Sailors Take Warning (Part 5 of 5)

SAILORS TAKE WARNING

Nautical Fiction by Malcolm Torres ©

PART 5 of 5

STW_5-5_Square

The aircraft carrier Nimitz steams toward the equator where her crew of 5,000 women and men will hold an ancient hazing ritual, but something is wrong aboard the ship.

Bodies have turned up missing from the morgue and several jets have been sabotaged on the flight deck.

Can Corpsman Kate Conrad and deckhand Terrance McDaniels figure out what’s wrong before the ship crosses the Golden Line? Even if they do, will their superior officers listen to them and prevent a disaster at sea?

*     *     *

A new part will be posted weekly in August and September 2016. Check back to read Sailors Take Warning here on the blog, or if you would like a free eBook or paperback of Sailors Take Warning in exchange for an honest review on Amazon, send the author your contact info. Your info will never be shared and you will not be spammed.

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PART V:  THE LANDLUBBERS

 

CHAPTER FIFTY-NINE – Day 14

She sat on a cot welded to the deck in a tiny compartment.

A fluorescent bulb shined behind wire mesh in the ceiling.

Kate shivered, realizing it looked like Jenks’ cell on the Nimitz.  Keys jangled outside.  The door swung open on well-oiled hinges.  In the passageway, a sailor with a club in a hoop on his belt.  Two people in chemical warfare suits crowded in.

Hair chopped at odd angles after radiation exposure, clutching a shiny space-blanket around her naked body, locked in a cell while people in space suites examined her, their faces hidden by the glare of an overhead light reflecting off their domed masks.  Kate felt trapped inside a science-fiction movie.

One of her captors unfolded a now-familiar yellow radiation waste bag, while the other pointed at her and said in a voice that echoed behind the face shield, “Put that blanket in here.”

Kate complied and stood naked as they ran a Geiger counter over her.  Crackling sounds from the handheld device.

“How bad is it?” she asked.

“Not too bad, actually.”

Her little cell pitched forward and back as the ship charged over the sea.

They gave her a robe and led her down the passageway.  With a tube of the same medicated goop she and Terrance used on the raft, Kate showered and scrubbed herself from head to toe twice.  After she rinsed, they gave her a bristle brush to scrub the shower stall.

Back in her cell, they checked her blood pressure.  With a small flashlight, they looked in her mouth, nostrils, ears and made sure her pupils still dilated properly.  They drew blood and took urine and stool samples.

“Where’s Terrance?” she asked.

No answer.

Later, another chemical warfare suit entered and asked her name, rank and serial number.

Kate told him.

“I want a written statement explaining how you came to be floating in a Nimitz liferaft,” the visitor said.

“I jumped overboard,” she said.

“Put it in writing.”  He set a clipboard with a yellow pad and a pen beside her.

She approached it like a school assignment, considered her introductory paragraph and an outline, but then she wrote the words, “We pulled Donna Grogan’s broken body from a puddle of maple syrup at the bottom of an elevator shaft, and several hours later she went missing from the morgue.”  And from there the ink flowed steadily.  She didn’t worry about spelling or grammar or run-on sentences.  She paused here and there, thought about the right way to phrase something but remembered what they agreed to.  Just tell the truth.

When she put the clipboard down, a pit of guilt opened in her stomach.  Then tears flowed and sobs wracked her ribs and shoulders.  She lay on the bunk and pressed her face into the pillow and bawled like a baby.

They gave her pancakes and bacon on a paper plate and a plastic cup of orange juice.

The Hayward shuddered as it raced across the ocean, its sleek narrow keel cutting through the waves, rolling fore and aft much steeper than the Nimitz ever had.  They were in a hurry, she figured, because there were powerful people who were pissed off about the Nimitz blowing up.

She awoke to the sound of a shrill whistle blowing several notes and a man’s voice calling away the anchor detail.

*   *   *

He did push-ups and sit-ups to burn nervous energy and then fell asleep.  When they brought pancakes and bacon, he asked about Kate, but they wouldn’t tell him anything so he ate, exercised again and slept some more.

An hour after they called away the anchor detail, the door banged open and two armed guards stepped in.  They gave him a pair of pants and a shirt.  As he dressed, he asked, “How about shoes?”

“You don’t need ‘em,” one guard said.

They took him through a narrow, low-ceilinged passageway.  Gigantic wrenches in metal brackets on the gray bulkhead.  At the top of a ladder, one of the guards handed him a lifejacket and a crash helmet and waited while he put them on.  They went out a door into brilliant white daylight.  He squinted and felt the nonskid surface of a helipad under his bare feet.  Ships floating at anchor in a crowded harbor surrounded by skyscrapers and steep hills.  His heart raced with excitement as he recognized Victoria Harbor and the Hong Kong skyline.  Sudden fear overcame him as one of the guards pulled his arms behind his back and clamped handcuffs on his wrists.

A small civilian helicopter swooped in and landed.

The guards grabbed handfuls of his lifejacket and shoved him into a seat behind the pilot.  A man in a dark blue suit with a white shirt and a classy red tie sat beside him.  The man glanced down.  Terrance followed his eyes and saw a chrome-plated pistol in the man’s hand.

“You won’t need that,” Terrance said.

“Let’s hope not,” the man replied.

STW_Map Nimitz_Org_Chart

CHAPTER SIXTY – Day 15

A city skyline filled her eyes.  She’d never seen this place before.  Ferries and hydrofoils, jet skis and junk ships with their sails full of wind, all whisking about on a crowded harbor.  Cruise liners and supertankers rolled at anchor in the gray chop.  After months at sea, the sight of piers lined with cargo cranes and the waterfront crammed with gleaming skyscrapers and streets swarming with pedestrians and cars, overwhelmed her.  Kate felt excited and irritated all at once.

They flew over tall buildings and a sprawling industrial area where gigantic metal storage tanks and train tracks gave way to a jungle beat back by suburban tract homes, highways and corporate office buildings surrounded by parking lots and golf courses.  The pilot spoke into a headset, probably Chinese, Kate guessed, and a minute later the helicopter descended to the roof of a three-story brick building surrounded by rolling green lawns, manicured gardens and neatly pruned trees.  A high brick wall encircled the place.  They helped her down from the chopper, and the man in the suit guided her through a doorway and down a flight of stairs.

They took off the handcuffs and let her remove the crash helmet and life vest.  They put her in a carpeted room with a table and chairs.  She felt mesmerized by the wood grain pattern in the tabletop and the plush feeling of padded carpet under her bare feet—things she hadn’t experienced in months.  She walked to the open window and stood there amazed at the sight of leafy trees and fuzzy bushes.  The smell of earth and grass enchanted her senses.  Several birds swooped past, playfully chasing each other.  Insects buzzed deep in the foliage.  A slate path wound through raised beds bursting with flowers.  After months of sensory deprivation and claustrophobia, the scene overwhelmed her.  Her knees wobbled and she stumbled back from the window as a surge, like the ship swaying beneath her, turned her legs to mush.  She bumped against the table and plopped into one of the cushioned chairs.

She closed her eyes and inhaled through her nose, then pursed her lips and exhaled slowly, attempting to calm down.  She couldn’t remember the last time she sat on something so soft.

*   *   *

The man in the suit entered the room.  As he removed his jacket and hung it over the back of the chair, Terrance noticed the empty leather holster.

“I’m Shertzer,” he said as he sat down.  His short, wiry brown hair looked like he went for a trim every week.  An overconfident cockiness oozed from his steely grin and hard dark eyes.

“I’m not dangerous.”  Terrance put his hands on the table, palms up.

“Good to know,” Shertzer quipped.

“Where’s Kate?”

“Tell me your story,” Shertzer said flatly.

“Have you ever served on a warship for an extended deployment at sea?” Terrance asked.

“No.”

“Then it’s gonna be difficult for you to understand.”

“Try me.”

It was easy enough telling Shertzer about the cloaking exercise, describing how Stinger jets were sabotaged and bodies went missing from the morgue.  But when he told about Jenks killing Dutro, Jenks on trial, Jenks escaping the brig, a weird vertigo closed in.  The ceiling in the room seemed to be lowering so slowly he couldn’t actually see it moving, but it sure as hell felt like the whole room was getting smaller every second.  It took all his concentration to tell his story and not bend his neck to avoid the ceiling coming down on top of his head.  He began to question his own sanity.  He wondered how his story could possibly be true.  He casually reached across the table and touched Shertzer’s arm, and was relieved when Shertzer didn’t vanish in a puff of smoke.

“I don’t care if you believe me,” Terrance said.  “Kate warned her commanding officer and so did I, but they wouldn’t listen.”  Terrance stood up and stepped toward the window.  “They threatened us when we tried to tell them something was wrong.”

“Be more specific,” Shertzer said.

Terrance looked outside at the lush garden and breathed deeply through his nose, but his chest felt tight and sweat formed on his brow.  “Things on that ship were totally out of hand,” he said.

“For example?”

“Jenks obviously wasn’t working alone.”  Terrance sounded desperate, as if he didn’t believe his own story.  “Since Kate worked in medical and I worked with Jenks we talked about what we knew.”

“What did you know?”

“It’s a big ship, there was a lot of weird shit going on, like it was invisible and bodies kept disappearing from the morgue, and then Jenks like, gets framed for it, but these other guys, Dutro and Ratcomb, were involved and maybe others.  They were doing something evil, like a black mass.  They might of stole bodies from the morgue and did some kind of voodoo on them, and they came back to life.  Fuck, I don’t know!”  Perspiration shined on Terrance’s forehead and a queasy nausea crept up the back of his throat.  He clutched the edge of the window as if holding onto an amusement park ride.

Christ, I hope I don’t vomit, he thought as he rubbed his eyes.

“What’s the problem?” Shertzer whispered.

“I was at sea for over a hundred days and then when I saw dead guys putting the executive officer on trial I jumped overboard and watched the ship sink under a nuclear blast!” Terrance sighed.  “You think that might stress a guy out?”

“I suppose,” Shertzer allowed.

“Maybe Jenks was a pawn,” Terrance continued a bit calmer.  “I’m telling you, I saw Stanley Comello in the ship’s library, then again on the hanger during a beauty pageant the night we arrived on the equator.  He looked like shit, like Frankenstein, dead and brought back to life.  His eyes were bleeding.  He had a rash.  I’m not kidding.  Comello was dead!  Kate can verify it.  They convicted Jenks of stealing his body from the morgue, and I saw him, I’m telling you, I saw him.”

“A dead man,” Shertzer asked, “walking around the ship?”

“Yes!  And the crazy part is I followed him to an officer’s stateroom where a bunch of pirates, actual fucking pirates, were putting the executive officer, Captain Brandt, on trial because they said he was a wog impersonating a Shellback, worse than that, he was impersonating Davy Jones.”

Relief washed over Terrance, because he was finally able to tell someone what had happened, someone who wasn’t on the ship, but he glanced at Shertzer and saw the disbelief in his eyes.  He dreaded having to tell this outrageous story, because it stank like bullshit and made him look like a psycho.  Doubt punched him in the stomach, but he had no choice but to tell it all to Shertzer, even though he was obviously some kind of spook, a secret agent, probably a former Army Ranger turned CIA.

He took a deep breath and reminded himself that there was no way he and Kate could fabricate a story that would withstand an investigation.  As they’d agreed, he told the truth, as wacky as it sounded.  The truth was the only thing that would hold up under the grilling they were going to get.

Terrance went all in.

“I think when they turned on the cloaking system and we got close to the equator, something happened.”

“Like what?” Shertzer asked with subdued curiosity.

“Like we went into another dimension where dead people came back to life and King Neptune and his minions pirated the ship.  Look, I know it sounds crazy, but that’s what happened.”

“Seriously?” Shertzer asked.

“There are people who can verify it,” Terrance said.

“Who?”

“Three guys who flew off the ship after Jenks’ trial.  One is Chief Crenki, the Stinger maintenance chief until his ulcer popped.  Keef is a heavyset guy with the NCIS, and Shakley is a crash investigator.”

“Tell me about this,” Shertzer said, as he dropped a fat roll of cash on the table between them.  It bounced on thick red rubber bands and rolled off the table.

For an instant, his heart hurt as if Shertzer had poured boiling water on his chest.  Hot tears leaped from his eyes and sobs burst from his throat.  All the Stingers and everybody else he made money from were dead.  He buried his face in his hands as several wrenching sobs shook his entire body.

He wiped tears off his face with his fingers, snorted snot back into his nose, and said, “My dad borrowed money against our farm and couldn’t pay it back.  It stressed him out so bad it gave him a heart attack.  He died and left us with nothing.  My mom and my brother and me moved into a tiny apartment and went on food stamps.  We were so broke my only choice was to join the Navy.  My brother sent me cigarettes and chewing tobacco and I sold them on the ship.”  Terrance wiped the last of his tears off his cheeks with his fingers.  “I swore I’d never be broke again.”

 

CHAPTER SIXTY-ONE – Day 19

A smartphone newscast broke the story that the US Navy had detonated a nuclear weapon off the coast of Borneo.  But pictures of people in chem warfare suits on a beach on the Java Sea and angry quotes from an Indonesian politician didn’t capture viewers.  With no video, no body count and no wreckage, there was no news.

Two days later, the captain of an Australian oil tanker dropped anchor in Perth and went to the local TV station with a grainy video of a mushroom cloud rising into a gray sky and burning a huge hole through the clouds.  He told viewers around the world that he was 75 miles south of the Indonesian coastal town of Bangkala in the Flores Sea during a violent storm when he saw a magnificent flash of light, heard a tremendous explosion, grabbed his phone and recorded the video.  The broadcast cut to his tanker looming over the pier, and then to a close-up of a local geologist holding a crackling Geiger counter as he ran the instrument over the ship’s exterior railings.

*   *   *

Political leaders across Southeast Asia demanded an explanation.

Reporters armed with microphones and cameras got in the faces of Washington politicians and Pentagon officials.

Someone in DC leaked a report on the Nimitz catastrophe.

The media trumpeted:  Storm-Nuke Combo Sink Super Ship; Doomsday Device Kills Thousands; Navy’s Worst Catastrophe Ever; 5,000 Sailors Perish at Sea.

*   *   *

Shertzer already had Kate and Terrance in a mansion on a walled estate in the Virginia hills.  Every day they begged for information about each other, but Shertzer told them nothing, not even that they were in rooms on the opposite ends of the same underground hallway.

The walls in Kate’s cell were impenetrable, a high-tech white compound.  Scraping with her fingernail, a fork and a broken piece of a dinner plate didn’t leave a scratch.  Ten minutes of kicking made her toes sore and brought a guard to her door.  They told her to calm down, or they would drug her again.

But after countless hours of interrogations, she stuck to her story about missing bodies, a devil-worshipping nutcase and a dismantled nuclear missile.

They tried truth serum, a lie detector and aggressive questioning under bright lights.  A buff chick with a sleeve of tattoos on her right arm beat Kate on the back with a rubber baton.  Through it all, she repeated the same story she’d written aboard the Hayward.

*   *   *

Shertzer always wore a fine, dark blue suit, sometimes without the jacket, but always a crisp white shirt, a tie and black shoes with a high gloss shine.

Terrance was doing sit-ups when Shertzer entered, asking, “What’s it going to take to get you to modify your story?”

“Sixteen … it’s the … seventeen, truth … eighteen.”

Shertzer waited.

Terrance hit 20 and slowly stood up.  “I was doing sets of fifty until your goons worked me over.”

Shertzer smirked but remained silent.

“I know you’ve talked to Crenki, Keef and Shakley by now,” Terrance said.  “They told you about Jenks, right?”

Shertzer still pokerfaced.

“You believe us, don’t you?” Terrance said confidently.  “It’s all true about the invisibility shield, missing bodies and Jenks.  But it won’t look good in the news, will it?”

Shertzer didn’t answer.

“I’ll tell you what,” Terrance stepped close to him and whispered, “if you let me and Kate leave the Navy and we can have some kind of normal life, like we go to college and the Navy pays for it, I’ll sign anything you want.”

*   *   *

Without seeing the sun or stars, Kate couldn’t be sure, but she figured it was two days since she saw Shertzer last and now he was back in her cell with that smirk on his face.  “So, all you want is to be with McDaniels?” he asked.

“And we can have some kind of normal life,” Kate stipulated.

“Your options are limited,” Shertzer said.  “One, you spend the rest of your life in a military prison being forced to take your medicine.  Two, we disintegrate you and scatter the ashes.  Or, three, you and Mr. McDaniels forget your story about Davy Jones and the walking dead and you—”

“You gotta let met talk to Terrance before I agree to anything,” she protested.

“Either way, the story you’ve been telling never happened.”

Her expression was noncommittal.

“I’ll prepare a statement for you to memorize and sign, is that clear?”

She considering it for about a second, and said, “Let me see Terrance and then we’ll talk about it.”

 

CHAPTER SIXTY-TWO – Day 20

The president sat behind her desk in the oval office listening to the team of experts she’d assembled to help her sort through this mess.  Her chief of staff, a Navy admiral and Mr. Shertzer, her fixer at the CIA, sat in chairs before her.

“This disaster has been at the top of the news cycle for over three days and all I’ve said to the media is, ‘This serious matter is under investigation.’  And now, gentlemen, I must have an informed and decisive statement,” the president demanded.  “I must handle the media and calm the public.”  The president stood up and dropped the report on her desk.  “If I’m reading this correctly,” she said to the admiral, “the Nimitz may still be out there behind its cloaking system.”

“Ma’am, your assumption is highly unlikely.”  The Admiral paused, thought for a moment and proceeded confidently.  “Since the blast occurred, we have been broadcasting messages from every available source, telling the Nimitz to abort the cloaking mission.  If she were out there, we’d know it.”

“What are you saying, admiral?” the president demanded.

“The Nimitz and her crew are gone, vaporized, and as much as I hate to admit it, the story these kids are telling is as close to the truth as we’ll ever get.”

“Will you put that on Navy letterhead and sign it?”

“Absolutely, ma’am, for you and the joint chiefs’ eyes only,” the admiral replied, at once confident and then uncertain at being boxed in so tightly.

“Very well then.”  The president turned to her chief of staff.  “How should we proceed?”

“Ma’am,” he began, “we’ve conducted focus groups and opinion polls in which we asked subjects to choose from five different scenarios.  We correlated the results and formulated a storyline that earned a seventy-seven percent approval rating.”

“Those are good numbers,” the president said with her particular brand of infectious enthusiasm.

“Based on the data,” the chief of staff continued, “we recommend that you call a press conference.  Your statement is simple and goes as follows.  The disaster aboard the USS Nimitz occurred while an explosive ordinance team conducted a drill with a nuclear weapon.  The Navy’s investigation indicates that a faulty electrical circuit caused the weapon to detonate.”

A shade of skepticism crossed the president’s face.

“Mrs. President, when we formulated this response,” her chief of staff reassured her, “we looked closely at the space shuttle Challenger explosion back in eighty-six.  President Reagan could have ordered the public execution of NASA’s top brass and the public would have cheered him on.”

“He was an amazing man,” the president said.

“If you recall, the shuttle exploded with a schoolteacher on board, and it happened on live television with every kid in America watching.  By attributing the disaster to a technical failure, Reagan ducked and enabled everyone involved to duck with him.  The political lesson learned,” the chief of staff explained, “is the American people know that high tech military operations are dangerous.  They are willing to accept large numbers of dead military personnel.  In fact, at a deep psychological level most people crave this type of disaster—”

“Crave it?” the president asked.

“Yes,” her chief of staff continued.  “Life is boring and monotonous for common citizens, but a big disaster provides them with much needed catharsis.”

The president’s look spoke favorably for this option.

“Two days after the news conference,” the chief of staff continued, “you will take a swipe at the previous administration, because they drastically reduced military spending.  The upswing is that you’ll be able to increase military spending and look strong doing it.”

“Sounds great,” the president said.  “What about the survivors?”

“Mr. Shertzer has something special in mind for them,” the chief of staff replied.

“At a key moment during the press conference,” Shertzer said, “one of the reporters will ask about survivors and your response to this question will unify the nation.  Think of it.  Right now, everyone wants a scapegoat, and we could sacrifice some Navy brass on the altar of public opinion,” Shertzer patted the admiral on the back.  “But you can do so much better than that, Mrs. President.”  Shertzer paused for a moment of dramatic suspense.  “Don’t give the American people a scapegoat when you can give them two national heroes!”

“Will these two survivors play along?” the president asked.

“They’ve already agreed to our plan,” Shertzer assured her.

“Can they go in front of the press?” the president asked.

“Absolutely,” Shertzer said.  “They’re an attractive couple.”

“Is there a love interest?”

“Yes.”  Shertzer smiled.

“Outstanding,” the president exclaimed.

The admiral spoke up.  “Corpsman Kate Conrad is a former California volleyball champ and Airman Terrance McDaniels is the handsome son of a Nebraska corn grower.  They survived the nuclear blast because they were making love inside the Navy’s most advanced, high-tech liferaft.”

“Lovers in a liferaft,” the president said with unabashed enthusiasm.  “People will gobble this up like hot dogs and apple pie!”

“At the press conference you must clarify the difference between a large intercontinental ballistic missile and this weapon,” the admiral explained, “which is a tactical nuclear device.”

“Hold that thought, admiral,” the president cut him off as she stepped to the center of the room, a smile lighting her face.  “This will be one of the defining moments of my presidency.  I’ll galvanize the nation!”

“Yes you can,” Shertzer said.

“We need a massive branding operation.”  The president looked at her chief of staff.

“We’ve got an agency all over it,” he assured her.

She crossed her arms, lowered her head, put her hand on her chin and paced across the oval office, suddenly apprehensive about releasing the survivors to the public.  She considered what might happen if they cracked under the media attention.  What if they go off message?  But, she decided, that didn’t matter because the ‘lovebirds in a liferaft’ spin had enough positive poll potential to compensate for any downside scandal.  The public will fall in love with them and their incredible true story, and if they ever tried to cash in on a confessional talk show or a controversial book, they would sully themselves, not her.

“Polish it,” the president told Shertzer, “make it sensational, downright heroic!  Incredible hardship, lives at risk, and all that horseshit.  Make them memorize it and rehearse it under bright lights.”  She turned to the admiral.  “What have we been feeding the media on our search for survivors?”

“Fly-over footage of battleships crisscrossing open water and troops in chemical warfare suits combing a deserted beach, all with a voiceover, making it look like a massive search is underway,” the admiral replied.  The president squinted.  “There is a massive search underway,” he assured her.  “But that footage is classified.”

“Okay, here’s how I want to handle it,” the president started snapping orders.  “Chief of staff; change tack on the terrorist angle, start mentioning the previous administration’s military cuts and inferior parts used in nuclear weapons.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“In twenty-four hours,” she said, “I want everyone pointing the finger of blame, but don’t leak enough details, I want it so nobody knows who to point their finger at.  We want a frenzy of finger pointing!  Got it?”

The three men chirped a chorus of, “Yes, ma’am,” as they observed the president’s brilliance in action.

“I want the American people to see the government as a nine-headed hydra, and then tomorrow evening I will cut in on every channel, right when people are most irritated.  I will explain the faulty electronics part on the tactical nuclear device.  Admiral, I want specifics on our new high-tech liferaft and how the Navy is continuing to search for survivors.  Two days later we’ll blitz the airwaves with live video of the rescue, and then those lovebirds and I will be all over the news.”

 

CHAPTER SIXTY-THREE – Day 21

A few miles south of Washington DC on Highway 95, a Virginia State Police cruiser sped along at 70 MPH with its siren wailing and lights flashing.  It cut a path through evening traffic for a black Suburban following close on its bumper.  In the back seat, behind tinted windows, Kate and Terrance sat sipping bottled water and watching Fox news on a flip-down screen.

A news anchor recapped the president’s message, which Kate and Terrance had missed.  It was impossible to tell from the anchor’s rhetoric what the president had actually said, but they pieced it together, mostly from reading the text scrolling across the bottom of the screen.  Apparently, the president had spoken from the oval office.  She said the disaster aboard the USS Nimitz occurred while an explosive ordinance team conducted a drill with a nuclear weapon.  The Navy’s investigation indicated that a faulty electrical circuit caused the weapon to detonate, and the ship had sunk in the Java Sea near Indonesia.  Search and rescue teams hadn’t found any survivors, but the search continued.

Outside the Suburban’s dark windows, trees and corporate office parks whizzed past in the fading daylight.

Shertzer reached back from the front passenger seat, clicked shut the miniature TV screen.  He handed them each a packet with TOP-SECRET stamped in red on the cover.

“Time for you to get on message,” he said.

As the vehicle zipped along, they read Shertzer’s fabricated account of their ordeal.

They were aboard the Nimitz, making love inside a high-tech liferaft when a tremendous explosion went off.  They came to in a jumble of survival gear inside the damaged raft.  They survived a violent storm and drifted for days on the open sea.

“We sign this and then what?” Terrance asked.

“We’re heading over to do makeup and shoot video on a green screen,” Shertzer explained.  “You survived a nuclear blast and a week adrift.  I don’t even know what that means!  Weight loss?  Bandages?  We’ll let the PR people do their thing.  Then you’ll meet the president.  It’ll be a media event.”

“Meeting the president is cool,” Kate said, “but do you have any idea how much it costs to go to medical school?”

“We’ll work that out,” Shertzer said.  “The president wants to pin medals on you.”

“I don’t know about being on TV,” Terrance said.

“You’ll be an international sensation,” Shertzer declared, “X-Box is already prototyping your game.”

“I’ll go along with this story,” Terrance said, “but I don’t know about being on TV.”

“Don’t worry,” Shertzer spoke confidently.  “The president’s press handlers are the best in the business.”

“This is all lies,” Kate said, waving the papers at him.

“So is everything out of Washington,” Shertzer said.  “We’ll put you on talk shows and release lots of photos.  There’ll be sound bites, paparazzi, T-shirts—full media saturation with lots of swag and bling and flag waving.”

“People won’t believe this,” Terrance protested.

“Yes they will.”  Shertzer stopped abruptly and scratched his elbow.  “They’ll drink it like sugar water, but they’ll be bored with it after two weeks.  We’re already designing another media event to bump you out of the news cycle.  We’ll report that all the attention is negatively impacting your relationship and that’ll make all but the biggest weirdoes back off.”

“Weirdoes?” Terrance asked.

“Then we’ll put a doctor on the news who’ll say you have to spend a couple weeks in the hospital.”

Kate and Terrance exchanged a concerned glance.

“Hospital?” Kate asked.

“Lingering effects of radiation,” Shertzer explained.

“You’re not locking us up again,” Terrance said.

“No,” Shertzer assured them.  “You don’t even have to go to a hospital, just wear sunglasses and lay low,” he explained.  “Then you two fade into history—national heroes.”

    *     *     *

Thank you for reading SAILORS TAKE WARNING.  If you enjoyed it, please take a moment to write a review on Amazon.

Malcolm Torres

Acknowledgements

Thank you to family, friends and fellow writers who read early revisions of Sailors Take Warning and graciously provided suggestions for improvement:  Tira Plumondore, Joan Rogers, Magdalen Power, James Bernard Frost, Erick Fleck, Edward Morris, Terra Chapek, David Marshall, George Fleck and Amanda Glover.  To all the good people at World Cup Coffee in Portland, Oregon and St. Mark’s Coffee House in Denver, Colorado; thanks for the caffeine.  Last but not least, I owe a special debt of gratitude to all the men and women with whom I served in the US Navy.

Sailors Take Warning by Malcolm Torres

*   *   *

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SAILORS TAKE WARNING

By Malcolm Torres ©

Copyright 2014 by MT Press

All Rights Reserved

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Sailors Take Warning by Malcolm Torres is a work of nautical fiction.  Any resemblance to real people or actual events is purely coincidental. The narrator assumes responsibility for tampering with anything that does not match the reader’s version of reality.

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3 Responses to Sailors Take Warning (Part 5 of 5)

  1. tomjamin says:

    Stunning Sea Story one of the best I’ve ever read.

  2. Jack says:

    Great read thanks Malcolm Torres

  3. Missttyy says:

    Finished reading this horror story and was thoroughly impressed with the characters, plot and action. I learned about life at sea aboard an aircraft carrier, military justice and high tech jet aircraft. I will read more sea stories by this author for sure.

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