In mid June, 2006 Senior Captain, acting Major, Gordon Mannheim is on loan to the Green Orcas, the 2nd Royal Sea Guards, with Lieutenant Angelson and a platoon of the 3rd Claymore under Senior Sergeant Chektar. There’s always been a bit of piracy in the region, usually fast small boats involved in smuggling or raiding small coastal cargo ships. Of late there’s been some talk about slavers in the region, and the rate of missing children has risen very sharply. The chances of smuggling children out through the airports or the land routes is very small. The Royal Intelligence Service staff think the children are being moved out by ship, or being gathered for removal by ship.
A few specially selected officers are placed on some patrol craft with a platoon of Claymore as part of a joint operation to follow up on this suspicion. Usually the Orcas don’t have enough crew to land patrols to check out suspected locations on land. They report them, and a patrol is sent from the nearest military facility. Normally this is sufficient, but RIS thinks time will be a critical factor this time, thus the joint patrol idea. Gerry is one of the selected officers, because of his good successful prior experience with RIS in Berana, and he’s assigned the most likely area. He’s also the senior officer assigned, and technically the officer in command of the whole operation. However, while at sea the commander of the vessel, its captain (Senior Lieutenant Mike Mason), is in charge of the patrol boat and its actions.
The Orcas have been keeping a close watch on all small shipping, which is a very difficult task, but they manage to check out over 90% of the small craft. The Royal Customs Service checks out all the big vessels that call at Berant ports. Sea Guard radar watches for any cases of small boats making contact with any larger vessels outside of a port. Many smuggling operations are caught this way each year.
In the early hours of the morning on the third day of this joint operation a Sea Guard radar operator reports an unusual blip on his radar, it’s near the offshore island of Mapul. It suddenly appeared near the island, there for two sweeps, and then gone. Many people would’ve written it off to a problem with the equipment, but not in the Royal Guards, because everything has to be fully explained or investigated. He reports the oddity; within minutes the information is being passed on for investigation by the Orcas. Since this may involve a check of the island they assign the task to the nearest of the joint operation vessels as well as the nearest general patrol craft. Both are about the same distance from the island. On being told of the report Gerry asks they make the fastest possible time to the island, Lieutenant Mason agrees. They’ll approach from the south, and will arrive off the island about half an hour before dawn. The other patrol boat has advised they’re timing their arrival for just after dawn.
Examination of the records shows little about the island. One crew member who grew up on the coast opposite once stayed on the island for a few days. He describes it as crescent shaped with a nice sloping beach inside the curve, and a good natural harbour. The centre of the island rises to about forty-five metres above the sea, a cross between a large hill and a short ridge. The island is only two kilometres long and about half that wide. The seaward side is a straight drop into deep water with the side closest to Berant as the crescent beach and harbour. The island is only sixteen kilometres off the coast and not inhabited. Many people often go to the island for a weekend alone. He remembers people talking about a cave on the island, but he never saw it.
On the off chance there are some people on the island who are involved with the matter they’re investigating they approach the island with great care. The patrol boat races toward the island with no lights showing, and with darken ship screens across all hatches. When they’re within five kilometres of the island the engines are slowed down and the heavy mufflers activated. The boat is now going a lot slower, but it’s a dark, silent, moving spot on the ocean. When they’re about three kilometres out the radar operator reports two small boats on his radar, one entering the harbour while one leaves it heading toward the seaward side by going around the northern edge. Mike and Gerry look at each other, no one in their right mind will use small boats like this unless they’re up to something they don’t want anyone to notice. Gerry orders the platoon to prepare for a night action. He also asks to be dropped ashore in a manner they’re not likely to be spotted.
Lieutenant Mason says, “I wish I could, Sir, but there’s no way we can get near that beach without them seeing us. The best I can offer in surprise is to run aground near them just before high tide, which is soon.”
Gerry asks, “How long before our other boat will be close enough for the radar of a ship on the seaward side to pick it up on their radar?”
Mason replies, “About another thirty to forty minutes, Sir.”
“Can you get close enough to the southern point to keep an eye on the beach while you act like part of the island for anyone going by?”
“With the steep cliff there we can drop buffers over and secure against the cliff with the nose sticking out far enough for someone to watch the beach from the bow.”
“You can get up against the cliff? Do so, we’ll go ashore there!”
Stunned, Mason says, “But that’s a sheer cliff.”
Sergeant Chektar says, “Sheer, shmeer. We can climb anything that’s not horizontal with us under it, even then we’ll give it a go.” He goes below to ready his team for a climb.
Gerry turns to Mason, “Get the other boat on the radio via the satellite link. Have them head further inshore, because we don’t want them scaring our target.”
They slowly close on the island with the radar operator reporting the boat movements. They seem to be making ten minute round trips from the beach to an unknown ship. They’re about to move around the point when the radar operator reports the boat in the harbour leaving while the other one hasn’t returned yet. The radio operator reports no signal interceptions of any sort. Gerry orders all preparations halted. They nudge up against the point, and wait.
Tensely, they wait. Fifteen minutes later they see a coastal freighter pass them slightly to seaward, it has some funny sheeting attached to its shore facing side. The radar operator reports a fuzzy contact to seaward. Gerry and Mike look at each other. This ship is less than a kilometre away, yet the radar signal is extremely poor. Getting on the satellite radio link Gerry orders the other patrol boat to head out to seaward of the island at maximum speed, and tells them why. Again they sit to wait for further developments.
The ship takes seventy-five minutes to leave visual sight, and move over the horizon. By then the other patrol boat reports it’s on their radar plot, and they’re tracking it south while they close in on it.
Gerry orders Mason to take them ashore near where the boats had been going ashore. Using five inflatable boats they’re soon ashore a few metres up the beach. They can easily see where many people have walked back and forth on the beach, many are very small footprints toward where the boats were. Using infra-red sensors they follow the footprints back into the scrub covering the island. They vanish into the middle of two large bushes.
Two Swords take care to part the bushes to show the path leading between them to a cave behind them.
Slowly they walk forward. Sensing someone ahead Gerry signals the men to be careful and quiet. They enter the cave, a few minutes later they round a sharp bend to find four men sitting around a card table counting a large pile of money. The first squad charges forward, and takes them down before they even know they’re under attack.
Once they realise they’ve been captured by Royal Guards the men claim innocence of any wrong doing. They’re also highly amused to see a fourteen year old boy in charge. Looking around the cave Gerry can see evidence of its recent occupation by a large number of people. He also sees some dropped toys and dolls.
Suddenly he spins toward the men, lifts one up, and says, “Were there any kidnapped children amongst those who were here earlier?”
The man says, with a sneer “No, and I dare you to prove otherwise.”
Gerry knows he’s lying, because he can tell by the man’s emotions. He’s very angry. “Do you know anyone important in the organisation of this operation.”
The man truthfully says, “No.” Followed by a lie of, “There ain’t no organisation or operation.”
Stepping back Gerry drops the man. Using his left hand he draws out an ID wallet, opens it, and shows it to the men, one after another. They look at it, and shrug. He says, “Do any of you know what this means?” They shake their heads. “This says I’m a special agent of the King. I can do anything I want to you, and not have to answer to anyone except the King. I can legally torture you or kill you.” They look shocked, he turns back to the first man, “Care to change any of your answers.” The man shakes his head no, and spits at Gerry’s foot. Gerry steps back, and shows the ID to Sergeant Chektar and the Swords with him, they all look at the ID and gulp, except the Sergeant. They’d seen pictures in training, but only the Sergeant has seen a real one before, once, this exact one a year or so earlier.
Gerry is extremely angry, he steps forward, draws his sword, and pins the first man to the ground by stabbing the sword through his stomach. He looks at the others, “Anyone got anything to tell me about the rest of this organisation?” The stabbed man screams in pain. Looking down at the man Gerry says, “Oh, shut up.” He pulls his sword out of the man’s stomach, and slices his head off. The other three start babbling everything they know. This boy scares them shitless.
Three Swords with recorders are quick to step forward to record all they have to say. They drag them apart to different corners of the cave to get better recordings. The rest start to pack everything up, and take it all back to the boats. Within twenty minutes they’ve recorded everything the men are prepared to say, now, and all is ready to return to the patrol boat. Some of the Swords are giving Gerry some odd looks, because he’s a bit more aggressive than they expected. But then, they don’t know how he feels about children and people in the child slave trade, only the Sergeant knows about what happened to Gerry’s kidnapped sister, and he understands Gerry’s actions well, all too well, because they’re close cousins.