It began on the west coast of Britain. A ruthless assault on Peter Wade, a British Intelligence agent assigned to "Cobra", and his partner David Armstrong....
Silent, but alert at all times "Cobra" is placed on red alert by the disappearance of a British nuclear submarine....
All the characters in this book are imaginary and have no reference to any person living or dead
----- ~ Part 1 ~ ----
Peter turned again dropping his shoulder into the wind with the face of the cliff only inches from the out stretched sail. The air swept his face, numbing it, forcing the tears from the corners of his eyes back into his brown-matted hair.
The afternoon sun, now low and pale, was turning the sea a copper-gold, and the waves a hundred feet below him, tumbled through the off-shore currents like darkened thunder clouds swept across the sky before a westerly wind - before shattering nosily along the deserted shore.
Peter Wade had been at it all afternoon and now almost hypnotized into a false sense of assurance, by the sliding images of land and sea, he felt the sudden surge of his weightless body caught in the updrafts that swept the cliff face in twisted erratic eddies. He steadied the hang-glider and broke into a ninety-degree turn. For just a second he had risen above the cliff. David Armstrong had his back to Peter watching the approach of a white Ford panel van. Peter worked on the bar, pulling it back to gain speed, then lifting the nose he soared up from behind the cliff again.......
The panel van rolled to a stop a respectful distance from David, and a single figure stepped out dressed in a full cut navy blue workman's overhaul. He moved swiftly forward, three paces out from the front of the van, then turned suddenly and shouted something to the unseen driver. The distance to Peter was too great and the man's words wandered away on the wind, but it was only when the man turned again did Peter notice the machine pistol. He held it with both hands, and at arms length, the muzzle blast lost to the wind in a flash of crimson-red and orange rope of fire, smothered only briefly by the blue-gray smoke of the after fire. David Armstrong shook violently, stumbling backwards against the barrage of shot, and from the closeness of the onslaught, then fell to the ground in a bundled heap beside the jeep.
Instantly Peter clutched his chest and an overwhelming sense of nakedness came over him, for he had stashed his handgun in the glove compartment of his jeep.
Peter turned into the wind, facing them, giving himself a better view of what lay below. To the northeast another white panel van in a cloud of swirling dust was bounding across the gravel road towards them. He turned again, dropping altitude, his left wing fluttering at staling point as he drifted out over the cove.
He never heard the crack of the semi-automatic hand pistol directed at him, but the sudden change from the gentle whisper of air as it passed smoothly over his sail, to the fluttered gasp of ruffled canvas as the air gushed through it, made Peter look up. Two holes had appeared in the sail at his left side, and instantly the hang-glider rocked unsteady as it lost the lift of the under wind flow.
Peter Wade didn't like the thoughts that ran through his mind as he sheered away, dropping like a stone below the cliff into the darkening reflection of the copper-gold sea. He had only started his leave, just four days into a well-deserved break. He desperately needed the rest to loosen his nerves.
Peter checked his fall and turned again. He hated panic; an inexorable feeling as the gut muscles tighten, and his were as tight as they could get.
The cove had the form of a horseshoe, both sides stretching to a distance of more than a hundred and fifty yards out into the ocean, and the beach beneath him, a small expanse of rock and sand nestled in the heart of the shoe, would offer little protection from his attackers on the ledge above him. Suddenly a marked chill came over Peter - not a chill that comes from wind or rain, but the kind that bites the gut and quickens the heart, for in a flash he realized his only escape was back up the solid stone wall, a ninety yard dash across the open ground where David Armstrong lay, then out into the now shallowing light above the south cliff, and down to the beach below. Peter shivered at the thought.
He slid in closer and closer to the cliff waiting for the sudden up surge of wind. He kept looking up but the sail blocked his vision. He was flying blind. He had no idea what awaited him when he rose above the cliff. Then it came in a gust of fury off the sea, across the sand and rock, surging up the rock face, bowing the sail, and he lifted instantly.
The sight of them tightened his stomach again. There were four of them now ransacking his jeep. Peter's tumble down into the cove had obviously miss led them. Thinking he had been hit by their gunfire, they had offered him less than a second thought. Peter had risen swiftly on the wind, turned south, and had covered more than fifty yards across the open ground before they spotted him. Their shouts and repeated gunfire were muffled to Peter's ears by the wind and flapping noise that came from his damaged sail.
Peter was now less than ten feet off the ground, stretched parallel to the hang-glider, trying to make himself less of a target than he could possibly hope for. He slipped out over the south cliff as three more holes appeared in the sail, and instantly he lost the support of the up draft currents as the sail tore under the pressure of his weight and wind. Peter fell quickly, without control, the sky, and sea tumbling about him. He made a last desperate attempt to steady himself, turning southwest and out over the sea.
Peter released the harness only seconds before he hit the water, entering the smooth curve of a perfect wave foot first. He stayed down tumbling inshore with the under currents, his feet and head striking coral and sand as he rolled. He desperately needed to shorten the distance between himself and the shore, for he was still well within their range and would offer an easy target as he bobbed in the surf.
Peter broke the surface gasping for air, coming out waist high, then twisting his body half a turn he returned to the water on his belly, thrashing through the surf and up onto the beach.
They were there as he expected; four dark figures etched against the evening sky like distorted feathery shadows, and as one with the dark eerie form that supported them. Peter could see clearly the bright flame of yellow and orange spurt from their semi-automatic hand pistols as they trained them down on him, and his ears rang with the whispered zing of flighted bullets that sliced the air, ending abruptly with a graunted squelching sound as the velocity drove them deep into the sodden sand.
Now Peter broke into a labored sprint, stumbling awkwardly against the bubble of cream-white surf that choked his ankles on its surge up the beach, clattering the large pebble stones like the endless rumblings of thunder through distant hills.
He had almost reached the cover of the cliff when a sharp piecing pain tore through his left upper arm. Instantly he lengthened his stride and lept into the air, diving the last few paces and rolled quickly into the dark gloom of beckoning rock. Peter expected the worst. A bullet fired from a semi-automatic hand pistol could shatter a man's arm reducing it to no more than a lifeless stump. He groped wildly at his left side searching for his arm; it was there and he squeezed it warmly. The bullet had passed through the fleshy tissue just below the armpit, and he quickly applied pressure to the wound with a hand full of cold wet sand.
He hadn’t given David Armstrong a second thought since his tumble down into the cove, and now Peter began to think of him. David had been apart of Cobra for almost four years. Since his inception they had been a team. Moscow, Tokyo, and the Middle East - together they had seen the darker sides of most countries.
Cobra’s inception was the mastermind of Major-General Brain Jenkins, Director of British Intelligence. Cobra had been formed as a special task force attached to British Intelligence monitoring the development and illegal trafficking of nuclear arms through Asia, the Middle East, and the developing countries of North Africa.
Although Cobra consisted of ninety percent male, it was hard to form close and lasting relationships. The possibility of loosing a collogue was always close at hand, but with David it had been easy; both men relaxed and desultory, their interests similar, with conversation that flowed easily from one subject to another, yet without loss to the determination and purpose that drove both men.
The sun had set quickly as though a blanket had been thrust across the sky, extinguishing the luster and splendor of the stratus bank that lay motionless over the western sea tier; interwoven with red and yellow, salmon pink and burnished gold - and now a stillness lay over the sea and land; a stillness of both mind and biosphere, except for the invisible waves breaking rhythmically against the dark backdrop of night, and even the clatter of the large pebble stones had given way to a soft gurgling sound that now emanated up from beneath the wash of the in coming tide like the contented grumblings of the giant elephant seal.
From his position Peter could not see or hear his attackers. He had no idea of their movements. He listened carefully against the dark silence hoping for a sound, but the night remained still. The only way down to the beach, to where Peter stood, was a narrow footpath a half-mile further down the coast, and the risk of loosing ones footing in the dark was the only advantage on his side against their attempt in reaching the beach.
Peter waited for more than an hour before moving off, stopping every fifty paces listening for a telltale sign that might give away the surprise assault of his attackers. At the base of the cliff where the footpath began its zigzag ascent up into the darkness, Peter halted.
It took him all of forty-five minutes to reach the summit, and to cover the ground to where he had left David Armstrong. The two white panel vans had disappeared and so had Peter's jeep. David lay on the ground in the same position that Peter had last seen him from the air. Peter checked for a pulse, but already the flesh had lost its warmth and elasticity of life, and in the dim light of Peter's pocket torch the lifeless body shone a dusty white.
Nancy Barth was behind the reception counter attending to a young Swedish couple when Peter Wade finally stumbled into the foyer of the Wave Crest Beach Hotel. He swayed unsteady, almost drunkenly, and then dropped heavily onto his knees.
“Mr Wade__!" Nancy's voice rang with concern, and Peter looked up and wiped his forehead with the back of his forearm. She had slipped from behind the reception counter and was running towards him, long-legged in beach thongs and ice-blue training shorts, her dark brown eyes wide-staring and made even more so by her cheeks that had turned a dead white.
Peter pushed himself onto his feet and she caught him, steadying him as he teetered.
"Mr wade. Oh God. What happened__?"
Peter looked down at himself.
The flow of blood from his wound had slowed, but the initial gust had seeped through his shirt and down into his lee-vies, and now it distorted the damp crumpled cloth a pinky red.
"I lost control of the jeep," he lied, his voice spiked with fierce anger, the untimely arrival of his attackers nagged at his sense of righteousness.
Peter began to turn towards the reception area, and the pain checked him. He cringed.
"You are badly hurt, Mr Wade. We must get you to a doctor right away." Nancy's concern remained at full strength. "Take his other arm," she ordered the young Swedish women who had strolled inquisitively closer, and together they helped him through the foyer and into the reception area.
Peter stripped off what remained of his torn and blood stained floral-colored beach shirt, and Nancy wrapped him in a white hotel towel before examining his wound under the bright hotel lights. The bullet had passed through the upper arm midway between the elbow and the armpit. The skin had torn and hung open as if sliced by a ripping sword, exposing the soft pink inner flesh. A fresh trickle of blood oozed from the wound as she dabbed at it gently.
"Thank God__" Nancy whispered, and removed a clean bandage from the first aid box she had taken from a shelf beneath the counter. She bound the wound carefully. "You are very lucky Mr Wade, that this is your only injury. You could have been killed, you know."
Then suddenly without warning she straightened, and took two quick paces backwards. "Mr Armstrong!" she blurted out wildly. "He left with you this morning, where is he?"
Peter rose unsteadily back to his feet inspecting the neatly bound folds of the bandage. His stomach felt as though it had received a devastating blow, and the sour bitter taste of loss still laced his mouth.
"I left him on the side of the road with the jeep," Peter lied again, and stretched out his good arm towards the telephone standing on the wood-grained melamine counter top. "Do you mind__?"
Nancy shook her head and the gesture swayed her long red-brown hair symmetrically across her naked shoulders, then she turned swiftly and removed a folded piece of paper from the message box mounted on the wall behind her.
"Oh Mr wade__ " she forced a thin smile, "__someone has been trying to reach you all evening. It sounds important. He asked that I personally place this message directly in your hands.”
Peter Knew whom it was from before he had even unfolded it. It obviously meant the end of his leave. Leave in the department was as rear as chicken teeth, but when it presented itself it was taken with the same eagerness and fervor as that of a young lion cub when first introduced to the scent of freshly killed raw-red meat.
Peter picked up the receiver and dialed. It rang four times before someone on the other side said: “Central control.”
“Colonel Michael Tilbert,” Peter snapped into the mouthpiece. “Tell him it’s Peter Wade, and it’s very urgent.”
Peter glanced at the young Swedish couple standing at his side. They had not moved, but stood staring at him.
“Peter, is that you?” There was a sense of urgency in Colonel Michael Tilbert`s voice.
“Yes it is,” Peter snapped again as he turned away, carrying the telephone to the far end of the reception desk.
“Orders from the top, Peter. No exceptions. All personnel involved in Operation Count Down are to report in immediately. Bring David in with you.”
Operation Count Down was a joint militant exercise of both the British and American Secrete Service Arms Development Boards. Cobra’s location: the northwest desert of Chad on the African continent. Their assignment to monitor the accuracy of long range missiles launched from naval strike-crafts anchored in the deep restless waters of the Atlantic ocean off the Golf of Guinea, on the west coast of Africa; aimed at computerized target chips - no larger than the face of a wrist watch - buried at intervals of servile miles and at a depth of one hundred feet beneath the sun-scorched sands of the African desert.
“I can`t.” Peter spoke curtly with the tension that gripped him like a steel fist. “He’s dead.”
“What!” There was a moment of silence. “Not him as well__ When?”
“Late this afternoon.” Peter hesitated, uncertain. “As well, Tilbert__! What the hell is going on?”
“All in good time Peter. The Director is on his way back from Washington as we speak. He will be heading the briefing personally when he arrives.” There was a crackling sound now over the telephone line as the over head monitor in front of Colonel Michael Tilbert suddenly lit up. “A moment Peter, the Director is coming through on his private channel. I’ll get back to you in a moment.”
Major-General Brain Jenkins was the personal friend of the President of the United States, both men had graduated from Harvard University with honors in Law and Business Economics, but unlike the President who had started his career as a junior partner with a major law firm, he had gone directly into the British Secret Service. Though he had climbed rapidly through the ranks, showing clearly his commanding qualities as a leader of men, with an endless allure of rapt personality, and now as a figurehead well suited to head Cobra, he maintained a quite and private life. Peter had met him on more than one occasion, and his opinion of the man had become infinite.
Brain Jenkins was an athlete and master in karate among other Marshall arts. At the age of twenty-five he had successfully challenged for the British heavy weight title and had defended it with supreme excellence for the next three years before retiring undefeated from the arts. Yet he was not a man to remain idle; his love and dedication for the sport had driven him across the seas to the distant shores of the Far East, where he had pursued the sport relentlessly.
“Where is David now?” Tilbert came back suddenly.
“Four miles south of here is a basin known to the locals as Jeffrey’s cove,” answered Peter starkly. “He’s on the ledge above it.”
“It`s imperative Peter, that we keep a tight lid on this one. The Director has made that quite clear. If it is at all possible Peter, keep it from the local police – and the news papers.”
The hotel foyer had filled with curious on lookers. At the age of fifty-one Peter was still in fine physical shape, with no signs of balding or the receding line of hair loss across the forehead. He was proud of his lean and hard body with a taut ripple of muscles beneath the skin like that of a trained athlete. He would have hated to be seen with a large pornched-belly and pendulous breasts like that of the giant hairy beast of the Congo. Peter slipped on his torn damp shirt before he went on quickly to explain in brief the events of the afternoon. “__ And I can’t get back in Tilbert," Peter ended on a harsh note. "I think the bastards have pushed my jeep over the cliff."
"Are you all right, Peter?”
“Given the circumstances,” he stated tersely. “I`m fine__” Peter fluttered momentarily as he bit down hard on the anger that burnt his blood - and Tilbert cut in quickly with a sharp stamp of authority.
“Stand by Peter.” Peter heard him talking to somebody else - perhaps it was one of Cobra’s many control operators who responded swiftly, beyond all question, to his every command. He came back on line within the minute.
“Peter,” he spoke quickly, “I have dispatched a helicopter with a five man recovery unit to assist with David. They should be with you within the next two hours. And for God sake Peter,” Tilbert added sternly. “No heroics. Just make sure that you are on the helicopter when it leaves. The director will be all over me pal, if you’re not.”
“I’ll be on it__ ” Peter assured his friend of many years, but the line was already dead. Peter replaced the receiver, and suddenly he remembered Catherine. He picked up the receiver again and dialed her cottage in Cambridge.
“__Oh, how terrible.” Her voice was limp and drawn from heavy sleep. “I was so looking forward to our weekend together, Peter.”
“I know you were, and so was I.”
“I will leave for London right away, ”she said. “My car is already packed and fueled.”
“No Catherine,” Peter stopped her. “ Stay where you are.”
Please, Peter, darling, don`t push me away at a time like this. Allow me to drive up to London and wait for you at the apartment. You need me Peter, if only just to hold your hand through this terrible time.”
“For just once Catherine - please,” he implored her. “Do as I say.”
“There, you see Peter, you are doing it again.” Her voice took on a rough edge, and Peter heard the ruffling sound of bed sheets as she hurriedly raised herself into an upright sitting position. “Peter, you always shut me out. I don`t know why I bother__”
A movement beyond the crowd caught Peter’s eye, and he instantly lowered the receiver; just a flash of white light as a motor vehicle turned slowly in the car park. Something inside Peter stirred - perhaps it was an in built alarm that he had developed over his many years of service; a mental state of keen perceptive that detects the unexpected that lurks unseen and menacing at all times.
He quickly lifted the receiver again.
“I must go now Catherine. We will speak again in the morning.”
The young Swedish man was the first to fall. The bullet entered just above his right eye, exploding out through the back of his head like a volcano; showering a fine spray of bone and blood and brain over the face and chest, and the taut flat exposed flesh of belly, of his young companion - and it stuck to her white pale skin not unlike the fetid vomit of a drunken man. She froze instantly; white hocked fingers clamped her parted and gaping mouth like the tender frozen twigs of a * plant, crocked and bent. Then she was moving in a total panic, not quite sure in which direction to run for she was moving to the left and to the right across the floor in short gaited steps - before screaming through them and darting off into the foyer.
The gunman had stepped from the shadows and into the open doorway with little or no concern for life, for his finger was held firmly against the smooth curve of the trigger as he swayed the machine pistol brutally from side to side - and the over-kill was enormous.
A choir of shrieks and screams rose from the curious onlookers as the velocity drove the shot deep in among them; shattering bone and sinew, the rush of the explosive charge ripping unceasing through one horrified soul and into another - and the fletter of flesh and blood rose into the air like the twisted pink-folds of a mushroom cloud.
Then just as suddenly he released his finger and lowered the machine pistol, and for just a moment the eyes of the two men met. Instantly he lifted it again, jerking back on the trigger as he turned, pulling the machine pistol round in the direction of Peter, and again a flurry of shot exploded from the muzzle in a dull rattled beat of rapped fire.
Peter was as swift and agile as a cheetah. He went over with a flick of his shoulder and hip. His feet and hands hardly touched the counter top as he rolled over it. Nancy Barth stood rigid behind the counter, as if frozen in time, her face a twisted expression of both horror and disbelief. Peter collected her with an out stretched arm and drew her to his chest as he roll, taking her down with him to the safety of the floor behind the large wooden structure.
Only a few seconds had passed since the gunman had entered the hotel foyer, and Peter knew it would take him only a few seconds more to reach the reception area. He had landed over Nancy pinning her to the floor, and she wriggling and screaming beneath him as she desperately tried to free herself.
“I don’t want to die!” her voice was steeped with hysteria. “I don’t want to die!” Then suddenly the hysteria was gone and her voice gave way to a panting of soft sobs, and lowering her forehead gently to the floor she mumbled softly into the high-pile fawn and tan colored carpet squares; “Please - I don’t want to die.”
Peter ignored her; instead he turned scouting his immediate surroundings looking for anything he might use as a weapon. The two rows of thin gauge metal shelving on the wall behind the reception desk, mounted one on either side of the message box, were filled with an array of fishing-gear, tackle, and accessories. Between the two shelves and mounted on the wall above the message box hung a 38-Special Woody Magnum spear gun, finely crafted from mahogany and quality aircraft aluminum. Protruding from the glass reinforced nylon muzzle was a twin spinner rocket-point, forged from stainless steel - but to reach it Peter would have to expose himself.
Nancy lay at full stretch on her belly, still pinned beneath Peter. He looked down at her.
“Don`t you keep anything around here to protect yourselves with__?” Nancy shook her head with out lifting her forehead from the carpet squares, “Not even a stick of sorts__?”
She shook her head again. Then suddenly, as she remembered, she half raised herself and twisting awkwardly round onto her right shoulder she pointed to the dark narrow opening beneath the counter.
“There use to be an old fishing gaff under there,” she sniffed, and wiped her small runny-nose against the back of her hand. “But I don’t know if it’s there anymore.”
The seconds were mounting. Peter Wade had kept a mental count of them, and now he counted twenty-three as he thrust his arm at full stretch into the opening.
“At the back,” Nancy sniffed again. “Far at the back.”
Peter groped through an infestation of spider webs, and a heap of screwed papers that had been kicked from sight rather than the wasted effort of a single stoop to retrieve them.
It seemed an age before his fingers brushed against the cold steel shaft, and at the sudden chill of its touch he grabbed at it wildly.
The shaft was of two and quarter inch steel piping, and three feet long. At one end was fastened the flat molded steel gaff head. It had the shape of half an arrowhead and deeply barbed so as not to loose its catch. A crude object by today standards: now old and rusted and covered with a thick layer of grit and dust. A solitary house spider hung from the shaft by a single strand of its thin shiny wet silk. Peter dusted it away as he rolled from Nancy.
Peter Wade had been expecting it, but with the sudden swiftness and alarm by which it came, made him jolt. A barrage of bullets ripped through the wooden counter, scattering the neatly racked rows of paper and files high into the air as a torrent shower of paper rain.
“God, no!” Nancy screamed again, and whisked herself up into a human ball.
The only entrance to where Peter lay was a small opening between the counter and the reception wall. Peter remained still, every muscle in his body held tense, poised with the patience and cunning like that of a wild cat, primed and alert.
The man’s boot came into view first, hesitating just above the floor. An old ploy that Peter had used before: a test of patience and will. A gesture offered as a lure to draw an opponent from his cover. To a younger and less experienced man the temptation of the offered opportunity would have meant certain death, for the gunman stood braced, his weapon held cocked and ready to burst into instant rapped fire at the slightest hint of movement - but Peter would have none of it. He remained silent and still.
Now the boot began to sway from the weight and pressure on the foot that supported it, brining the knee and the thigh clearly into view. Then suddenly the man lunged forward.
Peter reacted immediately and drove the shaft forward. The half arrowhead sunk deep into the man’s side with a faint squelching sound. Peter twisted the shaft - spinning the gaff head - killing the kidney, and at the same time he pulled back hard on the shaft drawing the man and the semi-automatic hand pistol towards himself.
Only a solitary gurgling sound came from the man - more out of surprise than from pain - as his mouth filled with the blood that burst up through his throat.
Peter snatched up the semi-automatic hand pistol and rose swiftly from behind the counter. The foyer was strewn with lifeless and crippled bodies, and an eerie wailing sound rose from the injured and dying. Two gunmen stood rooted in the center of the foyer facing Peter. Immediately Peter squeezed the trigger and the weapon burst into life, but died abruptly as the magazine emptied.
The two gunmen had dropped swiftly to the floor taking cover among the living and the dead. Peter flung the hand pistol from him and made a charge for the entrance.
A third gunman was positioned at the far side of the room and he raised his left arm at full stretch above his head - in a comrades salute - with a clenched fist, at the same time snapping his weapon into instant action with the other hand.
“A new order is born. Long li.. NA…,” he shouted, but his voice was drowned beneath the rattling sound of his own rapid fire.
Peter sprinted through the main entrance of the hotel and cleared the entire length of concrete stairway leading down into the car park in only one leap. He stumbled momentarily as he landed awkwardly on the uneven stone paving, steadying himself against his good arm as he staggered, then charged on into the darkness. The sky was clear and filled with stares, but the night was dark for the moon was still low over the sea. He glanced back only once as he cleared the first sand dune; already they had regrouped and were at the entrance - and rolled down the other side into the pitch-black of night.
His first thoughts were to hide beneath the bush that grew thick and tall at the base of the sand dune, but the wide beams of torchlight that came across the sand dune shone like bright daylight, their rays carrying far out into the night.
Peter stumbled across the gravel road and turned south. Directly below him the soft iridescent glow of the moon made its path in awesome splendor across the still sea, like seen portrayed in the wondrous pages of children’s` story books.
Suddenly a torch beam came up from behind a sand dune some thirty paces up front of him, and it swept across the night sky like a broad beam from a lighthouse. Instantly Peter changed direction and charged down the steep embankment towards the beach, but his body cried out in extreme pain as he came to a sudden and abrupt halt, the wind forced from deep inside his lungs, and he was thrown backwards landing heavily in a heap on his back - and his skin burnt like that of a thousand hot bee stings.
Silhouetted against the night sky like an entangled spiders web stretched an old rusty barbwire fence.
A dark shadow, behind the face of the torchlight that came into view at the top of the sand dune, swept its light across the area to the left and to the right above Peter. Then it was shining across the water; a wide beam of light that easily lit the breakers as they pounded the shoreline. Then slowly it crept up the embankment to the old rusty barbwire fence, moving to the north and to the south along the rusty strands, and finally it came to rest on Peter in a pool of large white light.
Peter rolled quickly beneath the fence and he heard his clothes tear as they brushed against the sharp barbs.
He cleared the last of the sand dunes with little feeling in his body, and out onto the open beach. The tide was running high and the waves washed the sand up to the * line. From behind came the excited noise of his pursuers; short bursts of encouragement tossed windily from one to the other - and there torchlight’s dotted the darkness like gapping holes in a sheet of thick black paper,
The moon was rising steadily brining with it a golden patina that crept steadily across the sea and beach, and Peter turned to face his only escape. Waves washed the rocks with the force of spring tide; dark hollow curves crested with off white foam that pounded noisily against the dark eerier forms. He mounted them with great care and difficulty for his lung burnt and his body ached. A slip or a wrong positioning of a foot would have him lying among the rocks and at the total mercy of the surging waves.
The first wave came with the force of thunder; a body of water that rose into the sky like a hump of a whale, and the cracking sound it made as it hit the rocks sent a shudder through the ground that came up through his feet, instantly turning into a head of white bubbling foam that engulfed all as it passed. Peter dived into a hollow between two large rocks and his ears and nose filled with the bubble of cream white surf.
The second wave, however, was a lot smaller and he managed to take it in his stride.
Peter stumbled awkwardly, and at a snails pace, his feet and hands unsteady against the slippery surf that surged continuously about the rocks. Despite his anguish and his fears, Peter took comfort in the thought that his pursuers would not have the courage to follow him across the rocks, but he was startled back to reality as a bright light from the beach picked him out, silhouetting him against the sea and sky like an actor amidst his performance. Instantly Peter crouched low among the rocks for just a single shot fired from a pistol, smothered by a silencer, would send him gasping into the world beyond, and any onlooker would be none the wiser for the reason of his fall.
The third wave exploded over him like a thick black curtain blocking stares and moon. The bright light from the beach had stunned his eyes momentarily, and the solid wall of water took him completely by surprise. The force of it sent him in a head over heels movement across the rocks, his body striking the jagged forms as he rolled. Then his direction changed and he was been washed out to sea. Peter bobbed in the surf like a fishing-cork, and his legs and arms ached and throbbed as he treaded the water.
He sunk his head deep into the water and pulled hard, one stroke after the other, and with a steeped effort he passed through the breakwater and out to the back line. The torchlight’s on the beach disappeared from his sight as he swam south of the bay, and now he began to think of the two lights he had seen earlier moving away from the beach and up into the * line. He was hoping that if his pursuers had seen him swept from the rocks – knowing that he was hurt and bleeding – they would give up the chase, allowing the ocean to tidy up their bundled assault, but he was wrong for as he rounded the small opening in the shore line, facing Hump Rock, he saw them. At first just two small lights weaving in the dark on the ridge above the water, then growing larger and larger as they moved down to the beach.
Peter swam into the center of the opening, placing the dark form of Hump Rock between himself and the lights. Then swam slowly inshore and climbed steadily up the cold wet back of the large dark form.
He was safe, at least until the tied went out, for the waves thundered past him at a steady pace, and he could hear them as they pounded the shore line a hundred yards away.
From his sanctuary he watched the two torch holders sweeping the water with their lights, occasionally running the wide torch beams up the face of Hump Rock to it’s highest point, and then slowly back down again. Peter laid spread on the seaward side with only his head above the large mass ducking every time the lights flashed over him.
A faint distant call from high above the beach drifted in as a muffled groan across the water, and Peter glanced up at the ridge where two more small dots of light had now appeared. Instantly the two men on the beach turned and scrambled back up the footpath. For a time they stood huddled in conversation, then switched out their lights, and a moment later a cars headlights brushed across the sky as it turned and sped away.
Peter rolled on to his back and looked out over the sea. The moon seemed as large as the sky itself, and the sea was caressed in its soft golden light. He was tired from the pain and from his long swim and soon exhaustion over took him and he drifted off into a shallow sleep – but only to be abruptly awakened by the thumping rhythm of rotor blades as they drifted overhead.
The wind sliced its way up the steely cold waters of the Thames like the razor edge of a blade, and the low charcoal-colored clouds tumbled across the sky ahead of it, beneath a cold and silky moon, threatening at any moment to unleash their heavy load in a single sheet of torrent rain.
Peter Wade was uncertain what to expect as the Merlin HC3 helicopter bumped down on the apron in front of the British Arm’s Development Buildings. A large black limousine stood motionless at the main gate with a solitary security guard at the drivers window nervously shuffling through a heap of identikit papers - then rolled silently forward and stopped outside the entrance to the main building behind an already long line of Mercedes Benz parked beneath the bright white glow of the security lights.
Peter turned up the collar of his overcoat and jumped down from the cabin of the helicopter landing evenly on both feet, in a semi squat, before straightening up.
“Sorry to hear about David,” Tilbert bellowed, he was trying to make himself heard above the roar of the three Rolls-Royce Turbomeca RTM 322 turbines engines.
It was at times like these when Peter Wade felt the full effect of his years. Though he kept himself in a keen physical state, he wasn’t getting any younger. He hated the cold damp weather of London; the endless onslaught of mist and rain and snow driven down from the artic by the northerly winds, and he seemed to cringe to the wind as it dashed at him flogging the skirts of his overcoat against his legs.
Peter ruffled his shoulders against the cold fury of the wind, then flicked out a cold stiff hand towards the long line of black limousines.
“What is going on__?” He bellowed back at Tilbert.
Michael Tilbert didn’t answer him; instead he tapped his ears with glove-covered fingertips, shrugged unhearing, and then beckoned Peter with both hands. Peter followed him across the apron in silence with the cold chill of the rotor blades at his back, and into the building.
The nerve center of the British Secrete Service Arm’s Development Board occupied the entire eight floor of the main building. Colonel Michael Alexander Tilbert headed up that department. Once, in his own right, a top quality field operator. A Middle East specialist recognized for his ability to penetrate deep behind the Palestinian and Iraqi lines. For some years the British and the American governments had suspected Iraq of supplying weapons to the PLO. With Tel`Aviv-yafo as his base-camp, it had been easy for Michael Tilbert to slip across the boarders with the aid of his many Jewish allies. But now he was confined to a wheelchair - a victim of a senseless suicide-bomber.
Two people sat at the main control panel, each handling separate assignment with the code names Deep Winter, and Shifting Sands written on the boards above their heads. Others milled about the room, some with folders tucked neatly under their arms, while others had radio head-phones covering their ears, the kind with short thin stalked microphones that drooped their jaw lines – but all with the same look of efficiency and dedication as they went speedily about their allotted tasks.
At every vantage point around the room hung a Sony video surveillance camera, silently recording every movement and sound, and along with every computer command and signal, for security purposes, were channeled through thick plastic-coated electronic cables down through the floors to the basement of the building, there to be stored and filed away, for eternity, in the main database frames of the large Macintosh computers.
On the north wall was mounted a large Sony television monitor, with red and yellow and green lights flashing at different points around the world-image projected on its surface.
“Fifteen minutes to the hour, Colonel.” The young male operator of the large Sony television monitor informed Tilbert as he passed. “Should I link the Director up to the main monitor when he comes through?”
“Keep this one tight awhile longer,” Colonel Michael Tilbert instructed the young operator. “Transfer him directly to my office the moment he comes through.”
Michael Tilbert whisked his bulky battery-driven wheelchair behind his desk with speed and skill like that of a paraplegic athlete. His deck was piled with official documents, and now he lent forward across the wooden surface - his thick black beard on his chest - to shuffle through them. This was his special place, the center, and fortress of his existence. The blast from the suicide bomber had not changed the man, but only the body. On that ill-fated and senseless night the paramedic’s had feared for his life, but through the pain of garbled flesh and bone, and lying in a pool of his own scarlet blood, Tilbert had told them,
“Shrapnel, and bullets and knives__ I’ve tasted them all before. Don`t waist a thought for me, I’m an old dog. I’ll bounce back to bite again.”
Even at night, beneath a cold and wet sky, the room had a feel of warmth to it, off-white walls and heavy gold drapes flecked with green and tan, light wooden paneling and deep sea-green carpeting, heavy chunky furniture spaciously set apart, with coverings of tan and fawn, vibrant oil paintings on the main paneling, one of which Peter Wade knew to be a Tretchikoff, and another a Rembrandt, - it was a room which Peter enjoyed, a place to relax and to unwind for a couple of hours, with an old friend, after a long and tiresome assignment.
Peter slumped into one of the chunky tan and fawn colored chairs set at an angle to the desk, facing Tilbert. He had once been Peter’s official mentor. He had taught Peter all he knew. A hard and ruthless teacher, but Peter had been a willing student; quick to learn the techniques of diversion, the sensitive handling of raw explosives, self-defense, and the art of handling high powered motor vehicles. Without the use of his legs, his upper arms and shoulders had developed quickly. Peter watched him covertly, studying the handsome head, the soft warm glow from the superbly crafted Louis XIIII table lamp - that stood on the corner of his large mahogany desk - enhancing the broad creased brow and straight aristocratic noise.
“Well,” said Peter eventually, and lent forward in the chair expectantly, “Is there a connection between the death of David Armstrong and the long line of parked limousines down stairs?
Tilbert nodded his large shaggy head, but did not look up, instead continued, thoughtfully, to fan the white pages of the folder he held with a pensive flick of his left wrist and right thumb.
“COBRA” was the heading, in bold black capital on the yellow cover – Classified “OPERATION COUNT DOWN” Top secrete – Reclassified “HMS ORCA”
Tilbert had read the document with immense anxiety and apprehension more than a dozen times. He could now recite it almost from memory. The horror, and repulsion of its contents making it a disturbing and acid read, that each time left cold fingers of nausea closing round his gut.
Now he opened the document again and slowly lowered it back to the surface of the desk.
“Damn it Peter!” he retorted suddenly. “It`s the senselessness of it all.” He could hear the hard bitter tone in his own voice, but he could not control it. “Is there no end to their senseless killings - murders? The world has become their platform Peter, poised like the deadly serpent ready to strike at will, and when least expected.” He clamped his broad bony fingers firmly together and the knuckles whitened. “Will there be no end - Peter?”
Peter Wade lent back in the chair, but remained silent, waiting. A young woman in a pale peach, standard COBRA issue uniform, with gold lieutenant buttons on the lapels carried in a tray. They were silent as she offered tea and milk and white crystal sugar and then, when she was gone, Peter listened attentively – and Tilbert went on in a more subdued tone.
“What I have here Peter, are the two latest reports of our last joint assignment with the Americans. One is ours of cause – the other is from the Pentagon. Their compiled report came through less than two hours ago.” Tilbert rolled out from behind his desk and crossed to the rack of pipes standing on the showcase between two neatly framed service achievement awards. He chose one carefully, a well weathered Wiley Briar; the rim of the bowl charred and eroded by age, and by the continuous heat of a flamed match. He blew through the empty pipe and then drove his wheelchair back across the deep sea green carpet to stop in front of an impressive line of electronic equipment.
“It would appear Peter, that we have suffered the same losses as that of our American counter-parts. Delta “Orion” of the Third Division, have lost more than half their original team assigned to this operation.”
Peter felt the chill of horror spin through his spine. “And Cobra’s losses__?” he asked quickly.
“Four of our finest men Peter, including David. But that’s not all__” he added musingly. “At precisely 11:05AM this morning, just twenty four hours after HMS ORCA left her mooring, our naval base at * received a closed radio message from a source as yet not known to us. I have a copy of that radio message.” Tilbert glanced down at the gold plated Timex wristwatch strapped to his wrist. “We still have a few minutes left Peter before the Director will be coming through. For you to get a better understanding of the overall picture, I’d like you to listen to it,” - and he pushed one of the shinny buttons on the electronic instrument panel and a woman’s voice crackled through the boxed Kenwood speakers.
Emma hung over the bow of the thirty-foot Beach Craft anchored by one hand against the out-stayed handrail, with the nine-powered lens binoculars wedged firmly beneath her thick brooding black eyebrows. Long flagged black hair trailed her small head, wet, and knotted, flogging the neck and shoulders as the pleasure craft ploughed head long into the running swell.
“Right on time__ ” she smiled balefully. “Come swiftly across the waters, Emma awaits you poised as a harpooner-man ready to strike terror deep into your heart.” She spoke softly to herself, mentally willing the large blue-gray mass - which had now broken the northern sea tier – forward, like the hypnotic stare of a rock python lures the bewildered brown dassie closer and closer into the deadly grip of its ever-tightening coils.
Suddenly she felt giddy and light headed so that she had to drop the binoculars, to hang loosely from her neck, and steady herself with both hands against the handrail. The overwhelming excitement of the sudden appearance of the large British nuclear submarine; of her mounting thoughts of the imminent assault, and from the sudden burst of adreline that charged through her veins had flamed her body to a point of no return, and her heart thundered against her ribs. She was panting as though she had run a long race and her small erect nipples burnt with the fury like that of live coals against her white nylon t. shirt – and she tremored uncontrollably, folding one crooked knee fervently over the other, twisting the ankle and foot, as she tightly squinched the muscles of her firm round buttocks and inner thighs.
It took her a full minute to bring herself back under control, and now with her mind and body freed from the intense rush that fired her blood, she began to think clearly again and snatched up the binoculars.
The large mass had come clearly into view and was now lying heavily in the water on the horizon. Emma sharpened the focus, cutting the vessel with the target lines, while carefully studding the readings flashing on the inner panel of the wide lens binoculars.
“Twelve knots, south by west, Pierre,” she shouted back across her shoulder at the young Frenchman standing behind the wheel. “Adjust our heading accordingly and maintain interception course.” And immediately she felt the deck beneath her feet respond to the shift in the rudder.
Her instructions had arrived in the normal manner. Just a simple SMS message sent to her cell phone. It always read the same__ ‘you have mail. Access – Aphrodite.’ All correspondence was channeled through an untraceable email account, which she, from any given location in the world would only access from an Internet café. When they did arrived, they were precise and to the point, but the finer detail and coordination of her assignments were always left, by the higher powers within the organization, to the imagination of her own perverse mind and ruthless hands; yet small, with a form of petiteness, could snap a fully grown man’s neck with the up most of ease.
Two hundred thousand pound sterling, her normal fee - the source that drives all such people - was directed as normal through various none existent business accounts through Germany and France, and then transferred at her own time and pleasure to a large banking-house in south America. Where possible she always kept her ‘rat pack’ to an absolute minim. Choosing only those she trusted most. Pierre, a tall slender Frenchman, chosen for his skills of the ocean, had been the first to arrive on the west coast of France. He had chosen a small three bed roomed cottage obscured from the main road by a dense cover of fern forest, but with enough elevation up the slope of the flanking hills to offer a excellent view over looking the small picturesque fishing village of *, where, with the wit and charm of his nature, he had successfully negotiated a fair price on hiring a luxury thirty-foot Beach Craft, fitted with twin twelve cylinder Rolls-Royce diesel injected engines.
Henry Foster was the second to arrive, a short stocky man well trained in the arts of explosives - one of many shuffled out from the South African defense force, in the early 90s, to make way for the influx of the ANC`s * Mkhonto sizwe (The spear head of the nation) Two days later Emma, a companioned by Ronda, had arrived at the small fishing village. ”Our orders are very clear,” she had told them sternly, once at the cottage and brooding over a large aerographical photograph that she had spread across the warped pinewood dining room table. “We have only one chance at boarding her. Miss it, and this golden opportunity to further our noble cause will be lost for ever.”
The remaining days that followed were spent acting out a charade of two couples enjoying a leisurely vocation at the coast - but once aboard the Beach Craft, out of earshot and sight of the many curious and well-meaning village folk, Emma quickly took control; showing clearly - without thought or mind for those she might coerce – her determination and severity of leadership that had earned her the respect and trust of those who mattered within the organization. As usual she had left nothing to chance, even the weather had favored her, running the Beach Craft daily to a distance of five mile off the coast of France to the predetermined rondo view point, personally overseeing every instruction and command she issued, even down to choosing the precise location of each explosive. The first - the smaller of the two charges to be detonated was only a taunt to draw the attention of the British nuclear submarine - she indicated to Henry Foster with a mark of a black felt marking-pen, was to be secured between the manifold and the injectors of the number two diesel engine, directing the blast upwards and out through the lower deck. A harmless display of fire and smoke. The second charge, she insisted in a manor of up most implicitly, was to be attached beneath the oil sump of the number one engine, directing the force of the explosion downwards, ripping a sizeable hole through the five-millimeter reinforced fiberglass hull, allowing the seawater to gush in sinking the Beach Craft.
On the morning of their final departure, she had offered only one final warning; “Bundle this, and we will all be lying dead among the webbed toes of Neptune.”
Now Emma drew back from the handrail and lowered the binoculars. Her sodden t. shirt clung to her body and the spray of the ocean rained down on her hair, smearing her thick black curls over her forehead and into her eyes. She brushed them back hurriedly, then crossed the deck into the saloon.
Ronda, the German girl, was seated at the bar hunched over a tall glass of diet coke nervously plunging a plastic colored straw into the dark liquid. She was tall and slim, with short-cropped blond hair that scuffed her ears, and the same pale smoky blue eyes as that of an albino feline. She looked up as Emma entered.
“They have arrived__?” she inquired quickly, in almost perfect English.
Emma stopped beside her and smiled warmly. “Yes,” she said softly. “They are on the horizon.”
“What if they do not stop, Emma?” Ronda spoke quickly. She was drowning in her own sea of fear, and it showed clearly on her face. The pale smoky blue eyes had darkened, shadowed by the pupils that had grown large and staring, and deep creases of worry had appeared across her brow – and her thin lips were now dry and white. “We will never get back to the beach from out here. We are too many miles off the coast. We will all die__!”
Emma’s smile changed to one of a wide-open grin.
“Oh, they’ll stop all right,” she said, and she cupped her small round breasts with both her hands, pressing them firmly together so that they blossomed out before her, smooth and silky white, like two interwoven petals of a fully blown rose. “Have you ever known a sailor to pass up on a pair of these?”
“You joke Emma, at a time like this? These are hardened men. Men trained by the might of the British military. Surely they will not be fooled by a couple of women on a pleasure craft?”
“My dear Ronda, you worry too much. Everything will be all right,” Emma chuckled fondly. ”Trust me.” And she lent forward and kissed Ronda fully on her thin parted lips, plunging her tongue deep into the dry and arid mouth. “I will see you safely through this, che`ri – I promise.” She murmured.
Ronda responded immediately to the warm rush of breath that filled her mouth and reached for Emma, tracing the back and thighs to a point just short of pain – but when she slipped one hand deep into Emma’s lower belly, gently kneading the soft plump cleft of her pudenda, Emma straightened suddenly and pulled away.
“Not now,” she said harshly. “Get down below to the engine room and help Henry set the explosives.” And she quickly mounted the companion ladder and climbed swiftly to the bridge.
“Aye, aye, sir,” and Orca`s way decreased rapidly in a bubble of cream-white water that swept forward past the steel hull as the screw bite hard astern.
“What depth of water under her?”
“One hundred fathoms, and holding, sir,” came the voice from below.
From the conning tower the sea stretched away endlessly. To the seaward side the swell pushed down from the northwest, but not with enough surge or elevation to wash the steel deck. Two men manned the main gun; familiarizing themselves with their new artillery, with short bursts of rapid fire that dug deep into the shoulders of the running swell like hundreds of tiny Arctic Tern’s franticly diving for a shoal of small herring-like fish. On the landward side – bathed beneath a bold yellow sun - the coast of France was hidden beyond the horizon, obscured by a mirrored-sea of ice-blue glitter.
“She is as silent and as graceful as a swan on a lake.” Lieutenant Commander Ian Braxton marveled, and reached out an excited, but controlled hand for the chart. “It would not surprise me Duncan, if the next generation of submarines do not have wings.”
Duncan Voster was at his elbow; his white shirt unbuttoned at the neck, the sheer brilliance of its starched and bleached color, enhancing his skin-tan to a deep copper brown. “Another feather for the British,” he joshed, and nudged his Aqua sunglasses further up the ridge of his nose.
Orca waft gracefully in the trough of the swells. Her newly designed back giving her the appearance of a powerful Olympic swimmer, broad and heavy shouldered, with stylish centerlines and a single large hardened-steel screw that thrust her at an impressive twenty-eight knots submerged.
The old seadog – a mere one pace behind – had not lost his old sea legs. He stood sure-footed on the bridge with his eyes shielded behind his hands in a way a sailor does to split the glare between sea and sky. Once an old submariner himself, now a retired Flag Officer (S) who had pulled on the strings of the many favours he had bestowed - during his long naval career – to accompany HMS Orca on her maiden voyage as far as The Cape of Good Hope.
“Fresh air and speed,” the old seadog blurted out suddenly, with such vigor and verve that the two men standing before him turned instantly.
The old Flag Officer (S) was smiling, the crow’s feet at the corners of his mouth deepened by his expression that seemed to come up from deep within his soul; a feeling that had been lost to him for so many years. He was dressed in his full whites, but now the uniform lacked the perfect fit of a straight back and shoulders, and the buttons at his middle pulled slightly. “Just four simple little words gentlemen, but the meaning of them - tells all.”
“Stop and recharge,” said Ian Braxton without any hesitation, “or run the surface and recharge. A sitting duck for a keen eye, sir. A submariners worst nightmare.”
The old sailor nodded his small gray head in agreement, then added haughtily with a well-founded sense of experience and knowing.
“Did you know gentlemen, that during the war the Germans chose air as their number one priority? A way was needed to expel the hot foul rotten air – the stench of human sweat and fear - after a prolonged dive, without the risk of an absolute surfacing. The Germans tested a funnel like structure – a snorkel.” He stretched his hands above his head. “It was a good idea__” he smiled as he went on. “__ But the submarine was still vulnerable, and the snorkel too. She lay just beneath the surface, at snorkel height, running her diesel engines to recharge her batteries.
“With a boat like that in the hands of a British Captain, well__ “ said Duncan Foster ardently. “The entire Atlantic would have been open to him.”
“Quite so,” said the old seadog, dogmatically,” “If we had taken that route. First we would have perfected it, and then mastered it. But as you know the Germans are an imaginative bunch. She was made obsolete even before entering into the service. But that is not to say the few made did not take their share of the shipping. Almost half a million tons were sunk each month in the North Atlantic. Not to mention the enormous loss of life, and the vital supplies bound for the Middle East.”
“The devil in the deep blue sea.” Duncan made the obvious comparison. “What did make them obsolete, sir?”
“As you rightly said, Lieutenant,” said the old submariner. “She was the devil of the Atlantic. But not for long,” he added swiftly. “She never went into full production. Partly because of the RAF, and partly because they – the Germans, were perfectionists. There was never anything proven, but it was believed, and very strongly I might add, that the Germans had not only over come the air problem, but their new breed of U-boat massed 3000 tons and were capable of 20 knots submerged. Only a destroyer was faster.”
“If I recall correctly, sir,” said Lieutenant Commander Ian Braxton. “It was Captain Johann Linbach, master of the German Freighter Hastedt, who was reported by the “STAR” in Johannesburg, on the 6th of September 1957, as saying, during 1941 Germany was testing a new type of submarine engine. Six U-boats were sent out into the Cape waters – only one returned.”
“We had our boys back home to thank for that. Though their submarines were supposedly better. We had better radar and underwater radio, and Asdie. Our VHF was years ahead of their old FuMB counter-radar. I doubt if they could have heard a whale fart at ninety feet gentlemen.”
Ian Braxton smiled to himself, at the old man’s humor, as he spread the chart across the fold of the conning tower, and slowly ran his finger along the Tropic of Cancer line, stopping at a point just short of seventy-five degrees East. “Our orders are to set a course for the Arabian Sea,” he said. “Not to link up with the American fleet in the Pacific, but to lie off the Lakshadweep Islands and await further instructions.” He folded the chart carefully again and slipped it back into the waterproof pouch hanging from a strap off his shoulder. “We have two weeks Duncan,” he went on in a controlled authortive tone; a manor well suited to any commissioned to the exigent command of submarine captain, “in which to complete a thorough testing of all Orca`s equipment. The Admiralty is expecting our final draft no later than two days before we wade anchor off the Lakshadweep Islands.”
“A pleasure cruise gentlemen,” the old seadog broke in with a smile. “I would have thought the Admiralty to have had you blokes in the thick of things a lot sooner than that__"
Through the idle chatter and rambled thoughts of past and present the lookouts voice came like the shriek of a sea gull.
“Bridge, sir! Small craft bearing from the east, speed ten.”
“Damn press!” Duncan Foster snapped. ‘As if we haven’t had enough of them over the past couple of weeks.” And beside him Ian Braxton reached for the radio.
“Set a course south by west,” he shouted into the mouthpiece. “Speed for 12 knots.”
“Aye, aye, sir,” came the voice again from below.
Emma stood motionless beside Pierre at the wheel of the Beach Craft, with the dark form of HMS Orca looming brazenly in the wide lens of her binoculars. Though the sun was warm her upper arms and neck appear to resemble that of goose flesh, and there seem to be an uncanny valor in her silence that dwarf and uneasy Pierre.
“Full throttle.” She snapped suddenly. “They must have us on radar by now.” Her voice rippled with immense excitement, reaching at times to a point where it lightened to an almost squeak. “I don’t care if you rip the bottom out of this - this damn thing Pierre. Just don`t loose contact.”
“She’s not a speed boat Emma.” Pierre came back at her swiftly, but with a certain amount of caution in his voice. “She has her limitations – you know.”
“I don`t care. Open both, I say!” She demanded, and she reached out in front of him - across the helm - and took hold of the duel throttle stick, pulling it back with such suddenness that the Beach Craft jolted under its own power as the twin, twelve cylinder, diesel engines thrust forward at full capacity.
Pierre opened his mouth as if to say something, but closed it again as he thought better of it. Instead he steadied himself against the instrument panel with one hand, while fighting to control the surging mass with the other as it coiled itself off the swells at uneven angles, then plunging back into the water in a cloud of heavy rain that rose high above the deck; filtered into many different colors by the rays of the sun against the morning sky.
“Adjust Pierre! To the right! Don`t let her get away!” The excitement of the chase had gripped her like the jaws of a steel vice, a feeling that spiked her spine and bit deep into the cold dark corners of her disturbed soul; a sense that drives a perverse mind to a point beyond all rational thinking - yet remains focus and alert at all times.
The stainless steel voice pipe project up through the instrument panel like a rigid stem of a fishing pole holder. Emma took hold of it firmly and lent towards it. “Henry,” she shouted into the beveled opening. “Five minutes to contact. What’s keeping you__?“
“We’re on our way up.” Ronda’s voice drifted up through the hollow tube like the deep winded sound of a trombone, before been swept speedily away by the air as the Beach Craft charged through it.
Now Emma looked up from the instrument panel and released her grip on the voice pipe. She was a woman of many moods, which seemed to change constantly as do the unpredictable wind of the Atlantic. She was smiling.
“Run along her starboard side, Pierre.” She said now in a more gentle tone. “Tuck us in as close as you can. I want everyone of them of know the color of my eyes before I board her.”
Pierre throttled back the two powerful diesel engines and immediately the bow settled deeper into the swell. He adjusted their heading so that their approach was from directly beneath the sun, obscuring them momentarily from sight by the glitter and glare of sea and sky. Then he opened them both again, quickly closing the distance between themselves and the submarine.
At that moment Henry Foster appeared on deck followed closely by a winded and clearly frightened Ronda. She stood beside him as one reduced to no more than a weightless shadow, her appearance drawn and elongated by the sky that flanked them.
“Both strapped and wired,” Henry reported in his heavy Afrikaans accent. He crossed the bridge to where Emma stood and handed her the radio-controlled detonator, “Blue for the first explosion and red for the second,” he explained - which she took from him and hung from her neck by the thin leather strap fastened through the loop at one end of the small black plastic box. Then she strode across the wheel deck to stop beside Ronda still holding anxious onto the handrail at the top of the stairs.