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Old 11-21-2023, 07:38 PM
cawest cawest is offline
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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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Old 11-26-2023, 12:36 PM
cawest cawest is offline
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Chapter 2: Off the coast of Comoros

Richard was looking down at the sonar scope on the salvage/tug Savior. She might have been a civilian ship ever since her first hull metal was cut in a dock yard on the East Coast. But in reality, she was a clone of the USRN Safeguard and that ship had at least been a reserve US Navy ship and not sold on the open market before she had been sunk due to Soviet weapon’s fire. Now they were off the island of Comoros and trying to see if Richard had found a gold mine or a shaft. The larger of the ships of the convoy that had left Mombasa were a full day out from this little splinter fleet. One of those ships could have been very useful in today’s tasks.

Richard would have loved to have used the Patriot for this kind of work, after he had been given a tour of the minesweeper two days out from Mombasa. She was a mine hunter of the Avenger class, and besides having a better sonar system to look under the waves than any other ship currently at the port of Mombasa. It also had a set of powerful underwater cameras that would cut down on the need to use a diver to physically go down in the water column and take images to identify what had been found on the sea floor.

That was all water under the bridge, as they say. All Richard could do was work with what he had been able to get out of the resource starved US Navy currently stationed in East Africa. Richard now knew that he would learn a thing or three from this mission, and one of them would be about the Avenger class mine hunter/ light escort vessel. He could always claim later that he was an army guy and didn’t know the ins and outs of navy ships. After all there were very few Navy personnel that could ID the parts and capabilities of an Abram’s class MBT.

The Savior and the LCU working with her were currently only about 1km off the coast near the inland town of Singani, on the coast of an island called Comoros. The town/city of Singani had been wiped out by a lava eruption from a nearby volcanic vent a few years ago. It was telling that there were so many nuclear explosions going on that a major volcano eruption that killed over a few thousand people was not noticed by most governments or press reporters on the planet. Now there were no lights or fires of any of the unnatural kind that could be seen from the deck or from the small crow’s nest in this area of the island. Every soul on the ship was awake and working at their “normal” ship’s jobs or looking for any sign of humans on the close by island.

It had not taken the salvage ship but a few hours to find the first target, but it had taken almost half of the rest of the day to get her “localized” so that they could get a diver into the water. But soon it was confirmed that they had found the M/V Nordland on the data that Richard had first provided, and she was setting in “only” 300 feet of water. Now it was time to move to the next phase of the operation. A phase that was thought to be more dangerous than being shot at by a whole soviet motorized rifle battalion.

#####

The M/V Nordland had been built in West Germany and launched sometime in 1966. The M/V Nordland had an uneventful career, which was not that common for most bulk cargo carriers of her type at this point in time. She was saved from the scrap heap and brought back into full service after the first year of this bloody war had started in China. All of the books had her listed as being right at 7562GT, 8800DWT, and still being only 127 meters long. She also was fitted with five heavy cranes to help with the loading and unloading of her cargo in some of the less developed ports or to use smaller cargo facilities still common around Europe.

It was those cranes that had been very helpful in the Nordland’s later career visiting the smaller and less developed ports around the world. In the mid 90’s she was officially modified so that she could have a maximum deck load of 580 TEUs, and she still could move at a steady speed of 16knots without damaging her powerplant. To get to this number of cargo carrying vans, some deck changes were made on the old hull that were judged to be worthwhile. Now the four largest deck cranes were missing from the oldest file image they had on the vessel. These now missing cranes had made it easier for the divers to ID her today. Sonar systems had said that the right number of cranes were missing on the wreck below them, and that it was the right size for the Nordland. But the salvage tugboat didn’t know if they just might have fallen off to the side or otherwise were lost due to damage.

##

The old ship was quickly bought up by a US transportation firm to help with the shipping issues that the Sino-Soviet war was causing around the world. That first run under the US flag had been in 1996, and then she kept running supplies to smaller ports around the world. Where the larger ships were being pulled into supporting the war efforts with weapons needed at the major battle fronts around the globe. The Nordland carried cargos that those now re tasked ships had in the past, and many times she had finished the legs of her journey without the benefit of having an escort vessel assigned to her. Her life changed again when the war went hot in Europe. All cargo ships now fell under the US Navy even if they were flagged in another country. She seemed to have a charmed life as she ran supplies into and out of Latin and South American ports.

Then she made her first run to Africa under a US flag in September of 1997. To many within the Navy and Merchant marine had thought that her smaller size would help keep her safe when larger cargo ships were hit by radar guided weapons. She again just missed being hit a death blow when two 200kt nuclear weapons airbursted over Diego Garcia. After helping as best she could in the recovering of that base and the local area from the nuclear strike. The Nordland made one more trip to Africa to pick up cargos to take back to the US. That was where she stayed as her USNR crew was pulled for other and more important ships. But as the number of those ships were reduced due to sinkings and other battle damage, a crew was slowly regathered for the old girl and before too long she was at sea again carrying the life blood of war.

The Nordland had been part of a UK/US small supply convoy made up of four smaller cargo ships being sent to the RDF in early 1999, after making a stop in Kenya and offloading some of her cargo for the locals to use. This ship was supposed to be arriving in May of 1999 in Kenya to off load about half of her cargo. After passing the country of South Africa and the Cape of Good Hope, she had taken a hit from an underwater mine. It had been after making it most of the way from the east coast of the United States to the first schedule cargo transfer in Mombasa. Now some of you might think that she had been unlucky, being sunk and all. Only her luck held, at least for the version of luck that she had remaining to call on.

The sea mine was old even before it had been put into the ocean by a passing soviet raider, and its magnetic detonator had fired into the explosive package before the cargo ship had been directly over the rusting device of war. This had meant that she had not gone down that night at a rapid rate when the explosives detonated way to close to her age thinned metal hull. Her captain was an old hand at almost 80 years old. He had been able to get his ship close to this island before the crack in the hull had finally sent his ship to the bottom. The old cargo ship had been sinking slowly until her engine room had finally held too much water for her engine to provide power so that the water pumps could work. Without those water pumps buying them minute after minute, the ship was doomed. As her crew made for the lifeboats, she had settled deeper in the water on an even keel at an increasing rate.

The mine’s detonation had caused a crack to form near her keel by the forward most cargo hold, and it slowly ran all the way back to the main hull frame of the deck house. It was not a wide crack in the hull, and the vessel had more or less settled in the water until her hull was fully under the ocean waves. She had gone down by the bow soon after the top of the deck house had just slipped below the surface. But due to the shallow water in this location and without any engine power pushing her along against the currents. The Nordland had come to a rest flat on her keel on the rocky and sand covered ocean floor. The crew of this vessel had mostly successfully taken to the lifeboats, but they had not been seen or heard from again. Some of the last KH-11 images sent to Kenya had been of areas that the ship might have gone down. If someone had been looking at the right photo, they would have noticed that there was a shadow, where there should not have been. Much later the shadow was found and noted as “something”, but it was Richard that had noticed and put two and two together to maybe come up with 3.5.

###

Karl Fischer had been a member of the Kampfschwimmer of the West Germany military, but not a “real” member in the eyes of many of the fully active Kampfschwimmer. Karl had only made it through Hell Week before the war broke out and training had more or less come to a sudden stop. He had not been sent to a combat unit, but he had been held back with some others that were not “fully combat qualified”. That label didn’t take away that he had already been certified to be a diver by the West Germany government. After that surprising assignment, Karl had been put to work more as a salvage diver than a commando as he had wanted. There just was not time for him to get trained up in “real’ combat skills. The West German military needed divers almost as much as they needed other combat skills like commandos. Divers were a high skill group, and they were hoarded accordingly, even if the divers were not thrilled with this hoarding.

A US Navy recruiter had found the 23 year old diver working to repair some of the damage done to the harbor of Bremerhaven. He was in the water for almost 10 hours a day and at least 5 days a week of the cold and wet work. By now, he had not been happy with his life for some time. Karl had wanted to be a commando, but all he did was move in the dark, in very cold water, all while dodging Russian mines, crashed cruise missiles, and the odd missed fire friendly weapon. On most nights, he only returned to the barracks to take a cold shower to get the fuel oil and funk off of his skin. Then he would have to do the same thing for 10 more hours the following day. The only high spot in his work week? It was that they had good beer in stock, and on average two days out of the week he was not forced to go back into the icy waters of the harbor.

When a senior US Navy NCO had found the young German drinking to the level of being past numb and going deeper as fast as the young man could lift the bottles, he had taken advantage of the situation. This drunkenness had been after the finding of a nuclear warhead from a SS-20 Saber class IRBM. Karl had found the 150Kton weapon in the mud by just happening to trip over it with his dry suit’s heavy metal covered boot. That had not made him very happy when his handheld light had played over the half mud covered device. To add insult to injury, it had been when Karl had been ordered to help recover the damn thing the next day.

And by helping in this recovery of a nuclear weapon? It was that higher command had made sure that Karl had been the only person in the water with the weapon until it had been pulled out and landed on the pier for someone else to deal with. Karl had told the old American in-between drinks of his bottle of hard alcohol that he was looking for a change of scenery, like Norway or maybe someplace a little warmer. Karl had awakened the next day on a boat that had long ago made it out of port, but it was close. Shanghaiing had not only had been revived, but it also had been turned into a true art form even before the Thanksgiving Day Massacre. After that day? It was brought up to undreamed of levels of skill and Karl was only the latest victim.

One Karl Fischer had been given “papers” and a uniform …..of a sorts, that said he was now in the US Navy as an NCO. After Karl availed himself to the ship’s head to void his stomach, he went looking for answers. Karl was told that he was off to Kenya as part of Operation Omega. He was confused but he knew what Omega was with his work in the port that was supporting the Americans return home. He also knew that Kenya was a lot warmer than Northern Germany, and there had been a lot less use of nuclear weapons on the African continent than in Europe. So, he went back to his shared cabin and tried to sleep off his headache.

Karl’s lack of English skills had been a major issue after he had arrived in Mombasa, among a few other things that came up to bite him on the ass. Very quickly Karl Fischer was assigned to one of the repair ships, but he spent a lot of time working with the Marines to get his Kommando fixation worked out. And that was where Richard had found him, working with the US Marine beach teams. Now Karl was the senior diver for this mission.

Karl was a lot happier now that he was out of the waters around the wreckage of his home, Germany. The water was warm, and he also did not have to worry about the odd nuclear weapon hidden in the harbor mud just waiting for him to trip over it…again. Karl Fischer had used his time in Mombasa to learn more recovery skills, along with improving his fighting and weapons skills that he was picking up. Karl also had picked up more skills with the ground forces, and not just from the Americans. He had been going on missions that he never would have been allowed, if he had stayed up North. By now he was not so “gung-ho” but he had enjoyed the time with the Marines and other special missions he had supported already. Besides, at least some of them spoke enough German for him not to be homesick, and they could handle the weak beer that the locals made.

##

Karl had started checking out his diving rig as he sat near the bulwark of the salvage ship. As he let the deck diving support team check out his suit, Karl reflected on the only down sides of this mission. The whole support crew spoke some English and something local to only Kenya. Karl tried one more time to work on his last remaining mental issue that he felt that needed to be addressed before he went into these unknown waters.

Karl looked over to the man running his mixed gas supply for his diving suit. This dive had him going down to about 300 feet, and he needed that Helium/oxygen gas mix to keep him alive. He had to pitch his voice to carry over the air pumps. “No Bulls, right?”

The man running the mix gas generator and air tanks was not good with the language that Karl could understand. It had taken this tech a decade to get what he thought was passible English. German was still way over his head, but he thought that he understood the hash of words coming out of the diver’s mouth in a mix of German and English.

”No Bulls. Zambezis, yes.” The tech repeated himself twice more, and for some reason the diver just gave a huge toothy smile and a thumbs up to the tech. So, the tech dropped it, and Karl went back to work on getting ready for a long tethered dive.

Karl was glad he had made himself understood by the tech. Karl HATED bull sharks. He had two bad run-ins with them in his short life already. The last run-in with Bull Sharks had cost his diving partner his right arm past the elbow. To find out that there were not any Bull Sharks in this area was great news for Karl, but he had no idea what a Zambezi was. But if he didn’t know about them while being a professional diver? Then they must not be too bad. There was no way that they could be like tiger sharks, or great whites, that he had heard about after getting to Kenya or the other divers in Germany. Karl had never seen a tiger or a white, and he was sooo okay with that experience gap. If they were worse than Bull Sharks? He could live without running into one of them.

When Karl was ready, he gave the signal and spoke in pigeon English, or as they used to call it bedroom English, he called for the helmet to be passed over to him. When the spun brass helmet was turned just right, it was locked into place and sealed him away from the cold water and pressure of going deep into the ocean water. Karl did an awkward turn of his head to face the back of the bridge of the salvage ship. He could see three people on the aft part of the higher deck area looking down at him. He had no idea who they might be, but they had to be officers if they were in that location. So, with a pumping thumbs up over his head, Karl went off the bulwark plate and into the deep blue waters of the Indian Ocean.

Karl had a lot to do as he made his way down the water column after first entering the water, this was listed as a very technical dive. He had only done about a dozen dives like this in his life, but he was very well trained for this kind of business. Karl made his way down through the water column as he followed down the dive line that one of the deck crew had set up while he had been getting ready for his part of the dive. Each spot marked on the diving line was where he needed to do a safety stop. Karl had made sure to double check the measurement himself after leaving port. After all it was his life on the line.

After a set time that also was marked on that dive line, he could go deeper. It would have been hard to miss those safety stops, they held half a dozen smaller air tanks that he could use in an emergency. Karl had a hose running from his helmet going to the gas generators and emergency support tanks on the support ship’s aft deck. But it was always good to plan in case he had some kind of an air emergency on the dive. It was not just for this dive. Those tanks would be there in case of an emergency during the whole mission.

The sun overhead pushed its powerful beams deep into the clear water, but soon they started to lose their influence. Karl activated the three small but powerful white lights that were mounted on three sides of his helmet. He really didn’t need those powerful lights just yet, but it helped with close up work on the dive line that he was following down. After doing a safety check at the last stopping point, he did one more check out of his gear. Only then did Karl start looking for the target of his mission below his short flipper covered weighted boots.

Soon the deck house at the aft part of the vessel started to come up below him like some kind of long-lost monster common in horror movies. The diver was casting his helmet around making sure that nothing was coming up on him from his blind side. Fishing nets could just show up, and that was it, and you were going to die. Very quickly you would be dead right along with the fish in those old nets. One of the good things about this war was that the loss of fuel production had cut way down on the number of boats that could fish this deep or further out from the coastlines. It still happened, but those ships were getting to be even rarer with each passing month. Then there were the issues of finding replacement nets, it was not like by now that those massive things were still being made anywhere in the world. This was bad news for the closer to the coast fisheries, but the deeper waters were starting to rebound. It only took the starving or nuclear death of a few billion people for that rebounding to happen.

The rope tag or dive line was connected to the bow of the sunken vessel by a grapple that the deck crew had been able to drop in a show of skill that should have been shocking. This one had been cast down by the support ship, and it was only luck that the hook had connected with the bow of the wreck while it was pulled behind the salvage ship after only the third try. As long as that thick rope line was connected to a part of the sunken ship, it would do its job as a diving safety line. The last task on this mission would be to cut and then retrieve that line with all of those impossible to replace air tanks and emergency supplies.

With the ship in sight to the diver, he noted that the water column was very clear from his point of view. Karl made his way to the fore most part of the ship with slow gliding motions only possible while moving underwater. With a few quick motions made by Karl, the dive or tag line was more securely attached to the deck of the sunken cargo ship. Now the line would not come lose without being cut from above the waves or near the knot Karl had just put into it. Karl then uses the deck railing to move from the bow to just where the vessel’s “normal” maximum beam would be all the while looking around almost fast enough to give him whiplash. Diving alone was very dangerous and would not have been done before the war. But now with the loss of so many people with his skill set, there was not another option.

Without looking, he reaches for a heavy line and pulley that was part of his diving kit. With his other hand Karl brings around an underwater ramset with spare attachments and devices. With a shot of “air” supplied by the same line that was letting him breathe. A heavy bolt is shot into the metal deck of the sunken ship so hard that Karl felt it through his dive boots. In no time, the line and pulley are now securely attached to the ship after six heavy bolts were “shot” threw the flat metal of the mounting bracket at the base of the pulley and the vessel’s deck. This heavy line and pulley would be the base for the “diving platform” that would be sent from topside.

This cage-like platform was like an open sided elevator to better support the underwater mission. It would be helpful to use this device instead of the divers needing to keep forcing their way down using muscle power alone. The cage also would speed up the diver getting to the vessel and in bringing up or down supporting items for the salvage of this wreck. The bow line was now the back up in case there were some….. issues. When diving, you always wanted redundancy, it was just a case of it being life and death.

Now it was time for Karl to look around the top of the Nordland. He had already met the minimum requirements for this dive, but Karl still had time and he was not going to waste his remaining dive clock on this dive. The areas that should have held the deck cargo of 20 or 40 foot long TEUs were clear of those metal rectangles. This was not a surprise, but it would have been nice to pull them up in the early stages of this salvage. Still, it did give clear access to the forward deck hatch with them being clear of sea/land vans or other shipping containers. That open access would be very helpful for the other key parts of this mission.

Karl plays his lights across the cargo hatches and sees that Plan A will not work. This cargo hatch was of the hinged type and not the lift off type that had been expected in the planning phases of this mission. With this noted on his diving pad, Karl floats over to the edge of the ship to look down the side to see what he could see off of the wall of steel he was standing on. One thing that civilians could not understand was just how big your average ocean-going ship was. From the right point of view, they were like metal mountains only they moved.

For the first time, Karl notices that there are very few fish larger than his hand in the general area of this wreck. Karl thought that he had seen more and larger fish when he had first “landed” on this ship midway through this dive. He still has one more item to do and moves this fish data point to a different part of his brain. Karl checks his dive watch, and he is shocked to discover that he has been into this dive for over 90 minutes already. Karl knows that he has to start up to the surface in less than 30minutes, or he was going to have to skip the first “working” dive tomorrow out of a measure of safety for his health and the long term mission.

With a hand full of rope lines, airlines, and communication lines, and his all-important safety line. Karl moves over to the port side of the vessel. He has to check the hull of the vessel now that it was known that the ship was more or less level. The report from this vessel’s crew that had been given over the radio before they had left the safety of the convoy, had said that the mine had been taken mostly on the port side of the vessel. Karl sees that the reinforced bulwark and hand railing is intact at this main deck level of the wreck. He could have just “jumped” over the side of the vessel, but something made him want to look before he leaped into the dark of the deeper ocean. One of the hardest things for a diver was learning to listen to your gut.

As Karl leans his head over the side of the bulwark, he has to jerk it back as a long open mouth full of teeth shoots by his diving helmet at what seems like a few inches. Karl moves so fast and so hard; his knees are driven into the short metal wall. But this had a fortunate effect that kept him from launching up off the top deck in an uncontrolled roll. This short metal wall on the edge of the vessel also keeps him from going over the side of the vessel in his distress. At the sudden appearance of all of those teeth makes Karl shriek aloud, and it is carried up the comms line to the speaker on the work deck of the salvage ship above his head.

“Dive Master to Diver 1. Are you okay?” The voice was static filled and spoken very slowly but it was clear enough for Karl to understand what was being said.

Karl felt something warm moving down the right leg of his wet suit. After the first shriek, he did not say anything. But now that his heart rate was coming back down, and he could breathe without panting. Karl could chuckle at the fright, and he even planned to stay down long enough for the urine to leach out of his suit into the water around him. “Dive Master this is Diver 1. Good to go. I just got buzzed by what looked like a 1.5m long Great Barracuda. It was coming up the side of the ship’s hull while I was doing a damage check.”

As Karl was talking, he turned back to start to go over the railing one more time. Just as he was about to go over the side again. He finds out what had made the larger fish, and the meter and half long Barracuda want to leave the general area that a diver called Karl was in.

All that the team top side heard was Donald Duck having a Category 5 freak out coming through the ship mounted speakers. Oh, and there was not a Category 6, and Karl was speaking in rapid fire German that no one understood more than a hand full of words. The dive team just shot looks around the aft deck of the Savior and went about their work as if it was just another day. About the only thing that was understood by the support team was “coming up.” That was a lot shorter than what their training told them that should be said when a diver was done with his dive. Then again only Americans worried about sticking to a detailed check list like it had come from the word of God.

The deck support team was just lucky that it would take a few hours for the diver to make it back on to the ship by coming up the dive line. That was due to his need to stop and decompress along the way to help counter the bends. It would not help prevent them, but the stops would buy the needed time for the diver to safely get into the decompression tank mounted on the aft deck. When diving, every little bit of extra safety margin was helpful.

When the dive master tried to find out what was wrong and got very little in reply. He was sensing that his diver was under some distress. Karl was known to use every second of a dive that he could, and not coming up when he had this long of bottom time lift was odd. Karl would just give a one word reply to any questions that he was asked by the dive master. He kept up this odd behavior until after his helmet was removed. Two of the deck support team took a few steps back when the diving suit was unzipped, and the smell hit them like a brick to the head.

Karl shot the support team a threatening look before they started helping him in finishing stripping off his suit and leaving the brown stain device on the deck along with his equally stained diving shorts. Surprisingly Karl carried his diving helmet into the decompression room with him. That was the only thing that the now naked diver had on, was that brass helmet in his hands. At least Karl would not have to see the people he wanted to throw over the side while he was in the decompression unit. He also would have time to clean himself up over the next day with the supplies found in the decompression chamber designed for long term habitation for four people. It had ended up that Karl had come up just a little too fast for safety, but what was safe after what he had just been through? He blew through his safety margin, but thanks to cutting his dive short, it was not that much of an issue now that there were not any IG inspectors to keep happy.

####


Richard looked into the clear round glass at the main hatch to the pressure chamber. He had already checked with the doctor on duty before activating the two way intercom between him and the diver. Something was wrong, and it was his job to find out what was wrong. He was the current mission commander, and the buck stops with him.

Richard had his bossman’s voice on and switched to his best northern German accent when the static broke. “Okay Karl what happened?”

It would have taken a lot for someone to put a brown load into their dive suit, and Richard knew that tripping over a nuclear weapon had not done that to this diver. So, what was hairier than tripping over a live nuclear weapon with your metal covered boot? The thought was enough to make Richard sweat even more, and it was not about having to abandon this mission. That was just part of the game he played, sometimes you roll snake eyes and sometimes you don’t.

Karl was totally nude when he walked over to pick up the ringing phone on the inside of the decompression chamber. After so many years of diving, Karl automatically looked at the nearby glass porthole to see who was going to be talking to him. The Diver is not surprised to see the mission commander, and the years of being in the German military kick in before Karl could think. The naked man stands back straight near the glass window, as he listens to North German being spoken with a slight American accent.

Karl feels his eyes try to cross and the rest of his face loses control, and he starts to yell. “What happened? I was told that there were not any Bull Sharks here!! I ran into one down there, and the Frau was not friendly! No, she was very friendly. She wanted me for dinner!!”

Richard bit his inner lower lip and he had to fight down a smile. He knew about Karl’s issues with Bull sharks. Dealing with a maybe live nuclear weapon was not an issue, but a bull shark scared the crap out of him. Richard knew that there was more to this story than those few sentences yelled into his ear. “Okay Karl, calm down. Now tell me what happen down there.”

A nude Karl deflated a little and took a seat in a metal chair that was set so that someone could sit down and still both use the phone and see out the port hole. “At first, I got a close flyby of a Great Barracuda. It was just when I was going to check the lower hull for holes, cracks, or other types of damage. I remember thinking that it was odd that all of the larger fish were gone that had been down there when I first arrived. They were there when I had tied off the emergency dive line. I don’t know if they were still there when I started to put in the anchor line for the elevator. Now I know why they were gone. They did not want to be around with a 4m long female bull shark that was looking for something to eat.” Karl puts the hand not holding the phone on his forehead and he starts to slowly rub it. Karl had started sweating massively at remembering what he had lived through 300 feet below the surface.

Richard let Karl sit, now thankful he was not getting the full frontal of the nude diver. “Okay, you had a close up of a Bull Shark. I didn’t know that they got to be 4 meters long. But how do you know it was a female, or do you call all sharks Frau?”

Karl jumped out of his chair like someone had put a bolt of electricity into the seat. He quickly grabbed his scarred diving helmet and slammed it into the porthole so fast Richard was not able to move. “Because when I looked over the bulwark? She tried to rip my head off my head with her bloody teeth. Then when she figured out that I was not the Cuda? She opened her mouth enough so I could get my head out of her jaws!! I can tell you that you will not get a kiss that deep in any Red Light Districted!! When she spit me out? She hit me in the head with her Caudal fins as she went after the Cuda again. That is how I know she was a she!!!! I was that close to her ovaries, and I did not get smacked with a set of claspers. How about one of you go down and ask her out for a date? My dance card is going to be full for the next decade or so.”

Richard was looking at the scarred diving helmet a few inches from his nose but not closer thanks to the thick glass of the port hole. Richard knew that Karl’s deep diving helmet was brand new before this dive. He had been the one who had to find one to fit Karl’s big melon and then pay for it. Now it had at least five large and long scratches running across the front of the helmet to include the visor glass. That was good enough for Richard, but now he was glad that they had picked up a second one despite the cost of the handmade helmet. Richard was amazed that Karl had not risked the bends and came up through the water column as fast as his legs could push him with a damaged visor. You know the only thing that was keeping him alive and not trying to breathe water. Richard knew that if it would have happened to him? After he reached the surface, he would have tried to do his own interpretation of Christ and walked on water until he reached the support ship.

Richard now could explain to the deck crew that any jokes about Karl’s loaded suit was not going to go over that well with Karl or the mission commander. In fact, if they do or say anything? He was going to make sure that one of the jokers were the ones to go down and ask the bull shark out for a date, without a spear gun.

Richard looked into the frightened eyes of his primary diver. “Okay, Karl. Recover as long as you need. Do you think you will be able to dive again?” If Karl said no and didn’t want to dive, there was nothing that Richard was going to do about it. This mission was going to be over, and the little convoy would have to head back to port. There would be hell to pay when they got back to Mombasa, for both Karl and him. Then again, that helmet was a good way to stop many issues. Richard could not think of a single person that would want to be a dentist for a shark large enough to hold your whole helmet covered head in its mouth.

Karl was about to tell the mission commander to drop him back off at Mombasa, but the other part of his brain kicked in that was more hormones than gray matter. That was the part of Karl’s brain that still wanted to be a Kommando. That shut the weak part of Karl’s brain down so fast it should have made his head hurt. “Sir! I will be ready to go back down again, but I will not go alone. I also will be bringing down Helga with me, and every diver will have at least one spear gun with them. How many spare bolts for their spear gun that they are going to be packing is going to be up to them. I just want someone to be covering my back and the other divers with some kind of weapon.”

Richard nodded his head as his lead diver spoke and he kept his face fixed with a tight lipped look. It had always been his plan to send one of the other divers down when they were recovering any items from the wreck. But Karl was the only “safety” diver that had worked at these depths before that Richard could find in such a short turn around that this mission required. The other four were local divers on the ship, but they had “worked” at this depth at least on one mission. Still, they were not certified, and they were not rated as a safety diver. Yes, this worried Richard. For all he knew, the local divers could have been making those documents up just to get the job he was advertising. It would not have been the first time that something like that was reported to have happened in the Ports rumor mill.

To know that Karl was willing to go down into these waters again, after almost having his face and head ripped off was showing huge amounts of guts or a bad case of the dumb asses. That Karl wanted to take his most prized possession down with him on this next dive was also not a surprise to Richard. Richard had no idea where Karl had gotten the Russian made 4 smoothbores barreled 4.5mm specialized underwater pistol. Richard had asked Karl and he only had gotten a sly smile from the younger man but nothing else. It that was going to make the diver feel safer, Richard was not going to get in the way. Finding any replacement rounds would be ugly with a capital U G L Y. By contract, if Karl used that SPP-1 while on the job? Richard would be on the hook to find any replacement ammunition that was used on the job. It was not a suicide packed in the contract, but it would be costly if Richard could not find something to placate Karl with.

Robert tapped the metal frame of the decompression chamber that was heard inside the metal can. “Okay, but only when the doc says you’re okay? You come up with a plan with the Dive Master. You’re the safety diver. Whatever you and the Dive Master come up with is fine with me.”
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Old 11-26-2023, 12:38 PM
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Old 11-30-2023, 07:28 PM
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Chapter 3: Off the coast first recovery.

They had a full day’s delay before the divers were ready for the next dive onto the wreck. Richard put a stop to the jokes in the mess hall for those that had not gotten the word that he passed to the diver support team. Karl was still getting the bends taken care of when Richard put the dive helmet on the table next to the plates of some that had been making those jokes at Karl’s expense in the ship’s very small mess hall. It had only two words printed on card stock added to the diving helmet. It said “Bull Shark” and it was attached to the front glass of the helmet without covering the damaged view port of the helmet.

That display was enough to squash any more jokes, for the rest of the mission. Back at the bars around Mombasa when this was all over was going to be another issue all together, and one outside of Richard’s power to stop. But anyone that had seen the insides of a huge bull shark’s throat was going to have a lot of street cred and free drinks at those same bars when it was shown not to be the normal fisherman’s tail. Anyone who gave Karl grief was at best going to get that spun copper helmet slammed upside the head. And if they were unlucky, it might not stop there. That scarred diving helmet was going to stop any claim of it being a fish story.

That same dive helmet would be mounted on the communication station of this vessel for the rest of the mission, just to make sure it didn’t walk off. Karl didn’t even look at the mounted brass helmet while he preps for his next dive, not even when he inspected the diving gear of his partner for the day. Karl did make sure that his back up spear gun held four bolts, and one was not in the device while they were on the deck. The rest of the divers took their cue from him and made sure that they had a full quiver of bolts all of their own.

The pair of divers did one final weapons check when they were about five meters below the water on the “elevator” going down to the wreck. The water at this depth was just enough to dampen the wave action going on above the heads of the divers. Karl would take turns looking around in the water column and then back to his diving partner. This trip down to the sunken cargo ship was a lot faster than Karl’s first dive to the wreck site. All the way down the water column, Karl was looking for anything moving that was larger than a baby’s head. He was always seeing something out of the corner of his eye. But when he turned to look, there was nothing there.

Karl was almost surprised when the cage lift came to a stop on the port Bulwark of the sunken vessel. He reached to touch a button near his mouth but on the outside of the copper diving helmet to activate his mic. “Diver 2 this is Diver 1. Attach the four lift bags to middle edge…………. on the forward half……… of hatch Number One. I will watch you, and watch out for sharks.” Karl was more worried about getting the words right, and not speaking properly.

A harsh accented voice came back to Karl’s ears. “Diver 1, this is Diver 2. I understand. I will attach the bags to forward part of Hatch One.”

##

They were at half an hour on the bottom so far, and Karl was impressed with his new diving partner. The other man moved with a purpose that spoke of having done something like this before, if not doing it this deep as this mission required. The local diver used the same tool that Karl had used two days before to attach the lifting pulley and guidelines, only this time it was used to attach four of the QB 200 lift bags along the edge of the hatch. The two divers only put enough gas into each of the lifting bag devices to get the upside-down purse to float at the end of the attached lines. The hard part was doing this without causing enough up force that over penetrating the thinner metal of the hold cover with the anchor bolts was a risk.

Karl was inspecting the lines of the lift bags when a large shadow went over the group. He jerked his head up, around, and back and forth as he tried to find what had just “over flew” them with a shadow. Underwater it could have been a smaller fish very close to you or a large ship a lot higher in the water column going over them, and either way this was not a good thing for Karl’s mental health. The shape was gone from sight in the murky water, before Karl could work out what and how far away the fish might have been. That didn’t stop him from looking and his odd movements had drawn the eyes of the second diver. In diving you had to know what was going on around you almost as much as a fighter pilot.

The second diver had not seen the shadow, but he had seen the new helmet that was now useless on the dive master’s radio. While he was looking around one part of the compass, Karl was looking the other way. They were covering each other’s back, and this was needed due to the restricted viewing that the diving helmets allowed the divers. Still, it was Karl that saw the same shadow coming through the murk again.

“Diver 2, this is Diver 1. To your right. Bull Shark!!” Karl was fighting to keep his breathing level and his voice as calm as possible as his worst nightmare started coming to life…. again.

The other diver turned and pointed to the shark coming closer to them. His weapon was a glorified spear thrower, but it came up as he started talking almost too fast for Karl to understand. “That shark has no horns!! That is a Zambezi!! Big One!!”

It was like a light in the dark of night, and Karl understood what must have happened on the deck of the support ship when he had been asking questions about the local conditions. Bull Sharks and Zambezi sharks were the same damn animal. Karl pulled “Helga” out of her holster, and he made sure that it was ready to fire…. underwater. As they watched more and more Bull sharks started to come out of the gloom around the divers standing on the deck of the sunken cargo ship. It didn’t take long for almost two dozen of the underwater predators to be seen gliding in and out of visual range of the two divers in the low light conditions. Just like they trained in case of events like this the pair of divers slowly moved together. Each man was keeping his back to the other one with weapons out and towards the perceived threat of the predators. Then as quickly as it had started, all of the sharks moved away from the two divers.

Karl waited for what seemed like an eternity before he contacted the support vessel far over their heads. “Diver 1, to Dive Master. Please tell the cook and the deck gang, that they are not to throw anything over the side of any of the ships for the next few days. This place has way too many teeth for my liking.”

The two divers still standing back-to-back didn’t hear anything, but a simple acknowledgement from topside. While one man watched just for sharks, the other finished attaching and working on the lift bags. The last project that needed to be done took both men on this dive, but they would still try to keep an eye out for the Bull Sharks returning. The two divers would have to pull the locking pins that were emplaced to keep the lid over the cargo hold closed during bad weather. Only these were metal locking pins in metal eyes, and all of that had been underwater for almost two years and salt and most metals do not mix. So that task had not been that easy to do for one person when they were well greased. After two years of being underwater for so long, it was going to be a major workout for both divers.

Once those were done, both divers were thankful for the sweat bands the helmet makers had added to this model of diving device. Swinging a hammer underwater was not something done for long or very well. Karl took over the workload on removing the hatch pins for the second time on the last pin. After four solid hits the final pin came out of the last eye and fell to the metal deck. Karl felt his shoulders slump now that this most physical part of the dive was over. Karl gave a thumbs up and then pointed towards the next project they had to work on.

Slowly the pair moved to the hovering heavy lines, and with the liberal use of the extra air hose attached to their work belts. The four large heavy canvas purses were filled with enough gases that the air started to spill out the open bottom of the lift bags in huge bubbles. But they had not moved towards the surface by more than a few inches, and that was not what they had been hoping for. It was good but not great. It was a good thing that they had planned for something like this before they had even gotten to this part of the ocean.

After the last bag was over filled with air, the lid still over the hatch had not moved in any way that the divers could tell. This was not helpful for the mission, and both men added their muscle power to the one half of the metal hatch cover that the four lift bags were attached to. With the bags adding 800 pounds of lifting force to the job. The two men’s arms and legs gave it just enough force, so that the lid moved a whole eight inches before it would not move any more. With a nice sized crack opened to the forward cargo hatch and half of the lid moved, then both men shifted around to see what could be seen in the crack with their helmet and handheld lights. It was not much, but they could tell that at least four shipping containers were “floating” right under the hatch lid of this cargo hold.

There was nothing more that the pair of divers could do, and the dive was called to a close due to no more work being able to be done that was worth the risk of the divers’ lives or loss of equipment. All of the planned work had been planned around the idea that they would be able to fully open the hatch covers to allow access to this cargo hold. It still would take the divers a few hours to get top side again so that they would not have to deal with cases of the Bends. Even with those stops in the water column, they would have to spend the night in the pressure chamber after they were helped out of their diving gear. At least this time the deck crew didn’t have an additional mess to clean up when the dive book was closed.

The divers and support crew were getting into the pattern on how this mission was going to be exercised. At least until this mission was called off, this chamber would be the home for all of the divers when they were not underwater for their own long term safety and rest. It was not a great way to live, but it was a living, and the pay was great. Besides, chicks dig scars and stories of daring do when you were at the bar. Currently salvage diving during World War 3 is rated right up there with special forces working behind the lines to get just the right kind of attention.

###


At dawn the next day, all four divers on the Savior were getting ready to dive onto the huge ships so far below the surface of the ocean. On this trip all four divers would ride the elevator down at one time. The two newest divers would be “inside” the open sided cage/elevator and Karl and his partner would be on the “outside” of the lightly made device holding on for more than dear life. Now it was time to train one of the locals how to do the checks on another diver under real world conditions and stress for depths like this. This was not checking the box, technical diving at this level was all about how it was the small things that can kill you.

Karl was okay with all four divers going down at once, but the Americans said this was not a good idea in their diving manuals. In the meeting Karl had said that it was okay, and he was the one with the most experience at dives like this in all of Kenya. It gave Karl three more sets of eyes looking for sharks, and it gave him two more extra weapons in case the sharks wanted to cause any problems near him. Besides doing it this way had allowed him to train the whole deep-water team, all at one time. Not only would this speed up the training operations, but this would also make the mission go faster. And the sooner this mission was done? That would mean less time that Karl would be underwater with the Bull Sharks that seemed to like this area so much.

As soon as the four divers were down on the cargo ship, the elevator went back up to the support ship a lot faster than it had been able to while going down the water column. It soon would be on the way back down carrying a load of supplies that were needed for the next part of this complex mission. The heavy-duty crane on the modified salvage ship could have done this work in only one lift, but there was not enough room in the cage for all of the men and the needed equipment. Human bodies needed more elbow room for a given mass than just steel.

###

Karl watched as the primary and fastest way to get back to the surface disappeared over their heads in the gloom of the weak early morning light. They still had the dive safety line running from the bow of the wreck going up to the salvage vessel over their heads, and it still held the spare air tanks along with a few other odds and ends. The heavy-duty line that the elevator used to move up and down didn’t have any air tanks attached, but it could also be used if things really went badly for this group of divers. If you had to use it, well that was why you had a PACE (primary, alternate, contingency, emergency) plan while diving.

Karl looked back to the other three divers standing on the more or less level deck of this war wreck they were standing on. “Diver 2 and Diver 4, attach a dead man weight on the bow, and then run a line and pulley block and tackle system to the marked half of hatch one. Diver 3 refill the lifting bags, then join me watching for Zambezi’s.”

At the mention of the local word for Bull Sharks, the other three divers started looking around, but they did this without the wild head movements that a green diver would have done looking for the notoriously aggressive sharks. They also moved more efficiently while looking to cover “around the clock”. It would only take all of the divers a minute to get to work now that orders were given from the pre diving brief. Karl only had to make one suggestion while the team attached a heavy rope line to the bow of the ship. It was imperative that this line had to be kept clear of the emergency diving line that was near the new working line.

The dive team had only about ten minutes worth of breaks, before the diving elevator returned with the needed equipment for the rest of today’s planned work. Karl could only shake his head, at what some of the locals had come up with in the way of salvage equipment for use underwater. They didn’t have enough readymade lifting bags in the largest size, so the people back in Mombasa had made their own out of local resources. It was not like they could just order more from the United States or Germany that were the number one and number two producers of underwater salvage equipment for the whole world before the war.

While Diver 4 took a pulley to attach to the lines, and then the other divers attached what looked like a metal box frame built around two oil drums and a diving gas cylinder from the elevator. The elevator held three of these odd-looking devices, one was a backup or could be used later in the mission if they needed it. This was something that had not been done by anyone from around here, and they were making up the rules as they went. Normally in diving this was how safety briefings were made, but this long into WW3 it was just another day ending in Y.

As the two divers pushed the contraption over to the hatch on Hold Number One, Karl started getting it ready for the next movement. Now, did they need the air tank on the contraption to get the device to work? No, but why modify something that already had been proved to work? While one of the divers hooked up the twin oil drum package to the pulley and ropes on the hatch cover. When the other divers were ready and signaled that they were “at a safe distance.” Karl attached the supplied cap and valve assembly from his work belt to the open capped water filled oil drums. He had to make sure each of the caps and valves was as tight as he could get them with the few tools on his diving belt. Karl needed to make sure they were airtight or as airtight as he could get them.

With a slight turn of the bottom valve on the device Karl had attached with one last try of the wrench, air started to flow into the old oil drums, and this started to displace the water within the drums. This water went out the bottom mounted valve the drums were fitted with before being sent down the water column to the wreck. As each of the lifting barrels slowly added almost 900 pounds of lifting force, the contraption would open the half deck cover on the cargo hold and it would slide down the rope in such a way that the maximum force kept being exerted on the hatch. It did not take long for the four lifting bags and the four oil drums to fully open the half hatch on its rusty hinge. With two divers pushing the perpendicular half opened lid, the other two were watching for sharks and other underwater dangers. The open lid was pushed past its balance point by hand, and it slowly was lowered back to the ship’s deck with the air released from the attached lifting gear by hand.

Karl floated about two meters over the now half open cargo hold. “Diver 1 to Dive Master. We are running early. Cargo Hold Number One…Hatch Cover Alpha….. Hatch Cover is fully open and lashed to the deck. Hatch Cover Bravo is still in place. I can see, maybe six shipping containers… They are blocking access and are floating at the top of the hold. I think we can start Phase 1 recovery. Dive Master, am I clear to start Phase 1 recovery?”

###

On the aft deck of the M/V Savior, the mission commander on this task smiled and made a mental note about his dinner plans. He had just won a bet with some of the more conservative leaders of this mission that currently were sitting back in Mombasa. Richard had been counting on that the four lifting bags would have broken any rust on the hinges, and the added lifting drums would easily move the metal cover if that had been the case. Most others thought they would need to drop down and deploy the specialized cutting torches to get into the cargo hold. Richard was an army captain, and so he had to go with the “advice” of the navy people even if he had thought that they were wrong. Looks like he was more right than wrong…. this time.

The diving master only needed a quick look to know that the commander was willing to move forward in the plan. The diving master waved to the lift deck crew and then the devices now needed for the dive team to start Phase One were sent down. While they worked on the deck, the dive team were told that they were cleared to start the next phase early. While the elevator was on its way down to the wreck with the needed support items. Richard had ordered the LCU to back its aft to the bow of this salvage vessel. This was almost a day earlier than the plan worked out in Mombasa had expected. The bow mounted 7.5-ton King post style crane on the Savior was running a line over the bow and stern of the LCU to a huge block and tackle near the side mounted pilot house of the landing craft. Soon this very heavy line would be on its way down to the divers.

The dive master could only shake his head before handing over a Five pound note to the other man sitting beside the dive master. The dive master had been one of the crew that thought the plan was overly optimistic in to getting Phase One started on time much less early. “Diver 1, Dive Master. A line will be down shortly, the rest of the tools are already heading down. Advise that you try to pick out a small one for this test lift. We will have one of the real heavy lift bags coming down as soon as we can get one of them rigged up.”

###

Karl had to smile in his dive helmet. He didn’t know about this particular bet, but he could picture by the tone that the Master had lost a bet after so many dives under his belt with this group. Then Karl had to get back to work, he knew enough about diving to know if you started daydreaming underwater, you would soon not need to worry about seeing the surface ever again. Karl tapped Diver 3 on the shoulder to get him to stop looking at the half-opened hatch to get him back to being a safety diver for the whole mission. You know the job he should have been doing instead of wondering how much of a bonus they would be getting. Now Karl could watch the operation while Diver 3 kept a look out for sharks.

Two of the divers would work on trying to shift one of the shipping containers with a set of long metal poles that had been sent down with the lifting drums. Those poles were both pry bars and shark pokers if they needed them. After the pair of divers proved that they could move one, with those two poles, a heavy rope line was attached to one of the corner lifting points on the sea/land vans. No one currently in Mombasa or on this mission had any idea of what this ship had been carrying. Between the sinking of the vessel, and the use of nuclear weapons in this war. That data had been very effectively lost, and without that data they had to do things the hard way. The recovery team had no idea how well one of these metal boxes would float, much less how they would float after almost two years of being underwater. The recovery team most likely would not need the Heavy lift bags for getting the shipping containers to the surface, but they would need the rope so that they didn’t lose the damn thing on the way up to the surface.

The work on the wreck did not stop, not even when the school of bull sharks came by to see what was going on and then see if they could eat it. It was just bull sharks, being bull sharks. Them just showing up just slowed things down while all four of the divers at first “beat” the sharks away from the work area. After the stress of the surprise shark swarm had worn off the two working divers could get back to doing ”real” work. Even with two divers dedicated as lookouts, the other two working divers spent most of their time looking over their shoulders for any bull sharks that might be still around them. And that was not a bad thing, not when you were dealing with Bull sharks who like to see what everything tasted like.

At the last-minute Karl stopped watching for sharks and he turned his full attention on the huge industrial sized heavy lift bag. He ordered the tag line removed from the lifting device and attached to one end of the ship. Then Karl wanted the first of the empty twin oil drums attached to the north end of the TEU and the second set of tanks was vented back to neutral state and attached to the south end of the shipping container they had been able to move with the poles. When the oil tanks were again filled with air, Karl gave a signal, and the dead man rope attached to the container was released by Diver 4. All they could do was now watch and see what would happen.

The 20-foot-long container did not shoot to the surface of the ocean with these four air-filled old oil drums. It more or less rose very quickly away from the ship, and soon it was lost in the gloom over the diver’s heads. As the metal box rose in the water column out of sight of the wreck, it started to slow down in its rising. The water in this part of the world was colder, denser, and saltier the deeper that you were. Even with the four oil drums filled with air, the container reached neutral buoyancy in the lower density water while it was still 30 feet below the waves. It was not that bad of a first test at the start of a mission like this one. The worst case would have been if the TEU had instead gone deeper into the water instead of going up.

####

The lead pilot of the LCU was only called “Captain” when one of his dozen crewmembers on the LCU were in trouble. When he saw the heavy line suddenly go slack in the water out the thick pilot house window, he had signaled the crane to start taking up the sudden slack in the thick guideline. This was half a minute of frantic work before he had been messaged from the aft of the same ship that he was on about the slacked lines. He made a note to work on the training for his crew. Thanks to some training they had done back at port, he knew that now it was going to be a balancing act so that the metal box didn’t slam into the flat bottom of his landing craft.

Bill, the pilot/commander of this small vessel looked over at the woman running his loading deck of the LCU. “Sherry, lower the landing gate and get our divers in the water. Then drop the other line all the way down until the lines starts to float. This is your mission now, just do it the way we practiced back in Mombasa.” Bill didn’t need to tell her that this time they might be lifting a few tons of unstable explosives or other ammunition and not a rock filled container while safely docked next to a support base.

Four scuba divers were soon walking off the end of the lowered bow gate of the LCU. Each one of the divers had a rope line in their hands that ran back to the cargo deck of the LCU. That rope was attached to four metal angle iron bars with heavy duty, but small wheels. The device had been “recovered” from the cargo handling part of the harbor of Mombasa late one night. The divers were to attach these wheels to the bottom of this test container so that they could drag it across the deck without sinking the small craft in the process. Land crews across Africa had been doing this ever since the first fuel shortages and missing spare parts made using the specialized lifting cranes problematic at best even in the largest ports.

CPO Sherry Windrow had one hand on the metal cable that connected “her” landing gate to the ship and the other hand was ready to help were needed. Right now, the other hand had a push to talk radio set to talk to anyone within a km of her. The other radio like this one was with the bow crane crew over on the Savior. Yelling loudly would have worked to get her orders across for the rest of her twelve crewmembers. She was a very good yeller, and she had a lot of experience doing it. Still, it was always better to use technology when you had it.

Sherry looked into the clear blue water and saw the rust red container coming up as the line was slowly moved not far from her boots. “Crane, slow down by half.”

CPO Sherry Windrow didn’t even look to her right to speak to her crew. She just yelled loud enough to be heard all over the world. “Start the gate lift, handsomely.”

She knew that as soon as the lifting bags hit the surface, they would provide even less lift to the cargo container than the warm water. The idea was to line up the container and as the gate lifted “up” it would help the small King post crane carry the load. That move would also keep the container from bashing into her ship like a multi ton battering ram. Still, she had some concern when the sound of metal on metal was felt in the soul of her boots.

The 20 foot long container was half way out of the water, but it was still at a steep angle in the water and the motor on the gate was starting to smoke under the strain of the mass of the metal gate and waterlogged cargo container. Sherry looked around and started to yell with all the force her leather lungs could provide. “Everyone on the lines. Someone get the cable line from the Toyota’s front winch and…….. pull!!!”

In less than a minute, the only person not on a line was the backup pilot in the pilot house. Even the Captain was on the lines adding his mass to the effort. Sherry was giving commands like she was the captain of an old fashioned tug-a-war competition. The old 4x4 at the far end of the small loading dock was sending up four different clouds of smoke as the tires spun in place and the engine was over revving under the load to keep from being pulled into the ocean. But slowly the gate, crane, truck, and crew were able to get the container onto the flat loading deck of the LCU.

Sherry was first on her hands and knees before she was fully rolling onto her back. She was sucking in air like a lovesick jet engine. She saw the ship’s commander bent over with blood leaking from between his finger caused by the metal cable they had been working on without gloves. Between gasps of air, she vented some anger at the vessel’s commander. “Sir, I think we need a bigger boat. I know we need a bigger damn crane, if we are going to try this bullshit again.”

The LCU’s Captain straightened up and with a fling of his hands he sent droplets of blood flying from his “rope burns” across the rust and gray painted deck. “Sherry, I think you’re right. That was pretty high on the suck meter. But at least no one was shooting at us.”

He looked down at this CPO and saw the look. Only then did he realized that he had just tempted Murphy. If anything happens for the rest of this mission about someone shooting at them, she was going to let him know about it.

Richard came running as soon as he heard the squealing of tires coming from the bow of the Savior. He couldn’t see much until the 4x4 carried at the back of the LCU had shut down, but he saw the water leaking container was sitting on the bow of the LCU when the sea breeze had done its job on the burnt rubber smoke. Richard also saw the spent crew spread out in the well deck of the LCU like something out of a horror movie. That was enough for him to work out what had happened, or at least get him most of the way there. He would wait for the briefing, but he had a call to make that was more important than checking on some exhausted crew. After all that was why each ship had a commander, and he was the mission lead.

###

It was well past dark and the key staff for this part of the mission was in a stand-up meeting on the aft part of the Savior. It was the only place on the two ships that was big enough to have a meeting like this one. Well, they could have done it in the well deck of the LCU but currently the salvage/tugboat was the flagship, and the Navy had a thing about how something with that title should act. So, the meeting was on the Savior.

The Dive Master was first to brief the group. “The base idea worked, but the bow crane is too weak for this kind of job. If that cargo container van had been a 40-ton load? They would have never gotten it landed on that LCU in the first place. I think we will need the Aft King Post for any future loading, that is if we want to keep to this mission plan. She has a 75ton max load capacity and she has enough heavy cable to do a double loop for any very heavy loads we might run across.” Double looping a cable threw a block and tackle was a way to cheat the system to double the lifting force… if you were willing to risk it.

Richard smiled at the Dive Master and pitched his voice to carry. “I already talked to the LCU commander about this issue. She will be moving aft of the Savior in the morning. It will be up to you to make sure she is not in the way of diving operations. Now how are the divers, and how did the rest of the dive go?”

The Dive Master used half of the top of the mixed gas pump to park his butt on, and he really gave the mission commander a detailed look. This subject had come up faster than he had expected from a ground officer. “They’re okay. I think they pushed a little too hard on this dive to move so far ahead of the plan. I would like to call off diving operations for two days. I need to show the divers that there is a line not to be crossed when getting ahead of the mission without proper support.”

He waited until Richard gave him a slight head nod in agreement, and the dive master was again surprised that he would not have to get into a fight about his management of the diving team. “While we were dealing with that first container and landing it on the LCU. Oh yes, I told them to pick up a small one for the first try even if they had to work harder to get it. Two of the divers went into the Number One Hold while the others kept an eye out for sharks and that van coming back down onto their heads. They said that all of the heavy equipment that they could see is still chained to the decks of that hold. They could not see any damage, the only thing that showed up in the lights was the white shipping plastic covering the equipment.”

Richard looked around the group standing around them. “I think giving our people two days of no diving and light duty is a good idea. At least after everything they all have done over the last few days. I sent word out, that we did find and that we have successfully recovered items from the Nordland. HQ told me that the Boulder and the Patriot are being given orders to divert back to us as we speak. They are expediting unloading of their cargos, and they should be leaving port in the next few hours. The South Africans have a bad need for any fuel products they can get, or they will be heading down the tubes. HQ feels like the payment can be delayed for a while.” He was not going to go into details about that part of the mission. OPSEC was a thing even when radios and SATCOMs were not so much a thing thanks to the war.

Richard let the group mumble for a few seconds before he finished. “They should be here in about three to five days, weather, and other military issues dependent. I would like to have the LCU loaded with the recovered shipping containers by the time that they get here.”

He gives a loud snort that any “real” US naval officers would have rolled their eyes at hearing it come from a mission commander. “I told them that the LST will be a better fit for this mission over the LCU before we left. But now that we have found the ship and that we have proved that we can recover items from her. HQ has upped the level of support they are willing for us to use. Mombasa will decide if we need more support, after the “regular” navy decides that it’s worth the effort. I think that we surprised them that this had worked so well and so soon after arriving here.” Richard was all smiles and teeth.

Richard’s chest swelled up. “We have done great work. Let’s not screw it up now. We have no idea how the locals will like us sitting out here for this long. I trust you all know what to do, so please continue on.”
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Old 11-30-2023, 07:30 PM
cawest cawest is offline
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this is what the LCU looks like with a full load of troops.
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Old 12-07-2023, 06:51 PM
cawest cawest is offline
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These were the best pics for the LST. One shows her two twin 3inch guns and how they are mounted. Next is how the bow crane was used to land the tanks. Next is how hellfire and other missiles are shipped. It is waterproof, during DS/DS i help pull out a sea/land van full of ours after being in the water for two days. they were dry and worked. i was one the team that checked them out before they were put on trucks. I also helped recover ammo after the flooding in Korea in 1998 when and ASP went down the river. the AT-4s were not worth even looking at, but the TOW, Stinger, and fuses were dry even after over week in the water and mud (yes fresh water but the water was not clean either)
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Old 12-07-2023, 07:05 PM
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Chapter 4 reinforcement and heavy recovery.

Colonel Thomas the head of ISA was in his office again talking with LCDR Denise Moore. “Rick passed me some information. It would seem that there are some groups that are wondering what Richard is up to.”

Denise made a sour face. “First thing, Rick is a criminal, and half full of crap most of the time. So, I hope that you didn’t pay too much for that bit of information.”

Teddy had to snort at what the redhead had just said. “You’re right… mostly. But not about the people looking at Richard and looked to be that they are out to kill him. Or maybe it is that they are not out to kill him….. currently. We know that the South Africans, French, and even some of the staff of CENTCOM have heard about our boy. But word on the street has it that Richard’s reputation is rising in the world stage, but not as high as you have.”

Denise gave Teddy the single finger salute with flare, but he let it roll off his back. “I also was told to pass along a thank you for helping the Parche and staying with her to escort her into the harbor. That engine trouble could have ended her, and “we” don’t have many of them left. Also, the CENTCOM commander sent an official note of thanks for your records.”

Denise picked up her chin a little at the praise. “I was out looking for that pirate sub and found her. She is just lucky that I didn’t put her down thinking that she was who I was looking for. Did they say why they were out that way in the first place?” She was not going to say how surprised she and her crew had been to find out that the USN still had working submarines much less one that was operating in the Indian Ocean.

Teddy took a sip from a beer bottle that was still cold enough to be still sweating on his desktop. “Because I am part of the ISA they can talk to me a little more than the average bear. The USS Parche is a Sturgeon class SSN, and most people don’t know this, but she is a spy boat complete with her own assigned SEAL team. So, she is just not your run of the mill attack boat. She had been in and around the Persian Gulf keeping eyes on some radical elements that seem to be taking root there. Then CENTCOM got word of our little pirate submarine issue that we had been chasing for the last two years. They put that together with things they had been hearing on their side of the world, and off she went.”

The pirate sub had been Denise’s white whale for some time now. Teddy knew this and would keep his ear to the ground for her so that it would be Denise’s kill. “They were using what was left of the SEAL team to check out what might be on some of those islands that no one has been able to put under any kind of control. They didn’t go into details, but the sub’s commander was pointed to the Gulf of Aden to start looking. They found the Glafkos from the Hellenic Navy off an island near Yemen and put a torpedo in her, but they don’t know if she was the one that we all are looking for. Still her SEAL team had been looking around and they think that she is the one or one of the pirate subs causing all of the trouble. The subs crew and team were very happy to get some time off this far from the Russians.” Teddy’s face looked a little sour for some reason.

Now it was time for Denise to snort. “Yea, I heard that Rick’s Nightclub is going to be closed for a few days for repairs after the first night they were in port. I don’t remember the last time a brawl did enough damage to shut it down for more than a few hours.”

Teddy gives the naval officer a level look. “Yea, and they are going to be on R&R for the next week, so God help the bar district. And before you get “that” idea in your head. You’re on call for the next two weeks. We cannot afford for you to be out of commission for any reason. If we need to send even more support down to Richard? you will be the one leading it.”

##

It was five days later that a pair of large rust-stained grey painted ships came over the western horizon. The Savior, much less the LCU didn’t have radar of anything of the like at least one that was good for anything but navigation. It was not like anyone thought about putting something like that on them before the war, and after the war had started. Well, by then there were other things that were more important that needed Radars than the LCU. After The Thanksgiving Day massacre of 1997, there were not going to be any spare parts being made, much less brand-new Radar sets filling the supply chains of the US military.

The two different groups of ships could have used the powerful radios built and maintained within their hulls to keep track of each other, but these were not the friendliest of waters on the planet to be using radios in that way. Even if you were using encryption, and that kind of thing was getting harder and harder to keep up as the supporting system aged. Besides direction finding was a thing that dated back to the earliest days of Radios. After Richard’s contact with home base and the required check ins, his pair of ships had gone back to only listening mode on all of the powerful radios the two ships carried. That didn’t mean that shorter ranged radios were not used to keep the operation going, only anything of real power that could be heard over the curvature of the Earth was not used unless it was a dire emergency.

###

Captain Horace Blackwood scanned the eastern horizon as his ship “raced” along at a dozen knots through the short waves of the deep ocean. He was not happy about having to pull out of the South African harbor so fast. The whole idea for his mission had been to set up closer ties with the South Africans by sending a shipment of oil and fuel for trade. He was to have picked up two rebuilt tanks, two G-6’s self-propelled artillery systems, and a mixed bag of five APCs of a type he didn’t recognize that the ground forces in Kenya could use.

The ground forces in Kenya needed those heavy weapons, but Blackwood thought that they could be sent to support the RDF fighting in Iran against the Soviets. Now those heavy weapons would be taken in South African flagged hulls, at a very high cost to Mombasa, and at the best case it would take a few more months to get to the warfighters. All so he could “help” and upstart army officer in recovering “something” from the ocean. His ship had been “forced” to carry that damn LCU most of the way from Mombasa to this part of the Indian ocean, so that they could do some exploring while his ship did the real work in South Africa. If those updated orders had not been signed by the head of naval forces in Africa, he would have told them to bugger off while he loaded those cargos for shipment back to Mombasa.

Horace soon saw the two small craft on his ship’s radar two hours before his lookouts saw them on the horizon as dark dots with a light sky behind them. He had first tried to refocus his handheld binoculars to see them, before giving up and walking over to the bridge wing and using the pair of big boys fixed mounted there. It still took him a few tries to find what he was looking for through those metal and glass tubes almost longer than his arm.

After doing some fine tuning on the focus. Captain Horace Blackwood almost shoved his head into the huge binoculars fixed mounted on the wings of his ship in surprise. “Well, I’ll be damned. They did find something.” He could see what looked like four shipping containers in the well deck of the LCU from his higher position over the wave tops. And he knew that those TEUs had not been on that vessel when they had last parted ways a few days ago.

No one was around the captain, but when he returned to the bridge of the Newport class LST, he had a slight smile on his face. “Drop our speed and contact the Savior and ask them where they want us. I think we are about to help recover some very heavy items in the next few days.” He had no idea that his chief boson saw the slight smile before the top Naval officer on this ship removed it.

Captain Blackwood could not believe that he was saying those words. He still thought they were only going to be recovering junk that this army officer had found. It was not like they were going to find any new heavy weapons for the US Armed forces…. well outside of South Africa or France. He still was not happy with not picking up those heavy weapons he was at first asked to pick up. He was already planning out his post mission brief and pointing out that leaving those combat vehicles behind on short notice was a bad idea and a waste of “his” ship’s valuable time.

The tone that the LST’s Captain had used was light, and more than one of the six other people on the bridge gave the captain a side long look. The Captain didn’t say too much more, and he spent most of his time looking at the two other ships through his field glasses as they got closer. The rest of the crew went to work, and a call was sent down to the main well deck of the LST to let them know that they were about to be doing some very odd work. Doing some odd work was nothing new for any members of this ship’s crew, after all it was World War 3.

Three hours later, the Boulder had her old long hull sitting at anchor right where the Savior and the Patriot told her to be down to the meter. The last thing they wanted was to drop a tens of tons of armor called an anchor onto the sunken wreck they were working on or do something that would make the divers’ job any harder. That was some amazing bit of navigation in the time without GPS working, and they only had some outdated paper maps to guide them. The other ship with the Bolder was a counter mine boat, and she was setting out of the way of the working boats but not at anchor. She was fully manned with all four of her 50 caliber machine guns ready for action at a second’s notice. Getting the Boulder in place had been the most time consuming of the operation, and it had stressed the whole bridge crew on three of the vessels doing that job. That it would look bad on his evaluation, was what worried the navigator on the LST the most.

While Captain Blackwood fumed at the delay in getting his ship set at anchor. He saw a small, almost lifeboat sized power boat leave the side of the Safeguard class vessel and it made its way towards the Landing Ship Tank. After checking to make sure that he knew who was coming over to his ship, Blackwood exited the bridge to go to his day cabin/office. He was expecting this to be an interesting meeting with what was about to be his boss. At the thought that some jumped up grunt was going to be his boss, Blackwood almost tripped down the ladder.

###

Richard was led into a cabin that was within the superstructure of the LST about a third the way down from the forward sweeping heavy crane. Richard was not “in uniform” of the US Army, much less being in one that was connected with the US Navy. He just didn’t have time for those types of games, and Richard didn’t care about those that cared about such things if the truth was told. Still Richard was smart enough, and he had been around the world enough, to know that he did not want to bend this ship’s commander the wrong way. At least Richard needed to not go out of his way to upset the naval officers, at least as long as the same said officer was with the game plan to get the assigned job done. If he was going to risk the mission, this navy officer was going to be bent, broken, sore, and tired when Richard was done with him.

Richard was surprised that the cabin he was brought to by the senior enlisted person on the ship was not the ship’s commander’s main room. Richard knew that on this class of ship it was the office nearest the bridge of this vessel. That knowledge was thanks to him talking with a lot of navy people over the last few years while on duty and in the port bars. Richard thought that this was a good sign that they would not have to start with some dick measuring contests right off the bat. Another mark in the plus column of Richards was that the Chief Petty officer followed Richard into the room and closed the hatch behind him after entering this room. That spoke to his inner NCO.

Captain Blackwood was sitting behind his desk and waited until Richard was in the room and the hatch was closed behind him before speaking. “Good to see you Mr. Mtendere. I can say that I was surprised to get the word to come out this way so soon. I knew it was in our orders, but I must say that I didn’t expect them to be exercised……… much less so soon after we had arrived at our main port of call for what was listed as being our primary mission. I knew about your reputation….. for let’s call it finding diamonds in the oddest places.”

Blackwood stopped talking and waited for Richard to say something, but he was disappointed when the other man didn’t go for the bait. “I did see the shipping containers on the LCU when we approached. I take it that there might be more to recover from the shipwreck under my hull. Would you please give me a rundown of the current situation?”

The naval officer was more than half expecting that they were to recover those shipping vans and the LCU before heading back to Kenya. It was only thanks to his training that he didn’t lead with what he thought was the most likely course of action. If you were a lower ranked officer than leading with the most dangerous action was trained into you. Only after that did you talk about the most likely… especially if the later was against what your commander wanted.

Richard took a seat and noticed that the CPO of this ship took another seat to his front, but it was off to one side of the LST’s commander. Richard was going to start with something the Navy officer could not see before he got to the good part. “No problem, Captain Blackwood. But please call me Richard, I think that it will keep some of the confusion down. As for the wreck. We have already opened up all of the cargo holds on the ship, and then my divers covered them with some old cargo nets that we brought or recovered off part of the ship we have explored. We are currently using those nets for two functions on this mission. One is to keep anything from floating out of the now open cargo holds. All of the deck cargo that this ship was supposed to have been carrying is gone, but we have found some TEU’s that had enough air to let them float around in a cargo hold at the most inopportune time. We also are using some of the nets to keep the local population of sharks out of the now fully opened cargo holds. I understand it is very unnerving to come face to face with a bull shark in the darkness of those compartments.” Richard didn’t laugh, but by now some of the divers were joking about that in a gallows humor kind of thing while they waited in the depressurization tank between dives.

Blackwood made a sour face at what the other man had said. “I saw the containers on the LCU. Even if they were floating, the stuff inside is going to be just a load of wet and salt-soaked crap.”

Blackwood was still thinking that this was a waste of time, but then again metal was metal. The few Iron and other mines still in operation were not producing what they had done before the war had started. If they could get this metal to a few of the operational smelters in Kenya or even down to the ones in South Africa? It could be recast into some of the things that the war needed. Still, it was a lot of effort for very little current pay out.

Richard let a smile come to his face at seeing the look, and he was having a good idea what the other man was thinking. “Maybe, but I was told to recover any floating cargo containers by the head of NAVAFRICOM in person. We have found seven of them already, but we have run out of room on the LCU for anymore. There could have been more floating TEUs a few months ago, but the air finished leaking out of them before we got here. My divers report that they are spread out all over the place in each of the cargo holds like pick up sticks from hell.”

Richard shifted in his chair and went into command mode. “Now what I’m going to do, is send over the LCU where your aft crane can reach it. It is to lift what we found to date and put them on your helo deck. If you have the people with the right skills? Go ahead and pop the TEUs open and see what we found and start getting the salt water and muck cleaned off of them.”

Richard could see the shocked look coming from the naval officer before the face went blank at the orders he had just been given. “I have four deep sea divers and another dozen that are “civilian scuba” divers. Besides the TEUs we have seen. It’s so dark down there, and everything is covered in that shipping shrink wrap that the divers can only tell size as small, medium, large, and holy shit batman. The Captain on the Savior thinks that we can pull two loads up at a time with the teams at their current level of training.”

Richard was on a roll, and he powered threw the “stone face” being given by the navy man. “The largest targets will be pulled up by your crew, and the small or lighter ones will be pulled up by the LCU with support from the Savior. This is something that we broke the code on while waiting for your ship. When the LCU is full or at max weight? We will either move some of that lighter stuff over to your ship, or just have both ships focus on filling your boat. I am up in the air on this until we know more about what we can pull up from the wreck.”

Blackwood lost control of his face, and it had just had a frown that was getting deeper and deeper as Richard had spoken in that tone that should not be coming from a jumped-up army NCO. Finely he had enough. “Why……are we wasting all this effort? That stuff has been submerged in salt water for almost two years! It’s going to be worthless, so why should I risk my crew to support “your” plan?” He started drumming the desk with three fingers on one hand and one of those fingers held his gold academy ring on display.

Richard didn’t say anything for a few seconds, and he was as still as ice. He was thinking about being friendly to help smooth along this working relationship, then changed his mind. The other man had not even addressed Richard by his rank or the honorific of Major that was how you kept there from being two captains on one ship. “Because you were ordered to do so by people above both of our pay grades. Second? It is that we need that “stuff” as you called it, but I think you meant to say trash. Now I learned when I helped recover the Looking, you know that destroyer protecting your base back in Mombasa. It was that the Kenyan people are great at repairing the things we are fighting this war with, but it takes time, and they need items that we cannot get from home to speed up this process.”

Richard had to fight to make his voice get a little softer and not the sharp tone he had just used. “I also just happen to know from firsthand experience, that a suspension system for the Marine AAVP can handle the salt water without too many issues. I also know that our Marine battle groups can use more of them or just parts to get others back into service. Even if it is a wreck on the inside, and only the outer hull of an AAVP is sound? That hulk would help get a few other AAVP’s back into combat for the Marines that your LST was designed to support. If you have enough money, time, and manpower? They can repair almost any bullet, fire damaged, and sea waterlog wiring harness that you can think of. I know! I have seen them do it more than once. How do you think they had gotten that frigate without a bow powered back up, when she made it back to port after that sub hit her with that torp?”

Blackwood had to admit, the other man had made a point. He knew that AAVP’s could handle salt water, he launched them a hundred times. And as a navy man, Blackwood knew how badly the Lockwood had been hit and how much had been repaired to get her ready for Harbor defense. “Okay Richard, you have a point. Now what do we do next?” He was not going to use the officer’s rank that some piece of paper had said was his due. The only real officers were ones that had come out of the US military academies.

###

Later that night Captain Blackwood was still in his day cabin. He only looked up when this CPO walked into the cabin. “Hey, Boats. How goes the waste of time?”

The Chief Petty Officer had been with this captain even before this war had started. “Better than you would think. We pulled those four shipping containers up and put some of them on the old helo deck, and then we sent the LCU back to set up with the Savior.”

When the old NCO saw the look coming from the old man, he clarified. “We couldn’t get them all to fit on the helo deck, so some are still on the LCU. That would be too much weight for the Helo deck to handle. It’s only rated for a fully loaded, fueled, and crewed CH-46. We only have two of the 52 footers there, and the other 20- and 52-footer are tied down between the funnels and in open air. We have all of them open. Most of the water had drained out while they were still sitting on the LCU, but they still had a few inches of sea water in each of them when we popped the hatches.” He didn’t have to say that the NCO had made sure that someone would be cleaning up that mess when the sea water had come out of those containers.

Blackwood took it all in. “Well how much is just going to be thrown over the side to save room or to keep the smell from killing someone in the well deck?”

The Chief gave the other man a level look. “I don’t think any of it will be dumped over the side, at least not on my order. The small 20-footer was filled with small arms ammo, and they are in multiple layers of air and watertight wrapping that seems to have held up. I would be surprised if more than 10 percent is not salvageable in some way. I was checking on the other 52-footer when you called, and I have teams power washing the tires, track pads, and tank tracks with freshish non salt water as we speak. I didn’t have time to look that closely at the other two containers, but “our” boss is going to be very happy with us just from what I have seen so far.”

Blackwood could not help but blink his eyes rapidly as his brain processed the data that the ship’s most senior NCO had just told him. If his chief of the boat was happy and was right, maybe this was going to be worth their time after all. It also made him wonder if he was going to have to send that coded message sitting in his private safe. “Okay Boats. I know you did something like this before. You’re in charge of the deck gang and any person that you feel might be halfway useful for these tasks. If anyone gives you grief, call me, and I will take care of them. I know that the Starboard double funnel needs cleaning if anyone gets underfoot if you have to many looky lus.”

The senior CPO gave a knowing smile to the captain of this vessel, and he went to pour beers for each other out of an end table. Now that they were off the clock, the two of them could have a little heart to heart talk. The NCO was thinking that the old man might need to take some more time off of the clock, or he was going to lose his ship. After the Soviet nuking of key areas of the US East Coast, this was the only home that both men had anymore. It would hurt both men if Blackwood lost this command and that was the feeling that he was getting. The way that the captain had treated the other officer was going to cause issues back at base, if it was not fixed before they dropped anchor again. The scuttlebutt had it that the army officer over on the tug was one of the few bright spots of the US Military in this part of the world.

####

Karl was leading his team of four deep divers across the hull of the sunken cargo ship before splitting into pre-planned teams. He had enjoyed having a full day out of the decompression chamber before having to put his diving gear back on. He had wanted more, but the LST had been seen coming over the horizon at dawn and everyone knew that they were going to be back on the clock again. Now it was time to get back to work.

Karl was working with Diver 4 over in Hold Number 3 to rig and send up another shipping container. Their team mission was to get the last three floating containers in this hold up to the LCU. After that, the pair were going to be helping Diver 2 and 3 with their part of the mission. Those two other divers were going into Hold Number 1. They had to get a “medium” sized package out of the hold so that they could get to one that they called “holy crap” sized blob that was still chained to the deck. They knew it was some kind of huge artillery piece, but that was about it. They had to get that one monster out of the way so that they could finish getting to the rest of the equipment. Only then could they work on clearing out that particular cargo hold.

Karl looked over just in time to see the last set of flippers disappear into the cargo hold and then the covering cargo net was “opened” by that diver. With him out of sight and more or less safe. Karl looked around to make sure the school of bull sharks was not around. Then Karl grabbed a yellow flagged line that went up and threw the LCU’s well deck and over to the Savior’s aft mounted crane. The other team had a red flagged line, and it would help “guide” their target to the bow of the large LST anchored near enough but not too near to the working divers.

With one last look around to check for sharks, Karl lunged and went through a small opening in Hold Number 3’s covering cargo net. Diver 4 was going deeper into the mostly dark cargo hold while Karl reclosed the covering net to keep the sharkiness out of play. Their first load of the day should be ready to go very quickly. They had already rigged two of the Mombasa made lifting drums to the TEU container for their first lift. They would just need to fill them with air and maybe put the third set of old oil drums on a shorter center mounted line to add a little more lift to the metal rectangle.

Diver 2 was watching Diver 3 and Karl from inside the lip of the cargo hold. He might be Diver 2, but he was not in charge of Team 2. He might have taken that he was “just” Diver 2 as an insult, but he did not have the certs the US Navy wanted to “prove” that he could do this type of job without getting himself or someone else killed. Karl might be in charge of Team 1 and the mission, but Diver 2’s team was going to be the first team to lift out a real tank from this wreck. That was going to look very good on his dive sheet at the end of the day. Maybe it would be good enough that he could get a full-time job with the US Navy when they got back to Mombasa. Not only was that his dream job, but they also paid a lot better than any other group in Kenya. Oh, and they had very good support staff to keep you alive while you were underwater. If you got hurt or even killed on the job? They were known to at least try to look after your family. All of that was a lot better deal than he could get on any other diving team in Africa.

###

Diver 2 waved for Diver 3 to come over to him. The pair of them were bringing down a plasma torch and a pair of super heavy duty bolt cutters that was standard fare on a ship like the Savior. They had tried to release the tie down shackles on an earlier dive as part of the testing, but they just could not get enough leverage to break the rust or just break them open enough to relax the tie down chains. He was not surprised when this happened, and neither was the dive boss. Those shackles had held all of that mass in one spot even after an underwater mine had cracked the long ship’s hull just to one side of the keel spine like a dried twig. So, it was very little surprise that the divers could not get enough leverage to break them and release the vehicles by hand. But they had to try, just to see if they could do something now instead of having to wait for more equipment to be sent down to them. Even with the support of a counter Bend tank, time was in short supply at the bottom of the ocean.

Diver 2 hooked up one of the huge lifting balloons, which really looked like a balloon when enough gas was pumped into it. He quickly attached a line to each of the four special lifting points that had been put on the target when it had left the continental United States years ago. If this had been one of the Roll on Roll off ships? They would have just driven the vehicles right onto the ship and not lifted from a pier into a cargo hold. But those Ro/Ros type ships were already sunk or needed to support the war in Europe more than they were needed in the Indian Ocean by the time this vessel had left the Virginia port.

Now those lifting points would get one more use out of them. With his work done Diver 2 hopped/swam to help his younger partner with the heavy steal chains that held this mass of slime covered white plastic in place. He saw the other diver with the plasma cutting torch working on one set of chains. This left the bolt cutters not being used, and Diver 2 took them to work on the last set of chains on this target. Thanks to his skill as a miss spent youth, he had cut through the last set of chains before the other diver had used the flame cutter to do the same amount of work. It was all about leverage and how you could find the oddest ways to increase yours.

Diver 2 pulled the airline, hard, to give him a little more slacked line for him to use. This next part was going to be touchy, and he was more than a little nervous about it. He could have just opened the valve fully and let the air rush into the last balloon. Only that action would have caused him more issues and time than it would help in getting the job done. The huge balloon would have quickly gotten tangled in the roof of the cargo hold over their head, so faster was not the best way to move along…this time.

Slowly the diver turned a nob, and he could feel the air flowing into the balloon threw his gloves. From his point of view, Diver 2 could see the device start to change shape very slowly. After two very long minutes of slowly filling the fat balloon, the diver could feel the floating around of the target of today’s lift in the water filled cargo hold. He thought it was a wheeled vehicle, but he was not sure. They looked to be flat, if they were wheels under that plastic. The white hill of plastic slowly came off the hull as the balloon filled with a slow supply of air.

The diver moves around the floating target that was the slime covered object to get to the next lifting device, but it was still so low to the deck that he scraped his regulator on the ship’s hull when he went under the target. With his return to the main valve to the last lifting bag, he turned it on at the full setting for a fast count of twenty. The diver looked over to his buddy diver who did a slow negative shake of his head after the valve head been re-sealed.

Diver 2 hit the air valve again and when he hit a ten count, he quickly threw the lever to close it again. He was planning on doing another twenty count, but he felt the balloon shift and he did not need to see his buddy diver giving him the sign that the target had visibly left the ship’s deck to about a man’s height. The two divers make their way to the topmost floating balloon, and they pulled it so that it was angled to lift straight out of the cargo hold. That did not take long or need much effort to get this work done. The target was almost directly under the open hatch as it was. The pair of divers checked out the area above the net very closely. It was getting close to the time that the school of Zambezi sharks normally paid their first visit of the day to this wreck site. Even before the start of this world war Zambezi sharks were not afraid of man, by now they were even less so.

After seeing that the way was clear of sharks, Diver 2 and 3 quickly pulled the mix of cargo and fishing netting back from the opened hatch. They were just in time to see the other dive team moving two long shipping containers out of the other cargo hold. While Diver 3 watched for sharks while Diver 2 went back to the controls and started to fill and shift the target deeper in this hold. It was a case of valve on, then valve off and pull. Then he would have to repeat as they slowly rose higher and higher over the deck of the cargo ship. It was something that you could get lost in as you worked. That was why you needed a dive/working partner, so that you didn’t get lost in your work enough to get a quick case of dead.

Diver 2 was a little surprised when the other diver suddenly passed him the red flagged guide cable going to the LST. They also tied a quick release rope to the bottom of the “guide” balloon after the red flagged line was tied just the right way. With that last rope secured, Diver 2 turned the valve to max and gas rapidly filled the balloon to join the size of the other three. Within a few minutes, they could physically see the strain that the last rope was under. With a cut across the throat, the divers stopped filling and removed the gas valve from the bottom of the huge balloon. With a hard tug on the dead man rope running from the top of the balloon going down to a shackle near the lip of the cargo hold. The knot released and the balloon with the attached target shot past the two divers going towards the surface, and it gained speed as it raced toward the wave tossed blue green ocean surface. They only watched it until it was out of sight, before the pair of now smiling divers went back into the cargo ship. That had been the easy target, now the hard part was about to start.

###

The CPO adjusted his safety line, and he looked down into the water below his boot covered feet. Only then did he look back towards the main body of “his” ship. He was standing on the inverted C shaped crane on the bow of his ship. Normally it was used to lift, hold, and then recover the long heavy metal ramp that gave the Landing part of this type of ship its name. Captain Blackwood was right; he had done something like this before. Only it had been off the coast of New Jersey, and it was over a cargo ship that had been sunk by a Soviet torpedo.

The CPO looked down again, and one part of his mind noted that the twin cup shaped parts of the ship’s bow were opened and clear of any chains that the crane was going to be using this morning. He kept moving from looking down into the clear water, to looking back at his deck crew, to looking at a pair of small rafts with what looked like four scuba divers sleeping on the yellow air-filled plastic hull tubes. He knew that they were only resting as they waited to get back into the water. Diving was about energy management more than most of the skills you would think of.

Thanks to the good old navy grapevine. The CPO had already heard about the large school of Bull Sharks that like to stop by the wreck a few times a day like a city bus making her rounds. Anyone who would knowingly get into the water with one bull shark was nuts in the CPO’s book. To have a full school of the beast that was stopping by every other day for eight to ten hours. That went into the category called, someone needing professional help and not to be trusted with anything sharp.

The CPO almost missed it, but he did see the three lifting balloons a heartbeat before the top one cleared the ocean surface. The round top first balloon rose four or five feet out of the water, before it settled a little deeper back into the water so that only the surface of the very top of the balloon was visible to anyone on the local ships.

As the CPO kept watching, the divers on the rafts went into and under the low wave turned blue water. They were attaching four “normal” rope lines to the target at the bottom of the balloons short lifting lines. While they were doing that, the CPO ordered the ship’s crane and deck Capstan to take up the slack in the cables. It didn’t take long for the recovered target to be fully supported by the pair of lifting devices on the LST. The CPO looked down at a remote strain gauge in his hands. It currently reads “just” over 12 tons, but it had read more than that until the target was fully out of the water. That was telling him that this target might be full of Poseidon’s blood before the slime covered white hill was pulled fully out of the water.

He put the radio to his lips. “Okay it is out of the water. I want to slowly lower it down with the landing deck crane, and at the same time I want a medium pull back on the Capstan.”

The CPO watched from his high perch as the light tank was lowered and pulled toward the flat part on the open bow of “his” ship. He would have to stop the down drop of the crane he was standing on, while the capstan deep inside the huge door at the base of the superstructure caught up. While the small hill of white plastic was still slightly in the air, the ship’s top enlisted person made his way down one of the cranes twin boom arms.

When the target was “only” four feet off the deck. The CPO turned over the job to a younger woman for the easy part. This was going to be the start of her training to be a “real” CPO, but you could not just throw them into the deep in on something that there were not even SOPs written about. That was not fair, even for a CPO. She did the job well, and soon the red flagged line was on its way back down into the cold depths below the LST.

The young woman and older man watched as a mixed team of Navy and Marines swarmed over the mound of white plastic now sitting safely on the reinforced forward top deck of the LST. As the pair of NCO’s watch they noticed that the team just did not rip into the outer covering on what had been just recovered from the ocean floor. In this day and age, you don’t know when you might need something that was not currently being made anywhere on the planet. So, the team was being very careful with the unwrapping of this possible very important gift from the seas. Still, it didn’t take long for the three layers of materials to be carefully removed from the object now sitting on the bow of the USS Bolder. By the time that the support team had reached the second layer, the CPO knew that they had recovered a LAV of some kind from Davie Jones’s locker.

CPO and the CPO in training walked over to one of the Marines directing work on one side of the package. The older man was about to ask the other NCO what they had recovered when the woman’s voice boomed out of her small frame. “Perkins, get your ass away from that hatch!!!!”

The warning was too late for the young man. Seaman Apprentice Perkins had already loosened the hatch that he should not have been even touching yet. The vehicle’s hatch was disturbed enough for the Nitrogen that had been pumped into the body of the craft via the NBC system before the craft had been loaded on to the Nordland to react. The now weakened NBC seal suddenly let go, and the metal hatch came flying up and hinged over to slam onto the armored top of the vehicle. The top edge of the flying metal hatch hit SA Perkins just below his short ribs. It hits him with enough force to knock him off the top of the LAV, and he impacted with the hard metal of the LST’s reinforced deck with a crash and not a thud. If the enlisted man had not had on his hard hat and life vest while working on this project? He might have died on that deck or soon later in the infirmary deep within the ship. But he had lived, and after he was released from the ship’s medic, he only wished that he was dead. The CPO and the CPO in training made sure of that, and then the marine gunny had his turn at the unlucky young man when the navy was done with him.

While they were taking SA Perkins to the infirmary under close escort by his training CPO. The real CPO of this boat looked at the Gunnery Sergeant. The CPO could tell by the look in the eyes of the marine that they young man being carried off was going to be in for some “unofficial” hell. “Okay Gunny, it’s a LAV. But what kind, and can it be useful for your boys?”

The Gunnery Sergeant’s head snaps away from the stretcher and looked from Boats to the 8x8 with 8 flat tires. “Boats, it’s a LAV-AA or M17 if you want to get technical, and it is 12 tons of meanness. I have no idea if the TOW launcher is any good, but the insides are dry. Even if we can’t get it running back at base camp? I bet that we can get three or maybe four other LAVs out of the workshop back in Mombasa into the field.”

Boats nodded his head and let the deck crew continue to work the problem. Moving a LAV that was busted was something they had done a few thousand times already, and they better not need his input to do that kind of job. If they did? They were going to have way more problems to have to deal with than moving a busted up LAV sitting on the deck. That being a very upset Boats, who would make sure that the Gunny was just as upset with the matter of training of his people as the CPO was going to be.

Just as the sun was setting in the western sky. A massive artillery piece comes to rest on the deck of the LST. All the CPO could do was thank God that all of the vehicles loaded for transport were left in Neutral on the transmissions and not “in gear” while shipping. Still, it might have given him more gray hair in heavy weather If he knew something this size was in neutral. That would explain the regulation that said it would require a huge number of chains to tie them down while in Neutral. But now he was very thankful for that requirement when shipping large military vehicles.

It was supposed to have helped in getting heavy combat tanks off a ship that had broken down in transit. It also was supposed to have been worth the effort when arriving at a port that did not have the right transport to handle something like that. Still the Capstan was going to have problems moving 31 tons of “tank” on tracks that might be a little tight with rust and lack of grease on the tracks. The sound it was making as the artillery piece was pulled deeper into the LST would make your teeth hurt. A lot of the deck crew would be spending most of the night power washing the two recovered combat vehicles as well as those four containers that were brought up today. It was a lot of work, and they were just getting started.

The CPO was looking forward to having a crew filled with tired people. Tired people tended to cause him less issues than a board crew. As he turned and looked around, the CPO stopped moving like he had hit an invisible brick wall. He was looking to the north and east of his ship, and right at the island that was only a kilometer from his nose. He thought he saw a glint on the island, but just when he thought that he had been seeing things. He saw it again, and then it winked out again. The CPO did not move for long minutes until the sun was fully down behind him. He knew that the main reason you got flashes like that was when you were panning your field glass over a spread-out area. Like the way these four vessels were spread out on this part of the open water.

The CPO had a deep frown on his face as he went to go check on the two twin 3inch gun turrets that his ship mounted “for self-defense”. When he was done making sure that the turret crews all were both awake and aware, then he went looking for the Gunny to make sure that he was not losing his mind. Maybe they could put out at least a few more lookouts, and a few Marine crewed Light MG or two to thicken the ship’s defenses. All of these hands being on guard duty would cut deeply into what the CPO had wanted to get done. He made a face, but these were dangerous waters these days. At least now they didn’t have to worry a lot about Russian attack Subs or other merchant raiders. Both had been used in this part of the world in this war right up until they had been blown out of the water, but good old pirates were still bad enough.

####

Late the next day, Richard was looking over the ships working the wreckage site that he had found. Over on the LCU, they had pulled up a 2 and half ton cargo truck that they were currently working on cleaning up. He had to smile when some of the deck crew started spraying each other with the water hoses. When the yelling started, he made sure that he was looking the other way. Now he looked down at the forward deck of the LST to see what they were up to. He knew what they were lowering to the deck, that was thanks to the mission for the now named USS Looking. So, Richard knew that was an AAVP and how important that type of track was to the mission of the US Marines.

The LST had been able to pull up two other tracks before this box on tracks. Both of them were currently sitting inside the open hatch at the base of the superstructure. Things were going a lot slower than Richard had hoped that they would when he had come up with this idea. Still, he would call this a successful mission with what they had recovered just so far. If they could pull more out, and not run into any trouble, it was going to be a huge success for the US Military when they all got safely back to the port of Mombasa.

While Richard was standing outside watching the last recovery of the day being delt with by the ship’s deck crew and Marines. Captain Blackwood was standing in the radio shack of the LST. Some powerful people within AFRICOM might trust the current mission leader, but not all of the people in his chain of command were in the same boat. That was why Captain Blackwood was here and following the orders that had been locked in his safe in a special sealed envelope. He was passing along a specially encrypted message back to Mombasa using his own contacts and codes. Richard did not know what was more surprising to him. Blackwood sending this message, or that the Captain was embarrassed that he needed to send this message in the first place. Richard thought that someone might have lost a personal and large side bet with someone back “home” when he found out about these goings on in the background.

Captain Blackwood had waited until the Radio operator received a confirmation that the message was received, if not decoded or delivered. He had no idea if it had been read, but someone on the other end had received this message. The Captain looked down at his watch before picking up his steps to make up some time when he left the radio “shack”. There was a mission brief on the old helicopter landing deck on the aft of the ship that he was expected and required to attend. The US military still had a few helicopters that worked, but they were only used very sparingly, and this was not listed as being that important. This was due to a mix of lack of fuel and the lack of spare parts to support them. Besides space was short on a US Navy ship and any space that was not currently being used would find a new use, like this evening.

####

Richard was looking in one of the open containers, this one was listed on the manifest as having been carrying an estimated 40 tons of miscellaneous M551 “Sheridan” parts. Robert turned when he saw the last person needed for this briefing walking up from deeper within the ship. “Looks like most of the stuff in this one can be saved. Do we know what to send our people down to look for to bring up more ammunition that a Sheridan type tank can use?”

Before Captain Blackwood could reply, his CPO spoke up. “I do, but it won’t matter. Even late in the war, they did not put much ammunition on ships like this. We might be able to find a few more small arms ammo or missile crates, but nothing big like 8inch shells or powder bags for that monster we pulled up on the first day.”

Richard made a face and his army training kicked in like a charging Abrams main battle tank. “I thought each weapon was supposed to be loaded with a basic load-out of ammunition to support that system as soon as it was off loaded at whatever port?”

Again, the CPO did the talking for the ship’s master. “For small arms, and a few high value items like anti-tank missiles you would be right, but not for things like artillery and other major combat vehicles. That is why they had special ships just made to be ammunition transports, and they are named for Volcanos. The last thing you want is for a ship to take a hit from a Sandbox type missile and it sets off some stored ammo somewhere in her holds. I saw ships take two or three of those SS-N-12s, and they still made it to port without so much as needing a tow or tug. But if a ship were packing large types of ammo and took a single hit like that?”

The CPO gave a little shiver before continuing with his information when the flashback of one of those ammunition ships being hit went away. “They just turned into iron dust floating down on the rest of the convoy.”

Richard was lost in thought as he digested this information that was new to him. One of the things that he knew was that his people were in short supply for all types of ammunition. He didn’t realize that he was about to speak out loud. “Well, that is going to throw a monkey wrench into things that I had hoped to do.”

Richard was not going to say that it was going to make the divers work a little easier, now that they would not have to worry about something left soaking in seawater for years that would make a large boom. Water would not compress, but the air in the lungs of a diver would have no problem compressing. That would be a very bad way to die, and there would not be anything that the support ships could do to help the divers as their lungs filled up with blood.

The CPO snorted and Captain Blackwood had to smile at the response his NCO had given. He just enjoyed seeing this upstart get taken down a peg or two and it had been in public. Without thinking about it, he jumped on the bandwagon of bashing the ex-army NCO. “It’s a double hit for something like that 8inch SPG we pulled out. It’s so old that all we will need to do is power wash any salt off, grease her up, and she could fire her big hawking gun again. Only we don’t have any rounds or charges for her to shoot. Such a waste of time and effort.”

Richard picked up on the tone the navy man had used, and now he was going to show that the Navy officer might not know everything. “Only it’s not all as bad as you might think Captain. We might be able to get those types of rounds and the right powder from Israel or Iran. Hell, we might even be able to trade it to one of them for something that we can use. We did the same thing with those French officers that were traded back to the French Government.”

Richard turned and gave the snide Officer a level look, and he took control of the situation. “How are you doing for cargo space?”

Blackwood made a sour face as he worked on the words that the upstart had just used on him. He had read about the trade of the DGSE agents back in Mombasa, and the official reports had it that the French had traded the military for a whole C-160 full of badly needed cargo to get them back. That story was used as an example of what to look for by all senior leaders. One of the things that Blackwood knew was that Richards name had not been on that report, and an Army Captain should not have the rank to be brought into that data compartment.

Blackwood had to fight to get his mental feet back under him. Blackwood loved his ship and the crew that she carried, and the Captain was also surprised by how much raw crap they had recovered, and he had an idea on how much was still down there. “Between the LCU and my ship, we can lift about 690 tons in our current configuration. We have pulled out about 240 tons of cargo and containers, now that the water has drained out of them. That has left us with about 450 tons of usable cargo lift remaining, without risking both vessels if we get hit with some bad weather on the way back to port. Between the last two days of vehicle recovery? I say that we are down to about around 360 tons. That is give or take water load and any surprises that will happen.”

Richard knew the math, but he was being nice this time around. “In other words, we have about two more days of work, and then we will be full of cargo.” Richard turned and looked at Karl and the Dive Master standing off to one side of the group. They had been looking at what had been brought up and cleaned already before being packed back down. “How much more do you think the divers can pull out, in a perfect world?”

The Dive Master turned and looked also at Karl and gave the lead diver a nod to answer. “Herr. Kurnet equipment? 15 maybe 17 or wenig more. More? Need more……. stuff.” Karl was having a hard time grasping the right technical terms to use between German and English.

Richard looked around at the gathering officers of his four ship fleet and he had to fight down a smile. Being in charge of four Navy ships was not bad for an Army NCO. “We will continue as planned. I will call Home Plate and let them know what we have found so far. If they want us to pull up, or if no orders come down. We take what we can, and head for home when we are as full of salvage as we safely can. We can always return, if we need to.”

Richard now let his smile fall. “I don’t like those lights and heat points that the Patriot picked up last night. So, I want each ship to have weapons and body armor handy if things go sideways on us on short notice.”

He noticed an odd look on the LST’s captain’s face, but he decided to drop it. He would find out days later that his Boats had reported seeing lights for a few days now, but Blackwood had not passed this information along to the mission commander. And somehow the Mission commander had known about them, and worse he even had a good idea on how to plan to counter them.

#####

Fatiha Mejjati looked at the small group of ships about a kilometer from the shore of the island that she was currently living on. She was something very rare to be seen in her part of the world. She was a woman and in charge of other Muslim men. Not only were they Muslim men, but they were also Muslim “combat” men. She had not started out this way when she was so much younger. In her youth, she had liked wearing short skirts and smoking back in her homeland in Morocco. Then she had met a man, and then she had undergone a massive change. Her now husband had led a radical group “to standup” to Americans in the holy land. Soon the two of them had moved out of Morocco to be closer to the holy land and the seat of their religion. The pair of them had worked to “enforce” proper behavior and beliefs to those around them in their new home. Their group “of friends” had grown rapidly and that had turned out to be a bad thing.

It was only by luck that she had not been by her husband side the night that he had died. He had gone to a meeting, one that he had not been invited to attend in the first place. Karim had picked up on a rumor that a deal was being done in “his” part of town between another likeminded group and some outsiders. He had been told, in this rumor. That these outsiders were offering weapons, ammunition, and money if they would kill the interlopers in the holy land. Karim had wanted into that deal, and he wanted in very badly. Only that meeting had been a trap of some kind.

Fatiha had tried to find out what had happened to her husband, but as near as she could tell from any questioning, she had been able to do. Sometime during the meeting, it had become heated and then the Saudi police had raided the meeting with all of the violence they were known for. The meeting had quickly broken down into a major firefight that had left many dead or dying, including her husband. Her first test of leadership had been a twin pair of revenge attacks launched for her husband’s unjust death. Those attacks had not been bloodless for her people or her targets. Still, it had cemented her as the group’s new leader.

Fatiha Mejjati had been doing very well in her “war” with her group growing with every successful “operation” she was able to pull off. That is until one of her cell leaders had planned and led an attack on one of the few oil refineries the Russians had not fully leveled in this worldwide war with nuclear weapons. That one unsanctioned attack had gone badly in too many ways than she could count. The local defense force had not been as asleep at the wheel as her cell leader had been led to believe in the planning phases of the operation. The attack force had been almost wiped out during the opening phases of their attack on the refinery. Then the army had “followed” some of the survivors of the cell back to the support houses they had used, and some of those support houses were not supposed to have been known by that attacking cell.

It was all Fatiha had been able to do to get a few of her most “trusted” survivors and supplies on a quartet of Dhows and out of Manama harbor before they were picked up by the Saudi police. She had first made it to Yemen, but her group was too small to compete with the already established locals. She had been able to evacuate “her” people one more time before they lost anyone or too many of her horded supplies to fight “her war”.

Fatiha had been lucky that she had been on this island before this war had turned nuclear in a major way. When the TDM was over it had made what the Soviets did in China soooo seem like a side show event. She had picked this island out more out of half remembered good times, than any real plan to survive. The move to this side of the island was more to find fresh water, food, and to stay out of the way of any problems with the locals. She had planned to wait here and come up with a workable plan to go back north to pay the House of Saud an explosive visit. She just needed time for her people to recover from what they had been enduring for the last few years.

All of these thoughts had flowed through her brain at the speed of a memory from her past. She put the field glasses up to her face for the hundredth time today to get a better look of something she had already memorized. The first night on this side of the island, she had to run around the area like a mad woman putting out fires her people were making. The rest of them had not noticed the ships just sitting off the coast of the island in their focus to just relax from a hard day of traveling. She about had a heart attack at dawn, the next day when she had seen the hated flag flying on those three vessels only a kilometer from her.

By the time of the noon day meal, she was a lot calmer than she had been the night before. This was not an attack fleet of warships of the Great Shaitan. She had no idea what they were doing for many hours after the sun had risen in the eastern sky. She watched the ships and ignored those near her and what was going on behind her in the little camp “her” people were setting up. Fatiha was still watching the hated enemy, and she was surprised when she saw some kind of tank as it was pulled out of the ocean water. It was covered in some kind of white glossy covering, but she would not have known the difference between a tank and an artillery piece if she had a book.

She watched all afternoon, and she saw something she had missed that morning. She saw men in diving helmets coming out of the water on some kind of lifting system mounted on the back of the tugboat like vessel. While the men were being helped out of their diving gear, four small fishing or pleasure craft came into her view from where she was laying on her belly on the hillside. She had no problem seeing the heavy weapons that each fishing ship had mounted on their bows. Soon more armed small craft came into her field of view. Fatiha had to fight to keep her breathing steady as she saw the great warriors of Muhammad come to kill the Great Shaitan’s soldiers.

####

Richard was looking over the group of tired divers on the deck below him. Civilian Captain Don Esteban was walking in the area around them, and he seemed to be talking to each of the divers as they finished getting out of the bulky diving gear. They had put in another hard day of salvaging and four more military vehicles were pulled out of this part of the ocean. Richard’s head came up as the sound of alarms sounded over the water, one that you normally only heard in drills. It took Richard a few seconds to realize that sound was coming from all of the ships in his little fleet. That last part was the key that said this was not a drill. Richard was running to the bridge of the civilian crewed salvage ship before his mind knew what was happening. Years of combat had kicked in and his heart rate was climbing like a missile reaching for the stars.

The USS Bolder swings around on her bow anchor line, and her two turret mounted twin 3 inch cannons mounted high on the LST started to turn independent of the hull of the parent ship. The two turrets opened fire now that the normally aft pointed twin turrets now had a better field of fire. This type of LST’s turrets were on the aft quarter of the ship, this gave the aft more firepower than any of the other angles of the ship. The four 3inch cannons went into high firing rate, and soon 76mm HE rounds started to fall around the advancing fleet of armed small boats like a real-life version of the old kid’s game Battleship.

It didn’t take long for the pirate fleet to break up, but only after three of the small boats were on fire and or sinking into the blue/white waves of the local waters. At first it looked like the remaining fleet of small ships would try to circle around the gathering of US ships. That might have been their plan, but when the MCM-7 Patriot came “charging” from around the flame spurting LST, and she started firing her two 50cal heavy MGs right into the thin hulls of the converted fishing vessels. Not long after the mine sweeper had cleared the LST’s line of fire, those two heavy weapons had support from the two M60s and two MK 19s that the little vessel was fitted with to raise some hell on the pirate fleet. That was enough for the locals, and the survivors of this band of pirates turned back towards the island that they had seemed to have come from as fast as they could. Facing this much firepower had not been in their attack plan.

###

Richard looked around the large cabin on the USS Boulder, and he did not like the looks he was getting from the group. Richard pushed his shoulders back, and his already not small chest seemed to grow in size by six or more inches. “Okay, well we had thought that there were some sea-based pirates on this island. And now we know that they are there, and we are being watched by at least one group of them. I am suspending all diving ops for the next two days, but we are not pulling out of this area just yet and heading home.” Now Richard waited for the room to react to what he was expecting to be an unpopular plan.
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Old 12-07-2023, 07:06 PM
cawest cawest is offline
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The room did not erupt into noise, but it just slowly built up in volume. When Richard thought that he had let them vent enough spleen he took back control of the meeting. “It will only be two days of no diving, and that is to make sure that we are not attacked again with divers in the water. Now you are all thinking, why are we not heading home? Well, that is thanks to the good captain of this boat and yours truly.”

This got a mix of groans and laughs from the group, just like Richard had been hoping for and then he dropped his bombshell on their heads. “High Command is sending a second group of ships out this way. They are to help with finishing pulling out what we have discovered. We are ordered to stay on sight until relieved by the second force coming out of Mombasa. After they arrive on station, in about three days or so? We then will fall under the escort and new mission commander’s orders, so some of you real navy people can relax. What do they have in mind when the new mission commander gets here?...... I was not told, so I’m as in the dark as the rest of you. But if I was a betting man? Then we will be pulling everything, but the galley sinks off that wrecked ship.” Richard pointed to the deck towards the area that the sunken cargo ship was laying under them.

Richard looked around the room as the meeting broke up. He caught a few side long looks from those in “a real” uniform. But if these Navy “combat” personnel could not handle the job of combat? Well, that was not his problem to have to fix. And he knew someone that he would be talking to about reporting that little issue. Richard suddenly rocked forward as he was slapped on the back and a tall man in marine field dress walked past him before he turned around a little. As Richard tried to suck in air to refill his lungs the Marine was giving him a thumbs up and a devil may care smile as he cleared the cabin they had been using as a briefing room.

“Well at least the Marines know what their job is,” thought Richard.

####

On the side of the mountain overlooking the American “Fleet” Fatiha Mejjati was having a full blown hissy fit. Well, it was as much of a visible hissy fit as she allowed herself were so many of “her” men could see her. She had high hopes that the Fleet of Mohammad would have swept these American ships from the seas. Before the attack, she had had time to view the American weapons mounted on those vessels, and they had not seemed that impressive to her. To her they looked like little more than “normal” civilian ships before the attack had started. And they seemed to have been not unlike the ones she had ridden in on to reach the holy land. Then the Americans had opened fire, and things that she had not thought of as weapons turned out to be very effective weapons against the attacking true believers.

She knew that the Fleet of Mohammad had chosen the wrong tactics to attack as soon as the large ship with the ramp hanging off its nose started to turn its back toward the attacking small craft. “Her” people had come to attack Americans like a pack of pigs and fired their weapons in the air like they were in some movie or something. After the second or third of the prophet’s boats had started to burn. She thought that the local commander was going to at least swarm around and take out one of the smaller American vessels. But then one of those smaller American boats had turned out to be armed to the teeth like something out of a nightmare.

From her point of view of the battle. That one small American boat fitted with what seemed like a dozen heavy automatic weapons had been the one that had broken the attack of the Fleet of God. But it had not pursued the remaining boats that had fled the area seemingly claimed by the Americans. She had watched the American ships for another hour before having a member of her group keep tabs on them. That was while she went to find out some needed information from the nearest local that she could lay her hands on. She wanted to know where the local fleet was going now that the battle was over. At least it was over for the time being.

Fatiha had an idea on how to stop and hurt these Americans, all she needed to do was find out what was left of any local assets not blown out of the water already. The key was not the grey American ships, it was what they were recovering from the ocean. She needed to find this group of boaters and get them to be more effective in the use of their resources to hurt The Great Shaitan and not just wasting them and the lives of the crews in more pointless attacks.

It was when night had fully fallen over the island, when Fatiha leads most of her group to the port that the fleeing ships took cover in. After so many years working with a certain type of person in this part of the world. Fatiha had no problem finding the true key leaders of this “town” after only a dozen minutes of observations. She might have “only” been a woman in the eyes of the faith, but Fatiha had a lot of armed men behind her who would follow her orders if she phrased them just right. It also helped with the locals that she had a reputation of fighting in the holy land. That carried a lot of weight, even if it might have been exaggerated on some points in the stories that were told to the dumb locals. She also had done the Hajj, twice, were as none of the locals had done that journey even once as the profit demanded.

All of this let her metaphorically blast through the port village like a Category 5 typhoon on steroids. Her people “only” had to shoot one person to get the idea across that they would talk to her….. or else. She would have to shoot three more of the locals during or right after that meeting that she had called that night. However, how many of these surviving people that would be shot over the next few days, as Fatiha worked on supporting the plan that she had come up with is not known. In the days of a working international press service and the internet, maybe someone would have found out about the actions of her organization. But this was the start of the new Dark Age for more than just this part of the world and so murders like this were happening in the “dark” all over the place, every day, and twice on Sunday.
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Old 12-14-2023, 09:04 PM
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Chapter 5 Reinforcements II

Richard looked through the powerful binoculars as a set of three long and sleek grey hulls were coming closer and closer at what seemed like a snail’s pace. It had been a long three days waiting for the next attack to fall onto Richard’s little fleet. The only easy thing had been that there had not been any more attacks on his command. It was “just” the stress of waiting for that next shoe to fall onto your head that you and everyone else just “knew” was coming.

After the first two days of non-diving, Richard had sent his divers back into the water to work on recovering more “gold” from the wrecked cargo ship. The deep diving team had worked to free more and more plastic covered vehicles from the chains in the cargo hold. Those few divers had used every lifting bag that Richard had been able to beg, borrow, or take in the dark of the night. Then they had used every other thing that they could come up with to lift the valuables out of the underwater wreck. It looked like a lot of trash attached to small hills of white plastic floating in the water column. They also had used all of the ropes, cables, and lines that the three ships carried and were not currently needed for some other purpose. That last part had not made the senior NCO’s on all three of those vessels very happy with the mission commander or the rest of the command staff. It was always the officer’s fault even if it was the NCO that had to be the one to deal with the cleanup.

Very quickly the ships that Richard had on hand were almost filled to rough water capacity worth of cargo. Then the divers had only put enough lifting bags left to clear the cargos from the deck of the wreck. They were like a string of oddly colored pearls floating in the water column just waiting for someone to finish the job of getting them out of the salt water. A heavier line was attached from the aft of the Savior going towards the highest balloon in that string. Then a line went from there to the next hovering white hill, going all the way down to the sunken ship about 100 feet below the last recovered cargo.

Robert had hoped that this would help speed up the loading of whatever ships were being sent down to relieve them from Mombasa. After all it was not like they were going to leave heavy weapons here, not after it was now proven that there were hostiles working in the local area. Richard had taken a risk of doing so much work without a plan on finishing the job, but he was hoping that even if they were ordered to pull out immediately. That they had cargo ready to be lifted out of the water would delay them leaving the area by only a few hours. It was a gamble, but one that Richard was confident he could win.

Richard called all of his ship’s senior officers onto the USS Boulder for an official meeting. This was going to be the official change of command for this mission, and it fell into his lap to make sure it went smoothly. Richard looked around at the gathered officers and part of him wanted to smile at some of the looks he was getting from the more regular navy types. Richard’s head came forward as the hatch to the bridge of the USS Boulder opened and in walked a well-known red head naval officer. One with a habit of breaking people with her hands and feet even if she had not taken the time to have a few drinks beforehand.

LTCR Denise Moore walked up to Richard, and he gave her a salute that was at odds with the clothes he was currently wearing. She returned the salute from Richard, and then put her hand out for a friendly handshake. “Good to see you, Richard.”

She makes sure the whole room can hear what she is saying, then she would let her Boats let rumor control spread the story to the rest of the ships. “You have done a great job. I understand that when you get back to Mombasa, that high command will have got another little surprise for you. But before you go, I want you to be my second in command of this mission. I never would have thought a mudleg, much less one like you would turn out to be such a resourceful and successful navy commander. You also have a habit of being able to pull off jobs that “normal” navy officers’ thought was impossible.”

Richard smiled, and he understood the act that was being played out by her to the rest of the staff. He had been half expecting her to drop kick his... jewels instead of returning his salute. He knew that she was still mad about his last “stolen kiss” from her. He had taken it the night that he had sailed out to start this mission.

“I will do my best, Commander. I was getting a little board out this way with just being a ground commander lording over a few small little vessels.” Richard had a smile on his face that only the red head could see. He could clearly see the flashing of her eyes that said she was going to make him pay for the veiled insult to “her” navy at a later date.

###

A few hours later Richard was on the large warship called the USS Richard S. Edwards that had just come down this far south, and it had not been this way for a very long time. Richard was here to help the new commander understand what was happening in the local area, and what he had done to keep things moving along that had not been risked in being sent over the radio. He was just about to enter the main super structure of the destroyer when he saw a figure leaving from closer to the aft of the warship. Richard had no problem recognizing the CO of the USS Boulder as he stormed off with what looked like a full head of steam. Even from this angle he could tell that the other man was pissed, and Richard had a pretty good idea on what or who had caused that issue.

Richard looked over to the Boson of the warship and he did a chin point toward the retreating man. “That is a man that looks like someone tore a strip off of his ass, or maybe someone just took his favorite toy and flushed it down the toilet.”

The Boson looked toward the aft of the warship, and he had a tight little smile on his face. “He had a private meeting with the Captain, by direct order of the Fleet Commander back in Mombasa. You could say that someone was not very happy with him back in “our” home port. It might have had something to do with jumping the chain of command and a few other regs he decided not to follow because he felt like they didn’t apply to him. Our good Captain was explaining the facts of life to the ring knocker as well as delivering a personal letter from higher up our chain of command.” The CPO did a head nod and used his right arm to point to the open hatch. “The Captain is waiting, sir.”

Less than 10 minutes later Richard was entering the main cabin of LCDR Denise Moore. She looked up and nodded to her top NCO on this combat vessel. “Richard, please have a seat. So how are things?” She was talking as the other man moved toward the office chair. This was not a sign of disrespect; it was just the way that the LCDR did things.

Richard took a seat and got comfortable for what he felt like was going to be a very long grilling, if his instincts were right. “It has been very quiet after that last attack, and we have not seen any fires at night on the island. If you have good night vision devices? Then I would suggest that you might want to have your night watch check it out after sun set.”

Now Richard got visibly concerned. “I think we will be hit again, and soon. They should have hit us by now, but they haven’t. I don’t think we took out or damaged all of their boats. Don’t get me wrong, and I’m not playing down the gun crews. We did a lot of damage to them in that attack, but there should be more fishing boats on an island this size that should be repairable or used as parts to repair the damage we did to most of them. The only issue I think they might have is fuel, and I would not bet my life on that. I just think that they are taking their time and planning something now that they found out we were not going to be push overs.”

LCDR Moore smiled a smile that one of the Bull sharks under the hull would have wished to have. “I was thinking about the same thing, and that is why Edwards is keeping behind one of the larger ships. I want to make sure that if trouble happens, that she will be ready for them with a few surprises all on her own. I have been telling command for some time now that we needed to run a few counter pirate mission sweeps down this way. I think this is a perfect time to at least take a few steps in that plan. We need to clean out any trash that might have been collecting in the local harbors before they can spread out and cause us more trouble on their own timeline and battle plans.”

Richard now gave a smile of his own. “Well, I can’t disagree with you after the last attack we were able to beat off. I wanted to send the Patriot looking for the group that fled, but I was not sure that someone would not see the move and swing a force in from the south and hit us from behind. The Boulder has two pairs of 3inch guns, but they don’t have the best coverage for her own defense or the rest of the small boats under my command. They were a surprise to the pirates last time, but they’re not something they could not plan around. But speaking of larger other ships now sitting so close together in this part of the ocean. I can see the logic about bringing your ship and the Mauna Kea down here, but why did you drag the Rainer down with you. I don’t remember her name being on the ships list being ready for deployment outside of Mombasa when we planned this mission.”

The red headed woman let a friendlier smile come to her face. “While you were gone, the intel people went digging around for more data on what you found. Now that they knew this was not some kind of wild goose chase the big brains invested more effort. Then the USS Parche stopped by for some shore leave after running some mission for the RDF. It turns out that the Captain of that submarine had some Janes’s books on merchant ships going back to the start of the Cold War in his CIC. That data let us know that the M/V Nordland is a diesel-powered boat and not the oil-fired boilers most merchants were packing back then. Looks like you were right all along.”

She held her hands up to stop Richard from saying something that didn’t need to be said. “Yes, I know that was what you said, but there were some people that needed more information that they trusted and not just maybe hearsay by some army puke about a ship built almost forty years ago a third of the world away from the US.”

Denise was watching Richard very closely as she was talking. “After we pull up everything in the cargo holds on that ship. We are going to see about getting anything else we can pull up, to include if anything was left within her fuel bunkers. Good steel is hard to come by in any large blocks, even scrap is mainly in sizes measured in a couple of feet square. The Kenyan government and AFRICOM are already sending out small groups to recover any wrecks in less than 60 feet of water within a few hundred miles of any Kenyan port. Their first mission had been to make sure that those ports and coves were really clear of any recoverable items.”

The Naval officer raised an eyebrow at the man. “This is all your fault Richard. If you had not gotten someone looking out of the box they were sitting in, this would not be happening. But back to this mission. How long do you think it will take to restart pulling out those tanks or other vehicles from down there?”

Now Richard smiled, but he was still concerned about what was going on. Everything that had been said were items that he had put down in writing when he had pitched this mission, and almost every one of those ideas had been shot down in one form or the other. “Before we get to that. I don’t think that I’m the best person to be your second in command for the rest of this recovery mission. Captain Don Esteban on the Savior would be a better pick for that job. This is a salvage mission, and he is the salvage expert. As you said, I am good at thinking outside of the box, but that is because I’m a grunt at heart. There are a lot that are held back by training in the Navy stuff that tells you what others have done and failed. So don’t do that again or it will reflect negatively in your next eval.”

Denise sat deeper back into her commander’s chair. Everything Richard had said was true. But at the same time Richard’s army background and the time he had spent surviving on the battlefields of Germany was now hurting him. “Richard, you have changed a lot from just being an NCO with some time in small sailboats on Lake Michigan. This war might be coming up on the end date for the history books, but combat is only going to keep going on. We need people that can think outside of the box, and with command experience. This is the time for you to get some of that same command experience and to see if this is your cup of tea or if you have reached the limit of your command rise. Oh, and you pointed out that Don would be a better person for this task because he is the salvage expert. That is just proof that you’re right for the job. You have been working with him and know how to get the best out of him along with the rest of his crew. It would take time for me to develop that kind of relationship, and that might be time that we don’t have. Now you avoided my question about when we can expect to restart operations dictated in “our” orders.”

Richard was a little stunned by what Denise had just said, but he reacted pretty quickly to the changing situation of his world. “I have a few loads almost ready to be pulled out of the water right now. We pulled them out of the holds while we were waiting on you, and we have them suspended under salvage balloons hovering over the wreck. I think the only major delay will be in getting the King post cranes on the Mauna Kea rigged up to support this kind of operation, it’s not like she was designed to be used in a salvage mission like this.”

“I will have to pass along that statement to her captain.” The mistress of the warship used just enough sharp in her tone of voice to let Richard know that she would take it as a challenge to see how fast that crew could get ready to do…. some heavy lifting. After all if a little modified tugboat, LCU and an old LST could get the job done….. then the larger and more powerful devices on the old ammunition ship should do it better.

Richard smiled again, and he thought back to that last kiss he had stolen from this woman. “I bet you will. I will have the shallow divers in the water at first light and the deep team ready by noon. As soon as the Mauna Kea can get the balloons recovered, and please tell them to be very careful with them. I have no idea where we will find any of the large one’s again. It’s not like we can order more of them from back stateside or from Bremerhaven.”

Richard was not going to say that they had damaged three of those hard-to-find massive lifting balloons already, but they had been able to recover and repair them, but it had been a close run thing. “Anyone we lose to damage is going to slow down any active recovery operation that we are doing. We can start bringing up the rest of the cargo as soon as the lifting bags are sent back down to my deep divers. I take it, that I will not be heading back to port for a while. That whole bombshell you dropped on me with that XO thing kind of has me leaning that way.” All he got was another smile from the woman.

############

Just as Richard had said to the new mission commander last night. The shallow water Scuba divers were in the water just as the sun was coming up in the East. The deep-water teams could not go into the water until they had some more lift bags to use. They would just be wasting dive time and gas waiting for the bags to be sent down to them, in heavily Bull Shark infested waters. Besides, the deep-water team could always use a few extra hours of sleep or just resting on the deck while they waited for a work shift.

A zodiac carried the shallow water team that used a mix of scuba and free diving equipment to do the work in the choppy waters. The salvage ship’s boats were meeting at the mostly surface lifting balloon by a wood and metal hull ship’s boat launched from the ammunition ship. That mostly wood boat was dragging a metal cable from the two most forward King post on the 500-foot-long ship. These new ships sent down from Mombasa had been fitted with almost triple the length of heavy line and cables for this mission. Normally they only carried enough cable, chains, and lines to run lines from the spool, up the King Post and down to a deck plus 30 feet for safety measures. That was not going to work for this mission, and thanks to Richard’s reports on what was going on in the real world. Time had been spent collecting all of the lines that they could, even if most of the lines were not up to prewar US Navy regs. Needs must, when the devil drives.

During the night while they waited to make the first lift of the day. The 15,000-ton Suribachi class ammunition ship had moved so that the Savior was in the protected “lee” of the larger ship. The huge ship was “only” 500 meters from the smaller salvage ship when the sun started coming up over the horizon. The wooden hull boat was still 50 meters short of the balloon when the first free divers hit the water. Without needing to be told, the crew in the hard sided boat hooked a flotation device to one end of the cable. No one wanted to deal with a heavy cable that fell onto a shipwreck and that might get hung up like catching a huge bass on the end of a thin line. That would not have been good for anyone on this mission.

One team of Richard’s divers worked on releasing the balloon from the lines going to the string of pearls going down towards the wreck, and the other team released the lowered rope to the next balloon. The last two divers moved the metal cable to the shackles below the first lifting devices. Even if something happened to the balloon, the cargo would not be lost to the ocean depths again. They might have to drag it across the ocean bottom for a few dozen meters before getting it back into the water column, but it would not be lost. While the two-man diving team worked on attaching the King post line, other parts of the plan were in action. While that was going on, the ship’s boat returned to the Mauna Kea to retrieve a line from the ship’s aft most King Post. That one would be ready for the second lift of the day if things worked out even close to the plan.

It would not take long for the two long reaching set of King Posts to be fully engaged and begin lifting the balloons to the side of the ship. There the work was handed off to the center set of King Posts. They were to be used to lift the white plastic hills fully out of the water and into the middle empty cargo hold. When they had caught up to what Richard’s people had set up for them from that one wrecked cargo hauler? The crews on the Mauna Kea and a few other vessels started working other areas further away from this spot of the ocean.

You see the Patriot was a mine hunter, and she was of the class of vessels that were the best ever made for the US Navy before the start of World War III. When she was not engaging in fighting local pirates with her many “smaller” weapons. She had been scanning the ocean floor while her surface lookouts kept an eye out for other attacks on Richard’s command. It had found a lot of contacts that the homemade equipment on the Bluenose had not “seen” when they had been looking for the main wreck. Then the mine hunter’s modified oil rig welding ROV had taken a look at what the high-tech sonar might have seen. The ROVs had been used even before the 1989 film “the Abyss” brought them into mainstream knowledge of the general public. Many of the Nordland TEUs or TEUs lost over time had been found within a square mile of the sunken wreck the rest of this little Task Force was working on.

The Patriot’s ROV even had a set of claws and didn’t need to worry about the bends or an air supply. Those claws had originally been used to help clear or recover underwater mines in ports and ocean traffic lanes. After a few tries to get the ROV operators experience, it was able to attach a harness to the corner mounted lifting points standard on all TEUs. Then a heavy line from one of the King Post cranes was taken down to be fixed to the center of the harness. There were not any lifting balloons available for this TEU. But the main limiter to this operation was that the mine sweeper was not a tugboat, and that limited it to what it could tow, and thick metal cables were heavy. Oh, and they only get heavier the longer the cable becomes.

Only the first 400 feet of cable were not fitted with lobster trap floats to keep the line from dragging down the ROV or let it get stuck on the ocean floor on some half-covered rock. It was not an easy job, but the ROV operator was able to attach the surface line to the homemade metal wire cradle. When the very rare ROV was safely back on board the mine sweeper, the large ammunition transport ship started to pull in the line attached to that harness, that was attached to the sunken TEU with its King post. Without any lifting bags, the containers were “dragged” across the ocean floor. Most of the time it was moving the metal box over a sandy bottom, but sometimes they would “hit” something and then a little more force would be applied to get the container onto the Suribachi class ammunition ship without ripping it apart.

The first “found” container was lifted onto the ship and was quickly swarmed over by the ship’s crew. That proved to be a mistake by a crew that had not been paying attention to the reports coming from the rest of the ships that had been doing this mission for over a week now. When one of the deck crew that was more used to working with ammunition containers and not working with something that had been underwater for an unknown amount of time opened it. It was not a smart choice and now a lot of others were going to pay for that lack of judgement.

A few seconds after the shipping lock was cut, the locking bar had been beaten into releasing from the upper and lower kick plate. The water those doors had been holding back now had a way to exit the shipping container. So, it did so, and the team of six sailors took the “dirty” water to the face like they were standing in front of a large door sized firehose set on max. It would have been funny… as long as you were not one of the ones that had to be subjected to that assault.

They were just lucky that no one was blown off the ship’s top deck by the slamming of the out rushing water. Then the smell hit those sailors that happened to be standing around the recovered container. As the water made its way off the ship, it left behind a brown…. something….. on the ship’s deck. One of the deck hands leaned down and picked up a mass of brown mush that was like a brown sponge, which was also rotting under the sun. While the first sailor was looking at the smelly mass of brown slime, a second sailor picked up another brown mass. She grasped the object with both hands and gave it a hard flick that sent brown slime flying to land on the deck and up about a foot of the side of the rusting metal sea/land van. With the slime gone from the object, but the writing not legible to the average person, but the dark brown plastic bag was familiar to any military person. It was a Meal Rejected by Everyone, as they were known before the war. Now with hunger so rampant in this part of the world so late into World War III, these little brown bags were worth almost as much as an ounce of gold to the right person.

This was one of the lost shipping containers that should have been lashed to the deck of the now sunken cargo ship. This one 50-foot-long container was filled with pallets of MREs. The cases of MREs were in a wax impregnated cardboard. Cardboard that was water resistant, but not waterproof enough to last for two years under the sea at almost 400 feet deep. Whatever organics that had been on the wood parts that made up the pallets had “eaten” the wood, and then they had gone to work on the wax covered cardboard. Those same organics had not been effective on the thick plastic that held each meal of the MRE box. But without the cardboard and wood to support the load of long shelf-life food. The deck sailors had to pick up each slime covered brown plastic packaged meal, which had not been blown over the side of the vessel by the wave of water one at a time. But at least the MREs floated, and many hundreds were picked up by the ship’s boats before the ocean spread the small objects too far as to not be viewable from the ship’s boat or mother ship.

It was a job that sucked for both the deck crew and the small boats crew that were not supporting the recovery effort. It was thought that “only” about half of the MREs were recovered, but there was no way for the crew on the ammunition ship’s crew to know this for sure. They still had thought that they had a huge windfall of food when compared to the starving that was more normal in Africa for the last few years. In the next few years those “lost” MREs would find themselves being washed up over all the shores that made up the Indian Ocean. Less of them would make it to Australia, but that was more due to the sun UVB and UVC rays rotting the already damage plastic and not the currents. That passive act by the sun would cause the food to sink to the ocean floor to feed the life in that carbon poor area.

It took an hour for the Mauna Kea to recover the second shipping container from the ocean floor. The cranes had been needed to help pull another white plastic hill from the primary wreck, you know supporting the primary mission to be in this part of the ocean. The deck crew had learned a few things after the mess that the first container had caused, and some pointers were re-given from the crew from both the USS Boulder and the LCU. And amazingly, this time they were listened to. Now the deck crew had made sure that some nets were strung up on the edge of the ship to stop anything from being blasted over the side that could be used, and then the crew rigged up a way to stop the metal doors from being blasted fully open by the water pressure.

These were good ideas, and the other ships had done much the same thing. But what this deck crew didn’t know was that this next container was not off the Nordland. Later more than one of the deck crew would remark that the smell was stronger coming from this van, but with all of the damage and water leaking out holes in its side. They had just thought it was more of the same rotting cardboard and pine boards and that the smell would get better once the metal door was opened. Oh, how so very wrong they were.

When the metal door to this van was wedged open a wave of water that should not have been called water if it smelled this bad came out. With the smaller opening it took longer to empty the container of water. But after just a minute of opening of the rusty container, the deck crew started to retch out their breakfast all over the ship’s metal deck. Then the contaminated water reached into the cargo hold, and then the down deck crew joined the top deck crew in tossing their cookies all over the place. The NCO’s would not have been pleased with this… if they were not bent over side by side with the rest of them.

To make matters worse, the ventilation systems picked up the smell of rotting food and vomit and pushed it threw to every cabin and room within the whole ship. The container had been carrying food items that had been frozen when it had “fallen” off a ship into the waters in the very early days of this now world war. That food was still solidly frozen when the container had hit the sea floor. Then the biomaterial had done what it does, and it ended up feeding a huge number of small animals that could enter and leave the container through the growing number of holes rusted into the metal. It was like a multi ton bait bag. The cold water had slowed the breakdown of the organic material by a huge amount but not stop it. That just made the smell that much stronger when that door had been opened by the unsuspecting deck crew of this vessel.

That smell would have stopped the loading of more containers recovered from the sea floor, but another one, one they had started pulling before the smell wagon had been starting to be pulled in was almost ready to come up. So, they were committed to recovering the third one, unless it got too hung up on another old reef or other pile of rocks. They were only able to open one of the doors to release the water from that second TEU. The smell was already so bad on the top deck that they could not tell that this one smelled any different. The second recovered TEU was mostly “empty” of anything that was worth keeping after the water was drained away. Rotting food soaked in sea water for years has a smell that cannot be explained to those that have not had the…pleasure of that experience.

It was only after the things calmed down that they noticed the smell was less, at least on the top deck now that the third TEU was opened. The deck crew had started working on that one after they cleared another plastic hill. It was very late that night when the first person stepped into the fully loaded container filled with Amstrad made but soaked consumer electronic devices. Those devices had been going to their new home in high end electronic shops all-around India. All of the shipping cardboard was rotting but many copies of user manuals in heat sealed plastic bags to go along with the computers were found. All of them had been deep under water, powered off, and protected by the metal container when the Thanksgiving Day Massacre happened. In other words, this was a massive gold mine………. if they could be fixed.
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Old 12-14-2023, 09:06 PM
cawest cawest is offline
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this gives you some idea of the support ships used for this part of the growing mission.
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Old 12-25-2023, 09:53 PM
cawest cawest is offline
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Chapter 6 Enemy action.

Fatiha Mejjati stood on the long half wrecked wooden dock that was the dominant feature in this stinking harbor. She might have been the one to get this mission going and order its launch, but she would not be the one to lead this attack on the infidels. A woman could not lead “true” men into battle, at least not within the confines of her religion. She had to smile as twenty gunboats left the port in more or less a line of battle. Each of those cabin cruisers and fishing boats were armed with all of the heavy weapons that they could lay their hands on in such short notice. In the privacy of her own mind, she would have been impressed with the number of heavy weapons that most places this size could have claimed.

All of the boats had at least a 12.7mm or 14.5mm heavy machine gun mounted somewhere on the thinly built vessels. One of the boats even had an old BMP-1 turret mounted on the bow of one of the largest boats. They had only 15 rounds for the 73mm cannon and only two of the 9m14 ATGMs that the rail launcher could fire. It was “escorted” by a like sized boat fitted with a twin turret fitted with 23mm anti-aircraft cannons and a homemade twin RPG launcher device that the owners had come up with all on their own. This island was a hot bed of pirates, one that was supplied with fresh bodies when they run short of food, or a group of young men wanted some action.

One of the vessels in this fleet was carrying her handpicked leader for this attack on the Great Shaitan. He even knew that his attack was not the “real” attack in her plans, but they were to kill as many of the enemy as possible. He was only to do as much damage as they could before he was sent to receive his reward of 72 virgins that were due to a martyr of the profit. She looked over to one side of the dock and a sudden increase in the sea breeze blew her Berka into her eyes, this blocked her view for a few seconds. When the black cloth dropped back away from her eyes, Fatiha could see the true attack moving out of the harbor. The vessel had been used to give infidel tourist day long diving trips on this part of Africa before the war. No one had remembered how the boat and its equipment had ended up in this port on the back end of a dog and she did not care. It was Allah’s will that it was here, and she was going to use this gift from the profit to kill the infidels.

It took longer to get all of the local alcohol stills up and making more fuel, than to find the useable boats. It had been up to her to find people that could use the found equipment on that boat at least somewhat effectively. Then she had to manage what could be gathered over the last three days to fight the Americans. All of that was now done, and all Fatiha could now do was wait for the fleet she had launched to return and make plans if they didn’t return. She was both tired and invigorated at the same time.

She had been very careful not to let the locals know how many fighters were “attached” to her group, so that she would have one more card to play in the future. She still had to “help” with the manning of this combat unit, and six of her priceless fighters were going on this mission to keep the locals inline. Officially they were there to thicken the skills of the locals, but really, they were to make sure that this fleet attacked the right people. The last thing she wanted was for them to just move over to a different cove and wait until night fall before returning to this port. The rest of her men were hiding in the hills overlooking this village in case the locals decided that it would be better to kill her for whatever reason they could come up with. After all it was something that she would have planned to do if she was in their place.

If things worked out the way she wanted and the way that she thought Allah wanted. She was sure to gain some of the local fighters to fall under her flag for her revenge against the Saudi’s when this was over. They just needed someone to lead them that knew what they were doing and to show them what victory looked like. She also expected that most of any new additions would be on the younger side. That was normal for the fighters of Mohammad.

But if the attack that she had forced these people to both man and launch happen to fail? She would pull out with the help of her remaining fighters. She knew that it would necessitate the killing of anyone that had ill will for her and her holy mission. Then again, if the attack failed badly enough? She would be able to use her hiding fighters to take over this village that now was very short on manpower that even vaguely knew how to use weapons higher tech than bow and arrows. Under her vail like black cover, she smiled, and more than a little crazy fire burned in her eyes as the boats were lost into the cool night air.

While Fatiha Mejjati was sending her fleet to attack, she had been sure to have sent a trusted man to watch the American fleet with the large cargo ships in an hour or so. She would be the first to know what happened in the coming battle also thanks to that spotter and the hard to find long range radio mounted in his little truck on the back side of a nearby hill.

####

Karl was so tired that he could have fallen asleep on his feet at any second. Well, he could have fallen asleep on his feet, if he was not still over 100 feet below the waves of the ocean. Oh, and if it was not almost the time for the mob of huge Bull Sharks to come by this area of the ocean looking for something handy to eat. The only thing that was keeping Karl’s mind active was the thought of dozens of Bull sharks coming out of the gloom and trying to eat him alive. At least by now he didn’t freeze up or lose control of his bowels when those sharks came around the dive site. Then again, one had not tried to eat his head after that first dive.

Maybe it was because of these fears, that he was the only one on the stopped underwater elevator that heard the sound moving through the water column around them. The elevator had only stopped to help the divers equalize their internal body pressures, in the effort to help fight off an attack of the bends that working this deep made a near certainty. Karl could not see anything in the gloom of the water around them, but something was making an odd buzzing sound that was being transmitted through the surrounding water. Sound under the water travels both further and faster than it does in the air. And Karl knew this at a very deep level.

“Diver 1 to Top side. Are there any active boats in the area? I’m hearing motors down here and I think there is a lot of them.” Karl was almost spinning as he looked around the water column to try to back track where the sound might be coming from.

The dive master had also been about to fall asleep in his beat-up office chair the ship’s crew had put here for him to use. They all had been putting in some long days that they had while supporting this recovery mission. When they were not pulling up cargo from the wreck’s holds. They were cutting up the sunken ship up to be pulled out by one of the empty cranes on the surface. About the only good thing, was that the Savior was now “only” the diver support vessel for the operations and not the whole mission flagship.

He had no idea what Karl was talking about, but they were in a war zone, and this was called World War III for the last few years in the press for a very good reason. “Dive master to bridge. Diver One reports engine and prop sounds under the water. Is there a patrol going on? Be aware that he is currently just under a thermocline.”

He didn’t get an immediate reply from the bridge, but 75 seconds later over on the LST a hard thud was felt all the way across the water. That was when an 81mm Illumination round went off over the little fleet of ships. As the now exposed small sun slowly headed towards the water like a glowing ball suspended under a small parachute, the area was bathed in bright light. The Dive Master was still trying to get his foggy brain to work out what was going on when the line of tracers started to criss/crossed the night. In a few seconds he knew that he was now in a navy battle at night. One part of his brain told him that this was not something that he signed up for. Then he started to react like the combat veteran he was.

“Topside to all divers!!! We are under attack! Stay down and be prepared to go on back up air!! Deep team!! We will pull you up when we can, but you might have to jump out of the bucket and make it to the dive line for emergency air!!” The Dive Master dropped out of his chair and was focused on the dials that pushed air to the deep team while he tried to stay under some kind of cover from the incoming weapons fire.

The Dive Master didn’t have time to add any more information to the divers as something exploded off to one side of the huge ammunition and supply ship that was between him and whoever was attacking. Not for the first time, he was thankful for the reinforced short walls that had been refitted on this ship when it had been traded to the US Navy. He kicked himself again for doubting the captain ordering those modifications not long after the US Navy had started picking up the maintenance tab for this ship on the sly. He had the understanding that the salvage diving and recovery business was getting more dangerous, but he had not been shot at before or even close to this sound of battle after he started diving for a living. He was sooo not enjoying his first exposure to it surrounded by all of things that had flame and explosive warning signs taped to them.

###


Deep below the water, Karl looked up and saw the sudden flash of light that was oddly tented by the water between him and the wave tops. He felt the “thud” deep in his chest as something exploded and there was another but briefer flash of bright light over his head. This type of situation had been thought about before that one attack on the much smaller fleet had taken place. All Karl could do was wonder how those flashing lights might attract more sharks to this part of the ocean. He didn’t know what could be worse, a battle over his head or sharks coming to see if all that sound was the dinner bell being rung.

Karl patted his SPP-1 pistol on his hip for comfort, and he then pulled it out to check the action before putting it back in the holster. He didn’t snap the holster back closed, but the weapon was not in danger of being lost if it fell out of the special holster that had been made to hold it. Just like every diver going back decades, every tool was tied to the body with what was referred to as a dummy cord. Now Karl was slowly scanning in a circle as he moved over the small holes that perforated the metal square bottom of the lifting cage. Everyone on the lift had heard the alert sent down by the dive master and seen the actions made by Diver number one or lead diver.

Maybe it was his phobia of sharks that kept Karl looking around and not up at the lights flashing over the copper covered heads of the other divers. Soon Karl saw something moving towards them in the water column. Karl hit the shoulder of the diver standing next to him in the metal elevator, and he pointed toward the maybe sharks coming to eat a German that was a long way from home. With the sun slowly rising in the clear sky, it made for more and more light going deeper into the water column with each passing second.

It took a few minutes for Karl to see that it was not a shark coming towards them, but a man and then men were coming towards them in the water column. At first Karl thought that it was some of the shallow water divers coming toward them for cover, then in a flash that was not connected to the battle over their heads went through his mind. There were too many of the men coming towards them, and they all had spear guns in their hands. That was something that only deep divers on this mission had in case of shark attacks. None of the shallow water divers had felt that the weapons were needed. Then Karl noticed that they were moving faster through the water than they should be. At the head of each line of “new” divers was a short and fat torpedo. That torpedo was dragging the line of divers behind them like an underwater tugboat. That was a device that was not found in all of Mombasa much less released for this mission to use.

In a voice that sounded strange to Karl’s ear. “Top Side!!! We have divers in the water. We have enemy Divers in the water!!” This went out on the open channel to all of the deep divers and maybe even to the shallow water workers as well. Even as Karl was yelling into his radio, he pulled out his four-barrel pistol one more time.

Half the approaching divers started to angle towards the outnumbered deep divers in the white painted dive cage hanging below the diving support ship. The other half of the enemy divers had started searching for the brightly painted balloons that should be somewhere around here according to their briefing. One by one the rest of the approaching divers being towed by little electric torpedoes got closer to the small group of seemingly helpless deep-water divers sitting still in the water column.

Karl had taken a long time to think about what he would do in this type of situation, so all he had to do was wait and stay calm. He knew at this depth that the range of his weapon was “only’ 17 meters for his pistol, and he took careful aim with it. That should keep him out of the range of the spear guns the enemy divers were packing. That is unless someone on the other side had a weapon like his, and in this day and age that was not something you could count on. Because what were the odds that a German diver would have a Soviet made weapon while diving in the southern Indian ocean.

Karl had only four rounds that he could fire, one in each of the pistol’s barrels and then he would have to reload the blasted thing in the low light. Karl had practiced the act of reloading that weapon during his many times underwater, and he had an idea of about how long it would take to do so. It was going to take more time to reload than it would take the average diver to cross that distance he was going to have left.

There was a slight thump and a rush of bubbles as the 4.5mm dart went out the smooth bore that was a surprise to Karl. The metal dart hit low on the nose of the nearest underwater towing device. The hard and fast-moving high carbon metal dart had no problem punching through the thin outer shell of plastic on the civilian made diving device. The metal dart only stopped its motion threw the short fat torpedo when it hit the battery power supply. At first the metal rod “only” shorted out the rechargeable battery before the sea water could reach it. That shorting out saved the nearest divers from an explosive reaction of the battery and sea water mixture.

The other divers might not have known what had happened to the towing mini torpedo, but they knew they had to kill the infidel divers. They fired there sling spears at the divers in the half cage, but they had no idea that the range was to long by almost twice that of what a skill spear fishermen could hit a target. Then again, they would have been hunting smaller fish than a human for all of their years. So, they should be able to hit a larger target at a longer range…right?

Karl had no idea that the spears had lost most of their energy, but they looked like real sized torpedoes coming towards him. Karl fired off the next three rounds without hitting anything of importance. He could not drop deeper in the cage to get out of the line of fire and reload his pistol in something like safety. The rest of the team had beat him to ducking while he had been expending his four rounds at the attackers. He broke open the breach of the weapon and a clip of four more rounds fell into place faster than any time while he had been training.

Karl took a few seconds, and he looked around the rest of the divers as they were clutching their own spear guns when the breach of his weapon locked back into place. He was mildly surprised that they didn’t look that scared at the situation. The other divers looked like they were only waiting until they could join in the fight, and with a calming breath Karl lined up and fired again. This time he hit the nearest diver with a metal dart. The first of his reloaded 4.5mm sharp and hard bullet/dart hits low on the swimming form. The dart cut into the dark suit and impacted just below the ribs going down towards the toes of the enemy diver. The hard metal dart stops its transit through the body deep in the pelvis of the attacking diver. One part of Karl’s mind realized that this was not like shooting at a range. The bodies were smaller and narrower than any range target Karl had ever seen, but it also meant that if he hit something it would transfer more energy into the target.

The enemy divers now “saw” the gun in one of the diver’s hands, but they had enough experience to know that a firearm was almost useless under water. The attacking divers had no idea that they had lost two more scuba divers as they approached the lone mad man standing over four cowering divers. As it turns out, those other divers were not hiding, and they came up as one and fired their hidden spear guns right into the teeth of the island-based divers in one volley of short metal arrows. Four long silver spears came shooting out to greet the on-rushing divers that they had not been expecting. And where the attackers were using normal spear tips used in fishing, the divers out of Mombasa were using arrow tips more normally used to hunt wild boar.

The attacking divers had not taken the time to reload their own spear guns, but they pulled out their knives to handle these trespassers to this island’s waters. By the time that the island divers reached the cage, their numbers were more evenly matched than at the start of the battle. Eight local divers were floating in the water column at their natural buoyancy points when they closed into hand-to-hand combat with the divers under the American flag. It was a knife fight in a phone booth with air hoses in the way and in slow motion.

###

Karl had a hand full of a dark wet suit covered arm, and his other hand was blocking a wickedly looking knife. He was facemask to helm looking right into the eyes of the man that was trying his best to kill one diver called Karl. All Karl could think about was trying to stay alive and not have his air lines cut by these locals. When his attacker started to pull away Karl fought to hold on, so that the other diver could not get freed and take another swipe at the air hose over Karl’s head. That had been how they had come locked in this hand-to-hand fight, when that first swipe had failed to cut the lines over Karl’s head.

Karl was still looking into that face, and then the other diver’s eyes went huge as dinner plates. Almost between eye blinks a huge amount of air gushed out from the other man’s regulator. Now Karl could not hold on as the enemy diver was now vigorously yanked from his grip by something with the strength of what felt like a tow truck. It was almost like it was in slow motion to the human eyes, as the enemy diver was pulled away from the cage and started to be vigorously shaken from side to side. With the distance now opened between the enemy diver and the lifting cage. Karl could now see that a huge shark had taken ahold of the other man from behind. From Karl’s point of view the shark looked to want to take the whole diver into its massive tooth filled maul all at once. The bad part was that it looked like it was going to succeed in doing so right in front of Karl.

Karl recoiled to the back of the lifting cage with a shot of vigor, and now he could see what looked like every shark in the sea was attacking the free-swimming scuba divers around his men. “Mien Got!!!!”

Karl reached over and pulled one of “his” divers back into the lifting cage after an attacker had mostly pulled him out of the metal protection of the elevator. It seemed like forever that Karl watched the grey predators attack the free-swimming enemy divers around the diving support elevator. Karl had no idea that all of the Bull Sharks had been drawn to the blood and thrashing of the fight happening 100 feet below the waves.

All the sharks knew was that the flashing light and the thrashing sounds could mean food, and the bull sharks were always hungry and always angry very angry. The swarm of sharks had first attacked or fed on the dead and dying bodies floating at the edge of the battle, and then they had gone after the more active food. It had only been by luck that the enemy divers had been the ones picked by the huge swarm of Bull Sharks to try to eat…first. Bull Sharks are going to bull shark.

##

Karl looked around for his gun and he found it hanging down by his knees on the dummy cord attached to the grip. Like everything on his diving rig, it was attached to his belt by green cords. The last thing you wanted to do was drop your work light or cutting bar and have it fall a few hundred or a few thousand feet to the sea floor below your feet never to be seen or used again. He worked the action of his pistol one more time with shaking fingers and he put the last four round box in the weapon’s breach before making it ready to fire one more time. Karl knew that the attacking divers might have the attention of the sharks, but it would not last.

When he started to aim the weapon at a shark that still had a part of a bloody shoulder socket hanging out of its jaws and trying to swallow it. One of the other divers put his hand on Karl’s arm out to stop him from using the projectile weapon. Karl almost drops the breathing regulator out of his mouth as he saw the other man reach out and just push the shark away, all the while keeping Karl’s eyes locked onto the subject of his worst nightmare.

Karl took a few seconds to get his breathing back under some kind of control. It was only thanks to his many years of training that he only needed a few minutes to get his heart and breathing back down close to normal levels before using his built-in radio. “Top Side, we need to be brought up please. Many sharks are down here, and they are still hungry from the snack they just had. I do not want to need another new helmet….. bitta.”

No one replied from top side, and Karl was about to say something when the hip high walled cage started to slowly move toward the surface of the water. Karl hoped that there was someone still up there that could help him clean out his diving suit…again. He knew from the warmth going down his legs that he had at least peed himself.

“This is so much worse than dealing with that soviet made malfunctioning nuclear warhead.” Karl had no idea that he had just transmitted that statement to both topside and to the other divers. He was only lucky that it was all in German so that most of them didn’t understand him….right away. It would be a few days later that they would find out what he had said… the bad part was that more than a few of them would have agreed with him.

####

Aisha Omondi slapped the gear above the handle that he needed to use to get the metal turret around him to move. The boat he was on had started out as a fishing boat that was mainly used to catch crabs or other bottom fish using box like traps. But its cabin was mounted almost over the aft mounted outboard engines. That left the front half of the deck open for use as a large flat working area. This late in the conflict this vessel was no longer a fishing boat. On one of the runs to the mainland, it had been taken in hand by a group of tax collectors to be given a new mission.

First a metal tube frame was fitted to the working area of the newest tax collection vessel in that port. Then this open framed box was fitted with a repaired turret from a BMP-1 that had been hit with some kind of flame weapon. That flame weapon had caused the whole vehicle to be almost burned down to scrap. The only thing that had been saved besides the turret that had been blown off was the hull cut up to be used as outer armor on the sides of local gun trucks. It had been rumored that the turret had needed months of work to get kind of repaired before being fitted to this new “warship”.

That 73mm low pressure cannon had already been proven to be very useful in pirate attacks. It was a big gun, which had a big boom when it was fired. That combination tended to make it so that there were not any issues for the pirates to have to deal with. The armor was only covering the old turret with only some thin sheet and tin metal covering the box holding the turret. The thickest armor was 33mm on the gun mantel that protected the 2A28 “Grom”. So far that had been more than enough to stop any of those that were too foolish and had decided to return fire.

The turret looked good, but it was missing some key parts, like the INP22M2 sight and the 7.62 PKT machinegun mounted to one side of the cannon. But it still had the launch rail for the 9m14 or as NATO called it the AT-3 Saggar A. This vessel even had two of the missiles and a half a dozen rounds of HE-Frag OG-15V for the 73mm cannon to fire. They almost had a dozen reloads that were all bang and smoke for the cannon, but not really real shells. Those had been left behind at the port. This was going to be a battle, and not just scaring some tramp freighter or fishermen into paying the pirates. Errr I mean paying the rightful government of the local area its due taxes.

Aisha Omondi was all smiles and teeth as he looked out a special device fitted to “his” cannon. The commander and some crazy woman had said that they were to use all they had in this attack. So much to Aisha surprise one of the only two anti-tank missiles was loaded on to the rail attached to the long cannon before they had even left port. Aisha was finally going to be able to fire one of the rare missiles for real. How hard could it be, all he had to do was keep a target in the cross hairs after he launched the missiles and hold it there until it hit the target.

The attack on the Americans was coming just before dawn. The attack planners thought that all of the Americans would be lazy and still asleep at that time. The downside was that it was hard to pick up the targets in the night, but the gunner had faith that his god would show him the targets for his weapons. Just then there was a flash of something towards his front. He had to jerk away from the weapons site when there was a huge flash over his head of a massive flare that made it almost daylight bright around him.

After the shock of there being suddenly a small sun over his head. Aisha was okay with the massive flare, because he now could see a target. He had only fired an ATGM one time in his life and that had been an American made ground launcher and at a tank that had bogged down in attacking his peoples support base. That experience gave the gunner high confidence in hitting something that was a lot larger than a tank. He was so wrong, that he was more wrong than he was right.

Aisha Omondi took his time and fired at the nearest rust-stained grey vessel of the infidel and then pulled the trigger with a huge grin on his face. The AT-3 Sagger A left the launching rail like a bat out of hell. Then the missile nosed dived 100 meters in front of his boat, slamming across some of the wave tops. Aisha cursed and fought to regain control of the antitank weapon for all he was worth. He was still fighting for control of the missile when the normally 3km ranged weapon ran out of fuel. With a fizzle of the solid rocket fuel the missile finally crashed into the ocean without even detonating its warhead, even when it sank to the ocean floor.

What Aisha had not known was that the AT-3 Sager A or as the Soviets called it a 9m14 was well known to be difficult to aim, even at a still target at normal ranges. Much less dealing with the long range and catenary that was normal for using the weapon on the open ocean. That last issue was that both the target and the launching boat were moving up and down as well as side to side in the waves. At least after the first miss, Aisha didn’t try to load the second and last ATGM they had on this modified fishing boat.

The ex-BMP turret didn’t have an auto loader, but at least the 73mm rounds were on the light side and the Grom would have been easy to load by a single person. But only if the boat had not been rocking in all three dimensions at ones. Aisha fired his loaded cannon round with little results but a waterspout, and he slowly got off three more shots with the cannon but without scoring a hit. The 73mm cannon was called a low velocity weapon for a very good reason. What did that mean in English? This made scoring a hit very hard against a target that didn’t want to be hit. He would have been better to have used the Co-aux Mg. It was just too bad that the PKT had been removed.

Aisha jerked his head up from the weapons sites that seem to be miss aligned. In his mind, that had to be the reason that he was missing with all of his shots. He was confused at the pinging sound coming from the metal wall of the turret near his head. He just happened to be looking at the right area when rust and paint flew off and now, he could clearly see some silver bumps in the metal. Aisha was still looking at the dimples in the 20mm of armor plate when the next raking fire of American 50caliber projectiles hit. The range had now can close enough that the 12.7mm AP round cut through the armor, and between the spalling of his own armor and the enemy weapons fire the gunner would not get a chance to improve his aim.

The gunner was spilling his life blood onto the deck of the old fishing boat as he slides out from under the high mounted turret. He was just still hanging onto life when a 40mm grenade from a MK19 on one of the American vessels scored a hit on the turret’s thin top armor. Between that hit and three other 40mm rounds coming down at a steep angle, the vessel started losing its air-filled compartments. The thin deck of the fishing vessel was just strong enough to cause the round to detonate and the fire ball and shrapnel went deeper into the vessel and out the sides. This let the air out and water into the converted fishing boat. With this vessel on fire and sinking, it took one of the major firepower providing enemy vessels out of play. After that it was only a matter of time before the attackers could only flee or at least all they could do was try to run away.
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Old 01-04-2024, 06:50 PM
cawest cawest is offline
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Chapter 7 Cross Loading

For the rest of the day, after the early morning attack, the whole American fleet was on high alert for any renewed attacks. The key in defeating this attack had been the US Destroyer, she had first defeated the attack of the small craft and then chased down the retreating craft with her 3inch and 5inch cannons blazing away. Any craft that was flying the black flag was blown out of the water without waiting for them to fire back at the on-rushing warship. The destroyer and the up gunned minesweeper were not known to have that much armor, but that was only when you compared them to other warships. They had very hard hulls when you compared them to any fishing boat made in this part of the world.

The anchored diving support boat used in the attack against the Americans would have been captured, but someone had decided that firing a pair of RPGs at two thousand tons of warship was a good idea. The RPGs didn’t have the range, and both fell well short of the US warship. The same was not true of the warship’s larger, sea tested weapons that were used against the diving support boat. A pair of 76mm HE rounds showed them, well the ones that survived, the error of their ways of shooting at the US Navy.

Two men were pulled out of a nearby rubber life raft by the Edwards, but another man was not saved in time from the sinking vessel. Until that day no one had ever thought that a shark would attack a rubber raft, much less a raft with a person sitting in it. It was only something that you might have seen in a movie or heard as a “fish story” in a seaside bar. Many times, Mother Nature can be so much stranger than what the film industry or film critics could make or accept something like that as a viable scene that people would pay to see. It just goes to show you that some people need to get out more and see the real world.

The bridge and forward gun crew on the Edwards saw a Great White shark come up out of the water and take a huge bite out of one side of the bright pink rubber tube needed to keep someone out of the water. And within seconds the unlucky man was in the water with the huge hungry or just a very angry predator. By the time the Destroyer’s ready whale boat made it to that location there was nothing left to save. A message was sent back to the rest of the fleet to not conduct any more diving ops. Not with this number of sharks in a feeding frenzy in the local area that seemed to be happy to bite anything on the off chance that it might be tasty. A school of bull sharks was bad enough, but soon Great Whites, Tigers, and Great Hammer Heads were seen in the local area by ship’s lookouts.

The two recovered enemy personnel from the dive support boat were very talkative, after seeing what had happened to their crewmate in his small raft. The crew of the US warship didn’t even have to threaten to put the men back into the water to get them to become very, if not too, talkative for the American’s tastes. They were more than willing to tell the people that had saved their lives where their home base was located. They were even ready to talk about what was left to defend it, at least to the best of their knowledge. With this new information on hand, the USS Edwards charged off to make sure this nest of pirates was not going to be a threat to anyone for the foreseeable future. At least they could make sure that it was passive for at least the near future to any passerby. It is very hard to be a pirate on the open waters of the Indian Ocean, when you don’t have any boats that can make it more than a few miles out into the open waters of these seas.

LTCR Moore was a little disappointed when they made it around the head waters of the reported small port the attack had been launched from. It was a fourth-rate hole in the island, even compared to what was “the new normal” of even WW III South African pirate ports. With this being such a letdown to attack. LTCR Moore changed her attack plans on the fly. They could not use too many 5inch shells in any combat action, and there was not much in this port worth the use of 127mm rounds. Even the more easily to replace 3inch shells were rarely used after the first ten rounds had been used on this port that was barely worth that lordly name.

To save ammunition and barrel wear, both important things for a captain to have to worry about at this time. The ship’s master sent a heavy weapons team onto the beach with handheld weapons and enough explosives to put the few remaining small fishing boats into low orbit if you looked at one of them cross-eyed. This team left only the boats that were about the size of the Edward’s own whale boat without damage on the beach. You had to give the locals a way to feed themselves, or they would just become more desperate pirates. And the last thing this world needed, and more so in this part of the world, was a set of more desperate pirates.

LTCR Moore’s teams didn’t run into anyone while they went about their job of doing the wrecking business around the port and attached village. It was like the town had put every warm body into the attack on the recovery operations. The Captain of the warship didn’t believe that for a single second. She had the two recovered survivors from the attack that were singing for all they were worth, and so Moore had a very good idea of the number of fighters left behind.

After the boats were taken care of, the ground team burned all but one of the piers and one boat house in this hell hole. When they could not find anything close to the water line, the shore team started to pull out. This place didn’t even have a real light house worth the name, so what they did have to perform this safety measure was left alone by the Americans. The Captain of the warship wanted to make a point, but she didn’t want to make them more desperate. Desperate people tended to do desperate things, and that was the last thing she wanted or needed dropped at her feet. That had been a hard lesson to learn not just for her and her crew, but what was left of the US Navy in these waters had to learn.

As the warship was pulling back out into open water, LTCR Moore started making notes on the mission today. If she was not already worried about the top weight of her warship? Moore might have asked for a “real” landing boat and the right gear to get it in and out of the water to be added to her ship. After all it was not like she was going to be needing her aft mounted helicopter pad anytime soon. If they didn’t find more parts, she was pretty certain that she would never see a helicopter working off her deck ever again. She would just have to run this idea through her staff, just to make sure she had not missed anything major. This type of fighting might be about all the US Navy in this part of the world would be able to perform.

####

When the powerful warship returned to the mostly anchored fleet she was charged with protecting, her mistress called for a meeting to be held for the key leaders. This was the second major attack on this operation, and Moore wanted more than just a short briefing sent in code over the radio to give her a breakdown of what happened to each of the other ships now under her protection and command. She needed information, a lot of it, and she had to be sure that she was not losing anything in transmission. She could not make, if not the right decision, at least make one that was the least bad of all the options that Moore and her staff might come up with.

LTCR Moore looked around the room and her eyes stopped on Richard. By now she had to really think to remember that he was ex-army and not a lifelong member of the sea. “Richard, how are the divers?”

Richard gave a slight nod to the eye lock of the red-haired woman. “None were killed, but we have four that are hurt in one way or the other. All of those that were hurt were on the shallow water teams. Casualties might have been higher for those on that team, but they were able to get to the deep-water teams lift cage. From there they were able to keep the sharks at more than arm’s length until the predators lost hyperactive attention. The dive master wants to use a full up shark cage for a while, and he wants to somehow use them for both types of our diving teams. He says that there are two that he can slap together with what he has on hand. They won’t be perfect shark cages, but it will be something to help along with some long spears used by the divers against any other sharks. This is going to slow things down more than a little bit. Me? I would not want to be in the water for months after the last shark was seen. The Divers seem okay going back in, as long as they have something to defend themselves with.” Richard thought that all of those divers were just brain damaged due to someone slipping something in their air tanks. He had not been joking when he had said that he would not get into the water until a month had passed since the last shark sightings.

Richard gave a shudder that he could not hide, and he picked back up on his briefing. His mouth started running without his mental filter working. “The dive master has already talked to the divers, and they all agreed to go back into the water at our commands. You navy types have something wrong in your brains, if you ask me.”

The water in this local area of the ocean had turned colors after the school of sharks had been drawn to the battle under the waves. They had attacked everyone and everything as they went into a massive feeding frenzy that National Geographic would have loved to have witnessed from hundreds of feet in the air. The water had not turned red, but it had noticeably turned colors to those looking down into it from a surface vessel. The US supported shallow water dive teams had not wholeheartedly taken to using any spear guns. Before today the shark swarm had always been deep in the water and not one of those moving garbage disposals had been seen close to the water’s surface while they had been supporting this recovery operation.

Well, that is until someone decided to have a battle in the water column that sounded the dinner bell. The deep-water team did have these weapons, with each diver also packing four spear bolts on each of their legs and some even had a pair of bolts strapped onto at least one arm. Richard thought that they even had a dozen bolts attached to the open part of the lifting cage before this battle. Those bolts had turned out to have been needed, but only three had been used against sharks. Those were the ones that would not take the “push away” while all of the whole two diving teams had hung onto the mostly open lift cage sharing air from the deep diver’s lines. Later many of those divers would report about a metal rain of slowly falling ragged metal in the water column.

LTCR Moore had a tight lip look on her face at Richard’s report. “I don’t want our people in the water until they are ready, and they can be safe to someone else’s satisfaction. I don’t care if they all want to get back in just their suits. If they see a swarm of sharks or anything that looks off? They are to be pulled out as safely as possible.” Moore had been raised early in her career about why the military had to undergo safety briefings and she didn’t want to be the cause for the writing of a new one. Then again, she didn’t fear sharks, but she also was not one to want to go swimming with one.

Denise spent the next half hour going over the battle with the local “captain” and made sure that the story of the huge shark that had gone after an inflatable raft for its juicy filled center was being passed around. After that story was passed along, Moore’s staff started their brief with the start of the battle near the rest of the fleet, and then ended with the setting fire to most of the small port. The end of the meeting covered Moore’s idea on getting some of the items they found back to Mombasa without risking the whole recovery mission as it had been first planned.

LTCR Moore ordered the cargo teams and captains to get together and start shifting some of the cargo around to best fit her “new plan”. The LCU and the LST would be leaving in less than two days to start the trip back to Mombasa at their best safe speed. The close escort for them would be the MCM Patriot and the three-inch twin mounts on the larger LST. All of those craft were very slow when compared to the rest of the fleet, and if all of them had to pull out in a hurry? Those three ships would slow the rest of the fleet down. The only ship that had been under Richard’s command that would not be heading back to home base was the diving support ship. That converted tug was faster than the LCU when it was empty, much less how fast a fully loaded LCU could wallow around in the waters of the open ocean.

Moore also wanted the two lift /landing ships to carry as wide of range of the recovered items as they could. But only if they were not too overloaded or if the send items were somethings that the larger ships could better transport that distance. Moore felt it was time that her most at-risk ships should leave this area, and they could take part of the gold mine that they had found off this island. The one thing that had not been brought up? It was that the sunken vessel had been one of the ships that the Edwards had been charged with protecting on that last convoy. The Edwards might not have been able to save the crew or the now wrecked ship, but now its cargo was going to be useful for at least part of the people that had been counting on her safe visit to port just a few years ago.
Richard was not happy with this turn of events taking place in this meeting. This all had been his idea in the first place. He was the one that had spent all of that time to find this sunken ship, and then he had been the one to put his reputation on the line to get a plan together to come all of the way out here. Now Moore was taking over, and he was going home with his hat in hand. Richard was barely able to keep his temper until the meeting room had cleared of those with gold on their tunics. Richard had now realized that he was changing into a leader of sailors and out of his cover as just a ground pounding NCO with too much power at his fingertips.

When the hatch closed behind the last member of the meeting and Richard and Denise were alone, he could not help but speak out. “Why are you kicking me out? This was my mission!! I should be here until the end.” Richard stopped when he saw the look and just before he put his own foot in his mouth up to the knee.

Denise looked levelly at the man with anger in his eyes, and her own eyes were on fire that matched her red hair. “Richard, you knew this was going to happen. In fact, I was to send your ass home as soon as I got here. It was my idea to keep you here as my second in command, but now we have to look at the bigger pitcher.”

Richard made a sour look and he huffed, but he could feel the heat leaving him. “Yea, I know. It was what I had guessed. Still, I thought that in the last meeting that I was staying until the end of this mission. I want to see this operation through. I’m not worried about the money! I just want to make sure that we get it done the right way and we get my crew home.” It was at that second that he realized that he meant every person on every ship that was on this task and not just the Savior and the LCU.

Denise Moore visibly relaxed and put her long legs up on the desk and rocked back in her high-backed office chair. “I know, and that was why I wanted you to stay and see what it was like to work with larger ships. High command wants you to start heading back, and they feel that it would be better all-around and not just for the operation out here. I think that there are some people back “home” that want to “see” what you found. And after they get to really see it, then they want to start working on getting some of this stuff you pulled out to the boys and girls on the sharp end of the stick. This last attack just pushed them over the edge to directly order me to send you and some of the items back to our home port for evaluation and testing by the shore teams.”

Moore let her chin drop and gave the man a look. “Richard, they asked for you by name to come back to port with “samples”. Otherwise, you would still be running the Savior, her divers, and still be the mission’s second in command if I had anything to say about it.” As the person in charge of the most capable US Navy warship on this continent, she had a lot more power than anyone of her rank had before the TDM.

Richard didn’t know what to say for long seconds. He had a few ideas on why he had been ordered back home, but not one of those ideas were what this woman had just told him. That quiet did not last, and his mouth went to work without his brain filter working for a critical second. “Oh, Denise!! I knew you cared! So how about dinner?”

LTCR Moore dropped her legs from her desktop so fast her long legs were a blur, and her eyes were flashing fire again. “No, and you’re lucky that I can’t strike someone upside the head that I am in command of. At least not without getting called on the carpet by my boss.” That was not a 100 percent true statement, but it was close.

Then one side of her lips turned up in something no one would ever call a smile, and her voice was like ice. “But if someone touches me? I can have them keel hauled, and I will not so much as have to report in uniform to my next line supervisor about that action. Care to try your luck, Richard?” The tone was as cold as space. She had to deal with men disrespecting and making passes at her while on the clock even before she had joined the active military.

For once Richard didn’t say or do something that would push anyone’s “activate fight” button. He gave a slight negative head shake, and this got a more normal smile from the senior officer. She let out a snort. “I didn’t think so, you’re not always dumb. So, what do you think we will be able to get done, referencing this salvage operation?”

##

At first light all of the divers assigned to this operation were heading back into the water. A large cage was slapped together with some spot welding and extra clamps and then tied between two small ships boats. This cage along with as many spear guns and extra throwing bolts on hand made the shallow water diver team very willing to be encumbered. They would be able to quickly get into the shark cage or onto the two ship’s boats that were not made out of rubber. Those two boats also came with a pair of crewmembers armed with high powered rifles standing watch over them. This was seen as a lot safer than the air-filled rafts and zodiacs that they had been using. The Deep Water Team still went down in the same lift, but now it looked like a metal skeleton mushroom. Also, now there was more than enough room for all of the divers to be behind metal bars only eight inches apart while they were in that lift.

More than a few people and not all of them were divers, were very relieved when not one shark was seen by any of the ship’s lookouts, and the divers. The underwater teams went to work just a little faster than might have been safe after reaching the work areas. For the first time they were going to be using a new skill set. The deep divers had a diamond cable saw that was used for the first time on the wrecked ship’s upper works. Soon every crane in the fleet was being used to pull “items” out of the sea. It might have been fully exposed combat vehicles, shipping containers, or just parts of the ship many feet long and wide coming up.

Before everyone started the workday the NCO’s took charge of the situation before anyone got hurt. They all were advised that this was going to be a maximum safe effort in case of another attack by pirates or just people who wanted to take something from them. Then an hour was spent on going over what types of actions they should take if attacked. The attacks were graded by levels that went from lone small fishing boats with two shooters and going all the way up in threat to old school soviet raiders that had not been seen for a few years now.

Very soon, the USS Boulder’s vehicle bay was filled, so anything that the heavy crane on the bow brought up was at first held on the forward part of the ship before being moved through the vessels super structure to be held on the flat aft passed the twin smokestacks. The Savior’s cranes pulled up smaller loads to be held on the LCU for shipment back to Mombasa. The deck crews on all of the ships were working as fast as they could. And thanks to the crew on the mine sweeper in the ROV, they were pulling up a lot of things just in the general area, which might or might not be useful in the end. About all that the crews on those ships did know, was that this was going to be the cleanest part of the ocean in this part of the world.

###

There were only a few hours of light left when the LCU 1619 and the LST USS Boulder slide in and sandwich the much larger USS Mauna Kea between the two smaller US navy ships. The heavy cranes on the old ammunition supply ship went to work shifting cargo between all of the three ships. Without access to a large dock or good pier in a harbor to do the work, this was harder than it really needed to be. They would need to work almost throughout the whole night to get a lot of the cargo shifted around the three vessels to meet the Task Force commander’s plan and intent.

Then about halfway between midnight and sunrise, after the cargo teams made a mistake that sent four of them to the infirmary with non-life-threatening injuries. The other two larger vessel Navy captains thought that the loading was not safe for the small ships to continue. Still, it was a mission that had to be done so it was by order of Richard and backed up by the Flagship that the loading continued. A little before the sun raised again over the blue waters of the Indian Ocean. The three cargo ships had split apart once more, and all three cargo handling crews were able to get some much needed rest and minor first aid. The crews of the USS Bolder and the much smaller LCU were ordered to stand down to only a security watch and minimum anchor watch.

###

Two days later Richard looked out the forward window of the command center of the vessel that was offset to one side of the LCU. By all rights Richard could have claimed the larger USS Boulder to be his “flagship”, but that was just “to Navy” for him to currently have to deal with. Besides, Richard still had some issues with the command team on that larger ship. So why rock the boat any more than was currently necessary? They would make it back to the home port in good time, so it was not worth his effort to try to fix those command and leadership issues to “his” satisfaction.

The little and slow 3 ships convoy made their way North at a steady 8 knots after leaving the area of the salvage operations. The going was very slow, but it was a steady pace in the open ocean moving at as near a straight line as the navigators could manage. The LCU might have been at one time used as a pirate group’s mother ship while they were working in the open ocean, but that didn’t mean that she could make a good turn of speed. At least not if it was compared to what was called “normal” for ocean going vessels of the US navy. That had been why it had been carried most of the way to the work site by the Boulder in the first place. It also didn’t mean that she road in the open waters of this part of the Indian Ocean very well. This time the Boulder did not have room for her to be carried on the deck thanks to all of the recovered items filling every space not needed for safety or crew use. Now she was just pushing her way through the waves under her own power, and the little convoy was making its way north with just a little help from the current trade winds.

Robert looked aft out of the side mounted bridge at the rear most cargo area in the open well deck of the 41m long vessel. The object of his attention was an old deuce and a half that had clearly seen better days and might still end up under a recycler’s torch when they got to Mombasa. Richard very much doubted that it would see use again, other than for a spare parts source. But it did have a turret ring mounted over what was left of the passenger seat in the cab of the cargo truck. That heavy weapons mount had been made to work…… at least it was currently workish. That ring mount had one of the LCU’s crew manning the M2 heavy machine gun sent over from the USS Boulder from its Marine landing forces weapons lockers. There was a crewwoman currently holding the butterfly handles and her partner was scanning the local waters for any threats with their also recovered and repaired field glasses.

After looking towards where the ring gunner was scanning and not seeing anything he could only give a headshake. Now Richard looked forward towards the ramp bow and saw the stack of fuel that the LCU was going to need. There were six huge rubber wheels like fuel drums and other large containers taking up the whole bow area of the blunt nosed vessel. That area currently had a little over three times the “normal” load of fuel for this type of craft. Or it would have, if not after every crew duty shift the LCU’s fuel tanks were topped off from that fuel cargo in the well deck. If they used all of that stored fuel? And the math had said that something like that would happen if they ran into a steady head wind. Then the LCU would have to close onto the back of the LST, and the larger ship would lift those empty fuel containers off to be refilled from the larger ship’s own tanks and reloaded on to the well deck. If the weather got too bad, all but a small crew would be picked up by the Boulder and held until the weather cleared. There was more than a small chance that the smaller and fully loaded LCU might sink in heavy enough seas. And even loaded as she was, she was not worth losing all of her highly trained crew.

They should not need to do this, just like they should not need to have the extra firepower on the aft of the small ship. Still, they were carrying a lot of cargo that was clearly visible on the LCU’s deck to anyone that might get close enough. These were not safe waters even before the start of WW III. But that was also why this 3 ships convoy had four 76mm cannons, many machineguns, and automatic grenade launchers spread out among them. They were carrying a veritable gold mine on two of these three vessels, and they wanted to keep as much of it as they could.

Richard had to smile as he took one of the few seats on the “bridge” of the LCU, and he lifted up his mug to take a long sip of his coffee and watched the crew work around him. At least they still had access to very good coffee in this part of the world. And as long as they had that, Richard was happy with the world…… Well also just as long as someone was not shooting at him, then he was happy.
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Old 01-06-2024, 05:19 PM
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Chapter 8 return to Mombasa

It was a total of an eight-day run from the area that they had been working on the wrecked cargo ship to get to the outside of Mombasa harbor. The small convoy had not run into any issues besides the ones that were weather related. The last blow Richard had to deal with had turned out to be an issue, and if the bow of the LCU had not been riding so high thanks to the light load in that area of the well deck. The little craft might have been in trouble, like the sinking kind of deep trouble. It was during that storm that Richard was having a second, third, and fourth thoughts about not making room on the LST to carrying the smaller craft after all. That would have reduced the total amount of cargo that they could have brought back to the home harbor, but it was how they had gotten the LCU down south in the first place.

But that would have been a major cut into the cargo load on the LST. Really it would have been cut to almost nothing, and this mission had been expensive in many more ways that you could count it. About the only thing this mission had not cost was in lives or at least lives for the American side of the mission. It had cost the lives of many of the people that had made the poor decision to attack the US Navy ships that had been working. Removing one good-sized pirate base and its attack forces of fighters and boats was good, but not worth the amount of fuel used and risked so many ships that could not be replaced by anyone on this planet in the next decade.

After a dozen hours sitting in a shallow water river mouth, waiting to see if they were going to lose the LCU or the mine hunter first. The storm had blown away and the convoy could continue with only needing a few airsick bags and taking care of some of the crews that were black and blue. They had started back north after clearing the last sand bar the storm had made at the river mouth. The huge antenna and powerful radio were able to contact the Mombasa harbor master while they were still a full day out from port. This was to let them know that they were okay and making their way again to the harbor, and not to send a rescue mission to look for them.

Also with this advance notice, the harbor inspection and the normal waiting period for dock space were expedited for two cargo ships. The mine sweeper had picked up the pace after making it past the main part of the harbor. She was going toward the military dock after the harbor’s “normal” motor gun monitors took control of their security requirements. The minehunter was not the best vessel for close in escorts in the confines of a busy harbor like Mombasa. She was more of a shoot first, shoot second, and then send the ROV down to see what was sunk kind of vessel.

Next to break off from the convoy was the USS Boulder. The LST needed to make its way to the longest and highest above the waterline pier. This left Richard and the LCU to be escorted by about half of the small harbor craft all the way to the back of the harbor at a steady 4 knots, that was the normal safe speed for harbor traffic. The rest of the harbor seemed to barely notice the three ships returning to their home port. That might have even been true, but not likely.

Richard was a little surprised when the LCU was brought all the way back to the newly rebuilt small dry dock. This one had been rebuilt to mainly support “civilian” ships, but it was also used to support the stabilizing Kenya Navy and the US navy. The ex-pirate mothership was brought into the pool, and the watertight gate was brought around and locked into place. Before the crew could leave the small boat, the landing craft had to be unloaded by the heavy cranes needed to support the dry dock. This unloading was helped along by a pair of deck side mobile cranes that were not there just because they didn’t have anything better to do. It had been decided, by higher command, that there was too much cargo that was not self-propelled to use the bow loading gate.

Richard was not allowed to watch as the small ship/boat was unloaded of the items recovered from below the ocean waves to the south. There had been a military Humvee complete with armed driver waiting to take him and his luggage to go see the big boss man, and he was not known to enjoying waiting for his underlings to show up to any meetings. This was not unexpected, and Richard had been working out what he was going to say for days as they slowly made their way back to Mombasa. It would be a game to see if he had all of the answers that were expected of him.

###


Richard was walking along the main public area of the main harbor that was the heart of Mombasa. He was both checking out the large ships in the harbor and the people that made a harbor like Mombasa a real harbor and not just a large and protected cove facing the Indian ocean. Out on the outer area of the Harbor he could see the Edwards and she looked to be covering the oil refinery. There had not been a press release when LTCR Moore and her ship had returned, but the rumor mill had been a flutter. Without looking very hard, Richard could see that all of the ships of that salvaging task force had been able to return. The only vessel that he could not see from this point of view had been the diving support and salvage Tug. She was just too small and was camouflaged by the other small vessel so common this late into WWIII, but Richard knew she was out there somewhere.

Richard was led by his nose to where his next meeting was going to happen. He had a feeling that it was not going to go well. Breach of contract was something that had left blood on the streets more than once around here. Richard didn’t think that the person he was meeting was going to have these issues, but he had to call in a few markers to at least have an out….. besides spilling his blood on to the streets.

The bar/restaurant had an inside and an outside part to support its business. With the heat, Richard was going for the French style and sitting outside. If a rain band came through and it was too heavy, that was not uncommon this time of year. He would move inside that didn’t have the electrical power to keep the AC unit running. Richard made sure that two meals and beers were ordered and just waited for the person to show up.

Karl looked up as a cloud blocked the sun, but his eyes told him that it was not a rain risk. He had not stopped walking and when his eyes dropped back down, he saw Richard waiting for him at an umbrella covered table for four. Karl saw a case that was larger than he was expecting but not overly so, but it still put Karl a little on edge.

Richard stood up and he pointed to an empty chair before he started speaking in Hochdeutsch. “It’s good to see you again Karl.” Richard did a finger wave to Karl’s face that normally held marks made from his diving and air mask. “Looks like you have been out of the water for a while.”

Karl took his seat and before he could speak a dark-skinned woman sat down a dark beer in front of him. Well Karl was German, and he was a long way from home. So, he took a long sip of the beer that was not “true” German beer before he talked to the man across from him. It was still good beer even if you had not just spent the last few weeks on or under the sea.

When the now third empty beer glass hits the table, Karl was already in a little better mood. It was not that he was in a bad mood, he just now was in a better mood….it was a German thing. “Thank you, Captain. And thanks to the pay and bonuses paid out for the last mission. Yes, I have been out of the water, but Rich has been taking a lot of my money…. Just like he does to everyone. I take it that I’m here to get the last part of the contract that “you” signed with me?”

Now Richard let a frown come to his face, and after a few long seconds he leans forward and puts down a little metal block that held the four spend “brass” for Karl’s specialized underwater handgun. “I have looked all over the place for new ammunition for your baby, and I even tried to get some of the local machine shops to reload these.”

Now it was Karl’s turn to frown. “I take it that you have not been successful?”

Richard now took a sip of his lighter colored beer from his still sweating glass. “You are correct. It is the modified Berdan primers that the Soviets used on those things. There just is not a way to reload them with what they have. They would have to hand make the tooling to make the right sized brass and then a set of tools to help hand set the holes to line up with the firing pins of your weapon. At least that is what they all told me.”

Karl was about to say something, but he catches something in the face of the other man for a split second. “You have something in mind as a replacement? I don’t think that we would be meeting here if you didn’t have a replacement in mind.”

Richard smiled behind his beer glass. “Well after I couldn’t find any more 4.5 smoothbore to fill your baby. I made my way over to Kenya Ordinance Factories. Now let me tell you, that is one busy place. I hate to disappoint you, but they were not interested in a limited run of 4.5mm. They were interested in the deal, if you signed over your handgun to them. And before you throw that beer at me. I told them that was a no go, but I had an idea that has been kicking around in my head for some time now. I talked them into making a copy of the Winchester Liberator.”

Richard reached down and pulled out a short barreled block of shiny metal and set it between the two men. Karl had a confused look on his face. “After me talking to them for a few minutes about the issues with underwater predators of local birth and surface visitors the local fishermen are having to deal with. They came up with this idea. Now it shoots your “normal” 16 gauge or 17mm shells for actions on the surface.”

While Richard had been talking, he pulled something out of one of his pockets. With the skills of a showman at heart, he put on the tabletop what looked to be a hollow brass tube. Karl put down the four barreled shotgun and he picked up the lacquered covered brass and looked down the tube. He was very surprised to see 3 metal points looking back at him.

Richard waited for Karl to look back up from looking down the open topped brass shell. “So besides being useful for other than normal operations. Each of these shells can fire three 5mm steel darts that will both work underwater and on the beach.” Richard points back to the four barreled shotgun on the table. “That is the working prototype and working demonstration gun that is made of stainless steel and recycled aluminum cans.”

Karl was now very confused. “Why would they spend the time to do this?” This late into WW III it was hard to find any “real” modern weapons, much less find the effort to make a brand new one.

Richard could not help but notice that Karl was not looking at him but moving between looking at the four barreled sawed-off shotgun and the brass shells. “They see a market and a need. Besides helping with the ocean steel recovering mission against any sharks. I have found out that Lake Victoria has been heating up again. On a side note. If you have the time and go over to the Kenya Ordinance Factories with your baby, I’m sure they will make it worth your time for the effort.” Richard gave the tall German an eye wink from someone in the Know.

Richard takes the time to pull out a carrying pack out of the box at his feet that would be used to carry the block of deadly metal. Then he pulls out a box of barrel covers along with a box of 24 brass shells packing little spears. Then came out a thin stack of legal sized papers from a folder that had been sitting on the table the whole time. When Richard was done, he gave the diver a little knowing look. “From your looks? I would say that I have come through on your contract.”

Karl didn’t say a word, He just signed on the line to say that the contract was closed and both sides were legally done. The two stayed to finish the meal before leaving. The entire meeting, besides ordering refills had been done in German. This could have been looked at as a way to stop anyone else from knowing what was being said, but that was just an unintended consequence. It would take the DGSE months of work and a large part of their budget in this town to find out exactly what had been said. Needless to say, many were disappointed with the findings.

Two months later
South African government house.


The old white-haired man put down the pages that he was reading, and he looked over at the head of external intelligence for the South African Government. In a heavy Dutch accent that was unique to this part of the world. “So, Karl. It’s true? It has been confirmed by other sources that are reliable?”

The head of spying for the South Africa government gives a half smile to one of his bosses. “In a word, yes. Most of the stuff they recovered was only good for patterns for handmaking more parts or for their growing scrap shops, but they were able to make the trip well worth their time and resources that they risked. That would have been true if you just counted the recovered steel for their band of recyclers. Our head of the navy would have thought that was true, even if they had just bashed in that little den of pirates into toothpicks.”

That got a raised eyebrow from the leader of the country called South Africa. “Were they able to shift the balance of power in the Red Sea area?”

The local leader was very much aware of the French on and off of this continent. He had a few bones to pick with them, and some of them went back more than a few decades. That had been one of the major reasons that “his” government had been backing the Americans in this new world war. Then again, they also didn’t want the Americans to get too powerful to be a threat to the South African leadership.

The head of the agency really didn’t need to pause but he did so for some dramatic effect. “No…. or at least not by that much anyway. The French can and do get new equipment and supplies from their home country. Even If it is not on any regular schedule that we can find evidence of. The AFRICOM commander’s people were able to get some of the older weapons back into service first, and that helped with some local issues. But that will be less useful if the French want to expand into their areas of control.”

The spy had no idea what an M42 “Duster” tank had been until 10 days ago. The reports of what those twin 40mm cannons had done to a major raiding party coming out of Somalia had been the stuff of nightmares. He had already asked around to see if the South African military could come up with something like this Duster. And that also included the “homemade” 40mm canister rounds the American’s had used against the horse mounted attackers from across some line on a map. That had been a surprising data point to find out as the fallout from that salvage mission. And until now, no one in his line of work had known that Kenya Ordinance Factories had added a new line beside small arms ammunition to go along with mortar rounds and simple mortar tubes they had been known to be making. They had been the ones to make those 40mm shotgun shells for what was thought of as “just” a 1950’s made anti-aircraft system.

With a headshake, to clear the made-up mental images of horse and riders being cut down like so much red wheat that his overactive mind had supplied him. Now he can address his boss. “They were only able to add four or five more new M551’s Sheridan’s hulls to their total order of battle for the Americans. The one M48A5 that they had been able to add to their defense had me a bit confused. Then we got the report from a friend closer to the IDF. General Harris had a stroke of genius when he repaired and then traded those two recovered 8-inch howitzers to the IDF. It was reported that the Americans were able to get three other M48A5 or like tanks along with supplies to support them for some time. The IDF also have been reported to have supplied them with extra ERA blocks. That those M48’s all can use NATO ammunition like the older and standard 105mm rounds. It is just another advantage for the Americans, but it does not shift the balance of power.”

The political leader relaxed a little in his high back leather executive chair. “So, we will not have a battalion of Abrams charging into battle anytime soon?”

The spymaster had to fight down a chuckle. “Not even a single one of those type of tanks was recovered from the shipwreck.”

Those were not the only surprises that the Americans had made from that one mission. They had turned over an armored artillery supply track to a group of expat Americans called the American Guard in Kenya. They had in turn, had converted that supply track into an urban APC to defend their group housing area from any attackers dumb enough to cross that line. He understood that the 10-ton cargo track that had been recovered was going to be turned into a huge 70mm rocket launcher using mostly local made ammunition. It would be using rocket pods left over from grounded helicopters that would never fly again because all of the Boeing helicopter production lines were so much radioactive waste. The Americans had done the same thing to the 8-ton cargo truck they had recovered. The reports about its capabilities while testing near that port on Lake Victoria had looked promising….. in a rain of death kind of way.

The other cargo trucks and even the civilian trucks that they had recovered from that sunken ship would not even make a burp in the current supply lines situation for Kenya. The Marines were getting two “new” AAVP7s along with the M17 LAV-AA. Those would go nicely with the single repaired LAV 25 salvaged parts allowed to be repaired. The US Air Force was getting the LAV PiVID and an old M48 Chaparral SAM launcher and the sole M750 base security truck they had gotten to work. The American army would also get a pair of each M113 and M115 ACCVs to work with that old Duster that had been used in the spanking of that horse cavalry.

The spymaster was still waiting to find out what was going to happen to the M898 and M728 CEV. The sole repairable Humvee fire support truck was now assigned to the AFRICOM commander security detail. “No sir, they will add “only” two dozen combat vehicles out of a full cargo ship worth of supplies. That is something like 1 and 9 of what had been loaded onto that ship in America. We think that the rest of the recovered hulks from that ship are at Kenya Vehicle Manufactures Limited Thika plant. We don’t know what else they were able to recover, but whatever it was they will take even longer to get back into operation.”

The head of the South African government had only seemed to let it go unnoticed with the spy masters lost look. “What about the other supplies that we know they were able to recover?”

The Spy Master now had a little smile on his face, there was a reason that this man was still the leader of the local government. “They pulled up a lot of ammunition and more than a few missiles out of that wreck. Only about a dozen of the latter are useful at this time for counter air work. About a dozen more ATGMs for the Sheridan’s are useful according to all reports. The ammunition charge that launches those types of ATGMs out the tubes is not that stable at the best of times. While the missile parts might be good, the launching charges are going to have to be hand made. They also are having to take any round of small arms ammunition that was exposed to the sea water or might have been exposed is being inspected. So far, they are having to disassemble and then having to reload them all over again. That is not something new for them to have to deal with, so they will have a steady, if low supply of new or rebuilt ammunition from 105mm going down to pistol rounds. That will not even slow their need to import replacement ammunition from us or new brass that they are ordering. We estimate that they recovered about 7,000 liters of diesel from the wreck, but it will need to be processed before it can be used outside of a power generation plant. They also were able to recover about a third of the metal that made up the hull of the M/V Nordland before the mix gas generator for the diving team went out and it could not be repaired with on hand stocks ending their mission.”

The old man behind the huge desk got a lost look in his eyes. “Okay, was it really worth the time and risk they ran for this operation? I’m talking economics and not just war fighting ability?”

The spy master had to fight to keep his face flat. “Sir, economics is not my strong suit. I can tell you what some of my people think that was not put into any reports. This operation will not shift the balance of power between France and the Americans. Still, it will buy the American and Kenyans between 6 and 8 months. That is if they don’t have to send too much of what was recovered to support the RDF and they don’t make a dumb move in that window.”

With the papers now flat on the wooden desktop, the Prime Minister looked levelly at the other man. “So, you think that we can launch Roos?”

The spymaster hated to be put in spots like this, he was a man that lived in the grey. He loved the wide spaces between black and white. Still, he was too much of a spy master and a politician to hold his tongue for long. “Yes, but we will have to work hard to find the needed supplies to support it the way it needs. Those cutting rods the Americans had ended up using are not something you can just find on a street corner or next to a fruit stand. Also, our people will have Great Whites to deal with on top of Bull Sharks like the Americans. They didn’t have any losses due to sharks, but they had some close calls and then the divers were attacked by pirates while underwater.”

The spy master gave a snort. This was something that they had talked about a few times and one fact was already agreed on. That would be that the South Africans would need American help to make the mission successful. “Now they had some issues with sharks, and the Americans will want something in return for their help and in their investment of items that might not be recoverable if they are lost due to breaking or enemy actions.”

Now it was the turn of the Prime Minister to make a face, and he didn’t say anything for a while. “Send the message to our ambassador to Kenya. See if they can work out the details, but they are not to agree on anything without letting me know first. We will handle this as a treaty, one that we can use against them if they back out of any deal that is made.”

Two more months later
Downtown Mombasa.


Richard was sitting down and working on a serving of seaweed smoked fish at a little hole in the wall that he had taken to visiting a few times a week or more. He had no idea what kind of fish it might be, and this one was more than a little over cooked for his liking. Still, it was cheap, large, and he had liked trying to help one of the smaller establishments like this keep going. That it also let him keep an ear out for anything that might prove useful to him and is now missing business partner were all bonuses. The last part that was just a well concealed benefit for him to be eating here, and he was careful not to tell that to anyone.

When the military pick-up style four door truck stopped at the road’s edge, Richard kept an eye out on it as he slowly chewed his fish and bread. Doing just that kind of thing last week had helped him to break into a black-market deal going on under everyone’s noses. That one deal had been about to supply weapons to a group that was less than friendly to the current Kenyan government, the British, and Americans that lived in this country. The info had not been attached to a “reward” that Richard could collect on, but it was useful enough to his boss to let him have a few weeks off without needing to report in.

When the person got out of the passenger side back seat of the truck and started looking around the outdoor tables. Part of Richard wanted to get up and leave the area as stealthily as he could, but part of him knew that it was already too late. The person was in typical expat clothing, and he was soon joined by three others exiting the same truck and they were looking for someone. That was bad news for him and anyone that was about to be unlucky if this broke the wrong way.

Richard turned away from his fish lunch and pulled out today’s paper and more or less tried to cover his face with the dozen sheets of off-white pages with black ink. He felt his mouth turn down as the clean-shaven man in off white cargo pants and light white shirt started heading towards his outdoor table in more or less a straight line. Richard was steadfastly ignoring the younger man, even when he came to a stop on the other side of Richard’s table.

“Sir!! Will you come with me? You are late for a very important meeting.” The young man had expected this…person to jump at his command. You could just tell by the tone that he had should have been labeled “this civilian” is not supporting the war effort.

The young man used a tone of voice that makes Richard think Ivy League and not ring knocker, and this could be good or very bad for Richard. That would mean he was with the state department or had been before the CIVgov/Milgov split after the Thanksgiving Day massacre. This information made Richard lower his opinion of this jerk right from the start. Richard folded the paper down and looked up at the younger man still standing across from him.

“One, I’m on vacation. Two, if I had a meeting set up for today? I would know about it, and I don’t know about any meetings on my schedule for the next week or so. Three, go take a hike……son.” Richard made to open the newspaper again in the hope that the younger man would take the hint and leave him alone.

The younger man didn’t say anything for long seconds, and he started to do the fish out of water mouth movements. Then he only passed over a folded-up piece of white paper to Richard instead of wasting his breath. That was the first smart move he had made in this whole situation. Now Richard was almost worried, but he still reached out for the sheet of folded paper he was being offered. Richard had to fight to keep his face calm as he unfolded the page. It even worked, at least until he got to the second line on the note.

“Well…… Shit!! Ensign, it looks like you are taking me to a meeting.” Richard knew that he could not blow off this meeting. Not unless he wanted to spend the next few months in a Kenyan prison or worse. He also had to change his opinion of this young man. Maybe he was not ex-State Department of Foggy Bottom after all.

####

It was a fast trip to the group of buildings that held the Mombasa part of the higher command for AFRICOM. Well, it was only a little faster than walking the distance they had to cover due to all of the local traffic. The streets of this town were packed with walkers, horses, and bicycles with the drop in the number of gas-powered transports the average person had access to with the loss of oil and parts production. Richard went through the normal security pat down when he entered the first guard point outside of one of the buildings. The cool air that was hitting him was a surprise as he entered the lobby. Air-conditioning was now so rare that it might have fallen into the lane of myth and rumor. That shock didn’t last long as Richard was escorted to a working elevator and up, he went.

The door opened and Richard walked into a meeting that had been going on for an unknown length of time. Richard almost stopped dead in his tracks when he saw the commander of all forces in Africa talking with a woman that was wearing a suit that cost more than what Richard could have made in a few years before the war…. before taxes. He was making more now on most days, but it was a suit that yelled. “I am someone, and you should bow to me. I am a person of power.”

Lieutenant General Jonathan Harris smiled, “Please have a seat, Richard.” As Richard was finding a seat the general kept talking, and it was not to the powerful woman in her own seat. “That was a fine bit of work you did on finding and recovering that cargo ship.”

Richard didn’t say anything to the complement, and he only gave the General a slight head nod of agreement, because he was not going to trust his voice. The General took the nod and continued to talk to the army NCO turned captain turned rabbit out of the hat puller. “Have you met our South African Ambassador, Sheila Sisulu?”

Richard could not help but feel his eyebrows climb up his forehead, and before he could put his foot in his mouth the woman spoke to him. “Yes, the South African government has been trying to come out of its old ways over the last few years. One of them was to appoint a black woman as an ambassador to what might be the second most important post to the South Africans after nuclear weapons started to fly in this war.”

Richard felt a smile come to his lips at the shear presence of this woman. He was already starting to like this large woman, and he had some issues with people in leadership positions in general. “Well, who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. And it is nice to meet you ambassador. I will have to make sure my business partner knows about this meeting. He has had some not so nice things to say about the government to the south of us even before he had a few beers to drink.”

Richard looked back over to the General. “But why would you want a lowly docked sailing captain that was a grunt in the recent past to attend this meeting?”

The heavy South African accent filled the room. “Now, now Captain. Do not sell yourself short, my young Captain. You have a nice little file worked up, after you recovered that Soviet warship. My people were keeping an eye on you during your last mission. We might have a job for you, but “we” thought that “we” would check in with your superiors before we had a meeting with you in person. I do understand that you prefer meetings at an outdoor restaurant down by the harbor, but the air conditioning is so much better here.”

She now pointed a finger at the General that was just sitting across from her. “We think that you have the perfect match of skills that my government needs for a special mission.”

Richard now felt his stomach drop to his toes, and he had a very bad feeling about this. “What skills might those be?”

The rotund ambassador sat deeper in her chair and gave Richard a level look. “You know that we fought our own part of this world war in Angola?”

At seeing the positive head nod from the former NCO, she continued. “We were mainly dealing with the Cubans and support that they were given from the Soviets. At first the Angolans were only supported by Havana, then the Soviets started stepping up support in some major ways. Towards the end, the Soviet demanded that their “Allies” support other battle areas with the equipment that they were supplying as a way of paying them back. The Cubans and Russians could not send “Convoys” by this time, and we think that most of the supplies came in via old submarines that were converted to carry cargo or false flagging cargo ships. We also know for a fact that some “neutral” flagged ships in this part of the world were anything but neutral. I understand that “We” tracked them all as best that we could. When things started to wind down for them on this continent? Those and a few “other” nations and some “found” cargo ships were used to pull out what remained of the Cubans and the other “advisors” out of our part of Africa.”

Richard nodded his head; this was something that he had heard about more than a few times after coming to this continent. “Okay, but what does that have to do with me.”

The ambassador shot the general a sharp look, and she raised an eyebrow at his calm face. When the General gave the woman a small head nod that was more of just a chin lift, she looked back toward Richard and started to speak. “We were tracking a vessel commonly known as the Leninsky Komsomol out of the Black Sea. She was operating under a Swedish flag at the time, then a few others as she took a roundabout way down to this part of the world. Just as she was about to make her expected port call, she went off the air. About all we know, is that she was not in the fleet that took the Cubans and others back home. I am told that her structural lines are quite distinctive for those that know what to look for. We also can’t find any record of her or any other name that she used on her trip to Angola. Not long ago, we also found out that she was listed as missing by the local KGB office. We want you to find her, and then we want you to recover as much of her cargo as you can.”

Richard didn’t say anything for a few seconds and his mind froze. It felt like time was stretching out to that one second was an hour kind of living. Then like a rubber band his brain snapped back into motion. “The South African Navy and Government don’t have any active salvage ships.” He had looked up this information while he had been looking for the old Soviet Destroyer.

Now the ambassador looked down, you could tell that she was a little embarrassed, and she mentally cursed the man for coming to that mark and doing so this quickly. Now there was nothing she could do about it but agree. “My Government and Navy have had other issues to deal with that out ranked having dedicated salvage ships of any real size. By now any ship that could do the job are beyond recovery by mine or even your government. Besides we never had specialized mine hunters like your Avenger class ship to call on for help.”

The General looked over the other man sitting at the end of the long briefing table. “Richard, what we need you to do is lead the mission. You are to find this cargo ship, and then find out if anything is recoverable from her or not.”

Richard nodded his head, and he felt a smile come to his face. He had already decided that he would take the mission. “Okay, I get my monthly paycheck no matter what. But what is in it for “us”?” Richard knew that something was going on in the deeper waters that he could not see. He was given to understand that meetings at this level were just like the deep ocean.

The General smiled and tipped his glass towards the ambassador. “It was decided that you will not know that information. But “we” will have a person at the port that you will be working with, and you will be getting supported out of the lower levels of the South African Government. They will give them a base idea of what we need, but it will be up to them to work out those kinds of details. The one thing that you need to know. It is that we will be trading most of our share that you recover back to the South African Government for what we and the Kenyan Government need more of.”

Richard now knows how deep the water is, and for just a few seconds he thinks about trying to back out of the mess before it is too late. Then faster than light, he changes his mind. “Okay, I’m in. Who else is on the team?”

(TBC in Krugerrand and Great Whites).
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Old 01-06-2024, 05:20 PM
cawest cawest is offline
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i just thought that this would be a good underwater weapon at this stage in WWIII.
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