(Due South crosses with JAG)
by Chris Lark
They say that a Mountie always gets his man. But when a legendary Mountie was murdered, it was left to his son to track the killer...even to the ends of the earth.
Now, Canada's best is teamed with Chicago's finest, and the city will never be the same again.
With a little help from a supernatural source, they could become the greatest crimefighting duo ever...if they can only keep from killing each other.
--CBS Introduction to Due South
Summer in the city, summer in the city...
Early summer in Chicago, to be precise. At West High School, home of three separate Junior ROTC units--one Air Force, one Army, and one Navy--a collection of cadets from the Air Force unit were preparing for a nice long trip. Every summer, all three units would go for a one-week leadership encampment at local military installations. Just up the shore of Lake Michigan from Chicago, there was an Army base by the name of Fort Sheridan; a few miles north of it sat a naval air station. The Navy cadets would always go to this station while the other two units went to Fort Sheridan. The Army cadets were already on their way, and the Air Force cadets were preparing to follow. School had just let out a few days ago, and almost a third of the cadets were fresh from the eighth grade, going to their first encampment and ready to join ROTC at the beginning of the next school year. Those who were going to their second, third, or fourth encampment were overly excited about the whole stint.
Two of them were especially excited as they would be holding two of the top positions in the group. A few months ago, Del Porter had put in for the position of group commander, and the selection board for the encampment had approved him almost unanimously. He'd just rounded out a school year as a top-of-the-line flight commander. Then there was his younger brother Pete, who had put in for and received the position of Green Squadron Commander. That would place him in command of three flights, totaling about eighty kids. Such fun, he often thought to himself.
Pete stowed his duffle bag away in the trunk of Del's car, and he shut the tailgate and glanced at two of his friends, Constable Benton Fraser of the RCMP and Detective Ray Vecchio of the C.P.D. They were seeing him and Del off and helping them load up, so here they were. They looked immensely out of contrast--Fraser in his red uniform, Ray in his plain clothes, and Pete in his full battle dress uniform. He reached up to rub the cadet lieutenant colonel rank on his hat, and he and the two police officers started toward the bus on which the rest of the cadets would be riding to the fort. "Well, thanks for coming to see us off, fellas," he said. "It's our last encampment, I'll bet we can use plenty of support."
"Maybe I'll grab my old Air Force uniform and come visit," Ray joked.
"Well, we're glad to be of assistance," Fraser said. "I know it's a very important occasion for both of you. After all, since you're holding top positions in the group this year, it may get somewhat tough on you."
"Yeah, but it's nothing Del and I can't handle," Pete grinned. "Give us half a chance to beat up a couple of Recon Marines and we'll beat up a couple of Recon Marines."
"Dream on, kid," Ray said. "I saw one too many bar fights where Recon Marines were involved, and they won every round."
"Then won't Del be lucky if he gets accepted to Norwich," Pete said. "Being out there in eastern Vermont, surrounded by a thousand cadets you don't know, that's something I'd like to see him try."
They arrived at the bus, where the line of cadets had just finished shoving luggage into the back. Six of the bus's rear seats were taken up by baggage, most of it duffle bags that had belonged to military ancestors. Del was overseeing it all, and he noticed his three pals coming over towards him. He went to intercept, and since he was also in uniform, Pete was obliged to salute.
"Hey, Colonel Big Brother," Pete grinned, patting Del on the arm after the latter saluted back.
"Just about ready to go?" Del asked.
"Whenever these little monsters are," Pete said, motioning at the line of kids standing by the bus. "If we were in Marine ROTC, we could really rag on them."
"Actually," Fraser broke in, "I believe that the Marines have made it a prerogative not to be so tough on their new recruits. In news briefs, it's been referred to as the 'kinder, gentler Marine Corps'."
"That's a laugh," Ray snorted. "You two, when you're down there, you remember what I told you about those Recon Marines. Want some sound advice? Stay the hell away from them."
"What are you, speaking from personal experience?" Del said.
"As a matter of fact, yes."
Del just chortled. Then he turned toward the pack of cadets and raised his voice. "Area, ten-hut!" he barked, bringing every cadet in the area to attention.
"Here we go," he began. "You're heading for Army country, people. Remember at all times, they're our hosts, you treat them with according respect. And no matter what service they're in, you salute the officers. As soon as Major Mercurio and Chief Trent are on their way, so are we." He turned to one of the other officers standing in the group. "Nelson, you're in charge as long as they're on the bus. Go on and board the bus now, and when you get down there, wait by the bus till we arrive. Understood?"
"Sir, yes, sir!" all hands responded in a yell.
"Good luck," Del said. "Carry on." With that, the lot of them started to break up and move toward the front doors of the bus. Meanwhile, Del and Pete turned back to Fraser and Ray. "Well, here we go," Del said.
"Here you go," Fraser repeated. "Have fun down there, fellas."
"Thanks," Pete said.
"See you later," Ray called after them as they started toward Del's car. As they headed over there, Fraser and Ray moved up onto the sidewalk and stood together for a short time.
"I'm quite sure they'll have fun up there," Fraser said. "Selection boards are always quite carping about who they choose for top-brass positions. Nine times out of ten, they choose wisely."
"Unlike some senile ROTC instructors around here," Ray said, motioning at the out-moving car occupied by the unit's instructor. Then he heard Del's car starting up, and he and Fraser waved to their two friends as that car pulled out of its spot and followed the instructor's. Other cadets who were driving to Fort Sheridan took this cue to depart as well, and by now, the bus's engine was also running. Since the assistant instructor would be waiting to bring up the rear, the bus started away from its spot beside the sidewalk and went into a U-turn, following its predecessors out of the school parking lot. Fraser and Ray watched all involved vehicles depart, and then they turned to go over to Ray's old 1971 Buick Riviera and head for home.
It took about a half hour to get from West High to Fort Sheridan, and the ASI, Del and the other self-transporting cadets, the bus and the AASI stayed in "formation" the whole way up. At the Army base's gatehouse, the ASI stopped to clear the passage of the rest of the cadets and his assistant. With the guard's approval, the procession moved on through the gate and toward their assigned barracks area.
"Well, here we are," Pete said, looking around the opening expanse of the base.
"I'll betcha we got the Twenty-Four Hundred area again," Del said, referring to the barracks area.
"Well, it's the one we're most familiar with, so naturally we would," Pete said. "Well, we're in. Now, shall we do our best to get out of here alive, hmmmm?"
"Well, that depends on how you and your fellow squadron commanders handle
these kids," Del replied knowingly. Pete just chuckled and punched him
lightly on the shoulder, and they moved on into Fort Sheridan for their
By the time the ROTC kids had arrived at Fort Sheridan and were getting settled in for the encampment, Fraser and Ray were back at the police station to catch up on a bit of work. For once, they didn't have very much work to catch up on. Fraser had already done his duty at the Canadian consulate that day, so he was free to help Ray file everything away. They strolled from the police station's parking lot up to the squad room, chatting as they went.
"It's just too bad, I suppose, that this has to be their final encampment," Fraser remarked. "Of course, if Del makes it to Norwich, he can always come back as a member of the cadre some time."
"Pete could probably take it or leave it, he hated this past year," Ray said. "But of course, when you've got a tyrant for a flight commander, you take a negative attitude like that. Can you picture either of those two as instructors? They'd get Honor Unit rating every year." The pair entered the squad room, and Ray went over to his desk, situated in the rear corner. He and Fraser were just about to sit down when one of his nearby colleagues, Detective Jack Huey, hailed them from his desk.
"The lieutenant wants to see you, Vecchio," he informed him.
Fraser and Ray exchanged glances, and they went around the corner to the front door of Lieutenant Harding Welsh's office. Ray knocked, and at Welsh's invitation, he and Fraser entered. It seemed that Welsh already had a couple of visitors; the tall one who bore a striking resemblance to Fraser was wearing Navy khakis, and the other, a woman about the same age as her friend, wore the informal uniform of the Marine Corps.
Welsh rose from behind his desk and indicated the two military officers. "Detective Vecchio, this is Lieutenant Commander Harmon Rabb of the Navy's Judge Advocate General corps," he said. "Major Sarah MacKenzie." He turned to these two, gesturing at Fraser and Ray. "Detective Vecchio, Constable Fraser."
Commander Rabb stuck his hand out, and Ray took it and shook it. "Pleased to meet you," Commander Rabb said.
"Likewise," Fraser said, taking his own turn at handshaking. He next shook hands with Major MacKenzie, who had a rather shy greeting for him. Fraser noticed that with women her age; they were very often shy around him, unless they were like Ray's sister.
"They're working on a case in this area, so they asked for some assistance from the local police," Welsh continued. "Vecchio, since I know you've had military experience, not to mention a similar case in the past, you're the best man for the job." He nodded to Commander Rabb, who picked up the story.
"Seems a fellow somewhere in the local military installations is involved in something illegal," Commander Rabb began. "About a week ago, the authorities at the Great Lakes Naval Training Station reported some strange-looking materiel coming on base in Army vehicles. Around the same time, Fort Sheridan reported that some of its own materiel was missing. They couldn't tell us what it was, and the Great Lakes logistics personnel were unable to find anything out of the ordinary."
"Hm," Fraser said. "Would you happen to have a suspect in this case?"
"Yes, we would," Major MacKenzie said. "A National Guard sergeant named Frank Bodeane."
Fraser and Ray's eyes widened, and they stared at each other in shock. "Frank Bodeane?" Ray gaped. "He's at it again?"
"You know him?" Major MacKenzie gathered.
"Yes," Fraser answered. "A couple of years ago, he was running guns from the Sixty-seventh Regiment Armory to a subversive group outside the city. An undercover ATF agent was working with him, and Detective Vecchio and I were able to assist her in seizing the weapons and arresting Bodeane. He was sent to Joliet for a few years, so I would imagine that he escaped."
"Yeah, he did," Ray said. "A few months ago, a bunch of guys in a Huey picked him up in the middle of the night. The prison guards never had a chance."
"Well, after he got away, he started operating again," Commander Rabb said. "We want to catch him before he extends his operations past Fort Sheridan. We wanted a local officer to go in undercover and report back to us from the inside, since an MP would be a little too suspicious. Lieutenant Welsh says you were in the Air Force, so that makes you the prime candidate."
"Well, if we get rid of Bodeane again, you bet I'm with you," Ray said. "When do we start?"
"Right away," Welsh broke in. "As of now, I'm leaving the four of you to work out the details among yourselves. Commander, I'd appreciate it if you'd keep me apprised of your progress as well."
"We'll do that, Lieutenant," Commander Rabb said, sticking his hand out again. Welsh shook hands with him and Major MacKenzie, and they followed Fraser and Ray out of the office.
"Mountie, right?" Commander Rabb said, noting Fraser's dress uniform.
"That's correct, Commander," Fraser said.
"I beg your pardon?"
"Just call me Harm."
"Ah," Fraser said, picking up on the nickname.
As the foursome came over to Ray's desk, Major MacKenzie, smiling slyly, added her two cents. "And you can just call me the Goddess of the Marine Corps JAG team," she snickered. "No, just call me Mac."
"Okay, great, then call me the Emperor of the Chicago P.D.," Ray came back, smirking one of his dopiest smirks ever.
All wisecracks aside, Harm fingered his uniform cap and squinted at Ray. "Is there someplace private where we can talk?"
"There is, but there's not enough room for all four of us," Ray said, referring to the broom closet that Fraser sometimes dragged him into for brainstorming sessions. "After that, the most private place is the interview room."
And so down to the interview room they went, and Fraser noted the stares of the other police officers as they passed by. He recognized that look; many times, it had been given to him in his early days of hanging around the police station. However, since he'd been doing that for almost two years, it had faded away, and they treated him like just another one of them. Evidently, the stares were being directed at the two JAG officers this time, until Ray opened the door to the observation room that was next to the interview one. As Fraser came in, he felt a light brushing around his legs, and he looked down and saw another sight that had become familiar around the station: his deaf wolf, Diefenbaker. Ray frowned down at Diefenbaker, then shifted his gaze back up to Fraser.
"Did you invite him?" It was more of a demand than a query.
"Well, no, but that's no reason why he can't stay," Fraser defended. "After all, in the last Bodeane incident, he proved quite useful. That, of course, is not mentioning the Dobermans we encountered when we visited--"
Ray sighed irritably and slammed the door. He knew Fraser too well to think that Fraser might tell Diefenbaker to stay out of this. The pair sat down across the table from Harm and Mac, who began to give them a further rundown without preamble.
"You were right, Detective Vecchio," Harm said. "Last fall, a group of subversives overflew Joliet at night in a Huey, and they picked Bodeane up and shot down every guard who responded. There was no way of tracing that helicopter back to its home base."
"So no APB was issued," Fraser gathered.
"For some reason," Mac confirmed. "The chopper landed at Meigs Field, and from there, the men escaped by motorboat. Nobody's seen them since."
"Hm," Fraser mused. "It's possible they were carrying enough extra fuel to get to Canada, then had another form of transportation to escape further away than anyone would think to look."
"It's possible," Harm repeated.
"When did Fort Sheridan report the disappearance of its materiel?"
"First report came in last Monday, and they said that it started on Saturday. That was about the same time as the reports from Great Lakes NTS. Now we don't have any hard evidence that it's Bodeane who's behind it, but since he's recently escaped and he's well known for gunrunning, he's at the top of our suspect list. You think he made it to Canada?"
"It was in the fall that he escaped," Fraser answered. "I was brought up in the Northwest Territories, and we usually have several inches of snow on the ground by that time of year. There's nothing around for kilometers in some spots, and even if the RCMP did do an air search, Bodeane's men may have found some shelter or even fabricated some. As a Guardsman, he would know such methods of survival. Assuming he periodically moved from spot to spot, it's entirely probable that air searches would miss him and ground searches would be unable to track him in that weather."
"Be that as it may, we just need to prove his involvement," Mac said. "Or if not him, then whoever is involved. Anyway, that's your part. We'll have false identification for you by tomorrow, as well as fabricated orders to temporarily join Fort Sheridan as Air Force liaisons. That will give you access to its logistics department to find out what's missing, and if possible, who took it. Anything taken from a military installation can be awfully dangerous in the hands of internal subversives."
"Yeah, we learned that the hard way," Ray said. "By the way, we've got a couple of friends up at Fort Sheridan right now. Some cadets from the local Junior ROTC unit."
At this, Harm's eyes widened in consternation, and he raised his hand. "Whatever you do, don't get them involved. Feel free to tell them what you're doing, but leave them out of it. We definitely don't need cadets getting hurt if this gets nasty."
"No problem," Ray assured him.
"I guess we've covered everything," Mac said, and Harm agreed.
"We'll get moving tomorrow morning," he added as the foursome rose to leave the room.
They filed out into the corridor, and while Harm and Mac went ahead towards the squad room, Fraser and Ray stayed a short distance behind them. Fraser leaned a little closer to Ray as they walked, and he spoke in a low voice. "Ray, I must confess I'm not entirely familiar with what we're about to do."
"Well, you trained under military conditions, didn't you?"
"Yes, in basic training, we do learn much military deportment and style, but there are some customs of the American military that may take me by surprise."
Ray smiled knowingly, although he didn't look at Fraser. "Say no more, I'll fix that for you."
"Oh, you will?" Fraser said, rather pleased that Ray was willing to help him out on this. But then he reconsidered as he thought of how Ray might help him. It discomfited him enough to press the point. "Wait, a second, Ray, how do you intend to fix it for me?"
Ray intended to fix it for him by taking Fraser down to his house and getting him in the backyard. And as long as Ray was fixing it for Fraser, there was the constant threat of somebody calling the police because Ray was disturbing the peace. Fraser stood stiffly at attention in the middle of the yard, and Ray strode forward till he was several centimeters away from him. Although Fraser was in civilian clothes, Ray was in his battle dress uniform, which still contained his staff-sergeant ranks, name, and service branch.
"Airman Basic Fraser, do you call that a salute?!" he thundered, glaring into Fraser's eyes.
"It is the correct salute in the RCMP, but I--"
"Does this look like the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to you, or does it look like the United States Air Force?! Do you see any red jackets around here?!"
"Sir, no, sir!" Fraser yelled.
"I didn't think so! Look around you, and the minute you see a red jacket, you can tell me! Until then, you'd damn well better be seeing nothing but full battle dress! Do you understand me?!"
"Sir, yes, sir!"
"Good! Because so help me God, I am going to get rid of that Mountie coddling, and I am going to make an Air Force man out of you! Before sunset, you will be in the Air Force, Airman Basic Fraser, because I'm going to put you there like it or not!" Ray started circling Fraser like a buzzard, hands on hips. He would have made a perfect drill sergeant if he'd stayed in the Air Force.
"Just for your information, Airman Basic Fraser, if I should somehow fail to land you in the Air Force by sunset, I'm going to kick you all the way from here back to Canada, where you belong! Maybe back up there in the frozen wastelands, you can appreciate how good you had it down here! But since I wouldn't care to wish that on you, you can bank that I'm gonna keep you down here and plant you in the Air Force by the time it's dark! And if you cooperate, maybe it'll work! Screw it up, and I swear to God that I am going to kick you back to Canada from here! Do you understand me?!"
"Sir, yes, sir!" Fraser repeated. He said nothing further on such a matter. He had many ways of finding out that all drill instructors, no matter what service, were all alike in the American military. Even in the Canadian military, they could be awfully tough. In fact, it had almost been a little lighter than this at the RCMP Academy.
"All right, now let's see that salute again!"
Fraser saluted, and this time, he remembered to do it the Air Force way. In the RCMP, the salute was rendered by bringing the right hand to the hat brim, palm facing the counterpart. The American military, on the other hand (so to speak), rendered the salute with the palm parallel to the ground. This time, Fraser remembered to do it that way.
"Well, ain't this a shock!" Ray bellowed. "Mr. Mountie knows how to salute the Air Force way! This better not be your way of telling me that you're a know-it-all, because if it is, you can just go around the base for the rest of the day telling people that you're a know-it-all! And I'm gonna make sure you do!"
"Sir, I am not asserting that I am a know-it-all, sir!" Fraser shouted.
"And you're not talking while you're at present arms, either! I have got a helluva lot of work to do, Airman Basic Fraser! Order--arms!" Fraser dropped his salute, and Ray went back to circling and yelling in his ears.
"And whenever we do push-ups, they are going to be I-love-the-Air-Force push-ups! And I'm going to bet that you know what one of those is!"
"Sir, yes, sir!"
"Then let's see it!"
"I-love--" push-- "the-Air-Force--" push-- "one, sir!--" push
"Either you're just lucky, or you really do know your stuff! Well, I'm gonna find out which one it is!"
"Where did you learn that stamping around?! You've been riding horses too long, Airman Basic Fraser! You stamp, you don't pivot!"
"Actually, sir, I believe you mean that I pivot, not stamp."
"What the hell ever! Just get it right! Right--face!"
"My apologies, sir, I know I just performed a flank when I should have performed a column, sir!"
"You're damn right about that, but I tell you when you do, Airman Basic Fraser! We are not doing flanks, as in caribou thighs! We are doing columns, as in totem poles! All right, now we're going to do columns until we drop! We're going to have nightmares about columns! Halt and let's take it from the top again!"
"The sun is awfully low in the sky, Airman Basic Fraser! And you're almost through!"
"Sir, may I ask a question, sir?"
"It better be good!"
"Sir, do you mean through in a good or bad sense?"
"Yeah, that is a good question! I ain't sure yet! So you better make
it a good sense, or when I kick you back to Canada, I kick you into the
middle of a blizzard!"
By the time the sun was below the horizon, Fraser had sweated almost two percent of his body fluids, but at least, he mused, he was still sweating. If he had stopped, that would mean that he was dehydrated almost to the point of death, and in his drill-instructor glory, Ray had neglected to let Fraser take a drink at any time. Fraser still stood at attention in the shadow of Ray's house, which had grown longer and longer until the sun vanished and all shadows disappeared with it.
"At ease," Ray said. For the first time since he and Fraser had started, he didn't yell. He moved slowly forward, his face impassive. When he was a foot away, he held out his hand. "Congratulations, Benny. I think you're ready for the wild blue yonder."
Fraser smiled, shaking his pal's hand. "Thanks, Ray." The twosome started toward the back door of the house.
"Now, all you need is uniform items, and we're ready to rock and roll," Ray said.
"Well, the JAG officers will have all necessary items by tomorrow."
Ray half-smiled, nodding. "Yeah, I'd like to see how the officers at the base treat you," he said. "You have to see it to believe it, the way most Army officers treat most Air Force enlisted people."
"Congratulations, Constable. You've just been promoted to the rank of Air Force Major."
Harm's statement to Fraser the next morning caused Ray's eyes to widen in surprise. Harm handed Fraser a small plastic bag containing two gold oak leaves, and two shoulder epaulets emblazoned with gold oak leaves. They were in the squad room at the police station, and the dress blues and BDUs apportioned to Fraser were hanging on the coat tree near Ray's desk. Ray had fully expected that Fraser would also be enlisted, but no, Harm and Mac had somehow worked it so that Fraser was an officer. An officer equal to their ranks, at that.
"What, he's not enlisted as well?" Ray asked quizzically.
"No," Harm said. "If Bodeane has an officer on his side, then he'll feel reasonably safe about gunrunning, because an Air Force major's word would be pretty effective if anything happened."
"Don't worry about it, Ray," Mac interjected. "Your basic training wasn't a waste. They can be awfully tough at the academies, too."
Fraser, catching a movement in his peripheral vision, fixed his gaze on the squad room's side door. A short young man, rather on the portly side, also wearing Navy khakis, entered with a briefcase under his arm. His hair was black and crew-cut, and his eyebrows were very thick. He looked like a nervous, hurried type who would go nuts if he screwed up in the slightest.
"I got the latest from the people at Fort Sheridan and Great Lakes, sir," he said to Harm, holding up the case.
Glancing at Fraser, Harm gestured at the arrival. "This is Lieutenant Bud Roberts, our partner and go-fer. Bud, Constable Fraser and Detective Vecchio, or rather Major Fraser and Staff Sergeant Vecchio till this assignment is over."
"Hi," Fraser smiled, sticking out his hand. "Nice to meet you."
"Yes, um, sir," Bud Roberts said, shaking Fraser's hand, and initially unsure of whether to address him as a military officer or a Mounted Policeman. He decided to go along with the military-officer end, as long as Fraser would be masquerading as a superior officer for the next few days or weeks.
"What have you got, Bud?" Mac asked.
Opening the case, Bud withdrew a small stack of paper attached to a clipboard. As he talked, he flipped the pages one by one. "They've ascertained at Fort Sheridan that whatever's missing hasn't gone missing during the night. They do an inventory every evening and every morning, and it seems like they lose stuff during the daytime." Fraser and Ray both frowned at this little inconsistency, and Bud continued. "As of two days ago, they check every truck that goes out, but they haven't found anything out of the ordinary. Same with the Great Lakes logistics department, they're also checking every run that comes in from Fort Sheridan, and they're also doing two inventories a day. Can't find anything abnormal on either end."
"That's mighty strange," Mac mused. "Whatever comes out of Fort Sheridan must go someplace other than the logistics department at Great Lakes. And losing it during the daytime? That's the strangest part of all."
"Do truck convoys make regular runs from Fort Sheridan to Great Lakes?" Fraser inquired of Bud.
"Yes, sir," Bud answered. "Great Lakes always runs trainees down to Fort Sheridan for ground-combat exercises. There's usually three to four round trips a day."
"They must have some method of stowing items away on the transport vehicles, then," Fraser said. "We'd best get up there to accumulate more evidence."
"Well, let's move it, then," Ray said. He was the first out, and while Fraser took his recently acquired uniform items from the coat tree, the JAG officers filed out after Ray. Fraser brought up the rear, and he headed for the rest room so that he could change into the BDUs. Being an Air Force officer would be quite a new experience for him, even if going after Frank Bodeane wouldn't.
Now, Fraser had been so busy getting ready for the assignment that he hadn't been able to get over to the Canadian consulate to clear it. On this note, Ray detoured over to the consulate so that Fraser could do so. Following in a rented government vehicle, the three JAG officers didn't seem to mind this. At the consulate, Fraser got out of the Riviera and entered the building, hopping on up the stairs to the liaison office. His own office was nothing more than a storage room with a desk in one corner. Naturally, his boss, Inspector Margaret Thatcher, got the cushier corner office to one side of the lobby. With Diefenbaker at his side as always, Fraser went over to that door and knocked. At Thatcher's invitation, in he went, and he just missed Thatcher removing her glasses while she read over some official business.
"Good morning, ma'am," he said, doffing his hat.
Thatcher turned her eyes upward, and she squinted. Before her stood Fraser, but she only recognized him by his face, and certainly not by his attire. "Who are you?" she asked.
Fraser frowned. "It's Constable Fraser, sir."
"Is it? Because if it was, I think he would be wearing red serge, not battle camouflage."
Fraser's face looked very much like that of a deer caught in headlights as he looked down at himself. Only now did he realize that he had donned the BDUs before he came over here, and he fought the heat heading for his cheeks.
"Ah," he said, heaving a deep, embarrassed breath. "Well, actually, sir, I'm not exactly Constable Fraser. Until my present assignment is over, I'm Major Fraser of the U.S. Air Force."
"You've defected," Thatcher guessed.
"Oh, no, no, no, sir, by no means," Fraser corrected her hastily. "I--I mean, not to contradict you. You see, ma'am, a team of Judge Advocate General officers has asked myself and Detective Vecchio to go undercover for them, to flush out a dangerous gunrunner operating near here. We were the only ones with military or paramilitary experience, and they needed two of us."
There was a silence. Whether Thatcher was accepting this or not, Fraser couldn't tell. He was almost certain that she didn't quite understand it. Thatcher herself gave Fraser another once-over, wondering how he thought he could come in here and make like an Air Force officer in front of her. At last she decided that he was doing something important for once, so she nodded. "Very well, Major Fraser, U.S. Air Force. Go ahead and catch all the gunrunners your heart desires, but don't dare let it go to your head."
"Thank you, ma'am." Fraser nodded, turned and made haste out of the
Fraser estimated correctly that the cadets would be at lunch by the time he, Ray, and the JAG team arrived at Fort Sheridan. Harm and Mac had gone all out and gotten a hold of base admission stickers for the Riviera, which would require nothing more than Fraser's Swiss Army knife to remove when the assignment was finished. Ray drove north from downtown Chicago, and he arrived at Fort Sheridan around noon. Up he pulled to the gatehouse, and Fraser took the identification papers and orders from the dashboard and handed them to Ray. As the Riviera drew to a halt, the guard, seeing the gold leaves on Fraser's collar tabs, snapped to attention and saluted. Fraser saluted back, and Ray stopped the car and handed the paperwork to the guard.
There was a few seconds' pause while the guard reviewed all papers, and he handed them back to Ray and saluted again. "Welcome to Fort Sheridan, sir," he said to Fraser.
"Thank you kindly," Fraser replied as Ray drove on into the base.
" 'Thank you kindly'?" Ray said. "You're an Air Force major, Fraser, what makes you think you can go around thanking snot-nosed enlisted men?"
"Well, you're an enlisted man, Ray," Fraser reminded him. "And while you may or may not be snot-nosed--" he tried to ignore the dirty look-- "you're often worth thanking."
"Well, how long have you known me as an Air Force man?"
Fraser looked at his watch. "Approximately eight hours and fifty-one minutes."
Ray sighed in exasperation, rolling his eyes. "The point is, Fraser, you don't want to go doing that too often, especially around senior officers, it makes them think that you're too soft on their enlistees. They always want to be tough on them."
"Well, I don't have to be uncourteous, do I?" Fraser asked, certainly hoping not.
"Take it from me, Benny, or take it from Pete or Del, there is no such thing as courtesy in the United States military."
"Ah, so that's why you are the way you are."
Ray sighed again, and he glared at Fraser. "And will you for God's sake stop guilt-tripping me about my attitude?"
"Sorry." Fraser raised an apologizing hand, and Ray drove on toward the 2400 barracks area.
That area wasn't very hard to find, being in one of the out-of-the-way corners of the base. It was within marching distance of the mess hall, so all Fraser and Ray had to do was find that and then drive on toward the corner of the base. Pretty soon, they passed a pair of enormous water tanks, one of which was shaped like a still-growing onion. Then on a left turn, they saw that the barracks and other structures were marked with green plates, reading "T-2400" and so on. Here they were.
There were cars in the parking lot to their right, so Ray drove into that parking lot and found an empty spot close to the orderly room. As he stopped the car in the spot, Harm entered the spot beside the Riviera, out of which Fraser and Ray stepped. They moved over to the rear, and the three JAG officers got out of their own car and came to stand with them, awaiting the return of the cadet group.
"Looking pretty good, Benny," Ray said, giving Fraser the first good once-over since leaving the police station.
"Well, thank you, Ray. Oh, one more question. Would it be a good idea to keep my boots as highly shined as my metal ranks?"
Ray chortled and nodded. "Spit yourself dry on those boots, Fraser."
"Oh, that shouldn't be necessary," Fraser said with an apathetic wave of his hand. "Although there was one time when I returned from incarcerating a criminal approximately three hours before the assistant to the deputy commissioner arrived to inspect our post. I had to get Diefenbaker to shine my other boot after I dehydrated myself on the first one. However, this time, I've brought plenty of shoe polish along in anticipation of a long assignment. Hopefully, that is, it won't take us as long as it took Agent Chapin to arrest Bodeane the first time."
"Maybe it's a good thing anyway," Ray smirked. "You'll learn something about being in the Air Force. Me, I'd be glad to be back for five months. Might even make chief master sergeant if it goes on long enough."
"Well, actually," Bud came in, "you'd have a choice of either re-enlisting or getting discharged after four years. If you re-enlisted, it'd take you another four years to make chief."
"And God help us if it takes us that long to get Bodeane," Harm remarked.
"Yeah, well, don't worry about it," Ray smirked again. "With Fraser and me undercover for you, we'll have him in four days."
"I hope most of your prophecies come true, especially ones like that," Mac said. "I don't suppose they ever have." She turned to Fraser for the answer.
"Not that I recall, no," Fraser answered. Ray gave him a dirty look, wishing that Fraser wouldn't always go around bad-mouthing him like that.
They waited for several minutes before they heard the sounds of shouted marching songs at some distance. Before long, Fraser could recognize Pete's voice calling out the jodies, followed by the chorus from the rest of his squadron. As the squadron rounded the corner just before the parking lot, Pete was loud enough to be heard by the five awaiting the group's arrival. He was singing one of the "Sound Off!" themes, and the squadron was very loud about repeating each line.
"Mama, Mama, can't you see/ What the Air Force done to me/ Took away my Micky-D's/ Now I'm eating MREs!" As they sounded off, Ray chortled so hard he almost blew some nose cartilage. Fraser and the JAG team were very surprised by his reaction, which was to cover his mouth and almost double over laughing.
"What's so funny?" Harm asked.
"MREs, the field rations," Mac answered, having had experience with those. Nine out of ten people who had eaten them had bad experience with them. "Talk to anybody who's been in the field, and you can expect a negative opinion. I guess these cadets have had to eat them in the past."
"Yeah, but what's really funny is that they're not supposed to get them this year," Ray said after he finished laughing. "If they're still complaining about them, they must be pretty bad."
"Have you ever had them, Ray?" Fraser asked.
"I think I threw up my whole stomach once after eating one of those," Ray answered. He was interrupted by Pete, who was taking his squadron around the corner into the parking lot. Fraser, seeing the green hats on everyone in that squadron, deduced that Pete had been given command of Green Squadron for this encampment. Right now, Pete was yelling cadence that was intended to motivate his squadron--like they didn't have enough motivation already.
"Your left! Your left! Your left, right--" "GREEN!" "Your left! Your left! Your left, right--" "GREEN!" And so on, and so forth. Pete was calling out that cadence all the way to the other end of the lot. He was so busy doing it that he didn't see his two pals standing by waiting until he was drawing level with them. He did, however, see Harm and Mac, so he stopped calling the cadence to salute. They both saluted back, as did Fraser. Pete saw that extra hand traveling from side to hat brim and back, so he took a look at the face--and got the shock of his life. Fraser and Ray, both smiling knowingly, both standing by the Riviera, wearing full battle dress and ranks. And to top it all off, they each had patches containing their names and branch of service. Pete's eyes grew saucer wide, and it was only after he passed them that he lowered his eyes and shook his head rapidly. Then he turned his attention back to the business at hand.
"Squadron!" he yelled.
"Flight!" his three flight commanders called out to their own units.
"Ready--" Pete waited for the flight commanders to echo this order, and then he barked, "Halt!" After one more step, the squadron came to a halt, a couple of meters short of the other end of the parking lot.
"Right--face!" Pete shouted. The squadron turned right, so that it was facing the orderly room and the five would-be gun-runner busters. Pete about-faced, and he and his command waited until Red Squadron, the last in line, was standing still at the opposite end of the lot and facing the OD room. Del, who had been running back and forth alongside the group during the march back from the mess hall, found a large rock to stand on and address the group. He hopped up onto the rock, looking out over the group. Everybody stood silently, facing forward, completely motionless and at attention.
"Group!" Del yelled. "Are you motivated?!"
"Cover your ears," Ray said to Fraser.
A thunderous roar rose from over two hundred cadets and could be heard for miles around: "MOTIVATED, MOTIVATED, MOTIVATED, SIR! DEDICATED, DEDICATED, DEDICATED, SIR! FIRED-UP, FIRED-UP, FIRED-UP, SIR! HOOOOO-RAH! U.S. AIR FORCE, SIR!"
"I thought so," Del nodded. "All right, we're going to have barracks time. Squadron and flight commanders, you'll help your cadets prepare for mock inspection, which will be on Thursday at fourteen hundred hours. Get to know your cadets, who should also get to know their commanders during this time. Judging from what went on at the mess hall today, I think this is going to be a fine encampment."
Waiting for any pleased expressions to show up, Del was gratified to see that none did. These kids should be at attention, not doing a thing unless they were told. That was exactly what they were doing. "Squadron commanders, take control of your squadrons." He stepped down off his rock, and he stood by it before going on to the OD room. He wanted to talk to Pete about how Green Squadron was doing so far.
Red and Blue Squadrons were dismissed almost immediately, but Pete held Green for a few more seconds. "Green Squadron, I'm going to be along in a few minutes. Oh, and we're going to be practicing something else in the barracks--war faces!" He certainly didn't mind pleased or amused expressions, and he allowed himself a brief, almost maniacal laugh. "Squadron!" he yelled.
"Flight!" his three flight commanders shouted.
"Dis--miss!" The squadron stepped back and about-faced, and then broke off and headed away to barracks. Pete, meanwhile, turned around, facing his two friends. Shaking his head once again out of disbelief, he walked toward them, noticing Del coming from the other direction. The two of them arrived at the same time, and they both saluted the active-duty personnel. As before, Fraser, Harm, and Mac returned the salute, and Del and Pete both turned on Fraser and Ray.
"Now, what exactly are you two doing here?" Pete asked.
"We're undercover for Commander Rabb, Major MacKenzie, and Lieutenant Roberts here," Fraser explained, indicating the JAG officers. "You remember the National Guard sergeant named Frank Bodeane that we told you about, don't you?"
"Yeah," Del said. "I remember you got him just after I met you."
"He's operating again. It sounds like internal subversion again, so Ray and I are undercover to report back to our Judge Advocate General friends here."
"Mmm-hmm," Del said. "Well, since I know what you're going to ask, we'll leave you alone."
"Great, thanks," Ray said. "All right, we'll let you guys go. We've got some pea-brained subversive butt to kick."
"Thanks," Pete chortled, patting Ray on the shoulder. "Good luck." He turned around and ambled off toward the barracks to see what his squadron was up to.
"Don't worry, Fraser," Del said before going back to the OD room. "Ray'll break you into the Air Force before you know it."
"Actually, he's already taken care of that," Fraser said. Del nodded and smiled knowingly, and around he turned to lope off to the OD room. Ray stared after him, quirking a smirk at the corner of his mouth.
"There goes the next Head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff," he observed in a low voice.
"Heard that," Del called over his shoulder nonetheless.
Mac's smile came and went, and she moved a little closer to Fraser and Ray so that she could lower her own voice. "Now that you're here, you'll go to Bodeane and his superiors. Find out if they are the masterminds here, and tell them you want to join their group. Remind them that since you're a major, your word can be quite effective if they get caught."
"Uh, excuse me, ma'am," Bud said from behind her, clearing his throat audibly. "I hate to be a wet blanket, but wouldn't somebody get suspicious if they came in at this point in the operation?"
"They might, but the more people they have, the better their chances are, especially if they're in high places like this," Mac replied. "Besides, this is the best we can do right now, and you never know when they might be accepting latecomers."
Fraser nodded once, staring out across the compound. "I think our best place to start is at the supply center. Meet up with Bodeane when he makes his next run. At that, we approach and see if he accepts us."
In the barracks, Pete had arrived and dumped his utility belt in the senior officers' room. It was nice to be a senior officer this year; while everybody else had to sleep in the barracks, he, along with one of his flight commanders and a couple of members of the group staff (including Del), had a separate room at one end of the bay. They could take showers in the middle of the night, a privilege reserved only to the senior officers, and they didn't have to worry about a whole bunch of kids snoring all night. After dropping the belt, he went back out into the bay and glanced around at the cadets preparing their areas for inspection. This was mainly confined to their bunks, lockers, and the floor in each of those areas. At the end of the encampment, they would have to go over the entire barracks thoroughly; it was a little game the Army liked to play with them, the object of which was to keep them there and not let them go home unless the barracks were absolutely spotless. Well, that was still five days away, so there was plenty of time to keep the barracks looking good.
Pete singled out a cadet--a freshman, he noted--and walked casually toward him, making it look like he wasn't singling him out for anything. The cadet paused in readying his bunk to look and see how somebody else was doing it, just so he could be sure of doing it right, and Pete leaped to within two feet of him. "Let me see your war face!" he roared, naturally startling the cadet.
But this kid was pretty tough, and he recovered himself and responded by planting a very vicious look on his face. Eyes wild, he yelled wordlessly through a wide-open mouth.
"Whew!" Pete said, waving his hand. "Try mouthwash, pal! Just kidding." He patted the cadet's shoulder while everyone laughed.
"Everybody in here had better be able to give me a halfway decent war face by the end of the week," Pete announced. There was a playful grin on his face, which told everybody that it was just a game, nothing that would get them any demerits or any such thing.
When everybody had gone back to squaring away their areas, Pete picked another one at random. He marched over, and before the cadet knew it, Pete was in his face. "Let me see your war face!"
The cadet was just as wild-eyed as the last, his mouth open and sneering, and he made like he was holding a flame thrower as he bellowed. "You don't scare me," Pete said, waving his hand. Everybody laughed again and returned to readying their areas, wondering who Pete would single out next.
The next one did something extremely unique: he half-closed his eyes, raised his eyebrows, and smacked his lips. The other kids roared with laughter, while Pete just gave the cadet the most incredulous look he'd ever given anybody. Personally, he respected anybody who made fun of the act to allow homosexuals in the military. "Yeah, that war face'll send enemy troops running away screaming for their virginity," he joked.
Since the base logistics headquarters was the most likely place where they could find Frank Bodeane and his cronies, Fraser and Ray got directions from an MP and went over there. As Ray took the last turn that would lead to the place, Fraser turned toward Diefenbaker, who was as usual in the back seat. "Now, Dief," he instructed firmly. "No running off to play Super-Wolf unless I tell you to. I realize you were instrumental in our arrest last time around, but this time, we're in full control of the situation." Diefenbaker growled long and low, making it known that he was not one to sit around like a lump on a log unless he was having a snack.
"Never mind that tone of voice," Fraser said sternly, raising his finger. "I wouldn't engender losing you even if it was in the line of duty."
Ray sighed in exasperation; Fraser's conversations with Diefenbaker were beginning to get on his nerves. "Fraser, he's an animal, it's not like he understands whatever you say, much less you understanding what he says."
"On the contrary, Ray," Fraser said, "I've known him long enough to be able to understand what some of his growl patterns are intended to tell me. While it's often things he would do well to keep to himself, I can still understand them. And you know, Ray, I have a suspicion that you've sometimes conversed with Dief when I'm not around."
"In your dreams, Fraser," Ray grunted.
"Yes, really. You wouldn't catch me dead talking to him any more than I'd catch you dead defecting to America."
Fraser, seeing no point in continuing this conversation, just clammed up and stared out the window. He could but hope that Ray wouldn't be this way when there were any other officers around, not to mention their would-be "partners" in the gunrunning business. It was then that Fraser's thoughts drifted back to Frank Bodeane. Might he recognize them? When had they ever gotten really close to him...
Fraser's eyes widened and fixed on Ray. "Ray, I just realized I forgot something."
"Why do I find that hard to believe?"
"I can't imagine. But at our first meeting, we both got awfully close to him, he could see our faces plainly."
Ray stared at Fraser, and he heaved a very deep sigh and shook his head. "Oh, great, now you tell me! Here we are, we're halfway to going undercover against him, and now you have to come out with the news that he might recognize us from our first meeting. Don't you ever think of the important stuff?"
"On the other hand, Ray," Fraser said, trying to calm him down, "it was dark, he's nearsighted, and he only saw us for a few seconds each."
"Like that makes a difference," Ray grouched.
"I think it would. Every little bit helps."
"Every little cliche helps to piss me off. Look, just don't talk to me till we get in there, okay? I don't want to sound insubordinate around everybody."
"Understood," Fraser replied, raising his hand. Ray nodded curtly and spotted the entrance to the supply center up ahead. He hit the turn signal and entered the lot.
Del entered the senior officers' room on the upper level of the Green Squadron males' barracks, sighing contentedly. He was fresh from a meeting with the cadre, the active-duty personnel overseeing the cadet activities, on tomorrow's event. They would be firing M-16 rifles for day two of the encampment, and this would be followed by the obstacle course, helicopter flights, and the parachute exercise, one event per day. This would be their first year doing the parachute training, so Del was looking forward to that; his favorite, though, had always been the M-16 range. Chewing on this silently, he came into the room and found Pete doing his daily twenty push-ups.
"A little early on the second block of push-ups, huh, Petey?" Del teased, dropping his belt on his bed.
Pete gave him a dirty look from the floor. "Don't call me Petey. I just thought since we're at the encampment and all that good stuff, I might as well do an extra set whenever I have the time." He did his twentieth and got to his feet, panting. With that, he began to stretch so that his veins wouldn't clog up from lack of flexibility.
"Well, you don't want to get your muscles too cramped if you're going to make it on the obstacle course," Del advised.
"Why do you think I'm stretching?" Pete shot back. "It always takes me forever and a day to get over that damn wall anyway. You know my second encampment, there was this Marine sergeant on the cadre who used to tell us that if we didn't get over the wall in fifteen seconds, he'd kick us over. I never saw him do it, but I wouldn't have put it past him." Pete finished stretching his arms out, and he brushed his hair to one side and sat down on his bed. "So, what's the news from the home front?"
"All quiet," Del joked, referring to All Quiet on the Western Front. "Yours is the first squadron to the M-sixteen range tomorrow. You're second to the obstacle course, third to the helicopters and second to the parachute tower."
"Not bad. But who said anything about M-sixteens?" Pete grinned loftily. "You and I are going to get that M-sixty with the grenade launcher on it, remember?"
"If they'll let us take it. And then we don't get to shoot grenades out of it."
"Oh, I think they'll let us, you're the fearless leader," Pete jibed. "And I don't want to use that grenade launcher. The thing would probably break the recoil spring."
By asking after people who had been making supply runs between Fort Sheridan and Great Lakes NTS recently, Fraser and Ray had discovered someone who knew Frank Bodeane. They had found out through this individual that Bodeane and the rest of the group were set up in a small tent village at the edge of the base. As their unassuming source, an Army first sergeant, rode with them to this village, he told them a bit about the top dog: a Navy commander named William Sinclair. Apparently, the sergeant didn't care about why Fraser wanted to talk to Sinclair. Provided with the directions to the tent village, Ray drove to the edge of the base and saw right away where it was. He stopped the car on the road nearby, and he, Fraser and the sergeant got out and walked toward the village. Fraser, of course, was the only one who guessed at the significance of the village's location on the lakeshore.
It seemed that Sinclair couldn't be too careful, but then, they both thought, no internal subversive could. He had two guards posted between the village and the road, both carrying M-16s and both looking ready for action. They stepped forward, holding their rifles at port arms, and the sergeant showed them his identification and then Fraser and Ray's, clearing them past the guards. Having finished that, he led them over to one of the larger tents, instructed them to wait, and entered.
"Think he'll buy it?" Ray asked.
"I hope so," Fraser said. "Harm and Mac went to plenty of trouble to forge our orders and ID's. It would be a terrible waste of time, material, and a possible apprehension."
"No need to worry about that," Ray said wryly. "I'm feeling enough apprehension as it is."
The sergeant returned, and he nodded to them. "He'll see you, sir."
"Thank you kindly," Fraser said. He and Ray waited until the sergeant was out of earshot, and Ray leaned over and lowered his voice.
"Benny, what did I tell you about thanking enlisted men?" he muttered.
"Well, I thought about it, Ray, and I decided I might as well start making such a thing as courtesy in the United States military," Fraser smiled. Ray rolled his eyes and sighed, and they entered the tent.
Commander Sinclair, a rather tall, middle-aged fellow with curly gray hair, stepped forward to greet them, and they both saluted. When he had saluted back, he gazed at them expectantly until Fraser introduced himself. "Good afternoon, sir. Major Fraser, U.S. Air Force, this is Sergeant Vecchio. In case you don't remember us, we're among the newest aspiring members, and we haven't been in-processed yet."
Sinclair gazed at both of them for a few more seconds before nodding to them once. "Welcome aboard," he said. He moved into the shadows of the tent, and Fraser and Ray followed him after glancing at each other. So far, so good.
"So you're one of my pilots, eh, Major?" Sinclair said, walking over to a wooden desk that was illuminated by a kerosene lantern.
Fraser was unsure of what Sinclair was getting at. He made a snap decision to play along, and he nodded. Good thing he knew how to fly. "Uh...yes, sir, I am."
"Hm. I don't know all my men, some of them I've only seen once. Never seen you two before, but I guess that's because you're always somewhere between here and Philadelphia." Sinclair looked down at a tall, square-jawed man who was sitting on a canvas stool in one corner of the tent, cleaning a machine gun. He gestured at him, and Fraser and Ray followed the gesture. It was Frank Bodeane in the flesh, smoke rising from the cigarette hanging out of his mouth.
"This is Sergeant Bodeane, my chief of weapon control," Sinclair said, a slight note of disgust in his voice. Fraser detected that, and it led him to believe that Sinclair wasn't all that happy with Bodeane at the moment. However, he had more important things on his mind, like what Sinclair meant by "between here and Philadelphia." Bodeane glanced up at the two men, and Fraser just nodded to him in greeting. Bodeane nodded back and went back to cleaning the gun. Fraser and Ray covered their sighs of relief; he hadn't recognized them.
"So how's Philly?" Sinclair asked.
"Oh, it's fine, sir, just fine," Fraser said. "The weather's been nothing to write home about, but on the whole, it's been rather nice over there."
"Hm," Sinclair chuckled again. "Most of the guys who make runs over there hate it. The only thing they like about it is the whorehouses. But seeing as most of them probably spend the whole time in those places, I'm surprised they can pass judgment on the rest of the city. How about you, Major, what's your beef about Philly?"
"Oh, I enjoy the restaurants, sir," Fraser came back smoothly. "They have some nice places over there, don't you think, Ray?"
"You bet," Ray agreed, hurriedly adding, "Sir. The only better restaurant I know is down in good old Chicago. Ever been to Scarpetta's, Commander? You ought to some time."
"Thanks for the recommendation, Sergeant," Sinclair said. "Well, you can go ahead and check with operations and personnel now. Go with the next couple of trucks up to Great Lakes and help them unload the powder. That'll be all for now."
Fraser and Ray both came to attention. "Yes, sir," Fraser replied. He cocked his head toward the front of the tent, and he and Ray both exited. Sinclair watched them go. He hadn't gotten much out of that conversation to prove whether or not they were really on his side, so he glanced at Bodeane.
"What do you think of them, Sergeant?" he asked.
"I don't know, sir," Bodeane shrugged. Then he frowned, staring at the entrance to the tent. "But there's something awfully familiar about them, though."
"I'm not too sure, but that major reminds me of a cop I met a couple of years ago. Maybe I'm wrong, my eyes aren't that sharp and it was dark then." Bodeane looked back down at his gun, ensured that the safety was on, and set the hammer into place.
"Well, keep an eye on them," Sinclair said. "I always was eager to meet
Harm, Mac, and Bud were taking a drive back to the BOQ after getting an early dinner, and as usual, Bud was riding in the back seat and relinquishing the more prestigious and esteemed front seat to his superiors. Bud flipped through a few papers on his clipboard, reading again over the reports from the Great Lakes and Fort Sheridan authorities. As he read, a couple of things crossed his mind, a couple of things that he had to get out in the open before they started giving him a headache. He leaned forward behind Harm.
"Sir," he spoke up, "I was just wondering. What do we do if they get caught?"
"Well, I don't think you have to worry about that, Bud, Fraser's a Mountie," Harm replied confidently.
"That's right," Mac said. "He always gets his man."
"Actually, ma'am, that's not really the motto of the Mounties," Bud said.
Mac's eyebrows rose, and she turned to look at him. "Really?"
"Yes, ma'am. It's 'Maintain the Right.' Somebody who wrote an old black and white movie made up the fake motto, and everybody just went along with it. Oh, and by the way, in French, it goes 'Maintiens le Droit'."
Admittedly impressed, Harm nodded slowly. Bud certainly knew an awful lot of odd, and often useful, facts. Even though this wasn't useful, it was interesting. "Did Fraser tell you that?"
"No, sir," Bud grinned. "When I was doing a law-school report on foreign criminal justice systems, I looked up the RCMP on the Net. I found out a lot of neat stuff about them, like that real motto."
"A lot of neat stuff, huh, Bud?" Mac repeated.
"Um..." Bud momentarily became flustered as he tried to think of how to correct himself. Naval officers didn't use such informal talk at the drop of a hat, as Mac had just reminded him. "I learned plenty of interesting facts about the RCMP, ma'am," he redressed his error at last.
"I'm sure," Mac smirked, nodding. "I'll have to check them out myself sometime."
Harm gave her a sidelong glance, wondering what she meant by "check them out." He'd seen how she'd looked at Fraser when they first met in Welsh's office.
It was also dinner hour for the cadet group, so after a major yelling spree to find out which squadron was loudest and would get to eat first, Blue Squadron won and was followed by Green and Red. After going through the chow line at the mess hall, Pete searched around to see if any of his friends were sitting together in one general area. Sure enough, across the room, Jon Randall, Andrea Mirro, and Nick Lear were sitting together in one booth, chowing down on what they had taken in the short-order line. Pete didn't like all that grease--he preferred the long-order line, real food. He crossed the room, stood over them, and nodded at the empty seat next to Andrea. "Anybody sitting here?"
"Nope," Jon said. "Have a seat."
"Thanks." Pete planted his tray on the table and sat down. He glanced around the table at his three pals; Jon was flight sergeant for Green Squadron's Alfa Flight. Nick was the group logistics officer, which had brought him to the temporary rank of major for the encampment. Andrea was a flight guide in Red Squadron, and her being in a different squadron didn't deter the rest of them from being friends. "So, everybody enjoying the encampment so far?" Pete asked.
"Well, let's say I can't wait till we shoot the M-sixteens tomorrow," Jon grinned, rubbing his hands together.
"I don't think anyone can," Pete chuckled. "Andrea, how about you?"
"I'm kind of looking forward to the helicopter flight," Andrea said. "I remember last year, they set us down in this big grassy clearing in the middle of the woods. It was like being in Vietnam."
"Yeah, that's how I felt too. Nick, I know you can't wait for the obstacle course."
"I love that obstacle course," Nick said, nodding vigorously. "I think last year, I got through it in eight minutes and forty seconds."
"Hm," Pete said. "I never got through it in shorter than ten minutes and forty-five seconds."
"It sucks to be you," Andrea ribbed. "Took me about twelve minutes last year. That seven-foot wall was the killer, though. Even being tall doesn't help on that one."
"Tell me about it," Pete agreed, nodding. He knew what Andrea meant. She was only about an inch shorter than he was, and she could be easily mistaken for an Amazon woman by somebody who didn't know her.
Before somebody else could say something, they heard the sound of loud laughter from a nearby table. Looking over, they saw a group of Army men sitting around that table, guffawing over some sort of low-grade Army humor. One of them said in a voice that carried over to Pete and his friends, "Yeah, I bet these kids couldn't even swing on a rope without losing their grip!" The four of them laughed harshly again, and as one of them was doing so, he spotted the four cadets watching them. "What're you lookin' at?" he demanded.
"Oh, nothing," Pete replied calmly. "Your laughter was just attracting our attention, that's all."
"Well, then, maybe you can answer that question for us," the first soldier said. "Can you swing on a rope without losin' your grip, fallin' on your backside, and bawlin', or can't you?"
"The four of us can, I know that," Nick answered. Jon, however, was not as cool-headed about it as the other three. He glared at the first soldier, who just stared right back.
"Got a problem, kid?"
"I'm not a kid," Jon said defiantly. "I'm an Air Force ROTC cadet. We're not like other kids."
"Well, we're in the Special Forces, and we're not like other soldiers," the first soldier snapped. "So to us, I guess that makes you four just a bunch of snotty kids." He and his friends snickered again.
"Let me tell you--" Jon started, pointing his finger, but Pete slapped the table in front of him.
"Settle down, Randall," he said sternly. "Just because they're being bad hosts doesn't mean you have to be an equally bad guest." Grudgingly, Jon relaxed and sat back.
However, the first soldier rose and walked over to them. "Who says we're hostin' you?" he demanded.
"We're visiting Fort Sheridan for an encampment this week," Pete explained. "As Army personnel, you're amongst our hosts here. But I can't say as you've been good ones in the past minute or so."
"Hey," the soldier grinned derisively, "juvenile delinquents don't deserve much else, do they?"
Jon started to get up, an angry sneer on his face. Immediately, Pete struck out his hand and stopped him. "Randall!" he barked. "Can you take an insult?"
"Then sit," Pete commanded. Jon stared down at him and sighed. He glowered at the soldier again and resumed his seat.
"Master's voice," the soldier said.
Even more angrily than before, Jon got up again, and this time, both Pete and Nick grabbed his arm. "Randall!" Pete half shouted. "Didn't I tell you to sit down?"
The soldier nodded, still grinning nastily. "Yeah, he told you to sit down," he hissed, pushing Jon roughly back into his seat.
That did it.
Jon leaped, eyes wild, teeth clenched--a classic war face if Pete had wanted him to make one. The soldier caught him by the shoulders and threw him aside, and he stumbled backwards and landed heavily on the floor.
Pete got up and started over to assist him, but the soldier had other ideas. He started to swing toward Pete's stomach, and in so doing, he made quite the mistake. Pete blocked the swing and slugged the soldier squarely in the mouth, and the man stumbled aside. His path clear, Pete hastened toward Jon and bent down toward him. "Jon, you okay?" he asked anxiously.
Jon was okay enough to see behind Pete, and he pointed, gasping. "Watch it!" he cried frantically.
Pete realized in a split second what Jon meant. He spun around, elbow in the air, and knocked the soldier to a stand-still with a blow in the chest. He was ready for the soldier's next move, which was a swing at the head. He ducked, rammed his head into the soldier's solar plexus, and lifted him a few inches off the floor before throwing him backward. The soldier paid for his treatment of Jon by getting the same. Now he nodded to his three companions, who were already on their feet.
So were Nick and Andrea. In flying leaps, they took two of the soldiers aside and started a slugfest before the men even knew what had happened. Pete got a hold of the third, while Jon got off the floor just in time to get going with the first one.
Just about all the attention in the mess hall was attracted now, Del's included. And the cadre members were still in the chow line getting their own food. It would do him no good to get involved, so he jumped up from his seat and ran for the pay phone at the back of the mess hall. Even though it was his little brother and three good friends, that could not stop him from his duty to call security. It was a very good idea by this time, what with Andrea slamming one man against the side of a booth seat and kicking him in the side, Nick throwing his man across an unoccupied table, Jon getting a third away from him long enough to punch him twice in the face, and Pete blocking two swings in a row. If the first soldier's face had been a very powerful electromagnet and Pete's fist a chunk of metal, they could not have been more strongly drawn together. It was definitely a good time to call security before anybody really got hurt.
Naturally, it was Fraser's deductions that had told him and Ray who to see for their next assignment. Even Ray could have figured that out on his own if given enough time--they were supposed to see Sinclair's operations officer. He had set up shop in a tent near Sinclair's, and he had given them their next assignment even though he didn't know them very well. After going up to Great Lakes with the next trucks, they were supposed to fly another heavy-duty helicopter over to Philadelphia the following night. Now, since the ops officer didn't know them all that well, he decided to broach that subject; Fraser told him that they had just come aboard a couple of days ago, counting on him not passing that bit of news to Sinclair. They were, however, referred to the personnel officer and directed to his tent.
Dusk was beginning to touch Fort Sheridan when Fraser and Ray entered the personnel officer's tent, and the officer glanced up at them. He was going over some paperwork with a young, broad-mouthed woman wearing the ranks of either an Army captain or a Navy lieutenant. Fraser, seeing the Navy pilot's wings on the left side of her shirt, gathered that she was a Navy lieutenant.
"Good evening," Fraser smiled. "Major Fraser, U.S. Air Force, this is Sergeant Vecchio. As new members of this unit, we were directed over here by the operations officer." Fraser produced the orders forged under Harm and Mac's direction, and he handed them over to the personnel officer. While they said nothing about joining a group of subversives, they were the perfect literature to get the two men accepted into the unit. Fraser had wondered at first why Sinclair didn't want to see their orders, then reasoned that Sinclair was a busy man, and thus sloughed off such duties on his division officers.
"Okay," the personnel officer said after reading everything over. "Have a seat, I just need to get some prelim data on the two of you." He remembered the woman standing next to him, and he indicated her. "This is Lieutenant Hawkes, one of our helicopter pilots." Fraser and Ray both nodded their greetings before sitting down, and Lieutenant Hawkes smiled back (mainly at Fraser, Ray noticed).
Less than ten minutes were spent getting the preliminary data on both men, and Fraser used those ten minutes to his advantage, searching around for anything he could use against these people. He spotted a file cabinet at the rear of the tent, and he knew right away that it contained the personnel files of everybody in the group. All they needed was some way of getting a hold of those files, from which they could find out a lot--such as what other duties were performed by some of these people, which could lead them to discovering the group's intentions.
Lieutenant Hawkes seemed to realize what he was looking at right away, so Fraser wondered if he hadn't given himself away. Then the personnel officer finished with him, so he could now go and do as he pleased. To that end, he got up and started pacing around as the officer began to question Ray. Lieutenant Hawkes watched him, and she waited for him to draw near the file cabinet, two of whose drawers were open. The personnel officer was sitting with his back to the cabinet, and as soon as Fraser came close enough, Lieutenant Hawkes silently snatched a folder from the second drawer and handed it to Fraser. He quickly stuck it under his shirt and nodded his thanks, knowing that it contained copies of the files in the top drawer. Ray had seen the entire exchange, so he stared in bafflement for a moment, then got his attention back on the data just in time.
Fraser knew full well without asking that Lieutenant Hawkes was on their side, working against Sinclair's group from within. But how had she known that they were undercover police officers?
The base brig at Fort Sheridan was often largely unoccupied, since the base had a complement of good, law-abiding people. It was usually visitors who ended up in it, and since the cadet group qualified as visitors, they were prime candidates. Four of them were sitting in one of the cells as the sun set, a little exhausted and a little battered, but happy with their night's work.
Jon Randall, sitting on a bench and leaning against the cell wall, grinned at Pete. "Thanks for getting me out of that one, anyway," he said.
Pete chuckled tiredly. "Yeah, well, I got you out of it, but I got all four of us into that mess."
"No, you didn't," Andrea contradicted. "It was the Army guys who started it. They provoked us, and that guy was the one who threw the first punch."
"Actually, he threw Jon on the floor, but it still counts as starting the actual brawl," Pete said stuffily. "Anyway, Jon, that's why you want to learn to keep your head when somebody's making fun of you. Nine times out of ten, they're picking a fight plain and simple. I learned that the hard way when I was in fifth grade, and it got me suspended for three days."
Nick, sitting on the floor and leaning against one of the side walls, glanced around at the other three. "Any of you guys planning on military careers?"
"Maybe," Jon said. "I might be going into the Navy."
"Well, just watch yourself," Nick advised. "They're always picking bar fights these days. But anyway, what happens now? The Army guys started the fight, we wound up in the brig, and you know where they wound up. What do you think happens to us?"
Since Pete always seemed to have the answers, all eyes turned on him for this one. He raised his eyebrows and cocked his head to one side. "Well, since we're minors and we have a commanding officer, we'll be turned over to him for disciplinary action. All four of us will receive disciplinary demerits and a review board, there's no way around that. If we're found guilty by the review board, we'll probably be booted out of the encampment. However, there were several witnesses there who may be able to testify for us, so I don't think we have too much to worry about. After that, it rests with Colonel Charron as to what else we get."
"Think we'll be excluded from any of the activities?" Andrea asked.
"No, our folks paid good money to send us here, which covers everything we do at this shindig. Those cadre members have never wanted to deal with irate parents and never will. I think all we really have to worry about is the demerits going on our permanent records, they may make position-getting difficult during the school year."
The door to the cell block clanked and swung open, and all four turned to see who was coming in. It was Colonel Steven Charron, the Commandant of Cadets, followed in by Del and two of the guards. He did not look very happy in the least.
"Area, ten-hut!" Nick yelled. All four jumped to their feet and came to attention, facing Colonel Charron and standing as stiffly as their bodies permitted.
After looking over them for a short time, Colonel Charron spoke. "What is the matter with you four?" he demanded. "In all the years this encampment has been held here, I have not had one cadet wind up in the brig! Porter, you are a cadet lieutenant colonel, you and Lear are seniors, you should know better than this!"
"I understand that, sir, but I have an explanation," Pete answered loudly and clearly.
Charron turned to the two guards, who were still standing by the cell-block door. "Would you excuse us?"
Both guards turned around and stepped out, closing the door behind them. When they had gone, Charron whirled back on Pete. "All right, give it to me," he snapped.
"We were provoked into a brawl by a group of Special Forces men," Pete began. "Cadet Randall tried to retaliate, but I held him back. Then one of the Army men pushed him away, I moved to help him, the soldier took a swing at me, and things went on from there."
Charron was silent for a while, considering. It sounded so far like it was the soldiers' fault, and Pete was one of the most trustworthy cadets he'd ever known. The other three were very much on the truthful side as well, so Charron turned to Nick first. "Lear?"
"That's exactly how it happened, sir," Nick answered.
"Nothing to add or withhold, Colonel," Andrea said.
"I didn't see it any other way, sir," Jon replied.
Charron nodded, satisfied that the events had happened exactly as described. "All right. You've been released to my custody till we can take disciplinary action. I'll talk to some corroborating witnesses at the mess hall. Colonel Porter, you'll march them back to the barracks from here."
"Yes, sir," Del said.
"Incidentally," Charron said to him, "does anything seem incongruous to you in here?"
"Like what, sir?" Del asked.
"Like the absence of Army men in this brig?" Charron demanded.
"Ah, yes, sir, that," Pete interrupted before Del could answer. He was trying his hardest not to smile. "I believe you'll find them in the brig's infirmary, sir, if you want to talk to them. As far as I know, they're still in there."
Charron looked as if he'd been stunned; he even stopped breathing from the unexpectedness of this statement. ROTC certainly didn't teach the cadets that well. It didn't train them in close combat, period. As Charron looked them over again, he noticed the relative absence of bruises, cuts, or scars on all four of them. Yet they had been in a brawl, and they had apparently won overwhelmingly. They must just be extremely good at close combat if they could beat a quartet of Special Forces men.
"I see," he said. "Carry on." He stalked out of the cell block, muttering something about dirty-fighting cadets.
When the door had closed, Del gave all four a dirty look. "Pete, I don't care if you're my brother, and I don't care if the rest of you are my friends," he said sternly. "That was not a good idea at all."
All four came to attention long enough to yell, "Sir, yes, sir!"
Del nodded, and his face softened. "But you did great." He half-smiled his praises to them, and he turned and followed Colonel Charron out the door. Back inside, the four brawl-winners silently cheered each other on and slapped a few hands, very pleased with themselves.
Harm and Mac were waiting at their quarters in the BOQ by the time Fraser and Ray returned from their first meeting with Sinclair's men. At the knock on the door of Harm's room, he crossed it to open the door, and in came Fraser and Ray, the former carrying a folder under his arm. He brought it out from there as Harm closed the door after them.
"What have you got?" Harm asked through the cloud of smoke from one of his ubiquitous Monte Cristos.
"A few personnel records we were able to pinch from there," Ray answered. Fraser opened the folder, handing a couple of the files over to the two JAG officers. Harm was the one who received Bodeane's personnnel record, which was fairly small, considering that he had just re-entered service (albeit illegally).
"Incidentally," Fraser said, "we think we've discovered how they're able to smuggle from Fort Sheridan without being noticed. Their tent village is right on the shore of the lake, and they use motorboats. The drivers who shuttle Navy SEALs down here for training then go over to the supply center and load their vehicles, then run out to the tent village and transfer their cargo to the boats. It's then taken up to Great Lakes at night."
"That's pretty slick," Mac said. "Interesting that they've been able to do it this long without getting caught."
"We also got the name of the man who's commanding the entire operation," Fraser added, nodding at the sheaf he'd given to Mac. "He's a Navy commander named William Sinclair."
"Can't say as I've ever heard of him," Harm said.
"Hm," Mac said. "Seems like I've heard of every Marine we investigate, but he's never heard of any of the Navy people we've investigated."
"Well, there's been a few of them," Harm said. "The CAG, for one."
"Anyway," Ray said, steering the foursome back on track, "it's typical personnel files, with all that acronym stuff. We decoded just about all of the ones on Bodeane's file, that's what Sinclair thinks of him."
"Hm," Harm said, looking over the acronyms on Bodeane's file. "BARG, HBIG, CHBA, and DKJS. And you decoded them?"
"With the help of one of the personnel assistants," Fraser said. "Sinclair seems to think Bodeane has lost his touch with RARG, or Rotten At Running Guns."
"I can imagine that," Mac said. "You go back into the business just after getting out of jail, you would be a little rusty."
"HBIG?" Harm said, looking at the next acronym.
"Thinks he's not just rusty at gunrunning," Ray said. "Hired a Bunch of Incompetent Goons."
Harm's eyebrows rose, and Mac tried not to snort. "Well, if Sinclair thinks Bodeane is so bad at running guns, maybe he should never have taken him on."
"There's a scary thought, if he can't find anyone better," Harm said. "How about this CHBA?"
"Covered His Big Ass," Fraser translated. "Apparently, Bodeane fouled up the organization of a run to Philadelphia, and he attempted to make a number of excuses, mostly in vain. Sinclair gave him a strong reprimandation."
Harm frowned. There was a question he wanted to ask about Fraser's statement, but he wanted to finish with the acronyms first. "Then this DKJS, how about that?"
"Well, that's the operative phrase right there," Ray said. "Doesn't Know--"
"Uh, thank you, thank you, Ray," Mac interrupted him abruptly, holding up her hand. "I think we can figure that one out on our own."
Harm smiled briefly at her in understanding. "Let's back up for a second," he said to Fraser as Mac started going over the files in her hand. "You said something about Bodeane screwing up on organizing a run to Philadelphia."
"Yes," Fraser said. "It seems that a helicopter pilot under his instruction was supposed to fly from Great Lakes out to the Philadelphia Navy Yard, but Bodeane neglected to load a few cases of ammunition."
"Why would Bodeane fly a helicopter full of ammunition from Great Lakes to Philadelphia?" Harm asked curiously.
"I wish I knew," Fraser shrugged. "I imagine, however, that it would be relatively small ammunition. It was a long-range Navy helicopter with a full-load capacity of a little over twenty tons. It might be able to carry about a dozen boxes of small-round ammunition, such as fifty-caliber bullets, as well as five-inch artillery shells or missiles."
Harm's eyes widened, and he straightened up and stared at Fraser. He looked all but shocked, as if a horrifying notion had just come over him. "Shells and missiles?" he repeated.
Fraser nodded, trying to think of what Harm was getting at.
"I hope I'm wrong about this," Harm said. "But the battleships Iowa and Wisconsin are in mothballs at Philly. In their last activations, they carried a full load of missiles and sixteen- and five-inch ammunition."
"I hope you're wrong too," Mac said after whistling apprehensively. "I mean, the Iowa--in fact, all four of them--were decommissioned mainly because of the explosion in the turret. Forty-seven people died in that explosion, and I don't think Bodeane and Sinclair would use a battleship with that kind of danger."
"The Iowa still has two other turrets that never had that problem," Fraser reminded her. "Even with three of its guns out of commission, it has more than enough firepower to bombard a target effectively."
"The question is, what's the target?" Harm wondered.
Ray held up his hand, getting everybody to shut up so that he could speak his piece without getting interrupted. "Hey, whoa, wait a second," he said. "How do we know they're using the Iowa to begin with? There's got to be other ships in that shipyard they can hijack more easily."
"There are plenty of cruisers and destroyers there that have good-sized firepower," Harm said.
"Well," Fraser spoke up, "this is merely a theory. Commander Sinclair may want to use the Iowa because he's a former battleship sailor, and he objected to all of them being taken out of service. For that matter, a fair chunk of the U.S. Navy has been mothballed since the end of the Cold War. My guess is, Sinclair and his colleagues are strongly against that, so they've gone into internal subversion as a form of protest. By using one of the most powerful military weapons ever created, it's the perfect method of getting the government to sit up and take notice of its impoverished defenses."
"Makes sense," Mac said. "If he wanted nothing more than to be in the Navy and is being threatened with all this military downsizing, he'd want to let the people know what he thinks of it. It's a pretty safe bet that he's been covertly reactivating the Iowa and plans to hit a major target."
"Which brings us back to the question of what that target might be," Fraser said.
"I'll get a hold of Bud," Mac volunteered. "I'll tell him to get a fax from the Philly shipyard commander on anything to do with the Iowa or the Wisconsin."
"What makes you think he'll know what's going on if Sinclair's doing it in secret?" Ray asked cynically, tossing his hands up.
"Then we find out what we've been finding out here, about strange cargo movements," Mac replied simply.
"We'll work on it from this end for some proof," Fraser said. "Ray?" He cocked his head at the door, and Ray sighed heavily from the building tension of the situation. The two cops left the room, leaving Harm and Mac with the personnel files and the possibility of outright terrorism against the United States. Internal subversion was protected by the Constitution as long as it didn't get violent, so Sinclair and Bodeane would certainly not be protected if the foursome were right about this.
Mac, flipping through the pages of the records, lit her eyes on the name on one of the sheets. She did a double take, and she had to peer closely at the name and squint before she could comprehend it. She nearly gasped in shock, and she turned toward Harm, who was stubbing the Monte Cristo in a convenient ashtray. "Harm, look at this," she said.
Her voice sounded so ashen that Harm felt concerned as he leaned over. He looked at the record with Mac, who pointed out the name she'd seen. Harm had precisely the same reaction as his partner, and his mouth dropped wide open.
HAWKES, ELIZABETH C.
"Skates?" he gaped.
The sun was just starting below the horizon before the four silent cadets arrived back at the barracks from the brig. They marched briskly along one side of the street, Del calling cadence on them. They marched single file according to rank, and Del did no jody calls, just cadence. As they departed the brig, they just happened to pass its infirmary, and Del felt that something was going to happen as they proceeded past it.
Sure enough, something did happen. Del, looking at the parking lot in front of the infirmary, grinned when he saw what was going on up there. He stopped calling the cadence. "Eyes--right!" he ordered. The foursome turned their heads forty-five degrees to the right, and they saw four familiar-looking men standing in a line, stiffly at attention. Some of them had bandages visible on their faces and arms, and the bruises were as plain as day. Ever so slowly, grins began to spread across the faces of all four, especially when they heard what was happening.
The commander of that particular Special Forces unit was ratting his men out. He was marching around them, hands on hips, yelling in their ears constantly. He was yelling loud enough for the five cadets to hear: "I do not believe you men! Who the hell are you?!"
"Special Forces, SIR!" all four men yelled.
"You are?! Well, I don't see how you can be in the Special Forces! You just got out of the sick bay, for God's sake! You got out of the sickbay after being treated for injuries sustained in a brawl, in a public facility! You were brawling with four ROTC kids! And to top it all off, you lost! You let yourselves get beaten in a brawl by a bunch of R.O.T.C. cadets! You are not Special Forces. You are plebes! Pansies! Yellow-bellies! Just for this, I should make you start over your training again!"
The commanding officer was still ranting and raving by the time the five proud cadets had passed him and his men. "Ready--front!" Del grinned. They turned their heads to face forward again, and Del nodded in approval. "Congratulations, guys," he said. "Now you just have to take on some Recon Marines. Win that, and you win champion standing in the Bar-Brawlers' League!" All four snickered, and would have laughed out loud had the circumstances been different. At least Del was justifiably proud of them for beating the Special Forces in a fist fight. All four of them went to bed that night very proud of themselves as well.
The next morning, Bud was up almost a half hour before Harm--five thirty in the morning. Whenever he had something to do, he was one of the earliest risers in the United States Navy. It was five thirty in Chicago, but as usual, Bud read the time as twelve thirty in the afternoon. Since he, Harm, and Mac, like all JAG officers, were always running from one end of the nation to the other investigating military offenses, they always read the time in Greenwich, called "Zulu" time in the U.S. military jargon. Bud sat up in the early sunrise and yawned widely, and he glanced across the room at Harm, who was sawing wood in the other bed. The two were sharing a room in the BOQ as long as they were here, with Mac just next door, and when Bud remembered Mac, his gaze shifted to the string tied around his ring finger. He raised his eyebrows as he remembered why it was there, and he quickly swung himself out of bed and tiptoed out of the bedroom so as not to wake Harm. If the commander was awakened before six o'clock in the morning by anyone besides a superior officer, he was deadly.
Closing the door, Bud hastened across the room to the telephone, which sat on an end table near the window. Inasmuch as it would be six o'clock in Philadelphia right now, the base commander should be there in an hour or two. Bud found the telephone number Mac had given him, and he picked up the receiver and dialed the number, awaiting the reply. At the answer, he began, "Yes, this is Lieutenant Bud Roberts, JAG corps. Is the base commander in?
"Well, when he comes in, could you ask him if there's been anything going on with the battleships Iowa or Wisconsin in the last few days? It's part of an investigation my superiors and I are working on.
"Okay. If he gets the information, could you please ask him to fax it to me at the Fort Sheridan BOQ in Chicago. The number is five-five-five one-zero-seven-one.
"All right, thank you much. Bye-bye." Bud hung up and sighed with relief. One task down, one to go--find out what Harm and Mac wanted him to do next. Whenever working together, those two certainly kept him busy getting information and evidence.
Ray had been very unhappy to get up at about the same time as Bud, but Fraser had given him no choice; they had to be on time for the next run up to Great Lakes. They would be getting started, as Fraser expected, from the supply center, so once they were up, they drove over there. At one point, Fraser half expected Ray to fall asleep at the wheel. When they got to the supply center, they found that Frank Bodeane and William Sinclair were already there, watching a group of Army trucks leaving the parking lot. Four other men were sitting in a Hummer parked by one of the cargo doors of the supply center, and Bodeane and Sinclair seemed to be exchanging rapid verbal fire.
Ray stopped the car close by, and he and Fraser got out, walking over to the other two. On their approach, they could hear Sinclair saying something about not being covert enough about this operation. "All that has to happen is for some shore patrolmen to stumble on the boats, and they'll get nosy and catch you at it."
"I know, sir, you warned me about that, but we're almost finished with--"
"Don't argue with me, Bodeane. You need to find some other way, no matter how close we are to finishing this phase." Sinclair, catching Bodeane's shift in gaze, turned his head. Fraser and Ray were coming on, so he quickly clammed up and turned to face them. Fraser saluted, and Sinclair saluted back, taking Fraser's greeting.
"Major, I'm going to ride with you and Sergeant Vecchio up to Great Lakes," Sinclair said. "I want you to fly me over to Philadelphia tonight, it'll be your last run. We're almost finished with this phase of the operation, so we all head for Philly tonight."
Fraser wasn't sure, but he and Ray both had a pretty good idea of what Sinclair was talking about. By tonight, they would be finished loading up the Iowa for their operation, whatever it might be. It would be fully loaded with shells and probably a skeleton crew, enough for the engines, guns, and electronics operation. The Iowa's full complement during its last activation had been 1,515, so Fraser figured on between one and two hundred for a sufficient skeleton crew. Sinclair must have an awful lot of people who were against the military downsizing, if that was his beef.
"Understood, sir," Fraser said.
"Okay. Let's get moving. Bodeane, you go ahead in the Hummer, and we'll wait by the helicopter hangar till the boats arrive."
"Yes, sir," Bodeane grunted. He climbed into the driver's seat of the Hummer and started its engine, and while he and the other four men with him departed in it, Fraser, Ray and Sinclair returned to the Riviera. Since Sinclair was a superior officer, Fraser took the back seat, something he did anyway when somebody else was in the car. He was glad he'd left Diefenbaker at the BOQ when he and Ray came over here, so that he wouldn't have to worry about Sinclair plying him with questions.
As they headed north from Fort Sheridan to Great Lakes, they passed three more Army trucks carrying SEAL trainees down to the Fort Sheridan tactical training area. Fraser didn't doubt that these trucks would also be loaded with weaponry later on. Bodeane was in the Hummer just ahead, and the Riviera brought up the rear. Bodeane periodically glanced in the rearview mirror to try and identify the two men with whom Sinclair was riding, but he had poor eyesight, and he couldn't distinguish much in the mirror. All he could see was that Sinclair was telling them something or other.
"This nation is committing suicide," Sinclair said. He would have been pounding the pulpit if he'd had one. "Just because the Cold War is over doesn't mean that there's no more military threats from anywhere in the world. I openly applauded President Reagan's authorization for a six-hundred-ship Navy, I thought that was perfect. I served aboard the Missouri throughout her last commissioning, all during the Gulf War. Now, that was a fighting lady. But then the Gulf War and the Cold War ended, that damned draft-dodger Clinton got elected, and now the entire U.S. military's dying out. That's why we have to do this. We have to let the government know that it's making the biggest mistake in the history of America."
Fraser was tempted to say that there was a less violent way to convince the government of that fact, but he knew that would give him away, so he just nodded. "I agree, sir," he said slowly. "The Air Force's manpower has been depleted seriously. If I'm not mistaken, Ray, about seventeen thousand were discharged last year alone."
"That's right, sir," Ray said. "Seems like they're going up against themselves. They discharge seventeen thousand people before their hitch is over, and then they keep bugging high-school kids non-stop to join the service. These kids come in hoping they'll make it big in the Air Force, and next thing they know, they're getting discharged early. They never get a chance to go up in the world."
"That's why I'm glad to have an Air Force officer on my team," Sinclair said, taking no notice of the pun. "I have people from all four branches. You're my most senior man from the wild blue yonder, Major. Your word will be noticed. I won't count on any of my officers to try and get me out of this if we get caught, because we probably will. It'll be the ideal opportunity to get the government's attention. Wouldn't you men agree?"
"Totally, sir," Ray fibbed.
"I agree as well, sir," Fraser said again.
Back at the BOQ, Bud had taken the time to hit the shower and get dressed while he waited for the fax from Philadelphia. He was surpised to find that Harm was still asleep by the time he got out of the shower; he'd have thought that Harm would be up and about, working his backside off to crack the case within the hour. No, no, it wasn't six a.m. yet, so Harm was still snoozing. Bud waggled a finger around inside his ears to get rid of excess water and soap, and when he left the bedroom, he found that the fax was coming through. He headed over to the machine and took hold of the paper as it slid out, and when the fax was finished, he took the paper out and read it over. As he read, his eyes grew gradually wider till they were the size of his open mouth.
"Oh, God," he gasped, rushing over to the door. Rather than risk Harm's wrath by waking him up early, he decided to try Mac, if she was awake yet.
Bud strode over to the next door down the hall, and he knocked loudly. Mac wasn't that bad if awakened, so it should be pretty safe, but there was no answer. He knocked again, getting desperate. That news was too important to let go even for a moment.
Hearing the door opening at the other end of the corridor, Bud turned. Into the hall came Mac, wearing a Marine Corps sweatsuit and with a small duffle bag in her hand. She was just out of the base gym, where she'd been working out with the punching bag and the weights since four thirty.
"Something wrong, Bud?" she asked, seeing his wild expression.
"I'm not sure if this is good news or bad news."
Mac frowned as she walked up to Bud and put her bag down. "Well, what is it?"
"I got the fax you asked for, ma'am," Bud said, holding up the sheet of paper in his hand. Mac took the paper and read over it, and by the time she finished, she looked about ready to have a heart attack. "Oh, God," she said, taking one long step over to the door of Harm and Bud's room. In she marched.
"Uh, ma'am, I wouldn't wake him if I were you," Bud warned, hurrying after her. "Commander Rabb is--well--rabid if you wake him up early."
Mac ignored him; this was too important. She burst into the bedroom, and she found that Bud needn't have warned her. Harm was already sitting up, wiping the sleep out of his face. He took in her frantic demeanor and noticed the paper, and he frowned, getting to his feet. "What's the matter?"
Mac handed over the paper she'd acquired from Bud, and as Harm read, she explained what was going on. "Looks like you were right, Harm," she said grimly. "It says that a group of men claiming to be safety inspectors have been poking around the Iowa for over a month."
Pete held his breath, aimed carefully at the target twenty-five meters away, and squeezed. The M-60 boomed and jerked backward into his right shoulder, and he took a few seconds' pause before his next shot. Cordite stung his nostrils, and he aimed at the same spot and squeezed again. He and Del had indeed gotten a hold of the M-60, while everybody else in line was shooting M-16s. They were at the end of the line of cadets lying prostrate on the ground, resting their weapons on sand bags, and popping away at the targets down the range. They were in the tactical training area, which contained several such ranges and an obstacle course. They had ten silhouettes on the targets; the largest looked like a regularly sized target placed fifty meters away, the smallest three hundred meters. Last year, Pete had gotten sharpshooter qualification with an M-16. Could he get it again this year, or better yet, expert qualification? To find out, he kept firing, two bullets at each silhouette. Del knelt next to him, as it would be his turn next. Everybody on the range wore ear protection, and the cadre members attached to Green Squadron were standing behind them, observing and finding themselves satisfied.
As Pete fired, he watched the puffs of smoke rising from the sand dune behind the targets. The puffs came in the same split second as the discharge from the gun, which went to show how fast a bullet could travel from this weapon. Pete recalled their briefing on the use of the gun.
"This is a high-powered semiautomatic rifle," the Army instructor had said. "That means it can fire a bullet fast and hard. You don't ever want to step in front of this thing's muzzle, because you'll never get out of the way in time. It'll fire a bullet twenty-three hundred feet per second, that means the bullet can travel one mile in two point three seconds."
One young cadet had raised his hand, begging to differ with the instructor. "Sir, doesn't that seem a little slow?"
"Well," Pete had told him, "in all the years ROTC's been around, we haven't found one cadet who can run that fast."
Up at Great Lakes, the occupants of the Hummer and the Riviera were waiting on the helicopter pad for the boats to arrive. The helicopters could train SEALs to land on ships or land targets, so the drills were often held with Coast Guard ships in Lake Michigan. Two of the helicopters, though, were used for other purposes. Sinclair had gotten a hold of them with the story that he was using them for nighttime SEAL drills, and it had worked quite well. He always made sure that nobody else was in the hangar whenever they loaded ordnance aboard the choppers from the boats, and at night, when the men boarded the choppers, it was too dark to see from the control tower that they weren't SEALs.
Upon arrival, the boats were unloaded, and their contents were transferred to the same Army trucks that had just dropped off the SEAL trainees. Fully loaded, these trucks crossed the tarmac and entered one of the larger hangars, and they stopped near two huge MH-53 Sea Dragons. These choppers were very heavy-duty, with seven-bladed main rotors and external fuel tanks if needed. They could fly one thousand nautical miles on ferry duties, and as Fraser had mentioned to Harm and Mac, they could carry about twenty tons of cargo or men. The aft loading ramps of both choppers were down, and as the trucks stopped, the Hummer and the Riviera pulled into the hangar with them. The occupants of those two vehicles exited them, and as soon as he got out of the Hummer, Bodeane withdrew a cigarette and a lighter from his pocket and started to light up.
Seeing this, Sinclair stormed over to him and leaned into his face. "Sergeant Bodeane, what do you think you're doing?" he snapped. "We have twenty tons of gunpowder in this building. What are you trying to do, blow us all to hell and back?"
Grudgingly, Bodeane snapped the lighter shut and removed the cigarette from his mouth. "No, sir," he grumbled, dropping it on the floor and snuffing it with the ball of his foot. "And did you notice that we didn't get caught once? This is our last load, and nobody's crashing in on us. We've got it made, Commander, as long as we get out of here tonight."
"That's my concern," Sinclair growled. "Don't screw it up." He turned on his heel and marched toward the helicopters to oversee the loading of the powder bags.
Fraser and Ray, after witnessing this exchange, glanced at each other with interest. "Good call, huh, Fraser?" Ray said. Together they started after Sinclair, going over to one of the trucks to start transferring powder bags to the helicopters.
Bodeane had overheard Ray, and he frowned. A staff sergeant did not
address a major by his last name without using the rank as well. Not only
that, but...Fraser. Where had Bodeane heard that name before?
The end of the day was always free time for the cadets. They could do whatever they wanted, unless somebody was making them march or do push-ups. Fortunately, Pete and his three fellow fighters didn't have to worry about that, because they had been acquitted by their review board earlier that day. They had still gotten the disciplinary demerits, but the Army men would receive more serious punishment for provoking them and actually starting the fight. Content with this, Jon was waiting in line for a candy bar and a soda, which were sold by the finance officer during free time. Andrea was resting in the barracks and reading a book, while Nick conferred with Del on something that concerned the logistics department. Pete was sitting on the ground outside the barracks, reading a long, very informative book on the Iowa class. Although he didn't know about Fraser and Harm's deductions of the previous evening, he was interested very much in that class.
Boom boxes were not recommended at the encampment, but Pete and Del had brought theirs anyway, and Pete was listening to "38 Years Old" by The Tragically Hip. It was one of his better-liked songs, and it reminded him of the current situation with Fraser and Ray because of its first verse: Twelve men broke loose in '73/ From Millhaven Maximum Security/ Twelve pictures lined up across the front page/ Seems the Mounties had a summertime war to wage...
At least the mention of the Mounties was a good one. Pete was always hailing The Tragically Hip as the best rock group north of the border, even though he liked Sarah McLachlan better. He saw a pair of combat boots coming over to him, so he looked up to see Del standing above him. "Nick and I are going over to the logistics center for some extra supplies," Del said. "Want to come with us?"
"Sure, as soon as this is over," Pete said, nodding at the radio.
When the song ended, Pete picked up radio and book and headed over to Del's car, where he and Nick were waiting. He looked at his watch; seven o'clock in the evening. They took off for the supply center, which was a little less than ten minutes from the barracks. When they got there, Nick, who had the best knowledge of what to ask for, requested directions from the Army sergeant at the front desk.
"Yeah, you go downstairs to the basement," the sergeant began, "take a right and then go down the corridor till you reach the corner. You go around that corner, and I think you're looking for the third door on your right."
"Thanks," Del said. The three boys left the front desk, and they started down the stairs.
Following the sergeant's directions, they came to the indicated door, where they paused for a moment. Pete chuckled, remembering the sergeant. "That guy didn't sound too sure about which door we wanted," he recalled.
"Well, we'll find out about that if it's locked," Nick said. He moved between the other two and tried the door. When it opened smoothly, he smiled slightly, glancing at his friends.
Pete, Del, and Nick entered the room, which was completely dark. Groping along the wall for a light switch, Pete found one and flipped it. The room was promptly illuminated, and when the trio looked around, they discovered that they were most certainly not in the room from which they had gotten cadet supplies. "I think we've been misdirected," Nick said.
"Understatement of the Week," Pete said slowly, looking around at the variety of ammunition and powder stacked around the room. Very large shells and heavy bags of gunpowder were carefully arranged in rows or racks all around, and Nick slowly closed the door. The three moved in and around, too intrigued to go back and ask for more accurate directions.
Pete's eyes lit on one of the shells, just a couple of feet shorter than he was. He moved over to it and looked it over. Pointed head, rifling bands, faded markings near its bottom. He'd seen that type of shell many, many times in old photographs.
"Uh oh," he muttered.
"What is it?" Del asked.
Pete tapped the shell before him. "This is a sixteen-inch, twenty-seven-hundred-pound, armor-piercing shell, and so are the rest of them with a bunch of high-capacity shells as well."
"Meaning..." Del probed.
"The last time one of these shells was fired," Pete told them ominously, "was from the U.S.S. Missouri."
Del and Nick's eyes widened in shock. They both knew what the Missouri was--an Iowa-class battleship. It didn't take them longer than two seconds to figure out everything that was going on, events that would eventually culminate in the use of the big guns of one of those ships for a terrorist attack.
Before either of them could bring this realization into words, the door
abruptly banged open, and
all three froze. Their heads snapped toward the door, and their eyes fixed invariably on the muzzle of an AK-47 staring straight at them.
"What are you doing here?" Frank Bodeane demanded from behind the rifle.
Following in his father's footsteps as a naval aviator, Lieutenant Commander Harmon Rabb, Jr., suffered a crash while landing his Tomcat on a storm-tossed carrier at sea. Diagnosed with night blindness, Harm transferred to the Navy's Judge Advocate General corps, which investigates, defends and prosecutes the law of the sea. There, with fellow JAG lawyer Major Sarah MacKenzie, he now fights in and out of the courtroom wit the same daring and tenacity that made him a top gun in the air.
--JAG Opening Credits
FORT SHERIDAN, CHICAGO
Time for some awfully fast thinking. If they were to get out of here with their lives, Pete and Del would have to B.S. their way out of this as quickly and believably as possible. On the other hand, they could very easily tell him the truth, but all three were too surprised to speak. Finally, Pete grabbed control of his vocal chords and spoke bravely to Bodeane, turning toward him. "We were misdirected, sir," he answered. "We're from the Air Force ROTC encampment spending a week here. We came over to get some extra supplies for our group, but the sergeant at the desk directed us to the wrong room."
"Well, I'll have to talk to him, and I'm still debating whether to talk to him with my mouth or with this." Bodeane drew back the hammer in the AK-47, and the three boys stiffened. "You know what you're seeing here?"
"Well, aside from you aiming a rifle at us," Pete answered calmly, "yes. This room is entirely full of sixteen-inch, battleship-quality shells and powder bags."
"I don't suppose you want to tell us what they're for," Del said. He knew full well that Bodeane wouldn't give him a straight answer, but it couldn't hurt to make the effort, unless Bodeane was a lot more volatile than he looked.
"You could spend all day guessing and never get it right, kid," Bodeane retorted. "Unless you remember that these shells are designed for battleships. Then maybe you'll think about where you can find a mothballed battleship that can be brought back to life just long enough to hit a few coastal cities."
"Why are you telling us what your plans are?" Nick asked. "You could have just let us out and maybe we wouldn't have said a word to anybody about all this. Hell, I didn't even know what all this stuff was for till you told us."
"I couldn't take that risk," Bodeane replied. "Something like this doesn't just fall out of your memory after you see it. You could have thought about it and figured out my plan, and then you would have gone to the authorities and told them everything. I wasn't going to take a chance like that, so I'm taking all three of you hostage as of now."
As the threesome were trying to get over the enormity of Bodeane's statement, the sergeant turned his head down the corridor and raised his voice. "Rivers, Holt, get down here, I've got some people here I want you to guard."
Pete, Del, and Nick heard the sounds of booted feet coming down the corridor, growing closer to the room. They stared at each other with apprehension; yet under that, they were as courageous as Recon Marines. Unfortunately, as they all knew, the bravest man in the world probably couldn't take down a man armed with an AK-47 without being shot by other guards. They would likely end up finding out if they were the first people to escape from a battleship alive.
The two men Bodeane had hailed came into the room, holding handguns. Bodeane lowered his rifle, and the two guards waved their guns toward the door. Pete was the first to move, always one to cooperate, because he had often found that cooperation was the best way to find a way out of a crisis. If only Fraser and Ray had some way of knowing about their plight.
Harm and Bud were waiting in their BOQ room for Mac, who had gone up to Great Lakes to find out what was going on up there. Harm, knowing that another run would be made to Philadelphia tonight, had asked Mac to go up there and see if preparations were being made for such a run. She returned at this time, and she opened the door without knocking--not that Harm and Bud minded, since this was very serious business. She was in her BDU's, as they would very likely be getting down and dirty with Sinclair's men.
"I swung by the helicopter pad up there," she informed them. "I saw Ray's car parked in one of the hangars. There were a few trucks and two CH-fifty-three helicopters in there as well, I think they were loading them up and preparing to tow them out to the pad."
"Well, actually, ma'am," Bud cut in, "if they're Navy helicopters, they'd be MH-fifty-threes."
"Whatever," Mac sighed. "What do you think, Harm? I say we'd better go up there and see if we can mingle, so that we can ride with them to Philly and stop them before they start."
"My sentiments exactly," Harm said. He turned and looked down at Bud. "We'll take care of this, Bud. You catch the next flight back to Falls Church and tell the Admiral what's going on, and get in on the countermeasure operation so you can add what we've learned."
"Yes, sir," Bud said, glad to be staying behind on a mission like this. Harm started toward the bedroom to get the few personal belongings he'd brought with them.
Just before the door, he paused and turned again. "Oh, and Bud," he said. "Fraser's dog. I think he left him here when they went up to Great Lakes, so you'd better take him along."
Bud's eyes widened in protest. "The wolf, sir?"
Harm frowned, unsure if he'd heard Bud right. He'd been pretty sure that Diefenbaker was a dog. "Wolf?" he said doubtfully.
"Yes, sir," Bud answered worriedly. "Fraser said he's a wolf."
"Well, if he's been living with a human being for a while, I'm sure
he's tame," Harm said. "Just take him back with you. I don't think we'll
be coming back to Chicago any time soon."
GREAT LAKES NAVAL TRAINING STATION
Both helicopters had been towed, loaded to three quarters of their capacity with powder bags, out of the hangar and onto the pad. They were placed about twenty meters apart so that neither chopper would buffet the other with rotor turbulence, and as the towing vehicles were returned to the hangar, the last crewmembers came out from it to board the helicopters. It had been quite efficient on Sinclair's part; he had concentrated first on the shells, then on the powder bags and the crewmembers. The last couple of days had been spent running the bags and crew over to the Iowa, which now sat silently at the Philadelphia Navy Yard drawing thirty-three feet of water. As the choppers sat silently waiting to be revved up, the first to come forward were the two pilots--Fraser and Lieutenant Hawkes. They were followed single file by the rest of the crowd that would be riding with them to Philadelphia, and at the rear, Pete, Del and Nick were hustled along by armed guards. The crewmembers loaded up by the aft loading ramps, and while they boarded, Fraser and Lieutenant Hawkes cranked up the engines.
As a member of the RCMP's air force, Fraser had learned to fly small and medium propeller aircraft, and helicopters. This was much larger and more different than the helicopter types he was used to, yet it was still basically the same as far as operation was concerned. He located the throttle and control stick without a hitch, as well as the essential electronics gear. He turned his head as the door to the copilot's seat opened, and Commander Sinclair climbed in next to him.
"You mind, Major?" he inquired.
"No, not at all," Fraser replied. He looked out the windshield and watched the main rotor spinning faster by the second. He picked up his flight helmet and nestled it comfortably on his head, as did Sinclair. Fraser turned around to look through the open cockpit door at the cargo section, where most of the crew had found seats. Right next to the door, Harm poked his head through it.
"How are we doing, Fraser?" he said, raising his voice over the increasing noise from the engines.
"Everything's proceeding according to plan, Harm," Fraser answered with a quick nod. He next turned his attention to the helicopter parked to his port side, where Mac was just getting into the copilot's seat.
She climbed in, settled herself in the seat, and turned to the pilot. Her eyebrows shot up--it was the same Elizabeth Hawkes she and Harm had met on the carrier Seahawk just recently. She was known better as "Skates" to her fellow pilots and RIOs, after thoroughly establishing herself as hell on wheels. Somewhat emotionless on the job, she was still trustworthy, efficient and able to sort out rationally whatever difficulties she might have.
"What are you doing here, Skates?" Mac asked out of pure curiosity.
Skates turned her head, and seeing Mac sitting there, she was at least as surprised as the Marine had been. "Major MacKenzie!" she said. "Well, imagine running into you here. I'd ask you the same thing if you hadn't asked first."
"I'm guessing you're on recovery leave after the crash?" Mac said, donning a helmet.
"They gave it to me, so I figured I might as well take it, you know, get over what happened on the Seahawk. I'm from Chicago, so I thought I'd come home and see what's changed and what hasn't. Then I heard about this, and I thought I'd infiltrate it while they were still taking people aboard, try and find out something that the good guys could use."
Mac nodded, trusting Skates's story. "Well," she said, "Commander Rabb and I are investigating what's going on here. We've got a Mountie and a Chicago cop working undercover for us, and they're in the other chopper. Say, I didn't know you were rated for these."
Skates smiled. "Helicopters, yes. Tomcats, no. But I'm working on it, ma'am." She reached over and opened the cockpit door, looking back into the cargo hold to make sure that everybody was aboard. Satisfied, she shut the door and hit the ramp control, and the chopper's loading ramp began to retract into the hull. Looking out to starboard, Mac saw that Fraser had already retracted his chopper's ramp, and then she heard his voice in the helmet's earphones.
"Sea Dragon Four-One-Four, this is Sea Dragon Four-Three-Eight," he radioed. "Ready for takeoff, Lieutenant?"
"Affirmative, Major," Skates answered. "After you, sir."
Fraser nodded and smiled, even though Skates couldn't see him. "Thank you kindly." Increasing throttle, he listened as the pitch of the engines began to rise again. In the cargo hold, Ray, hearing that line, shook his head and sighed. It seemed that Fraser would never learn about saying thank you to junior personnel. As he was shaking his head, his gaze fell into the rear of the helicopter. What he saw gave him even more of a shock than he'd received when Harm brought up the Iowa theory. Pete, Del, and Nick sitting there, under guard, against the ramp. Ray stared in consternation for several seconds before Pete caught his gaze and shook his head, shrugging. Once self-assured that he could believe his eyes, Ray stared forward at Fraser, wishing there was some way to advise him without giving the two of them away.
The rotor was still spinning slowly enough to be silent about its movements, and now it started to pick up speed and make the loud slapping noise that always distinguished a helicopter in flight. Soon, it was moving so fast that Fraser could no longer discern the individual blades passing over the windshield. The helicopter shuddered, and Harm looked for something to hang onto and eventually grabbed the doorjamb of the cockpit. Finally, he felt a slight upward movement, and he glanced out the windshield. Sure enough, the dark ground was disappearing below windshield level. The helicopter rose a couple of meters above the ground before Fraser engaged the engines, setting a course for Philadelphia. He took enough time to raise the landing gear before he pushed the engines to full power, and the helicopter headed away over Lake Michigan and flew east-southeast toward the Philadelphia Navy Yard.
Once that helicopter was on its way, Skates shoved the throttle to its stop, feeling the chopper's shakes and watching the rotor. Within a minute, her helicopter had also risen into the air. She raised the gear, and watching the disappearing taillights of Fraser's helicopter, she set course to follow. Their last run was underway, to load up, and hopefully to stop, the Iowa.
Bud somehow recalled where Fraser and Ray were staying in the BOQ, so with plenty of apprehension at having to look after a wolf, he made his way through the building to that room. Pretty soon, he found it; 223. Out of habit, he raised his hand to knock, then remembered that wolves couldn't very well turn doorknobs, could they? Gulping, Bud took the spare key Fraser had given to him and Harm, and he opened the door cautiously, hoping that somehow Fraser might have remembered to bring Diefenbaker along. It took him almost a minute to poke his head inside, during which Diefenbaker could very easily have leaped for his jugular, but nothing happened. Bud peeked in, and there was Diefenbaker sitting by the window, moonbathing. He glanced up at Bud impassively, doing nothing more.
Bud forced a grin and waved, and he tiptoed into the room so as not to startle Diefenbaker and provoke an attack. "H...hi, Diefenbaker," he said nervously. "Um...Fraser asked Commander Rabb to ask me to take care of you."
Diefenbaker still did nothing, and he lay on the floor, gazing nonstop at Bud.
"Want to get something to eat?" Bud asked. Immediately, Diefenbaker leaped off the floor and trotted toward him, and Bud sighed heavily with relief and nodded. "The next flight to Falls Church won't be taking off for a while, so I figure maybe we can go and grab a bite at the mess hall..." Diefenbaker had already zipped between his legs and was waiting in the corridor. Bud looked frantically around for a leash, but Fraser had never used one. He would have to make do with voice commands, if Diefenbaker would obey them. He shut and locked the door, and he hurried toward the elevator with Diefenbaker at his heels.
High above Ohio, Fraser took the lead in his helicopter, while Skates followed a mile behind at the same altitude. It would take them four and a half hours at cruising speed to get from Chicago to Philadelphia, and it had already been a little less than two. Frank Bodeane was sitting on the floor behind the copilot's side of the cockpit, just across the helicopter from Harm, who did his best not to look at him. He caught a glimpse of Ray, seeing that he was looking aft, so Harm idly followed his gaze. He was at least as shocked as Ray had been on spotting the three ROTC kids at the rear of the chopper. He tried not to let that show either, but couldn't resist opening his mouth slightly to draw in an apprehensive sigh. However they'd gotten involved, Harm just hoped they had done so inadvertently, and not because of any of his partners.
Bodeane rose from the floor and leaned into the cockpit, facing Fraser. "How much farther to Philly, Major?"
"Approximately two and a half hours at present speed," Fraser answered.
"Think it'd take us about that long to get to Canada from here?"
"Yes, I believe it would." Fraser's guard was up. He was unsure of what Bodeane meant by that query, but he had a feeling that it was some sort of trick to expose him.
"Only two and a half hours to get home from here," Bodeane continued.
Fraser frowned, turning his head. "What do you mean,...home?" His voice trailed off as he found the muzzle of a .45 almost touching the tip of his nose.
"Nice to see you again, Benton Fraser, Royal Canadian Mounted Police," Bodeane said sarcastically. He used the full title that Fraser had used to introduce himself at their first meeting, just to let Fraser know that he was solidly onto him.
Sinclair angrily turned his own head on Bodeane, glaring. "Bodeane, what the hell are you doing?" he demanded. "Put that gun down!"
Bodeane kept the gun aimed, and he glanced obliquely at Sinclair before continuing. "For your information, Commander, this guy is not an Air Force major. He's a Mountie working undercover. And his sergeant friend back there is a Chicago cop. God knows how many more they've got in with us."
"Are you sure?"
"Positive. This bozo stopped me one night to give me a lecture on fire safety. Three days later, he and his pal arrested me for my gun smuggling."
Sinclair nodded slowly. So much for having an Air Force officer's word to add to his own. Recalling his and Bodeane's first conversation after meeting Fraser and Ray, he reflected that Bodeane might have lost his gunrunning touch, but he was still professional at making spies. "I see," he said. "Well, Major, or should I address you as Constable? Looks like the tables have been turned. Sergeant Bodeane is the one who gets his man in this case."
Fraser considered telling Sinclair about the real motto of the RCMP, deciding that it would not be a good idea right this moment. Then Sinclair continued, "I still need you as a pilot, so Bodeane is going to keep you under guard till we reach the Iowa. You'll land on her afterdeck, and you and your friend are going below to the brig. I'll decide what to do with you after our operation is complete."
"They're not all, Commander," Bodeane said. "I caught three ROTC cadets as well, sneaking around our ordnance room at Fort Sheridan. I got 'em in the back of the helicopter right now. That's how I made you in the first place, Mountie, I saw the way your friend was looking at them. Not to mention this Navy fella back here."
Harm's head snapped up from his hand, and Sinclair looked back to see who Bodeane meant. Harm was silent, wondering what Sinclair's verdict on him would be. At least Mac was in the other helicopter and might be able to get them out of this mess. Then Harm remembered that she was a Marine, always semper fi, always standing by her comrades even if she had the chance to rescue them. In that case, Skates would be their only chance.
"You know him?" Bodeane asked.
"Can't say as I do," Sinclair said. "Assume he's one of them. He's going to the brig too. Constable, you'll have plenty of company."
"Understood," Fraser said quietly, concentrating on his flying. If only he had some way of warning Skates and Mac without Bodeane noticing. On the other hand, the Iowa was pretty old, so there might be some way to break out of the brig. Although Harm had never been on the Iowa, he knew there had to be some way out and some way to stop Sinclair and his men.
PHILADELPHIA NAVY YARD
The yard was dark, dank, foggy, and reeked of oil and diesel exhaust from cranes and transport vehicles. The mothball fleet here was rather large, both in number and in sizes of ships. Against one quay, the Iowa and Wisconsin let the waves of dirty water lap against their sides, and they awaited whatever their final disposition might be. Their two sister ships, New Jersey and Missouri, were in mothballs on the West Coast; the Missouri had recently been ordered taken to Pearl Harbor as a memorial, while the New Jersey had yet to receive final orders.
Then the noise arrived. A soft chopping noise, accompanied by the hum of aviation engines. Simultaneously, a pair of lights appeared in the sky, and the noise intensified. As the lights drew closer, so did the sound, and the helicopter, dropping bit by bit, slowed its forward motion and approached the two battleships. The lights were aimed toward the Iowa's afterdeck, illuminating the faded landing markings aft of the number three turret. The helicopter dropped a little further, and its landing gear protruded from the wells in its sides. Then the other helicopter arrived, also descending, this time toward the Wisconsin.
By the time the second helicopter was starting its final approach to the Wisconsin, the men aboard the first were debarking. Some grouped together on the Iowa's afterdeck, and the rest started unloading the powder bags from the helicopter and barrel-rolling them toward the number three turret. Aiming the lights at both afterdecks, Skates noticed the group of men standing near the helicopter, and she saw that six of them had their hands clasped behind their heads. Mac also saw this and picked up a pair of binoculars from the control panel, taking a closer look.
"Oh, my God," she whispered. "They've got the rest of our team."
"Commander Rabb, ma'am?" Skates gathered.
"Him and the two cops who were undercover for us, and three ROTC kids we happened to meet." Mac dropped the binoculars as Skates dipped the chopper a little further. Mac, still staring fixedly at the group on the Iowa's deck, heaved a heavy sigh. She was a Marine, and she had been trained never to abandon her comrades. There was only one thing to do, and that was to stick with them and help them get free, if possible.
"Skates," she said finally, "I'm going to stay with them. I want you to present me as a hostage to Commander Sinclair."
Startled, Skates turned to stare in astonishment at Mac. "Ma'am?"
"You heard me. I've got to stay with them and help them find a way out, so that we can warn the Navy and try to stop these people. You'll be all we have on the outside, so we'll be counting on you to help us from out there. Understood?"
There was a pause. Skates was unsure if Mac meant it, or if she was just having a fit of temporary insanity. No, she wouldn't be a Marine officer in that case, so she must be sincere on this. The Navy certainly wasn't as big on loyalty as the Marines, so it was hard for Skates to understand. Nonetheless, she reached down to rest her hand on the pistol next to her seat, and she nodded slowly. Orders were orders. "Yes, ma'am," she answered quietly.
Within a few minutes, she landed the helicopter on the Wisconsin's deck and cut the engines, waiting for the rotor to stop spinning before she opened the ramp. Then she and Mac stepped out of the cockpit, and Mac stood in front of the helicopter and clasped her hands behind her head, moving forward toward the plank that had been laid between ships. Skates followed with the gun aimed at the nape of Mac's neck, and they advanced down the sloping plank and boarded the Iowa. In the meantime, the other occupants of the helicopter started unloading the bags and barrel-rolling them down the plank and over to the turret.
"Another one?" Sinclair said, sounding slightly surprised when he saw Mac.
"Yes, sir," Skates said. "She gave herself away by mentioning those three ROTC kids over there." She nodded at the boys and then noticed Harm, who was staring at her as if seeing a ghost.
"Skates, what are you doing here?" he asked. "And what are you doing taking Mac hostage?"
"He's right, sir," Skates replied. "Our military is going down the tubes. We have a just cause, and we're going to make it known. This is the best way. If they can't stop the Iowa, they'll know just how much they've depleted the military."
"I couldn't have said it better myself, Lieutenant," Sinclair said. "Take some men and secure the helicopter for sea after you take care of this bunch." He turned to Bodeane and the other guards. "Take them below to the brig. Bodeane, you make sure all essentials are aboard and then join me on the bridge."
"Yes, sir," Bodeane said. While Sinclair started forward toward the Iowa's bridge, Bodeane cocked his head toward one of the rear doors of the superstructure. Especially under these circumstances, Mac was glad that she was wearing combat boots instead of high heels--those knee-knocking doorways were murder. Bodeane led the procession toward and through the door, and recalling the plans of the ship drawn roughly by one of the Navy people, he led the way to a stairwell and up a couple of decks.
At the ten-cell brig, Bodeane entered first, and the rest followed.
They shoved Fraser and Ray into one cell, Harm and Mac into another, and
Pete, Nick and Del into a third on the other side of the room. Having locked
the doors, Bodeane, Skates and the three guards with them departed the
brig. Skates was the last to leave, and she hesitated, turning toward Harm
and Mac with an apprehensive sigh. Mac had been right; this was the best
way, but she really was the only one on the outside now.
PHILADELPHIA NAVY YARD
"It's okay, Harm," Mac assured her partner. "Skates is on our side. I told her to take me hostage so that I could stick by the rest of you."
"See, that's where semper fi is a bad idea, Mac," Harm said. "The more people we had on the outside, the better our chances could have been of getting out of here and stopping these guys."
"Well," Fraser spoke up from the cell next to them, looking up and around, "this ship is a little over fifty-four years old, and I doubt that the Navy does a very good upkeep job when it's inactive. I also doubt that Sinclair's men considered the brig an essential part of the ship when they started refurbishing it, so--"
"Benny!" Ray interrupted, drawing Fraser's gaze down from the ceiling of the cell. "Get to the point, if you have one."
"Right," Fraser said. "My point is that we might have some way of breaking the locks on the doors and getting out of the cells. Should be fairly simple, since they're mechanical and feeling their age. You didn't happen to bring your lock pick, did you, Ray?"
"No," Ray grumbled. "Unlike you, Fraser, I'm not always prepared to break out of every locked enclosure on God's green earth."
Fraser just nodded concessively and raised his eyebrows. Ray had a point himself; Fraser was often ready for such an incident, whereas Ray never was. "Well, then," he said. "We'll just have to find another way."
"Just do the lot of us a favor, okay, Fraser?" Ray went on. "Just make sure that whatever you do doesn't derive from some kind of Inuit, Tsimshian, Cree, or Algonquin ritual that's supposed to change the weather in two seconds."
"Well, I wasn't thinking of me, Ray," Fraser defended. "Pete, do you have your Swiss Army knife?"
Raising his right leg, Pete dug into his boot and eventually produced his Swiss Army knife, giving it the once-over. "I don't know what good it'll do to break these locks, they don't usually come with lock picks," he shrugged.
"How about that bottle opener with the screwdriver head?" Nick suggested.
Pete's eyebrows lifted, and he found the implement Nick had mentioned. He unfolded it from the knife handle, and the flat head of a screwdriver was plainly visible on the front end of the bottle opener. Pete chuckled, shaking his head. "I can't get on anymore without this thing," he said, moving over to the door of the cell. He bent down, making ready to stick his hands between the bars and start working on the lock. As he bent, he felt an odd sensation at his back, as if something flat were pressing into it. Frowning, he stood up straight and turned his head.
"What is it?" Harm asked.
Pete reached back and felt something flat and hard shoved into his belt. With a start, he realized what it was--the book on the Iowa class he'd been reading before he, Nick, and Del went on the supply run. With nowhere to put it safely, he'd just shoved it into the back of his belt and forgotten all about it. Now as he took it out, everybody stared in disbelief.
"Cadet," Mac informed him, "you are one of the sneakiest people I've ever seen in my life."
"Well, thank you, ma'am," Pete smiled, looking at the cover of the book. "This will definitely come in handy if we ever get out of here. Here, hold this." Pete handed the book to Del, and he set back to picking the lock on the cell door.
On the bridge, Bodeane arrived from checking out the essential parts of the ship, and he stood next to Commander Sinclair and nodded. "All personnel are aboard, sir, lines cast off. Fuel tanks topped off, ammunition and powder stowed away in handling areas."
"Very well," Sinclair said. "All radar standing by?"
"Affirmative, sir," the electronics officer replied from the radar room.
"Let's bring the ship to life. Pass the word, commence engine startup and prepare to get underway."
"Aye, aye, sir," his appointed XO acknowledged. While the radar people switched on all electronics and radio gear, a deep, throaty rumble emanated from deep within the ship. The deck plates vibrated slightly and were felt by all, including the seven would-be loyalists in the brig. None of them needed to ask what was going on, so Harm felt no need to tell them.
"Well, we're on our way," he commented. "Now all we need to figure out is what we're on our way towards."
"Bodeane told us," Del said. "When he caught us, he said that they were going to bombard some coastal cities. Probably Boston, New York and Washington, maybe some others if he has enough ammunition."
"He's got plenty, and he's going to hit a Canadian target first," Fraser said.
Not only was this unexpected, but nobody knew how Fraser could know these facts. Harm and Mac thought he was just guessing. The other four, however, knew that Fraser was convinced he was correct. Ray couldn't help but shake his head and sigh, and Harm and Mac stared quizzically toward the cell beside them.
"How do you know?" Harm asked.
"When we landed, I noticed that the Iowa was at least two meters deeper in the water than the Wisconsin," Fraser answered. "The shells, powder, and most of the crew were already aboard. Now, accounting for the amount of water the ship would draw if that was all that was aboard, it indicates that the fuel tanks are also topped off. It's about twenty-one hundred miles from here to the Canadian border, which suggests that Sinclair intends to hit a Canadian target first and then work his way south."
"How long?" Harm went on.
"Well, I'd say he wants to get the operation over with quickly, but also conserve his fuel," Fraser said. "The Iowa can make twenty-five knots at full speed. If he runs up the coast and attacks a Canadian target, such as Halifax or St. John's, he'll still have enough fuel to run back down the coast at full speed and run drive-by shootings at Boston, New York and Washington. Several other cities besides, if he has enough ammunition. By attacking a Canadian target, he'll get the Canadians' attention, and believe it or not, they may want to retaliate against the United States. And if they don't, England certainly will. That's the best way to prove that U.S. defense is seriously depleted."
"I don't think he'll hit Washington," Harm said. "He can only get within gun range via the Potomac, and that's way too shallow for the Iowa even at its lightest displacement."
"He could hit it if he had missiles on board," Ray said.
Fraser nodded slowly, staring off into space. "That's very true. When we get out of here, we'll have to split up and investigate manpower and armament."
Pete, still working on the lock, tried one more time to twist it and get the door open. Nothing happened, and he shook his head in frustration. He stood up straight, folding the bottle opener back into the knife handle. "This isn't doing any good. I think the implement isn't shaped enough like a key."
"Why don't you try the can opener?" Del suggested.
"If that doesn't work, I don't know what will." Pete unfolded the can opener, and he stuck that into the lock. He worked at it for a few minutes, poking, twisting and turning. While he was doing that, Fraser, leaning thoughtfully against the bars, stared off into space again.
"We'll have to go down the Delaware River to get to the Atlantic Ocean," he said slowly. "There are several twists and turns before the river gets wide enough for better maneuvering. He'll have to run down the channel at a relatively low speed, perhaps standard. That'll give us four hours down the river till we reach the ocean."
"And after that," Harm added, working distances and speeds out in his head, "it'll be another four hours at full speed to New York City. That gives us eight hours to stop him from firing on any targets."
"Actually," Fraser said, "if he attacks St. John's or Halifax first, it'll be of equal surprise to the Americans and the Canadians. That will give the Canadians time to start reacting before Sinclair hits his first American target."
"Hitting the American cities while Washington is trying to get Ottawa out of its hair," Ray commented. "I've got to hand it to him, he knows how to plan his tactics."
Harm, Mac, Fraser, and Ray were at this point nearly startled by a clacking noise across the room. "Aha!" Pete announced. "Aha, voila, eureka, hoo-rah, and any other cheer that ends in 'ah'! Thanks for the suggestion, bro, I couldn't have done it without you." Keeping his knife in position, he swung the door open, and it creaked loudly as it swung outward.
"Oh, I think you would have figured it out sooner or later," Del said. Pete moved over to Fraser and Ray's cell, and he set to work on their lock, trying to remember how he'd done it the first time. He picked slowly away at the lock, while Ray grew more and more impatient and fidgety. Finally Pete had that lock picked, and he opened the door and released Fraser and Ray. With that, Pete set to work at Harm and Mac's cell, and had them free as well within two minutes.
"Okay, we're in business," he said, pocketing his knife. Del handed the book back, and Pete opened it up toward the rear. Flipping the pages a trifle, he found a profile diagram of the Iowa that displayed every compartment on the starboard side. Since the ship was pretty much identical on both sides and the center was taken up mostly by the engines, the diagram would give them a good idea of where to go from here.
Rummaging in one of his pockets, Nick withdrew a small Maglite, and he twisted the head till it illuminated the entire spread. Everyone gathered around, and Pete ran a finger along the diagram as he spoke. "Okay, this shows the Iowa as it was in nineteen forty-five, but the insides haven't changed much since then. I think the brig replaced one of the forty-millimeter ammo magazines..." Pete's finger ran along the stern section of the diagram until it lit on a space marked 4A. This was just below the weatherdeck, beneath the mounting for the aft gun director. "Right here."
"Okay," Harm said, moving in next to him. "As I said, we need to check out all the essential parts of the ship first. Mac, you and I will check out the engineering sections. Fraser, Ray, you two find out how many are on the bridge if you can, then see what they have in the way of missiles. You three check the gun turrets." He indicated the three boys, who nodded their acceptance.
"Well, I think we should be armed first," Ray recommended.
"Good idea," Mac said. "Is there an armory aboard here?"
Pete glanced at the abbreviation key under the diagram, and he looked for something that pertained to small arms. He found "Gun Cleaning Room", abbreviated as GC, which he then searched for on the diagram. It was amidships, just above the crew's quarters in the engineering section. "Right here, between the stacks."
"Isn't there a closer one near the number-three turret?" Harm asked.
"It's too close, we could be caught by the gun crew," Pete replied. Harm silently admitted his oversight and nodded.
"Okay, let's go," he said, marching toward the door. Pete shut the book, and the other six strode resolutely after Harm toward the door. However, something happened that they hadn't foreseen. When Harm tried to open the door, it stuck fast before opening. Somebody had padlocked it from outside.
Ray sighed in frustration, but he covered it up with a wry remark. "They don't leave much to chance, do they?"
"I don't suppose that diagram shows any vents we could crawl through,"
Mac said to Pete.
"Afraid not, ma'am. We'll have to wait for somebody to open the door and see that we're behaving ourselves."
On the bridge, Sinclair was standing at the wraparound windows that gave him a clear view of everything ahead and to the sides of the ship. He had spent nearly a month refurbishing the Iowa for this. His men had covertly replaced some of the electronics, loaded ammunition, reactivated the engines, and tested all essential machinery before now. He would have used the Missouri, his old ship, if it hadn't already been ordered to Pearl Harbor. The first thing done by the crew was to perform a thorough inspection of the center gun of the Iowa's number two turret, eliminating whatever had caused an explosion that claimed 47 lives. The rest of the crew had been very fortunate that the trapped flames from the explosion had not reached the powder bags. Sinclair was certain that the ship was safe now, and all guns would fire on command without jamming or misfiring or any such thing. His gunnery crew had unanimously assured him of that.
The XO came forward from the pilot house, standing at attention next to Sinclair. "We're clear of the shipyard harbor, sir, now in the Delaware River."
Sinclair nodded curtly. "All ahead standard. I'll stay here and spot for the helm as to curves and shallows."
"Aye, aye, sir." The XO about-faced and returned to the pilot house to pass the word to the helmsman. So far, so good, Sinclair thought. Another four hours and they would be in the Atlantic Ocean, heading up for the Canadian border.
"Sergeant Bodeane," Sinclair called over his shoulder.
He heard footsteps coming from the pilot house, and then Bodeane came up next to him and stopped at attention. "Yes, sir."
"When we clear the river, go down to the brig and make sure your prisoners aren't making trouble," Sinclair instructed. "I don't trust that Mountie for one second."
"Me neither, sir," Bodeane agreed. "I learned not to trust him the hard way." With that, he turned around and headed back into the pilot house.
PHILADELPHIA NAVY YARD
By the time the Iowa was at the end of the twisting, winding Delaware River, dawn was beginning to break over that area, and the morning watch for the shipyard's shore patrol had been set. Two of the SP officers were taking a slow cruise along the shipyard's waterfront, a route that would take them past all the docks and quays in the port. It would take them not only past the active ships, but also the mothballed ones. The first ships they passed were two of the older-generation aircraft carriers, one of the Forrestal class and one of the Kitty Hawk class, which were moored one behind the other for a liberty period. As Commander Sinclair had mentioned to Fraser and Ray the day before, most of the crews were probably at the local whorehouses.
It was in the middle of the two SPs' patrol route that they passed the mothball docks, and so far, everything was normal. Cruisers and destroyers, long since taken out of service, sat rusting and growing grass between their deck planks. The two SP officers were indifferent as to the ships' condition, as they passed them every morning. All they knew was that they just had a duty to keep unauthorized personnel from getting near any of the shipyard property.
Unfortunately, it seemed that their predecessors from the night watch had failed in that duty, when they took a coffee break on the other side of the yard. By doing so, they had missed the movement of the Iowa out of the harbor. In fact, the daily patrols had gotten so indifferent toward the ships that no one had noticed the significantly deeper draft of the Iowa over the past few days. The SP patrol van passed by the quay where the Wisconsin was moored, and as soon as the two officers sighted the single battleship lying there, the driver brought the van to a screeching halt.
"What?" his partner asked, stiffening with alertness.
"Holy cow," the driver gasped. "The Iowa's gone!"
"Huh?" The other SP blinked rapidly and stared in the same direction as the driver, and sure enough, the Wisconsin was sitting totally alone next to the dock. "My God, you're right," he said, grabbing the radio. "Dispatch, this is unit fourteen at dock sixty-six. The Iowa is missing from her pier. I repeat, the Iowa is missing from her pier. Over."
The radio crackled, and the dispatcher's voice responded, "Fourteen, are you sure? Over."
"Don't you think you'd be able to tell if a battleship had disappeared?" the SP snapped. "There should be two here, there's only one."
The land enclosing the Delaware River now fell away on either side of the Iowa, and Sinclair, turning his head from one side to the other, observed this. Ahead of him, the Atlantic Ocean expanded endlessly toward the horizon. One hurdle had been cleared; they had successfully navigated the Delaware. Four hours had passed without any serious incidents in the engineering spaces. That had been a pretty good shakedown cruise, so running at a higher speed would be a good way to work out any unnoticed bugs in the engines. Not that there would be any, with the kinds of people Sinclair had working for him. He watched the last bits of land vanish from the windows around him, and he nodded to himself and turned around.
"Helm, we're clear of the river," he announced. "All ahead full. Steer course zero four five."
"Aye, aye, sir," the helmsman replied. While he steered the ship onto the new course, the sailor beside him at the annunciator shoved the levers down to the FULL position. Almost immediately, the hum of the engines rose, and the screws responded to the greater steam pressure from the engines. The white water from the vortex rose a little higher astern, as did the bow wave. Pretty soon, the Iowa was zooming along on its new course at 25 knots. If Sinclair were to order flank speed, the ship could run ten knots faster, but he also wanted to conserve his fuel.
"Bodeane," he called toward the pilot house. "Go on down and check on our friends in the brig."
"Will do," Bodeane answered. He edged past Skates and went out the starboard door onto the bridge wing. He started aft toward one of the doors that would take him into the superstructure and aft to the ship's brig. It was on about the same level as the bridge, so it wouldn't be that hard to access.
Skates, thinking to herself, wondered if there was a way that she could make Sinclair waste his fuel. There was only one way she could think of on the spur of the moment--well, two ways, actually. One was to sneak below and knock a hole in one of the fuel tanks, by which method she would be found out in nothing flat. Ah, well. The only other way was to get him to run at a higher speed periodically, so she waited for Sinclair to re-enter the pilot house before she made her suggestion.
"Captain," she said as Sinclair took a seat at the forward port corner of the pilot house. "I was thinking of a good way to really shake down these engines and find out if there is anything the matter with them. Running at flank speed for a little while now and then might help. Might also prove if we can outrun pursuing vessels."
Sinclair turned his head and raised his eyebrows. "As a naval aviator, you understand the importance of conserving fuel," he said.
So much for that idea. "Yes, sir," Skates answered, as emotionless as she usually was with superior officers.
There was a brief pause, during which Sinclair nodded slowly and cocked his head to one side. "On the other hand, the engines aren't all I want shaken down. We're going to test the main guns when we're far enough away from the mainland, so the sooner, the better. And as you say, we can find out if we can outrun any pursuers. I think we can afford a quick sprint to our drill site. Thank you for that suggestion, Lieutenant."
"You're very welcome, sir." Skates moved aside, heading back towards the rear of the bridge. Sinclair, meanwhile, turned his seat sideways.
"All ahead flank," he ordered. "We'll head out about ten miles to our gun drill site."
"Aye, sir." The sailor at the annunciator shoved the levers to their bottom notch. Again the pitch of the engines rose, and again the Iowa accelerated. The wake of the ship rose almost level with its main deck at the stern.
Down in the brig, it was the second time that its occupants had heard and felt the ship accelerating. Since Fraser had always seemed to be right up to this point, it drew a frown from Harm as he felt the vibration of the deck plates and the increasing roll of the ship. As the Iowa pitched over another swell, Harm grabbed one of the handles on the door to steady himself.
"He's accelerating again," he said. "You calculated right about navigating the Delaware, Fraser, so he must be moving up to flank speed."
"Could be working out some extra glitches in the engines," Ray suggested.
A slow smile spread across Mac's face, and she nodded. She knew what was going on up there; she'd ordered it just four hours ago. "Skates is coming through for us," she said. "She's tricking Sinclair into wasting his fuel. If she can con him into making test sprints like this every now and then, he might not have enough fuel to get back from Canada."
"Yeah, if she could just help us get out of here, that's what I would call coming through for us," Ray grunted, tossing his hands up.
Pete's brow furrowed, as there was something he had to ask. "I wondered, ma'am, why do you call her 'Skates'?"
"Well, that's what everybody else calls her on the Seahawk, they all think she's hell on wheels," Mac chuckled. Then she immediately quieted down as Harm held up his hand. He had heard something from outside the brig, and he leaned closer to the door till he was pressing his ear against it. It was booted footsteps, and he waved everybody toward the sides of the door. All hands drew back till they were invisible to anybody coming in, and Harm stood by the hinged side of the door.
The sound of a key turning in a lock came from outside, and the door swung open. Immediately Harm grabbed it and shoved it forward, slamming it into Bodeane and nearly knocking him out. Fraser moved in within a second, punching Bodeane in the stomach and dragging him into a good position at which to belt him. Fraser drew his fist back as Bodeane tumbled to the hard deck, out for the count.
Mac bent down, reached under Bodeane's BDU jacket, and retrieved a handgun from the belt beneath the jacket. She checked the magazine to make sure it was loaded and then shoved it back in. "This ought to be useful," she said conversationally.
"Let's go," Harm said, leading the way out of the brig. "Where'd you say that armory was?"
"Just between the uptakes, sir," Pete answered. "He should be prepared for any helicopter boarding parties, so he'll have plenty of small arms in there."
Indeed he did. In the gun cleaning room between the ship's exhaust uptakes, there were several lockers containing semiautomatic rifles and handguns. Fraser, Ray, and Harm took handguns, and since Pete, Del and Nick had been trained well with M-16s, they each took one from another locker.
"Don't shoot on sight," Harm instructed the others. "If you run into anybody, just aim your weapon to hold them off and then get out of sight. A gunshot will echo from one end of the ship to the other if it's not silenced. Remember, just count how many there are in each location, and we'll meet on the afterdeck by turret three. All right, let's go." He and Mac paired up, as did Fraser and Ray, and they left the gun cleaning room. The three boys brought up the rear.
"Nick, you take turret one," Pete said. "Del, you take turret two, I'll take three." The other two nodded without a word, and they set off toward the forepart of the ship. It was like a labyrinth down here, but all they had to do was keep making their way forward till they found the turret wells.
As they sneaked forward toward the bridge, Ray leaned as close as he could to Fraser from behind him. "Benny," he whispered tentatively, "this is real life, not Under Siege. What makes you think we can take a whole battleship from almost two hundred guys?"
"We just have to secure the essential sections first, Ray," Fraser answered. "Then we just have to lock them in some secured rooms, radio for assistance, and wait for it to arrive."
"Well, look, Fraser. I may have been a flight sergeant in the Air Force, but a Navy SEAL I ain't, and I'll bet there are some of those aboard right now."
"Probably," Fraser conceded. He found a door to the outside, and he stepped out and held his gun ready while he made his way down to the bridge wing. Ray followed, still grumbling, until Fraser got to the door of the bridge and flattened himself against the bulkhead outside. He took a quick peek inside, seeing several men in the pilot house, and knowing that there must be more in the electronics room back aft. As he observed, Skates turned her head toward the door, and Fraser momentarily stiffened until he recognized her. She simply nodded in greeting, glad to see that he'd managed to escape.
"Must be about five people in the pilot house, including Skates," he muttered to Ray. "Sinclair will want her to fly the helicopter and spot for him while he's bombarding. There'll be at least six or seven more in radar, fire control and plot."
"So the odds are...?"
"Right now, six to one, but you can rest assured they'll increase as we find out more." Fraser lowered his gun and moved around Ray, finding a ladder up to the missile deck. Ray just nodded sarcastically and followed him again. Some weird thing made Fraser believe that he could always beat the most impossible odds conceivable.
Harm and Mac were down below, making their way below decks toward the engineering spaces. With the ship running at its top speed of 35 knots now, it was pretty loud as they descended. Even at that, Mac felt it somehow necessary to keep her voice low.
"Harm," she said, "this is not Under Siege, this is real life. I don't know if we can take a battleship this size from a crew of nearly two hundred."
"Count your blessings it doesn't have the manning it had in the war," Harm said. "Now, those would be unbeatable odds. Looks like this is it." Harm identified their position as one of the observation catwalks above the engine rooms. It was hot in here, and the engines were thundering at maximum output. Harm looked down from the doorway onto the catwalk, and from what he could see, this engine room had a few less than its normal manning. Harm guessed that the other four engine rooms would have the same manning, so he returned to the passageway and led Mac on to the nearest fireroom. On an inspection of that, he found the manning just right.
"Okay," he said after this look. "I'm going to guess at a total of around one hundred in this area. Good thing they'll be too preoccupied with running the ship to know when we make our move. We just have to take over the gun turrets and the bridge and the engineering crew won't know a thing."
"DKJS, huh, Harm?" Mac grinned, recalling the acronym on Bodeane's personnel record.
"I guess you could say that," Harm chuckled, cocking his head toward the stern. They set off through the dark corridors that would lead them to the main deck by the number three turret.
There, Pete was having about the same luck as Nick and Del, up in the forepart of the ship. He held his M-16 halfway between port arms and present arms as he hid behind a beam that supported the framework of the turret well. Periodically, he would glance around the beam just long enough to estimate the number of men on each level. He knew the total turret crew for the Iowa: ten for the turret, and up to thirty for the shell and powder handling. On his fast peeks around the beam, he counted about fifteen in the shell and powder flats, and he guessed that there would be only seven in the turret itself. Multiplying a little, he guessed on eighty-one in total for the turret crews. At the two forward turrets, Del and Nick were proving him correct on their assessment of manning for the turrets.
Pete was the first to reach the meeting point by the number three turret, and Del and Nick were the last. They congregated with the rest under the starboard range finder to report their sightings. "Okay, Mac and I figure about a hundred in the engineering spaces," Harm said. "Fraser?"
"Approximately twelve on the bridge, with or without Skates," Fraser said. "Sinclair will want her to spot from the air. Also, we discovered that all the missile tubes are loaded, but have no reloads."
Harm nodded slowly. "So he will be able to hit targets further inland," he said grimly. "How about the turrets?"
"I counted about fifteen in the powder and shell flats," Pete reported. "Same by you guys?"
Del nodded. "Just about," Nick said.
"I'm guessing that to conserve manpower, Sinclair has seven in the turrets themselves," Pete said. "Two for each gun and one in the booth."
"He does," Del said. He motioned with his rifle toward the hatch on the bottom of the third turret. "I took a peek through that hatch on the second turret, and I saw only one guy at the controls."
No sooner had Del finished speaking than a loud rumble of machinery caught everybody's attention. Ray was the first to notice that the turret was revolving, and he alerted the rest, who looked on. The turret revolved slowly till it was aiming off the starboard quarter, and the engine noise dropped.
"Oh, no," Harm gasped. "Everybody get below, hurry up!"
Too late. Simultaneously with the forward turrets, each gun in the aft
one discharged one by one. By the time they were finished, the overpressure
had knocked all seven senseless.
FALLS CHURCH, VIRGINIA
With Diefenbaker still at his side--they hadn't separated since they left Fort Sheridan--Bud made his way through the main office space of JAG Headquarters. He still wasn't entirely sure of what was cooking with his superior officers, which meant that he didn't know that they had been ferreted out. He thus had not much to report to Rear Admiral A.J. Chegwidden, the commander of the JAG corps, other than Harm and Mac taking off for Philadelphia with their undercover partners. That itself meant that he didn't know a thing about the Iowa and the events aboard it thus far.
Having received clearance from Admiral Chegwidden's yeoman, Bud entered the office, an act that had become cautious by force of habit. Chegwidden had been awfully tough on Bud in his early days as a JAG aide, and he was only now beginning to lighten on him ever so slightly. That was something Bud would never expect, considering how hard the former SEAL could be on all his officers.
"Good morning, sir," he said nervously, closing the door.
The first thing Chegwidden noticed when Bud came in was the big white wolf beside him. He dropped the paper he was holding, and he leaned forward on his desk. "Mr. Roberts, what is that animal doing in my office?"
Bud's eyes widened. In his nervousness, he'd forgotten all about Diefenbaker, so he hastily apologized and bent down before Diefenbaker. "Dief, could you, um..." He pointed at the still-open door, but Diefenbaker didn't move. Bud tried to think of a deal he could offer Diefenbaker, so he tried to think of what he could give him. Immediately his mind lit on something he'd picked up on in the past couple of days.
"I'll give you a candy bar after I see the Admiral," he promised. This time, Diefenbaker grunted his acceptance, wheeled around, and trotted out of the office. Bud shut the door and moved forward, standing at a relaxed form of attention in front of the desk. "I'm sorry about that, sir," he said. "But Commander Rabb hired this Mountie who was working with the Chicago Police Department, and the wolf, his name's Diefenbaker after a Canadian prime minister, belongs to--"
"When I want a lecture on Canadian history, I'll ask for it, Mr. Roberts," Chegwidden said sharply, cutting him off.
"Yes, sir, sorry, sir."
"Is something going on?" Chegwidden queried, glad that they were finally on a business-related subject.
"There certainly is, sir," Bud said. "Commander Rabb and Major MacKenzie have a large sting operation set up at Fort Sheridan and Great Lakes NTS. Last time I saw them, Commander Rabb said something about going over to Philadelphia. I think they've got something, sir."
As soon as Bud said "Philadelphia", Chegwidden perked up. He'd received a message from Admiral Drake, as had all other shipyard commanders and naval-division commandants on the East Coast. Since Rabb and MacKenzie had something up with Philadelphia--Chegwidden implicitly trusted Roberts's word--he felt it appropriate to relay this message. "They've got something, all right, Mr. Roberts. This morning, the battleship Iowa disappeared from the Philadelphia Navy Yard. The shore patrol didn't find out until ten hundred. Do you have any input that I can pass on to all East Coast commandants?"
"Yes, sir," Bud said seriously. "Commander Rabb, Major MacKenzie and I have reason to believe that the Iowa has been hijacked by a group of subversive terrorists. We have no idea what their intentions are, but I think it would be smart to assume that they're planning to bombard some major cities and military installations on the East Coast. I'd also recommend, Admiral, that we start an air and satellite search to locate the Iowa ASAP."
OFF THE COAST OF NEW YORK
Unaware that they now had satellites and aircraft searching for them, the skeleton crew of the Iowa headed north for the Canadian border. Rather than hug the coast and risk detection, they were running through the open sea and steaming in a straight line, back on full speed. It would also be a bit shorter if they ran in a straight line from Philadelphia to Halifax, as that was indeed their first target. There was no land in sight on either side of the ship; they were far enough out that even New York City, the home of some of the world's tallest structures, was not visible over the horizon. The Iowa was running perfectly, and the tests of the main guns had come off without a hitch. All they had to do now was get within range of Halifax without being challenged by Canadian warships, and the main purpose of their operation would be carried out.
Five and a half hours would be about the usual recovery time for a person laid out by the shock wave of 16-inch gunfire. Since it had already been established that the separate cells did no good, Sinclair had just ordered the seven "loyalists" dumped in the main room of the brig with two guards outside the door. He had also ordered that they all be shot if any one of them tried to escape. For several hours, neither guard had had to worry about that, although now the seven were beginning to recover from the knockout.
Fraser was the first to come around, predictably. His head was throbbing, his ears ringing. He held his head in his hands for a few seconds, leaning up against one wall of the brig. The last thing he remembered was talking with the rest of the gang near the number three turret, then Harm's shouted warning to get below. At first he wondered if it had all been a dream; then he looked around at the dark brig, and he recalled the thunder of the guns, and that told him that he was fully awake and still on board the Iowa. He and all his friends were incarcerated once again.
Shuffling over to Ray on his hands and knees, Fraser shook his friend's shoulder, whispering for him to get up. Ray groaned under his breath, then raised his head and opened his eyes. He sighed and groaned again as he felt the ache in his head and joints, and he propped himself up on one elbow. "What the hell happened out there?" he muttered.
"We picked the wrong place to meet after our reconnaissance," Fraser said. "The overpressure from the guns knocked us all out."
Ray sighed again and nodded. "That'll do it," he agreed, looking around at the inert bodies of the other five. "But if you think the racket from those guns is something, you ought to be standing under an F-fifteen when it overflies you at fifteen hundred knots. First time I heard one of those, I wondered if I'd ever hear anything again."
"Hmm," Fraser said, raising his eyebrows.
Ray sighed a third time, this time in exasperation. "Fraser, what is it with you and hmm? If you want to be a bumblebee, your red jacket isn't exactly the right color, to say nothing of those BDU's."
"Hmm," Fraser conceded. Ray was about to retaliate something when he heard the sound of another voice. It was Pete, just coming around and rolling onto his side, facing them. "That's a hell of a sound to wake up to," he groaned.
"What sound?" Fraser asked.
"You two bickering, that's what," Pete grunted. "But I guess it's a good thing, because it means you're both okay."
"How about you?" Ray asked.
"Well, aside from the worst headache since my fourth-grade teacher, I'm fine," Pete said. "The only problem is, how do we get out of here now? I'd bet any money that Sinclair has guards out there with orders to shoot us if we try to escape."
"Well, in that case, all we have is Skates," Fraser said, noticing Harm stirring. He'd have thought that Harm would pick a better place to meet than near the number three turret. On the other hand, Harm had had no way of knowing that the main guns were to be tested, and he was also a fighter pilot, not a battleship sailor. Harm rolled over, waggling a finger in his left ear.
"Jeez," he mumbled. "I guess that'll teach me to find a better meeting place next time."
"Well, at least we know what the ship's crew looks like," Fraser said. "And in here, we have time to plan."
"Yeah, then we just have to get out, which doesn't look too promising right now," Ray said pessimistically.
"Oh, Ray," Fraser said scornfully. "Even one person on the outside provides excellent chances. When we get near our first target, Sinclair will tell Skates to stand by the helicopter. She'll detour down here and release us if she can trick the guards."
"I hope you're right, Fraser," Harm said.
"No need to worry about that," Ray grunted, rubbing his forehead. Fraser was always so right that it could make Ray sick on occasion.
Harm moved backwards until he was sitting upright, leaning against a bulkhead. He struck a casual pose, watching the rest, and seeing Mac and Nick starting to come around. At least they were coming out of it, so all Harm had to know was if Del was okay. He hadn't wanted to get them involved, but they had of their own free will before they even knew it. He watched Nick sitting up, and he struck up a little chat with him and Pete.
"I understand you fellas got into a brawl with some Special Forces the other night," he said.
"Yup," Pete grinned proudly. "They were picking a fight even harder than their noses, and they sure as hell got what they wanted."
Nick snickered under his breath. "Except that they didn't win," he added.
"Yeah," Pete laughed in agreement.
Harm also chuckled, thinking of a couple of bar fights he'd been in and won in the past. He cocked his head and cast his eyes downward slightly. "I didn't want to get you kids involved because I didn't think you could handle what was going on," he admitted. "I guess I was wrong. You're a pretty tough bunch, we all are. And as such, we can probably take over this ship given half a chance."
"Well, I'll take the other half as well, thank you very much," Ray grunted, leaning up against the opposite bulkhead.
"You'll get it," Harm promised. "It'll take all seven of us to get the ship under our control. I don't think there'll be any shortage of action for anybody, either."
FALLS CHURCH, VIRGINIA
It had seemed like ages before the bureaucracy decided to do what had been recommended by Bud and approved by Admirals Chegwidden and Drake, and then even longer ages before a satellite could get into the right position to search for the Iowa. By the time the satellite had been pressed into this service, arrived over the East Coast, and taken its photographs, and after the photographs had been sent to Chegwidden and other involved parties, it was a full day since the Iowa had sailed from Philadelphia. Chegwidden and Bud were burning the midnight oil at JAG Headquarters, sorting through the photographs for a sign of the Iowa.
On Bud's assurances, Chegwidden had reluctantly allowed Diefenbaker to stay in his office, if for no other reason than Bud would be able to keep an eye on him in there. He needn't have worried, because Diefenbaker was taking a siesta on one of the chairs in front of the desk. Bud sat in the other with a bottle of No-Doz pills at his elbow, poring over photograph after photograph. Since no one had any idea where the Iowa was going, the satellite had had to photograph the entire coast, from Newfoundland to Florida. So far, nothing.
Chegwidden was also going over a stack of pictures, and he periodically glanced at a glass-encased model of the Iowa sitting to one side of his office. During the ship's last activation, he had commanded a task group from it, transferring to the JAG corps after the ship's decommissioning. He studied another picture and shook his head, dropping it on the pile beside him. Bud yawned and dropped another one on his pile, resting his cheek against his hand.
"Nothing," Chegwidden grumbled. "It's not in Philly, it's not in the Delaware River. It must be in another river or harbor by now."
"Or maybe it's in the open sea, heading for someplace across the Atlantic," Bud suggested. "The Iowa's still pretty seaworthy after five years in mothballs. Don't you think, sir?"
"Take my word for it, Mr. Roberts. I served aboard that ship as commander of a task group several years ago." To prove it, Chegwidden gestured at the model across the room. "You have an uncanny talent for being right, Mr. Roberts, did you know that?"
Bud grinned appreciatively, his usual practice when somebody complimented him on his abilities. "No, sir," he said. "Thank you, sir."
"I don't think you'll be thanking me if we don't find the Iowa," Chegwidden advised. As he picked up the phone and made to dial a number, Bud's grin disappeared instantaneously.
"Admiral Drake," Chegwidden said into the phone, "it's A.J. again. Listen, one of my people has an idea, the Iowa may not be near the coast at all. It may be further out to sea, maybe somewhere within a fan pattern from Philly.
"Yes, sir, I understand that.
"Well, what about the air searches, haven't they turned anything up?
"I see. We'll stand by here, sir. All right." Chegwidden slowly hung up, and he sighed and rubbed the tiredness from his eyes. He was getting too old to be working this late on a case like this, he thought to himself. "Well, Mr. Roberts, it seems the government has spent all the money it wants to on satellite recon. It's up to the air searches and sentry ships to find the Iowa for us now."
U.S.S. SAVO SOUND
OFF THE COAST OF MAINE
The Savo Sound was a relatively new Ticonderoga-class cruiser, having entered service just a couple of years ago. In company with the Spruance-class destroyer Worden and the Pendergast, a new Perry-class frigate, it had been assigned to picket duty on the East Coast, with Bath as its home base. Its captain had also received word of the Iowa coming up from Philadelphia, so he had asked his XO to inform him and the other two captains as soon as the Iowa's presence was possible in their area. The small blockade force was a little over fifty miles out from the coast, and all surface-search radar was being manned without pause.
Since the Savo Sound's XO had the bridge right now, he looked at his watch, recalling what time the navigator had calculated for the Iowa to draw near their patrol area. It was getting close to that time now, so the XO went over to a radio phone mounted on the wall. Picking it up, he dialed for the Captain's cabin. "Skipper," he reported, "if the navigator's right about the Iowa, she should be entering our patrol area in about ten minutes."
Within two of those minutes, Captain Alan Bonneau was on the bridge with a pair of binoculars in his hand, joining the XO at the front windows of the bridge. He raised his binoculars, and he started searching for some sign of the Iowa on the horizon, whether it be smoke or one of the radar masts. The three ships' radars had detected nothing as yet, and they swept continually, their operators squinting closely and ready to report it as soon as something appeared. Observers--the modern euphemism for lookouts--were also on both sides of the ship, searching ahead as the force was running south.
"Got something, skipper!" the radar operator called out suddenly. "Bearing three five four, range twenty miles and closing. Looks like a big one, sir."
"Any other contacts?" Captain Bonneau asked, wondering if it might be a carrier battle group running an air search.
"Negative, sir, it could be the Iowa."
Bonneau nodded and glanced at his XO. "Sound general quarters, no drill. Pass the word to the Worden and the Pendergast."
"Aye, aye, sir." The XO picked up the radio phone and dialed for the 1MC, advising all parts of the ship: "General quarters! All hands, general quarters, man your battle stations! This is no drill! All hands, general quarters, this is no drill!" Immediately red lights began flashing and alarms started blaring throughout the Savo Sound, spurring its crew to bolt for battle stations within a second. Before long, the pounding of feet could be heard no matter where you were standing, with the crew ready for action after weeks on end of drills.
"Radio, flash to all naval bases within range," Bonneau said. "Possible contact with U.S.S. Iowa off coast of Maine. Repeat that once."
"Aye, sir," the radio operator acknowledged, setting to that task.
Aboard the Iowa, the radar operator was watching his screen just as intently as his counterpart on the Savo Sound. At almost the same time as the frigate's radar man spotted the Iowa, the battleship's radar man sighted the Savo Sound, Worden and Pendergast on his own screen. He promptly called it out loud enough to be heard on the bridge: "Captain, three, repeat three radar contacts, bearing three one six degrees true. Range, approximately twenty miles."
"Can you identify them?" Sinclair responded from the pilot house.
"Negative, Captain, but they're of varying sizes. I'd say a large cruiser, a destroyer and a frigate patrolling the coast."
"XO, pass the word to all gun turrets, stand by to commence firing," Sinclair said promptly.
"Aye, aye, sir," the XO said, picking up the radio phone to pass the word on.
"Helm," Sinclair went on, turning halfway around, "come left to course three four three, all engines ahead two thirds."
"Contact is challenging us on radio, sir," the radio man called from back aft.
"No reply," Sinclair answered.
This would be as good a chance as any to alert the naval units in the area to the Iowa's presence, so Skates took a step up behind Sinclair. "Captain, wouldn't it be wise to reply and get your message out in the open ahead of time?" she asked.
"Nope, it wouldn't, Lieutenant," Sinclair answered. "By now, he's already radioed his home base about us, and he'll probably radio confirmation the minute he gets a signal. Best way is to take him out ASAP and make a mad dash for the border."
As Skates stepped back to her former position, she suddenly realized that she was making an awful lot of conspicuous suggestions. Nobody else had made such suggestions during the voyage. Skates had initially thought that she was standing out in the crowd, making herself known, but now she realized that too many helpful hints might make Sinclair suspicious. Especially so if he came to realize that they were detriments to his intentions.
"All main guns are standing by, Captain," the XO said. "Course now three four three degrees true at two thirds speed. Optimum firing position in a few minutes."
"Range?" Sinclair called over his shoulder.
"Eighteen miles and closing, sir," the radar man said.
"Main guns, elevate seventeen miles and stand by to fire," Sinclair
"XO?" Captain Bonneau said.
"All battle stations manned and ready, sir," the XO said. "Missile batteries ready to fire."
"Very good. Radio, any answer to our challenges?"
"Negative, sir," the radio operator said. "Offhand, sir, I'd say it's the Iowa if she won't respond to five hails."
"I'll be the judge of that," Bonneau said. "If Sinclair thinks he can beat a guided missile cruiser, destroyer and frigate with that old dinosaur, he's got another think coming."
"Sir, the Iowa was modernized to carry Tomahawks and Harpoons in her last activation," the XO advised.
"I know that. I also know that Sinclair's been a battleship sailor almost
his entire career. I'll wager he's going to rely on the guns, especially
at this range. We'll play along. Contact the Worden and Pendergast, we'll
give him a few warning shots with the five-inchers and the missiles. Don't
hit the ship itself, just land your shots close enough to back him off."
The radar man on the Iowa had his eyes locked on the screen, measuring the distance constantly and reporting it to Sinclair with every second it closed. "Targets within range in twenty-one seconds, Captain," he reported.
As soon as he finished, the Savo Sound opened fire, tossing several five-inch volleys at the Iowa. The other two ships joined in, and the small projectiles swept toward the Iowa and hit the water around it. A number of tall, thin geysers shot skyward, drenching the Iowa's main deck. After the first salvo of gunfire was away, the missiles took their turn.
"Missiles inbound, Captain!" the radar man yelled.
"Countermeasures, return fire!" Sinclair barked. The missile officer shouted in acknowledgement, rapidly targeted the Iowa's Tomahawks on the incoming missiles, and opened fire. The Tomahawks met every missile head-on, and still more missiles kept coming from the three smaller ships. Five-inch shells went on bathing the Iowa in sea water.
The missile launches caused vibrations throughout the superstructure, particularly the brig, which was almost directly below them. Harm, steadying himself against a bulkhead, looked up at the overhead, frowning. "He's firing missiles."
"It's too early to be firing on a Canadian target," Fraser said. "It's either a city we didn't predict, or another vessel."
"Could be shooting the other ship's missiles out of the sky, even if it's only warning shots," Mac suggested.
Sinclair had no intentions of taking this lying down. On his orders,
the main guns opened fire; the forward turrets fired a salvo first, and
the aft turret followed shortly. The flames filled the starboard windshield
on the bridge, and the racket and the overpressure caused everybody to
wince. The windshield and the portholes of the pilot house were the heaviest
glass that could be made, so that they wouldn't shatter from the blast
of the forward guns. As it was, the Iowa shuddered as its main guns fired
in combat for the first time in over forty years.
"Projectiles inbound, Captain!" the Savo Sound's radar man yelled. Bonneau stiffened, concerned that one or two might actually hit his ship. A split second later, the first shell hit the water very close to the bow, rocking the ship heavily to starboard; this allowed the second shell to tear a chunk off the bow. The third splashed, hitting the water so close that the hull plates were buckled down there. The rest of the first salvo was dedicated to the other two ships; the Worden received the same treatment as the Savo Sound, but the Pendergast took two shells in its superstructure.
"He's got us cold," Bonneau said emptily. "Set an evasive course for Bath. All engines ahead flank."
"Captain!" the XO protested. "We've still got a ton of missiles, sir, we can blow the Iowa out of the water."
"In case you hadn't noticed, she's shot every missile we've launched out of the sky," Bonneau snapped back. "As I indicated, I know what Sinclair's doing. We have to get out of his gun range before he shoots all our asses off."
Bonneau wasn't exaggerating in the least. As the Savo Sound, Worden and Pendergast started to turn sharply to starboard, accelerating to their average 32-knot top speed, the Iowa opened wide.
The first shells splashed between the Worden and the Pendergast; the latter was hit amidships, suffering a number of casualties. The next salvo was concentrated on the Savo Sound. Even as it was hit in the aft superstructure, it fired off two more shots from its five-inch guns. This time, they were intended to hit the Iowa. Bonneau, standing at the bridge windows, stared through his binoculars to see if anything interesting happened. The Worden had launched another missile in addition to two five-inch shells.
One of the shells splashed close to the Iowa, not deterring its rate of fire. Another shell hit the Pendergast abaft the bridge, and another hit the water on such an angle that it scraped past the Worden's keel. Aboard the Iowa, the XO moved up behind Sinclair as another missile countered the one from the Worden.
"Radar reports all targets taking hits, sir," he said.
"Good. Make sure the number one turret doesn't deviate from the cruiser." Sinclair raised his own binoculars, watching for fire blooms or smoke, something that might indicate success.
One halfway decent fire bloom leaped from the Worden's stern, more or less doused by a shell splash. A full salvo crashed through the main deck of the Savo Sound and momentarily engulfed the superstructure in flames, which passed quickly. Another shell rammed through the side dangerously close to the forward missile battery, shorting most of that bank's circuitry. Bonneau sighed in frustration as he saw that it wouldn't have mattered had he fired more missiles or not.
He then had no time for frustration; another shell had popped cleanly through the forward superstructure, and the shock burst several windows. The shell continued into the water on the starboard side. The Pendergast took yet another one amidships, and its five-inch gun, as well as several men in that area, were blown overboard. One shell hit so close to the Savo Sound that the water flew straight through the broken windows.
Captain Bonneau, blood trickling from his temple after its encounter with a shard of glass, regained his balance and gripped a control panel for support. "Evasive starboard!" he yelled at the top of his voice. "Come right to course zero zero zero!"
"Aye, sir!" The helmsman carried out the order, spinning the wheel to full right rudder. Not being a battleship sailor, Bonneau didn't know that it would have no effect; the targeting system on the Iowa would keep the number one turret locked on the Savo Sound no matter what. The turret remained on the cruiser like a pit bull clinging to its victim's throat by its teeth.
"No good, Captain!" the XO said after a full minute of being battered by 16-inch shells.
"Sir, the Pendergast is breaking up!" the radio operator shouted from the rear of the bridge, ducking to avoid the rain of water from the next shell splash. Two shells entered the hull at the base of the aft smokestack, and the number three boiler exploded. The fireball soared, and the radio man continued with his report on the Pendergast. "She's lost all power, the crew is abandoning ship!"
The next shell hit even closer to the missile bank than the earlier one, sending black smoke as thick as molasses pouring out of the forward deck. "Tell them to stay aboard, they'll probably have better chances of survival at this rate!" Bonneau replied. "How's the Wor--"
That shell near the missile bank had written the Savo Sound's epitaph. The ship's bow heaved out of the water as the bank, along with the five-inch shell and powder magazines, became the base of an explosion similar to an atomic bomb. Mushroom cloud and all. Bonneau had been knocked to the deck by the force of the explosion, and by the time it had dissipated, the XO was kneeling at his side.
"Captain, we don't have any more choices!" the XO yelled in desperation, trying to make himself heard over the roar of the burning bridge. "This ship is going to break up in a matter of minutes! We have got to get off, Captain, it's better for some of us to survive than for all of us to die when the ship goes down!"
This would not sit well with the powers that be, and Bonneau knew it. He would have to have someone from his crew left to tell the tale; for all he knew, the Iowa had sunk both the Worden and the Pendergast already. It was time to perform the last duty a captain could perform: going down with his ship.
"Pass the word, get everybody off who can still walk," he said. "And don't argue with me when I say I'm staying here. Go, get the crew off!"
"Aye, sir!" The XO was glad to comply. If Bonneau wanted to commit suicide
by staying aboard, that was his business. The XO leaped to the radio phone,
turning on the 1MC and hoping that it was still working throughout the
ship. "All hands, abandon ship, repeat, abandon ship!" he bellowed. "I
say again, all hands, abandon ship!..."
FALLS CHURCH, VIRGINIA
Bud was so tired after spending hours on end searching for the Iowa that he just slept at his desk. While he leaned back in his chair, head propped against a pillow, and snoozed, Diefenbaker slept next to him--it seemed that Diefenbaker did basically one of two things, eat candy bars and sleep. It made Bud wonder how Fraser could keep him in shape like this.
While Bud was sawing wood, Admiral Chegwidden, rubbing sleep from his eyes again, plodded out of his office and over to Bud's desk. His jacket was completely unbuttoned, and his tie was loose, which usually meant that he had been working overtime and was as beat as the New England Patriots. He yawned, leaned on Bud's desk, and shook the young lieutenant's shoulder. "Mr. Roberts," he said. "Mr. Roberts, wake up."
Bud snore-ted, and his eyelids fluttered, then lifted. He stared up at Admiral Chegwidden vacantly and yawned, not comprehending what exactly was going on. "Yes, sir," he moaned.
"Mr. Roberts, are you awake?" Chegwidden inquired.
In an instant Bud was awake, eyes wide with fear. He leaped to his feet
and stiffly faced the Admiral, standing ramrod straight. "I apologize,
sir, I shouldn't have been sleeping in the office," he reprimanded himself.
"That's all right, Lieutenant, I'm thinking of doing the same," Chegwidden said. "However, that's not the problem. It looks like you were right again, we just received confirmation."
"On the Iowa, sir?"
"Contacted a small blockade fifty miles off the coast of Maine, which consisted of the cruiser Savo Sound, the destroyer Worden and the frigate Pendergast. Commander Sinclair went on to drive home his point by sinking both the Savo Sound and the Pendergast with his main battery alone, the Worden was lucky to escape back to Bath. He's proved that he can still fight effectively with that ship's main guns. I thought I should tell you, Lieutenant, because now I have no choice. I'm going to advise Admiral Drake to send a carrier battle group after the Iowa before she reaches her objective."
Bud's eyes widened again, this time in protest. "Sir, with all due respect, how can you do that? Commander Rabb and Major MacKenzie are aboard that ship, sir, they must be!"
"I know," Chegwidden said tiredly. "Believe me, Mr. Roberts, I don't want to do this. But we have to sacrifice a few to save many."
Bud's face fell, and he sighed with disappointment. He had tried and failed. He'd probably never see Commander Rabb and Major MacKenzie again, but he knew Chegwidden was right, and was doing the right thing. At least they would die defending their country. "Yes, sir," he said quietly.
OFF THE COAST OF NOVA SCOTIA
With several years in as part of the Royal Canadian Navy, the destroyer had been cruising in the North Atlantic for the past several weeks, and was returning home to Halifax after receiving orders. The Canadian coastal areas had been warned by naval authorities in the northeastern U.S. about the Iowa, so they were recalling every available frigate and destroyer to watch the major ports for the battleship. Three destroyers were guarding the port of St. John in New Brunswick, not to be confused with St. John's in Newfoundland, which was being watched by a frigate and a destroyer. The Algonquin had been ordered to join two frigates, which were warming up inside the Halifax Naval Shipyard, to guard that city. It would be the first ship there, and it would have to wait a while for the frigates. Captain Christopher MacLeod was not happy with that arrangement, because he had heard about the Iowa's handiwork off Maine, and he certainly did not want to encounter that ship alone.
Standing on the bridge with a pair of binoculars, he watched the horizon and glanced obliquely at his XO. "What's the ETA on the Calgary and the Toronto?" he inquired.
"Twenty-three thirty, sir," the XO said.
"And the Iowa?"
The XO shook his head. "Uncertain, sir. Somewhere between twenty-three fifteen and twenty-four hundred."
MacLeod also shook his head, somewhat frustrated. Any time, the Iowa
could pop out of nowhere and sell his ship to Davy Jones before he even
knew it was there. All he could do was order a constant radar sweep of
the area around Halifax, so he did. He knew that the Iowa had to get within
37 kilometers of Halifax to shell it, so he moved over to the navigation
chart to stake that out for his patrol area.
Radar antenna still turning, the Iowa had crossed the Canadian border several hours ago and was running in a straight line towards Halifax. The navigator had estimated another half hour to firing range, so Sinclair decided to wait another fifteen minutes before sending Skates up to spot for him. Down below, Harm, Mac and their five friends sweated in the brig and waited for one of two things: for Skates to let them out, or for the Iowa to start shelling a target.
"How long to Halifax?" Harm asked, glancing at Fraser.
Looking down at his watch, Fraser was completely emotionless as he answered. "Another twenty minutes to firing range."
"Fraser, do you mind if I ask you something?" Mac said.
"Not at all."
"How can you sit there and be so calm when you know that this ship is going to attack your home country?"
"It's quite simple, Mac," Fraser said. "I know that the Iowa is not going to attack my home country. I know Skates will find a way to get us out of here, and that we'll be able to secure the gun turrets and bridge before Sinclair can fire a shot."
"You really believe that?" Ray grunted.
"Yes, I do."
"Good, then so do I."
"So do the rest of us," Del tossed in from the corner of the room, where he stood with arms resolutely folded.
Harm just smiled knowingly, turning his head toward Mac. "Well, that
takes care of that, Mac," he said. "Now you know we're going to get out
Sinclair raised his left wrist, read the time, and nodded. "It's time," he announced. "Lieutenant Hawkes, go on aft and crank up the Sea Dragon, stand by for takeoff signal."
"Aye, aye, sir," Skates said, coming to attention. She about-faced, marched toward the door of the pilot house, and stepped out. The sky was dark and cool, and very clear. Perfect conditions to spot Canadian warships and warn them about the Iowa.
"Sergeant Bodeane," Sinclair said. "I want you on the reload in the forward turrets. If anything goes wrong, don't wait for my order, pass the word to commence firing."
"Understood, sir," Bodeane said. Turning around, he went out the other door of the pilot house. He knew what Sinclair meant--he wouldn't put it past that Mountie to find a way out in all the confusion, come forward, and try to take control of the turrets.
Skates knew that the brig was now under guard, so she walked briskly aft and prepared a cock-and-bull story to get past the guards. This wasn't the first time that she was sure her looks would help her get by, as well. She entered the corridor that led to the brig, and the two guards regarded her somewhat sternly as she approached. Stopping at the door, she glanced at both of them before putting her cock-and-bull story to use. "The Captain asked me to check on the prisoners," she informed them. "He doesn't want his cause to be lost because somebody aboard his ship was injured."
Sure enough, the senior guard opened the door, and Skates stepped in. She only saw five of them, knowing where the other two were. The guards waited outside, until they heard her call: "Hey, I think we've got a fractured skull here, you'd better come in!"
Instinctively, the two guards stared at each other, then turned and entered the brig. There were no fractured skulls, but next thing they knew, there were two badly knocked about. Pete sneaked up behind them and bashed their heads together, letting Harm and Fraser do the rest. Fraser ripped the rifle from his man's hands and slugged him backward against the bulkhead, then threw him straight into Mac's sailing fists. Meanwhile, Harm punched the other guard in the stomach, brought both fists down on his back, and let Nick kick him in the head just before he landed.
Pete grinned, reaching back to take his book from his belt. "Rip-ra-red, kick 'im in the head! Rip-ra-ree, kick 'im in the knee! Rip-ra-rass, kick 'im in the other knee!"
His seven companions burst out laughing. Del had heard that before, but couldn't help cackling over it one more time. Pete grinned even more broadly than before, and he opened the book to one of the diagram sections.
"Well, let's just say that it shouldn't take five of us to take out two guards in the future," Mac giggled. Fraser, looking down at the two inert guards, noticed the bands around their right arms.
"Military Police," he observed interestedly. "That explains why no APB went out after Bodeane escaped Joliet, and how they were able to get past the shore patrol to load the helicopters every night."
"Hm," Harm agreed. Ray gave him a dirty look, and everybody gathered around Pete and his book. While Nick provided the light again, Pete found a cutaway diagram of one of the main turrets and pointed it out.
"Okay, Operation Commandeer Turrets," he announced. "You can do this one of two ways. You can start with the top shell flat, take out the four guys up there, then go down to the second level and take out the four guys there, then go down to the powder level and knock out the remaining seven if you can. Other way, you can start on the powder level and work your way up. Either way, once you're done there, you can take the shellevator up to the turret and work on the gunners and the turret captain."
"Sinclair wants me to spot for him," Skates said. "I need somebody up there with me to help search for Canadian ships and warn them about the Iowa."
"I'll go," Pete volunteered.
"Okay," Skates nodded.
"Everybody set on what you're doing?" Harm asked. When everyone had responded positively, Pete closed the book. He and Skates exchanged wishes of good luck with the others, and the two left the brig and headed aft toward the helicopter.
"Mac, you and I will take turret one," Harm said as the rest of them left the brig and started forward. "Fraser, Del, you take turret two. Ray and Nick, you've got turret three." The last two turned around, and back they went toward turret three while the rest proceeded forward.
On the Iowa's afterdeck, Skates and Pete exited the superstructure and passed the number three turret, hoping Sinclair wouldn't decide to test the guns again while they were there. "You fly?" Skates asked as they finished unfastening the lines that secured the helicopter to the deck.
"No, ma'am, but I'm taking lessons," Pete answered. "I hope to be rated for multi-engine water bombers by next summer."
"Hm. By the way, we won't have time for that 'ma'am' stuff when we get up there, so don't hesitate to call me Skates."
"Yes, ma'am--" Too late, Pete caught himself and hastily redressed his error. "Skates, sorry," he said, going around the nose of the helicopter. The pair climbed into the cockpit, secured the doors, and strapped themselves in in preparation for takeoff. Skates turned the radio on, flipping some channel switches.
"Okay," she said. "I need you here because I have to keep in touch with the Iowa. I may have to do that simultaneously with contacting a Canadian ship, so that's your job. You know radio protocol, right?"
"Yes, I do."
"Good." Skates ensured that the primary frequency was par with the radio frequency of the Iowa, and then she located a code book next to her seat and picked it up, flipping through it. She found the frequency generally used by Canadian naval vessels, and with that, she did a little tuning and switch-flipping on the radio. The number 2 appeared on the second dial, and Skates nodded. "Okay. Primary frequency is in touch with the Iowa, secondary frequency is on the Canadian Navy. You've got it."
"Right," Pete said, picking up a helmet. Skates did the same, adjusted
the helmet on her head, and hit the transmit switch on the radio. At the
same time, she started the helicopter's engine, and the huge seven-bladed
rotor started to swing over the windshield and pick up speed.
Harm and Mac somehow sneaked past turret two without being detected, and they were now just a section away from turret one. Mac, thinking back over Pete's explanation of how to secure the turret, remembered the term he'd used for their means of reaching the turret itself. She chuckled at the memory. " 'Shellevator'," she recalled. "That's a very imaginative term for the hoists."
"That kid's imagination ranks with Bud's," Harm agreed. "Say, I wonder how Bud's doing down there, anyway? Taking care of a wolf and having to deal with the Admiral at the same time."
"I'm sure he'd much rather be doing that than this," Mac said. She and Harm had elected to go in on the powder level and work their way upward, since it would be easier to get rid of a group of seven first, then take a break and go on to two groups of four.
Just a short distance behind and above them, Fraser and Del were on the second shell level, pressed against a bulkhead and observing the movement in the handling flat. "Fifteen, you said?" Fraser asked, and Del nodded. "We may be able to use those hoists to our advantage," Fraser muttered. "Not just to get up to the turret."
"Well, I know you've taken on even bigger gangs than this before," Del said. "Like in that meatpacking plant just after you came to Chicago. That was you against thirty, Ray told me."
"Very true," Fraser agreed. "Well, there was an incident a week before that."
"Oh, yeah, with Buck Frobisher. But you had help that time."
"Actually, I was thinking of the one-at-a-time aspect of that battle," Fraser said. "Stay here, I'll be right back." He tiptoed forward and edged toward the handling area, waiting for somebody to come near him. He hid behind a cluster of shells and listened to footsteps, and when he heard a set coming near, he poked his head out from behind the shells. "Excuse me," he said, tapping the man on the shoulder.
The fellow turned, and Fraser's fist flew. He knocked the man out almost instantly, catching him as he fell to the floor. Then he dragged him behind the shells and left him there, returning quickly to the corridor.
"Not bad," Del complimented him. "Let's just hope it's that easy to
take out the rest of them."
In the opinion of Ray and Nick, it would not be easy to take out even one of the men working turret three. Ray was openly voicing this opinion, if in a whisper. "This is nuts," he mumbled. "Not only does Harm look like Fraser, he thinks like him. Probably acts like him, too, as far as beating guys up goes."
"What do you mean?" Nick asked.
"One time, Fraser beat up thirty guys in a row, single handed. He thinks I can do the same. Doesn't know how wrong he is. I don't suppose you can take care of most of these guys, can you?"
"I did take on two of those Special Forces guys in the mess hall, but
that's the most I've ever done. You know what?" Nick's finger went up.
"I've got a better idea, come on." He marched off ahead, and Ray sighed
to himself and followed. This had better not be another Fraser he was working
The chopper's rotor was spinning at its maximum idling RPM's now, and it was ready to lift off. "Iowa, this is Sea Dragon Four-three-eight ready for takeoff, over," Skates radioed the bridge.
"Sea Dragon Four-three-eight, you are cleared for takeoff," the radio man answered. Skates shoved the throttle forward to the takeoff position and gripped the control stick, holding it steady. The engine noise increased, the rotor spun faster, and the helicopter shuddered, the rotor blades deflecting air down at the deck. Eventually, the rotor, which was also providing induced lift, was moving so fast that the air being deflected bounced off the deck and started to push the helicopter into the air. It rose, steadily ascending from the deck. When it had risen above the top of the Iowa's superstructure, Skates raised the landing gear and increased the throttle, then moved the stick to the left. The helicopter banked and headed away from the port bow of the Iowa, on its way toward Halifax. Skates kept it in a slow ascent and turned to Pete.
"I'm going to take us up to two hundred feet," she said. "You grab those binoculars and start searching for ships. Anything that looks like a warship, let me know. It should be pretty easy to spot them on a night like this."
"Right." Pete picked up the binoculars on the dashboard and started
searching the area. The ocean was pretty well illuminated, so Skates was
probably right about it being easy to spot ships. Meanwhile, the Iowa cruised
after them, main guns ready for loading.
Harm, hiding behind one of the powder racks in the magazine, motioned to Mac to stay back a short distance. She hung back in the corridor, and Harm flattened himself against the rack and peeked around the corner just long enough to see someone coming toward him. As this man passed, Harm tapped him on the shoulder. "Excuse me."
The man turned, and Harm slugged him solidly, catching him just before he fell. He dragged him into the corridor and laid him out on the deck well within the darkness, and Mac's eyebrows rose. "That seems like something Fraser would do."
"I'll bet he did," Harm said, cocking his head toward the powder rack. "Okay, your turn." Mac just smirked as she edged past him, taking up station and awaiting a victim.
Back aft, Ray was waiting for an opportune time to hurry over to the ladder and climb up to the top shell flat. When he got one, he dashed to the ladder, and up he went. Down below, Nick was using the rank from his hat to loosen the screws on the powder racks, after Ray had fervently approved of his plan. He had to hide behind the rack every time a crewman came near, so he had to stay alert and prevent his being caught before he was finished with his work.
Ray scrambled up the ladder to the upper shell flat, and he came off the ladder, seeing that he would probably fit in here--one of the men was also wearing BDUs. Ray singled him out, noticing that he wasn't part of any special Army division that was really good at fistfighting, and headed over to him. "Hey, pal," he hailed him.
The Army boy turned, and Ray grabbed him by the hair, slammed his head against the shell hoist, and belted him with all his strength. This did very well to attract the attention of the other three, so Ray made a mad dash for the ladder. He braced his feet on the sides and slid down, hitting the second shell level and sliding down that ladder to the powder level. Already the three from the top level were on his case, and the four from the middle level were joining them. Ray hit the powder level and ran toward the magazine, where Nick awaited.
"I think it's working!" he yelled, running over to the rack on the port side. There he waited, hand on the face of the rack. Nick was doing the same with the rack on the starboard side, and they listened to the shouts of the fifteen crewmen racing toward them. The shell and powder handlers burst into the magazine, and seeing Nick and Ray standing there, made ready to take them out.
"Now!" Ray bellowed. He yanked on the face of the rack, and so did Nick. Both of them sprinted for the corridor as the rack faces fell away. Immediately, the neat, orderly stacks and rows of powder bags collapsed into a mess of tumbling sacks falling out from under each other. The handling crew had no time to react. They were caught between two full racks of powder bags dropping on them like enormous bird pellets, sending them also falling on top of each other and being pounded into unconsciousness by the heavy bags. The deck plates rattled, and Nick and Ray stood well back to avoid being hit by a runaway bag. By the time the last bag had fallen, every handler was lying battered, bruised and unconscious among the heap.
Ray smiled proudly, folding his arms. "We run a tight ship here," he
remarked. "However, some of us have been getting tight a little too often."
He and Nick both snickered, and they turned toward the corridor to go forward
and give the other four a hand.
"Air contact, Captain!" This from the Algonquin's air-search radar operator, watching his screen and spotting a white dot on it. "Bearing two nine two, range twenty-nine kilometers. Somewhat large, sir, maybe a cargo craft."
As Captain MacLeod was coming back to the rear of the bridge to take a look, the surface-search radar operator had his own report to make. "I've got a surface contact, sir, same bearing, range about forty-eight kilometers."
"Could be the aircraft is coming from the ship, eh?" the XO suggested.
"Probably," Captain MacLeod said. "The surface contact looks pretty big. Could be the Iowa. What's the ETA on our frigates?"
The XO looked at his watch, checking the time since the last time MacLeod
had asked him. "Perhaps another fifteen minutes if they push it, sir."
To stretch out the time, Skates was flying in a zigzag pattern, a movement that would also allow Pete to search the ocean on either side of the chopper's base course. Skates zigged, and Pete's gaze through the binoculars swept out ahead of the helicopter. Just as it was swinging past its base course, he straightened up, looking a little closer at something.
"I've got one!" he said. "Dead ahead."
Skates cut back the throttle to hovering position, and the helicopter slowed as she held out her hand. Pete passed her the binoculars, and the chopper came to a halt, hovering in its position above the ocean. "Here, hold it steady," she said. Pete took the control stick on the copilot's side, and he held the helicopter in position while Skates located the ship. She searched her memory for a picture of its class ship, and when she'd found one, she nodded. "It's a Canadian destroyer," she announced, handing the binoculars back to Pete. Taking the helicopter back under control, she was about to tell Pete to make contact when she heard Sinclair's voice in her helmet earphones.
"Lieutenant Hawkes, we have a radar contact close to you," he informed her. "Can you identify?"
"Yes, sir, I've got it in sight, it's a Canadian destroyer," Skates answered. "Should I avoid it, sir?"
"Yes, get around it and proceed to Halifax. We'll take care of the ship if it challenges us."
"Aye, sir." Skates waited to make sure Sinclair had nothing else to say, and she nodded to Pete.
"Attention, Canadian warship," he hailed. "This is Sea Dragon Four-three-eight, U.S. Navy. Please respond."
Aboard the Algonquin, Captain MacLeod was still watching the two radar contacts, and he had just heard from the air-radar operator that the air contact was hovering. That told him right away that it was a helicopter or a tilt-rotor, or some sort of VTOL craft. While he considered this, the radio man spoke up from nearby: "Toronto and Calgary are breaking out of the shipyard. Now I'm getting a radio message from the aircraft, Captain."
"Put it on." The radio man complied, and MacLeod listened to Pete's second hail. He picked up the radio phone while the radio man connected him with the chopper. "Sea Dragon Four-three-eight, this is Captain MacLeod of the H.M.C.S. Algonquin, go ahead."
"Warning," Pete announced. "Advise your home base immediately of imminent danger. The U.S.S. Iowa is on course to Halifax with intent to bombard. I repeat, the U.S.S. Iowa is on course to Halifax with intent to bombard. Over."
"We were warned about the Iowa by your naval authorities, we've been ordered to guard Halifax," MacLeod replied. "Two of our frigates are moving out of the shipyard. We have the Iowa on radar at a range of forty-five kilometers. Can you confirm? Over."
"Affirmative. Try to keep that distance, and stand by with your countermeasure missiles. The Iowa may launch one of its Harpoon missiles if it can't get within gun range. Over."
MacLeod frowned at the radio, missing something. He realized shortly what it was, and he gazed askance at the radio phone. "Sea Dragon Four-three-eight, what is your point of origin and source of information? Over."
"We are part of a group of U.S. loyalists, the rest of whom are attempting to take over vital parts of the ship," Pete answered. "We were supposed to spot for the Iowa's guns, but seized the opportunity to warn you. Over."
"If you deem it necessary, you have my permission to land aboard the Algonquin," MacLeod said, reassured. "We'll contact Halifax right away and tell our frigates to hustle. Over."
"Thank you, Captain," Pete said. He glanced quickly at Skates, who nodded.
"We accept your permission to land. Over and out." Breathing a sigh of
relief, he cut the channel and leaned back in his seat, looking over at
Skates. "Well, Skates, looks like we're going to be honored guests of the
Royal Canadian Navy."
Fraser and Del--mostly Fraser, actually--had just subdued the handlers for turret two, and they had taken them one at a time, just as planned. Fraser was now riding the shell hoist up to the turret itself. He found himself in the center gun chamber, with the gunners looking down the chute in confusion. Their confusion vanished when Fraser, popping up into the chamber like a jack-in-the-box, punched one of them squarely in the face and slammed his elbow into the other's stomach. He threw the first one across the chamber and against the second, knocking their heads against the bulkhead. Both were knocked out quite quickly, so Fraser left them on the floor of the chamber and got out into the turret captain's booth. Del had followed him up the chute, so while he took care of the turret captain, Fraser headed over to the port gun and ripped open the door to the chamber. Both gunners spun around, and Fraser dived in with fists flying, which was sufficient to lure them out into the booth.
The gunners manning the starboard barrel, hearing the scuffle outside, decided to poke their heads out and see what was going on just as the turret captain staggered back against the bulkhead. Then they heard the shouts from their two partners manning the port barrel as Fraser took both of them on at once. The starboard gunners both leaped from the chamber to lend assistance, and they were almost there when Ray quite abruptly appeared from the hatch in the rear of the turret. He threw himself against one of them while Del took on the other.
"Nice of you to show up, Ray!" Fraser yelled during a lull in his end of the fight.
"Yeah, well, turret three was a piece of cake!" Ray shouted back.
If Harm and Mac wanted to have their cake and eat it too, the first turret was a generous piece of it. Harm was standing by one of the powder-bag racks with a handgun aimed at one of the bags, and Mac had a radio telephone in her hand. She had turned on the intercom system to the shell flats and the turret, and as the powder handlers stood or sat in a group nearby and glowered, Mac began to address the shell handlers and turret crew.
"Attention, everybody between turret one and the powder flat," she announced. "This is Major Sarah MacKenzie of Marine JAG. There is a gun aimed at the powder bags down here, and if anybody makes a single move to overpower my partner and me, he'll fire. You know what'll happen next. I want everybody down in the powder flat, slowly and unarmed, within two minutes or my partner will shoot the powder."
A voice echoed from one of the shell flats above: "Prove it!"
"It's for real," the chief powder handler yelled up the ladder. "And she's going to keep the mike keyed open in case anybody thinks of contacting the bridge. Everybody better listen to her and get down here ASAP."
"You heard it," Mac said, nodding once at the chief handler. "Everybody
down here in two minutes, or else." With that, she lowered the radio phone,
keeping it near her ear to listen for any warnings to the bridge. Soon
enough, the first few shell handlers slowly descended the ladder to the
powder flat, followed by their fellow shell handlers and the turret crew.
Not a single weapon was present, but Harm kept the gun pointed at the powder
bags. He passed Mac a knowing look; they were the only ones here who knew
that the gun didn't have a single bullet in it.
Above the Algonquin, the helicopter was starting its final approach to land. As it descended, MacLeod and the XO observed from the aft weatherdeck, holding onto their hats in the wind from the rotors. The air crew on the afterdeck gave hand signals to the chopper, which came down steadily with its landing wheels protruding. The lights in the corners of the landing pad helped Skates very well with landing, and she slowed the descent bit by bit until the helicopter bumped to the deck. It barely fit on the Algonquin's afterdeck, but it had safely landed, and Skates cut the engine while the air crew rushed forward to start securing the chopper to the deck.
MacLeod waited until the rotor was spinning slowly enough to be safe, and he turned around to head down a ladder to the main deck. He and his XO approached the chopper, seeing Skates and Pete getting out of the cockpit. The two pairs approached each other, and when they met, Skates and Pete stopped short and snapped smart salutes.
"Lieutenant Elizabeth Hawkes, U.S. Navy," Skates said, and MacLeod saluted back. Skates turned to Pete to introduce him. "This is Cadet Porter of Air Force ROTC."
"Welcome aboard," MacLeod said, shaking hands with each of them. "My executive officer, Commander Brent." The XO nodded to the two Americans, and Pete, being the cadet, elected to keep his mouth shut and let Skates do the talking unless he was spoken to.
"So what's the story with the Iowa?" MacLeod asked, turning and heading for an entrance to the superstructure.
"Our colleagues should be taking over the turrets by now," Skates said. "Two of them are members of our Judge Advocate General corps, working undercover. The rest just took it on themselves to help stop the Iowa before she attacked Halifax." The foursome reached the aft door to the superstructure, and in they went.
"Her captain must have picked quite the efficient crew," MacLeod presumed. "Last result I expected of a naval engagement was for one battleship to sink a guided missile cruiser and a frigate single handed."
"The Iowa's still just as efficient herself as she was fifty years ago, sir," Skates answered. "Her captain is a hard-core battleship sailor. Combine him with a top-notch crew and a ship he knows like the back of his hand, and you have a problem, if your force is similar to the one the Iowa shot away."
"I don't suppose you have a carrier battle group up your sleeve, Leftenant," MacLeod said drily.
"Can't say as I do, sir."
Pete, marching along behind them, threw the present circumstances to the wind. He just couldn't resist the temptation. When he spoke, he sounded as if his vocal chords had been precisely switched with Bullwinkle's: "Watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat. Nothing up my sleeve."
On the bridge, the radar operator already had a report for MacLeod. "Captain, I've got two contacts about thirty kilometers dead astern."
"Those'll be our frigates," MacLeod said.
"Radio message coming in from the Calgary, Captain," the radio man said. "They say both ships are standing by to fire missiles on the Iowa the minute she opens fire."
"My God," Skates nearly gasped. "A whole barrage of anti-ship missiles will blow the Iowa clear across the Atlantic."
"I hope your friends have secured those turrets, Leftenant," MacLeod
agreed. "I'd hate to see what the Iowa will look like if she fires on our
Commander Sinclair, still waiting for something from Skates, turned around to the electronics area. "What's the story with the Canadian ship?"
"It's still circling ahead of us, Captain, and it's got friends," the radar man said. "I've got two more contacts dead astern of it, coming in at almost thirty knots. Big enough to be Canadian missile frigates, sir."
Sinclair picked up the radio phone, and once more, he got on the channel to the main turrets. "Main guns, stand by to fire," he ordered.
"Sorry, Captain, no can do." It was a man's voice with the slight twinge of a Western accent. Sinclair stopped dead, staring ahead of the ship. He was supposed to have a loyal crew. Also, this voice sounded familiar.
"Who is this?" he demanded.
"Lieutenant Commander Rabb, JAG corps," Harm answered from turret two, where he and his friends had gathered after securing the turrets; Fraser and Del were still down below turret one, keeping an eye on the handlers and turret crew.
"Your turrets are under our control, Commander, and right now you've probably got a group of Canadian warships on your six," Harm continued. "I know how many missiles you used up when you were fighting against your own country. Even these good old sixteen-inch guns will be no match for a hail of anti-ship missiles."
Clenching his teeth, Sinclair slammed the radio phone into its hook.
Harm was absolutely right, and no matter how hard Sinclair tried to deny
it, he knew it. It was over.
By daybreak, the Algonquin, Toronto and Calgary had moved in on either side of the Iowa and were standing by to take aboard the captured gunners and bridge crew. Skates and Pete were able to land the helicopter aboard the Iowa in daylight, and they carried a group of armed security guards from the Algonquin. They landed the helicopter on the afterdeck as Harm and Mac and company watched, and Skates cut the throttle back to idling. She and Pete got out of the chopper and came over to greet Harm and Mac, who looked very pleased to see them.
"Permission to come aboard, Commander?" Skates grinned, saluting.
Harm saluted back, sticking out his hand. "Permission granted, Lieutenant," he said. He shook hands with both her and Pete, then planted both hands on his hips. "Great work, both of you. We couldn't have finished this off without you."
"Thank you, sir," Skates said. "Captain MacLeod extends his thanks on behalf of Canada."
"Well, when you return to the Algonquin, tell him it's all in a JAG officer's day's work," Mac said.
"Speak for yourself," Harm chortled. "He and I have made arrangements with the cruiser captains and the authorities in Halifax. You two will airlift the gunners and bridge crew over to those ships, they'll be taken in to Halifax for extradition. The engineers still don't know what's going on, so you'll bring some security over from the Canadian ships to guard them. I'll be commanding the Iowa till we get to Boston and turn them in."
"I'm glad they didn't have to destroy the Iowa," Skates said. "She's a great ship. It's too bad she had to be used for a mission like this."
"Could have been worse," Harm agreed. "Well, Pete, I can see the AFJROTC Gold Valor Award on your chest already, and your friends'."
"Thank you, sir," Pete grinned appreciatively. "Speaking of which, I'll bet Colonel Charron is having conniptions wondering where the hell we are."
"We took care of that," Mac said. "We've called all our superiors over radio phone, so you're all set with that."
"Thank you, ma'am," Pete said. Harm and Mac nodded their welcomes and drifted off to talk to Fraser and Ray. Skates turned to Pete, drawing a deep breath and smiling.
"Well, Commander Rabb says they couldn't have done it without us," she said. "But I couldn't have done what I came to do without your help, Pete."
"I imagine not, ma'am," Pete replied. "There are some useful things you can learn in the Air Force, believe it or not."
"Like that unbelievable Bullwinkle impression you did earlier?" At this, they both became so busy laughing that Pete had to shake his head because he couldn't verbalize his response.
"No, ma'am, I picked that up from the show itself," he was able to answer finally.
"Well, in any case, thanks." Skates stuck out her hand, and Pete took it and shook it slowly. Then they turned and headed back to the helicopter as the first batch of Sinclair's men was loaded.
Harm and Mac had located Fraser and Ray, and they stood together and watched the helicopter take off and head for the Algonquin, which was cruising on the Iowa's starboard side. As the helicopter ascended, Frank Bodeane, sitting by one of its cargo-bay windows, glowered at Fraser and Ray. The former merely stood, staring impassively back, while the latter smirked and tossed Bodeane a mocking salute. When the helicopter was on its way, Mac leaned over to Fraser. "Think you'd like to assist the extradition?" she asked, able to lower her voice to a comfortable level now that the helicopter was away. "Take an opportunity to go home for a little while?"
"Well, it's a nice thought, but you'll need the extra help in getting the Iowa back to Boston," Fraser answered.
"I called Bud," Harm said. "He says your dog's doing just fine."
"Actually, he's a wolf," Fraser corrected.
Harm's eyebrows lifted. Bud hadn't been exaggerating when he said that Diefenbaker was a wolf, had he? "Oh, I didn't know that," he said.
Fraser, watching the helicopter, cocked an eyebrow of his own. "When they get back, I'll have to ask Skates how she knew I was a police officer," he said. "She gave me the personnel files at Fort Sheridan with no way of knowing who I really was."
"Easy enough," Mac said. "She's from Chicago, and with that Randall Bolt story, your picture is still all over the city."
"That'll do it," Ray said, trying not to get started. He had really gotten to resent the media attention that hung over Fraser like a rain cloud after one of his exploits.
"Anyway," Mac said, "it's been great working with both of you. I hope we find an opportunity like this in the future."
"Yeah," Ray said. "As long as it doesn't involve taking over a battleship single handed, I'm your man."
"How about taking over an aircraft carrier single handed?" Harm grinned devilishly. Ray chortled and waved his hand derisively, while everybody else laughed.
Copyright 1997 by Chris Lark. All rights to Due South reserved by Alliance Communications and CTV. All rights to JAG reserved by Belisarius Productions and CBS. Please do not reproduce this work for any purpose but personal, or transfer to any other Web sites or pages, without author's permission. Please do feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org with anything you'd like to comment upon.