Footprints in the Sea 23 and 24

Footprints In The Sea – Chapters 23 and 24

By Frances Penwiddy

Copyright © Frances Penwiddy 2015

Footprints in the sea is a work of fiction and any similarity to persons living or dead is coincidental.

This novel is not considered suitable material for minors and is rated X

I suggest you read Footprints In The Sea in chapter order so if you haven’t read the previous chapters, please do so.

Action Stations! Pacific Wanderer goes to war and Charlotte is shot in a fire fight!

23

Gwyneth wasn’t in the saloon but sparks was so I stopped at his table where he was talking to one of the engineers, “The captain is standing by the radio and sub lieutenant Andrews has the bridge, I’ll be back in five minutes, I have to go to my cabin for a minute or two and will be back to make coffee, the captain says for you to stay here until he stands you down, okay.”
He nodded and I went to my cabin and was greeted by Will in the passageway, “Come back to the cabin for a minute,” I said taking his hand.
“Only for a minute?”
“Yes, we don’t have the time to have fun, I need to speak to you urgently.”
He didn’t argue until I told him what was happening and what I intended to do if it became necessary and then he did argue but I stopped him, “Will that motor cruiser is fast enough to outrun Aurora and the cargo she may be carrying is going to kill a lot of people eventually, heroine and crack do that and when it isn’t killing people, it’s otherwise ruining lives, young lives, it’s our duty to do something.”
“But Andy is going to override you and he can legally.”
“That’s why I need you to back me and do as I ask. Will you, please.”
He looked at me for a moment and then said, “If you promise to wear the gun, I’ll back you, otherwise no, I’m not prepared to sacrifice you.”
I wrapped my arms around him and hugged tight, “It’s only a premonition I have and probably won’t be necessary but either way, when it’s over I’ll come in here with you and not leave until we reach Auckland.”
He smiled, “Just wear that gun. Now I have promised to spell somebody in the engine room, you’d better get back to the bridge and Charlotte, be careful, very careful, I love you.”

When I got back to the bridge with a tray full of hot coffee and sandwiches I was made very welcome and that coupled with Will’s last words to me in our cabin gave my self-confidence a boost and I went straight into the radio shack, “I’ll take the radio again and you can stand Sparks down if you wish. Were there any calls?”
“Only various men asking for you, I told them to be patient, you would be in Auckland in a few days. I’ll have my coffee on the bridge, call me if any messages come through from Auckland, Aurora or the AWAC.”
“Aye, aye, Cap’n.”
There were three transmissions from Aurora, two to Auckland, one to the AWAK so at least they were in contact themselves now and the last from Maritime Five who reported they were airborne and they too were watching the suspect boat whilst flying towards us. I responded to that one after they finished speaking to Aurora and let them know we were still following our pre-arranged course and went out to tell Andy. “Any messages for us specifically?”
“Only that the target was still on the same course and speed and had also ignored them when they tried to call it up. Isn’t that a bit silly, ignoring everybody just raises suspicions?”
“I suspect they may respond eventually when they get closer to New Zealand and claim their equipment was malfunctioning in the hope we believe them because of the activity in the ionosphere.”
“You think they’re making for New Zealand then?”
“Nowhere else to go unless they plan to try and dodge round and head for Indonesia or Australia. If their cargo is drugs or arms they will want to get rid of it as quickly as possible and there are plenty of places to land it unobserved along the New Zealand coast. If I was them, I would head for the coast and go in close to try confuse radar or airborne observation and then land their cargo or switch it to another boat, a fishing vessel probably and then head back and if they are challenged then they can use any number of excuses to conceal their true activity. They know we have to be sure they are carrying narcotics before we take action and once they dump the cargo, we won’t be able to do that. Did Aurora give her position?”
“Yes, I have it here,” I followed him into the chart room and watched as he checked Aurora against the chart.
“She’s shifting herself,” he said with a touch of pride, twenty eight knots, she’ll have them in eyeball range before long.”
“Assuming they don’t detect her presence and change course to avoid her.”
“We’ll know that from the aircraft watching, they can’t hide from them unless they conceal themselves amongst a load of other ships.”
“Which means that logically, if they do try to avoid Aurora, they will turn north, there’s a lot more islands and traffic up there.”
“Exactly,” Andy agreed and was making measurements along a number of north and north westerly courses and shook his head, “She’ll have a good turn of speed and will lose Aurora so we’re going to have to rely on the AWAC and Maritime Five.”
“If it was me, I’d turn more to the south,” I said, “They will know we won’t be expecting that and will reckon to lose themselves on the coast of South Island before we can nab them.”
Andy looked at me and pondered my reasoning. “I think you have a good point, I might be tempted to do the same in their situation. Can you try and get the Inshore Patrol Vessel at the island, her name is Ferret, just a tick,” he wrote down the details and gave it to me, “Tell them I want to speak to them, don’t give details. Ask them to listen out and then get hold of Aurora for me, I want to ask Harry Fellows to ask them to patrol towards South Island.”
“Will she have enough fuel after coming down to us from Auckland.”
“She was refuelled out of Aurora before we left, Aurora only needed enough to get back to Auckland with a little to spare for emergencies like this one.”
I went back into the radio shack and called up Ferret and got an immediate response and then Aurora and asked their radio operators to call their captains for a radio conference then called Andy and gave him the head set and left him to it, I wanted another coffee. On the way down to the saloon a thought struck me, if that mysterious boat did turn south and managed to evade Aurora there would only be Ferret and Pacific Wanderer between her and the north side of my island and if Ferret had to go on a patrol then there was only Wanderer and Wanderer wasn’t armed and the mystery cruiser would almost certainly be carrying some sort of automatic weapons, perhaps a surface to surface hand held missile launcher as well, the pirates operating in the Indian Ocean carried them as a matter of course. I didn’t want to run back to the bridge and discuss my concerns with Andy so I carried on down the stairs to the engine room and found one of the crew, “Have you seen Will Devonshire?”
“He’s over by the control panels, Miss Broughton.”
I found him, “Will have you got a minute for something urgent?”
“In our cabin?”
“You’ve got a one track mind, no here will do,” and then I told him the latest news and about Andy’s concern that the cruiser might turn towards us. “We can’t rely on Orca because by the time they disconnect the cables they have running to shore, call their crews in and get the anchors up and move round to the north side, anything the cruiser wanted to do would be done and it would be too late.”
“What are you suggesting?”
“The PO in charge of the team getting the cargo sorted out told me we have machine guns on board and rifles and stuff. You carry the rank, can you ask them to get them ready in case we need them in a hurry?”
“I’ll do it straight away and when you get back to the bridge, let Andy know, I’ll have the guns brought up to the saloon with the ammo.”
I kissed him, wriggled a little bit in his arms and then returned to the saloon.
It was the second time that morning that I carried a tray of coffee things onto the bridge, it was about time I roped the other girls in. I plonked the tray down and said help yourselves, poured a cup for Andy and took it into the radio shack. Fresh and homemade I told him putting it on the radio bench, “Is there any news?”
“Yes, Harry has gone along with your guess that they might turn towards us but we’re out of it again. If the cruiser gets past Aurora, Ferret will go out after it and we have to hi-tail it for Auckland and stay out of it.”
I didn’t say anything, I had expected that would be Harry’s orders, he simply couldn’t give orders that might put civilians and a civilian owned ship in jeopardy if he had an alternative and running was the only alternative other than the one I had in mind. “Of course there is the risk that they may ignore Ferret and come after us if for no other reason than distracting Ferret and Aurora so just in case, I have told Will of the machine guns in the hold and he has said he will fetch them up to the saloon so they are handy if the bandits do come for us.”
Andy looked at me suspiciously and then nodded his head slowly, “A good idea and there’s another thing, if they do come, I want you ladies to be ready to defend yourselves so I am going to have hand guns issued to you and you will wear them until I give orders to the contrary.”
I shrugged, “I don’t mind if it will make you feel easier but Emma, Gwyneth and David will be on standby in the sickbay so they aren’t allowed to carry arms under the Geneva convention.”
“We are not at war, we will be carrying out a police action and attempting to arrest perpetrators of a crime.”
“Then you might be charged with police brutality.”
“Do you have an answer for everything?”
“Of course, I’m a commander in the RNVR. Now Captain Bligh do you want me on the radio or shall I go and get the civilian auxiliaries sorted out?”
“Sort out the civilians but let me get Pemberton up here first.”
When Pemberton arrived I handed over the set and made my entry in the radio log and briefed him on the story so far, “If you need help and the captain’s busy I will be somewhere on the saloon deck, okay. It’s getting exciting so don’t hog all the fun to yourself.”
I went back on to the bridge, “Andy if you want to arm the civilians so that they can defend themselves, shouldn’t they have some rudimentary training in case they blow their own heads off?”
Andy sighed, “Sub, in view of the unusual circumstances we are going to have to arm those civilians who agree to it, will you go down and give them instruction on side arms and under no circumstances, no matter what happens, not even if we are sinking is Commander Broughton to be given a sub-machine gun.”
“Aye, aye sir.”
“I have the bridge, get on with it, both of you.”
“What have you done to upset him, he’s very tetchy,” I whispered once we were going down the stairs.
“It wasn’t me, it was you,” Martin replied looking at me as if I was trying to lay the blame for the captain’s anger on him.
I shrugged, “Men can be so touchy at times, I’ll bake him a cake if we have time.”
Martin grinned, “I’d love to watch you give it to him.”
When we got to the saloon is was empty bar Gary who was at the stewards table tidying away the table cloths so I went into the galley, “Ah Miss Broughton, we were just talking about you and wondering if you could help out, we are a bit short-handed, the captain has sent a couple of my cooks to help bring up some of the cargo.”
“Oh, that’ll be the machine guns I expect, that’s what I’ve come to see you about but I’ve picked the wrong moment it seems.”
“I’ll help if I can, what do you need?”
“Well the sub and I wanted to borrow Gary for a half hour to get all the passengers up here. I’ll tell you what, you let me steal Gary and this afternoon, if I can, I’ll come down and help prepare the dinner, is that fair.”
He smiled, “Very, I’ll sort out some aprons.”
“We are going to give the passengers some weapons training in the saloon but if we’re going to get in the way, we’ll go upstairs to the viewing bridge.”
“No need, there’s nothing much to be done in the saloon for an hour.”
“Thank you, I’ll be back after lunch to help, oh, by the way, I wouldn’t worry too much about lunch, just lay on a load of sandwiches and stuff and a few Thermos flasks of coffee, we will probably be at action stations and nobody will have time…”
“Action stations!”
“Why yes, haven’t you been told. Aurora has gone off chasing a dodgy looking cruiser and we’re getting ready to intercept it if they evade Aurora, that’s what the weapons training is for.”
Victor gulped, “We’re getting ready to engage a cruiser with a cargo ship, a small cargo ship at that!”
“Yes, exciting isn’t it.”
“Miss Broughton is referring to a gin-palace cruiser, not a navy cruiser. A fibre glass hull and pretty to look at, no five inch gun and multiple rocket launchers and we will not be intercepting anything, we will either change course to evade contact and steam for Auckland or if the captain decides it is safer, we will turn about and return to the island.”
Victor looked relieved, “I should think he would, a merchant vessel undermanned and carrying civilians is hardly in a position to intercept what is probably a heavily armed pirate or smuggling vessel whatever purpose it was originally designed for. Unless we are planning to go down fighting with all available weapons which in our case is the kitchen knives and empty wine bottles.”
I chose not to let him know that my fingers had been crossed whilst Martin was speaking and that I had a contingency plan of my own and was even considering making Molotov cocktails out of the empty wine bottles.

We were lined up along the port promenade deck each of us holding an automatic pistol loaded, cocked but with the safety on. Three of the men were behind us not carrying guns one of whom was Will. They had each confessed to being familiar with small arms, ex-servicemen, coppers or hunters and I did wonder into which category Will fitted, I would have to find out, I didn’t want him taking pot-shots at me if we ever had a row.
Our guns were held in front of us pointing to the sky and Martin was speaking. “Right these guns make a loud noise when you squeeze the trigger and they will recoil and jump up so make sure you keep a firm grip on them. When you’ve taken your shot return your hands and arms to their current position and stay where you are until I tell you to move. Now I am going to walk behind you and stop at each person. I will tap you on the shoulder and when I do, point your weapon out to sea, push the safety catch forward and fire, try not to hit a seagull, there are eco warriors amongst our number and it might start a fire-fight. Right, I’ll start now but keep your trigger fingers on the trigger guard and not on the trigger in case the bangs of the others startle you and you involuntarily pull the trigger.”
He started with one of the men who was now holding a rifle, I was about half way down the line with Emma on my right, Faye on my left and Liz next to her. Faye was holding a rifle not a nine millimetre automatic and when I had asked her why, she said she was familiar with rifles because she used to do a bit of hunting but as she didn’t like killing the animals, she used to aim to miss so was made to give it up by her father.
Slowly Martin walked down the line and by the time he got to Emma we were used to the noise and she fired as soon as he touched her shoulder and then tried to take a second shot but Martin stopped her and came to me. “Take your time and when you feel my hand on your shoulder, come down to the aim, release the safety and fire.” I felt his hand touch my shoulder and lowered the gun in front of me, holding it in both hands and aimed at a clump of seaweed about fifty metres away and squeezed my eyes shut and fired. I thought the gun was going to jump out of my hand but I held on, lifted it and whispered to Faye, “Did I hit the seaweed?”
“In the middle you must have seen the spurt of water!”
“I had my eyes shut.”
She giggled and then Martin touched her and she brought the rifle up to her shoulder, paused for a second and fired. Her gun made a louder noise than mine but I kept my eyes open and didn’t see anything happen to the seaweed, it just lay there completely unfazed. “You missed,” I said out of the corner of my mouth.
“I know, I aimed high in case there were any fish under the weed.”
“You’ve probably hit the Island.”
“That’s okay, it’s only small calibre and won’t sink the island and anyway the island is miles away, the bullet won’t get that far.”
“I hope so cos if you’ve shot one of my deer I’m not letting you live on the island.”
“What about you then? You might have killed a fish or worse than that a baby crab might have been sitting on the seaweed.”
I looked behind but the seaweed was well out of sight by now, “You don’t really think so do you?”
“Fucking guns, I hate them!”
We turned and looked at Liz, “Liz, I’ve never heard you swear like that before!” said Emma.
“Look what the bloody thing has done,” and she transferred the pistol to her left hand and held her right up so we could look at it.
“What’s wrong with it, what are we supposed to be looking at?” asked Faye,
“My little finger, the butt of the gun jumped and broke the finger nail.”
We started laughing which made her get madder until I pointed to her left hand, “If you don’t lift that hand and point the gun in the air, you’re going to shoot yourself in the foot and break a toenail as well.”
We returned to the saloon and holstered our weapons and were about to go our separate ways when the public address started, it was Andy’s voice; “D’you hear there, d’you hear there, this is the captain. The New Zealand Maritime Security inshore patrol vessel Ferret is passing and will take up station ahead of Pacific Wanderer until she is sent to patrol the sea between us and New Zealand. Until Aurora returns or the unknown cruiser is halted and investigated, we will remain alert and ready to change course and evade contact should it be necessary. Sandwiches will for the moment replace cooked meals. I apologise to the passengers but this is necessary until our current situation improves.”
“That’s me,” I said to the girls, “Whose coming with me to help Victor prepare the sandwiches?”
“I can’t,” said Gwyneth, “I’ll be with David getting things ready in the sickbay, just in case.”
“Me too,” said Emma.
“I can help,” said Faye I haven’t been given a job to do if the pirates try to jump us.”
“Nor I,” Liz shrugged, “I suppose they think that geologists aren’t much use until the ship runs out of ammo and I can help find suitable rocks to throw at them.”
“Come on then, three of us can make quite a few and if there’s time we can do soup as well.”

Within an hour we had three of the tables in the saloon filled with trays of sandwiches and another with coffee pots waiting to be filled. “We’d better take theses around the ship I suppose,” I said, if it does get busy the crew won’t have time to come up here and collect them.”
“Why not put a couple of tables in the lift and then we can go up and down and leave them in the various sections.”
“Good idea,” we did that and I pressed the button for the engine room and when we got there we took the trays out and left them on the floor near the control panel where they wouldn’t be trodden on and told the CPO and then scooted back to the lift and went up to the bridge and left some at what we thought were strategic places in the radio shack and near the helm and I spoke to Andy. “We’ve put some in the engine room and up here, where else would it help?”
Andy thought for a moment, “The passengers can use the saloon but we need some on the deck forward of the bridge. That’s about it, “The rest I can have distributed with coffee because the passengers will probably want to get involved, I’ll leave that for you to organise, I can’t leave the bridge at the moment and nor can Martin.”
“I was going up to the viewing bridge to act as a lookout with Faye, I’ll put Liz in charge of the passenger catering.”
“Fine but much as I like the idea of having a lookout on the viewing bridge, if there is any shooting make bloody sure you keep your heads down, if I had anybody to spare I’d send them.”
“Don’t worry, we’ll be okay, I’ve got my gun with me,” I patted my hip where the automatic was holstered, “And we’ll make sure we only take quick looks before ducking again.”
We started to go back to share out the rest of the sandwiches when Andy called us back, “Charlotte, I mean what I say, keep your heads down and don’t hesitate to use that gun if you have to. I’d rather have dead drug smugglers littering the sea than dead girls littering the bridge if for no other reason than half the ship going into mourning if you were shot. If there is any shooting, get down here, the saloon or cargo deck are safer places than the viewing bridge. Do you understand?”
“We’ll stay safe and only shoot when we have to, don’t worry about that.”
“You okay about speaking to the passengers, Liz,” I asked on the way back to the saloon, “I should have asked you before I put your name forward?”
“No problem, I was going to see David anyway, he’ll help to organise things. We need to do something if that cruiser gets to us because hiding in our cabins and shaking with fear is worse than running around with messages, sandwiches or even acting as stretcher bearers if the worse comes to the worse.”
“You don’t have to be so bloody morbid just because you broke a fingernail, why don’t you go to the sick bay and see if they can glue it back on,” Faye suggested.
“Or, work out a way we can capture the cruiser if it comes here. Those gin palaces are worth a lot of money and we could divvy up the prize money and you could spend your share on having your nails done in Knightsbridge.”
Liz was about to answer when Gwyneth called out from the bottom of the stairs to the saloon, “Liz, can you come down to help us in the sick bay and Charlotte, David asks can you to take some sandwiches down to the hold. Some mattresses are being put down there for the older passengers, Mark says it’s the safest place in the ship and if you could bring a percolator with a carton of coffee beans and some sugar, we can make our own and save you the bother of fetching it down.”
“Right away, Gwyneth, we’re finished up here and if we make any more food, we’ll leave it in the lift, will that do you?”
It’s fine, thank you. Are you and Faye going to be okay up there?”
“We’ll be fine, Andy has given us a lecture and I’ll get one of the POs’ to teach us how to duck down behind the bulwarks if bullets start flying. Tell Mark and David that there are antibiotics and first aid stuff in the shop if you’re short of anything and if you see Will, can you remind him to make sure he has his sun blocker with him.”
I heard her laugh and I nodded at Liz, “You’d better go, Faye and I will do the rest of the sandwiches, you’d better pop into the shop and steal some choc bars and sweets to take as well.”
As Liz left us I asked Faye, “Do you know how to fire a machine gun?”
“What! A machine gun, what for, the sailors will have them?”
I shook my head, “No, they only have enough men to use two of them, it takes two people to make them work properly, one firing and the other doing things to the ammunition belt.”
“I know that, I have fired one but I’m no good, they’re too fast and I get in a bit of a panic and forget to take my finger off the trigger and I keep my eyes shut.”
“Okay, I’ll fire it, you show me how and you can do the ammunition bit because we might just as well take the spare one up to the viewing bridge and if that cruiser shows up we can have a go at it.”
“Are you kidding me, Charlotte?”
“No I think we should try because there aren’t enough men to defend all of the ship and if we let fly with the machine gun, it will make the cruiser think twice about boarding us and up on the viewing bridge we’ll be high enough to see all around the ship and can fire at the cruiser no matter which direction they come from.”
Faye looked doubtful, “We’ll make targets of ourselves if we do.”
“We’ll fire a burst and then duck and when they fire at us we’ll wait until they stop and pop up and have another go at them, that’s the way they do it in the films. I doubt we’ll do any real damage but it will distract them and give the men a chance to get the other guns into the right position.”
“I suppose it’s better than hiding in the hold or rushing around being shot at whilst we deliver sandwiches.”
“Better than being a stretcher bearer as well, I’d faint if there was a lot of blood. The gun is over there in the middle of the saloon, you grab it and take it up to the viewing bridge with the ammunition and I’ll take the sandwiches down to the hold, okay.”
She looked at me her face full of doubt, “Are you sure?”
“Yes, like you said, it’s better than being shot whilst carrying sandwiches and just being up there will make a difference and at the least, distract anybody that attacks us.”
“What about my rifle?”
“Take that as well, it might come in handy and don’t forget a bit of extra ammo.”
“Why don’t we just go up there and do a strip, that might hold their attention.”
“Cos they might be gay and would get more fun by taking pot-shots at us.”
She walked doubtfully towards the guns and I reloaded the lift with sandwiches and went down to the hold and left them just inside the first watertight door and then went into the engine room; “Will can you do it now, about a bucketful should be enough and don’t forget to splash some on the hull over the repair so that it dribbles down. I’ll give you five minutes and then tell Andy.”
He came over to me, “I’m still not sure about this Charlie, if anything happens to you my life will end.”
“Will if the cruiser doesn’t come near us or Andy doesn’t fall for it, we’ve lost nothing and things may still be okay but we have to give Orca time to unmoor or get armed crew over to the lagoon and protect our home and all the stuff we and the navy have left there. Faye and I are not going to take unnecessary chances, we simply want to make them think twice about boarding us. I reached for his hand and squeezed it, “We won’t do anything until it’s the last resort. I don’t want them getting a hold of me, Will because they will find out about me and use me as a toy, cut me with a knife, please do it.”
I didn’t give him a chance and let go of his hand and walked hurriedly towards the lift, turned, smiled and blew a kiss and stepped inside and pressed the button for the bridge.
I returned to the saloon and picked up the last tray of sandwiches for the bridge and went up there. Andy was on the ship to ship VHF and cursed and slammed the handset down as I walked onto the bridge, “Something wrong?” I asked.
“Ferret is leaving to make a patrol, Aurora has just told us that the cruiser is going to cross their bows and make a run for it, Ferret has to intercept.”
“I’m afraid I have more bad news,” I said placing the sandwiches down, “I’ve just seen Will in the engine room and he says that the plate he welded onto the hull has started leaking, he thinks you should have a look at it before he tries to shore it up.”
He walked over to the phone and dialled the engine room, “Will, how bad is the leak…enough doubt to make me slow down…right, I’ll do it.” He turned to the helm, “Reduce revs to six knots.”
“Are you still going to make for Auckland?” I asked.
“Yes but at six knots,”
I paused as if giving myself time to think and then said, “If that cruiser lures Ferret far enough away from us and then turns back and uses its superior speed, they could come back here and attack us and if they have one of those surface to surface missiles they could destroy the bridge or even split the hull and sink us. Andy, I don’t know my rights but if there is a chance we can make Wanderer safe in the lagoon, as the owner, I would prefer you do that. Then once the cruiser has been dealt with, we can repair her and resume the journey.”
“If they did succeed in evading both Aurora and Ferret, they could follow us into the lagoon and attack us there.”
“I don’t think so, if they tried we would have enough fire power to give them something to think about and Aurora and Ferret would still be close enough to get to us. I think they may have a quick shot at it but then they would have to run for it themselves. I would be happier if we returned to the island because we will also have the crew of Orca to help us by the time we arrive.”
He pursed his lips, staring out of the forward bridge windows weighing up the pros and cons.”
“If you wish, I can log a request that as the owner I would prefer you to take Wanderer to safety, make it an official request so that you wouldn’t be accused of disobeying orders.”
He thought for a few seconds more, “Yeoman, please log that at the request of the owner and in the interests of the safety of passengers and ship, I am returning to Charlotte Island to prevent our being attacked by a suspicious vessel.”
“Aye-aye, sir.”
“Yeoman,” I asked, “Did anybody bring a New Zealand Navy ensign when you came over from Aurora?”
“Yes, Marm, we are supposed to fly it if we put to sea on naval business.”
“There you are, Andy, raise the boom and fly the flag from it. If they see it they may be fooled into thinking we are carrying heavy calibre weapons.” I turned to the yeoman again, “I don’t suppose it’s a battle ensign is it?”
“Charlotte, get off my bridge before you start a war!”

24

“The best place for the gun is between the air intakes and the funnel, there’s just enough space for the gun and us and we will have good cover to hide behind when they fire back.”
“But we won’t be able to swing the gun around and if they come up from astern, we won’t even be able to see them,” Faye objected.
I looked around the promenade deck, “The only other place is the sauna. It’s empty and if we kneel inside with the gun on the top step we can fire and then duck down.”
Faye still had that ‘this is suicide’ look on her face but nodded, “I can fire the rifle over the edge as well I suppose it’s as good a place as we will find up here.”
“Right, let’s get the gun and set it up.”
We went back inside the viewing bridge, “There’s plenty of time, fancy a cup of coffee and I found some doughnuts in the galley when I took the last lot of sandwiches.”
“You’re becoming a real thief but I like doughnuts so I won’t tell anybody. Are they cream?”
“Don’t thinks so, probably just jam,” I prodded one and a little bit of strawberry jam oozed out of a hole, “Strawberry jam, still want one?”
“Please. You make the coffee and I’ll sweep the horizon,” she said grabbing a pair of binoculars from the window ledge.”
“They’re no good, they’re night glasses you’ll have to use the high power ones down the other end.”
I went over to the percolator standing on the temporary bar that we had used on dance night, switched it on and then a thought struck me, “Faye, I won’t be long I’m popping down to the sick bay,” and ran down the stairs. Gwyneth was there with Mark preparing a couple of satchels with red crosses on them, “Is that first aid stuff?”
“Yes, in case people need help around the ship,” answered Mark giving me a suspicious look, “Why?”
“I think it would be a good idea if I took one up to the viewing bridge.”
“What do you want one up there for, there’s nobody up there?”
“Yes there is, Faye and I are acting as look-outs.”
“Don’t ask any more questions, Mark, you may not like the answers,” said Gwyneth handing me two, “Here and you can drop the second off on the bridge.”
“Ta, did they tell you we’re going back to the island for a couple of days?”
“Yes,” replied Mark, “You haven’t taken your scuba stuff up to the viewing bridge have you?”
“Not yet, I haven’t had the time but thanks for the idea,” and I started for the door and heard Gwyneth say, “I told you not to ask any more questions.”
On the way back I took an armful of emergency flares from the remnants of the ammunition pile in the saloon and returned to my action stations just as the coffee started coming out of the percolator. “Coffee’s ready,” I called to Faye who was still looking through the binoculars.
“Hang on a tick, I think there’s a helicopter coming towards us.”
“A helicopter,” I said going over to her and using the second set, “So there is, I wonder where that came from.”
“Aurora I suppose.”
“I’ve been all over Aurora and I never saw a helicopter. There’s a place at the back for one to land but they don’t have one of their own. It can’t be from Orca either, it’s flying from the wrong direction.”
“Well it can’t be Ferret, there’s no room for one. Perhaps the AWAC carries one and drops it out of a bomb bay.”
“Drop a helicopter out of a bomb bay, don’t be daft. I’d better phone Andy, he’ll know, it probably came of the cruiser, they could have a small one like that to make a quick getaway if they got caught.”
“They would have seen it on radar.”
“It’s too low I expect,” and then I started hearing warning bells ringing in my head. “Keep your eye on it, Faye, it looks a bit dodgy to me, why are they flying so low and slow!” I ran over to the phone and dialled the bridge, “Martin is Andy there, if so, tell him there’s a small helicopter coming up astern and it’s wave hopping and looks a bit fishy to me.”
I heard him call Andy to the phone, “How far away?”
“About a mile I suppose but it’s right down on the deck and is flying slowly.”
“Keep your eye on it, I’ll put Martin back on and you tell him what it’s doing.”
“Keep a watch on it, Faye and yell out if it changes its speed or height.”
I never heard her reply because suddenly the ships siren started sounding short blasts and bells started ringing everywhere and then Andy’s voice came over the public address system; “Do you hear there, do you hear there, this is the Captain. All naval crew and previously briefed passengers go to your action stations. This is not an exercise an unidentified aircraft is approaching from astern and does not acknowledge our challenges. This is Action Stations, Captain out.”
Faye and I stared at each other both our mouths open. “This is your fault,” she accused me, “You have really stirred it up now.”
“It’s not my fault, you were the one who spotted the bloody helicopter in the first place!”
She grinned, “I bet Andy is having the time of his life down on the bridge, he was really pissed when Aurora and Ferret went off to fight the pirates.”
“I bet, he’s got the engineers working in the machine room making anti-aircraft guns and depth charges. Phone him and say you’ve spotted a periscope off the port beam.”
“Not me I’m getting my rifle and going to hide in the Jacuzzi, you phone him.”
“Wait a bit, I’ll get my flares and come with you, I don’t fancy staying in here there’s too much glass and if they start shooting at us, they’ll be glass splinters flying about all over the place.”
I grabbed the flares and we both ran out and down the steps to the Jacuzzi. “What do you want the flares for, Aurora or Ferret are too far away to see them and I expect Andy sent a message on the radio.”
“I don’t want them for sending an emergency signal, I am going to fire them at the helicopter, or at least you can whilst I shoot them with the machine gun.”
“What good are flares?”
“If you aim them so they hit the windscreen or better still go through an open window or door, they will explode inside and the helicopter will crash.”
“Right on top of us or hadn’t you thought of that?”
“Of course I thought of it but in the James Bond films the helicopter always blows up and crashes into the sea, a flaming wreck.”
Faye slung her rifle over her shoulder and picked up four of the flares, “Okay, just say when,” and then there was a rattling noise and bits started flying off the radio mast. We both ducked and the helicopter suddenly appeared from behind the funnel still firing. “They’re trying to shoot the radio stuff, I’d better tell Andy,” and before she could stop me, I ran up the steps and darted across the promenade deck dodging from side to side and grabbed the first phone I came to, “Martin, it’s Charlotte, they’re above us and trying to shoot the radio mast, tell Andy,” and I dropped the phone and still dodging ran back to the Jacuzzi. As I jumped down I caught the waist band of my skirt on something but it tore free, “Get ready,” I told Faye as the helicopter flew past and over the bow. “I bet they come back for another go, they haven’t done much damage and I reckon they want to stop Andy from getting an SOS out.”
Faye just stared at me, “You want to take it on! Are you mad, we’ll be killed!”
“It’s better than just ducking down because if the bullets go into the Jacuzzi they will bounce off the tiles and fly around all over the place. If we shoot at them, it will put them off their aim and we can always get out and run behind the funnel.”
Faye looked out to where the helicopter was turning and shrugged, “Why not, I can only die once but my fiancé will play hell if I’m hurt and we have to postpone the wedding.”
I returned my attention to the machine gun and sat on the floor and looked through the sights, “Well go on, put the bullets in.”
Faye leaned over, flipped the breech cover up and put the end of the belt into place and closed the cover, “Just pull this knob to cock it and fire when you’re ready.”
I did and took a bead on the cockpit bubble and fired off a burst and then stood up to see if I hit anything and the helicopter promptly started firing back so I picked up two of the flares, “We’ll fire two each, one of them is bound to hit something,” and then we ducked as they do in the films and waited for the helicopter to stop shooting at us and the moment it did, we popped up like a pair of jack-in-the-boxes and fired off the four flares and ducked down again. Somebody on a lower deck opened fire with a machine gun so I let rip as well but the bullets were striking the Perspex bubble of the cockpit and just bouncing off but whoever was firing from the deck must have been hitting another part of the helicopter because the pilot suddenly banked away and flew straight into our row of flares just as they popped and three of them got tangled up with the rotor and spun like crazy, it looked just like a Catherine Wheel so I had another go on the machine gun and started hitting the centre of the rotor. Something fell away and the helicopter seemed to vibrate and then the middle of the rotor shattered and one of the blades snapped off and hit parts of the fuselage. The blade must have fractured a fuel line because the engine section at the rear of the cockpit caught fire and then the back half of the body exploded. We watched if fall into the sea immediately in front of Wanderer’s bow and heard another bang, there was a cloud of smoke and then it went quiet. “I told you they fell into the sea,” I said and we high-fived and just at that moment there was another burst of machine gun fire, louder this time and the bow of the cruiser suddenly appeared from behind the funnel and somebody on it was firing a heavy machine gun at our bridge.
I swung the gun round and Faye pushed the ammunition box forward and I opened fire again on their bridge and this time, the bullets didn’t bounce off and I had the satisfaction of seeing the windows shatter. I moved my point of aim to the rear of their bridge when I saw a man run out on to the high deck behind it carrying something on his shoulder but before I had a chance, Faye fired her rifle and the man jumped and then fell back and something flew out of the thing he was carrying and arced up into the sky trailing smoke, it must have been a missile because it straightened up and then flew in the direction of the island weaving from side to side. I swore, there was no way the machine gun could shoot that down but the curse had barely left my lips before the missile suddenly dived into the sea and there was an enormous explosion. I didn’t bother watching it, there was still the cruiser to attend to so I swung the gun towards its bridge again just as a huge column of water erupted into the air off its far side and the cruiser turned towards Wanderer. “What did you do that time!” I shouted at Faye.
“Nothing, it wasn’t me – look out!” and she pointed at the cruiser and I turned my head to see it angle in towards Wanderers’ hull and I shut my eyes expecting it to explode but it just gave us a glancing blow, bounced off and carried on for about twenty metres and stopped. A number of men ran from the bridge with their hands held towards the sky so I retrained the gun and was about to fire a burst at them when Aurora suddenly appeared from behind the funnel and went alongside and grappling irons were thrown over the bulwarks and then sailors slid down them onto the cruiser waving guns and shouting things like “GO-GO-GO!”
“Of all the damned cheek,” Faye shouted furiously, “The bastards are trying to steal our prize, give them a burst, Charlotte!”
“Who, they’ve surrendered!”
“Not the cruiser, have a go at Aurora, she’s sent men on board the cruiser and we saw it first, it’s our prize.”
“You want me to open up on a navy ship. Pit my 7.62 millimetre bullets against their eighty millimetre quick firing cannon, multiple missile launchers, depth charges, torpedoes and any number of heavy machine guns?”
“Well we can’t let them get away with daylight robbery, do something!”
“Why don’t you telephone the bridge and get Andy or Martin to telephone Aurora and lodge an objection under the Geneva Convention or better still, phone the UN.”
“I damn well will,” and she strode of to the telephone and I heard her start berating whoever was on the other end.
Fury is infectious and I started to become angry and retrained the machine gun on Aurora’s bridge just in time to see the Captain’s cutter leave her side and head straight for Pacific Wanderer, “Faye,” I yelled, “They’re coming over here from Aurora, probably going to try and board us as well now.”
She dropped the phone and came running back to me and grabbed her rifle as the cutter came alongside a boarding ladder somebody had thrown down to them. “Open fire as they come up,” she said.
“No, don’t do that until we know what their game is.”
Faye turned back towards the boarding ladder, her rifle trained down at first a head, followed by shoulders and then the body of the lieutenant who had taken over from Andy when he left to come to us. “Just stay right where you are, buster.”
The officer looked up at Faye, “Don’t shoot, we’re from Aurora.”
“We know,” I answered, “We’ve been watching you steal our prize of war and it’s just not on.”
“We’re not stealing anything, I’ve come to explain at Lieutenant Commander Fellows and Lieutenant Bryant’s request. It is not our intention to take the drug vessel as a prize, we are simply making it secure and arresting the men on board her.”
“Well how come you opened fire?” demanded Faye, “And worse than that, you see that flag flying from our boom, well that happens to be the Royal New Zealand Navy’s Battle Ensign and my friend here on the machine gun just happens to be a Brit and is obliged to have a go at anybody who threatens a Commonwealth country and firing guns at the Battle Ensign is an act of war and I’m American and we have a special relationship with the Brits so I’ve come to her aid.”
“Will you please stop waving those weapons about before somebody gets hurt.”
“You can talk, you fired on us with a massive great gun.”
“We didn’t fire on anybody, we simply fired across the bows of the cruiser to make her heave-to.”
“They’ve got a point,” I whispered to Faye, “They didn’t actually hit the cruiser or us, they missed by quite a bit.”
Faye lowered her rifle, “If you’re sure but they still fired in our direction, well roughly in our direction.”
“But why would a New Zealand ship fire on another New Zealand ship.”
“It might be a break away Republican faction who want New Zealand to leave the Commonwealth.”
“I think we are a bit too suspicious, we’ve supped and danced with these men, let’s go and see what’s happening on the bridge.”
We went into the viewing bridge and Gwyneth and Martin came in, both panting from having run up the stairs, “Who’s hurt?” she asked putting her first aid bag on the bar.
“Nobody up here. There might be some on the drug boat and we shot the helicopter down with flares.”
“Who was doing all the firing, not you two?” asked Martin.
“Yes,” answered Faye, “But they shot at us first, we didn’t have any choice.”
Martin rolled his eyes and his lips moved as if in silent prayer. “You shot at the helicopter, then the cruiser and was ready to open fire on Aurora! This is the South Pacific not the OK Corral.”
“Martin, you’re being a tadge unfair, Faye explained, they opened fire first and when we got the helicopter, the drug runners started having a go at the bridge, what were we supposed to do, wait until you had all been killed before having a go at them. Is everybody okay downstairs?”
Martin looked at Gwyneth and she answered, “Andy has been shot in the shoulder and Will in the left thigh but neither are serious wounds…”
“Will’s been shot!” I flew to the stairs and went down two at a time and into the bridge to be faced with the picture of Will being given an injection by Mark, “You’ve been shot! Why are you here and not in the sick bay?” I grabbed his arm, “You’re coming down to the cabin and going straight to bed and you’d better come as well Mark.”
Will gently eased my hand away from his arm, “It’s nothing just a flesh wound in the thigh, the bone and muscle weren’t touched.”
“Why do you need an injection, Will tell me the truth, do you need a blood transfusion, Will…” I couldn’t stop myself and the tears flooded down, “You could have been killed.”
Martin and Gwyneth came in and she took me to a chair and sat me down and glared at Will, “What did you say to her; and after all’s she’s done!”
Before he could answer the Lieutenant from Aurora came in and saluted Andy, “Captain Fellows presents his compliments and asks whether you recommend he opens fire on these two or strike his colours?”
Andy, his arm in a sling smiled, “Martin?”
“I think they have declared a truce whilst we attend to our wounded, Captain but I would suggest that Miss Broughton hands over her side-arm as a gesture of good faith.”
“Very good. Take us back to the island if you will and get the men and equipment ready to effect repairs to the hull.”
Will held out his hand, “Charlie, I’ll take the pistol please, I know you’re mad at me and I don’t want you forgetting yourself and shooting me in the other leg.”
I stood up and Gwyneth unbuckled the belt and handed it over to him, “You’ve got blood on your blouse, near the hip” she said.
“It’s Will’s I must have picked it up when I took hold of him to take him to the cabin.”
“You only took hold of my arm and any blood on me is from the wound in my thigh and if that got on you it would have been on your skirt. Take your blouse off and let Gwyneth have a look at it, it’s quite a lot of blood.”
“I’m not taking my blouse off on a bridge full of sailors!”
“Gwyneth, take her outside and tear the blouse off if she doesn’t remove it herself.”
Faye came out with us and when I looked down and pulled the blouse out of my skirt, they were correct, there was a lot of blood, “Well it’s not mine, I would have felt it if I had been shot.”
Gwyneth answered by taking my hand off the blouse and unbuttoned it and I heard Faye gasp, “My God, it looks deep as well!”
Gwyneth asked, “Can’t you feel any pain?”
“Well now yes, now that it’s been brought to my attention, it stung a little when I pulled the blouse away,” I started to walk towards the saloon stairs, “There’s a mirror in the ladies loo, I can’t see it very easily without one.”
“Never mind the mirror, you’re going to the sickbay to let David or Mark do something with that, you’ll need a few stitches,” and she took one hand and Faye the other and they marched me off before I went looking for a mirror.
“Gun shot,” said Mark and looked at David who nodded, “Clean but deep. How did this happen?”
I shrugged, “I don’t know, I haven’t been shot, I must have caught myself on something when I was running around up on the deck.” I paused, “Come to think of it, when the cruiser first opened fire I felt something pull at the waistband of my skirt and it did sort or burn but I thought I had caught myself on something when we ducked down into the Jacuzzi.”
“If it had been a few inches higher you would have been shot in the tits,” said Faye, a touch of admiration in her voice.
“I haven’t got any tits yet to be shot in.”
“You weren’t shot through the body,” pointed out Mark, “You were creased, mind you another couple of millimetres and it would have been through rather than alongside, blouse and skirt off and on the table please, David will have to stitch it.”
“I’ll help you,” offered Faye reaching for the zip on my skirt.
“You can bloody well wait outside, I’m not having you inspect my body and having a laugh!”
“I won’t laugh, I’m a scientist and my interest is purely scientific.”
“Since when has geology had anything to do with bodies?”
“Well it is a deep cut, that might need mining skills to treat,” she grinned, “Go on, let me watch, I’d have let you watch if it had been me.”
“You were the one who probably shot me the way you were waving the rifle about.”
Whilst Faye and I were arguing, David had unzipped my skirt and gave it a gentle tug and I was standing there in my bra and panties and before I had a chance to turn my back on Faye, Mark marched me over to the operating table and made me lay down whilst David was preparing a syringe. “What’s the shot for?”
“You need at least eight stitches in that and it will need cleaning first, this is a local anaesthetic.”
Mark was swabbing the area around the cut as David spoke, “You won’t feel a thing and whilst we’re waiting for the jab to take effect, we’ll scrub up.”
“What do you want to scrub-up for, it’s a flesh wound, medics don’t scrub-up on the battle field!”
“Yes we do, we use a spirit wash.”
“They’re pretty panties, I’ll take them off you, it would be a shame to spoil them with blood stains,” Faye took a hold of the waistband and started to ease them down but I was too quick and had both hands down there and stopped her, “You can just leave them where they are you nosy bitch.”
She grinned, “I just wanted a look before David cuts it off with the scalpel he’s holding.”
I twisted my head in alarm but David only had the hypo in his hand and he looked at me, “I can if you want, I’ve read up on it and have always wanted to try.”
“No you won’t I want an experienced surgeon doing it.”
“Okay, everybody out, you’ve had your joke,” and as Gwyneth and Faye left, I felt the prick as the needle went it and Mark and David started their sewing lesson.

In chapters 25 and 26, they return to New Zealand and Gwyneth accompanies Charlotte back to the UK for her SRS.
After the operation, Charlotte has to prepare to meet her family and friends that had last known her as Charles.
Chapter 26 which follows later this week marks the end of Volume 1. Volume 2 is now complete and published on Amazon Kindle.

Over Christmas I will try and publish the first chapters from another novel about an intersexed and transgendered group of girls being held in a prison. The title to look for is Vesta’s Hearth.
I hope I will also have my entry in the Gift story competition here at Top Shelf.
Have a lovely Christmas and your best ever New Year.

[email protected]



If you liked this post, you can leave a comment and/or a kudos!
Click the Thumbs Up! button below to leave the author a kudos:
up
67 users have voted.

And please, remember to comment, too! Thanks. 
This story is 10196 words long.