Captain's Mason and Taylor and Charlie Broadbent were at the chart table and Scott looking at their faces trying to work out by the expressions if they were happy with his work, nothing. He looked back at the charts checking them again himself and could find nothing wrong. He looked at Mason and noticed a very slight smile. Mason must have realised he had that very slight smile and quickly wiped it off.
"Well at least we won’t run aground. Give me the weather forecast for the next 48 hours." Scott reeled it off in detail and added, "I'm expecting very rough sea conditions in the Bay (Biscay) and that's why I have taken us further out into the Atlantic to avoid the storm, but as we all know it may not happen and I will alter course accordingly." As soon as he said that he cussed himself thinking Mason would think Scott was elevating himself up to their level rather too quickly. He turned to Scott. "Thank you Mr Peterson, but we all fuck up from time to time and of course you have now." Scott's bowels tightened and he had to squeeze his cute bum cheeks hard together. "Personally I would have plotted the course without taking us half way to America first and use very expensive fuel on a forecast that may not turn up. Sir William would most definitely not be impressed with using so much extra fuel for no definite reason either. PERHAPS Mr Peterson it would have been best to plot the course direct and then IF it becomes obvious the storm is going to make an appearance, BINGO! Alter course! How complicated is that?" Mason smiled at Scott and Scott lowered himself back down to his level and learnt a very valuable lesson at the same time. "Anyway, leave it as it is, you never know you may get lucky."
"Yes Captain and thank you." Mason turned his head so Scott would not see him grin, again.
The whole trip would be a very busy time for Scott what with his navigation qualifying and reading the contents of all the boxes his father had dumped on him, although he had to admit because of his new status in the company he actually enjoyed it. "I must be getting old." As he was qualifying he was relieved of watch duty for this trip, or so he thought and therefore had time to read, carry out his daily exercise routine and talk to Andrew, which went very well and the more they talked the closer they were becoming.
That then was his routine all the way to Gibraltar. The storm that was forecast for the Bay of Biscay duly turned up, the worse one of the year so far and Scott was able to keep to the course he had planned before they had left Southampton. "You lucky bugger." Mason said and cussed himself for tapping Scott on the shoulder.
However, his routine was about to change and just after they moored up in Gibraltar the First Officer Jerry O'Brian and the Second Officer David Hammond were called to Captain Taylor's cabin and told they would be flying to Cyprus and meet the O6 there. As an excuse they both had a problem at home and had to fly back and sort them out. "Don't have a problem with it guys, both Sir William and I know you are more than capable, its just that he wants to see how Scott handles it." They had no choice but to accept it, even so they were furious and when Scott found out about it, he too had a lot of sympathy for them. It was not the best thought out plan, but Scott was oblivious to it but that did not stop their anger being directed at him.
"For fucks sake what are they running here, little boys rapid rise to three rings? I bet that shit gets the new O6 as First Officer and we get shoved onto another ship, we may even be split up. Come on Dave fuck them and I want to fuck you this time." They went to Jerry's cabin and did just that. They had been doing it since Dave joined the ship just over a year ago.
"Feel better now Jerry?" They laid together cuddled up.
"Lots, but I'm still pissed off. I like Scott a lot, but this is wrong, fucking wrong, still, like you I would fuck him, I bet he's gay as well, I have never heard about girlfriends. Ah well let’s have a good time in Limassol, there must be a lot of Cypriot's gagging for a couple of Brit guys." They were very partial to mixing and matching and would often go to a sauna and not see one another until it was time to go.
Scott was now acting First Officer and enjoying it immensely even though he was still not aware of how it had come about. They were midway between Malta and Greece and Mason had already made his mind up. He had watched every move Scott made and was more than satisfied. It was not just observing him but listening as he was questioned about his subject and went over the five navigational exercises Scott had handed in and showed them to Bob Taylor.
"What do you think Bob?"
"I don't have to, he is one of the best men I ever had as crew. He does not need his father's influence, he would be as good even if he was not the boss’s son."
"It can’t do him any harm either Bob. So you would pass him?"
"Put it this way. I told Scott I would chuck him overboard if he didn't pass, now I'm saying I will chuck you over if you don’t."
"Lousy choice Bob, thanks, but there won’t be any need to throw either of us over the side."
"Good for you."
"But I want one more crack at him."
Scott was in his cabin on the final leg to Cyprus and had just got out of the shower and now naked emailed Andrew before going back on watch not knowing Captain Mason was making an attempt to mess things up a bit by the time he got to the bridge in an hour’s time. What no one knew was Scott always carried his grandfather’s old pocket compass with him every time he sailed. As usual it was resting on top of a chest of drawers and every now and then he would look at it to check the ships course. After he had finished writing to Andrew he went to the chest to get clean briefs and checked the compass at the same time and stood there for a couple of minutes. "You bugger!"
He went to the bridge and both Captains Taylor and Mason were there standing about looking a bit spare. Scott ignored both of them and the navigation systems and instead picked up a set of binoculars and looked straight ahead at nothing for two minutes. He put them down and looked at Bob Taylor.
"Captain Taylor sir, if we keep to this course we will miss Cyprus by fifty miles, I need to bring us back onto my original course please."
"Carry on Mr Peterson and thank you." Bob Taylor replied.
"You bugger!" Captain Mason said out loud. He put his hand in a pocket and handed Bob Taylor a £5 note.
At last they docked in Limassol and it was all done. Scott carried on working as the ships first officer and then went off watch and was told to wait to be called to Captain Taylor's cabin. He showered and got into a clean uniform, then sent a long email to Andrew.
"...Andrew one of the reasons I was so confident was because of you, knowing I could relax and wind down from the pressure and write to you but mostly when we meet on line, I can’t tell you enough how much that helped. Ok, I still don't know yet, but I do know if I haven't passed I hope Captain Mason can swim!
We are getting closer to when we will meet and really start to get to know one another properly. Lots of people would say we are stupid relating like this and I hope you don't agree with them, I certainly don't. I love you and know there is a great future and I'm crossing everything hoping you feel the same.
I will email the result, it won’t be long now.
Love from Cyprus and me. (lots of kisses)
He knocked on Bob Taylor's door and his father opened it and after handshakes all round and hugging his mother Captain Mason came over with a drink and handed it to Scott. "Congratulations Scott and very well done." It was over and Scott ticked one more box.
William came clean and told Scott why he and Bob sent Jerry O'Brian and David Hammond away and promoted him to acting first officer for the remainder of the trip.
"Neither Bob or I had any doubts about your ability Scott, it just looks good on paper that you were acting first officer and that will be helpful when you actually get a ship as one. You know it won’t be the new O6, but I will be sending you on the O9 to train alongside Tom Bradshaw and you will be with her until the "Hauksson" is ready for sea trials. I would give you the new O6, but Jerry will be offered and David as well, that's only right."
Scott came across Jerry and Dave the next day and got a bit of a cold shoulder. "Congratulations on your ticket Scott, we just wish we had a dad who owned a shipping company, First Officer of the Ocean 6 next stop then?"
"Shut up Jerry, you know only Bob Taylor has been appointed and will skipper her, I assume my dad and Bob will appoint the other officers when they are ready, all I know I it won’t be me. Take a pill and get over it. Oh, and for what it’s worth I would have been pissed off as well and if I had been told I would have tried to stop it. Believe me or not I don't give a shit." He wished he could tell them about their new ship, but it was not his place.
As they sailed down the Red Sea Jerry and Dave were called to a meeting with William and Bob Taylor and came out pleasantly surprised. They had not only been offered the same posts on the new O6, but a generous pay increase as well as some compensation as there were no other openings in a higher position. "Look both of you we do have plans for another ship in about a year from now and will be looking for her Captain and First Officer. No promises of course, but you need to know my son will NOT be applying for First Officer."
Scott was now a bit spare, but took a regular watch. He spent a lot of time with his parents but especially with his father going over the businesses and Scott trying to come to terms with finances and struggling, but by the time they had sailed down the Suez Canal and the Red Sea he was getting the hang of it and felt more confident. He also spent time with his mother and the conversation was mostly about him and Andrew.
"You two still as strong as ever Scott?"
"I know I am and Andrew says he is and I have no reason to think differently. I just wish he wasn't so far away. Still it won’t be long now and you never know, if the "Hauksson" is still going to happen he says he would like to sail with me."
"You know it’s going to happen and if Andrew is serious about you, he will jump at the chance and I have no doubt whatsoever he will be dying to be with you and what a perfect way for both of you to be together. I just hope the rest of the crew will be ok with a gay captain and his boyfriend. Maybe you should get an all gay crew? Now that would be fantastic! By the way you need to come up with a name for her, any ideas?"
"Got one, but all three of us need to talk about it."
In fact Andrew was having problems and the last video call he had had with Scott was 50% acting. After they ended the call Andrew sat on his bed hoping Scott had not noticed he was not really into the call and worried out of his skin about the meeting he had had with Tom, his ex, the day before in the local coffee bar which he went to most days. When he and Tom were together they would both go there and that's where Tom knew he would be. On this day he was parked opposite the bar waiting for Andrew to go in.
"Hi Andrew, you look as good as always. How are you?" Andrew had not seen him come in and got the shock of his life.
"Oh, hi I'm fine, you?" Tom sat down opposite Andrew and smiled at him.
"Missing you and cuss myself every day for fucking us up. When I said sorry about all that stuff, I really meant it Andy and just want to repeat it."
"I have already gotten over it. Why are you here Tom? You know we are finished and it was you who did it and now it was the best thing that happened."
"You found another guy then?"
"That's my business. You had a few guys when we were together so don't ask me about my life and who I may be seeing. Still, for what it’s worth, yes I have met someone but we are taking it slow and see where it goes."
"Does he make you happy like we were?"
"What we had turned out to be a big mistake and you hurt me so badly, but, as I say, I have gotten over it and you."
"I am so sorry Andy, I......I just need a friend right now and I had hoped you would forgive my mistakes and at least hear me out. My mom has been diagnosed with breast cancer and it does not look good. Its hell for all the family and I have no one to lean on. At least let’s be friends, you can’t forget the good times and there were lots of them." Tom was relying on Andrew's wonderful nature and a guy who only saw the good side in people.
"I'm sorry about your mom and hope she gets well soon, give her my best wishes, but..."
"So you will let me phone you and maybe meet up here or anywhere you want. I REALLY do need someone I can lean on, someone I know has a heart. Please Andy I would not have bothered you if mom was not so ill. She and dad are down in Florida and will be there for at least two months for specialist treatment. We will know in about a mouth and find out if she has to have a full mastectomy. She is so ill Andy."
Tom Linderman got back to his car a little happier. He would be phoning Andrew a lot over the next few weeks and he was using his very sick mother to help him get him back with Andrew as just about everyone else had rejected him. He was not used to being dumped, only he did that.
Andrew had no idea how long he had sat there and asking himself if he should have told Scott about TL as he was always called. They were developing their relationship and already he was hiding something from Scott, but only hiding it because he was so scared that Scott would call it all off if he had. He was taken out of his thoughts when his mom called to say dinner was ready. He went down to the dining room and joined the rest of the family. He sat down and continued to worry and not eat much. The TV was on in the lounge and it could only just be heard, nobody was listening anyway and Janice Bushman was about to ask Andrew if he was alright.
"Honey, is there..."
"Here is some Breaking News." Like most people in the US, the Bushman family automatically listened to hear what it was and since 9/11 just about the whole country held their breath at the same time.
"REPORTS ARE COMING IN FROM THE LONDON NEWS AGENCY WHO HAVE JUST ANNOUNCED THAT A BRITISH CARGO SHIP, THE OCEAN SIX, HAS BEEN ATTACKED BY PIRATES IN THE ARABIAN SEA. THE SHIPS CREW WERE ABLE TO BEAT THE ATTACKERS OFF, BUT IT IS REPORTED THAT ONE OF THE CREW MAY HAVE BEEN KILLED AND ALSO ONE SERIOUSLY INJURED. We will keep you informed with the latest news."
In fact it wasn't a crew member, it was Jean who had been killed and William very badly injured and only just alive.
Nobody said a word. Andrew was the first to get up and go to the lounge. He would be there all night glued to the television and his mother would be with him the whole time holding his hand and stroking the back of it with her other one.
"Do you know how many crew there are on Scott's ship Andrew?"
"I think Scott said 30. Mom he may be safe, but I do know if they beat the pirates off, Scott would the first to get involved."
Scott was sat in his parents’ cabin ready to go on watch in half an hour talking to his mum. William had gone down to the engine room to chat to a long standing friend, Matt Wright the Chief Engineer of the O6. Matt had been with the company for 25 years and this was his last trip before retiring and William wanted to spend some time with him. A party had already been arranged for him when they got to Australia and his family would be flown over to be a part of it, which was another reason for William and Jean to be on this last trip to say goodbye to the Ocean Six and Matt.
"Oh sweetheart, I'm sure nothing is wrong. Don't forget Andrew has got a lot on his mind as well as you and maybe he was a little tired and also darling it must be very stressful for both of you not being able to be together. Still, not long to go now and you can talk your heads off for days on end and do other things that I'm sure you have already done!" Jean was never short of saying it as it was even though this time she was 100% wrong and Scott was not about to tell her that nothing had happened between them, she would not believe him anyway.
"I suppose your right, you usually are, it’s just something was different this time. It was as though he had to concentrate on what I was saying and seemed to be thinking about something else. Mum, I'm going to think the worse and if the worse happens I maybe more prepared for it. Bloody hell, being in love really does bring about problems you have no idea about until it happens." Jean looked at her son and wished she could make everything right for him, what mother wouldn't.
Scott had just come on watch and after the handover sat in the Captain's chair and swiveled slowly around 360 degrees with his binoculars, but for much of it nothing could be seen as the sun was dropping towards the horizon and what with that and the glare coming off the almost flat sea, he would be blind. He would get out of the chair and go to the aft windows and try to shade his eyes to get better vision, but knew the distance he could see was very short. The two pirate boats coming at them knew that as well. Six men in each boat and all armed with AK47's and each boat with a loaded RPG.
"Anything on radar?"
"Got ten on Scott, the nearest 5 miles and the rest between 10 and 15 miles. No threat." Famous last words.
The Ocean Six was a 20,000 ton cargo ship that had spent her entire life with William's company sailing from the UK and back to Canada, several west coast ports in the US, Norway, Sweden and Russia. She had never sailed through pirate waters and therefore had no reason to be defended against them, but now in 2005 she would pass through the Arabian Sea into the Indian Ocean on her way to Australia and both of those areas had become very dangerous and several ships had been attacked and taken hostage for ransom.
Before leaving Southampton and in accordance with the insurers minimal demands, the O6 had been fitted with two powerful water hoses on each side of the ship, but had to be manually operated and razor wire attached to areas that could be boarded, and a pirate attack alarm system. The ships hatches leading from inboard to outboard had to be secured during sailing through dangerous areas and a designated hatch would be given as the only exit onto the cargo deck and back into the ship. The ship’s Captain and senior officers were required to undergo training in defence of attack from pirates and expected to feed the training on to their individual ships company and also come up with ideas to make their ship safer.
Bob Taylor had carried out all that had been expected and at the same time asked his crew for any other suggestions of which there were plenty and some really good ones which he adopted.
"Carry extra Ikaros distress flares to fire on the bastards?"
These flares were very powerful and used in the right circumstances would reach a height of 300 feet and therefore, it was assumed, have a good range firing at an attacking boat and guessed at least 100 yards horizontal flight before the thing fell into the sea and fizzed out. The flare itself could do enormous damage to a pirate boat and indeed the pirates themselves as it was impossible to put them out and would burn for three minutes. Flares, pirates and fuel do not mix that well. It would be a lucky shot though and they knew it, but it would at least give the attackers something to think about and hopefully put them off boarding and fuck off.
"Have 10 buckets secured down on each side full of ball bearings, bolts or anything heavy to dump overboard."
The pirates weakest point was when they got to a ships side or stern and could only fire upward and very little chance of hitting anyone and then of course climbing up onto the ship and actually getting on board whereby there would be a time when their hands and head would not be protected and so therefore Bob agreed to have baseball bats at the designated exit/entrance hatch for crew to "arm" themselves if they were to go on deck to confront pirates. But, Bob Taylor knew full well that not many would agree to do that after all why should they? They were merchant men, not naval men. Bob would have to rely on a few who he thought would defend his ship, but he also knew that if they got onto the cargo deck it would only be a matter of time before they smashed their way in and AK 47's versus baseball bats was a bit uneven.
Captain Taylor also had his own contribution towards defending his ship and that was good seamanship as well as knowing what the 06 was capable of and that was her maneuverability and it would allow him to throw the ship from port to starboard and create a massive wave that would prevent a stern boarding and also give the pirates a huge problem boarding from the sides of the ship as well.
But..., with their weapons they could fire on a ship all day long and be safe themselves.
Scott had to go on watch fee ling much better after talking to his mother and as always she had said the right thing that would give him the encouragement that he had come to rely on.
"Nothing is certain in life Scott, but I know you and Andrew have the same love as your father and I do. When you arrived it made Dad's and my life complete and do you know something? You and Andrew will also be blessed as we are."
Scott kissed and cuddled his mother not knowing it would be the last time he ever would.
Scott smiled as he saw his parents strolling along the starboard side of the cargo deck but had to get back to looking aft and trying to see through the setting sun. He was uneasy and only because he could not see that well and only his eyes would tell him that all was clear.
A new radar had been developed that was capable of picking up the smallest of craft at a range of five miles and was being installed on some ships that sailed through pirate waters, but the O6 did not have one. Normal radar could not pick up small boats and two of them were just two minutes away and closing at 50 knots and would pass either side of the ship at about 100 yards and open fire with both AK's and the RPG's. This tactic had worked before and some ships had surrendered after the first pass and crew and ship taken hostage. A number of crew had been killed and many treated with a lot of violence after they had been boarded and only released after thousands of US dollars had been handed over many months later. 2005 was just the start of these pirate attacks and it would get much worse.
Scott had often wondered how he would react in an emergency and since he knew he would be sailing to Australia thought about how he would perform against attack. He was about to find out as he saw the boats that had now come either side of the ship and were already firing at them.
PIRATES! HARD TO PORT, FULL AHEAD! He ran to the front of the bridge and slammed the large red alarm button and the Claxons rang out all over the ship. He went back aft of the bridge and saw a sight that would never leave him as both his mother and father were hit and fell to the deck. He grabbed a rack of 10 flares and literally flew down the gangways to get on deck. He passed Bob Taylor running up. "Pirates and the bastards have shot my parents." As he went out of the hatchway he pulled a baseball bat off its clips and ran towards his mother and father, not even noticing the bullets that were zipping past him.
When he got to them he stood looking down and he could see straight away his mother had gone and by the look of him, his father as well. He looked out to sea and saw the boat had slowed to their speed and still firing, it was then he realised he too could be hit. He crouched low and made for the nearest water hose and turned it on and as soon as it was blasting out he pointed it in the direction of the boat and then laid on the deck and took the first flare out.
He knew it would be guess work and sent the flare off. It missed by a mile, but the next four got much closer, but by now the boat was coming at them and he stood up and turned the hose on them, but they were still out of range. He looked around and saw two crewmen at the hose on the port side and two more firing off flares. He looked back at his boat and got lucky, his fifth flare hit the boat a glancing blow, but still it came at them and Scott realised the hose was not that powerful and the pirates just ignored it.
The boat was now at the side and a ladder was being raised to hook onto the deck. It was now that they were at their most vulnerable. Scott looked over the side and saw enough before they fired up at him. He went to the nearest scrap metal bucket, unlatched it and poured the lot over the side and scored a direct hit. He had no idea that several of them had been hit by scrap iron and one pirate with blood pouring out of a head wound. He grabbed another bucket and that also got another hit. What with that and now the boat filling up with water they abandoned any attempt to get on board and went away followed by several more flares fired by other crew.
Scott ran to the port side and saw Jerry throwing buckets over the side and screaming his head off at the boat. David was firing off flares and got a lucky hit which ended any hope of the pirates getting on board and they went away followed by the water hose belching out. Scott could now get to his parents but was stopped by the Doc. "Scott don't go there, it’s very bad, but your father is still alive and I need to work on him." Scott ignored him and went to them and got to his knees looking at the horrific sight before him.
He had no idea how long he was there but became aware that Bob Taylor was gently pulling him to his feet with Jerry and David not far away wishing they could be of more use. "Jerry take the bridge, come on son there is nothing we can do, let the Doc do his work. There is a Danish helicopter on its way and at least will give your father a fighting chance."
Scott looked back at them, said goodbye and allowed Bob to take him away.
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