It seemed like we had been traveling for days when we finally landed in Italy. We were met at the Rome Airport by a representative of the Company that owned the freighter. They wanted to make sure that we were on time for the sailing of the ship. To that end the driver drove like a mad man. I allowed Andrew to ride in the front seat without argument. The Brit was sandwiched between me and the Russian chic. Our bags were tied everywhere on the SUV. None the less we made it in time for the sailing. We even made it a little early.
We were assigned a spot in the crew quarters. The Russian Chic wasn’t bothered by the accommodations, so I wasn’t either. We quickly learned that our job also included making sure the ship was secure while it was docked, as well as fighting off pirates on the high seas. Port security included being on hand when the sensitive cargo was loaded.
“The cargo will come aboard in about an hour,” the captain said. “You must be sure that it is not disturbed during the loading and that it remains safe and secure.”
“Do you have a place on the ship where it can be monitored by a camera?” I asked.
“I’m sorry no. We don’t usually handle a sensitive cargo like this one,” he said.
“What exactly are you carrying?” I asked.
“I’m not at liberty to say,” he suggested.
“If we are to take this serious, we need to know what kind of threats are likely, that is determined by the kinds of people who want it. Is the threat the Mafia or is it terrorists,” I asked.
“I see,” he said. “The threat could be either one. The cargo has a huge monetary value on the open market. Several terrorist groups would pay large sums for it. They would also try to steal it themselves.”
“Wonderful, everybody wants it. It must be munitions of some kind,” I said and watched him try not to show any emotion. After it was loaded I decided it was the Russian version of the stinger missile. I would have had Russian Chic read the writing on the boxes, but the labels had been blacked out completely.
“Andrew, why don’t you and the Russian Chic try to get some sleep. The Brit and I will keep an eye on the loading of the cargo,” I suggested.
“Sounds good to me. The crew quarters is one large, noisy, hot, and smelly room, but we can sleep there, at least I can,” The Russian chic said.
Russian Chic, or RC, followed after him. After they had gone I said to The Brit, “I think we got a couple of cases of the Russian ‘Grinch’ shoulder fired SAMs. If that is the case and word gets out, this could be an exciting three weeks. The captain says the crew has been with him three years without incident, but I don’t believe anyone at this point.”
“I wonder how good the ‘Grinch’ is?” The Brit asked.
“Good enough to steal Christmas,” I replied.
“Ah yes, the Grinch who stole Christmas,” he repeated. Well you want to babysit the cargo, or go on deck and watch for pirates?” he asked.
“Why don’t we do two hour shifts then switch,” The Brit nodded his approval. I took my untested AP4 and went into the hold of the ship. I found a comfortable place to sit among the ten wooden boxes. I rested the AP4 on my lap and went to sleep. Well I dozed off and on till my two hours were up.
On the deck I went forward and found the steadiest place I could but it wasn’t too steady. Then I went to the bridge to visit with the first officer.
“Have you ever sailed this exact course before?” I asked.
“Yes, but this trip will be different. We always bribed the pirates for safe passage. The captain has said that this time we will fight them?” It was a question.
“Well, I hope it won’t come to that, but it might. How will you feel about it?” I asked. “Because if you are not okay with killing a few pirates, you should get off at the next stop.”
“I won’t kill them myself, but that’s why we have you,” he said.
“It doesn’t always work the way you plan. Sometimes, even if you hire someone, you find it necessary to kill. Just to save your own life, or the life of a crew member,” I said. “I hope it won’t come to that.”
“As do I,” he agreed.
“So, if we are attacked by pirates, where is the most likely place,” I said leaning over the charts.
Pointing on the chart, “The most likely is from here to here. It is two days sailing. But it could be anywhere off the coast of Africa,” he said.
“Okay we have a few days before we get there. We have to drop off and load cargo in a couple of places, before we get there I assume?” I asked.
“Yes two stops one here and one here,” he said pointing to a couple of places. I never heard of them and really wasn’t all that interested.
I had to wake The Brit. Since I had napped while I was in the hold, I wasn’t all that upset. He and I were in the worst shape.
“When you go topside tell the first officer you are going to test your rifle. Then fire a full clip through it. Let me know if anyone come to investigate. Fire it off the back,” I said.
“Right you are Sylvia,” he said as he passed me. I didn’t hear him when he fired it. I doubted anyone else did either. The ship was a noisy beast.
Two hours later I was pretty close to being asleep when The Brit woke me. The sun was up when I fired a clip through the AP4 to be sure it wouldn’t jam, if I needed it.
After eight hours Andrew and RC came up to the deck. They took over the watch but before we went back down The Brit, Andrew and I had a meeting. “So what are we going to do about pirates?” I asked.
“They know every ship is a potential shakedown victim, but we don’t know if every boat is a pirate. If it acts like a pirate, we send the boat to the bottom,” Andrew said.
“The captain should be able to tell us how the pirate ships maneuver. He has dealt with them before. If they get within a certain range we send the boat to the bottom with everyone on board. I would like to give them a warning. Is there a long range sniper rifle in that arms locker?”
“Yes, but none of us are sniper qualified,” The Brit said. “Not at the range necessary to warn them off without endangering us.”
“I figure we reach out and touch them and if they don’t turn a way we sink them when they get in range. We don’t wait for them to fire on us,” I suggested.
“Agreed. We put one round onto the bridge and then sink them,” Andrew agreed. “We hold a gun on the crew if necessary to make them leave the men in the water.”
“I hope it doesn’t come to that, but yes,” I agreed.
The next few days were the most boring of my life. We made the two stops before the pirate waters without incident. All that changed when we hit the Somalian waters. We were barely inside their territory, when a small launch came out to challenge us. Well that looked like his plan, since he headed right at us.
It just happened to be my turn on the Remington 700p tactical sniper rifle. I put a round into the boat. It got their attention since they turned their ass around.
“You know that they will send a bigger, better fortified boat next?” the First Mate said.
“Then I guess we will have to be ready,” I said. The Brit brought up a bunch of LAW missiles tubes.
It took the pirates about an hour to get a bigger boat headed our way. They were headed to us at full speed. “So does he act like that pirate ship we are expecting?” I asked the First Mate.
“If I had to guess, I would say yes. There is no other reason to close on us like that without a radio call.”
I nodded my understanding. “Then Brit you want to put a few rounds in the bridge?” I asked.
“My pleasures,” he said taking the Remington and resting it on the rail while sitting on a five gallon can. ‘He fired five rounds quickly. All five made sparks when they hit the metal bulkhead of the bridge. I watched through the spotter scope as the Somalians ducked for cover. I thought the Brit might have hit one of them. They decided not to turn away.
“Brit rake that deck and keep their heads down. They are about fifty meters from the effective range of the LAW. The Brit and Andrew both worked on keeping their head down until they had gained enough on us to be within range. “Don’t let them get a shot with their RPGs,” I said and fired the first LAW at them. It landed a little short.
“One more like that and I take the LAW and you shoot this thing,” The Brit promised.
“Just keep pouring it on. They will either turn away or go to the bottom,” I promised. “The next LAW had the distance, but was slightly wide. Even so it threw up a waterspout that looked a lot worse than it was. I fired another one before the ship had a chance to turn. That one landed on the forward deck and started a small fire. They decided they had enough. There had to be easier pickings than a little boat with a lot of firepower.
The encounter had lasted only thirty minutes, but seemed longer. “Next they will come with a small boat with an outboard motor. They will come tonight and try to get within range to fire their RPG,” the First Mate told me.
“Keep that radar on and let me know the second you get any blips on it. I mean anything,” I said.
We were almost out of range of the Somali coast when the small boat with three men in military uniforms came. “I’ll get them,” I said. Then I raked the boat with fire from the Remington. I wasn’t trying, but I hit their motor. They were dead in the water and I almost had to pull a gun on the First Mate to make him sail away and leave them there.
“I could have taken a LAW to that boat. They at least have a chance to call their friends,” I explained.
“They might have been fishermen?” the First Mate made it a question.
“Do you really think fishermen would have kept coming after I started to shoot at them?” He knew how silly he sounded and gave it up.
We docked in Tanzania and the harbormaster checked our papers. He made some noises, but I told the First Mate to say we had no idea what he was talking about period. We bluffed our way through the off loading of some cargo, then we slipped away from the dock, and on to the horn of Africa. The weather was shit, but we pulled through and stayed on schedule.
For some reason we off loaded the missiles at Cameroon. When they left the ship we really had nothing left to do. When the ship docked in morocco, we left the ship and worked our way back to the states.
When we got back to Capitol City I was exhausted. It was strange that the Colonel was there to greet us. “I thought you and Allen might like to head back home so I brought this,” he said as he handed us each an envelope. “I also wanted to say, that was an operation for the text books.”
I smiled, but I also headed out to the long term parking and The Brit’s Land Rover.
Edited by Walt