In the moonless night, the target floated in the harbor’s dark water, anchored fore and aft. A faint hiss broke the silence as climbing ropes and grappling hooks sailed into the air from Plumett NS50 Silent Launchers. Within moments, a sharp tug secured each hook to a quarterdeck railing on the cruise ship, two each on the port side, the starboard, and from the stern.
The men, dressed in the colors of the night, facial features distorted by brown, black, and green camouflage paint, raced up the lines using ascenders. The whisper of their rubber-soled shoes on the ship’s sides the only hint of their invasion.
With a single click of their radio, each man signaled when he was in position. They readied their TGR2 rifles and waited for the command.
Colonel Trevor Franklin (Ret.) anticipated the go-ahead from Craig Cameron, Bedlam Alpha Team Leader, and senior commander of the mission. He performed a mental review of their intel. Ship in port for routine maintenance. Crew spending time with family and friends. Seven friends, attending a private onboard dinner arranged by the ship’s owner, taken hostage by at least ten terrorists. Threatening to kill them if their demands aren’t met. Maintain silence and minimize casualties.
Craig watched the seconds tick away and nodded to Trevor.
Trevor, leader of the new Bedlam Bravo team, issued the order as he positioned his ATN night vision goggles and slithered through the stern rail. Craig slipped through the stanchions ten feet away.
Calm. Dark. Perfect time for a raid.
Trevor’s eyes swept the decks above. By now the other men should be at their designated search areas on decks one through seven. He located the stairwell leading to the signal deck. From behind, he felt Craig’s hot breath on his neck.
They mounted the steps, listening for the creak of movement, the strike of a match, anything indicating a terrorist. Silence greeted them. As they reached the bridge, Trevor lifted his head to peer inside. A tall man with shaggy brown hair stood in front of a control panel.
Trevor turned to Craig and raised a finger. One occupant. Need more intel.
He reached into his pack, grabbed his Double Trouble stun gun, and worked his way to the door. It gave a light squeak as he pulled it open. The man turned at the sound. Trevor lunged at the hijacker, pressed his weapon against the man’s chest and zapped him.
The target collapsed. The wriggling stopped, Trevor flipped him over and secured his wrists with plastic zip ties.
“Where are the hostages?”
“Go to hell.” The thug turned his head and tried to spit.
Trevor shoved a gag into the man’s mouth and secured his ankles. “Don’t go away, mate.”
He rejoined Craig. “One tango captured. He won’t be giving any trouble.”
“Aye. Good job. Don’t forget to swap your stun gun’s batteries.”
“Thanks.” Charge restored, he returned the gun to his pack and grabbed his radio. He whispered to his team: “One tango down. Continuing search.”
* * * *
Built like a heavyweight wrestler, Gerhard Badenhorst’s bulk belied his ability to move with silent speed. Wall-to-wall carpet muffled his movements. Former Gurkha Sergeant Agam Bahadir Pun, a stealthy shadow, stood behind the huge man, his TGR2 at the ready.
Tasked with investigating decks four through seven, they hurried down the stairs, checking each passageway before continuing.
Once on deck seven, the men peered into the lounge and the well-equipped gymnasium before working their way through areas off-limits to passengers. They cleared possible hiding areas in rapid succession before returning to the staircase.
The acrid smell of antiseptic on deck six greeted Gerhard and Pun as they entered the ship’s medical facility. Gerhard stood guard while Pun slid a fiber optic cable under each door for a peek before moving on.
A sliver of light appeared underneath a door labeled ‘Doctor.’ Gerhard listened as he grasped the knob. Silence. He twisted the handle to the open position and pushed, keeping his body to the side of the doorframe. Pun wormed inside to the right while Gerhard veered left.
A shadow flew past Gerhard’s face. He dropped to the floor, kicked out, and connected with something solid. Someone grunted. As Gerhard scrambled to his feet, a strong punch to his stomach knocked the wind out of him, forcing him back to the floor.
The assailant kicked at Gerhard’s head. Missed.
Gerhard landed a side thrust kick to the nerve point above the man’s right knee, causing it to buckle. He grabbed his attacker in a chokehold, pressing on the carotid arteries until the man became limp.
After binding his hands and feet, Gerhard slapped the man until he regained consciousness.
“No dossing. Where are the hostages?”
“Huh?” The man shook his head.
“Ag, man. Are you dof (stupid)? Where are they?”
The dazed thug raised a shaking arm and pointed to an inner door. Gerhard grabbed the man and propelled him into the wall, knocking him out.
“Lekker droom.” Gerhard turned to Pun. “Why didn’t you help me?”
“You didn’t need any to give stupid man sweet dreams.”
After securing the intruder, they approached a wood-paneled door. Gerhard heard a muffled moan from inside and eased the door open.
A woman, long blonde hair falling over her face, sat bound to a chair with strips of elastic bandages. Gauze held her hands together while a piece of tape covered her mouth. Her eyes widened in fear when the men entered.
Pun scanned the room. “Clear.”
Gerhard raised his eyebrows in concern, pulled out his knife, and sliced the gauze, freeing the woman. “You okay?” He yanked the tape from her mouth.
“Ow! I will be.” She coughed and flexed her arms, rubbing at her chaffed wrists. “Who are you?” She inhaled several sharp breaths and appeared to calm down.
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