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    C James
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Circumnavigation - 149. Countdown to Doomsday

Chapter 149: Countdown to Doomsday

 

(Here's a link to google maps, centered on the areas in the chapter, which can be zoomed and moved around, because I know some of you are like me and love to follow along and see the areas on the story.)

 

The Argentine patrol boat had briefly spotted Atlantis on radar when in the Beagle, exactly as Trevor had intended. The patrol boat had sped southeast on what she assumed to be Atlantis’s course, until reaching the Chilean border in the center of the channel, and from there had raced east, searching with her radar. Soon, she reported that she’d lost Atlantis, though based on Atlantis’s course thought she might be in Puerto Williams, Chile, or somewhere else along the northern shore of Navarino Island.

The Prefectura – spurred on slightly by Bridget’s contacts in the customs service – had put out a call for assistance to the Argentine Navy, specifically requesting a sortie by one of the navy’s six P3-B Orion patrol aircraft. The only one in the region was based at Rio Grande, which is on Argentine Terra del Fuego’s eastern shore, seventy miles north-northeast of Ushuaia.

It took time to gather up the crew, preflight and ready the aircraft, and prepare a mission profile. The Orion lifted off at dawn, bound for the Beagle Channel and adjacent areas. The aircraft would not overfly Chilean territory, though its radar would penetrate it with ease.

A further step was to contact Chilean authorities and ask them to be on the lookout for Atlantis. There were procedures in place for this, though both old and existing tensions made any actual cooperation limited to nonexistent in many cases.

 

 

 

The Chilean naval station on Cape Horn, situated just a few hundred yards from the tip of the cape, was mainly an observation post, usually staffed by one officer and two enlisted men, working in shifts.

They had been kept apprised of the radio chatter emanating from Ushuaia and the requests made by the Argentine authorities, and had also been ordered to be on the lookout for the Argentine patrol boat, in case it had intruded into Chilean waters – a fairly regular occurrence and one often protested by Chile, which was very sensitive about such matters, due to the history of the area.

Two men – one enlisted man, and the commander – were awake and on duty due to the situation. The enlisted man stood by a window, sweeping the horizon with binoculars. “Sir, I see a large catamaran. I think it’s the one the Argentines are looking for. No sign of the patrol boat.”

The commander took a look. “There can’t be many large catamarans down here in winter. This is the first I’ve ever seen, and she matches the description, so that’s got to be her.”

“I think she’s evaded them, sir. From here, she can keep well away from their territory,” the enlisted man observed, allowing himself a faint smile.

The commander nodded, a stoic look on his face. “We, however, have Argentina’s request to consider. According to them, the yacht is fleeing their lawful authority, and so they request our aid in finding her. We cannot ignore her, or pretend that we did not see her.”

With a crestfallen look, the enlisted man turned to glance at his commander. “We have to help them?” Though young, he well knew of his country’s history with Argentina, and, to a degree, considered Argentina, if not an enemy, certainly no friend.

The commander gave the enlisted man a harsh glance. “Yes, procedures must be followed, so we will report this. You are going to write up a sighting report, giving every detail. It must be properly formatted and neatly written. You will then print it, and address the envelope to our headquarters in Santiago.”

“Envelope?” the enlisted man asked, a look of confusion on his face.

“Of course. The report must be sent to our headquarters so that they can refer it to the Argentine embassy. We often send our situation reports via the monthly resupply boat, do we not? Our procedures call for us to send any reports that we consider to be of importance to Chilean matters via radio, though this is clearly an Argentine matter, so the report must go through the proper channels.” It was all the commander could do not to smile as he saw the enlisted man’s face brighten in comprehension, and then in malicious joy. The commander paused for a moment, his mind wandering back to his own days as a young enlistee, shivering on the deck of a Chilean Navy ship just a few miles from his current post, waiting to fight and, if need be, die, as Argentina’s invasion fleet neared their shores for Operation Soberania. “In the interest of our relations with them, we will follow procedures, showing them the exact same level of good will and cooperation that they have to us. Therefore, we will make certain that they get this report that they need in a suitably timely manner. Incidentally, when is the supply boat due to arrive?” he asked, already well aware of the answer.

“Three weeks, sir,” the enlisted man replied with a grin.

Argentina would indeed receive the report – seven weeks later. The only addition would be an ‘URGENT’ stamp, emplaced by naval headquarters in Santiago a week before handing it to the Argentine embassy’s naval liaison officer.

It was one more echo of the Beagle Conflict.

 

 

 

Five miles south of Cape Horn, with Atlantis still southbound, Trevor put Fowler’s suggestion into action. “Time for the ice chest,” he declared, glancing warily at the cloudy sky and the unseen danger it contained.

Shane retrieved several rolls of tinfoil – their entire supply – from the galley, and he and Trevor began tearing off sheets and loosely crumpling them before tossing them into the ice chest. Once the ice chest was mostly full, Shane sealed it with duct tape before dumping it over the stern rail, carrying out Fowler’s e-mailed suggestion.

Trevor held Atlantis on a southward course for thirty more miles, battling the furious seas roaring out of the southwest. Then, with relief, he shut off the engines and turned east, raising the storm jib. Atlantis rode the gale east, trailing a drogue to avoid ‘surfing’ the waves and the danger that held. Even with the drogue, she was making eleven knots.

The ice chest, fifteen miles to the north, was being driven along by the seas and wind at six knots to the northeast, its crumbled tinfoil making it an excellent radar reflector and thus a viable target for the Orion’s search radar. The Orion’s radar, an X-band set, had a limitation common to all airborne sea-search radars, though more prevalent in older units like itself; they were prone to being confused by the radar returns generated by heavy seas.

The Orion, on a search leg fifty miles east of the ice chest, managed to discern its return amidst the sea clutter, noting that what they assumed was Atlantis was still in Chilean territorial waters, though it would approach the Argentine island of Isla de los Estados in eighteen hours if it maintained course and speed. As a result, the captain of the patrol boat received some very unwelcome orders; proceed to the island for the interception. The Orion could not linger, so returned to base. She’d been unable to discern, lost in the sea clutter well to the southeast, the tiny radar return of Atlantis.

It took a lot of trying and some expert seamanship in the brutal seas, but the patrol boat managed to track and eventually intercept the ice chest. By the time they were close enough to see that they had been fooled, Atlantis was far to the southeast, unseen and already well beyond the patrol boat’s current range. Cold, tired, and furious, the patrol boat’s captain set course for the long run back to Ushuaia.

 

 

 

Atlantis now faced the perils of Mother Nature in the form of violent, unforgiving seas. They were not quite as severe as the storm they’d endured near the entrance of the Beagle Channel, but it was bad enough to make them crave calmer water or port. They also had no way of knowing if their ruse had been successful, or if at any moment an Argentine warship would appear out of the mist.

After a brutal run east of one hundred seventy miles, Trevor checked the navigation display. “Okay, the shortest run to safety is also the shortest run to port. Coming northeast,” he announced, turning Atlantis onto her new course as Shane reeled in the no-longer-needed drogue.

A few hours later, Atlantis unknowingly passed thousands of feet above a watery tomb.

The largest American warship to survive the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in seaworthy condition was the USS Phoenix, a Brooklyn-class light cruiser launched in 1938. She sortied that day as the centerpiece of the scratch force that tried in vain to find the Japanese fleet. Soon after, she escorted the old carrier USS Langley and the transport USS Sea Witch in the ill-fated attempt to stop the Japanese conquest of what is now Indonesia. Again, she was the largest survivor – Langley having been sunk and Sea Witch having barely escaped, though she completed her mission. Transferred to 7th Fleet, USS Phoenix went on serve in many more southwest Pacific operations, including the battle of Surigou Strait.

USS Phoenix is often remembered in Phoenix, Arizona, though, even there, memories are fading. A model of USS Phoenix graced Terminal 3 of Phoenix’s Sky Harbor airport for many years, though even that display of remembrance had failed to note the final fate of this famously lucky ship.

In 1951, she was sold off to Argentina where, in 1956, she was given her final name: ARA General Belgrano. On May 2nd, 1982, her luck ran out. She was sunk by the nuclear submarine HMS Conqueror during a war patrol just south of the exclusion zone – during war, any enemy ship, anywhere, is a legitimate target.

ARA Belgrano took over three hundred young sailors with her when she sank, the largest single loss of life during the Falklands War. Her luck had finally run out.

The reason Belgrano had been in that particular area was the Burwood Bank; a shallow area well to the south of the Falklands, which, it was hoped, would shield her from detection by the nuclear subs known to be in the area – shallower areas cause rougher seas and thus more noise to interfere with sonar.

For Atlantis, this meant worsening conditions; violent, erratic waves more prone to breaking. Again, she sometimes rang like a drum, smashed below her salon by the massive force of the seas. However, the rising violence of the seas was met by Trevor and Shane with near delight over a very different fact. “We’re in! We’re in the exclusion zone!” Trevor exclaimed, sighing with relief, safe at last from any Argentine pursuit, though they were still closer to Argentine territory than to the Falklands. Their jubilation lasted but moments more, before the chaotic seas at the edge of the Burwood Bank slammed Atlantis with a pair of massive breaking waves. The first, coming in from her port forward quarter, surged over her, driving her port bow deep as the second, larger wave hit. Due to the angle Atlantis was at, the wave impacted as a sold wall of water on the salon windows, surging up and over the salon to ram into Atlantis’s spray shield – a piece of flexible clear plastic that covered the narrow gap between her salon roof and the cockpit roof. The plastic was no match for the fury of the seas. Tearing loose, it was carried over the starboard guard wire, briefly catching on it and subjecting it to a force of several tons.

Trevor and Shane were safe in the salon, subject only to the shaking and the roar, the damage as yet unseen.

Within a few miles, the seas abated somewhat, and an e-mail from Fowler gave them further hope, telling them that they were expected in Port Stanley where they would be looked after, and to skip the standard VHF approach hails and maintain radio silence.

Twenty hours later, a cold and weary Trevor and Shane took Atlantis into the approach to Port Stanley, capital of the Falkland Islands, the seas ebbing as if shut off by a giant switch.

Trevor took Atlantis through The Narrows and into Port Stanley’s spectacular sheltered harbor. The town itself lies on the south shore of the harbor, opposite The Narrows, set against low, windswept hills. In appearance and climate, the area has much akin with Scotland’s outer islands – which indeed was the origin for many of the Falklands settlers.

“We made it!” Shane shouted, overcome by joy and relief, turning to face Trevor with a big grin. “Your absolutely bloody insane plan worked.”

Trevor gave Shane a wary grin in reply. “Yeah, it went a lot easier than I thought it would. As for it being insane, you were all for it.”

“True, but that’s only because your insanity must be contagious – something else I can blame you for,” Shane replied with a grin, followed by another whoop of joy.

 

 

Bridget fumed. “Another fucking setback,” she mumbled, in the privacy of her sumptuous office. She’d just been informed, via her contacts in the Argentine customs service, that Atlantis had fled from Ushuaia, and had eluded pursuit.

She phoned Xavier, who was now in Ushuaia with his team, to inform him of the situation. Then she added, “I have arranged tickets for you and your team. Pick them up at the airport before the flight tomorrow afternoon, your time. I will send a boat to pick you up at Exuma International. You shall be here for several weeks before going to Kingston; I need you here to help in training our latest batches of fighters; I think you will be pleased with them.”

After the call, Bridget returned to reviewing the records of her newest recruits, and smiled. They were part of the insurance policy she’d planned all along; to become strong enough that not even the other leaders of the cartel would dare move against her. It was costing her millions and taking a great deal of time, but she viewed it as money well spent; it would forever remove from her the threat posed by the tape. By her own estimates, she was already unlikely to be subject to a move against her, and would be completely impervious within two to three weeks. In her darker moments, she feared that she would not have the time she needed, though those fears would prove to be unfounded.

Bridget reviewed her latest weapons orders, and took a sip of hundred-year-old brandy before glancing at her globe, idly wondering where Atlantis was. Even once she no longer needed to fear the tape, she did not wish the considerable trouble its revelations could cause her. For Trevor and Shane, Bridget’s soon-to-be strength would change nothing, especially the fact that Bridget still bore them a grudge.

 

 

Trevor and Shane had found themselves greeted at the Port Stanley customs dock by several local officials, brought there by a variety of reasons. Trevor’s fame for his Indian Ocean survival was one, coupled with the tremendous rarity of a yacht visiting in winter. A more pressing reason was a request by Greg Fowler for help, combined with notice of Atlantis’s abrupt departure from Ushuaia.

One message came through to Trevor and Shane loud and clear, voiced by the Queen’s Harbour Master: “You’re safe here.” To them, those words were worth more than gold.

The chief customs officer, standing in Atlantis’s cockpit, intoned solemnly, “We’re keeping an eye out for a yacht named Atlantis that might be heading this way. And, I just don’t see her here in port, do you?” he asked, covering his eyes and sporting a mischievous grin. “Just stay well away from Argentine waters as you go north, and you should have no further bother with them – though you ought to stay away from Uruguay and Brazil as well.”

“We’ll keep far away,” Trevor assured him.

The customs officer handed them a package. “From Greg Fowler, in Australia. He asked me to make certain you got it safely,” he said.

After a pleasant, brief visit from the officials, Trevor and Shane tore open the package, which contained two scrambling devices for their phone. Minutes later, after some trial and error attaching one to the phone, a joyous call to Carnarvon ensued, free of the fear of being overheard.

An encrypted call to Officer Gonzalez came next. Not long into the call, Gonzalez said, “I’m pretty sure that tape may be a danger to Bridget, which would explain why she wants it. I want it for the same reason. The problem is I need to know what’s on it now, not wait for any packages in the mail. So, I need you to send me an audio copy. I’ve asked a technician how to do it, and he’s come up with a way. He recommends running an adaptor cable from the VCR’s audio RCA output and into the 3.5 millimeter audio input jack on your laptop. Make an audio file, and then connect the laptop’s audio output to the headset jack on your satellite phone, and play it. That way I’ll get it over the encrypted line. Another way would be to zip the file with a password, e-mail it to me, and tell me the password over the phone. We’ll try that if the first way doesn’t work.”

“I don’t have any audio cables like that aboard. Maybe we could just put the phone in front of the TV and play the tape?”

Gonzalez chuckled. “Well, that might work, though the audio quality would be very poor. However, I told Officer Fowler what I needed and why, so once you were safely in Falklands waters, he gave me a few clues to let me figure out where you were going. So, I made a few calls and ended up talking to the Falkland Islands Company store in Port Stanley. Just stop by the customer service desk and ask for the package, it’s under my name. Those should be the right cables. They said the store is right next to the cathedral, and you can’t miss it.”

After the call ended, Trevor and Shane prepared to leave Atlantis. The weather that day was pleasant for the season: strong gusty winds, driving drizzle, and near-freezing temperatures. With their rain gear on, Trevor and Shane walked along the main waterfront street, Ross Road, sometimes stopping to look at the houses. Almost every roof was a different color, lending a bright and cheerful feel to the town. After just a few yards they came to the cathedral and its massive, four-sided arch composed of whale jawbones, and just beyond it, they found the green-roofed Falkland Islands Company store. Eager for warmth, they dashed up the ramp and into the entryway, finding the interior warm and, above all, dry. The store was quite large – it included a supermarket – and, seeing no one around, they walked in, the creaking floorboards serving to announce their presence. A single clerk appeared, and Trevor asked, “We’re looking for the customer service desk, uh, for a package arranged for by a man named Gonzalez.”

The clerk smiled. “Right this way, it’s waiting. It’s not paid for though. We take dollars and credit cards, if that’s any help.”

Trevor paid by credit card and, with the package under his arm, took a brief look around. He found the store a bit cluttered and having a somewhat rural air, though it was well-stocked, including in the food department. “We need to reprovision, so we should come back tomorrow,” he told Shane, who nodded in agreement.

Shane looked down one of the narrow aisles, while feeling the uneven, rolling floor beneath his feet. “We need a new esky, too,” he said, referring to the ice chest they’d used to float the radar reflector. “We’re going to need a taxi; we can’t carry anywhere near as much as we’ll need.”

They made their way back to Atlantis, where they found that the cables fit. It took a few adjustments, but they were able to make the lash-up work to Gonzalez’s specifications.

 

 

Gonzalez watched impatiently as a tech hooked up his phone to Gonzalez’s laptop computer, which would do the recording.

“Okay, Trevor, hit ‘play’, Gonzalez said, crossing his fingers.

Trevor did as he’d been asked, and soon the voice of long-dead Arnold Bellevue made its way to the waiting computer.

Gonzalez could only pace as the recording was made; he’d refused the tech’s offer to hook up a speaker. Finally, many long minutes later, it was done and, with the aid of headphones, Gonzalez confirmed that the recording had succeeded.

“I can clean up that audio by running it through some filters,” the tech offered.

Gonzalez shook his head. “Thanks, but this will be fine,” he replied, sending the tech away. He didn’t want the tech, or anyone else without a need to know, to hear it or know what it was; Gonzalez was well aware that Bridget probably had a few ears in Florida’s law enforcement community.

After running through the tape four times, Gonzalez frowned. It wasn’t what he’d been expecting, and he couldn’t see quite how it posed any threat to Bridget in her current position. Aware that he was missing something, he knew that he needed advice so, with a sigh, he took the laptop to his car, knowing that he'd soon need to make the long drive from Miami to Frank Tittle’s Orlando home.

 

 

 

Trevor and Shane had been, save for the brief stop in Ushuaia, confined to Atlantis for a month and a half. With the recording sent and time on their hands, they were eager to spend time ashore, so again they braved the weather, setting out on a walk through Port Stanley. They carried on, following the customs officer’s earlier suggestions of things to see, stopping at the various sights, pausing to look at the whalebone arch and the war memorial, looking inside the small cathedral, and then stopping to look at a wreck close inshore.

After a mile, they soon saw their destination, easily visible through the driving drizzle due to its bright yellow roof: the Falklands Museum.

Inside, they found a lone attendant sitting reading. “Hi,” Trevor said, giving her a smile. “The customs officer told us–”

The attendant grinned, sticking out her hand to give Trevor, and then Shane, a hearty shake. “I know who you two are. I’ll wager that most of the town does by now. We don’t get many visitors in winter, and ones who tweak the Argies’ noses are rarer still – and very welcome. So, welcome to Stanley and our museum. My name is Jane, and I volunteer here two days a week. How are you enjoying our fine weather?” she asked, with a smile and a nod towards a large window, where the gale was lashing drizzle against the glass. There was a practical purpose to her tongue-in-cheek question; to remind her guests of their attire.

“Your bloody weather takes some getting used to,” Shane replied, giving Jane a smile as he and Trevor shucked off their rain slickers, leaving them above the umbrella stand by the door.

“We call it ‘the mist’ when it’s like this, which it is for much of the winter. Sometimes we get severe storms, and we sometimes get snow as well.”

Trevor and Shane began looking around the small museum, which occupied all of Britannia House, a building roughly the size of a large single-story home. A number of rectangular upright glass display cases stood throughout the building, the number of displays, combined with the limited floor space, made for a somewhat confined feeling.

They made their way past whaling exhibits and displays from the age of sail, which Trevor found fascinating. Shane found a display on island sporting events more to his liking.

Trevor walked a few feet to the desk to ask, “There’s a big three-masted clipper ship at the east end of the bay. We saw her when we came in. It looks almost like she’s moored, but she’s aground. Is there anything about her here?”

“Yes indeed,” Jane said, leading Trevor and Shane to the opposite side of the tall ships display, and pointing to a photo of the ship. “There are over thirty wrecks in the harbor, and the Lady Elizabeth is in the best condition of them all. She was built in 1879 as a replacement for a ship of the same name that sank off Rottnest Island, Western Australia. This Lady Elizabeth had a long career, but it came to an end when she took severe damage rounding Cape Horn in 1912. She made port here, but she was declared unseaworthy. That’s how we came by most of the wrecks in the harbor: ships damaged rounding the cape and left here to rot. Like many such ships, Lady Elizabeth was used as a floating coal storage hulk. In the winter of 1936, she parted her mooring lines in a gale and drifted to where she now lies: Whalebone Cove.”

“She’s in great shape for having been an abandoned wreck for that long,” Trevor said.

Jane chuckled. “She’s still had her uses. One, at any rate. During the Falklands War, while we were under occupation, a two-man team of Britain’s Special Boat Squadron – the SBS, now called the Special Boat Service – took up residence inside her, to keep an eye on Argentine forces in Stanley. That had to have been awful for them; cold and damp in a wrecked hulk, living in constant danger.”

“I kinda know how they felt,” Trevor said, remembering his ordeal in a stripped boat in the Southern Ocean. “But they did it willingly; that took guts.” Trevor glanced at pictures of some of the other wrecks. “All victims of Cape Horn,” he said, with a sad shake of his head.

Jane nodded. “Most of them. You’re very fortunate that you didn’t take damage yourself as you rounded the cape.”

Trevor cringed slightly at the memory of the beating Atlantis had taken. “Actually we did, but at Burwood Bank. A big wave over the bows took out our spray dodger – the strip of clear plastic between the salon roof and the cockpit roof. I think it was what bent some guard wire stanchions on its way out. We’ve also got a badly strained forestay shackle. Is there a yachting supply place in town?”

“Oh my, no. There aren’t any yachts based here, so we don’t get much call for a marine store. However, my husband and I own a wholesale supply business that includes equipment for fishing boats. We can set you up with someone to make a new shackle out of stainless. As for clear plastic, the heavy, clear, flexible kind can be found at the agricultural supply store – some of the fishing boats use that for spray dodgers. For stanchions though, I doubt we have anything that’s suitable for a yacht. Around-the-world yachters do call in here often in the summer, though if they need parts, they almost always end up ordering and waiting for a shipment. On the other hand, we’re adept at making do, so if your stanchions are just bent, let the chap who’s good with metalwork have a look; he might be able to figure something out.”

“Thanks!” Trevor replied, with a broad smile.

They made their way to a large alcove at the back of the museum, finding a glass case containing drilling core samples of oil-bearing rock, along with some oil shale. Behind the display case were wall maps showing the potential offshore oilfields.

Shane glanced at the display, and then at Jane. “What’s it like, living in such a remote place?”

Jane smiled. “It’s home. Most of us are natives, descendants of people who came here a century or more ago so, for many, this is the only home they have ever known.” Her smile faded. “I suppose it’s odd in some ways; for those of us old enough to remember, the 1982 invasion and occupation is certainly one of the largest, if not the largest, event of our lives. That changed everything. Ever since, we’ve had to live with the constant threat that the Argies will invade again someday. If it wasn’t for the British base at Mt. Pleasant, built just after the war, we’d have been overrun again.”

“We kind of know how that feels, too,” Trevor grumped, thinking of Bridget and the constant threat she posed.

“I suppose you two do indeed. I hope you have better luck than we’ve had, and can live without fear someday.”

“Us too, and thanks,” Shane replied, glancing at a map of still-uncleared Argentine minefields that existed in the islands, especially near Stanley. “Do you really think they’ll be back?”

“Why do they want the Falklands so bad?” Trevor added.

An angry scowl crossed Jane’s face, though it was clear that Trevor and Shane were not the target of her displeasure. “A big reason is that case you were looking at: offshore oil, and they want to take it. It’s been suspected for decades, and drilling has been going on since the 90’s. Those cores have been in this case since then, so the recent press reports on new finds have got it largely wrong; they’ve been more confirmation than new finds. Once those fields come into production, they will be an enormous benefit to these islands. However, it’s not just the oil the Argentines want to take; it’s everything. The main reason though is their domestic politics; every time the Argentine government becomes unpopular at home, they up the saber rattling. They’ve now gone on about it so much and for so long that there’s no room for compromise of any sort. They added it to their constitution, back in ’94, that the status of these islands as Argentinean was non-negotiable, yet they keep blathering on that the UK doesn’t want to negotiate. Incidentally, I’m telling you all this for reasons that go beyond my love of the subject; you need to beware when you leave here. Not just of Argentina, but of Uruguay and Brazil as well; they are allied with Argentina, and would likely return you to Argentina if asked. Brazil has an island well out into the Atlantic, Trindade, which has a naval station on it, so that’s just one thing you need to steer far clear of.”

“What about Argentinean ships out on the Atlantic? Could they be a problem for us?” Trevor asked.

“Only their military ones. I have a hunch you’ll receive the information you need on that before departing. If not, give me a ring and I’ll arrange it – we keep track of Argie ships in the South Atlantic.” At last, her agitation eased, and she added a little sheepishly, “Sorry for ranting, but this has been a central issue here for most of my life.”

Trevor and Shane shared an awkward smile, and Trevor replied, “We’re the same about Bridget Bellevue, though in our case it only seems like most of our lives.”

Jane gave them a thoughtful look. “I’m aware that she’s part of some kind of criminal organization, one that apparently has a very long reach to trouble you as she did in Australia. You might wish to consider relocating here. It’d be a hard place for her to get you; we’re rather isolated, and with only three thousand residents, we do notice strangers. We also know how to keep a secret.”

“Is there much call for charter yachts here?” Shane asked.

Jane smiled, nodding at a map of the islands. “Yes, I’d say there might be, though only in summer. We also have a very good tax structure; the rates are quite a bit lower than the U.S. or the UK, and we don’t have VAT or sales tax.”

Shane arched an eyebrow in Trevor’s direction. “Summer here, then Australia, then back for the following summer? How long would it take to get from here to Australia?”

Trevor stopped to think. “We’d have to always go east due to the prevailing winds at this latitude, so it’s something like seven thousand miles from here to Western Australia, then it’d be about six thousand from Australia’s east coast to here, if we stuck to the shortest route: the Southern Ocean all the way. So, a month or more to get here, and a minimum of five weeks to get from here to Western Australia. It’d be very rough but doable, because we wouldn’t be making the trips in winter. I guess, if we have to stay away from Florida and the Bahamas due to Bridget, it might be worth considering – but we’d have to leave one boat here at some point; we wouldn’t want to try circumnavigating every year. Lisa and Joel were going to have Atlantis for some of the year, but with Bridget in the Bahamas, that’s probably not going to work.” Trevor turned to look at Jane, and in a slightly apologetic tone, asked, “I’m kinda worried about the Argentina situation. Do you think they’ll invade again, or might they decide to leave you alone? Do they have any real claim on the islands?”

Jane’s anger returned in a flash. “Their territorial claims are utter bunk. First off, they go all the way back to the 1831 settlement that they made in the islands, which they use as one of the two bases of their claim. It was made after the company that did it applied for, and received, permission from the UK. That's the key; applying for permission is an act of recognizing sovereignty. They also say that the UK forced the Argentine settlers to leave, another lie: there were only a couple of dozen by 1833, and the UK only evicted the government official, though Argentina claims that the British evicted everyone. In truth, the rest could stay or go as they chose; one of the ones who stayed became my great-great-great grandfather. The long and the short of it is that based on some very weak or outright absurd claims dating back centuries, Argentina says it should get the Falklands, and forget the fact that we Falklanders have been here for a hundred and seventy four years and don’t want a damn thing to do with Argentina.” Once Jane got on a roll on the subject, it was difficult to bring her to a stop. “One claim is that because Spain held the islands it governed them from what was as then Spanish Buenos Aries as part of the Viceroyalty of the Rio De Plata, which included what’s now Argentina, so the islands automatically became Argentina’s when Argentina broke away from Spain. The legal term for that is Uti possidetis juris, which means basically that when a country becomes independent, it should have the same boarders as it did as a territory. There are a few problems with that theory! Spain did not have the islands; they were disputed with the UK prior to the founding of the Viceroyalty, and Spain had given up all claim to them before Argentine independence. Second problem; Patagonia – roughly the southern third of Argentina – was listed under the Captaincy of Santiago. That was the name of Spain's colony of what's roughly now Chile. So, if Argentina wants the doctrine of Uti possidetis juris to apply, then, in their own judgment, Chile has a far better claim to Patagonia than Argentina does. In point of fact, the first British settlement was here long before Argentina existed, though it was later abandoned. Argentina claims that because the islands were uninhabited – despite the fact that the UK was both the first to land here and the first to claim them, and never renounced its claim – they were theirs for the taking. By that reasoning, we could take a goodly number of their uninhabited islands, though I doubt they’d see it quite the same way. There’s a reason that Argentina keeps refusing to submit the issue to any form of arbitration or the international courts – they’d lose.”

Jane glanced at the clock. “My, I did go off on a tear, didn’t I? Well, to try to answer your question more directly, the honest answer is they probably won’t try to invade again while the British base is here – it’s doubtful that they would succeed. However, one never knows what the future holds, so the best I can tell you is they probably won’t invade us again for the foreseeable future.”

Trevor and Shane stayed for a while longer, having a pleasant chat, and then the treat of scones with clotted cream. Jane phoned the metalworker, who agreed to meet Trevor and Shane at Atlantis for a look at the damage.

Once they’d left the museum, Shane asked, “Do you still think moving here, part time anyway, might be a way out?”

Trevor sighed. “I guess, maybe. It’s looking more and more like we’ll never be safe anywhere. Maybe moving around a lot between remote places is our best hope, and we do need somewhere to be our official home, even if we’re not here a lot. It wouldn’t be a good place for chartering with Atlantis though; she’s more of a warm-seas style of yacht. On the other hand, she could get into a lot of the small bays and shallow areas that a monohull couldn’t.”

Shane decided to ask the question he’d been mulling over since Ushuaia. “Maybe… maybe going to Florida for the wedding isn’t a good idea anymore.”

“I know,” Trevor said, glancing angrily out into the harbor. “Now we know that Bridget is running a massive drug operation in the Bahamas, going anywhere near there – or Florida – is taking a huge risk.” They’d learned that bit of info via both Gonzalez and Fowler. “Maybe staying here for a while isn’t a bad idea.”

Once back aboard Atlantis, they answered a call from Officer Gonzalez, who said, “We’re still trying to figure out that tape, but… we’d also like to get the two of you on record in a formal interview here in Miami as soon as possible.” Gonzalez thought it best not to mention the reason; that in both his judgment and that of the F.B.I., there was a strong possibility that Trevor and Shane might not survive long enough to make a formal deposition later. Gonzalez had also come up with a plan that he hoped would keep them breathing for long enough to give him a chance to solve their problem – though as yet, he had no good idea on how to do the latter. “Bringing Atlantis into Florida would be extremely dangerous, so I’ve set something up: a safe port. A very safe port. Do you have your nav system up?”

“It is now,” Trevor replied, turning on the console at the navigation desk. He was still sharing the phone with Shane.

“I need to know an approximate ETA. Okay, here’s the coordinates.” Gonzalez slowly read them off and Trevor wrote them down: 19°56'29.78"N, 75° 7'17.79"W. “Okay, once you’re there we’ll put you on the twice-weekly service flight into the base at Homestead, which is south of Miami. Now, I know you want to attend a certain wedding, so if you can get here in time, I’ll drive you both up to Ft. Pierce myself.”

Trevor typed the coordinates in and, as the map display zoomed in on the big bay, he blinked, and then double checked the coordinates. “I got it. At least I think I do. Uh, maybe we should stay here… ”

“If you’re looking at a U.S. Navy base, that’s it. I have permission for you to enter and stay. It’s probably the safest place on the planet for you to be. According to the base liaison officer, they’ve got great snorkeling and good beaches, and at this time of year some great surfing at Windmill Beach too,” Gonzalez replied, and having picked up on Trevor’s stunned and hesitant tone, quickly added, “You’ll be able to spend a few days enjoying my ancestral homeland, then we’ll fly you two in, depose you, and then I’ll take you to the wedding, and put you back on the plane. Unless you have a better idea, why not give this a try?”

“Uh,” Trevor mumbled, sharing a look with Shane, and getting a nod. Trevor began tapping in course waypoints. The route was both long and circuitous; a straight run of nearly four thousand miles to the northeast to close to Ascensión Island, and then north-northwest across the tropics to a point four hundred miles west of the Cape Verde Islands, off West Africa. From there, a long run west in the trade winds to their destination. When he was done, he said, “It’s around eight thousand miles by the route we’d need to sail, which is dictated by the winds, plus the need to stay far away from Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil. I’m going to guess around forty-five to fifty-five days. I can’t be exact; too much depends on the weather, especially at this time of year.”

“Great. I’ll let ‘em know. We’ll update them once you get close. You’ll be able to stay in the base’s small boat port for as long as needed. In the meantime, we’ll be doing all we can to end this problem once and for all.” Gonzalez hoped that his doubts were not reflected in his voice.

Once the call ended, Shane stared at the navigation display, shaking his head in stunned bemusement. “Well, Ned said I’d end up there someday; I guess he was finally right about something after all.”

Trevor and Shane spent the next three days taking care of Atlantis, preparing her for the long journey ahead. This included reprovisioning the galley, fueling, and a visit from the metalworker for the new shackle and some metal sleeves for the straightened stanchions.

Trevor and Shane made a stop at the agricultural supply store to buy a small roll of their thickest clear greenhouse plastic sheeting, which they planned to install for a replacement spray shield while at sea – they already had a grommet maker and a glue gun. During their last shopping trip in Stanley Shane was even able to find the new ice chest he’d been after, though purchasing it had evoked a raised eyebrow from the clerk, who had glanced out at the freezing gale outside. Finally, Atlantis was ready to go.

At noon on the following day, after breakfast ashore, Trevor and Shane set sail from Port Stanley under the watchful eyes of the British military, which had examined their route north and pronounced it free from any Argentine ships.

 

 

 

In his Orlando home, Frank Tittle played the recording of Trevor’s tape five times before he was ready to make any comments to the pacing Gonzalez. Finally, he drummed his fingers on his messy desk, and said, “The long and the short of it is Bridget has damn good reason to fear this tape. If someone had the original video or a good copy, it’d be nothing less than the trigger for a war.”

“How?” Gonzalez asked. This was why he’d made the drive: Frank Tittle knew more about the cartels than he did, due to having defended several of their people. Gonzalez was also more inclined to trust Frank than any of the people in the drug task force who might know as much – and also might be working for Bridget. Gonzalez knew that Frank had been deeply hurt by the murder of Henry Wesson, and also had Dirk Carlson, and by extension Trevor, as clients.

“Bridget was informing on members of rival cartels to eliminate the competition. Those people take that sort of thing very badly. The kicker is that Officer George Alfred built his career on drug take-downs, and now we know how: Bridget was the source. So, not only was she doing that when her husband was alive, but she continued at least until recently. Sanchez was clearly complicit in that too. According to the tape, so were other cartel leaders. That is absolutely enough to kick off a war between that cartel and others. So, in all likelihood, if this tape comes out, Bridget might be disposed of by her own cartel, unless one of the others gets her first.”

Gonzalez’s eyes widened. “So all we have to do to take her all the way out is hand the tape to the news media? It’s that easy?”

Frank arched an eyebrow. “Unfortunately, that may prove problematic in the extreme. With the original video or a good copy – so that Arnold Bellevue is clearly identifiable – it might work. Her cartel might take her out and serve up her head as a peace offering. However, this tape implicates them as well, so that weighs against that outcome. Furthermore, Bridget may be, or might soon become, powerful enough that even the cartel can’t touch her. The rival cartels would likely target her as well as the other heads, but I suspect she’d be a hard target to take out. However, even if it worked, there are a few huge downsides. One is for Trevor and Shane: the cartel Bridget’s operation is part of is strong enough to hold its own in a war with its rivals. As a guess, they have several hundred well-trained and well-armed soldiers, and that might be a lowball guess. Some of the cartel leaders and their families would die, though not all. They’d still be around, and they would want vengeance. If they know that Trevor and Shane have the tape and it is released, they will be marked for death for the rest of their very short lives. The second issue is that there will be a lot of collateral casualties from any war; family members of the cartel, workers, innocents caught in the crossfire. Those will weigh heavily on whomever gets to make the decision to release or not – and I’m betting that would be the State Department.”

With a scowl and a gloomy look, Gonzalez replied, “Add in one more little wild card; the last time Bridget had a falling out with a major cartel operation, she took out the leader, Sanchez, and took it all over for herself. I’d say there’s no way in hell the culture of the cartel leadership would ever accept a woman boss, but I’d have said the same for Sanchez’s operation. However, she does seem to fear the tape.” Gonzalez massaged his temples to ease the headache he knew he was about to have. “Shit. It’s a two-edged sword at best, and Pandora’s Box as well. So now what?”

Frank sighed, his head dropping. “I still want a good copy of the tape, including the video.”

“I should have checked into that at their last stop, but I thought the audio was all we needed and it’s too late now, though I know for sure it can be done at their next stop. Why do we need the video?” Gonzalez asked.

“So we have proof it’s Arnold Bellevue. Maybe, with fortuitous circumstances and a hell of a lot of luck, we might have an opportunity to use the tape.”

“Such as?”

“Such as if the cartel was drastically weakened somehow, by taking out most of their troops. Then, the war with the other cartels might finish them. The only problem is I can’t think of any possible, let alone likely, way to do it. Even getting the military involved wouldn’t work; that’s been tried before and always founders due to the cartel’s people just fading into the background. Remember Pablo Escobar, the head of the Medellin cartel? It took years and years to finally bring him down, and even while the U.S. was pulling out all the stops, including sending in Delta Force, to weaken him, he was powerful enough to control big chunks of the Colombian government. When the pressure was on him, just one of the things he did was to arrange an armed assault in the heart of Colombia’s capital, taking over their Ministry of Justice complex and killing most of their supreme court in the process, and that was just to destroy some files. The cartel we’re dealing with is as strong or stronger, and they have far more of a global network,” Frank replied.

“We’ve got a phone number she’s answered once; what about cutting a deal to give her the tape, or using it as a trap somehow?” Gonzalez asked, though he was already fairly sure that any such attempt would prove futile.

“I know there are ways to test a tape to see if it’s been played… maybe your lab guys could doctor it to disguise that, but I don’t think it would work. Just the fact that Bridget has openly tried to kill Trevor before means that lifting the hit would be a loss of face in the cartel’s culture. I’ve never known a cartel to lift a hit, not even when they’ve been given what they want. As for using the tape for a trap; I’d be astonished if Bridget was dumb enough to put herself in a position where she could be captured. She’d use underlings for that, so you’d at best net a member of her organization, and that wouldn’t get Bridget, or save her intended victims. They are in grave danger.”

“I won’t say where, but I’ve got a very safe place to stash Trevor and Shane. They’ll be under military guard. When they get there, we’ll have the tape, plus copies. We’ll then get them deposed just in case we can move against Bridget legally somehow, at some point.”

“You’re not expecting them to be alive much longer, are you?” Frank observed.

“We’ll do all we can, but… I’d like to get them deposed fairly soon for that reason, just in case,” Gonzalez replied, and then he met Frank’s eyes. “Right now, I don’t see much hope in the long run. So tell me; what’s your real appraisal of the situation?”

Frank scowled, beginning to pace. “From where I sit… it’s only a matter of time before she gets them, no matter what you do or where you put them. The normal countermeasure of giving them new identities won’t work; they are fairly famous, especially Trevor. So, that means trying to keep them protected. These cartel people can pull off hits in prisons, and they repeatedly took out the best-protected people in the Colombian government. Trevor and Shane’s luck can’t hold forever, and there’s nowhere they can hide for long, not from Bridget and her current resources. It’s even worse if the entire cartel is involved, but that only means the end might come sooner. So, my current opinion is that Trevor and Shane won’t survive much longer, and Bridget will continue to build her power. Henry will have died for nothing, and so will Trevor and Shane. I wish I could offer more hope than that, but I just don’t see any way out of this.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~

A Discussion thread for this chapter is in my forum, please have a look and join in.   direct link here. The
forum enables conversations so in many cases it's a far easier to use
it than the "leave a comment" section on this page, so I suggest having a
look, but use whichever (or both) you are more comfortable with . :)

~~~~~~~~

Atlantis' Page (see what Atlantis looks like)

    feedback.gifPlease let me know what you think; good, bad, or indifferent.

Please give me feedback, and please don’t be shy if you want to criticize! The feedback thread for this story is in my Forum. Please stop by and say "Hi!"

    

    

Many thanks to my editor EMoe for editing and for his support, encouragement, beta reading, and suggestions.

Special thanks to Graeme, for beta-reading and advice.

Thanks also to Talonrider and MikeL for beta reading.

A big Thank You to RedA for Beta reading and advice.

Thanks also to Low Flyer, for zeta reading.

Special thanks to RickMD, for some major advice and help.

Any remaining errors are mine alone.

Copyright © 2013 C James; All Rights Reserved.
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This is such an incredible story. I took a little break from reading it and just got caught up. It will be disappointing when it is finished. There is so much to it. I especially enjoy all the geography and history lessons within it. A true tour de force. The suspense is communicated so well. The writing cannot be praised enough.

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"....So, my current opinion is that Trevor and Shane won’t survive much longer, and Bridget will continue to build her power. Henry will have died for nothing, and so will Trevor and Shane. I wish I could offer more hope than that, but I just don’t see any way out of this.”

That quote at he end of the chapter is a crushing assessment and I think Gonzales is a prick for only wanting their deposition despite fearing much the same himself.

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On 01/30/2013 02:48 PM, Daddydavek said:
"....So, my current opinion is that Trevor and Shane won’t survive much longer, and Bridget will continue to build her power. Henry will have died for nothing, and so will Trevor and Shane. I wish I could offer more hope than that, but I just don’t see any way out of this.”

That quote at he end of the chapter is a crushing assessment and I think Gonzales is a prick for only wanting their deposition despite fearing much the same himself.

I see your point... but he's a pro, with a job to do. He's trying all he can to save them, but if the worst happens, he wants that deposition - which may help avenge them.

 

Things sure are looking dark for Trevor and Shane.

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On 01/30/2013 02:12 PM, charlieocho said:
This is such an incredible story. I took a little break from reading it and just got caught up. It will be disappointing when it is finished. There is so much to it. I especially enjoy all the geography and history lessons within it. A true tour de force. The suspense is communicated so well. The writing cannot be praised enough.
Thanks!!!

 

Some people hate the history, local info, geography, etc, but a lot love them, and I'm amongst the latter. :)

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Things don't bode well for Trevor and Shane, do they? With almost no place to

escape from Bridget, the best hope would be to discredit and expose her to the

cartel, and have the guys kill her. Maybe even then the cartel wouldn't cancel the

hit. What a mess!

 

I like the geographic and historical references throughout this story, and have been

looking things up as they appear. Since the story takes place in such remote places,

it's been great to visit them vicariously, knowing I'll never see them first hand.

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Welcome back CJ!

It's clear now that you are caught up with your msgs because you are responding again to the reviews in real time. This story has more curves than a (mental image)....the binoculars was a huge build-up....I thought it might be "friendlies". Anyway, another great chapter crawling toward an amazing spin and swirl conclusion I am sure. Keep up the great work.....I've got no complaints......I like it!

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It still has me taken in and waiting for the next chapter

had a bit of trouble finding this update it was in the date sequence list when i clicked on it went to a blank page reloaded date sequence page and it was not there

had to search back a week to find it still could not load this chapter then loaded it from the authors list

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On 02/05/2013 11:07 AM, bayoudreamn said:
Welcome back CJ!

It's clear now that you are caught up with your msgs because you are responding again to the reviews in real time. This story has more curves than a (mental image)....the binoculars was a huge build-up....I thought it might be "friendlies". Anyway, another great chapter crawling toward an amazing spin and swirl conclusion I am sure. Keep up the great work.....I've got no complaints......I like it!

Thanks!!

 

The binoculars were indeed friendlies, sort of, though at least they weren't hostiles. :)

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On 02/06/2013 11:59 AM, prklux said:
It still has me taken in and waiting for the next chapter

had a bit of trouble finding this update it was in the date sequence list when i clicked on it went to a blank page reloaded date sequence page and it was not there

had to search back a week to find it still could not load this chapter then loaded it from the authors list

Sorry, that was due to a technical glitch. :)

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On 01/31/2013 09:01 AM, Stephen said:
Things don't bode well for Trevor and Shane, do they? With almost no place to

escape from Bridget, the best hope would be to discredit and expose her to the

cartel, and have the guys kill her. Maybe even then the cartel wouldn't cancel the

hit. What a mess!

 

I like the geographic and historical references throughout this story, and have been

looking things up as they appear. Since the story takes place in such remote places,

it's been great to visit them vicariously, knowing I'll never see them first hand.

Things are indeed grim for Trevor and Shane... Bridget grows ever stronger by the day, and the constant running is taking its toll on them. And yep, even if Bridget dies, the cartel still wants them dead. She's part of the puzzle they need to solve, but not all of it, and they have precious little time remaining. :)

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Well isn't frank just a bucket of good cheer. So get what they need from the boys before they die. But you are thinking like men not teenagers with a death wish lol. The two boys have already proven that they will do and go where angels fear to tread don't give up on them yet.....not only that but I would seriously be in a killing mood if trevor and later shane survived everything just to die at the end.....threat intended lmao

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GITMO? Really Cliffy? I know you'll pull a solution to their problems out of thin air but you've got me at a disadvantage here..... No clear ideas. Maybe cutting a deal with the first amongst equals? Wait! Bridget said something about being at Joel's and dumb bitch's wedding.... Maybe Trev will take her out himself?

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Talk about ending on the chapter on a hopeful note :P.

 

Great story, I really appreciate the attention to detail and background included.

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