Shiva's Messenger

Games of Ring Around the Squid

Chapter 27

Games of Ring Around the Squid

 

The Iranian programmer tossed a jute rope around a metal bollard and cinched up the slack. While looping a half hitch, he saw Ghazi reach into his carryall: the hand stayed put. He’s got a ready thumb on the detonator.
“You are far too important to risk.” Tariq interposed, as it appeared bin Omani and his animated bomb intended to lead the way. “Allow me walk up the gangway with him. I’ll make sure it’s safe enough for you.”
“Of course I wasn’t going myself.” The sheik saw the good logic and covered his small error. “I’m ordering you to.”
“Move along!” Tariq jerked heavily on the meek prisoner and stepped onto the expanded metal of a waterline dock. Swaying stairs angled up.
“Wave me up within three minutes,” Ghazi warned, “or I’ll detonate.”
“I am not who I seem.” Midway in the climb, Tariq whispered tersely. “If you want to live, you’ll follow my every instruction.”
“Are you one of ours?” The influential but currently powerless man tried to spin his head for a better look at his potential rescuer.
“Never mind: just do as I say.” The Iranian hissed. He added a loud urging for the benefit of his audience. “Hurry it up—infidel!”
“What do you want?” Bob Wall’s voice was a squeaky falsetto: He was staring at, and seeming speaking to the bomb.
“I’ll try to save your life.” Tariq unbuckled the dynamite belt.
“If I’m killed the tape will automatically go into mass circulation.” As his fingers worked, Tariq’s eyes swung to Sergey. “Repel anyone trying to board us: they are armed with machine guns.”
“What’s he doing here?” The former CEO’s eyes finally traveled from the TNT vest to the very recognizable face above it.
“He is trying to survive.” As the explosive belt dropped free into one hand, Tariq shoved the relieved man at Bob with the other. “Both of you should take shelter in an interior cabin and stay together.”
Now what to do with this? The programmer hefted the bomb belt onto a shoulder like a bandolier of overly large red bullets.
[Give an offering to Poseidon, or to Neptune.] Loki seemed panicked.
“This bomb is a healthy slice of my limited resources.” Machine guns generally prevail over Smith and Wesson handguns: he needed better odds.
“This ship is bigger than a sea-going ferry.” The Iranian cast about for a way below decks. Ghazi said three minutes but I don’t want to hold onto this thing any longer than necessary. A hatch showed slightly amidships and he took the steps down three at a time.
[There were twenty-four steps up from the water.]
“That’s about two decks deep.” The saboteur paced to where Ghazi’s boat was approximately located and set the satchel charge against the outer bulkhead. “Just touching that thing,” while sprinting back up to the deck he shuddered, “gave me the heebie-jeebies.”
[Admiral Dash Away must’ve ordered the unfurling of a high tail sail.]
“That’s one stupid move!” Tariq’s voice was lost in the throaty snarl of the 400-foot yacht’s big diesel engines firing up. He again considered the second runabout’s probable mission. It’s not playing hide and go seek.

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“Get up there.” Ghazi heard and actually felt a vibrating roar from the engines. Another jihad man scaled the boarding ramp. As the terrorist got to the top, a single shot rang out and he returned an automatic burst.
“Where is my hostage-handler?” The sheik wondered. The guns firing at the second man up the ladder was unimaginable. That jihad soldier was older than the rest, he turned up late when the squad commander failed to arrive, was inquisitive and he volunteered for the now failed escort duty.
Ghazi’s mind sifted quickly through his prior knowledge and results of his quest for information conducted on the jet trip west. His missing IT manager would be of about that age and he was of Iranian extraction.
“Tariq Awi!” The sheik saw his man on the top landing take fatal fire. “My gamble of his being here,” he keyed the detonator, “paid—.

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Captain Dick Wadley slammed the transmission into forward gear and the Squid heaved ahead. In the same instant a blast sent the hull lurching to the side. Given his location on the ship, Tariq’s body was both pushed backwards by the inertia of the acceleration and forward from a concussion wave. The opposed forces balanced and he remained on his feet.
One Russian is critically wounded. Poking his head out the hatch, the Iranian saw a man clutching his midsection: his blood was a circular pool.
[Ring-around-the-rosy.] Loki sang the tune of a child’s game.
“Pocket-full-of-posy.” Tariq took up the chant. War is just immature leaders, handling grownup issues—with a kindergarten mentality. One has something the other wants, but the national identities don’t understand the concept of sharing. “Hush-ah, hush-ah, we all fall down.”
[An army’s casualties are not your soul’s responsibility.]
Commanders-in-chief must excuse themselves with that lie. The Iranian hadn’t considered liabilities to his conscience. The mobster and the sheik acted on their motives, but I steered some too.

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“A clever gambit.” Ghazi Omani wiped gore off his cheek: he studied the blood smear on his hand. Was it his from a shrapnel wound or splatter from a victim nearer to the explosion? Anger-spawned adrenaline blocked his pain—but his cheek was severely gashed.
“Sink the infidel’s ship,” the enraged Saudi snarled into the handheld radio, “in the name of Allah.” The sheik had no qualms about letting jihad pawns believe they dying for Islam when only his wrath demanded it. As impressed into him during his privileged upbringing, Ghazi believed his elevated status allowed him to freely spend the lives of underlings.
“Catch that boat!” He called out to the steersman but the man was no longer alive at his post. “Fine,” he growled at the body, “I’ll do it myself.” Ghazi moved quickly to the helm wheel, as the larger ship’s hull was fast pulling passed. Now that the smoke and airborne clutter from blast had cleared, he could see the bomb had opened a yawning hole.
“There is my wide avenue for easy entry and this craft is faster.” The sheik pushed the throttles ahead and angled away from the Squid’s side: he piloted his collision course in a parabolic arc to strike as a homing torpedo.
“Brace for impact!” Like driving into a garage but at higher speed, the smaller launch nosed into the gaping rent in the Squid’s hull.
“Kill everyone aboard,” Sheik Ghazi leaped from the smaller boat into the flow of water inside the yacht: the remaining jihad troops surged like pirates over the side of a sloop, “for our Islamic jihad!”

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[The sheik put a stopper in the drain.]
“That’ll slow the sink.” Tariq had been about to look though a broken porthole to check damage, when a crunch under his feet supplied a picture of how big the hole was. The programmer ran forward to a wide carpeted staircase. Presumably, the bridge was up this way: he readied his Uzi.
“We’re unarmed.” The captain turned from a console and hesitatingly raised his hands. Two additional crewmembers reached up as well.
“Where is Wall?” Tariq indicated with the gun’s muzzle that the man could lower his arms. “I am on your side.”
“How can I tell?” Wadley’s eyes were riveted on the weapon.
“I suppose my not shooting you will be a confirmation.” The Iranian turned his attention from the uniformed man to scan the horizon.
“Why are we under attack?” The captain asked.
“You see that?” The programmer ignored the question as another small speedboat was traveling fast towards the wounded Squid’s front quarter. “Do you recall what happened in Yemen to the USS Cole?”
“A small craft bearing a bomb,” the man answered and the vision of the event sprang to mind: his head snapped around, “blew a hole in her hull.”
“Cole was an armored warship,” Tariq’s voice was grim, “and outfitted with watertight compartments.”
“If we’re moving this fast when it hits,” Captain Dick Wadley grabbed for the helm, “the water could rip the keel out from under us.”
[You’ve seen that before—but not from onboard.]
“You’re the captain.” Tariq recalled watching Bob’s last yacht sink but he wasn’t convinced the same phenomena happen would be so in this case. Then, the hull was made weaker from my intentional damage.
“My previous vessel sunk under full power, but I need some speed to maneuver with.” The danger warning had convinced Dick that this Arab was an unlikely ally, as were the recently arrived Russians. “Mr. Wall and his cohort ran forward. That hatch opens down into the companionway.”
“The other Arabs,” Tariq handed over his Uzi, “are not friendly.” He was already moving to the indicated hatch whilst finishing his warning. “If you can’t or won’t hold them off, I suggest abandoning the ship.”

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Emerging from a partly ruined amidships section, Ghazi found himself in the salon Tariq had recently left. Several Russians were in ambush and one jihad member took a chest wound finding that out. A second terrorist dropped under the single shot fire but his teammate took out the opposition with a rake of bullets into the two Russian goons.
“They were prepared to repel our boarding but in coming from below, we outflanked them.” The sheik laid a strategy that had his men fighting to the death. “Kill them or at least ensure they don’t head for the bow.”
“I’ll go forward.” He suspected his quarry would’ve gone to safer parts of the yacht. The sheik briefly considered going up but his killing the men steering the ship didn’t seem like a brilliant idea.
“I have another advantage.” Omani bolstered his courage as he moved around the ascending stair to one hidden behind: he knew it went down. “I’ve been aboard this yacht not long ago, as the previous owner’s guest.”
He took the steps carefully and held his Uzi in a ready grip. The ladder ended in a tiny alcove that opened onto a wide hallway running forward. He recalled that this aisle ran the interior length of the boat. Ghazi pressed his back against the bulkhead and prepared to spin, to fire downrange.
“These must be lesser staterooms on either side.” The hatch Tariq had taken down from the bridge led into the same aisle but the Iranian was substantively forward from the sheik’s current position. He jogged along and tried the handles of several rooms.
“They’re not locked but there are too many to check.” The boat was a floating hotel. Tariq left the remaining doors untried and sprinted ahead: he assumed Wall would’ve headed for his own cabin and the double doors at the corridor’s end seemed the most likely.
Sheik bin Omani rounded the wall and saw the figure running away. He pulled his machine gun up to the aim, and squeezed off a short burst.
“Ugh!” Tariq took one round in the lower right of his back and another about a palm’s width higher. The action hero is supposed to be shot at a zillion times without being hit—I took the very first two bullets. Now close to the companionway’s end, he ran faster but zigzagged several steps. If those are locked then I’m dead meat on the stampeding hoof.
“He’s hit at least twice.” Do I want to kill him? Ghazi’s mind worked furiously: first in the ‘energetically’ definition of the word. If I capture, I might force his relinquishing my shares. He then considered recent events and the applicable elucidation became ‘angrily’. The livid sheik fired a burst. “The winner has his king still standing at the end.”
“Again!” The programmer staggered as two small caliber rounds took him in the upper thigh, while a third deeply grazed his hip. Did any other slugs somehow manage to miss me? He took both doorknobs and turned them simultaneously: fortunately, they were unlatched.
[Only two from every three have hit you.]
Is taking only two thirds of the bullets even remotely optimistic?
“Dead men hire no lawyers.” Ghazi shouted and shot again.
Another wound! A round from a third rattle of the Uzi painfully ripped under the Iranian’s shoulder blade as he charged into the door.
[A crossbow quarrel does worse damage than these tiny lead pellets.]
That too, gives a warm fuzzy feeling of contentment. He slammed the doors and spun: the men he was looking for were where he had expected.
“You’re dead!” A shock of recognition slacked the hinge of the geek’s lower jaw and it gaped. Up on the deck, Wall’s eyes had been exclusively on the political man in the bomber jacket.
“Nah,” Tariq turned sharply and threw the deadbolt, “just winged.”
“What’s happening out—,” the software nerd noticed the programmer’s many wounds his panicky voice squeaked out the last word, “—there?”
“Bedlam and bullets,” the Iranian rounded on the speaker, “and if there isn’t another way out here—we can upgrade that to chaos and calamity.”
“I don’t know yet.” Bob hadn’t yet explored much of his new boat.
[My sundial says torpedo time.] Loki was mindful of the suicide boat’s speed and the last seen vector.
Tariq’s aside glance caught a movement outside the portal. He sprinted and as a blitzing linebacker on a confusing hand-off, he clothesline tackled with both arms. The larger explosion was very close: shrapnel told him so.

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“There was nothing we could’ve done to prevent that.” Aboard the helicopter, Agent Wilkins lied to himself and into a radio. The two aircraft carrying the government men had arrived with plenty of time to fly in close enough to shoot the small craft’s occupants. They veered away on seeing that one jihad man held a machine gun while the other piloted.
Police methodology is to meekly hold back until certain that they have overwhelming force. They are not truly looking out for people: the law is all they care about and that really isn’t worth risking a life for. Statutes are often broken but it’s a concept that can’t feel harmed. Columbine School and the Virginia Tech shootings are examples where even one brave officer could’ve saved many—but didn’t. Federal enforcement agencies aren’t any bolder, as proved at Waco—and now again here.
“Should I land on the flight deck?” The pilot asked.
“We’ll circle to see if more bomb boats are coming.” Wilkins replied in a human voice, but a hen’s clucking would’ve been more appropriate.

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“Am I alive?” The Wall Soft ex-mogul stirred first. Stretched flat on his back, he was covered by debris and half of an Iranian. He took a dust-laden breath and voiced his thoughts. “Is that tangy smell brimstone?”
“If you can breath to smell the cordite from an explosion, then you are not yet in hell,” Tariq was and bleeding from a few new back wounds, “but that’s a likely prediction of your eventual destination.”
“Get off of me.” The frail man issued a terse instruction: he comprised the other half of the linebacker’s cushion.
“I was about to,” the programmer rolled somewhat off Bob to allow him to stand but in doing so he pressed more of his weight onto the other pinned cushion, “but I won’t obey your orders.”
“You’re crushing me.” The retirement-aged man felt internal pain as his weak heart labored against the rib bars of his compressed rib cage.
“I’ll move in my own good time,” Tariq lifted his both hands off the floor to allow his full 225 lbs to squish the weakling, “but that is now.”
[The blast has produced a panoramic porthole.]
“The Wall-Dorf is ruined.” Bob Wall had also seen the ship’s wound.
“View it optimistically.” The man responsible for sinking one of Bob’s yachts couldn’t help but smile as he surveyed a ripped section that spanned several compartments and deck levels. “Your master cabin can be outfitted with a sunken living room and an open-water veranda.”
“Sinking?” The geek only fully appreciated two words in the quip and fixated negatively on them. “We are taking water!”
That was an understatement of titanic proportions. Several staterooms adjacent to the premier suite had been obliterated. The companionway on the ship’s keel line now had an unobstructed view of the sea and the newly created porthole was as big as an industrial shop’s overhead door.
“Wear this.” When belly down on the floor, the Iranian had spotted life vests stored under bed. He fished two out and handed one to Bob.
“We need to get out of here.” The other man astutely realized a breach of this magnitude meant they would soon skim along under the waves.
“I agree.” Tariq coughed and spit up some blood. The exertions of the past few minutes had exacerbated his injuries and reminded him to feel the pain of them. I feel like I was backstop of a pistol range. His aches were too great to don his floatation jacket so he held it limply in his hand.
[Captain Sinkmore has throttled back but the Squid is still cruising.]
Seen from the brink of the wrecked deck, a wash of water was flooding in. The jagged edge of the sundered hull was like a spire rock jutting from a swift river: it split the stream, sending some in and the rest out.
“We need to get into the outbound current,” Tariq judged the distance from the closest solid flooring to the hull, “but that gap too wide to jump.”
“I’m going to die.” Bob Wall’s voice had grown steady as he resigned to his fate. He was even waffling about whether to be happy about death. His wealth had spoiled him and this decimated ship was his last asset.
“No you won’t!” The geek’s loosing hope, gave Tariq a renewed vigor in his conviction. “I’m here only to save you and I don’t intend to fail.”

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“~I think there’s only one left.” At the Squid’s aft end, where the white wake trails even looked like the aquatic namesake’s tentacle feet, Sergey was down to his last spare thug. He was better armed though, with an Uzi taken from a dead jihad soldier.
For the Russians and Arabs, the firefight had just been a blood-shower. Neither side had committed to a defensive or an offensive campaign and no competent officers existed on either side to order a good strategy. The Obshina was classed as a general in Tariq’s analogy but his lack of tactical skill made his force as rudderless as the jihad unit: the Anaconda, were he still alive, would’ve made this battle all one-sided.
“~Should I rush him?” A young mafia goon asked tentatively. At the skirmish outset, the thug had fought mostly to prove himself in the eyes of his gang comrades. As they died, his tenacity became rooted in a desire to avenge the fallen. He and the Obshina were now the last and the ruffian was wavering for a good reason to risk his young life.
“~We should go together and double our chances.” Sergey was passed the necessity of motivation. The force he had gathered represented a final opportunity to recapture his underworld empire and now they were all but finished. “~If we succeed, you are my new lieutenant.”
“~Let’s go then.” The junior mobster led the final rush into no-man’s-land—and he took all the fatal bullets.
Sergey’s machine gun was rattling over the last mob goon’s shoulder when he fell and the final jihad trooper dropped overboard.

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“That’s why we couldn’t land.” Wilkins pointed to the Arab’s dramatic plunge into the sea: a stuntman couldn’t have performed it better.
“That’s happening on the after deck,” the civilian pilot noted with a scoff in his voice, “the helicopter landing pad has seen no action at all.”
“It hasn’t—yet!” The agent’s lame excuse was in an indignant voice.

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“That vine could make a good Tarzan swing.” After a moment spent in thought and in mentally pushing his agony aside, Tariq spotted a possible egress from the doomed boat. An insulated wire in a conduit hung from the shattered deck head. With a handy section of stiffening channel, used as a shepherd’s crook, he pulled the improvised rope to a start position.
“You’re first.” The Iranian handed the bar to Bob. He had to backhand the other man away. “Hold on tight until your arc takes you outside.”
“Then what?” The nerd’s brain-ware had a frenetic situation glitch.
[Need you remind him to keep breathing as well?]
“The instant you break the threshold of the hull’s goal line, you’re my touchdown.” The Iranian decided his task’s victory condition. “Whether or not you survive, is just an extra point after.”
“There’s at least one helicopter outside.” The grey-fringed man had seen shadows pass by the blast porthole.
“I’m sure the Captain called a Mayday too.” Tariq lifted the scrawny geek and pushed hard. “Now swing to safety.”
Bob’s hands were so firmly clenched, that his knucklebones were pale white knobs seen through a taut veneer of skin. He closed his eyes for the ride and released his grip when the fresh outside breeze told him he was clear. At least, that’s how he would later recall it: in fact, increased inertia at the pendulum’s outer point was too much for his hand strength.
“I’m next.” As the impromptu vine swung back, the slight bureaucrat stepped up to the launching pad.
“Not quite yet.” Tariq turned with sinister intent to the man seen from Bangkok’s Choa Phraya River. “We have unfinished business to settle.”

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“There is the floundering ship.” From his seat next to the pilot, Collin spotted the Squid and pointed it out to the rear passengers. The sloughing vessel wobbled as a rubber band powered tub toy, sloshing liquid inside.
“There are people floating in the wake.” John added his observation.
“And the air cavalry are doing diddly-squat.” Hersker’s voice dripped with disgust. The two helicopters Collin had first requested were equipped with rescue gear—but the one they currently were in had none. “They are just hovering around the ship like blue-bottle flies over a fresh cow flop.”
“A Coast Guard cutter is only a few minutes away.” The pilot repeated some news from his frequency.
“Bob is bobbing just there.” The executive spotted the geek sweeping along the hull. “He appears to have emerged from that wide fissure.”
“Fly only where we can observe that area.” Jacqueline also recognized her former captor. If her man had succeeded in his primary mission, then he would’ve helped Wall to safety. “That’s where we’ll find Tariq.”
“We’ll get him out of there.” John sensed his sister’s deep concern and clasped her hand. “The pilot can drop me onto the deck if needs be.”

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“This craft is going down.” The weasel-faced official’s eyes darted to the escape hole like it was a way in and out of a chicken coop.
“The American ship of state rides low in the water too,” Tariq’s eyes narrowed and his nose wrinkled as if suddenly subjected to an offensive odor, “and I’m staring at one termite that is gnawing on that hull.”
“I’m the vice-president of the United States,” the tiny man puffed his diminutive stature up to its unimpressive full, “and I hereby demand that you assist my escape.”
“I personally saw you standing and genially chatting with the terrorist your administration has supposedly waged war against.” Tariq set the wire swing under a hatch handle to enable him to use both hands if necessary. “I’m also to understand the CIA is still running Al Qaeda from above and before your political step up, you were that pernicious agency’s director.”
Vice-President Lon Clark’s eyes shifted like a cornered rodent’s. He knew there was no physical way he could best the larger Iranian man. Lon wasn’t in good health but even in his prime, he was the litter’s runt. Part of his yearning for administrative power was owed to his compensating for a pathetic bodily stature. While he was in an high office, Clark could order actions against people whom he wouldn’t dare to challenge in person.
“The other man at your Bangkok meeting proved his prior knowledge of nine-eleven,” the man robbed of his family continued, “by pilfering the valuables from his own vault, just before the strike.”
“Sheik Ghazi bin Omani,” Lon Clark wasn’t as good at face-to-face confrontations, as he was at stabbing in the back and the programmer had him rattled, “is now an enemy of the nation.”
“A logical supposition is that you also had pre-knowledge,” the Iranian ignored the obvious blame shifting and continued, “but I’m convinced that you even participated in the event’s planning.”
“I didn’t make the final decision.” Clark ducked the responsibility but in doing so, he had made another admission.
“I lost my wife and daughter when a plane hit a building.” The Iranian-Canadian stared at the second most powerful American politician. “I just want to know why.” He watched the vice-president’s face contorting.
[It looks like he’s concocting a lie.]
“I suggest you answer carefully.” Tariq warned. “If I detect falsehood I’ll throw you in and let you drown in the bowels of this sinking ship.”
“The election was indecisive.” Lon confessed. “Something major was needed to reestablish firm leadership. The weapons manufacturers wanted strife and other influential people wished to exert a stronger control on the oil supply. The decision was made for the citizen’s best interest.”
[Historic evil has often followed that self-righteous phrase.]
“That disgusting truth just paid for my not pushing you to your death. Now, you can earn my assistance in your traversing the chasm. Swear on the miniscule soul you have, that on being rescued you will promptly quit your position. The citizens probably don’t need full-disclosure scandal but you are personally not fit to hold the office.”
“I promise by my fervent faith in Jesus Christ,” the man added a mental snippet, ‘faked religiously every Sunday so it’s not binding.’ “I will retire from public life if you help me to escape.” The man spoke his lie but again added an unspoken bit. ‘When I feel like it—but you won’t live to see it.’
Tariq stared at the wretched little man who’s every facial expression and body language screamed at his already having reneged.
[Leave God to deal with a foul creature like that.]
The Iranian handed the wire conduit to the vile politician.
Lon Clark grabbed the rope representing his stolen bridge to safety.
“You’ll just have to work harder at it than Bob did.” The programmer lifted the loathsome bureaucrat. “If you hadn’t spouted complete bullshit about your willingness to do the decent thing, I might’ve reminded you,” he shoved hard, “to put on a life jacket.”
“Wait!” The vice-president yelled but it was already too late. He flew out the opening and his weakling arms also couldn’t hold when the whip snapped. Lon hit the water and the current carried him away from the boat.
“I’m drown—.” Water splashed into his mouth. “My—shoes.” Clark kicked away the expensive loafers hampering his swimming. With his legs and arms wildly churning, Lon felt the first stabbing pain in his chest.
“Must—swim.” The politician worked frantically, but treading water while wearing heavy wet clothing is a strenuous exercise. Another spasm of agony ripped through his chest and traveled on down his right arm.
“I’ll—have—that—man—killed.” Despite his erratically beating heart, the frail pen pusher needed his under-conditioned muscles to work at the maximum. His lungs heaved as forge bellows and his pulse pounded like a stamping press. My heart is weak. His thought was confirmed by another cleaving ache deep in his ribcage—that echoed resoundingly to his wrist.
“Do something!” The agent saw his charge gamely trying.
“The gear is right beside you,” the pilot banked close over the stricken victim, “if you had bothered to even take it out from stowage.”
“Hand me a life jacket.” Wilkins moved a foot to the strut and grinned. This kind of heroics would earn a commendation even if the man croaked and it would look great on TV too. The Secret Service agent jumped.
“I—can’t.” Lon’s right arm could scarcely paddle, as agony curled it. Suddenly, a pair of shoes, filled with feet and powered by a plunging body, crushed the VP’s neck. The collarbone-fracturing impact drove him under the surface and his eardrums railed from the increased pressure.
Wilkins fumbled under the waves like a springboard diver searching for a lost swimsuit: he took off the floatation device and held it by one hand to explore with the other. Aha! The agent hero pulled with all his might.
“Ayeee!” While underwater, Lon Clark screamed with his last lungful, as a hand gripped the grey horseshoe fringe of fur around the skin dome of his head. This new pain in a fresh place was nearly as intense as the ones already in his chest, right arm, left shoulder and strained muscles.
He yearned for a breath and he took a deep one of saltwater—that hurt too. The vice-president’s cardiac muscle then fibrillated: a coroner would be able to check more than one box on the cause-of-death form. Tariq had enjoyed a post death experience at this stage of life but Lon’s soul had too many mortgage leans against it. His spirit was simply extinguished.

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Tariq snatched the wire again on its return pendulum arc but he set it back on the hook. The Iranian didn’t intend making the same fatal error as the last swinger. Instead, he staggered to the fetch the other flotation vest.
“Do I have enough heavy lead in my body to require two?” Movement had again brought his attention to the numerous shots he had received.
[Let’s go out with a chest-thumping yee-haw.]
“I’ll be satisfied with just having the strength to hold on.” He gripped, swung his weight back and jumped. Three more bullets stitched his side from shoulder to hip. Am I a base metal magnet?
“Ahhh!” His scream sounded nothing like the ape-man’s jungle call. Tariq swung but his newly injured arm couldn’t hold on. His body twisted in the air but instead of landing as a dropped cat, his dive was a back flop. The airborne time seemed to slow and yet remain constant. This instant of fully alive sensationalism is what thrill-seekers aspire to: a body is utterly consigned to fate’s mercy and the essence is geared-up to leave the corpse.
[You didn’t make it far enough.]
Tariq didn’t need the comment to realize that fact: the current threw his belly against the torn hull’s jagged metal. Steel shards pierced his skin as the rushing tide tried to send his halves in forked directions. Two more bullets hit the side of his jaw. I’ve totally lost count of them.
[I haven’t but you don’t want to know that score.]
“He may as well riddle me with rounds,” raising his head, the Iranian saw Omani inserting a fresh clip. “I’m not likely to survive anyways.”
“No!” The Russian appeared in the hallway and his mind replayed the words. ‘If I’m killed the tape will automatically go into mass circulation.’
The surprised sheik spun as four slugs dotted exclamation points on his rib bones. Ghazi squeezed his trigger and held it depressed to empty the complete magazine. Sergey Yanderiev did the same and the two doomed men stood screaming while unloading their weapons at pointblank range, as a final clause in a mutual suicide pact.
That bought me what? Tariq mental tone of voice was cynical.
[Use the bear’s sacrifice for more than a pelt rug.]
The Iranian noticed the ship was carrying a lot more water now and the speed was slower. Using a final draught of strength, Tariq arched his back against the flood and his hands pushed out. He only gained six inches but that overbalanced the body’s seesaw between the in and outgoing flows.
“It’s up to the science of hydraulics.” The programmer tightened his legs together to create drag on the outbound side. The current took and his belly ripped on the hull’s fangs: lacerating from abdomen to armpits. His mass was battered several times by the passing ship’s hulk: he floated free. A doctor will need an industrial sewing machine for the required stitching.
Is that a bird? His blurry eyes couldn’t focus on a helicopter passing over, or the girl leaping. Is a true Valkyrie coming for us this time?
Jacqueline’s dress lifted, as her abaya had in Quetta, but this time her upraised arms allowed it to fly off. The nude female plunged into the chop and her red silk dress fluttered above, like a parachute with severed strings.
“I nearly met a first end under the waters of the Puget Sound.” Tariq’s expelled breath was insufficient to flutter his vocal cords. My final chapter is now being written on the surface of the same Pacific Ocean inlet.
[Your plot’s twist is a solemn pledge made to your soul mate.]
When I spoke that vow, I expected I might not have a choice of keeping it. He had been peppered with bullets, battered, sliced by assorted shrapnel and rent by jagged metal. He was now expecting sharks to be drawn by his blood. Requests precluding my demise have all been stamped as rejected.
[Your body is a gift and your spirit has the ultimate freewill over it.]
Jacqueline? The programmer found her eyes but as a blur. A woman’s arms were around him but couldn’t determine if they were living ones or if Mother Death was embracing him to her nurturing bosoms.
[Don’t give up your ghost!] The Norse trickster had been resident in the programmer’s head as if his skull was a Trojan horse. [Remember this: you gave Freya your oath.] Loki executed his one other hidden function.
The vessel had now swallowed its bellyful and forward momentum was expended. The stern dipped and the ship lazily turned turtle to show off her decimated hull. The war’s starting gun was another yacht’s sinking. The Squid squirmed under and the fight was over. Huge bubbles surfaced and popped to make white circles on the water: they seemed as calamari rings sizzling in a cauldron of boiling oil—it was apropos.

 

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