Strike from the Deep
A high-stakes piracy at sea thriller
This story is a work of fiction based on the real threat to today’s merchant shipping in the Indian Ocean that has been in the headlines for the last several years. Modern-day pirates operating out of bases in Somalia have taken many merchant ships and their crews and held them for ransom for millions of dollars. International naval ships are involved in the effort to protect shipping and defeat the pirates. USS Farragut is a modern Burke Class guided missile destroyer that has served in operations against Somali pirates, but this story is fiction.
The liquid natural gas tanker plowed through four-foot waves in the Indian Ocean east of Africa on a pitch-black moonless night. A light breeze blew through the open doors of the bridge as Second Mate Martin Renfro studied the ship’s current position on the GPS printout. Dressed in his khaki uniform shirt and trousers, the slender young British merchant marine officer plotted the position and time on the navigation chart. The LNG tanker was 350 miles off the east coast of Somalia, north of the Seychelles Islands. Using the parallel rulers, Martin drew a line from the ship’s position northeast to the Indian port of Mumbai, where the motor vessel (MV) Bangalore would deliver its cargo. Sliding the ruler to the center of the compass rose on the chart showed him that the new course was 038 degrees true.
After ordering the seaman to change the tanker’s course, Martin called the captain and the engineer on watch to report the new heading. He lit a cigarette and stared ahead into the darkness that framed the glow of the modern electronics equipment in the bridge. Colored radar images on the computer screens in the center of the bridge displayed the curves of the African coastline and islands, and the location of ships in the area. The solitude of the evening watch, with the crew asleep in their bunks, allowed him to think about his life on merchant ships and his experiences traveling to countries all over the world.
Suddenly he smelled the stench of sweat and sensed something close. Before he could react, his chin was jerked sideways as a powerful body wrapped around his shoulders, lifting him off his feet. His throat stung with the cut of a cold sharp knife, and an adrenaline rush in his mind said “Pirates!” How did they get aboard so quietly, this far out in the ocean? Desperately he tensed his body, and tried with all his strength to break the attacker’s grip.
“Don’t move at all!” roared in his ears as the man swung Martin around like a rag doll. When he tightened his muscles struggling, the growling deep voice shouted, “Stop!”
Feeling the warm blood dripping on his chest, Martin went limp, realizing that his life depended on it. Out of the corner of his left eye, he saw the seaman on watch shivering with a pistol barrel pressed against his right temple and a long curved knife held against his throat. A short barefoot black man wearing dark blue shorts, a green T-shirt, and a black head scarf held the weapons. The pirate’s fierce eyes glared, and a wolf-like voice threatened the seaman with words in a language Martin couldn’t understand.
Now, the only sounds he heard on the bridge were the hum and static of the Channel 16 marine radio, and the rushing water as the large tanker plowed through the powerful rolling waves. The bow of the huge vessel rose under his feet, but the burning feel of the sharp knife tight against his throat terrified Martin so much that he wasn’t sure he would see the sun rise. The second mate also knew that everyone else on the Bangalore was unaware of the masked intruders. He began to panic, since he knew that it would be easy for these men to capture or kill the rest of the crew in their sleep, if they had enough help and moved quickly.
He wanted desperately to break loose and set off the emergency alarm to warn the rest of the crew, but the searing pain from the cut on his throat made him quickly aware that if he did try to save his shipmates, he would die in a pool of blood right here. Suddenly behind him he heard the muffled sounds of many feet moving down the ladder from the bridge to the cabins and berthing compartments below. He knew that in minutes, it would be all over.
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