Having showered and eaten, the PO returned to the XO’s cabin. Still relishing the sensation of warmth from the shower, and the feel of clean dry clothing against his skin, he knocked firmly against the door frame of the cabin. On hearing “Enter”, he pulled the blue curtain serving as cabin door aside, and entered.
“Well PO, according to the Chief Coxswain, the man you brought aboard speaks absolutely no english, so it looks like he will have to wait until we are back alongside to have him questioned further.”
“I’m sorry Sir, but the scum I returned with speaks perfectly good english. The CPO may need to question him using slightly different means. I had quite a colourful chat with him earlier today.”
“Very good, I will pass that onto the Chief.” said the XO grimly. “Now, you were say you hid in a cable locker, what happened then?”
“I waited in the locker for what I guessed to be three hours. From there, after climbing out, I slowly lay down behind the hatch coaming, waiting and watching to gain my bearings. Looking aft, I could see the starboard waist was empty of people, and the bridge was high enough, that any lookout’s on the bridge wings, as well as bridge staff, would have had to be looking directly down at the deck to see me. The vessel had darkened ship, and was moving at roughly 17 knots, in about sea state three. Incidentally, it was underway without running lights. Moving aft, I had to make my way around all manner of junk. Most of it looked like it had come from other vessels that had been taken at sea. Token junk. Mostly taken for novelty and keepsake value, rather than anything worth a dollar, or that could be traded.”
“Very well, from the reports we received from the initial boarding party, prior to losing contact with them, combined with satellite imagery, and what local intel was available, can you confirm the vessel was indeed a ‘mother ship’?”
“At that stage Sir, it certainly appeared to be. I say this for the perspective of pre-boarding, and from my limited time on the upper decks prior to captivity.”
“Okay, go on.”
“Once I had made my way past the waist, I slowly took in the aft area. On brief inspection I saw no lookouts, and the flight deck was devoid of fixtures or any form of debris or detritus. The deck markings were well maintained.” Said the Petty Officer, his face ever so slowly changing from unemotional, to a slight frown. “Other than the colour, nothing obvious had changed since last I was aboard.”
“What?” blurted the XO, “you’ve boarded her before‽”
“Aye Sir. In about November of 1997, when she decommissioned at Fleet Base West. I removed a young Able Seaman, Bosun’s Mate I believe. She had fainted on the port side waist, whilst standing too in ceremonials. From what I recall, she knocked out the majority of her front teeth on the guard rail. I also recall seeing her at sea around Indonesia in 1999 or 2000.”
“Good grief! Which ship was it‽”
“Her name alludes me. She had been white, roughly 95 metres, and about 2500 tonne displaced. Give or take Sir.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me! And you didn’t think to mention this prior to us boarding?”
“No Sir, I had not seen the vessel prior to disembarking the ship, and wasn’t to know it was her until we were two or three kilometres off. You had clearly stated we were to keep all radio contact to reply only.”
“Very well, what happened next?”
“As I rounded the hangar, onto the flight deck, the first thing to strike me was the smell coming from inside the hanger.” The PO hesitated, and then looked away, silent.
Realising there was more to the story, the XO quietly filled the silence. “In your own time PO.”
“Sir,’ he began,” I did the well’s in East Timor, removing the bodies of East Timorese that Indonesians had slaughtered, and thrown them in. Most of those I pulled out, generally falling apart, had been there for over a week, in the middle of summer The hangar smelt worse.”
“I am sorry to hear that PO.”
“Not as sorry as I was Sir, I wound up trapped in there. One of the vessels ship’s company came out onto the upper decks behind me. The only place I was able to hide was in the hangar itself, so I scrambled under the roller door. Worse, less than a minute later, the roller door was closed and secured. As I was getting away from the door, I tripped over something on the deck. When I landed on it, it moaned.”
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