By Nigel Preece
"Atom sub Reaper to Augusta Base, now at 90 fathoms and steady. Course 328 mark 9 at 70 knots. Go."
"Augusta to Reaper, confirming A.L.S. is now five and nine. Go."
"Reaper to Augusta, thank you. Automatic Locator Signal transmitter fault diagnosed as a dry joint in PCB connection. Sorry about the delay in getting it fixed, what with that blip on the radar and all that. Aside from that, ship's status is as reported earlier at 1730. On course, will rendezvous with Atom Sub India at Providence sea dock in 3.5 hours. Go."
"Understood Reaper. If you get another reading like that blip you saw just now, report it straight away. Orders direct from Commodore Denver."
"You can assure the Commodore I will do just that. In fact if anything so much as sneezes, coughs, or breaks wind in that sea area, I will be on to you faster than you can say Crablogger. Reaper out."
Sam Shore sat back in his seat, stared ahead, and heaved a sigh.
"Jack Denver. A Commodore at 36. How the hell did he do it?" he muttered to himself. He turned to his colleague, seated at the helm station. "Dudley, where did I go wrong? Was it marrying Elizabeth? Was it joining the sub service? Was it getting friendly with someone as ugly as you?"
Dudley Holden, New Yorker with an attitude, turned to face his CO and friend, and smiled. A sarcastic smile you could call it, but a smile nonetheless.
"Haw, haw, Sam, very droll! I mighta known you'd bring me into dis soul searchin act of yours. Now you know it's not marrying Elizabeth. She's an absolute babe. I'm a sucker for that Scottish accent. As for joining da soyvice, well you could have stayed and joined yer family foim. What is it they do now, ah yes, sell temaydoes!, and as for the last remark about me. You think I got a face like the backside of one of dem Thundaboids that flies around lookin for folks ta rescue, yer should see Denver's missus, she's gotta face that could scare the devil. In other words Sam, quit griping. You'll get your big break, I promise ya, and I'll be around ta see it."
Shore chuckled to himself, and realised he was as usual being way, way too hard on himself.
After all he had just become a father for the first time.
He had a picture of her in his top pocket. He took it out and sat staring at it for a few moments.
"You gonna give her a moniker, Sam, or is she gonna spend the rest of her days known to da world and beyond as baby Shore? That's gonna look kinda stupid when she walks up to de alta on yer arm aged 25, or what have ya?"
"Uh, oh sorry Dudley." Sam was startled. He'd been lost in his thoughts as he looked at the photo of the infant. "As a matter of fact I've got news for you".
"What?" Holden asked.
"Atlanta. That's her name, Dudley. It's where she was conceived. Guess it made sense. Atlanta Elizabeth Shore. Elizabeth and I talked it over last night. I had a couple of minutes to myself so I called her on my cabin com-board. She's going to be baptised in Scotland, the McDonalds are a clan with whom you don't argue. The whole Shore family will be there."
"Where exactly will ‘there’ be?" Holden asked.
"A little place called Cromarty. It's on a stretch of land that juts out from Inverness called the Black Isle. I've been there a few times whenever Elizabeth took me to see her family. Did I ever tell you they all lived, all twelve of her brothers and sisters, in a cottage just a few miles down the road from Cromarty, called Resolis Mains? Goodness knows how they all fitted in the place. Yet they did, somehow. It was always an occasion to go there."
His attention was drawn by a small blip that suddenly appeared on the screen he was observing. The radar-screen showed the sub they were in heading towards the coast of Rhode Island from the mid-Atlantic, and on what appeared to be an intercept course was this blip. It's speed was nearly twice that of Reaper.
"Dudley, open a channel to Augusta, direct to Commodore Denver."
Holden flicked two switches, and at the same time, guessing that this blip had appeared again, tuned in his own radar-screen. He turned to face Shore.
"Someone farted," he deadpanned inquiringly.
"Smelt it a mile away. Its our little friend blippy the blip. Right," Shore replied, still looking at his monitor, "Alter course to 171 mark 12, and increase to 85 knots. Advise Commodore Denver at Augusta base of what we're doing."
The sub swung to a north-westerly course, and picked up speed. Back in the control cabin, Shore activated the main viewscreen.
"Throw a light out there," he called to Holden.
Holden did, but it made little difference. Before Shore's eyes was a misty blackness, misty with plankton and the odd roach, cod and sturgeon veering away from the light. Then suddenly, it cleared. He heard Holden finish talking on the line to their base. Denver supported their action. Good, Shore thought.
On the radar, the blip got closer, and quickly too, and Shore, realising it was deliberately heading toward them, took the cautious route.
"Dudley, I'm going to err on the side of caution. Arm the short range R.I.M.'s".
"Restrictive Impact Missiles armed and ready," Holden replied.
Suddenly, from out of the gloom, a small vessel appeared on the screen, heading toward them. It had a red hull, short stubby wings and an elevated tail fin that resembled one normally seen on a Fireflash. Shore noticed a rectangular observation port at the front, and could even make out the outline of a person.
From in front of the vessel, a small projectile emerged. It moved with speed and purpose, and it headed straight for the Reaper!
"EVASIVE!", Shore barked.
It was too late.
The two men felt the impact. The ship was thrown on it's side. Both Holden and Shore were thrown from their seats. As Holden was thrown, his console erupted in an explosion of sparks.
Shore got up; he was shaken, but OK.
Holden remained on the floor.
Shore noticed, amid the smoke that now almost filled the control cabin, that the viewscreen was still working, it showed the red vessel leaving the area, disappearing into the gloom. He tried to engage the main motors and begin pursuit of their enemy.
The missiles, now armed, did not respond either.
Likewise the radio.
All that was working was the air purifier – which Shore activated, clearing the smoke – and the emergency beacon.
Shore felt the sub come to a rest on the bottom. He let out the beacon, on a buoy. Thankfully the impact was not too hard. The waters were not too deep either, and this would help. Shore counted his blessings; the sub, despite the impact, was not taking on water. In any section.
He moved over to where Holden lay.
His colleague was still, and Shore assumed he had been knocked out. He turned him on his back, and saw that his eyes were open, and that he was conscious.
There was blood pouring out from a wound just below where the heart was.
Holden was in a bad way. He had already lost loads of blood, and Shore was stunned at seeing his friend, his face white, in such a state.
Holden opened his mouth to speak, his face trembling, and wincing in pain.
"Sam," he whispered, "this is curtains. There's a tiny fragment from that console embedded in my chest, the explosion did it." His face screwed up in agony. "I'm gonna bleed to death before you can do anything. I'm sorry Sam, I guess I'm not gonna get to see that daughter of yours after all."
"Quiet, you dunder-head," Shore replied.
"No Sam," Holden interrupted. "This is it." He drew breath. "I want you to promise me something. My son Bradley, he's only ten. You know he wants to join the sub service. Well, you have gotta let him. In fact you must not let anything stop him from doing this. He must not be held back. He'll take any challenges life throws at him. The water world is his life. He loves the sea. Do you understand, Sam?"
Sam Shore nodded; for once he found he could not speak, as tears began to well in his eyes. Fighting them he gave his friend of twenty years a direct order.
"Dudley, don't you dare give up on me now!" He paused and unbuttoned his jacket, and rolled it up into a makeshift cushion. He turned his gaze away from his friend as he did this. Once the jacket was rolled up, Shore crouched down to place it under Holden's head. Once again he looked down at his colleague.
Holden looked back at him.
Looking back with unseeing, lifeless eyes.
Samuel Arthur Shore wept, for a friend, and for his son.
"Tower from Stingray, Tower from Stingray. Captain Holden reporting. Patrol complete, heading on course 619 mark 2 for Marineville, at rate six."
"Stingray from Tower. OK Brad. Burn up the knots, will ya? We've got a whole bunch of the staff ready to throw that party for your hydrophone operator, before he takes command of Thornback. So get a move on."
"PWOR, Commander Shore. We will be with you in about 70 minutes at our present speed."
Bradley Holden, captain of the World Aquanaut Security Patrol vessel Stingray, turned to his comrade and good friend Melvin Byrne, now a Captain in his own right, and due to take up his new command on Stingray's sister ship, the Thornback in two weeks, after a spell of leave to see his son Barry. Melvin was for once quiet, and Bradley was unsure what the reason was for this silence.
"You OK, Mel?" Holden asked.
"Oh sure Brad. Sorry," the blond-haired officer replied. "Guess this is it. The last time we'll be together on this paddle steamer. Three years, and it doesn't seem no more than five minutes."
He heaved a big sigh.
"I'm gonna miss this place. This was the first Manta-Ray class vessel built, we were the first crew. It's been such a honour. I'm really gonna miss this boat. Now I know it's exactly the same on Thornback, as well as the Barracuda, and the Spearfish, but it's just not gonna be the same without you and your sarcasm, wit, temper, and apetite for the opposite sex."
Holden smiled and found that, for once, he could not think of an apt reply. He did however offer something akin to praise in its own subtle way.
"I just hope your replacement, what's his name, Sheridan, is as good as they say he is."
In the Control Tower at Marineville, Commander Shore turned to his daughter Atlanta, recently promoted to Head of Communications at the WASP base. She was in civvies and about to go out for the night.
"Now, Atlanta, if Lieutenant Tempest gets any ideas below the plimpsol line, or above the conning tower, just let me know and I'll have him packed off to the tracking station and busted down to janitor."
He puffed out a huge chunk of smoke from his cigar - only Sam Shore could get away with smoking in the Tower - and waited for his daughter’s reply.
Atlanta simply smiled, shook her head, and went out. "Goodnight, Dad. Troy will be a perfect gentleman, as he is always."
The young lady exited without giving her father a chance to reply. Deep down, Shore knew Tempest would be just the perfect gent his daughter said he was.
He sat back in his hoverchair, and looked out of the window. 19:45 hours, Stingray would be back at 21:00 or just before, and the bash with the lads could begin. He would enjoy the quiet until then.
The quiet, though, lasted just a few moments.
"Attention, Attention, Marineville tracking station calling, un-identified surface vessel approaching Marineville coastline, heading 128 mark 9, Speed 90 knots."
"Ninety knots!" Shore could barely contain his surprise. "OK Tracking station, keep an eye on that thing".
"Will do, commander," came the reply. Then after a pause, "Tower from tracking station, vessel has submerged, and its speed is increasing. It was showing 120 knots on scanner, but we've lost it now. Sorry, sir."
Shore let out a huff of smoke, maneuvered his chair toward the console, and checked for the nearest patrol vessel.
"Murphy’s Law", he uttered. "Bradley."
Melvyn Byrne touched his earphone.
"Hey, Brad, I'm picking up a sounding. Wow! This thing is moving, whatever it is, green 120, bearing 342 mark 7."
"What is its speed, Mel?"
"It's going at a fair belt, reckon about rate 5 equivalent."
"Rate 5, bet it's the Navy, probably doing their best to get in our way again and muscle in on our territory. What course?"
"Interception course, its echo is getting louder. But there are no Navy exercises planned for this region for at least the next six months. This smells."
"Stingray from Tower, this is Commander Shore."
"Go ahead, commander, Bradley Holden speaking."
"Captain, I want you and Captain Byrne to investigate a vessel..."
"Sorry to interrupt, sir, but we're on the case already, it's heading our way, we should have a visual in about five minutes."
"OK captain, keep me posted. Something does not add up with this. Take care, and good luck." Shore closed the line, knowing full well that his top twosome were more than capable of dealing with a problem such as this, without the commander snooping and poking his nose in.
Holden looked ahead, expecting to see for himself what all the fuss was about. The gloomy waters ahead for the moment hid their mystery vessel, then slowly and with apparent purpose, the object that had appeared on the scanner at the tracking station, came into view. It had a red hull, short stubby wings, and an elevated tail that resembled one normally seen on an old Fireflash.
Holden froze. He was aware that next to him, Byrne was already preparing a sting missile in case things got out of hand.
From the front of the craft, a projectile emerged, a torpedo that was so fast in its movement that the crew of the WASP sub had little chance to even grab their controls and try to avoid its impact.
It slammed into the belly of the craft.
Byrne's console blew.
It threw the hydrophone operator back, over the railings, and onto the floor below.
Death was instantaneous.
The craft had been tossed on its side, and was slowly heading down to the bottom. Holden, unaware of the fate that had befell his friend and colleague, was slammed against the port bulkhead.
He drifted into oblivion.
"Stingray from Tower. Stingray from Tower."
Sam Shore had been joined in the Tower by the duty officer for the evening. Sub-Lieutenant George Sheridan was due to take up his post on the WASP flagship sub in just a fortnight, and he was rightly concerned as his commanding officer tried again and again to establish contact with Holden and Byrne.
"Come in, Captain Holden, Vice-Captain Byrne. Please respond, either of you. Please."
"Barrakewda can be in the area in thirty-nine minutes Commainder," Sheridan, checking the positions of the other WASP vessels, reported in his thick southern drawl.
"Signal the Barracuda, Sheridan, tell them to make for Stingray's last reported position, and fast."
"Barrakewda from Marineville, are yer theya, Cap'n Belmont?"
"This is Barracuda, Captain Belmont speaking."
"Cap'n, an emergency situation has arisen, in position south south-west, 1900, reference 12. Stingray was investigatin' a sub that was heading on an innercep coarse. No word has been received for over forty minutes now. The craft should have rendezvoused with Stingray thirty-five minutes ago. We have ter suspect theya's trouble"
Everything was a blur.
The room in general, and even his hand in front of him. All a blur.
That went especially for the figure that was standing in the corner. This figure appeared to be dressed in black. Probably a wet suit, he thought. Now that the figure saw he was waking up from his slumber, he walked over to where Bradley Holden was lying, and leaned forward.
"Captain Holden, forgive me. Sorry to have given you such a headache."
A Latin accent, Spanish-sounding perhaps, Holden thought. Whoever this person was, he had dragged the Stingray captain down to the lower deck corridor, and on to the stores room at the rear of the sub, while he had been out cold.
"No, my friend, I won't forgive you," he replied, still breathless from the shock to his system of being flattened against his own viewport. His vision now was clear, and he could make out a dark-haired man, with a mustache, still wearing his facemask over his eyes, and with a harpoon in his right hand. He moved to get up.
"Stay put. Stay right on the floor. Now listen to me and listen good." He pointed his weapon at Holden's head, and spoke in a very calm and restrained manner.
"For a number of years we have tried to access information on the latest submarine technology. We have noticed you now have these super subs patrolling the Pacific and the Atlantic too. Making the seas safe for people to travel in and work in. Not exactly what we want. With the oceans of the world such thriving communities, crime is surely going to flourish, given the right circumstances. That is, if you leave us alone. Which of course you are not about to do. So we have to see how good your craft are, learn about them, seek weaknesses and then attempt to take them out".
"Where is Byrne?" Holden interrupted.
"Dead," the assailant replied, without batting an eyelid.
"YOU BASTARD!" Holden shouted back at his captor. Who still did not so much as blink. The Stingray captain felt sick at the pit of his stomach. He and Melvyn Byrne were friends. Not just colleagues who happened to get on well, but damn good friends. Such relationships were few and far between, and there were times when their closeness reminded Bradley of his father’s friendship with Sam Shore, during their guard patrol sub days on the Atom Submarine Reaper.
Now Holden knew how Shore had felt, and it hurt. He thought about Melvyn's little lad Barry. He was already without a mother.
Now he was an orphan.
The boy was only six years old. Younger than Bradley had been when he lost his dad. Even at this point, his mind raced back to the day he saw the men bring his father's body back to the family home in Illinois. Shore had accompanied Dudley Holden's body all the way back from the area where the attack had taken place, to the Sub pen at Providence, Rhode Island, just down the east coast from Augusta Base in the state of Maine, and then on to home, and rest, and the grief that would follow.
The grief and the pain.
As it was then, so it was now.
The pain would not go away unless the creature responsible was made to pay for this.
Yet Holden could do nothing. His captor held all the aces, but could not be allowed to get away with this butchery.
Suddenly he noticed something behind where the harpoon-bearing thug stood. He had forgotten that the ship was slightly at an angle, resting on some rocks. Once or twice already he had felt the craft ever so slightly rock.
Clearly they were not on a smooth part of the sea bed.
Behind the assailant were some shelves.
Three all in all. Stacked with various items. Books, clothing, dining utencils, even a small firearm. Not much use to Holden in the current shape of things.
Also on the middle shelf was a glass tumbler. On its side, and presently still.
A chance had presented itself.
"You expect me to tell you everything about this sub?" Holden asked. "It will cost you, but if you spare me, I'll keep quiet."
"That's you price, eh?" the thug replied.
"Yep." Holden's answer was sure, and sound.
He thought long and hard about the WASP man’s offer. He stood before him, still pointing the harpoon at the captain.
"Get up!" he barked.
Now he had his chance.
"Barrakewda repoarts it will be in Stingray's last repoarted position in twenny minnuts, commainder".
The southern twang of George Sheridan pierced the silence in the Tower. Shore had been "pacing" the floor in his hoverchair, for well over fifteen minutes.
His mind racing.
He kept thinking to himself, "What the hell has this family done to deserve this?"
He thought of Bradley's father, Dudley, lying there on the floor of the operations deck on the Reaper, twenty-one years ago. Bad enough Samantha Holden had lost her husband of seventeen years that day, now maybe her only child Bradley too.
Yet, everything about the loss of radio contact seemed wrong. He considered himself to have lost a lot in his life. First his wife, then only three years ago, the use of his legs was taken from him; but he had been blessed with a lovely daughter. She had been his only reason for carrying on after the terrible death of Elizabeth.
Yet by the end of tonight, Sam thought, another Sam, Samantha Holden, would have even less in her life to live for.
Holden felt a cramp in his left leg.
It would be a moment before he could straighten it.
Once straight, he stood, his legs slightly apart, and he eyed the invader.
"OK captain, you know the score, now don't try anything stupid." He motioned Bradley, with his weapon, toward the engine section of the craft, looking him in the eye as he did it.
Directly in the WASP man's line of sight, as the man in the mask looked at him, was the shelving, and the glass, still on its side.
He put his left foot forward, slowly.
His right foot then collapsed from under him, and he fell back against the wall behind him, throwing all his weight on to his side.
"GET UP, GET UP, GET UP!!!" the invader yelled.
Holden felt the boat rock, he hoped that the assailant would be too wound up to notice the motion of the boat.
The boat tilted.
Out of the corner of his eye, Holden saw, as he was getting up, the glass roll off the shelf.
It smashed into a dozen pieces.
The invader turned to see where the noise had come from.
What he saw was a carpet of broken glass behind him.
What he did not see was the front toe-end of Stingray captain Bradley Holden's left boot, impacting on his stomach.
The captor was now, being assailed upon himself. He fell to the floor, flat on his back, writhing in pain.
Holden saw that he had let go of the harpoon; he leaned over and grabbed it.
He pointed it at his prisoner.
"Now you are gonna do things my way," Holden said, his anger returning as he still tried to come to terms with the death of his friend. Breathing heavily and quickly, and with beads of sweat dripping from his brow, he set out his stall.
"Talk, you bastard, and I'll spare you. It's as simple as that. Are we in business?"
The man on the floor responded, heedless of his agony. "I doubt whether you would have it in your guts to point that thing at me and fire it."
"Never assume," Holden responded. "Now get up and go to the top deck. Keep your hands where I can see them, don't try anything. Don't even breathe."
The man got up, Holden pointed to the staircase that led to the top deck and the control room.
"Name," Holden demanded as they walked.
"Morales. Francisco Morales. That vessel outside is my ship, the Vattis." He pointed to the front viewport as they walked up the stairs.
Holden turned to look out of the giant window.
There the strange red ship stood, apparently un-occupied, at least that's what Holden was hoping to confirm. He faced Morales again.
"That crate empty?" he asked.
"Yes, unfortunately," Morales replied.
"Over there," Morales said, as he pointed, and Holden looked down to the front of the lower deck. Focused as he had been on apprehending his prisoner, he had failed to notice the dead body of Melvyn Byrne. Lying, crumpled where he fell.
"Get over there now and carry his body to his quarters!" Holden barked. He was determined that his fallen comrade would have at least his dignity, albeit in death, restored, and restored by the man who had taken his life.
Morales obliged, not that he had any other alternative, and in a matter of minutes Byrne's body was lying in his bunk bed, a sheet over his head, his dignity, if not his life, restored. Holden then threw Morales in the brig.
This done Holden went back to the cabin of his dead friend, closed the door, and paid his respects in silence. Muttering a prayer in his head. As tears began to well in his eyes, his thoughts turned to Melvyn's little infant son.
Young Barry was not yet ten years old, but already he was without a mother. Poor Rosemary had been killed in a car crash when Barry was less than a year old.
He had never known her.
Now his memories of his father would be confined to just a small handful of moments from his childhood.
"How the hell can you tell a lad he had lost his dad?" Holden asked out loud, still looking down at Melvyn's body.
His mind then raced back to a similar moment many years earlier.
For Sam Shore it was just about the most painful thing he'd had to do in his military career to date. Holden knew from listening to Shore on that fateful evening that it was no easy task. Yet it would be his responsibility.
His peace was shattered by the radio.
"Stingray from Barracuda. Come in, captain Holden."
Holden raced up the stairs, sat in the pilot’s seat, and opened the mike at his side.
"This is Stingray, captain Holden speaking. Glad to hear you, captain Belmont. I wish the circumstances were better, though. I'm afraid I've got some distressing news for you all. Captain Melvyn Byrne has been killed. He died as we were attacked by the vessel you should see opposite me as you come in. The person who committed this attack has been captured."
There was silence.
In Barracuda's control room, Captain Belmont, and his colleague Lieutenant Bishop stared at each other in disbelief. They had both known Melvyn for a number of years.
They then removed their caps.
"Gentlemen," Holden said over the radio, "let's go home".
The Tower was a solemn place to be.
Sam Shore had recalled the staff, most of whom were preparing to go to a party to celebrate Byrne's assignment to his own ship and his own command.
Now they had to deal with the terrible news that faced them.
Shore had already made his way down to pen four. Barracuda was towing the attack vessel and Stingray, and was due in its pen in less than a minute.
"Commainder Shore from Tower, Barrakewda now aproachin' ocean dowar."
"OK Sheridan, loose 'em in," Shore sighed.
As he waited, a detail of four security guards filed in, bringing with them a empty coffin. They were followed in by the base padre, Father Bell; he took his place at the end of the coffin.
The sight made Shore nauseous, and angry.
"I never got the guy who killed Dudley Holden all those years ago," he muttered to himself through gritted teeth. "At least, we have the bastard who made young Barry an orphan,", he continued. "I'll make him PAY for this".
Shore looked down at the water in front of him; he saw the inner doors open up. First in was Barracuda, followed by Stingray, then the Vattis slowly passed through the door.
Shore could make out the red hull of the ship as the doors closed.
Suddenly, his mind began to race. There was something familiar about the colour of the vessel.
All three ships surfaced.
Shore's cigar fell out, and into the water.
Suddenly in his mind's eye he was not in the Barracuda's pen, but in the control cabin of the Reaper.
It was as though twenty-one years had passed in twenty-one minutes.
"Are you OK, Father?"
Shore jumped, almost out of his chair, despite his handicap, as he felt the hand of his daughter touch his shoulder. He was suddenly back in pen four.
He looked up at his daughter.
"I'm fine, Atlanta, honey. Just fine."
He forced a smile; if nothing else, it was just to help fight the tears.
There would be more than one person he was going to give news to today; and for both of them, it would be in regard to the death of their fathers.
The Interrogation room was lit only by the tiny light, hanging from the centre of the ceiling. No shade. Crude.
Designed to make a person feel intimidated.
Morales was seated at one side of the table, a security officer behind him. On the other side sat Shore, together with Holden, looking a little the worse for wear, but determined to be present when the investigation began.
Shore got straight to the point.
"Who do you represent, Morales?"
Morales leaned back in his chair, as though not bothered by his predicament. "Our organisation is not going to be identified by the likes of me; suffice to say we have a vested interest in the seas being rid of subs. This way we can clean up. I'm not going to give any of this information. You cannot buy me," he grinned at Shore.
Shore's top lip curled, but he was beaten to the punch by Holden who had got up out of his chair, and had leaned across the table, anger written on his face.
"A lad aged just a handful of years has lost his father. Give me one good reason why I should not take out one of our subs, and submerge it with you still on the outside, eh?"
"You wouldn't dare," Morales said, appearing confident that he could escape with just a prison term.
Shore, looking on, though, was about to give in; he probably could not get Morales put before a firing squad on one murder alone, but two, or more? Here was his chance.
"How long have you people been out terrorising our subs?"
"The Vattis has been out in the sea for thirty years, trying to preserve the ocean for our little firm." Another grin came, another curled lip appeared in response from Shore.
The commander continued, "On July 14th 2043, the Atom Sub Reaper was attacked. She was sailing in deep north Atlantic waters, some five hundred-fifty miles off the coast of Maine. She was attacked by an unknown craft. One not seen by anyone before. The assault was totally unprovoked, and it cost the life of my subordinate."
Holden, still on his feet, turned and looked at Shore straight in the face. His mouth slightly open. Shore did not so much as blink. He continued.
"The vessel that opened fire on it matched the one we brought into the pen last night. I should know…" He leaned forward, another cigar protruding from his mouth, a puff of smoke coming from it and going full in the face of the prisoner. Shore took out the cigar. "I was there Morales!" Still the eyes didn't blink. Another puff followed.
"Were you, Morales, were you?" Shore continued.
Holden stared at the floor.
An old deep wound was being re-opened, or were their bandages simply being removed?
Removed to uncover a cut so deep, and so wide, that it had never been fully closed in the first place. Twenty-one years of pain and suffering were being re-visited. Holden’s stomach turned as he began to realise that the man on the seat opposite him could be someone he vowed to get so many years ago.
Suddenly Bradley Holden was in the cemetery. It was a hot July morning. The minister had read out the last verse, the coffin was already in the ground.
He could see Sam Shore, crouching before the side of the plot, his wife, Elizabeth, was standing a few yards away, consoling Bradley's mother Samantha. Shore spoke loud enough for Brad to hear.
"I'll find the bastard who did this, if it takes me forty years, I'll find him. I won't stop, Dudley. I promise."
Shore was not about to stop; he was aware Holden was staring at him, but there was no way he was going to stop, not now not never.
"You were there weren't you?" Shore said.
Morales simply stared back.
Holden walked away, toward the security guard.
"Weren't you?" Shore repeated.
Morales smirked back at Shore. Holden was now alongside the security guard, staring ahead, blankly.
"WEREN'T YOU?" Shore barked.
Morales, still smirking nodded, "I was, yes"
It took Bradley Holden a mere half second to reach down and grab the security guard's gun from its belt.
It took Bradley Holden another half second to swipe the barrel of the gun across the face of the guard, incapacitating him at a stroke.
It took Bradley Holden just another half second after that to level the firearm at the back of Morales.
The Stingray captain yelled at the top of his voice, "AND THE MAN WHO YOU KILLED WAS MY FATHER. THIS IS FOR HIM, AND FOR MELVYN BYRNE, AND HIS SON BARRY!"
With tears streaming down his face, he discharged the gun.
Morales by this time had turned around. Sufficiently to see the face of the man who was about to extract revenge for the bereavement of two men, and many others perhaps.
Others known only to Francisco Morales. Facts that he would take to the grave with him.
He fell back, arms outstretched, flat on to the table. The bullet had hit him right between the eyes.
Holden summoned the outside guard.
". . . We commit his body to the deep, to be turned into corruption, ready for the resurrection of the body, when the sea shall give up her dead."
The body of Melvyn Byrne was lifted on its slab. It slid down off it and into the still, calm waters of the Pacific.
The guns fired three times.
A young lad looked on from the side, still unable to take in the magnitude of what was going on. Next to him stood Bradley Holden. His hands still in handcuffs after being placed under arrest for the unlawful killing of a prisoner in custody. Alongside him was Shore. His face a picture of sadness.
Sadness at the loss of two fine men. One having been killed, the other having killed.
Stingray turned for home.
Less than thirty minutes later, the sub was back in its pen, number three. Its two newly appointed operators George Sheridan, and Troy Tempest, now promoted to captain in the wake of these events, rose up in their chairs to the injector lounge.
The others filed out by the walkway from the side of the craft onto the in-pen jetty in pen three.
Holden was last to leave her. He took one last look at her before he was led away by the MPs.
As he resumed his walk along the jetty, he saw at the exit from the pen to the elevator shaft, a tall, grey haired man. Dressed in a black overcoat. Next to him stood a slightly smaller with dark hair, also in a black overcoat. They were talking to Shore.
As Holden neared the trio, Shore held his hand up so as to stop the MPs from walking any further.
"OK, Corporal, you can release Captain Holden, I'll take it from here."
The two MPs looked at each other in surprise.
"Do you both have a hearing problem, gentlemen?"
"No sir," they replied in unison, and they unfastened the cuffs.
Once done, Shore dismissed them, and tuned to face Holden.
"Now, Bradley I want to introduce you to these two men. For security reasons they cannot be identified by their real names. On the left is Mr. White, and on the right Mr. Black."
Holden nodded in their direction.
"Would you two gentlemen excuse us please for a moment?" Shore asked.
"Yes of course," said Mr. White. "We'll be outside in the main concourse."
They both exited, the door closed.
Shore turned to Bradley and continued, "Brad, I'm now officially dismissing you from the World Aquanaut Security Patrol. As of tomorrow you are under the jurisdiction of these two men. I'm not allowed to know what it is they intend to do with you as the orders I received this morning came direct from the office of the World President no less. I was told that your release would mean that your charges would be dropped. Apparently, you are just the sort of person they are looking for. Despite the events of the past seven days, they are quite keen on you. It would appear they are prepared to forget what happened. They put it down to personal issues and not professional ones. Your record in the service apart from this episode is exemplary. I told them there was no chance of a repeat of what we have been through. I was given power of veto of this transfer by the President’s office, but I also remembered something I said to a friend of mine a few years ago."
Holden looked on in stunned silence.
"I made him a promise that I would not stand in the way of his son making a career out of his chosen field, and that when the chance came for him to better himself, I'd give him that chance."
"If I'd stayed here, I would have ended up in the clink for goodness knows how many years," Holden responded.
"No Brad. I got word from World Security Council HQ in Washington just a few minutes before we came out. The tribunal would, because of mitigating circumstances, have simply demoted you to Lieutenant, and let you carry on. You would have got back your captaincy in next to no time. I would have seen to that myself."
Bradley Holden could not help but smile.
"I don't quite know what to say, sir, other than thank you."
Shore held out a hand. "Thank you, Bradley. Your father can rest in peace now. Promises made, and promises kept".
The helijet slowly lost height, and began its decent to the airfield. As it touched down, the doors of an aircraft hanger began to open, wide enough for a familiar figure to walk through.
Bradley Holden emerged from the aircraft. He walked over and greeted Mr. White as the craft slowly rose up and away.
The grey-haired man got down to business as they walked side by side back to the hanger.
"Welcome to rendezvous point Echo, Holden. As of now your rank is officially designated as Captain. As your commanding officer, I will hold the rank of Colonel. Colonel White. Your colour code will be Grey."
"Thank you, sir," Holden responded. "There are just two questions before we begin. You have told me that we will be working flat out for at least two years just to get this organisation up and running. Why?"
"Security. The fewer people know of our activities at this time, the better. Therefore it seemed best that those who will be running the agency should be those who set it up in the first place. Better that than have a group of World Government mandarins set everything up, and then wander off with all out secrets known to them. What was your other question?"
"Oh, this is trivial by comparison sir, but I'll ask it anyway, as it's still an obvious one. What is our organisation going to be called?"
"Spectrum, Captain Grey."
Colonel White smiled.
Some inspired events and characters Copyright © of all trademarks materials (Captain Scarlet & the Mysterons, Stingray, Thunderbirds, and all characters, vehicles, crafts, etc.), owned by ITC/Polygram/Carlton. Information of the series are all been taken from copyright © materials (books, magazines, videos, T.V. media, comics, etc) owned by ITC/Polygram/Carlton.
Any comments? Send an E-MAIL to the SPECTRUM HEADQUARTERS site.