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    Prologue to Sea Hunters

    Posted by Charles Gray on February 23, 2012

    June 5th, 2012. 

    The USCG Williamson was a high endurance cutter, one of the few the Coast Guard had.  And Contrary to most Americans’ beliefs, often the Coast Guard was quite a bit away from the coast.

    Like now for example.

    “So the DEA is certain about this?”  Captain Jacobs asked.  After nearly 30 years in the Coast Guard, his face had the marks of years of exposure to everything from the inland rivers and lakes of America to the Persian Gulf when he and his ship had been involved in protecting the Navy from mines and suicide bombers alike.

    And it would be nice if things were calmer back here but…  He shook his head.  Drug interdiction had made shipping by sea very difficult an achievement that was darkened by the fact that it did nothing to stop demand from the US and the change in routes had resulted in Mexico’s ongoing bloodbath.

    “As certain as we can be. “  Agent Thomas Burles told him.  Burles was younger, but he’d worked with the Williamson before and had amassed quite a record of his own.

    He also has a full head of hair. Jacobs thought.  His face wasn’t the only thing that years on the sea had left their mark on.

    Cindy’s Dream, is supposedly a freighter, registered to Panama… but the hard evidence we have is that she’s actually carrying about 30 tons worth of drugs…and a fair amount of weapons.”

    “That’s a surprise.”  Jacobs muttered.

    “And not a good one.”  Burles replied, running his hand through his dark hair.  “Problem is, the Mexicans are actually better than we are about securing their own southern border.  Our intelligence thinks that the cartels have twigged that if getting civilian guns through the border is so damned easy, they might as well try with military hardware.”  His eyes darkened.  “And that’s the last fucking thing Mexico needs, so hopefully if we can get enough information we may be able to figure out who is selling the hardware.”

    “How about…just about anyone?”  Jacobs said sourly.  “they’ve got what, about 30 billion bucks a year to play with?”

    “I know, but playing Little Dutch Boy is better than learning how to swim,”  Burles said.

    “Well, we’re getting close enough,”  Jacobs commented, raising his binoculars to peer at the small freighter, just over 2 miles away.  “Mike, tell them to heave to and prepare for boarding.”

    “Yes sir.” The XO said and started relaying the order.

    “They don’t look at all worried.”  Jacobs said softly. “You’re certain you’ve got the right people?”

    “As certain as I can be.”

    ***

    In the Williamson’s CIC (Combat Information Center), Ensign Sherie Willis started at the radar screen.  The freighter was still chugging along, seemingly ignoring the growing irritation in the XO’s voice as he ordered them to heave to.

    “Where do they think they can go?”  Sherie asked herself.  It’s not like they can actually outrun us-

    Suddenly several other indicators turned a blood red, as an alarm rang in the CIC.  Sherie looked for a moment before realizing it wasn’t the radar, but the sonar systems.

    A Torpe-

    “Bridge this is Ensign Willis—the freighter has launched a torpedo at us!”  She said, willing her voice calm, “It’s approaching at 40 knots, impact in… one minute 15 seconds.”

    ***

    On the bridge, Jacobs felt like he’d been punched in the gut.  A torpedo?  It didn’t stop him as he snapped orders for the ship to go to full speed and start evading, even as he ordered a mayday transmitted to any naval ships in the area.

    If it’s a dummy, or some unguided….  That thought died as Ensign Willis reported that the torpedo was homing in on them, although the model wasn’t identified.

    “Guns.”  He said quietly.  “If we go down that freighter’d be able to do anything it wants to the crew in the water…Open fire. I want it on the bottom of hte ocean.”

    “Aye sir!”

    Moments later, the 76mm cannon on the foredeck started firing, each round impacting the freighter, blowing gaping holes in the thin metal of the civilian ship.  Moments later, fire started to bloom from the ship which lost way.

    “Torpedo’s still coming, impact in 50 seconds.”

    “We made some time on it.” Burles said.

    “Not enough.”  Jacobs said, “All watertight doors closed?”

    “We’re tight, sir.”

    “Good, this may be just a dud, but I doubt it.”  He muttered.  For the cost of a homing unit, you’d be damned certain to put a bomb in it.

    Fifty seconds later, the torpedo vanished under the stern of the Williamson.  For a fraction of a second, Jacobs thought that it had been a dud, but then he was slammed to the deck as an explosion shook the ship like a dog’s chewtoy.  The lights and systems went out on the bridge, even as the ship groaned like a damned thing.

    “Sir, the engine rooms flooding, and I think it broke the ships back.”  The XO said, his voice dim in the aftermath of the explosion.  “We can’t save her.”

    And I’m not going to lose more of my crew by trying.  Jacobs didn’t have to ask the XO to know that most of his engineering staff had just died.

    “Abandon Ship, XO.”

    “Aye sir.”

    Most of the crew got off the ship, including a severely injured Ensign Willis.  57 would remain with the ship forever, as the broken backed hulk dove for the bottom of the ocean less than 7 minutes after being hit.  Twenty minutes later, Jacobs looked up as two fighters roared overhead, while another two orbited the smoking Cindy’s Dream.

    I lost my crew…my ship. He thought bitterly.  The first time something like that had happened in peacetime.  But then,  we didn’t expect criminals to get torpedoes and use them in peacetime, either.

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