Stranger Aeons: The Intellectual Mercenaries

By Jave Harron

"As you think, so shall you become." --Bruce Lee

Under Jolly Roger

The alarm clock's scream awoke me from the bliss of sleep. Unwillingly, I stood up, walked across the dorm room, and turned it off. I took my vitamins from my drawer, and then started my light morning calisthenics routine. My mind was somewhere between numb and awake as I did my wrist-push ups. I ate an apple and banana with some cereal in a plastic bag, with a few nuts in it. What was left of my normal breakfast was then cleaned from my teeth after I brushed, flossed, and rinsed. I saw my tall, ugly, stocky form in the mirror, and my disheveled, short, brown hair in the mirror. Looking away, I turned my attention back to my routine. I was not being payed to stare at my ugly mug. My morning routine was almost over. Afterwards, I got changed, and headed upstairs to my station. I had grown used to the rocking of the boat I was on.

I gave a half-conscious nod to anyone I saw, not stopping to engage any of my coworkers in conversation. A short Filipina woman, Paz Mendes, walked by me, nodded at me, and headed into a side room. She was my effective boss and liaison for this job. Normally, she'd be diving and running undersea salvage, but there would hopefully be no need for that. I saw my tall, gaunt, black-haired South Korean friend from college and coworker, Hyun Park, descending the stairs with bloodshot eyes. He drew the short straw, so he got late night and early morning sentry duty. I had gone for the previous eight hours, and practically fell asleep. I wish I had brought some of my favorite books from home: my science fiction and fantasy, and even my nonfiction books on technology, science, mythology, history, and philosophy. The e-books my laptop held were poor substitutes for the paper drugs I staved off boredom with.

For this job, we were deprived of more than good reading material. Despite guarding a scientific expedition, they didn't care much for talking with their hired security. Despite the fact all three of us had graduate degrees of some sort, even the undergrads accompanying the professors seemed to turn their noses up at us. They didn't like the fact we had purchased some heavier weapons back when we stopped in Egypt. But given where we were heading, the most we were allowed to carry were our nine-millimeter pistols and some less-than-lethal ones. I would have preferred some better tools. My Steyr AUG A3 or SAR-21 would be nice. As would the HK G36, HK 416, MP5, AK-47, FN P90, and M-14 we had back in our operation in the States. The damn restrictions were also on shotguns and those great forty-caliber pistols. Given the fact we didn't get much quality ammo for the pair of Dragunovs we had purchased, I felt we were being fucked especially hard by whatever sick God was watching over us.

The look on Hyun's face told me that God wasn't content just fucking with our inventory. The sick bastard also was probably sending some unwanted excitement our way.

"So, let me guess, we've got company?" I asked, ensuring my Kevlar vest was on and pistol loaded.

"Two boats, both started coming after us a few minutes ago," Hyun explained, his mouth lazily forming words as his attention drifted. "About five or six guys in each. Some had rifles, some had RPGS. Tried, but can't outrun them. There's one on each side."

Fuck, fuck, fuck. A dozen Somali pirates were now chasing a largely unarmed yacht full of civilians that likely had never seen anyone trying to hurt them, let alone kill them and take them hostage. And if any of the fuckers got on board, well, we'd also be fucked. Our bullet-proof vests only worked for a few shots against low-caliber bullets. Not large, fast bullets from AK-47s or sharpnel from RPGs. There was a desperate weapon in case they did get to close, but I did not want to think about having to use it. I heard a distant pinging on the walls, and recognized that as a sign we were in trouble. The assholes were randomly spraying bullets out our ship.

"So, Hyun, time to break out the rifles," I nodded grimly. "I'll need you to make every shot count."

"I'll take port," he reached into a mini-fringe to pull out an energy drink. "You take starboard."

Just then, I heard Paz shouting from down the hallway. "Shit!" she shouted. "They just shot up the satellite dish and radio antenna!"

"Get the passengers to their rooms, and lock the doors," I told her. "Hyun and I will get the bastards."

I used my key to open the locked cabinet we kept our new purchases. I had left both guns assembled, but unloaded, in case I needed to use them in a hurry. I tossed one of the good magazines to Hyun and grabbed one for myself. That was all I had, unless I wanted to risk the gun blowing up in my face. Hopefully, I could pick the would-be pirates off with this before they got too close. If they were close enough for Mjolnir or the pistol, we were fucked.

I handed a loaded rifle to Hyun, and picked up my own. I chambered a round, and ran upstairs behind him. We opened the hatch that lead to the deck, and crouch-ran towards pre-designated locations behind cover. The railings of the yacht had some reinforced Kevlar plates added to certain sections, in case we needed cover in a firefight. Our clients didn't seem to mind these as much as the rifle. I could see the pirate boat in question, a metal boat with a noisy outboard motor. There were six people in it, each toting some kind of heavy weapon. Now, it was time to show them that targets could shoot back. International waters worked both ways. I poked my rifle out of a small hole, and tried to keep the weapon level. We were on a fast moving boat, and the pirates were also moving, so I had to be especially accurate. My first shot went wild, but I refocused for my second.

As I aligned the first target in the scope of the Dragunov SVD, I suppressed a grin forming on my face. I mentally reminded myself how much I hated real-life pirates, and how I had been forced to sit through a certain horrid movie involving them. These were murderous assholes trying to kill me and my friends, about to get what they deserved. The two boats of Somali pirates following us were following us obsessively. The vessel were we on was a private yacht, Athena's Gaze, had been chartered by a scientific expedition from the UK. They were primarily a group of anthropologists doing research on early humans and migration, and needed a way to get down to Kenya from Europe. Someone had found a new fossil, and these guys wanted to get down there ASAP. Due to problems shipping their equipment by air, they had to go by sea, instead. Since their academy was on a budget and their dean was afraid of pirate attacks near the Horn of Africa, they hired the only security company they could find on such short notice.

So, that was why I was now training my scope on a Somali teenager holding an ancient Soviet RPG-7 in his hands. His five other comrades in the boat were firing their Kalashnikovs wildly into the air, hoping that we would slow down or surrender to them. Given our communications array was swiss cheese, calling for help was no longer an option. Since those rickety boats of theirs were surprisingly fast, the yacht could not outrun them. Since we had been limited to our sidearms, the pair of SVDs and the worthless crate of cheap ammo we had purchased locally, they had us both outgunned and outnumbered.

But we were never outclassed. As understaffed as Stranger Aeons Security was, all of the members had college degrees of some sort. I had a Masters in Mechanical Engineering and done a few years some in the US Coast Guard. Why I was out working as a mercenary was a question I often asked myself, with similar questions about most of my comrades.

I refocused on more immediate concerns and pulled the trigger back slowly. The rifle crack resounded loudly in my head. Through my scope, I saw the body of the teen with the rocket launcher fall backwards into the water. I readjusted the scope on my next target as I heard my own comrade Hyun Park opened fire with his own rifle. Since we had smaller amounts of ammo than I would have liked, every shot count now more than ever.

I figured he would be clearing out the pirates on the other side of the boat. As per the standard operating procedure, we focused on the pirates with the most dangerous weapons first. While all of them carried the classic AK-47, the few with rocket launchers would be especially dangerous. Since most of them were presumably untrained youths and former gang members, they would ignorantly use the things at close range. Since we didn't want to be taken down by a single pirate's stupidity, the idiots with the RPGs were always the priority targets.

The next priorities on the list were the ones with the grappling hooks. If the pirates got on board, we were fucked. If they then managed to get to the locked civilians below decks, we were fucked truly hard. There were ten pirates still alive, and only two of us shooting the bastards. Paz Mendes was below decks, trying to keep the passengers calm. All the gunfire was undoubtedly making them reconsider not going the long way around Africa. Despite hiring mercenaries to protect their ship and expensive equipment, they didn't give us much leeway in weapons.

As I picked off two more pirates, I heard what I feared the most. The SVD was finally dry. I was down to my last magazine, and figured that Hyun probably also was nearing his. The pirates were noticing how miserly we are with our shots, and were coming closer.

"JC here! I'm empty!" I radioed to Paz and Hyun. "Can you guys get me some more seven-six-two rounds?!"

"Negative," Paz replied, with shouting audible around her. "I'm trying to keep the crew calm."

"Running low myself!" Hyun answered, his Korean accent still thick. "Not possible!"

"Fuck," I muttered over the radio. "Breaking out Mjolnir!"

It was time to unleash one of my inventions on the pirates. Ever since the third "Pirates of the Caribbean" shitfest of a movie, I had wanted to do my part to solve pirate problems. So, I invented a weapon I called Mjolnir, after the most bad ass Norse god, Thor, the god of thunder and storms. I had to get it first. I put the rifle to the side and stood up into a crouch. The pirates were almost alongside the boat now. I ran to the firehose I had prepared behind another armored-plate. I ran ten feet, but it seemed a lot longer, as bullets ricocheted along the side of the ship. I dove back behind cover when I saw something I feared: a grappling hook on the railing. I almost panicked, but instead redirected my panic to anger. How dare these assholes try shooting at me, and my friends!

I turned around to grab the firehose off the side of the vessel, as a second grappling hook made contact with the railing. The device I had attached to the nozzle was connected to the vessel's power. So long as stray bullets didn't break the fire hose or power cable, it should work perfectly. I crouched behind a metal barrier I had hastily erected several hours earlier. Handling a fire hose was similar to handling a flamethrower. Lots of pressure going one way, and a tube that had to be held steady. I snaked the hose underneath the metal plate, aimed it at the pirates, switched on the power to the device I attached, and placed my body weight on top of the hose to control it. I took a deep breath and opened up with Mjolnir.

A torrent of water made contact with the pirates. The force of the hose would normally be enough to knock them down, but the device I had attached was something special. Water cannons were often used for riot control and less-than-lethal purposes. I decided to add my own twist on these ubiquitous devices. Since the water the vessel held for firefighting was seawater, this gave it a high salinity content. This salt content makes seawater a great electrical conductor. By applying electrical current to the salt water pumped in for firefighting, an electrified water cannon is created. Sometimes, water guns are not enough to quell riots, so a slight electrical current is applied. For the most part, these are experimental and not used on people very often.

My version, the Mjolnir, wasn't intended to be "non-lethal." Also, by adding a tighter nozzle, I could get more velocity and range from the water. The electric current was high voltage and low current, and hopefully could also short out an engine if it made contact with it. Since flimsy metal pirate vessels were not well "grounded," I was not too concerned with what would happen if I hit instead of the pirates. On the small metal boat that the pirates had, I can't say the same for. I braced myself, and allowed sea and lightning to solve my pirate problems. After giving them a thorough wash and hopefully electrocution, I shut the valve. I peeked out from behind cover with my nine millimeter HK USP Match trained on the pirates.

The previously living pirates were now quite motionless. I fired a few rounds with my pistol, just to be sure. While I doubt many of them hit, I was not going to take chances. I had more magazines, so I could afford to waste a few rounds from my sidearm. Their motor had been shorted out by Mjolnir, and the boat started drifting away from the yacht. From the other side of the vessel, I heard a few more Dragunov shots, and then silence.

"All clear on my side!" Hyun radioed. "How about you, JC?"

"Same here," I replied. "Used Mjolnir, and got the fuckers after I went dry."

"Turns out, I had extra ammo," Hyun radioed back. "Guess you didn't need it."

"Guess not," I added. "But next time, we ensure we get better quality ammo."

Damn pirates. But at least I answered that question. This job did have its perks, and field experimentation was definitely my favorite one. While the voyage was pretty boring afterwards, I had confirmed another fun invention could work in battle. Next job I go on, though, I'm going ensure we can take more conventional firepower.