BILL JACOBSON STARED into the black night from his position in the dimly lit bridge. Bert Cummins had left the bridge to inspect the ship even though it was running smoothly and there were no reports of traffic in the area. A strange blip on the radar off the starboard bow appeared to be moving on a course to intercept at about 23:30 hours. Bert felt uneasy about something, a kind of sixth sense that had usually given him a warning in the past. He kept his feeling to himself realizing anything can happen out in the black ocean but a Coxswain must appear in control and calm.
Bert was on deck, the warm breeze ruffled his jacket, he listened but the sound of the engines suppressed any sea noises. Maybe the object was a whale, he thought, there are big humpbacks in these waters. Bert returned to the bridge. “Everything OK, Bill?” he asked and received a positive reply. He went to the radar scope and the object was closer now.
“What do you think about the blip?” He asked Bill.
“Probably a whale,” Mike replied. “I’ve seen things like it before. I’ll turn on the lights and do a visual scan if you want.”
“Wait until its five hundred metres away. Looks like a smaller blip separated could be a calf I suppose. Ask Ahmed to go on deck and keep an eye out when you turn on the lights”
“Yes, sir.” The minutes passed slowly as the ship continued on course at fifteen knots. Ahmed reported he was at the stern ramp but could see nothing.
Bert watched the radar as the blips merged toward his position. “Get Mike up here, Bill. I need another eye on this thing.”
Mike was on the bridge in minutes and leaned over the radar screen. “What do you make of it Mike?” Bert asked.
“Looks like a whale but they usually sound frequently. Maybe it’s a dead whale. I’ll call it in, there may have been reports of a dead whale.”
“Yes, call it in and let’s light the place up,” said Bert.
The night blackness was shattered as three brilliant halogen lamps blasted white light around the ship. “See anything?” Bert said as his eyes adjusted.
“There’s something out there just off the starboard bow, Chief,” Bill said. “It looks like a life boat. There may be people in it.”
“I see it. Slow down and approach carefully. Call action stations.”The surprise call to action energized everyone. They knew what to do and went to their stations. Ahmed went to his gun but Bill was still at the helm so he was alone. Delisle Jones and Becky Goss put on their life jackets and went on deck, Joe Toram went to the engines and Chris Black secured the mess and kitchen. Kathy Hamilton came to the bridge to discover her Coxswain securing the ship. She was made aware of the situation and agreed to proceed slowly toward the lifeboat.
Calls from the lifeboat became clear to the crew of the Hammerhead. Delsile and Becky went to the rail to see what was happening. “Look,” Becky said excitedly, “they’re women and children. Where did they come from?”
The Captain and Coxswain were aware of the boat load of women and children calling for help. “What are your orders?” the Coxswain asked the Captain.
“Approach the lifeboat slowly, report to shore, we can’t take a boat load of people on board but we can’t leave them here.”
The Hammerhead was virtually dead in the water and Ahmed called to the people in the boat. Someone spoke English and said they were refugees from Africa. He asked them to repeat because that seemed ridiculous. In the confusion, no one felt the bump against the stern ramp and four black shadows climbed on board. Two rushed toward Delisle and Becky, knives drawn, the women didn’t feel the blade cut their throats. In one movement they were overboard, blood draining into the ocean.
Ahmed heard something and turned in time to see his killer flash a knife into his chest. He collapsed and rolled into the ocean. One attacker went below where Chris and Joe died from the gun held by Fakhir.
Ghalid and Bilal crashed into the bridge guns blazing. Bill Jacobson died seconds before bullets tore into Mike Baker ending his concern about retirement. Kathy was struck by the butt end of the rifle and Bert Cummins suffered a bullet in his stomach both collapsing at the feet of Bilal.
“The ship is ours,” Ghalid declared. “Allahu Akbar.”
“Search the ship. Throw the dead overboard. We keep the living for now. We must leave this place. Asim will drive the boat. Quickly, we must go,” ordered Bilal.
The attack was over in less than one minute. Under new command, the USCGC Hammerhead steered a new course and at full speed roared away from the lifeboat.
The MV Meratus Sejati would be reached in one hour at this speed but after only fifteen minutes a bright light appeared from where the lifeboat had been. A boom followed the light.
“The martyrs have gone to paradise,” Bilal commented. “Masha’ Allah (as God willed), our commander will be pleased.”