marc looked over to starboard and saw the runabout, moving toward the yacht.  He raised his green laser pin light and flashed it at the craft; they had prearranged the signal before starting the operation to confirm their boarding of the yacht.

From Naval experience, both Marc and Eyan knew that a craft of this size would have at minimum eight or ten people as crew members.  Also it would be nearly impossible to sequester anyone aboard without everyone knowing.  With that conclusion, they decided to treat everyone aboard as a hostile.  They began working their way toward the bow, each covering the other as they took turns moving.  They reached the main deck cabin; the lights were off.  The yacht’s design was ultra-modern with plethora of windows; the moonlight was shining brightly and flooded into the cabin as they peered in.  Marc saw no one, but Eyan noticed movement on one of the large couches.  He keyed his com once, getting Marc’s attention, then he indicated that he saw one person, putting his hand horizontal then tipping his head on it, as if he were sleeping.  Marc nodded his head in acknowledgement, and then signaled Eyan to join him on the starboard side of the craft, to take full advantage of the shadow of the moon.

As they moved up the starboard walkway beyond the first cabin, a slight amount of light was filtering out of one of the smaller windows.  Marc moved to the window; it had wooden shutters that were only partially open.  He could see three men at a galley table, playing cards.  Looking around the room, he could see several weapons; two automatics that appeared to be Uzi’s were lying on the table next to the men.  They each were wearing vest harnesses with snap-in holsters that were populated with what appeared to be Glocks.  Not your typical sous-chef attire he was thinking, as he noticed one of the men was wearing traditional all white galley clothing.  The two others he recognized as being on board the cabin cruiser in Valencia, when Martin was abducted.

Just then, they heard a door latch rattle, and then a screeching sound as the door opened.  It was on the deck just above them.  They both instinctively moved to find cover as a man walked about ten steps to a rail deck ladder, and began to descend to the lower deck. At the same time, the door to the galley opened. It was not more than three feet from where Eyan had taken cover behind a deck box.  The man on the ladder said, “Hugo, Mr. Lagôs said for you to get some strong fresh coffee going.  He needs something to help him stay awake.  This code stuff is not making sense to him.  Oh, and take some down to Andrea; we wouldn’t want him falling asleep watching our guests.”  Hugo replied, “Ya, Ya.  How come it’s always me?” as the door to the galley slammed shut behind him.

After the man on the ladder had returned to the cabin that he had emerged from on the upper deck, it was once again quiet.  Marc, realizing the runabout was now in a holding position about fifty yards off the starboard side of the yacht, keyed his com unit, and said in a low whisper, “Were going below deck now.  If you hear shots, use your own discretion.”  He once again heard a double click from the com unit on the runabout, acknowledging the transmission.

They watched the man called Hugo through the window.  A short while later, he poured coffee into a thermal container and a ceramic coffee service, placing the latter on a silver tray.  He said something to one of the other men, then handed him the tray, while at the same time, raising his backhand in a threatening gesture.  Both Marc and Eyan moved back to cover before the man emerged from the galley door.  Once the man had negotiated the rail stairs, he disappeared into the cabin above.  Marc returned to the galley window and peered in, searching for Hugo, once again.  His interest was piqued when he realized the man was gone from sight. Then he heard a metallic sound, as he detected the motion of a door being closed on the far side of the room.

Marc quickly turned to Eyan, saying, “He’s taking the internal hallway to their location,” as he moved to the galley door.  He pulled the door open; the man at the table did not look up immediately, thinking it was his friend returning from the coffee delivery.  When he did look up, the look of surprise was erased from his face, as a crimson spot appeared just above his right eye, as the dull echo of Marc’s silenced pistol reverberated around the room.  They moved through the room swiftly reaching the center corridor, Marc turned toward the front of the ship and began moving cautiously, Eyan following.  Marc heard Eyan whisper, “I’m going to the deck cabin to take care of sleeping beauty.”  Marc noted Eyan’s remark as he moved off down the corridor in search of Hugo’s trail.

As he reached the end of the hallway, it branched in both right and left directions. To the right was a set of stairs going up, on the left was another set going down.  He paused, and then heard a door opening from down below, echoing up the staircase.  He descended the stairs and moved toward the first door.

At the rear of the craft, Eyan slowly entered the dark deck cabin from the main corridor.  He moved to the darkened wall to his right, to allow his vision to adjust from the lit hallway.  His night vision began to return, as he scanned the cabin getting his visual references from the opposing end of the room.  The man was still in dreamland.  Eyan made his way between the furniture and across the room, picking up a throw pillow as he did.  He wrapped the pillow around his pistol, looking up just in time to see the man reach to a coffee table for his weapon.  Eyan fired two rounds in quick succession; the man fell limp where he lay.  At the same instant, Eyan was hit from behind with what felt like a baseball bat.  He went down to his knees and rolled forward.  To the assailant’s surprise, Eyan returned to his feet as quickly as he had fallen.  The man looked to the coffee table, seeing the automatic pistol.  He began moving toward it.  Eyan spun around, exposing his side to the man, raising his left arm, then quickly projecting his elbow backwards into the man’s chest.  He then reversed direction 180 degrees, dropping to his knees, placing his left knee under the man’s back as he fell.  There was a guttural moan as several vertebrae shattered, as the man fell limp.  Eyan instinctively looked around the room for more suitors, there were none to be seen.  He dropped the man, picked up the Uzi automatic pistol from the coffee table rather than searching for his pistol in the dark, and then ran toward the main corridor, in search of Marc.

Marc was now moving from doorway to doorway, stopping and listening for voices.  There were five doors off the hallway, including one at the end.  He had worked his way down one side and was now moving back up the other.  He was at the fourth doorway when he heard voices from within.  He was near the staircase when he heard Eyan on his com checking in.  Marc looked toward the stairs; he could see Eyan’s legs at the top of the landing.  He keyed his unit, and said, “Down the stairs – quietly – I’m just below.”  After Eyan had descended the stairs and taken up a back-to-back surveillance position with Marc. Marc said, “There are at least two of them in there.  Stay close.  I’m on the right; you’re left, just like we used to teach the recruits.”

Marc put his hand on the doorknob as he started to slowly twist; the handle accelerated out of Marc’s control, clicked, and the door began to open.  He could see Hugo, the chef’s white uniform coming into full view, just beyond the door.  Marc, realizing the door was opening, instinctively pushed hard on the door, shoving the man backwards into Andrea’s back; the guard was just taking a drink of very hot coffee.  Marc lunged in the room briskly, his pistol in his right hand.  With hardly a flick of his wrist he put one round in Hugo’s right temple as the gruff bastard lay on the floor.  He took one more step and raised his right arm and shoved his silencer onto the nape of Andrea’s skull, and said, “So tell me, Andrea, how many people are on board?” as he reached up and grabbed a hand full of hair, holding the hot silencer barrel to the back of his neck.

Eyan moved swiftly over to where Martin and his granddaughter had been secured to wooden chairs with electrical tape.  He removed the gags from both and opened his four-inch folding-lock-back knife.   He cut the tape away from their arms and legs.  Martin moved to his granddaughter, dropped down and engulfed her in his arms, shielding her from the events going on in the room.

Marc, growing short on temperament, motioned to Eyan to pick up the thermos of hot coffee off the table and said, “Open that up, I think Andrea needs something to keep him awake.”  Marc pushed the man into one of the chairs that had held the captives. And then, picking up the same roll of electrical tape from the table, then bound his hands and feet to the chair. He quickly ran it around the man’s head several times and once again grabbing his hair pulled his head back and wound the tape through the back of the chair, forcing his head back, saying again, “How many, Andrea?”  The man only snarled then spat at him.  Marc reached over to the table and picked up a rag about the size of a wash cloth.  He folded it in half and placed it just below the man’s eyes, covering his nose and mouth. Marc began dripping the hot coffee over his nose and mouth. It’s one thing to introduce water in this way, but scalding hot coffee is a horse of a different color.  The membranes of the nose are as sensitive to heat and cold as they are to being overwhelmed with liquid.  In less than one minute, Andrea was so panic-stricken, that he almost couldn’t say the word – “twelve.”

Eyan was at the door watching for anyone that might be patrolling the boat.   Martin and his granddaughter, Laurel, were huddled to the side of the room.  The men were discussing the planned egress.  They were going to retrace Eyan’s path returning them to the stern of the yacht.  The yacht had not dropped the side boarding stairs, so the best bet was to take the youngster to the teak sports deck off the fantail.  There they could transfer her to the runabout.  Marc keyed his com unit and called to Stiles. There was no reply; the com unit could not push through the steel bulkhead from below the waterline.  He would try once more when they were higher up within the ship.  Marc said to Martin, “Once we get Laurel to safety, Eyan and I will try to take this Lagôs guy down.”  Martin, with an astounded look said, “Antowan Lagôs is on this ship?”  Marc said, “I didn’t know his first name, but that’s what they called him upstairs.”  Martin’s reply was, “He was one of the key researchers on the development team for NCC-5 Code, until he just suddenly resigned and then disappeared.  No one seemed to know why – he just called in one day and never returned to work.”  Eyan chimed into the conversation saying, “Guys, we need to move on out of here before someone sounds the alarm.”

Marc moved to the doorway, as Eyan stepped out into the hall and turned toward the steps; Martin and Laurel following close behind.  Marc waited for them to start up the stairs behind Eyan before backing down the hallway to the base of the stairs, and then turned and then began his ascent.  Marc said, “Hey, there’s at least eight of those guys’ still lurking around, so keep an eye out.” Eyan replied, “Oh, make that seven – Sleeping Beauty had company.”

They turned to the right and began moving back down the central corridor toward the fantail. Eyan was still in the lead.  His senses keyed in on a loud noise just up ahead.  The door to galley was still cracked open about three inches.  That’s where the noise was emanating from.  He could hear a voice calling out; it was not in English, but the tone was clear.  It was the alarm being sounded that he had warned of.  He picked up speed, moving down the corridor until he reached the galley door.  He quickly glanced in, and then pulled back, saying, “Clear.”  As he waved the others by him, he was saying to Marc, “Take the lead – I’ll block the door and follow.”  They moved on past the door; Marc keyed his com unit and call out for Stiles to bring the runabout around to the fantail for a pickup. They entered the rear deck cabin and began to weave their way through the furniture, when Stiles said over the com, “ETA, we’re one minute out.” Marc began to hear sporadic gun fire from behind them as they raced toward the rear of the craft.  Eyan yelled out from behind them as he emerged from the corridor into the cabin, “They’re coming around on the starboard, outside walk…”  Marc was now clearly able to see that no one was between them and the rear of the craft.  “Stop!” he yelled to Eyan. “Cover the corridor; “I’ll take care of the one’s outside.” Eyan, waving his arm, ran over to the area of the earlier skirmish with “Sleeping Beauty.”  The sunrise was casting an eerie light into the cabin, but it was sufficient for him to locate his Glock lying on the floor.  He also noticed an extra clip of ammo for the Uzi on the coffee table, which he retrieved.   He had just picked up the clip when the table burst into splinters from a round fired from the corridor.  He dropped down and rolled to the end of the couch and came up with the Uzi doing what it does best, throwing vast amounts of lead very quickly. One man fell forward into view upon the floor, but he could hear more coming down the hallway.  He looked to the fantail; he could see Marc down behind a large support bracket for the cabin cruiser dry dock.  He was returning fire up the starboard side of the ship.  Martin’s head was partially visible; he was standing on the teakwood sports deck off the back of the yacht. He turned back, focusing his attention on the corridor.

Marc was on his third magazine of ammunition trying to keep the balance of fire even.  He was trying to buy the time necessary for Martin and Laurel to escape onto the runabout.  He fired two more rounds, when he noticed the pistol’s slide now in the lock-back position.  He looked down, reaching to his vest for his fourth of five mags, while ejecting the empty mag from the pistol.  He heard a gunshot from behind, and then he saw a pistol sliding toward him from the portside of the ship across the deck, stopping about two yards out in front of him.  As he looked up, he saw a man falling to his knees, while grasping at his throat making a gurgling sound as he fell forward onto the deck, blood gushing from the open wound.  He looked back to see Dara moving toward him and firing several more rounds.  She was now firing over his head, down the starboard walkway as she moved to find cover.  Marc tripped the slide release on his pistol after slamming in a full magazine and said, “Are they clear?” Dara said, “All clear,” as she moved up to his position behind the storage container pulling a shoulder bag off.  “There’s more mags in there,” pointing to the bag.

Eyan had retreated to the rear door of the cabin and jumped out through metal frame of a large sliding glass door that had proved it was not bullet proof.  He took cover to the right of Marc and Dara. She held up a full magazine of ammo.  But he waved it off; he had all his magazines still on his vest, as he held up the Uzi that he had confiscated.

They could hear the runabout’s engine cavitate as the craft turned sharply to move away from the yacht.  Now the job at hand was straight forward.  Marc said, “Let’s stay on the outside and make our way back to the upper deck where we last saw Lagôs.” Eyan looked at the man on the deck, now in a large pool of blood, and said, “With him down, that makes seven; five more to go – I’m beginning to like these odds a little better.”  Eyan once again looked back into the deck cabin, double-checking to see if anyone was a fool enough to be coming through there.  It was clear.  They started moving back toward the bow, one taking cover and watching, while the others were moving forward. They reached the bottom of the ladder next to the galley door that they had been near earlier.  They were preparing to go up the stairs when Marc heard a familiar sound.  The “twanging” sound produced by the spoon being released on a hand grenade.  Eyan was onboard as quickly as Marc; he opened the galley door and jumped inside.  Marc spun around with his right arm reached out and caught Dara’s midriff and pulled her in on top of him as he followed Eyan into the galley.  The grenade bounced once on the stairs and then fell to the deck, exploding just below the galley window.  The cabin’s quarter-inch steel bulkhead was more than strong enough to withstand the grenade blast.  The concussion of the explosion was still extreme.  Without the bulkhead, anyone within five meters of the exploding ordinance would suffer a multitude of potential injuries such as burst eardrums or capillaries in the eyes and nose could very well rupture.  The ill-effects from the shrapnel would be life-threatening, but this was not the case today.

Dara had been man-handled like a rag doll by Marc pulling her through the doorway.  They were now on the floor; Dara sprawled out on top of him face-to-face.  Both were somewhat isolated by the ringing in their ears, but their eyes were locked intensely on each other, nearly touching noses.  Marc had the desire to kiss her, but thought better of it.  Dara, sensing something in Marc’s eyes, moved on her own impulse, kissing him.  When she had finished, Marc began to say something, but Dara raised her hand and placed her index finger over his lips, mouthing the words “business first,” with a distinct look of desire upon her face.  Eyan had been far too busy getting to his feet and trying to shake off the ringing in his ears to notice the brief, but punctuated event.  However, Marc had certainly made note of it.

They quickly assembled a plan. Eyan would stay in the galley and keep watch on the ladder and upper walkway.  Marc and Dara were to move through the craft and ascend to the upper deck from within.  They were hoping to contain the remaining people in the cabin above.  It’s much easier to gain control of people in a confined area – it was one of the first rules of urban warfare.

Marc and Dara moved swiftly up the corridor toward the stairs at the end.  Marc was somewhat surprised at Dara’s training. Every step she took was a calculated move; not unlike all the training he and Eyan had endured first as SEAL recruits, then as instructors, teaching others those very same techniques.

Marc used a bobbing method to take a quick look around the corner at the end of the hallway; it appeared clear both ways.  He moved to the ascending staircase to the right and began moving slowly up as Dara covered their position on the lower deck.  As Marc’s head reached the upper level deck, he turned around on the staircase being able to see that there was an exterior exit door directly ahead and only one direction to travel on that deck.  He raised his head and quickly looked down the hallway; still no one in sight.  He then moved up to the deck and around the protruding handrail and started down the corridor; Dara was bringing up the rear in a back-to-back configuration.  Marc moved down the corridor.  There was a door to the right and, as he approached it, it swung open into the hallway.  A man stepped out, never looking up the corridor in their direction. He began moving away in the opposite direction.  Marc moved quickly up behind the man, drawing out a knife from his vest as he did so.  The crewman, now hearing Marc’s approach from behind, reached up with his right hand and grasped his Uzi that was slung over his shoulder.  Marc’s reaction was to reach out his left arm, wrapping it around the man’s neck as he plunged the blade swiftly into his kidneys. Then, with equal deftness, he brought it to his throat severing both carotid arteries. The crewman had managed to squeeze off five rounds, stitching the overhead deck like a sewing machine, before collapsing to the floor.

Marc turned to Dara, pointing at the door that the man had emerged from saying, “Does he have any more friends in there?”  The door was still open wide; it was the internal entry to the ship’s wheelhouse.  Dara using a similar version of the bobbing method reported that the wheelhouse was empty.  Marc keyed his com and said, “Eyan, scratch one more.”  Eyan did not respond, but Marc did hear the familiar double-click of acknowledgement from Eyan’s com unit.  Marc took this as a sign that someone was in close proximity to Eyan or he would have responded verbally.

The end of the corridor had an exit door, the same as the opposing side they had come from.  Only one other option was to be taken.  It was the door to the left or rear of the craft, about ten feet from where both Marc and Dara were standing. Unlike the door to the bridge, this one did not have a half glass.  Marc would only be guessing as to where it led, although he suspected it was the door to the room that the opposition was sequestered within.  The answer to his question was not to be pondered long.  Before they had reached the doorway, a hail of gunfire erupted from within the room.  Both Dara and Marc dropped to the deck as the corridor filled with airborne debris.  Once again, the Uzi’s were doing what they were meant to do.  No one near the door, or even standing in the hallway, would have survived the maelstrom.  The opposing force was now only four-strong, but Marc knew that when people are cornered, they typically fought well beyond their normal ability.

Marc had a few tricks of his own to introduce to the party. The door and wall was extremely porous at this point, Marc reached down and pulled two concussion grenades from a belt pack and held them out in front of him, saying to Dara in a subdued voice, “Pins, please.”  Dara, from her position on the floor beside Marc, reached over and pulled both pins.  Marc got to his feet and peered down the hallway; Dara was now also up and close beside him.  He whispered once more to her to saying, “Throw something toward the door.”  She quietly picked up a brass plaque that had been attached to the door that read “Stateroom,” which was now sporting at least two holes, and tossed it at what was left of the door – clanging to the floor as it hit.  Gunfire was once more the instant result.  Using the noise to cover his movement, he swiftly found holes large enough for the grenades, inserting both in what seemed like a micro-second to Dara.  He stepped back in Dara’s direction, placing his body as cover and throwing his arms around her at the same time.  The grenades, when detonated, give off a blinding white light and a concussive blast.  If the area is confined, the blast effect will be intensified.  What had remained of the door was now in pieces in the corridor.  The interior wall had changed shape, resembling a balloon.  They both moved to the entrance where the door had been, and stepped into the room.  Marc keyed his com and said, “Move!  We’re in the cabin.”

He could see across the cabin, through the smoke, that an exterior door had either been blown open or someone had used it to escape.  His training kicked in as he visually scanned the room.  As the smoke began to clear from the blast, an Uzi began to fire from a position near the wet bar.  The firing stopped, abruptly. Dara had abbreviated the man’s ability to participate with two shots to the man’s unprotected, center mass.  Marc registered a mental-note-never piss this girl off; it could easily be hazardous to one’s health.  He then heard shots being fired from beyond the external open door.

Eyan had been at his station just inside the galley door watching the outside area of the vessel, along that side of the craft.  The two remaining men, one of which was Lagôs, tried to make a break for alternate cover just before the concussion grenades had detonated.  Eyan was occupied, blocking the rear door to the galley to protect his backside.  He now found himself pinned in behind a large upright refrigerator, when the two entered the galley and shots were fired.  Eyan soon found out that the newer thin walled refrigerators were not good protective cover when a round penetrating the unit, struck him in his upper right arm, about an inch outside of his protective vest.  The bullet had just enough momentum to penetrate, and then lodge in the muscle of his upper arm.  There was little or no bleeding; the bullet was so hot that it was self-cauterizing, but it hurt like hell.  Shots were still being exchanged within the room.  The two men seemed to be hesitant to leave the safety of the galley.  Eyan had blocked the corridor entrance with almost everything that he could move in the room.  One of Eyan’s strengths was that he was ambidextrous and was as fluent using a firearm to his right, or left, with the same lethal dexterity.

Eyan keyed his com and said, “Marc, I’m pinned down in the galley with two of these guys between me and the door.  I took one in the arm; it’s not bad, but I could use some help.”  Marc said, “We’re on our way, now!”  Marc headed for the door instinctively looking for Dara to follow, but she had already turned and was on a collision course with Marc as they approached the external exit door.  Marc arrived first, did a quick look out and around and said, “Cover me, I’ll go first.”  He bolted across the deck to the top of the rail stairs leading to the lower deck.

Eyan was now quickly running out of time and ammunition.  The men were shredding the area with gunfire; he was running out of things to put between him and the bullets.  He rolled out a stainless-steel waste container that was in a slot against the wall.  When he looked into the void he could see there was a stainless-steel door the same size as the container.  He reached in and pushed on the door, it opened into a service utility room.  Eyan didn’t need a printed invitation.  He reached up, emptied the remaining ammunition from the Uzi in the direction of the men, and then proceeded through the opening.

Marc and Dara had made their way down from the upper deck at this point, and were assessing the situation from just beyond the galley doorway, which was now closed.  Marc keyed his com unit and said, “Eyan, we’re outside the door, but totally blind.  Give me a sit-rep.”  Eyan, getting to his feet, said, “I’m clear, found an exit.  These guys aren’t going without a fight.”  Marc keyed his unit saying, “No need for us to stick our heads in harm’s way. If I had a frag, I’d drop it through the window and be done with it.”  Eyan, finding the exit door leading to the main corridor, said, “I could smell propane before getting out of the room, two-bits says a flash-bang will do the same as a frag.”  Marc said, “Can you get clear?”  Eyan said, “I’m in the main corridor, quick-timing it for the fantail now.”  Marc turned to Dara and told her to make for the fantail also, then keyed his unit once more and asked Stiles for a pick-up at the sports deck.  He then looked up, seeing Dara moving onto the fantail from the side deck.  He pulled out his last concussion grenade and pulled the pin, dropping the grenade just inside the window that was no longer functional due to the first fragmentation grenade dropped down the stairs earlier.  He turned toward the rear of the craft, dropping his vest in one fluidic movement, and ran faster than even he thought possible down the side deck.  He was counting off the seconds, as he ran.  When he reached the count of four, he launched himself over the side rail and was mid-air in his dive, when the blast occurred.

The upper two decks of the yacht erupted into a massive orange ball of fire, ejecting debris in all directions.  Stiles had returned the runabout to the rear of the yacht before Marc had called, anticipating their need of a speedy extraction.  As soon as the falling objects subsided, Eyan looked up at Stiles and said, “Get this boat moving, now!”  Stiles was a bit tentative, he looked back at the yacht, then slammed the throttle fully open and pulled away.  Both Eyan and Dara were visually searching the ship for Marc as they moved off encircling the yacht.  Marc swam toward the fantail. When he arrived and realized his ride was gone, he swam over to the anchor chain and recovered his scuba gear.  He turned toward the shore and submerged down to about twenty feet then leveled off and began a sustained swimming pattern.  As he was moving away, he could hear multiple explosions resonate through the water.  As he approached the go-fast boat at anchor, he swam up and surfaced, pulling off his mask, fins and other gear.

Miguel Sandoval, Martin’s driver was on the cigarette boat, watching the events of the morning unfold.  Just then, Marc threw the first items of his gear onboard, startling Miguel.  He had not noticed Marc near the rear of the craft.  Marc climbed aboard and asked Miguel to pull the anchor, as he sat down in the driver’s cockpit.  He started the engines and as soon as they were clear he pulled out toward the other boats that were now circling around Orion’s Cradle, which was by now fully engulfed in flames.  Marc, at idle, moved the craft out into the area where the other boats were and cut the engines.  No one seemed to notice them joining the search, for what Marc knew, was for himself.  As the runabout moved around the bow of the yacht to Marc’s starboard, he said in a mocking voice, “Who are we looking for?”  The only thing on the runabout that was unattached was the seat cushions/life preservers.  Eyan promptly picked one up and threw it, hitting Marc in the shoulder.  Marc said, “Sometimes I forget you’re ambidextrous.  How’s the arm?”  Eyan said, “No push-ups for a couple weeks – I’m OK.”  Dara, on the other hand, didn’t say a word but with the look on her face, Marc could have written a book.  She was as smart as they come and amazingly competent, but the main thing that intrigued Marc was her independent style, she had an almost indomitable spirit of life which she carried like her badge.

Copyright © 2016; All Rights Reserved

Published by

Laura Brooks

Published author of four books. See more about me on Amazon's Author Central.

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