Bart read the folders John had passed across the desk. According to the information provided they appeared to be just the people for the job at hand. Looking up he said, "you have found very well qualified people when will I be able to meet them?"
"Not until they arrive for the job I'm afraid." Was the reply "As long as they don't know you are safe. Don't worry so, we have gone over the plan many times and we are all set on this end."
Bart replied "Just how will we meet?"
"As always with in Donna's letters will be all the information you need."
Just the mention of her name filled his mind with thoughts of the previous week. They had meet when she was an exchange student at the college where he was studying while working nights. When their countries broke off relations she went home on the next flight leaving him only a note. He managed to get an address out of the school's computer. His letter was posted out of country while he was on vacation.
To his surprise he received a quick reply. She missed him also. Her family was against her returning his letter but her father had seen the joy his letter caused and allowed her to write. He even was going to have her letter posted from another country. She wrote that he could send his letters to the return address, she would get them quickly.
On his next vacation he walked up to the mailing address she used and was quickly flown to her. There he met her family for the first time her father, John as he liked to be called, was the head of their equivalent to the CIA. While he was there he and John had long rambling talks. He also saw the country with Donna as tour guide and her brother as chaperon.
Once back home Bart would occasionally get a request from John contained in one of her letters. At first they were simple things like would he please send a copy of the survey maps for the coastal area. Then later on he wound up traveling to get answers, like how were the roads in and around various places, for John. He didn't mind in fact he came to enjoy the traveling and was never asked to break the law. Once the timing was bad. He was low on cash and unable. He wrote her and explained why he couldn't get what was asked. Her next letter contained a note from John stating he was sorry to cause him distress. Adding he was sure the problem would resolve itself.
A week latter came a letter from a lawyer in the country he wrote to. It seemed a Mr. Brooker who he had stayed with on his last vacation had taken a liking to him and included him in his will. Would he please cash the enclosed check for $ 25,000.00 to allow the lawyer to close out the will.
Between the school work and the traveling a year passed and he again returned to her. Last night after finding out what her father had in mind he asked her if they were successful would she marry him. The answer was yes but before things had progressed to far mama walked in.
Bart's mind snapped back to the present when John put a hand on his shoulder and said "Donna tells me you have asked her to marry you."
"You know in this country it is normal for the groom to ask the father of the bride first for her hand'
"I'm sorry John I was unaware of your customs. Do you object to our marriage?"
"Not at all, Donna also informed her mother and I that it is the custom in your country for the girl to move in upon accepting the proposal." John stated.
Bart's mouth fell open but John spoke before he could gather his wits "As I thought one of her own idea's, but she has convinced her mother of this so until you leave, which is in two days is it not? The two of you will share our guest house."
"What are you so jumpy about you'd think there were warheads in there." Bruce said, "They're just live not armed."
Thankful that his nerves where misunderstood. Bart said "I know that but this is the first time I've been involved on a live firing exercise and I want everything to go well."
"Don't worry yet we are only loading the magazines if you want to worry there will be plenty of time for that during sea trials."
"Yea, I guess your right."
Later as Bart toured the ship checking on the watches set outside the magazines Bruce walked up and said "They're all safely stowed and the guards are set. Let's go home only one more day before we sail and I for one don't want to spend it in here."
"You go on home. All I have waiting for me are my dogs and there are a few more things I want to check." Bart replied.
As soon as Bruce was out of sight Bart quickly checked the rest of the guards insuring the navy hadn't changed plans and posted one's he didn't know about. Checking his watch he noticed it was getting late so he went to the guardhouse.
"All quiet Al?" Bart asked
"Yea the north camera is still out but I can see H-420 clear as day nothing is moving tonight. The lack of work on her really stands out. Up to tonight there was always some one going and coming."
"Just wait until we get back from trials thing will pick up then." Bart replied. "What's going on over at the double R tonight?"
Al turned back to the panel flicking the switches that would put the bar right across from the shipyard on the large monitor. "You should have been here last night. I saw something moving just outside the fence and zoomed in on these two doing it in the bushes, wish the light had been better I'm sure the girl works here."
As the guard swung the camera around Bart attached a small package to the back wall of the booth. It was a simple design. At the right time a gas would be released knocking out the guard. It also released gas if it was moved with out replacing the pin that Bart removed as he withdrew his hand.
The guard finding nothing interesting turned back to Bart who said, "well, I've got to get going, have a quiet night."
"Thanks, you too'
Bart headed east and north to the river aiming his light up stream he flashed a signal to unseen companions. He then turned and walked slowly southward eyes seeing the yard and water but his mind noting only the ship tied to the pier ahead. Checking his watch he noted al was now asleep as shadows started to leave the water and board (swarm up the side of) the ship. He waited until 2:15 am then approached the ramp and waited 30 seconds before boarding. He proceeded to the port hatch. Stopping when the knife appeared out of the darkness. Quickly he said' I'm Bart."
"Of which house?" Came a voice from beyond the knife.
"The house of John."
"Welcome Bart I'm your escort for the evening we are to go to the bridge and stay there."
Bart followed his guide up and forward around him he could feel the ship coming to life. Once on the bridge his escort moved to the speaker and said "Rashmid you may start the engines we are ready to leave' then turning to Bart he motioned to the controls "I was told you would take us out to sea."
"And so I will' Bart said as he settled into position "did you bring any charts?"
"No there is nothing on paper to leave a trail." Ed said proudly "it is all in my mind. Your are only to get us to the mouth of this river then I will set the course to steer."
"What if they try to stop us."
"Then they lose this ship. Time to start the engines should be about ready."
Bart had also heard them power up 'along with everyone else in earshot.' He thought then saying "when the lines are removed let me know Ed."
Ed stepped out on to the bridge wing to survey then process. People with fire axes were swinging at rope lines. The steel cables had been cut earlier with burning torches that Bart had brought aboard for trials.
"You are clear Bart." Ed said.
"Thank you" Bart ease forward on the throttle adding just a little pitch to the rotating propellers as he eased the ship in to the channel. He swung the helm over to bring the ship in to line but nothing happened. He checked the panel. The steering gear lights were not on and would not come on no matter how hard he hit the start button. "Ed, get the steering gear started!' Bart yelled as he reversed the pitch on the starboard shaft to line her up.
"Rashmid, your forgot the steering engines, start them now!' Ed yelled over the box then quieter "Bart can you control it until he starts them?"
"It's a straight shot to doubling point. I'll go slow." Bart said as he eased the controls back until the ship was drifting out with the tide. "But we need them at the point."
He watched the steering gear indicator and the river. Just as the concern was about to become panic the lights came on. Bart applied power and swung the ship first left then right as they passed doubling point and headed down river.
When cliff tried calling al to make the hourly report. His phone went unanswered. Picking up the radio he said, "BIW roving security, this is South Gate."
"Yea cliff, Neal here."
"Neal could you swing by al he's not answering the phone."
"I'm out to the finest building now I'll be there in five minutes."
"Thanks, South Gate out."
Neal drove up to the main gate the lights were dim as usual. But through the picture window Neal could make out al slumped on the desk. Reacting he got out of the truck and ran to the door fumbling until he found the right key on the chain and opened the door. "Come on al quit taking naps." Neal called out as he entered but the first breath that followed sent him from the room gagging. He ran to the truck and picked up the mike and said' Neal call Joel, Al's been gassed! I'm going to try and get him out. Call the other shacks something's up."
"Gotcha, I'll call the ambulance too." Cliff said.
Neal pulled al out on the third try as he laid him down and started CPR he knew it was borderline that he would make it. The ambulance arrived quickly and then attendants took over. Cliff meanwhile had been busy calling all the other guard shacks. Then Joel who called the local police.
"South Gate, here Neal Joel's on his in. If you can get free go check H-420 the guard shack's not answering and Harvey on H-395 reports it's leaving!'
"Cliff Ed's on his way to the hospital and he doesn't look good. I'll check 420 now. Rover out."
Neal rounded the corner as 420 passed the end of the pier. "Cliff!' He shouted over the radio." Harvey's right 420's in the channel. She looks dead in the water but the tide is carrying her out."
"Cliff call haggett, notify him and ask if he wants to call the navy. If not you call them." Joel said as he drove towards the yard thinking. 'This can't be happening' adding over the radio "Neal get some help and rope off the area. I don't want anything moved unless it's necessary!'
"You got it." Neal answered then climbed out and raced to the safety box for rope. As he did he noted objects floating in the water. He played the beam of his light across the water and as the realization of what he was seeing hit home turned and deposited his lunch on the pier. Looking up he saw 420 round doubling point under power.
Suddenly not moving anything didn't matter so much. Neal scanned the water again looking for a sign of life. He found it five feet from his truck clawing at the edge of the water. Rushing over he helped him up to the truck and listed to his story after yelling for an ambulance.
"We were just starting to light things off for trials when they hit. I was walking from the aft pump room to the forward one when something hit me and out I went. The water woke me up gagging then I started to swim for shore. I'd just grabbed that big chunk of concrete out there when they started the shafts turning. Everyone still near the ship was sucked through them. Most didn't get to scream and those that did it only for a short time. The bastards instead of turning the rudders reversed the starboard shaft and sucked some back through. The turbulence beat me on the concrete but I had a reinforcing rod in my good hand and didn't let go." He finished as the attendants lowered him on to the stretcher and carried him to the ambulance. Joel drove up in time to see him carried off then directed two people to take the safety boat and look for more survivors.
"Neal, you did a great job." Joel said as he put an arm around him "now go to the South Gate and stay with cliff. He'll need help soon a crowd is headed in."
"I Know but I'd like to stay."
"Don't worry go help cliff I'll let you know if anyone else made it."
"Ok,' Neal said leaving.
"Cliff, Joel I'm sending Neal out to help you. There should be a lot of people arriving at the gates soon. Don't let anyone in without my ok. Right now that only includes Haggett and the boys from Naval Investigative Service. Anyone else and I mean anyone else call me." Joel looked out over the water and saw the safety boat still playing it's light over the water. Chances were lessening that there were additional survivors.
"Bart you are a most skilled captain." Ed commented "but how much longer to the mouth of the river?"
"Another twenty minutes at this speed." Bart replied "why?"
"Nothing I was just thinking the quicker we get to international waters the better our chances would be."
"Well, I guess your right. I suppose everyone knows we are gone by now." Bart said as he pushed the throttle forward. The wake rose behind her and smashed windows out in the summer cottages built too close to the river a few of the newer ones lose more that windows. But no additional lives were lost, Only a few marriages.
"Ed, how are your people coming on getting the phalanx operating." Bart asked. Stepping over to the intercom Ed asked "Ali how are the preparations coming for our safety?"
"We should be ready in five minutes."
"Good timing." Bart commented "we should be just clearing Segwin then. After that they won't hold their fire to protect civilians. So we had better be ready."
Segwin was passed without incident but shortly there after the intercom reported "plane coming out of the east."
"Ed would you step to the wing and check it out." Bart asked.
"Why should I?"
"Well for one thing we don't want to shoot down a plane that doesn't belong to the government. A real sharp newsman could have caught on by now. If you would prefer we are now free of the river and it is time for you to steer the course in your mind and I will check out the plane."
Ed pondered this for a short time he was in control of this raid but to stoop to driving and allow the Yankee to make decisions would not seem right. Better to let him drive and allow him to make suggestions that could be agreed with or ignored as Ed chose." No you drive I will inspect the plane. Steer ten degrees more east."
Ed stepped in as the plane made a low pass in front of the ship. Bart recognized it a one of the p-3's flown out of the near by navy base.
"It is harmless. Merely on of your sub hunters no worry to us." Ed said, "I'm not so sure I would leave the phalanx on auto." Seeing the look crossing Ed's face Bart continued "but it does no harm and save us time incase we need it."
"You speak rightly. Nothing will change."
Entering Ed said, "the plane is circulating overhead."
"We will be safe for a while. He's just going to keep an eye on us." Bart replied, As the ship took the swells Leo woke in his fan room. Still groggy he went to the hatch and looked out into a passageway. "Now where did that wife of mine go?" He muttered to no one "can't even trust her to watch for the boss while I catch a nap!' Then walking up to the rolling of the ship "damn, this thing's at sea!' With that caution set in while Leo eased his way around corner after corner surprised at finding no one. He was bound for the crews' mess when he heard Arabic being spoken in the central control station quickly ducking in to the galley he watched someone head aft. "Something's rotten here." He muttered turning he headed for the bridge.
"Ed we have a new plane approaching from the west" the intercom announced
"Where's it headed?"
"Right at the one over us."
"Probably his relief." Ed replied "let me know if they change altitude."
"The watch continues." Bart said.
"Yes, but when the time comes we'll disappear." Ed countered
Leo reached the bridge door just in time to hear Ed's reply and was still there moments latter when over the intercom came "Ed, the first plane is dropping down beside us."
Stepping out on the bridge wing Ed watched as the p-3 made low passes first on the port and then on the starboard side. It was headed at the ship flying only a few feet over the water when he heard the phalanx start up. The stream of deadly fire hit the plane cutting off one wing easily as a warm knife sliced off a pat of butter. Entranced he watched as the pilot kept it upright when he hit the water. A yellow life raft appeared quickly and he saw black specks appear on it. The crew he reminded himself. The plane continued on it's way to a watery grave after stopping on the surface for a moment. Coming to he ran in and yelled over the intercom "Ali, shutdown those guns until I say it's ok!'
"As you wish Ed but now that they have been used are they not better left on?" Ali replied.
"I Will think it over, Ali" Ed said.
"Before the next plane?"
"Yes, before the next plane."
"Ed are the people on that plane all right?" Bart asked
"I think so." Ed replied "I saw the lifeboat filling up. Rest assured we only plan to kill if our survival is at stake."
"All the same Ali had better leave those guns on auto now."
"I am still thinking on it." Ed said, "I will let you know also what I decide shortly."
Leo heard the guns and managed to get into the captain's cabin in time to see the plane go under. Realizing he was in the wrong place at the wrong time Leo hurried aft and located an inflatable lifeboat. He knew there was a life jacket locker in the helicopter hanger. He'd helped tie it down for sea. Getting a life jacket was easy all he tripped over was a large cutting torch rig. Looking at it an idea formed. He delayed his departure until he ran the hose down to the crew's living space. All the while looking out for visitors. He secured the hatch then quickly made his way back only having to stop once to allow one to pass by. Back in the hanger he put on a life jacket. Checked the deck then turned the regulators wide open. Quickly exiting the hanger he released the lifeboat then ran back and leaped as far out as he could. When he landed in the water he was abreast of the propellers and had only a short swim to the lifeboat but what was short in distance turned out to be long in time. Leo was only in the raft about an hour when a coast guard boat pulled along side and took him aboard.
Haggett called Captain Paul Weston head of the Supervisor of Shipbuilding local office and said "Paul, Robert here h-420 cg-51 just left. Who took it we don't know but the death toll stands at 10 and their still fishing parts of bodies out of the Kennebec."
"Are you drunk?"
"I Wish I was" Robert replied "but 420's gone. You can check for yourself."
"Ok, I'll call Washington."
The end result of all the calls was a message to the air base.
To: Capt. Clark commanding.
Locate and provide surveillance of CG 51 presently on route from BIW to an unknown destination. Us caution but maintain surveillance. The duty officer called saying "Capt. Clark, we've just received an unusual message." Then read it over the phone.
"Lt. Find the nearest plane and route it to find the ship then get one ready to relieve it. I'll be right over." Clark said before he hung up the phone and called Capt. Weston. "Hi, Paul what's going on. I Just got woke up by the strangest message."
"Well Chris let me tell you. We have fifteen identified dead people down here and more coming in all the time. CG-51 Is missing my guess is they've told you to find it."
"Right as always. I'm headed to the office I'll let you know when we find it and you keep me up to date, agreed?"
"Agreed thanks." Weston said as he hung up the phone.
Lt. Jones got the message diverting him from routine patrol. "Lt. Ray are you sure? That ship isn't due to sail until tomorrow."
The duty officer replied "Mr. Jones that ship sailed a few hours ago your orders are to find it and sit on it. Do nothing else."
"Aye." Lt. Jones said then to his copilot "let's get radar hunting for a ship that size. It should be somewhere nearby."
His well trained crew made short work of it with in the hour he was able to report. "Lt. Ray we have found that ship. It is directly below us. What do we do now."
"Nothing lt. Jones just sit back, put up your feet and fly a racetrack until your relief shows."
Capt. Clark looked over the lt. Standing in front of him saying "lt. Seavey, do you understand your orders?"
"Yes sir. I'm to relieve lt. Ray and do nothing but watch and track. If ordered attack the ship but only if I'm told to." He replied." That is correct your plane is being armed on my orders. Do not attack that ship unless I tell you." Clark stated "your plane should be ready, dismissed."
Tim climbed aboard just as the loading crew put the last pin in his cargo. Looking at his copilot he asked, "reduced crew all set?"
"The one's we're leaving behind are not too happy. The rest are on board and ready."
"Good let's get this thing into the air."
Once airborne Tim flipped the intercom switch and said "I case you guys don't know what's up a ship's been stolen from BIW and we're going to sit on it until the powers decide what to do with it. Should be a milk run." Seeing his copilot point towards the new cargo he killed the intercom and said, "just in case they make a quick decision. I don't think we'll use it."
The flight out was uneventful and short. Approaching Tim radioed "lt. Jones your relief is here."
"Tim, they finally got you in the air. We'll take over up here they want close up pictures and I'm elected. I'll have a cold one for you. Latter."
"Take it easy, Sam." Then on the intercom "gentlemen we have the watch I want one eyeball on that ship at all times." Tim watched as his friend made low passes on the port and starboard side.
"Lt., Electromagnetic countermeasures here, there is active phalanx on that ship and I don't think Jones's crew knows it. It's a friendly so it will not set off the alarms."
"Thanks I'll call." Tim reached over to key the radio but stopped when he heard.
"Oh my god, lt., Port watch, they just shot Jones out of the air. He was making a low pass. They opened fire and down he went."
Tim radioed base saying "Capt. Clark, lt. Jones has just been shot out of the air request permission to attack."
"Permission denied where is Jones?"
"He is at 44 degrees 12 minutes 2 seconds north by 168 degrees 23 minutes 12 seconds west. Sir."
"Good the chopper will be on its way along with the coast guard. Your main mission is still to keep an eye on that ship lt." Capt. Clark said.
Lt. Seavey extended his race track course one end being Jones life raft the other being the ship. Until he started to loose the ship at Jones's end. He dropped a flare and headed back to the ship.
"Lt., Starboard eye, I have another life raft inflating just aft of the ship."
"Are you sure."
"Yes sir, you know, good old 100-20."
"Alright drop another flare." Then "Capt. Clark we have another life raft in the water just aft of the ship I've marked it with a flare and am over the ship now."
"Good work, stay high over that ship and the closer to right on top the safer they're telling me. Keep that in mind."
Time passed slowly but finally. "Lt. Seavey, this is Capt. Clark."
"You are ordered to approach cg-51 from the opposite side as lt. Jones and at a range of greater that 10 miles launch the harpoon's, both of them, at cg-51. At launch you will climb and remain at least 10 miles away while watching what happens. At no time after the attack are you to approach cg-51 closer than 10 miles and if you can maintain surveillance at a greater distance do so."
"Aye, aye, I will maintain at least 10 miles."
"Well guys here we go. When I say so arm the cargo."
The approach was technically correct and the launch was the best he'd done. As they watched the harpoon's approached cg-51 and were shot out of the air.
"Capt. Clark, lt. Seavey here both missiles were destroyed inward bound by the ship. What? Sir we've detected a missile launch at us!' Then to the crew "hang on, launch chaff and jam that sob."
"Lt. what is going on? Lt. Answer me."
"Sorry sir, we just dogged a missile."
"Good, that leaves them only five more."
"Thanks for the count. But now what?"
"Move back and just watch but don't loose it."
"Two missiles inward bound destroyed by phalanx Ed." Ali said
"Good thing we turned them on when he dropped down." Bart said
"Yes" Ed said to Bart then over the intercom "Ali take that plane out of the air."' Ok."
Bart watched with Ed as the forward launcher swung to port and fired a missile only to see it miss.
"Damn!' Bart said, "why did you do that?"
"I'd hope to disappear. But it did move him back some. So it wasn't a total loss."
ON BOARD SEAVEY's PLANE
"What the heck? Lt. CG-51 Just blew up."
"Sir I was watching and she just blew up."
Tim called Capt. Clark. "Sir cg-51 blew up. I'm going in closer and take a good look."
"Be careful lt."
As Tim approached the ship he saw nothing but pieces of a ship there were two sections on the surface and those were rapidly going under along with assorted debris.
"Capt. that should not have go up like that."
"I Know but they were still building it so who knows what we hit. They' are going to get a report she's gone and we have a patrol to finish. Log it and get us back on station."