The ship accelerated at a furious rate with the U.S. destroyer Chaffee falling in behind it, no doubt running at flank speed. Lauren eased his way and then inserted himself into the bolstered chair next to where Shapiro stood in his own. The bolsters had to be pushed into, their hip and lower body support sufficient to negate the need for a chair. The old man’s smile did not waver, from what it had been when he’d first switched on the turbine, as the ship took the large cross-breaking waves straight on with others quartering across the bow to attempt to move the ship off its course. Shapiro corrected their travel manually with the automobile-like steering wheel that controlled their direction. He ‘drove’ the ship like he was driving a Cigarette boat in an unlimited offshore race. The GPS speed indicator screen read 48.5 knots, and then six and seven, as the tenths climbed at about one per second. Lauren approximated the knots to miles per hour and came up with fifty-five. The ship was already well beyond the top speed of the destroyer pursuing them and still climbing rapidly.
Lauren pulled from his bolster and moved out to the port wing, sticking fifteen feet outside from the aluminum bulkhead of the bridge. He made for the rail to hang on, as the ship shifted constantly, and the wind tried to blow him upward and possibly outward into the raging sea. He stood fully exposed to the wind and spray from the hulls smashing effect in parting and beating down the rough waters. The effect on him, once he was outside the protected shaded enclosure of the bridge, was dramatic. He was completely wet in seconds, and not a little fearful, but it was important to figure out what the Chaffee was doing, or likely to do, behind them. He bent and squinted back at the barely plunging bow of the destroyer, dropping back rapidly but still protected by running directly in the yacht’s wake. Two helicopters flew alongside the Chaffee, instead of pursuing the yacht, which seemed odd to Lauren, as the choppers could outrun the ship no matter how fast it was capable of running across the surface of the ocean.
Lauren saw a short series of flashes from the destroyer’s bow.
“Incoming,” he yelled needlessly back toward the closed bridge door. There was no way Shapiro could hear him, even if the old man’s hearing capability was that of a much younger man. Seconds later Lauren felt more than heard a slight impact.
“They’re firing on us,” he said toward Shapiro as he sought shelter, opening the hatch before clambering in and slamming it shut.
“Fifty-caliber,” Lauren said, mopping the sea spray from his hair and face.
“It’s what the Navy and the DEA use to shoot out the engines or the rudders of escaping drug runners,” he went on, re-inserting himself back into the bolster next to Shapiro.
“Good luck with that on this vessel,” Shapiro replied, sounding confident although his smile had gone missing. “Our rudders are underwater. Technically, the spout of the pump could be used to turn the ship as well, but I’ve never tried to use it for that. We’re beginning to fly. The formerly flooding compartments are emptying. Unfortunately, we have to stay above forty knots, or so, to keep it that way. When we stop we sink, quite possibly in minutes.”
“Where are we bound?” Lauren asked. “There’s no place to run to. We can’t go into Pearl or to Honolulu Harbor, and to make the Letter of Marque legal and meet its special terms, I think we have to enter a U.S. Port.”
“Define port,” Shapiro laughed. “We’re going to make our own port. Why did you shoot Ashton? You could have subdued him,” Shapiro asked.
“I took him out of communication and rearranged his motivation,” Lauren responded. “He’s not spending his tim thinking about how he can cut everyone out, for whatever screwy patriotic reason or not, or in hurting anyone else. No, he’s thinking about surviving, and barely able to do more than moan. Getting shot does that to you. Doesn’t matter where you’re hit.”
“Been shot a few times, I imagine,” Shapiro said, his eyes never leaving the waters dead ahead of the speed vessel.
Lauren fastened the belt that ran across the front of the bolster. The ship was doing more than sixty miles per hour. Spray flew up and over the sides of the bow, beginning to impact on each of the two flying bridges. It was no longer viable to stand out there, as he’d done momentarily before, without full inclement weather gear and googles.
The ship suddenly stopped moving from side to side. It no longer bobbed and weaved like an engaged prizefighter. The bow glided over, the ship’s mid-hull impacting the waves as, it rode up and right over the top of them, much like the Zodiac had done when it had reached top speed. The two-hundred-foot ship was actually planning across the wild rough surface of the ocean. It was an exhilarating feeling to stand and view the rushing water ahead. It was also hypnotic. The landmass that was Oahu came at them with a subtle speed that was hard to describe. If Lauren looked away for a few seconds, and then back, he could tell they were closer. If he simply stared at the brownish lump of a horizon however, they didn’t seem to gain much.
The radio loudly squawked several times.
“See if you can buy us more time. I don’t know what they’re planning back there but letting us do what we want isn’t one of them. Until that skipper has that Letter in front of him and we’re in some sort of port I think this could turn into an open season turkey shoot. And we are unarmed.”
“Mayday, mayday, mayday,” Lauren said into the microphone, holding down the transmit key, not being able to think to say anything else of more merit.
“This is the Chaffee,” came back out of the speaker. “We are ordering you to halt. What are your intentions, and if you don’t state them as concluding with our order to halt and be boarded then we’ll open fire with larger caliber weaponry? Home Security has determined your vessel to be a security threat to the island of Oahu. We have full authority and permission from them to fire.”
“You’ve already opened fire, if you haven’t noticed, whomever you are aboard that destroyer,” Lauren countered, speaking low and clear into the microphone. “You know exactly who is aboard this vessel and you certainly understand the ramifications if any of these people become casualties because of your conduct. Home Security, the White House, the Secretary of the Navy, are all going to appear at the Naval Board of Inquiry to deny that they ordered or supported any violence against a U.S. vessel containing U.S. citizens before they go on to consider what sentences every officer on your ship will receive should any of these people die.”
“Die? Die?” Trueson asked, loudly. He came forward, having stepped through the hatch in the rear bulkhead, tightly jammed into the back starboard corner of the bridge. The hatch that led to the short hall, and then down into the full expanse of the Lido deck. “What’s this about dying? Who’s that on the radio?”
Lauren smiled and then handed the U.S. Attorney the microphone. “You might want to talk to those people, as they work for the federal government as you do. Seems that destroyer trying to follow us is going to open fire with some real weapons, as we’ve been declared a threat to the islands.”
“What threat?” Trueson asked, keying the microphone at the same time. “Are you aware we are unarmed back there whoever the hell you are? This is Trueson, U.S. Attorney for the state of Hawaii and I want to know who you are and who’s determining we are a threat to anyone.”
“There are weapons aboard your ship. We know this from your own admission. Mr. Ashton’s been shot. We must assume the worst. Stop your vessel or face the consequences. There will be no more warning shots.”
“Well, lieutenant, or commander, or whoever you are, notice that you are being ordered to talk in this frequency and not your captain. Have you figured out why yet?” Trueson released his finger from the transmit button and turned to Shapiro. “Can you change the frequency to allow us to talk on an open marine channel?”
Shapiro reached forward and turned a knob without commenting.
“How much power do we have?” Trueson asked.
Shapiro threw four small switches. A bright light began to blink rapidly on the radio console. “About a hundred thousand watts but only for five minutes. That’s enough to reach every FM receiver on any of the islands in the Hawaiian chain for those five minutes though.”
“Mayday, mayday, mayday,” keyed Trueson. We are an American ship running off Diamond head being pursued by a U.S. Naval vessel threatening to fire on us. I am the United States Attorney for the State of Hawaii aboard that ship and I am ordering the Navy ship, Coast Guard, Air Force, and all other U.S. forces to stand down. We intend to make landfall on Oahu in…” Trueson turned to look over a Shapiro.
“Fifteen minutes, max,” the old man answered.
“Fifteen minutes,” Trueson repeated. He let go of the button and bedlam erupted from the speakers.
“Are you declaring an emergency?” a single strong voice overpowered all the others transmitting.
“We are, indeed, sir,” Trueson replied. “We are requesting immediate assistance as our vessel is holed and sinking under power.”
“We have you on the radar. Honolulu police and fire assistance are being dispatched immediately. Can you make it to the shallows?”
“Bellows,” Shapiro stated. “We’re going into the beach at Bellows. We can clear the reef at this tide. This ship is pretty big but only draws six or seven feet under full power, and we are under full power.”
“How’s Sharon doing below?” Lauren half-whispered into Trueson’s ear.
“She’s got plenty of support down there,” Trueson replied, smiling faintly. “They were going to restrain Ashton, but your wife found a hammer and some nails in one of those cabinets. Mr. Ashton will need some work on his hands once we reach port, as he’s very firmly secured to the deck just now.”
Lauren frowned and thought to himself, while the ship ran on. Very soon whatever adventure they’d happened into would end, and at that end Lauren and Sharon had to appear as innocent and non-violent as possible. He’d already shot Ashton, which was bad enough, but now Sharon had nailed him to the deck. The nailing to the deck might just seal their fate, as it wasn’t something that was likely to be overlooked or examined as something minor. Sharon was on a roll, and he worked to try to think his way through a scenario where her vicious action might be justified.
The ship flew along the coast, reaching a GPS speed of eighty knots, as the water shallowed, and the waves began to beat back from the reef that lay about a quarter-mile from the shore. They’d passed Diamond Head and KoKo Head so quickly it was almost unbelievable. Bellows was only minutes ahead and the flatter waters inside Rabbit Island could be visibly seen in the distance. Rabbit Island lay just outside of Bellows Beach, which was part of an Air Force-owned facility, but better known for the Marine Corps Training Exercises conducted there all the time. Exercises that included going ashore under difficult circumstances, which was very much what was about to happen. The visible color of the underwater reef looked treacherous, with whitewater crashing over and around it. The reef was not normally navigable by anything other than a fishing or pleasure craft with a shallow draft.
“Are you sure about this Shapiro?” Lauren asked the old man while he stared ahead with growing trepidation. It was one thing to encounter a reef in a large craft, but it was quite another to consider running over it in something as big as the ship they were on at something over ninety miles per hour, not to mention the potential for totally losing the ship and all the value that might mean to Lauren and his family.
“Just beyond Rabbit Island the water deepens. Not a whole lot. We don’t want deep water. This thing is going to sink like a stone once we come to full stop. We need shallow water, a sandy bottom, and the protection of a reef so the ship won’t be beaten to death while repairs are made, if they ever are made.”
Shapiro angled the ship in. The turn, at the astounding speed they were traveling at, was more like the kind of turn that an aircraft might make rather than a nautical vessel. Lauren wondered just how much fuel the huge gas turbine was consuming at top speed. He looked over his shoulder to see if he could see the Chafee through the spindrift-covered glass of one of the windows, but the destroyer was so far behind it wasn’t visible anywhere he could make out along the stern horizon. A third helicopter had joined the other two, however, and they were plainly visible, lined up abreast about a quarter-mile behind the ship. All three kept their evenly, looking like floating scarab beetles, riding just above the surface of the ocean. Lauren was relieved to see that the news helicopter. He could just make out the words: “Chopper 8” printed across its nose. Chopper 8 was a news helicopter from one of the television stations located in Honolulu. The press had arrived. Real witnesses were on hand.
“Here we go,” Shapiro said. “Brace yourselves. Once we’re over the reef, if we get over the reef, I’m going to cut the turbine and coast to the beach or however far we get. If I time it wrong, then we might be stopping rather cataclysmically.”
Lauren ran to the bridge hatch and then through the door and raced down onto the Lido deck cabin. “Brace for impact,” he yelled into the cabin. Sharon looked up from the deck between the couches. “Get down,” he yelled, motioning with his hand, before going down into a prone position himself.
Everyone in the cabin went to the deck.
The ship shuddered and then seemed to run into a wall of jello.
Lauren staggered up and then ran up the stairs and back to the bridge. He barely caught the edge of the bolster for balance, as the big ship accelerated again, across the reef and on in toward the beautiful palm and pine-covered beach. Their speed seemed much too great, however, as the sand loomed in front of the once again planning vessel. Lauren grabbed the bolster next to Shapiro, as the old man cut the power. He hung on with both hands for dear life, the ship jerking and surging like it’d hit a wall but still rushing toward the beach.