“Tomorrow we sail again, I can’t wait. Are you finished packing?”
“Just about, you know what I won’t like about going back on the ship?”
“We won’t be sleeping together anymore.”
“Yes, that’s a bummer, but we’ll still see each other, Benton and Bishop are good friends.”
“Let’s go boys, we need to be squared away by 0600 hours.”
As the boys lifted their duffle bags, Billy groaned. “I thought it was heavy carrying it here. That was nothing compared to how it feels now. Those new uniforms plus our old uniforms has added significant weight.”
“Are you getting soft?”
“No, heft your bag and then tell me it isn’t heavier than when we arrived.”
I did try and lift my bag and Billy was right, the addition of the new uniforms did add serious weight. I knew we couldn’t make the trip back to the ship without stopping several times. It was Uncle Joe who came to our rescue.
“Boys, I’m driving up to my cabin, so I’ll give you a lift to the docks.”
“Thanks, Uncle Joe. If you didn’t offer us a ride, it would take a several hours to get there. Our duffle bags are much heavier now than when we arrived.”
“You could remove some of Maria’s food that she gave you. That would help.”
“No, we can’t hurt Maria’s feelings.” Billy started to laugh.
Uncle Joe helped us load our bags into his car. “These bags are heavy, are you sure you can handle them once we get to the boat yard?”
“If you could wait, Billy and I can carry one bag and then come back for the other bag.I think between the two of us we can do it.”
“Okay. I’ll wait till you have both bags on board your ship.”
Once everything was in our cabins, we went on deck to see if Uncle Joe was still there, he wasn’t. “What are we going to do for supper, we have all of that food but we’ll have to be at mess with our Lieutenants?”
“I don’t think so, officially we don’t start until tomorrow.”
“Will we need to finish cooking Maria’s food?”
“No, it just needs warmed up and I’ll bet Cookie will do it for us or let us do it. We may have to share.”
And that is what they did, not only share with Cookie but the other cooking staff as well.
“Thanks to Maria, we have enough food for everyone.”
It felt good to be back on ship even though I had to sleep by myself.I wonder what our assignment will be, as I fell to sleep.
I was up early, went and brought a pot of coffee and breakfast for Lt. Benton. I saw Billy getting coffee for Lt. Bishop. Looking around and seeing no one, I gave Billy a kiss and a wink. He blushed and quickly looked around to see if anyone saw us.
After breakfast, general quarters was sounded. I accompanied Lt. Benton, stood behind his seat as required. I noticed Billy wearing our new uniforms, he looked sharp with his jacket.
The Cabin Boy uniform was a true uniform as compares to the white t-shirts we use to wear. We had to wear a regular shirt with a tie and Cabin Boy stitched over the pocket.
Our assignment was too patrol the waters between our west coast and an area 1000 miles west, and north, essentially the western border, of the Tropic of Cancer to the Arctic Circle. There were to be three other ships participating in this sweep.
With all the naval components under one jurisdiction, several auxiliary companies existed. The main one for us was the supply boats which not only brought supplies but also mail. Our expected time at sea would be 5 years, minimum.
I was amazed at how life aboard the ship returned to normal. It was like we never left. I spent time studying, being with my Lieutenant on the bridge and of course with Billy, although most of that time was studying, but studying together, stealing a kiss now and then.
We were about three months out when a message came across our radio. I was on the Bridge with Lieutenant Benton when the radio came to life. I listened as the message was received. Two ships were headed in our direction, we were instructed to intercept and check papers and cargo.
I watched as the helmsman was given the coordinates, now I was excited. Up until now we just patrolled. This would be my first intercession on the sea.
I watched as we changed course, I was getting excited. I’ve seen supply ships, they were like what was once called barges. But an unknown ship was something else.
We headed toward the coordinates given to us. After sailing for a full day, we could see three ships heading toward the Islands.
As we got closer, the last ship in line turned and headed back to port. The Captain radioed ahead and alerted port authorities.
As we got closer to the two remaining ships, the second ship started to off load. I couldn’t believe what they were tossing in the ocean, it looked like children. The captain ordered emergency boats in the water, these boats were smaller and traveled very fast.
Within minutes, the second ship was boarded and rescuing of the children tossed over board began. I don’t know if they got them all, I’m sure they got all they could.
By the time we reached the two ships, the first ship was being released. Evidently, they were a legitimate cargo ship. However the second ship was not, they were carrying children for selling on the black market. This was one of the few black markets that existed. Lt. Benton told me later that most of the past criminal enterprises were terminated, there were still some left and selling people into prostitution was one of them.The penalty for selling humans was death, the one death sentence still on the books.
The boat, with their cargo, was allowed to proceed. The second boat was commanded by the Commander from the cargo ship, it was staffed from the cargo ship and our ship. The Commander from our ship, along with two Lieutenants, went to record information on the children. The cargo ship provide staff to help as well.The Captain ordered a supply ship to be sent to the captured ship as soon as possible.
We stayed at our current position for two weeks, transferring supplies to the captured ship and then replenishing our supplies. We took on three new ship boys, Billy and I gave them our old uniforms that we no longer needed. They were very thin, Cookie took one look at them, he told the Captain they wouldn’t be fit to work until they had gained more weight. The ship’s doctor put them in quarantine so he could ascertain their health. Billy and I visited them on average once a day. I reported any information I got from them to Lt. Benton.
I understood them, they wanted to be a Ship Boy but didn’t realize that the ship was a slaver, ships that provided people of all ages to the islands to work the fields and houses of prostitution. Soon they found themselves bound and part of the cargo. I asked about the others, some they said where bought from poor houses, some were beggars on the street, and they also werepromised a better life in the islands. A promise of clear water, sunny beaches and all of the fruit you want, just waiting for you to pick it from the trees. It seemed difficult for me to understand that there were still places that had ‘poor houses’ and begging being allowed. I guess that there will always be some people who are greedy and do not really care about people.
I learned a lesson, people can offer and promise anything, but it doesn’t mean they can or are willing to deliver. Subterfuge with promises, hiding a sinister program. I wonder if I was starving, wearing rags and begging, would such an offer convince me to sign up. I thought about that a lot. I never had to worry about food or being properly clothed. What would I do in their situation? I don’t really know, but probably what they did.
We continued cruising within our assigned area. Normally it’d be a routine cruise, but the additional excitement of participating in the capture and release of the slave ship broke the monotony of this cruise, for a short while.
Routine quickly returned along with my studying and spending time with Billy.
“I wondered whathappened to those people on that ship. Did Bishop say anything to you?”
“No, but when the supply boat comes, we’ll get the news.”
The next supply boat wasn’t due for another 5 months. Until the boat arrived, the boys worked on their school work and assignments. They had a little time to themselves as well.”
The supply boat arrived, not only with all of the newspapers, but also letters from families and friends. For the next several days, letters were read and answered. Although they wouldn’t be picked up till the next supply boat arrives in 6 months.
“Colin, look. The paper says that the leader of that boat was executed. The rest of the crew and the boat’s owner were sent to Mars. They’re going to raffle off the boat.”
“I’m not interested in that boat. I couldn’t afford it anyway. Did it say anything about the boat that returned to the dock?”
“No, but that would be covered in other newspapers.”
“Let’s see if we can find out something about that boat.”
We checked all of the newspapers we had received, nothing was found. “There is one source we haven’t checked, the wave.” ( the wave replaced the old internet)
I booted up my computer, selected the coast where the boat was to return. I had to go back a few days, when I found a report about a boat that had to return to port because of a mechanical problem. “Billy, look at this. It says that a merchant boat had returned to port because of mechanical problems. An inspection of the boat showed no mechanical problems. A thorough search of the boat showed several sets of hand cuffs. A young girl was found hiding on the boat. She told the police that there were more kids on the boat but were thrown overboard before the boat docked. The police arrested the owner, pilot and other persons.”
“What happened to the kids that were thrown overboard?”
“It doesn’t say, let me scroll through and see if there is anymore information.”
After several minutes, I found what I was looking for. Now the question, do I tell Billy or not.
“Billy, there are reports about bodies being found on the shore above the docks. They are kids.”
“ No!How could they do that? That’s murder.”
“Yes, let’s see what our Lieutenants think about this.”
I went and requested a meeting with our Lieutenants. “Sirs, we were following the news about the ships that we intercepted. If you remember, one of the ships returned to port under the guise of malfunctioning controls. The ship was inspected and no problems were detected. They found a young girl who told the police that there were more kids on the boat who were thrown overboard. A fisherman up the cost found the body of a young kid. The authorities need to know this. I think that the crew of that boat is just as guilty as the one we boarded.”
“I can’t promise anything, but Lieutenant Bishop and I will see what we can do.”
“Thank you Sirs.Those kids need a reason for their deaths. They need to know that their deaths have been for something. Maybe if people read about what has happened, they may be moved to help those now on the streets.”
It was almost a year when I read on the wave that a trial was held and the crew of that boat was sent to Mars. The captain didn’t own the boat, it took the police several months to find the owner. The captain told them who he worked for in order to save his life. I guess being assigned to the mines on Mars was better than death.
For the next two weeks we checked the wave every day for the latest information. I was just about to give up when I read that the police raided an office which contained the date when theship sailed. From there they were able to start piecing the puzzle together. As I read further, I couldn’t believe what I was reading. The trail led to a high official on theCouncil. I guess greed knows no level.
The Council was surprised and that led to an investigation of Council members. I wanted to know what the outcome of that investigation would turn up. The Lieutenant told me we’d never know, the Council will deal with it. The population will not be privy to the results because they didn’t want people to lose confidence in the Council. I could accept that, Billy had a few questions.
About two months later, after the supply boat had arrived and left, the Captain informed us that there would be a day of mourning for Councilman O’Leary who has died of a heart attack. Councilman O’Leary had a history of heart problems and the latest attack was too much. He died peacefully in his home.
I looked at Billy, he smiled. We both knew who owned that ship that killed all of those children.
We continued with our studies, Billy had completed his first year and I completed my second year. Our Lieutenants had a little celebration for us.
Returning to normal operations was a relief. Billy and I agreed we’d not stop working on our degree even though most students would take a small break after the year was completed.
We were out of dock for three years before we were told we’d be going back to port. I was excited because it could mean a different assignment for Billy and I. At least I hoped it would be Billy and I and not separate assignments.
As the ship approached port, the Captain called for a staff meeting. The Admiralty approved several promotions, Lieutenants Benton and Bishop were appointed Lieutenant Commanders, among others. The Captain informed us that their position will be filled from Lieutenants Junior Grade from the Star ship. The Star ship was similar to our ship only it was used to patrol the western shore about 50 miles off shore. I was ready to congratulate Lieutenant Commander Benton when I was informed that I was being promoted to Midshipmen. I smiled as I heard Billy was being promoted to Officer Cadet. Now the question, where we’d be assigned.
“Billy, I’m not sure where we’ll be assigned, but if we’re separated, I want to stay in contact. One day, we will be united again.”
“Colin, if we aren’t assigned to the same ship, I don’t know what I’ll do. You are more than a friend and you know that. I don’t think I could handled that separation.”
“I know, I wouldn’t like it either. But we signed up for this knowing that the possibility existed. I won’t forget you and I promise we’ll be together again.”