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Old 11-21-2023, 07:38 PM
cawest cawest is offline
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Join Date: Apr 2017
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Default Gold and Zambezi fanfic

Well guys, I'm back. You might want to find "Looking for Something" before you read this, but I tried to make it a almost stand along story just with some of the same characters. Please let me know if you find any issues.


Chapter 1 It starts.

The Bluenose was slowly making her way down the west coast of the pirate infested island of Comoros. The local government had collapsed not long after the Russians had launched the first set of nuclear weapons against the United States and her other enemies. By the time of The Thanksgiving Day Massacre, it had fallen into a hell like existence that could not have been generated by the most addled screen writer in Hollywood. Now it was just another fallen state, like a hundred others around the globe on its best days.

Mount Karthala was clearly visible in the night sky with a half-moon coming up behind it. The burnt out remains of a city that had at one time been called Moroni was well off the stern of the small sailing ship like a skeleton of some great beast from the past. The small boat was coasting on the sea’s current without sails or the push of her salvaged truck engines. The fuel of the right quality and in enough of the quantity needed to feed them was getting harder and harder to find every day. But they were currently not running due to the noise they made, and not due to the lack of fuel for the three masses of metal.

The sailing ship was coasting along, but she was not without power unlike most other ships that were still moving on the great oceans of this battered planet. All of the limited supply of hard to come by electricity was being used by a hand built, souped up fish finder. One that had cost as much as a new car would have before the Thanksgiving Day Massacre, and now could not be had for love nor money. That device had been used to find shipwrecks in the harbors and coastal areas around Mombasa for over a year now. Richard had “borrowed” the device for this mission, but he had almost had to promise his first-born child to do so.

No one had been using it at the time, and Richard had been helpful in the past. So, a letter had been cut and the device was mounted on his ship and much grumbling had been muttered by some highly placed people. The looks that were shot towards the “regular” crew of this “non” navy ship was something that had to be seen and joked about over some local made moonshine many hours later. Most of the classes on using the device had been centered around how hard it was to make this device, and how hard it would be to replace it if some ham-fisted crewmembers broke it.

Now the Bluenose was using it much the same way as the Mombasa Port Authority had been, only they were looking for larger targets, a lot larger targets. So far, the crew of the Bluenose had found six targets under the dark waters of this part of the Indian Ocean, ones that might be what they were looking for or not. Without any underwater divers, this small craft could not check out what they were picking up on the modified sonar device. The data was just marked on a special map overlay that was locked away when it was not needed. Why was the Bluenose doing this scouting at night? Richard didn’t want anyone to beat him to the punch, if they did find a gold mine under the waves that he thought was there. His experience in the Baltic was coming in handy again, and he was mildly surprised that he was the one to make this type of breakthrough.

When the sun rose the next morning over the clear skies of the Indian Ocean. The sailboat was not visible from the local landmass any longer. Now it was time to review the notes while most of the crew got some rest and decompressed from the long night operations and the resulting high stress. Richard started his own required ship’s checks with the aft mounted 20mm twin turret, and then he worked his way to the 105mm recoilless cannon mounted on her special turret on the bow. Both heavy weapons systems were manned and the crews alert to any danger that might be in the area. It was a key sign of a well-trained crew that manned this ship that Richard didn’t find anything amiss.

When Richard dropped into the half-exposed cabin of the sailboat, his business partner was waiting for him with a table full of charts. Richard did a head nod and picked up a cup of coffee from the coffee pot near the plotting table. He had to admit that the abundance of good coffee beans was one of the things that this area had going for it. Besides being that it was good coffee, and it was almost plentiful enough for it to not to cost an arm and a leg to get enough to make a pot much less in the volumes that this crew went through it.

Richard could only smile at the look he was getting from his London-born business partner, and he knew that it was time to poke the bear. “Did we find it? Or were you taking a nap while we all were working?”

Norwell gave a shrug to his American business partner. “How the hell should I know? We have six target areas, so far.” Norwell stopped talking after having realized that Richard was trying to get a rise out of him.

Norwell fought to keep from throwing his own cup of coffee at his co leader, after all good coffee was not that cheap for someone who was used to counting every copper. “The largest return came in while we were off of Singani.” He was now pointing to one of the six red circles on the nautical chart pinned onto the tabletop between the two men.

Richard looked down at the map Norwell was pointing to. “So, you think that we should go for it?”

Norwell gave a snort, but he didn’t say anything for long seconds. “If you want to keep going with this crazy idea? That is going to be all on you. I’m taking “her” up to the Med, then to Spain, and then finally England. This is a money in hand operation, and I have to get through the canal before the trade winds shift. It’s not like I can tack or use a tug anymore to make it through the Suez Canal anytime of the year I want to make the run.”

Richard nodded and the two men shook hands. “Norwell, it has been great working with you. Make sure you take enough good stuff with you for” some side trading”. I will wish you luck, and I hope to see you again when the winds change, and you come back to warmer climates.”

Norwell nodded and took the hand of his friend. The two men were about as different as could be in this crazy World War III world. One man was dark skin and from London, and the other was light of skin and hair that had called Traverse City Michigan home before this war. Now Norwell wanted to go home, just to see how things had gone. Norwell didn’t have any close family living when he had first moved to Kenya. But he still had some family and more than a few other people that he would like to know how they were doing. After the last few years, he decided that he needed some closure, if only for his peace of mind.

Both men knew that this trip was not without a lot of risk, and it was not just the distance that the sailing boat would have to cover. The US Navy wanted to find out what was going on besides what they could find out in the few hyper long distance radio messages that were getting fewer and fewer every month. They were getting reports from the French in the area, but that was not thought to be the most accurate information by anyone that was not French.

AFRICOM was paying for the Bluenose, her master, and her crew to make a “trading” run back to the UK. That Norwell was from London, well that was just another layer of cover for what was mostly a spying or information gathering mission. Richard was still half owner of this boat, but he had approved of his friend trying to get home, even if AFRICOM would not have been covering the bill. Richard was going to stay behind and “run the business” until his friend returned. That could be anywhere from a year to two years down the road. That is if he lived long enough to get back to Kenya in the first place.

The two men spent the rest of the day working on the map and marking down notes on the thin plastic overlay. That data overlay would be key when Richard was talking to the leaders sitting back in Mombasa. Most of the topics that the pair of men covered while they worked was at least vaguely related to this mission, but some were not. The two men would spend a lot of time together on their sailing back to Mombasa, where they would possibly separate for the rest of their natural lives. It was an eight day run back to that safe harbor this time of year, and the pair took the time to pass as much skills both ways.

####

LCDR Denise Moore USNR was the captain of the most useful if not the most powerful warship from the US Navy. The USS Richard S Edwards was an old Destroyer, but instead of needing increasingly hard to find missiles to be combat effective, she was an old-fashioned gun boat. She already had a very active career in this war. And as long as they could hand make 5inch and 3inch shells and had fuel for her boilers, she would keep up that work. But that was not why LCDR Moore was in this office today and not walking on the bridge of her warship.

Denise tossed the folder back on to the desk and gave the man sitting on the other side a level look. “So, Richard pulled another rabbit out of his hat?” Denise had a complicated relationship with the one-time Army NCO that had turned out to be a very capable water fighter in this part of World War III. Strange things tend to happen when nuclear, chemical, and biological attacks are launched all over 2/3rds of the world.

Colonel Theodore “Teddy” Thomas was the head of ISA in Kenya. He made sure his face didn’t betray what he was thinking. “Well, he found somethings, but there is no way to know if he found what he was looking for.”

Teddy took some time and pulled out another folder and passed it over to the tall redhaired woman in her spotless uniform. “But we cannot risk that he rolled snake eyes. You were to be leading and escorting a convoy down to South Africa. We are now just adding a few different ships and working up a couple of backup plans if it turns out that he has hit the motherlode after all.”

This convoy was not a surprise to Denise, so she quickly flipped to the changes page of the operations order. Her eyes started to climb the longer she read, and then she could not hold it back any longer. “That is a lot to risk on a maybe. Oh, and let’s not forget that ship has been under sea water for over a year. So why?”

Teddy rocked back in his office chair. “US forces in Africa has a total of less than 50 APCs and about 30 MBTs in total for active service on the whole bloody continent. If Richard can find a couple of newish or just find the parts that helps get two of our busted MBTs back in our hands… that is an increase of almost ten percent of our tanks. And I am not talking about that junk that Colonel White is saying is worthwhile to be commanding in this phase of the war. But finding at least some usable parts is something that is worth this level of risk. Besides if he finds more? Because this is Richard we are talking about. We will have options on the table already to go.”

Denise was listening while she was reading and then her eyebrows shot up. “You want Captain Horace Blackwood to work with Richard? That is not going to go well.”

Teddy had expected this comment. “He is a Navy Officer, and he had better act like one. If Captain Blackwood can’t handle working with Richard of all people? Then maybe he would be a better fit with a desk job instead of the master of one of the US military’s few remaining vessels.”

Before Teddy could continue, Denise interrupted him. “Blackwood is an avid ring knocker, and he’s a major dick, even when he isn’t doing that silly thing with his ring. I think that he is still burning hot over not getting command of that old Russian tin can that was recovered.”

Ring knocker was not an enduring name for someone who had graduated from one of the three main academies for the US Military. It had come out of reference when one of those graduates would flash their graduation rings to those that didn’t have one. It was a form of saying that the ring’s owner was better than anyone else. Or it was as a way to reinforce their orders because they had to be right, because they had gone to the right school.

Denise could see something in the eye of the Intelligence officer, and she changes the subject. “Why not ask to use those two LSM’s the Kenya Navy still has in operation?”

Teddy tilted his head down and shot her a look. “If the Kenyan government helps, then they will want a major cut of everything that is recovered. I think that Richard can deal with Blackwood, and if he can’t well that will tell us something now won’t it. What we need to find out, is if this whole idea is really viable. Then all we will have to do, is see if it is repeatable.”

Denise conceded those points to the head of ISA, and they talked about the issues that her next mission might have, which would not be connected to Richard and his salvage hunting. Before the meeting was over, things had changed one more time. It would seem that the pirates on the edge of the Red Sea and Indian Ocean had a major game piece. The French were moving the tanker Somme on a resupply mission to the Reunion Island. On the way back from that supply mission, the Somme and the French Sloop acting as her escort had been attacked. They had been able to send an SOS out that required the US Navy to respond. Then came the report that a submarine had been spotted in that same area by some “friendly” fishermen. That threw a huge monkey wrench into the plans Teddy had been working on.

####


It took almost two more weeks for the convoy to kick off from Mombasa that also would be the test mission for Richard and his crazy plan. First Richard had tried to get the US Navy to let him use the Tug Solstar, and that had not worked out for him so well. That specialized ship and highly trained crew had been needed for another mission, namely helping in moving the FF Lockwood or the ex-Russian DD Looking. Higher command was responding to some power players about finding better coverage for the two warship’s weapons.

When Richard had pushed that he needed that ship for his plan? He had been directed to the company that had sold the tug to the navy in the first place. He was directed to go see what they might have in operations that could be “rented” to match Richard’s needs. That was how he found himself on the Tug called M/V Savior. The Savior was a civilian version of the USRN Safeguard class of vessel. The parent of this civilian design that had been lost in a nuclear strike on Hampton roads, leaving only the near sister still on the top of the water.

If things had worked out the way that Richard was hoping that they would, and the vessel was added to his command. The original plan had it that Richard was to be given the command of the salvage ship Savior, Newport class landing ship tank USS Boulder, LCU 1619, and the little fleet was to be escorted by the MCM 7 Patriot. The Boulder and the armed escort were heading to South Africa to help out on a project, and they just happened to be heading the same way as the Savior. As with many things in time of war, that plan was shot out the window. Richard was in command only until they reached a dropping off point, and then the fleet would split up with the Boulder and Patriot going further south. Richard would then only be in charge of the LCU and the tug.

Captain Don Esteban looked at his wristwatch for about the hundredth time over the last two hours. With a tight-lipped look, he headed down to the wardroom of his vessel. Don more or less stormed into the eating area of the little ship and found who he was looking for with a full head of steam worked up. “Okay, Richard. I was not allowed to ask any questions until we were 36 hours after we split with the rest of the convoy. I took your money, and I waited as I was contracted to do. Now what in the hell are we going to be doing this far south of Mombasa?”

Richard looked up from the oil-stained couch that he had been sitting on while he waited for the Savior’s master to come to him. Richard pulled out a set of images of a ship from a metal locking briefcase sitting beside him. After making a show of looking at them, Richard passed them over to this ship’s master. The well-trained salvage officer automatically started flipping through them like it was nothing at all. He stopped flipping images and looked at one photo, and then he went back to an older image. Richard could see that Don was breaking down the images as someone with his level of experience could do as well as breathing. Don knew that these images were of the same ship, but at radically different times in her life.

After the Captain had flipped between the two images that had been the focus of his attention a few times. Richard leaned back into the battered couch and started to brief the other man without needing notes. “This is the M/V Nordland, and she is a West German built vessel from around 1966. When she was first built by the Germans, she came in right at about 8800 DWT. We think that the Nordland was lost to a mine on the last supply run coming from the states.”

Richard was starting to enjoy this and settled into speaking. “You already noticed that she lost three of her four Deck mounted cranes before the last run that got her sunk out this way. She was carrying a mixed cargo for the 173rd and other US military units deployed in and around the Kenya area. Now what are we doing going south of Mombasa? Well, we are going to see what we can find of her cargo. Then we will see what can be pulled off of her, and then get it back to Mombasa”.

“You know where she’s at?” The salvage captain did not look up from the images that he was focused on.

Richard now was a little uncomfortable about what he needed to say next. He could lie, but that might cause more and a lot harder to deal with issues further down the road. Instead, Richard went with the whole truth. “No, we found a total of six areas that look good to be her wreck. Will it be the first spot, or the sixth spot? I have no idea, and it could be none of the above.”

Richard stood up and unfolded a nautical map onto the tabletop, then he pulled out a plastic overlay and took some time trying to fit it correctly over the map. Not for the hundredth time in this war, Richard was glad for the use of grid reference lines on overlays. After a few seconds Richard gave up, it was after realizing that this map was slightly the wrong scale. Richard was used to dealing with military maps, and this was not a military ship, but a civilian one.

Richard got what he thought was close enough, and he used a jab of his pointer finger to pin the overlay to the map. “This one is the largest of the spots that we found, and I would like to start there. If that doesn’t pan out? Then we can work out to the other areas that might be her, or maybe look in a completely different area for something worthwhile for our time.”

The Captain looked down and away from the thin stack of images for the first time, and he studied the chart spread out on the dining table. Don’s eyebrows went up and then he looked over to the other man without moving the rest of his large body. “She has been down there for two years. You have to know that salt water is not good for high tech gear. Why are “they” paying for this?” He didn’t have to say who the “they” were that he was talking about.

Richard gave a soft laugh at the pointed question. “I would agree with you if she was a peace time wreck, or even if she had been sunk sometime early in the war, or if she was hit by missiles, and or if some kind of fire put the cargo ship down. But sometime after the war started, TRANSCOM started prepping cargos a lot differently than they did in peace time. A lot of ships were lost to the Soviets, and even when a cargo ship made it to port that was damaged by weapons fire. The cargo would be a total write off between the fires, blast damage, and the saltwater used to combat the fires caused by either the missile or torpedo hit. Don’t ask me when they started trying to work out ways to try to counter this. I’m a grunt that just owns a boat.”

He got the snort from Don that he was looking for, and Richard was making sure that this captain knew that he accepted that he was not “a real seaman“ and he was okay with this fact. “I was told about this change during my time in Bremerhaven before coming south for the winter. It was not long after I saw them working on an old cargo ship that took a sea skimmer missile while it was sitting at anchor in the main harbor. I started asking some questions. They told me that the longshoremen back in the States would put a heavy coat of navy grade anti corrosion paint over everything. They said something to the effect that the paint was layered on with a large spatula, but I found out later that this was a slight exaggeration. But it was a good few millimeters thick in the thinnest spots, which would later have to be chipped off from certain parts that didn’t like being painted over in the first place. Then they would pump in nitrogen and double seal each hatch and door with rubber like NBC level protection. Next, they would weld thin metal covers over the openings that didn’t have a hatch to seal. The final outer layer was a type of heavy heat shrinking plastic that was thick enough to need some right heavy cutters to get through.”

Captain Don Esteban was nodding his head, and the images of the old cargo ship were now dropped on the tabletop. Richard kept talking. “Will it help here and with her? I don’t think so. I do know that the people back in Mombasa can work some wonders with something that is not even halfway decent as we Americans would think even in the late war. I have seen them rip out all of the electrical stuff from a wreck, and then they would work on the outer hull of the armored vehicles. Even if we find nothing that turns out to be usefully repaired in a couple of months. We can drain the oil from her tanks, and they can use the hull scrap steel back home, or “they” can sell it to the South Africans for them to make more steel that has not been degraded while it sat on the ocean floor.”

Richard gave the large man a level look. “If we find anything major down there? Then we are to call back the Patriot and Boulder to get their asses back here ASAP.”

Don was taking in all of this without saying that much. He moved some of the extra photos off of the chart. It only took him a second to orientate himself to the map. “Richard, you would agree that I am the salvage expert. Yes?”

Richard looked at the man for a few seconds, and he went formal in his way of addressing the man. “Captain Esteban. That is why we are here…. on “your” boat.”

Don smiled at the statement. “Okay, then I would suggest that we start with the northern most target and then work our way south. Next…” Richard smiled and listened to the expert adjust his plan seemingly without needing to review any notes. Richard didn’t care about these changes in his plan, just as long as he got to see if he hit the jackpot or not.
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