The Mermaid Experience – Chapter 57: A Call for Help

To start at the beginning, use this link:  Link to Chapter 1

As soon as the explosion rocked the boat and they started listing to the side, Dave got to work.

“I think this cabin wall is made of wood, right?”  He asked Jaime.

“Yes.”

“Then grab hold of the railing and help me pull.  We should be able to rip at least one end out of the wall.”

The two men shifted to the end of the railing near the cabin door and pulled.  Dave braced himself against the wall with his foot and both of them pulled with all of their strength.  The brackets near the end of the railing gave way as the screws pulled out of the wood, and then Dave and Jaime were able to slide their handcuffs off the end of the rail.  Their hands were still cuffed together but they could now move about freely.

“Get a life jacket on and head for the zodiac.”  Dave told Jaime.  “I need to get one thing out of the cabin and then I will join you.”

“What about Allen and Fernando?”

“Don’t worry about them.  They can breathe underwater.  You and I need to get the zodiac free so it doesn’t go down with La Reina.  I’m sure Allen and Fernando will be able to find us.”

Jaime grabbed a life preserver and headed aft to where the zodiac was stored on the deck.  The rapidly increasing tilt of the deck made walking difficult, but he hung onto the railing and made progress.  As he made his way alongside the pool, he could see Allen and Fernando.  They had come to the surface on the lowest side of the pool and were holding on to the side as the water started to slosh out of the pool and pour over the low side of the boat.  Dave had been right, they would be OK.  All they had to do was let go and they would be able to swim away from the sinking craft.  Allen was pointing at something, though.  Jaime looked in the direction Allen was pointing and he saw a bag that had been strapped under one of the benches on his side of the boat.  He took a few more steps and retrieved the bag, then carried it with him to the zodiac.  Once they saw Jaime grab the bag, Allen and Fernando let go and allowed the water pouring from the pool to wash them over the side.

Jaime got to the zodiac and untied the lines holding it to the deck of the boat.  The deck was at a 45 degree angle by now and as soon as the zodiac was untied it slid down until it was stopped by the railing on the low side of the boat.  Jaime slid down with it, and looked over in the direction of the cabin to see what had happened to Dave.  He was just climbing out of the cabin with a life preserver on and a radio in his hand.

“I’m jumping in from here.  Get the zodiac out and come meet me.”  Dave yelled.

Jaime lifted the zodiac so that it could slide free of the railing and it slipped into the water.  Jaime stepped off of the side of La Reina, pushing the zodiac away from the sinking ship as he entered it.  Dave jumped into the water and started swimming away from the boat, wanting to put as much space as possible between himself and the sinking craft, so he wouldn’t be sucked in when it went under.  Jaime started the engine and headed over to meet Dave, who quickly climbed into the boat.  They pulled farther away from La Reina, and moments later Jaime watched his pride and joy slip beneath the water.  Luckily Jaime’s face was already wet so that Dave wouldn’t be able to tell that he was crying.

“We’ll get you a new boat.”  Dave told him.

“Thank you.”

Dave turned on the radio he had rescued and dialed it to a pre-selected channel.

“I need a pick-up.”  He told the person on the other end.  “I’m activating my homing signal now.”

A few moments later, Allen and Fernando popped up out of the water next to the boat.  Dave and Fernando helped them climb in.

“Start heading south.”  Dave told Jaime.  “I’ve got some help on the way, but they can follow our signal and we want to stay as close to Carlos as we can.”

“What do you plan to do?”

“We need to stop him before he gets to Guatemala.  Once he gets them on land it will be much harder to rescue them.”

“How are we going to rescue them?  Just drive up to them in the zodiac and demand their release?”

“I have some friends coming who will help with that.”

“What friends?  And how will they overcome an armed patrol boat?”

“You’ll see.”

Dave wouldn’t say any more on the matter.  Allen opened the bag Jaime had rescued for him and confirmed that it still had the survival gear the mermaids had used when they were on their own.  He pulled out one of the diver’s knives and pantomimed cutting under his arms.  The diver’s notebook had been lost with La Reina, so Allen and Fernando had no good way to communicate with the others.  Dave understood however.

“You still want me to cut your arms free?”  He asked.

Allen nodded.  It was a little difficult as the zodiac bumped up and down over the waves, but he was able to cut away the material holding Allen’s arms to his sides.  Luckily, since his outfit had been designed to fill with air, the upper part had not been filled with healgel and his skin had not grown into the silicone.  The cut was a little ragged and when Dave finished there was a fringe of material around Allen’s waist and wrists, but his arms were once again free.  Fernando motioned for Dave to do him next, and after a bit of work, his arms were free as well.  Not long after Dave finished, a huge shadow appeared under the water ahead of them.  Jaime pulled back on the throttle and the zodiac drifted to a stop.  The shadow rose through the water until the conning tower of a submarine rose through the surface, spilling water down the sides.

“This is your friends?”  Jaime asked.

“Yes.”

“I think I’m beginning to understand how they might help.”

The hatch on the sub opened and a man in a US navy uniform climbed out.

“Did you call for a ride?”  He asked.

“Indeed I did.”  Said Dave.  “Thanks for coming.”

“Anything for an old friend.”

“Jaime, this is Captain Nelson, commanding the United States Missile Boat Florida.  Captain, this is Jaime, one of my local operatives.  And this is Allen Landry and Fernando Salazar, two of the people who were kidnapped by Carlos.”

“Nice to meet you all.  How can I help you, Dave?”

“Well, Carlos has apparently managed to “rent” a Guatemalan patrol boat.  They have seven women held captive and are running for Carlos’s estate.  We need to head them off and try to rescue the women before he gets to land.”

“You had better come aboard then.  But we have a problem.  Is Jaime a US citizen?”

“No sir, I am not.”  Jaime said.  “I’m Belizian.”

“Then I can’t let you aboard without permission from higher up.  What’s the range on that zodiac?”

“With a full tank, about 150 miles.  But we’ve been running for a while so I’m only about half full.”

“That should be enough.  We’re about 25 miles east of Belize.  Do you think you can make it to shore OK?  The weather is predicted to remain pretty calm.”

“Yes, I can make it.”

“Well, let’s get the rest of you on board so we can start moving.  We’ll have to be quick if we want to catch him before he reaches shore.”

The captain called down into the hatch and two seamen came up to help transfer Allen and Fernando to the submarine.  Getting them down the ladder was a bit tricky but they managed it in a relatively quick time.  The sailors carried them into the wardroom and sat them down on a couple of chairs.  No sooner were they situated than they felt the submarine tip forward as it dove under the water again.  A few minutes later they leveled out again and the captain came into the room, followed by another officer.

“This is my XO, Candace Williams.”  He said.

“Just call me Candy.”  Said the large, muscular man.  “And no comments are necessary.”

Allen figured that Candy must get lots of comments about his name, but he wasn’t able to make any at the moment.  He pantomimed writing, and the XO produced a pad of paper and a pen.  The captain spoke again.

“So what did you plan to do once we catch this guy?”  Captain Nelson asked.  “We could launch a tomahawk from here, but there wouldn’t be much left of the captives afterward.”

“I don’t suppose you have any seals on board?”

“Nope.  Seals aren’t in our current mission profile.”

“That was plan A, but I didn’t think it was very likely.  Do you have any explosives?”

“Other than in our warheads?  I’m not sure.  We may have something stored from previous missions.  Candy, can you check on that?”

“Yes, sir.”  Said the man, who then ducked out of the room to search for the information.

“My thought was that if we could get close to them, a diver could attach a charge to the bow of the ship.  It looked like all the captives were being held on the aft deck, so if we blow a hole in the bow they should be unharmed.”

“Wouldn’t they drown though?  I assume they are tied up or restrained in some way.”

“They are.  In fact they are locked inside individual boxes.  But their breathing collars will provide them with air for about 24 hours, so they won’t drown.”

“Really?  I’ve never heard of anything like that.  Most scuba tanks run out of air after about an hour.”

“It’s true.  Allen and a few others have developed some new technology.  In fact, neither Allen nor Fernando have been breathing the air in the sub.  Their throats are currently closed off.  That’s why they can’t talk.”

“That’s unbelievable!  This technology is going to change diving forever!  How does it work?”

“I think I’ll leave that one up to Allen to explain.”

Allen wrote a quick explanation out on the pad of paper, then opened the bag of supplies and pulled out some of the discs to show.  The captain was very interested.

“When will this system become commercially available?”  He asked.

“Before we were kidnapped, we were working on a production model.”  Allen wrote.  “I don’t know if there has been any progress made since then, though.”

“I’m sure there will be a lot of interest when you do start selling them.  So do you want a couple of my men to attach an explosive to Carlos’s boat?”  He said, looking at Dave.

“I was thinking of having Allen do it.  He can swim faster than your divers.”  Dave answered.

“It may be hard even for a very fast swimmer to keep up with the boat if it is moving, but I have an idea about that.”

Candy the XO came back, bringing a tall, skinny man with him.  The second man was carrying a thick round disc about a foot in diameter.

“Machinist’s Mate Walker has something we can use.”  Candy said.

The tall man held out the disc.  “This is a magnetic mine.  We were carrying a few for some testing on our last tour.”

“Can it be detonated remotely?”  Dave asked.

“Yes, sir.  I believe so.  It will take me a while to rig up a detonator.”

“Get on it then.”  Said the captain.  “We’ve got about an hour.”

“Aye, aye, sir.”  Said Walker, who then rushed quickly away to his task.

A little less than an hour later, the detonator was attached and the mine was ready, and the sub had Carlos’s boat on the sonar.  They were about 6 miles from the Guatemalan shore.

“My plan is to surface in front of the boat.”  Captain Nelson explained.  “That should get them to stop, at least for a few minutes.  Allen will have that long to attach the mine and get back to the sub.”

“Doesn’t that risk them firing on the sub?”

“There is a risk there, but I expect even Carlos will hesitate to fire on a US warship.  If he does, we’ll probably have some warning and we can dive if we need to.  And we can probably take a hit from his gun if we have to.”

“How do we get Allen out of the sub?”

“We have an escape trunk ready for him to use.  It is basically an airlock that we can use in case of emergencies.  We need to get him into it right away and flood it.  Then when we are ready to surface he can open the hatch and swim out.”

“Let’s get moving then.”  Allen wrote.

One of the Seamen brought a rolling office chair to the wardroom and then pushed Allen down the sub’s passages on the chair.  He opened the hatch and helped Allen through into the escape chamber, which was surprisingly large.

“After I close the hatch, I’ll fill the chamber with water.”  The seaman explained.  When we’re in position I’ll bang on the hatch with a wrench.  Then you open that hatch overhead and go set the mine.  Make sure you close the hatch behind you.  We’ll leave the chamber filled with water so you can open the hatch again when you are done.  Once you’re back inside, press that big button there and we’ll pump the water back out.  Understand?”

Allen nodded his head and made the OK symbol with his fingers.  Then the hatch closed and the chamber started filling with water.

Captain Nelson piloted the sub a few hundred yards in front of Carlos’s rented PT boat, then stopped so that Allen could exit the escape chamber.  Once his crewman reported that Allen was out, he ordered the sub to surface.  When the captain of the PT boat saw the huge submarine break the surface directly in front of his boat, he ordered an emergency stop.  By putting the screws in reverse his crew was able to bring his boat to a halt just a few feet shy of colliding with the huge obstacle.  The waves from his sudden stop were still washing over the top of the sub when the hatch opened and a man in the uniform of a US Navy captain climbed out.  He had a megaphone, but the two craft were close enough together that he didn’t really need it.

“I need to speak with the captain of this ship.”  He called out.

Captain Sepulveda didn’t speak English, so he brought a bilingual member of his crew onto the fore deck with him.

“This is Captain Sepulveda.”  The crewman translated.  “He wants to know what a US Navy submarine is doing in Guatemalan waters.”

Captain Nelson noticed that the covers had been removed from the PT boat’s name, and it was now flying a Guatemalan flag.

“I am looking for a wanted fugitive, Carlos Ruiz.  We have reason to believe he is on your boat, and that he has seven kidnapped US citizens with him.”

“As you can see, we are a ship of the Guatemalan Navy.  We don’t transport civilians, and you have no right to stop a Guatemalan ship in our own sovereign waters.  If you leave immediately, we will assume you made a navigation error and we won’t be forced to take you into custody.”

Captain Nelson laughed out loud.  “If you don’t turn over Carlos Ruiz and release the prisoners, we’ll blow you out of the water.”

“Are you really willing to start an international incident over this?  What evidence do you have that there is a fugitive on board?”

“We have four witnesses.  Despite your attempts to kill them.  Now, are we going to do this the hard way or are you going to turn them over?”

Captain Nelson saw Allen’s hand come out of the water about 50 feet down the length of the sub.  He couldn’t get into the hatch without being seen while the sub was on the surface, so he just grabbed a section of railing and held on.  The Guatemalan captain answered through his translator:

“Even if we had these captives on board, what could you do about it?  If you sink us, the captives would sink as well.  Why don’t you register your complaints with the government and let the police handle this?”

“I’ve had enough of talking.  You have one minute.”

Captain Nelson stepped to the hatch and slid down the ladder with his hands and feet on the side rails.  He stopped himself just inside the sub and started to pull the hatch closed.  Just before it shut, he heard a shout from a different voice on the PT boat.

“Disparale!”  The voice said.

Captain Nelson, who spoke Spanish quite well, recognized the command as “Shoot him!”

“Emergency Deep!”  The captain called out.

“Emergency Deep, Aye aye, sir!”  Answered his XO.

The sub immediately tilted forward and started to dive.  Captain Nelson made his way to the command deck.  He heard a boom and felt an impact.  A loud bang sounded through the ship.

“Damage report!”  He commanded.

A flurry of commands from one officer to another followed as the sub continued to dive.  Moments later, Candy reported back.

“No damage, Captain.”

“Good.  Now he’s made me mad.  I think his minute is up.  Is our merman back inside the ship?”

“Aye sir.”

“Then activate the detonator.”

“Activate the detonator.  Aye, aye, Sir.”

Machinist’s Mate Walker pressed a button on his console and they heard a muffled “Boom” from behind and above them.

“OK, let’s turn this thing around and go up to periscope depth.  I want to see what’s going on.”

A flurry of commands were issued, then repeated back as the submariners followed their Captain’s instructions.  Captain Nelson took his place at the periscope and looked back at the PT boat.  He could see the boat ahead of him, already tilting forward and to the side as the large hole in the bow allowed water to pour into it.  Sailors rushed around on the deck, lowering lifeboats and preparing to abandon ship.  Among those on the deck he could see a civilian man in a soaking wet silk shirt, arguing with the captain about something.  He apparently lost the argument because two burly sailors grabbed him by his arms and escorted him forcibly to one of the lifeboats.

Captain Nelson called to Candy and showed him the lifeboat with the civilian in it.

“Keep track of that lifeboat.  That’s the one with our target in it.”

“Track that lifeboat.  Aye aye, sir.”

Link to Chapter 58

Link to Chapter 56

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