Somerset Farm 

                                                                                        by Jamie Haze

 

 
Chapter 70


Kermit the jet was first to arrive with a sound barrier bang at Dagger Key,
where only Big Bird, Evan's 747 was expected. Dagger Cay Marine Academy
tradition demanded that the whole school turn out in force to greet
visitors no matter who they might be. The residents knew whoever climbed
from Kermit or Big Bird had to be important because Kermit was owned by
`The Godfather', aka, Bucky Trenton, and Big Bird belonged to the `Master',
Evan Falconburg.

Little Hughie Cross nearly had a path worn between the windows in the two
sides of the cabin as he ran back and forth from a lounge chair, across the
top of a mounted table to a sofa on the other side, just to see what was
happening and where the most activity was to be found outside. "Holy shit,
I mean holy crap, Squeak, everyone's buck naked and one of the ATVs a big
black guy is drivin', is a Polaris', just like mine," Hughie announced on
the race to the hatch before Tracy could open it. He also pulled his shirt
off as he ran by his mother and father. It was obvious that he planned to
dress down to be one of the boys before he jumped from the plane.

The Cross family had enjoyed their Christmas just before takeoff. Hughie's
major gift was a sparkling full-size customized Polaris utility truck just
like his father's and his brother, Pettie and Scott's. The only major
difference was the special extensions on the brake and accelerator peddles
so Hughie could drive it. Minor safety improvements were race car harnesses
that replaced the seatbelts; a cage replaced the standard roll bar and a
pair of full face helmets that were radio equipped so he and his passenger
would wear them while driving/riding in the new little truck that really
wasn't that little.

The family soon discovered an additional benefit when Hughie and Squeak
drove it from the barn for the test drive. Spot sat in the truck bed
proudly and comfortably. It was clear that there would be no little boys
riding on Spot as long as they were on the ranch.

"Um," Little Pettie began to explain, "That's somethin' I plum forgot
about," he fibbed. He actually was anxious about his mother seeing
him. "You see the whole school and the natives who live here are all
nudists, so you just might see some skin on the beach while we're here." He
didn't bother elaborating by including him and Scott.

Adult couples would all be staying in the elegant beach cottages, the
reason he said beach. He didn't say that they would see skin everywhere
they went on the island, including the former hotel where all the guys in
the Family were staying and where everyone would dine three meals per
day. He thought it best if his parents discovered that on their own.

Naked Hughie and Squeak ran toward the only Polaris that appeared to be
spit shined more than any of the other carts although they were all very
clean and being driven by very well-tanned white boys in a range of
ages. The Polaris was driven by a very big black man and ably assisted by a
boy just about their age. As they got closer, there was no doubt that the
pair was father and son. The man was taller than the other blacks in
attendance who seemed to be looking for luggage or something else they
could do to be of help to the passengers. The big black was Ace, Doug's
majordomo or the Dagger Cay Head Man, and the boy was his young son Anton.

Spot and Squeak had landed here on their trip from Venezuela to America,
but they remained hidden in their ship container because they were
stowaways officially. Spot allowed the boys to leave Kermit first,
unaccompanied, because he didn't wish to be the cause of a stampede of
residents, but he forgot that his twin brother Freckles had been to Dagger
Key before. Squeak, Anton and Hughie introduced themselves to each other
and proceeded to tell their life histories at the same time while Ace just
laughed at their antics. That was until Anton happened to see Spot walking
toward them. Far from causing a resident stampede, Anton was first to run
to the Great Cat and hug him around the neck.

A simple mind touch told Spot that Anton had ridden Freckles and was hoping
for another ride, so without pausing, he loaded Anton to his back and
continued to the utility truck while being welcomed with pats and scratches
by any of the other boys who could reach him. Of course Hughie and Squeak
wanted to ride with Anton and once again, Spot obliged, just before he
jumped up into the truck bed and looked at Ace expectantly. It took about
two seconds before the little boys began laughing at Spot's practical joke;
he was not about to provide rides as long as there was something that he
could ride on or in.

Little Pettie sent his mother and father off to their cottage with their
luggage in the special multi-seat cart; before Scott and Tracy stepped
outside the plane carrying their clothes. While Pettie and Scott were
remembered guests and greeted warmly, Tracy turned out to be the most
popular among the older student drivers at the runway. Of course the guys
in the Family had a rule; they did not mess around with students, there was
no reason to become `involved' outside the Family, however there were no
such self-imposed restrictions on any of the crews involved with aircraft
from the airplanes if their tastes leaned toward gay.

While Big Bird's crew lived onboard mostly, crews from smaller planes such
as Kermit and the helicopter crews could not, so there was ample modular
housing Evan had constructed near the power plant with a nice Gulf water
view but very little to do except enjoy all the amenities, the beach and
make friends among the students and island natives. When naked, Tracy
easily looked young enough to be a student, so he was a very popular guy
and still managed to improve his full body tan while being shaded rather
frequently by a select group of senior students. Tracy was not a cradle
robber although in the heat of the moment in Pettie and Scott's bed with
them, two little boys and Spot he wasn't sure what happened, but he enjoyed
every moment, no matter who did what with whom.

Ace drove the kids; two little guests, his son Anton and Spot, whom all the
islanders still thought was Freckles, straight to the `big house', the
former luxurious hotel. Hughie, Squeak and Spot wanted to go swimming in
the big vacant pool, but Anton declined because he had to get ready to
work. That statement piqued the boy's interest; if he had to work then they
would help him so they all could go swimming together sooner than later.

Spot also wanted to help so he jumped from the truck bed and reloaded the
kids on his back for the short journey through the ground floor rooms to
the flower room. The room really was used for floral cold storage and
arranging flowers when the building was a hotel. It was currently still
used for that purpose as well as a dressing room. Natives who worked in the
`big house' always dressed in fresh hair wreaths, leis, and girdles all
made from flowers while guests were present.

Anton happily began introducing his new friends to the 30 or so other
little kids in the room. The little girls were wearing short sarongs, leis
and a single flower in their hair, while the boys wore flower wreaths, leis
and a fresh girdle around their waists that did nothing to hide their junk
from the girls or the guests. Hughie was accustomed to his mother seeing
him but no other females, certainly no girls his age, so he spent a period
of adjustment with a mostly red body and face while the girls and boys
stared boldly at both exotic Squeak and Hughie.

The black kids stared because the two were guests who were near their
age. That was a first, and both were wearing beautiful green pendants that
seemed to sparkle intermittently just like some other former guest's and
the big friendly Cat. Of secondary interest, was Hughie's reproductive
equipment; he was already larger than some of the kid's older
brothers. Fortunately, they were too shy to comment plus they were more
interested in greeting Spot.

Anton was first to realize that Spot was not Freckles unless Freckles had
grown a distinctive spot on his nose, which seemed unlikely. Spot was happy
to explain that he could never be mistaken for his twin brother because he
was far bigger, stronger, faster and much more intelligent than
Freckles. Spot was able to ignore the mental spears of outrage and dire
warnings from Freckles who was still 1,000 miles away and 35,000 feet
higher than Spot at that moment, but coming on fast and faster after
Freckles goosed Big Bird's engines without warning Evan's excitable cockpit
crew. When Squeak laughed at the mental byplay and showed Hughie some Great
Cat rough and tumble videos that frequently involved Squeak, humans and
other Cat warriors, he laughed as well and actually volunteered to be
involved in the pending harmless battle.

A fast phone call from the front doormen announced that the guests had
arrived, which brought order to the room and a wail from Spot to announce
that he wasn't ready; he needed a lei and a wreath too if he was to be one
of the `gang' of servers. The florists giggled and tied three leis together
which Squeak had to place around Spot's neck because the florists were not
about to get that close. Spot's wreath had to be hooked over his ears to
keep it in place and it slipped down over his eyes if he moved, so the
wreath had to go.

The kids filed through the bar to collect their silver trays and the tall
frosty drinks they would serve to the guests waiting in the lounge. The bar
reminded Spot to summon his travel bowls just before he summoned Tracy to
fill one with a proper Great Cat drink. Tracy arrived with the returning
kids with their untouched drinks still on the trays.

The doorman called when he saw Pettie, Scott and Tracy coming; definitely a
false alarm. Squeak's drink was almost half gone already and Hughie cheeks
were collapsed from trying to suck the level of his drink down before Tracy
could take it and dump it into one of Spot's bowls to join the other kid's
drinks before any of them could get snockered.

Tracy saw that there was ample Vodka, but he didn't know if there was any
fruit or red wine for the Great Cat's `cocktails', and when he asked a
bartender, that man opened a refrigerator that was absolutely packed with
fruit, including the all-important pineapples, on the way to the old
hotel's climate controlled wine room. In addition to full cases of wine
stacked to the ceiling, there were five cases of maraschino cherries in
gallon jars. Doug was still a nervous host and had left nothing to chance.

The idle troop of mini-servers had nothing to do, so they began playing tag
and hide-and-go-seek utilizing the lounge furnishings, planters and the
bar. They were everywhere until Tracy began to make Spot his first drink
and they decided to help while they watched the haphazard process. They
worked in pairs to carry the full wooden wine boxes out of storage and Spot
amused them be making the lids disappear into thin air. Then Squeak and
Hughie showed them how the bottles needed to be set upright so Spot could
remove the corks. Uncorking quickly became a marksmanship lesson using
Pettie and Scott as targets while they were sitting in the lounge separated
by a wall and closed doors. This while Spot seemed to be engrossed in his
drink preparation by licking his lips in eager anticipation as he watched
Tracy closely to be sure that there were enough cherries and pineapple
wedges, the best part of his drink.

The kids had to set up a chain from the bar out along the terrace and into
the lounge, the same route Spot used to fire the corks at the unsuspecting
(at first) targets to report on Spot's accuracy. Pettie and Scott burst
through the door suddenly. Far from being upset by being used as targets,
both were laughing as they sat their empty glasses on the bar and suggested
a refill.

Hughie saw at once that his older brother was already more than half drunk
from drinking his first drink too fast, so to divert him from drinking
another, Hughie sneaked up and goosed Pettie, then shouted that they were
playing tag and Pettie was `IT', over his shoulder, on his way out to and
into the pool. That was exactly the excuse Anton and all the other kids
needed to go swimming as well.

Only the girls had the presence of mind to first remove their flowers and
sarongs before they joined the little boys along the wall on the far side
of the pool. Pettie didn't give chase until the girls joined the boys, and
then he kept circling the big pool trying to get as close to Hughie as
possible before he dove. With his attention fixed on the kids in the pool,
he was unaware that he was being expertly stalked by a Great Cat. He
discovered his error while he was flying into the center of the pool and
saw Scott and Tracy quickly flying in to join him just before Spot joined
everyone by executing a spectacular belly flop that all but blanketed the
three big guys before they could get out of the way.





Victoria was all a dither as she began to pack for the trip. She didn't
know what to pack. She was unaware that she was unlikely to meet Ali's
three wives and certainly none of his concubines, female or male. Of
special concern was how to transport Lucy House Cat and her five very
rambunctious kittens, who with their eyes open and far more intelligent
than any normal kittens seemed to be everywhere as they explored their new
world, much like a swarm or perhaps a playful plague, but at least they
were beginning to understand human speech while Lucy, their mother, scowled
at everyone in typical house cat fashion.

Victoria consulted with the Louis Vuitton luggage shop in New York City and
with prices no object; they customized their largest traditional travel
case that was one step below a small steamer trunk.

The result was a house cat family mobile home complete with a self-cleaning
`comfort station' in one corner and water and food area in another that
could be replenished from a trapdoor on top of the case. Ingress and egress
was via portholes built into each side. Freckles was not impressed with the
trademark gold painted `LV' pattern on the new travel case, so he had Tracy
and Peter carry it out to the garage while Victoria was out shopping. The
result looked gold plated, but was the same light weight solid gold alloy
used to make the dinnerware complete with the same `LV' pattern etched
everywhere so hopefully Victoria wouldn't notice the slight Great Cat
inspired alterations while the original remained hidden in the garage.

About an hour after Kermit arrived, everyone on the inhabited islands
ducked when Big Bird made his traditional tight, low altitude circle to
announce to one and all that he was about to land. Just a bit earlier, Ace,
Dagger Key's Boss Man had stopped in to be sure that all was in readiness
for Master Doug and his guests. By then of course all the kids were just
about worn out from playing with Spot and the older guys. Miss Emma, the
cook had served drinks and snacks to the kids and Anton had whistled in the
entire Dagger Key exotic bird population so they could share the bounty as
well as their own imported fruits, vegetables and nuts.

Ace began to panic; the terrace was a mess of bird shit and food debris,
all the kid's flowers were either wilted or in the bottom of the pool and
the platoon of mini-servers were nearly exhausted from having so much
unexpected fun. Pettie sought to calm Ace by saying that the entire party,
especially Doug would go directly from the plane straight to the dock where
every available tender should be manned and ready to take everyone out to
the new catamaran sailing yacht.

Mind-speakers everywhere heard Buck cussing out Evan because he
specifically asked that Big Bird NOT circle the lagoon so Doug wouldn't see
his Christmas gift from the air. Evan agreed and instructed the pilots but
no one told Freckles about the change in plans, so Doug saw the big
catamaran from the air, not from the dock as Buck planned. As a result,
Pettie said, the welcoming cocktail party would be delayed.

Ace used a phone to issue a spate of unintelligible orders to anyone who
wasn't born on Dagger or Black's Cays. Within minutes most of the old
hotel's considerable staff was bustling about. Pettie surmised that rather
than delaying the party, it was going to be moved to the new sailing
yacht. He was proved correct when a squadron of young servers began hauling
full cases of booze and wine out the doors, including the Great Cat's
travel bowls. One of those bowls, very daringly, out from under Spot's
nose, along with all the necessary fruit and bags of ice cubes.

Spot determined that the easiest way not to miss the party was to follow
his bowls. When the mini-servers were about to follow, Ace sent them back
to the flower room so they would be ready to serve Master Doug when he and
his guests returned to the house after the party. Of course when Ace looked
for Anton to explain that there wouldn't be room on the yacht; he was
nowhere to be found nor was his new friends, Squeak and Hughie.

The three little boys were already riding Spot out to the dock, with
Pettie, Scott and Tracy following on foot. Anton proudly explained that his
regular job when not in school was piloting his father's boat, so the very
first guests to reach Dagger Cay, would also be the first to board the new
yacht if they accompanied him. Along the way, they met Big Pettie and Sara
strolling up to the big house for the party. Little Pettie invited them to
ride with them out to the new party location. It wasn't until they were
underway that it dawned on Little Pettie that his mother was seeing him for
the first time in many years without wearing so much as a racing suit.

Sara studied her very grown up son from the corner of her eye, then
pointedly looked down at Big Pettie's board shorts. "He's a `chip off the
old block' isn't he?" She whispered to her proud husband.

Big Pettie giggled, nodded, then commented, "Who you callin' old?"

Anton had been aboard the yacht before because Ace took the liberty of
stocking it so it was ready for instant departure, since he correctly
assumed that Doug would immediately take his own shakedown cruise, quite
possibly of some duration. The twin hulls had 10 feet of freeboard (the
distance from the waterline to the deck), so both hulls were equipped with
hydraulically operated landings and steps from just above the water line,
up to the main deck. Anton dropped his passengers off and returned to the
dock. It wouldn't be very nice to strand his father on shore plus he was
hoping for the honor of transporting Doug to his new yacht and perhaps
stowaway on the virgin test run if he could be forgotten until the yacht
was through the pinchers.

Josh, the marine architect who designed and built the monster yacht was on
board to show Doug it's workings since it was designed to be sailed by just
one person, Doug, although it was doubtful that he would ever sail alone,
but it was one of the requirements he dreamed of among many others and told
Buck the changes would be built into his cat as soon as Josh finished the
one he was building for someone else. Buck sighed and called Josh to order
the modifications since the cat under construction was really Buck's
Christmas gift to Doug. Anton and Ace made two more hurried trips to
transport adult servers and bartenders along with all party supplies so
when Doug and the main party arrived, they could be served properly using
the very spacious stern and fore decks and the lounge that connected the
two hulls.

After Doug saw the catamaran from the air, and Buck admitted that it was
his Christmas gift, Doug did something that he'd never done before. He
administered a toe curling, mind bending kiss in the middle of Big Bird's
main lounge. The startling point was that he did it in front of all the
parents present; this when the two boys had previously been reluctant to
hold hands in public or even in the back of a car. The kiss was a
spontaneous declaration; they were gay and partners for life, almost. After
the kiss, Doug rummaged in the messenger bag he was carrying that was
mostly full of cash.

He brought out a legal document, opened it to the signature page and
ordered Buck to sign his name without reading anything contained in the
document. Buck didn't know what he was signing but he saw Doug's father,
Bill's signature above Doug's and his father's above the blank line he was
to sign.

"Congratulations," Doug said, "My Christmas gift to you is a half interest
in the Dagger Cay archipelago. Now we're really partners!" Of course this
astounding gift was ample reason for another public kiss and there was no
further hesitation in holding hands.

Doug and Buck were first off Big Bird so they were first to reach the dock
and jump aboard Ace's boat while toting the new cat carrier between
them. They had just pulled away from the dock when Freckles joined them by
a 20 foot leap. The boat was still rocking violently when the Great Cat
took up his station sitting on the bow and the boat's throttles moved to
full power without Anton's help.

"Promise me there will be no rough and tumbles between you and Spot until
we get back ashore," Doug begged Freckles.

Freckles agreed without hesitation and when he reached the main deck, the
twin Great Cats were content to greet each other with a complicated ritual
grooming before they each took up their usual bow positions on the twin
hulls. The humans already on board noticed that the Cat's tails were
unusually active while they waited for someone to make their drinks.

"Alright already," Pettie shouted, "We'll make your drinks if you open the
wine without shooting the corks at us," he bargained. It was obvious that
there had been a mind-speak `hint'.

Josh met Doug and Buck on the landing and immediately guided them up to the
fly bridge that spanned the distance between the hulls over the salon roof
to begin explaining the identical port and starboard control stations. No
one thought about the Cats listening to Josh's lecture. After Pettie and
Scott finished making the drinks, the Cats returned to the expansive stern
main deck to begin drinking while the rest of the party boarded.

The boys placed the cat carrier on the fly bridge where Lucy House Cat and
her kittens `leaked' out the portholes to explore their new surroundings.

After an hour and everyone was served a first round of drinks, Doug blew
the yacht's horn as a signal to the servers and bartenders to board the
tenders to return to shore, he couldn't wait any longer to take a test run
outside the pinchers. When Ace was about to cast off with a load of
workers, he couldn't find Anton, his driver. He just shook his head. He
imagined that the youngest guests; Squeak and Hughie, had conspired to hide
their new friend so they could enjoy the first shakedown cruise
together. If Doug objected when he discovered an extra passenger, Ace would
forbid Anton from driving their boat for an extended period, a painful
penalty to any boy who lived in the islands with access to a boat.

Doug was about to start the engines when they started before he could push
the buttons. He looked back at the Great Cats who were sitting nearby and
innocently studying the cloud formations. "Look guys, I appreciate your
help, but you won't always be on board so I have to learn how to run this
boat myself. Of course while you two are aboard, if you see I'm about to
make a mistake, I'd really like to know," he added.

Spot eyed the 100 page operation manual that Josh wrote for Doug that
hopefully included all contingencies. "So you just lack knowledge?"
Freckles asked.

Doug patted the manual, "Yup, until I get a chance to read this book."

"No problem," Spot said and blinked. Doug grabbed his head with both hands
in response to the blink.

"How did you do that? I don't remember you doing that before."

"What did they do?" Buck asked.

"They just downloaded this whole manual into my brain!"

"We are very good Great Cats," Freckles assured, "Now is not the time for
joke playing among very good friends."

"I WON THE RACE! I AM THE BEST WARRIOR!" Kad or Sidi screamed from the
mainmast spreaders nearest the top of the mast, 80 feet above the deck. Of
course those in the party who didn't know or hadn't seen Kad and Sidi's
antics were about to declare an emergency to get the two little warriors
down. The only problem was; there was no one to call.

Doug just called out, "You better hold on tight because if you fall, we
aren't stopping to pick up your goofy asses and a shark might think of you
as a perfect size snack!" It was obvious that the warriors hadn't thought
about sharks even while they discussed diving from that height. They jumped
suddenly to the opposing masthead shrouds and appeared to freefall down to
the decks.

The next step in getting underway was releasing the claw that fastened the
boat to its mooring. The claw was designed in part by Doug himself and
refined by Josh. Josh pointed out that he'd shaped the actual claw or
pincer to look like a Maine lobster claw complete with painted teeth. When
withdrawn, the telescoping boom still stuck out beyond the bows a good 10
feet and looked very much like a bow sprit.

"What do you think of the name Wind Claw? Of course we'll probably just
call him Claw," Doug asked Buck as he engaged the engines and the jets
began to move the boat forward. The jet drives were another change that
Doug wanted when Josh got around to building `his' boat without knowing
that `his' boat was already under construction. When he turned the wheel to
aim at the pinchers, the engines automatically aided by one almost stopping
while the other increased speed until the turn was completed when Doug spun
the wheel back.

Once Claw the yacht was through the pinches and heading for the cut in the
reef, the three little boys thought it was safe for Anton to come out of
hiding. Doug saw Anton straight away since he was the only black boy
onboard, "Hey Anton you're just the man I want to see. I've got a special
job for you after we leave."

Anton was shaking but he was interested in discovering a new job. There was
never ample work for the residents of Black's Cay and the new job might
have something to do with the beautiful new catamaran.

Anton was correct. Doug held the wheel with one hand while he deployed the
roller reefed sails for the first time, then when the sails filled; he shut
down the engines before he explained in near total silence. He waved at the
banks of switches and dials that all had pilot lights, red, amber and
green. At the moment all the lights glowed green except for those that
worked the sails. He asked Anton to come out to the mooring once a day to
be sure that all the lights were green. If one was amber or red while Claw
was moored, Anton was to call Josh in Ft. Lauderdale immediately using his
brand new, personal cellphone he would give to Anton.

Of course Anton was happy to have such an important job, but regretted that
he didn't know anyone else to call until Squeak and Hughie agreed that they
would get cellphones too. It would be fun to talk with Anton
internationally, the `old fashion way', without resorting to use of their
communicators and mind-speak. Squeak and Hughie had been sitting Indian
fashion near the cat carrier playing a game of hide and peek with the
kittens who were doing the peeking out from the portholes until Douggie
House Cat made eye contact with Hughie.

"Douggie wants to sit on my shoulder," Hughie told Squeak.

"How do you know his name is Douggie?"

Hughie shrugged, "I think he told me. He thinks a lot like a Great Cat and
I can understand him." To keep from falling when Hughie shrugged, Douggie
extended his little claws that didn't feel so little sinking in Hughie's
shoulder. "OUCH! God damn it that hurts!" He screamed.

Anton didn't laugh until he was below in a stateroom to fetch a facecloth
for Hughie's scratched shoulder and by the time he returned, Spot had
licked the wounds and they were gone, while Hughie cuddled the kitten and
apologized for cursing -- to the kitten, not Big Pettie who was shaking his
finger in his son's face. Anton placed the cloth on Hughie's bare
shoulder. Once replaced, Douggie curled up and closed his eyes.

"Is it safe to say that we just acquired a new cat at the ranch?" Pettie
asked more academically than seriously. A nod from Hughie and a contented
sigh from Douggie sealed that agreement.

Doug surprised everyone, "Ready about!" He shouted and spun the wheel. He
held it there until Claw was on a reciprocal course, headed back toward
Dagger Cay. Doug looked somber; his joy in sailing seemed to have
evaporated.

"Is something wrong with it?" Buck asked hesitantly, like a puppy who was
about to be beaten.

Doug pulled Buck in closer for another lighter kiss. "Nope, Claw is
perfect. Thank you, thank you again, but I just can't get my head around us
having fun with this magnificent toy until that tanker crew is free. They
should be our first priority. Then after that's over with, we'll, that
would be just you and I," with a roll of his eyes he added, "Noah and
David, will skip school for a week. We'll come back down here and sail our
brains out," he proposed with a wag of his eyebrows.

"I don't believe I supplied you with a replacement lover," Buck mock
pouted.

"Come back and see me when you've grown a 100 foot mast," Doug retorted
with a laugh, as he stepped out of Buck's reach to avoid an elbow or kidney
punch.

The island residents were about to disperse when they saw Claw re-entering
the lagoon. Ace rolled his eyes, but Master Doug was `de' boss man. He sent
the house staff scurrying and the armada of small boats back out to Claw's
mooring. The party would continue back inside the big house.

There were additional introductions begun at the dock. Tommy was there to
introduce his two dads, Dieter and Billie, and Evan proudly introduced his
mother, Jessica or Jessie, and her boyfriend, Chuck the math teacher, while
Pettie and Sara Cross continued to meet all the other adults and Toby and
Terry's guardian Patrick, all members of the extended Family whether they
were aware that there was a larger international Family or not.

Doug and Buck stood at the front doors dutifully and proudly welcoming all
`their' guests to `their' home for the first time and when everyone was
still looking around the elegant lounge, Doug signaled to release the
mini-servers with their silver trays and tall frosty drinks to resume the
Christmas party.

Strangely, the little servers ignored the guests and almost raced toward
Doug; they all wanted to be first to serve Master Doug, their
benefactor. Doug had forgotten that he'd given out bonuses to every man,
woman and child on Black's Cay and each kid and their parents were
determined to thank him with extraordinary service. Doug bent to whisper
frantic orders to Hibiscus, one of the little girls; the little girl who
had served the old Master, Anton himself. That honor gave her the status of
being the mini-server's boss.

A word or three from her sent her friends back to Master Doug's guests,
women first, Doug hissed with an embarrassed grin at the guests. Of course
there were more guests than servers so a second trip was necessary while
Doug and Buck sent mind-speak warnings to the guys not to go into the bar
or accept a drink from older servers until everyone was served a ritual
first drink.

After toasts, second drinks, finger foods and Cat tail foods were served
and everyone got comfortable and conversations around the room got well
underway, Doug asked Medi, "Did you send Oasis off to your father as a
Christmas gift?"

Medi stared daggers at Josh the boat builder before he answered, no, the
100 foot yacht was still in dry-dock. He considered American workers to be
workers in name only. Josh made a grab for Medi but was intercepted by his
guards, Sam and Jack. "I told you in the beginning that no one can do what
you wanted done to that boat in such a short time," Josh argued. He
announced what the little asshole Prince expected to be accomplished in a
few short days.

Medi wanted Oasis gutted down to the hull and decks. He wanted the engines
replaced that had to be more powerful to properly serve the new jet drive
turbines, none of which were already manufactured and stored in some
warehouse just waiting to be delivered and installed. Of course there were
entirely new interior spaces to be crafted, new control stations and
electronics including for the fly bridge that did not exist previously.

"That's too bad," Doug injected to end the growing argument. "I was
thinking that we might have used Oasis as bait to lure the pirates out of
their dens."

"How would we do that?" Bucky asked at once, both aloud and via open
mind-speak, his way of reminding other mind-speakers that he and Victoria
now possessed the same ability, thanks to Freckles' magic tongue.

"We know from Snoopy that there's more than one group of pirates spread out
along the coast, like they maintain individual territories. I was thinking
that a beautiful yacht that developed engine trouble, say 20 miles off the
coast would be very tempting. We could have sent out a localized distress
signal. We'd welcome the bad guys to board like heroes to be greeted with
more firepower than the Somalian army possesses." Everyone was nodding and
grinning their approval. Doug continued with a glance at the Cats with
their heads deep in their drink bowls. "I thought maybe Spot or Freckles
could question the bad guys..."

"WE two Great Cats will ask the questions together," the twins agreed
without lifting their heads from their drinks.

"We will simply borrow one of father's other yachts," Medi boldly suggested
even while his father the Emir was rethinking the succession, or at least
that was what Medi believed.

"Just a damn minute," Evan sputtered, "What's wrong with Sea Song acting
like a small cruise ship in trouble; a boat load of wealthy passengers
would be far more tempting. If we use Sea Song everyone can go along and
we'll have more firepower onboard than the whole Somalian military, and the
real nasties that occupy most of the country."

"You forgot something," Buck jabbed Evan, "you don't own Sea Song. What if
Gregor or Meesha don't want to risk THEIR yacht?"

Evan giggled after a pregnant pause while he mind-spoke Sea Song's
owners. Edvard turned on the big screen in the lounge and sat down in front
of the keyboard with his fingers flying. Suddenly Gregor, Meesha and
another young man seemed to be looking from the screen into the Dagger Cay
lounge. The camera's view of Meesha and Gregor and their new Arab friend
showed the greatly enlarged bow facing windows across Evan's lounge. As
usual, Sea Song's owners were dressed for hot sunny weather; that is, they
weren't wearing anything at all.

The Dagger Cay audience assumed that the young man was Arab because of his
body complexion; it matched Huss and Medi's. The stranger was slightly
better dressed. He was wearing a pair of ratty short shorts, wraparound
sunglasses and a coarsely woven palm frond hat with a shirt thrown over one
shoulder. His identity was revealed when he realized he could see someone
he knew standing behind Edvard. "I say there Bucky, such an unexpected
pleasure to see you!" Ali seemed delighted to be on one end of a
teleconference.

Just before the screen lit up, Medi had attempted to refill his drink by
dipping his empty glass in Freckles' bowl. Of course that was a no-no. At
the moment that Ali identified himself, Freckles and Spot were
administering a bit of rough justice. Freckles had his tail wrapped around
Medi's ankles while Spot held him up by his neck and the Cats were gently
pulling the drink thief in opposite directions. Freckles explained that
Medi would shortly be at least one inch taller after the first treatment as
he finished off his drink and Tracy swooped in with his towel.

Ali noticed his number one son, Medi, when the Cats switched him from
hanging by his ankles vertically to being stretched out horizontally, as if
he was racked. "MOHAMED," Ali shouted after meeting and greeting everyone
long distance. "Would you stop tormenting those beautiful Cats this
instant? Hussein," Ali called to his half-brother Huss, "Take your bloody
nephew in hand and beat some sense into him," he ordered.

"Huh?" Huss asked the TV.

"ME?" Medi managed to choke out, "These bloody Cats are molesting ME," he
protested. The Cats released Medi since they'd been caught abusing him but
Medi's best buddy Sean was laughing too hard and he was way too close to
Spot's tail, so Sean replaced Medi on the improvised Cat rack even though
Sean's parents were in the room watching. If Sean thought he would get help
from that quarter, he was sorely disappointed because they were laughing
too hard.

The Cat brothers didn't realize what they'd started by mauling Medi; all
the younger kids wanted equal time if being stretched made them taller more
rapidly than simply growing naturally. Hughie and Squeak vied with each
other to be first in line, while Hayden Banks and Justin Winters were right
behind them calling for the Cats to hurry the process on their current
`patient'.

The fun between the Cat's and kids ended suddenly when Tracy arrived with a
platter of Cat tail snacks. Obviously the Cats couldn't eat and use their
tails to stretch the boys; the food won while they promised the gullible
kids stretching treatments at a later time, perhaps on the long flight to
Bachal to keep them occupied.

"You are just in time," Edvard told Gregor, Meesha and Ali, "We were about
to watch the ransom transfer. That is if a Great Cat could tear himself
away from his snack long enough to merge Sea Song's monitors with ours. Oh,
that was a hint," he added.

"You are a very rude Master of Machines," Freckles said in Edvard's right
ear with tickling whiskers a split second after the `hint'.

"We think you have been spending too much time coupling with Tara Peter,"
Spot suggested in Edvard's left ear while he seemed intent on using his
tail tip to drill through Edvard's head.

Ali questioned how they could watch the ransom when it was to take place 30
miles off the coast of Somalia, although he couldn't help smile at Bucky
since he'd been responsible for assembling the currency based on Bucky's
unique instructions; he'd even cleaned out Bachal's vaults and was glad for
the opportunity. No one answered Ali, Gregor just pointed to the new wall
to wall and console to ceiling screen behind them after Freckles blinked.

Snoopy looked down on a barge and an oceangoing tugboat that was pulling it
toward a pair of long narrow roughly crafted wooden fishing boats common to
the region. While the fishing boats were almost awash with black pajama
clad assumed pirates that were all armed with AK-47s that were pointed at
the tug and the canvass shrouded barge's cargo that could have been hiding
heavily armed soldiers intent on doing them harm. The pirates had no idea
what 20 million dollars looked like.

JC, who was most familiar with what 20 million in paper currency looked
like in $100 bills, was the first to begin laughing because the massive
block that the pirates exposed with the canvass removed was 100 times
larger than it would be if it was all $100 bills. The other guys who had
seen JC's multi-billion dollar hoard followed JC when they realized that
the currency denominations were a long way from being Ben Franklin's, they
would be far smaller, perhaps by as much as $95 or $99 smaller.

"What did you do?" Buck asked his father through his laughter.

Bucky took on a cherubic look. "Well, they obviously wanted cash, but they
didn't mention the size of the bills; they probably assumed they'd get
$100s, but they were wrong."

Ali joined the conversation, "Bucky asked about the difficulty of paying
the ransom in American one dollar bills from local banks; he didn't realize
that our banks have those in quantity. It seems tourists bring them and
spend them but don't wish to take them when they exchange local currencies
such as Euros just before leaving us for their homes, so...," he didn't
need to finish his explanation; one dollar bills just piled up until there
was millions and millions to exchange.

The pirate's on their two boats powered by twin 200 horsepower outboard
engines originally planned to take over the big tugboat with its twin 1000
horsepower engines as an additional prize and use that to tow the barge to
shore. They abandoned that plan when it was close enough to see a pair of
50 caliber machine guns with big ammunition canisters that had been mounted
on the tug's roof. Those guns most unnervingly tracked the pirate boats by
some mysterious means they weren't familiar with. The villains did not wish
to see if they were real.

The tug slipped and reeled in the tow cable on cue and lumbered away from
the barge and the pirates before the chief or chiefs of the pirate crew
could contemplate any sort of pincher movement, plus they suddenly had a
massive steel construction barge to deal with before the wind and tide
carried it further away from their home base on shore.

Taking the barge in tow with two small underpowered boats was easier said
than done. They weren't equipped with long heavy lines for towing so they
had to use their well-used and abused anchor lines secured to the two
forward corners of the barge's bow end. Then a competition evolved between
the two boats that involved both throttle speed and which course was the
best course until the watchers assumed that one boat was first to resort to
using their weapons on their fellows. After a dozen splashes, the speed and
the ultimate course was decided by a man who had remained on the barge,
pointing his rifle either at the direction he wanted to go or at one of the
two boat crews if he thought they were deviating from towing evenly in that
direction with the same power.

Both pirate boats contributed five men to serve as guards on the barge
while it was in tow. Those worthies had nothing to do except stare at each
other suspiciously which got boring fast. The next best thing to stare at
was the clearly visible banded bundles of currency that comprised the total
20 million dollar block, all barely held in place by a single layer of
shrink wrap.

Everyone on Dagger Key noticed that there were no pallets under the block,
nor was there any kind of additional strapping that would maintain the
shape and integrity of the block if the shrink wrap was removed; the block
shape would become a rough rectangular pile of hundreds of thousands of
banded one dollar bundles. Bucky gave full credit to Ali for suggesting and
creating the unstable block, while Ali gave Bucky credit for suggesting the
use of US one dollar bills.

The guards on the barge mutually decided to take their shares of the ransom
in advance and perhaps just a bit more. The pirate navigator didn't see the
shrink wrap being cut away, but he apparently heard the block collapse into
an untidy pile. He immediately turned his rifle on the ten guards and very
quickly there were only two surviving. Those two survivors were directed to
cover the pile with the original canvas before they fed the fishes with
their eight former mates.





Doug was a bundle of nerves, because of the number of parents in the
party. While he'd welcomed each and every adult couple to his unique home,
and liked them all, he had been forced to rely on Ace and the island staff
for producing a most memorable Christmas with all the `trimmings' by
phone. Christmas Eve dinner was to be a seafood feast and an early dinner
Christmas day was planned to be more traditional American fare; turkey,
beef and ham with every imaginable side dish.

Ace hoped there would be time to clean up the bird debris from the terrace
so that dinner could be held under the stars as planned with 500 tiki
torches, the raised fire pits and the thousands of Christmas lights that
decorated the palm trees for lighting. He sent a platoon of staff out to
clean, only to have them return to ask; clean what, all they had to do was
straighten up. Spot and Squeak didn't want their new friend Anton, to get
in trouble for calling his feathered friends so they took the liberty of
sending the debris to nothingness.

Doug gained points with Bucky when he asked if Bucky would choose the wines
for both dinners, then he lost points when Bucky saw the condition of the
wine room with wine boxes stacked to the ceiling while the racks around the
room were almost empty since no bottles had been put away properly.

Golden Fang remained sitting in Big Bird but he watched everything through
Bucky's eyes. He was pleased that Bucky had become a mind-speaker since it
was so much easier to communicate. He suggested that Bucky try his hand at
levitation for the first time by experimenting with Doug's wine in the
privacy of the wine room.

"Do you think I can do it?" Bucky sent to Fang.

"You must will the item to become weightless and then move it where you
wish it to go," Fang instructed.

Bucky moved one wooden box to a table without touching it then opened it by
pointing while pronouncing, "Abracadabra!" Since he was alone and no one
would ever know he was behaving like a little kid. After filing the bottles
in a rack, he moved on to a second, then a third case. Levitating became
easier as his confidence grew. Gradually he began to run out of room for
the empty boxes.

He solved that problem by opening the door and snagging two passing servers
to help by removing the boxes while he continued the work of opening new
cases and filing the bottles, all with his hands on his hips and doing the
actual work with his eyes. The dragooned servers knew that Bucky was
rumored to be the Godfather; a title that everyone was forbidden to use,
but Bucky himself confirmed his title by moving boxes and sending wine
bottles flying into cubby holes just by watching.

Bucky called for a break when he saw that his helpers were sweating in the
temperature controlled room. He didn't realize they were sweating because
of his presence. He sent one boy off to find a tray of snacks and the other
to find three wine glasses. The boys raced to satisfy Bucky's needs so they
could take their break and incidentally spread the word among the staff
about what the Godfather could do with his eyes.

The boys were on the way out the door when Bucky called them back and
directed them to sit at the table with him and watch while he poured wine
into three glasses and then served them and invited them to help themselves
to the delicious hors d'oeuvres. The boys relaxed after the second glass
and began to eat without Bucky's urging. When Bucky negligently summed a
second bottle from a rack and caused it to open without touching the cork,
they barely reacted. And they began to talk slowly and distinctly so
hopefully Bucky could understand their sing-song island dialect.

They wanted to know what Bucky wanted done with the empty wooden
boxes. Bucky shrugged; they could be broken up and used as firewood, he
suggested and immediately saw disappointment in their eyes. He then said
that the boys could have them if they had a use for so many sturdy wooden
boxes. He knew he guessed correctly when he saw their obvious delight.

Bucky discovered that the two boys worked as servers whenever there were
guests at Dagger Cay to serve. The rest of their time was spent working as
part of the 30 man archipelago land and sea police force. Bucky was unaware
that all teenage and adult residents were armed and well trained after the
ill-fated invasion when the old Master, Anton Falconburg, was alive and in
residence. He was surprised that the police force remained active and very
busy.

After Anton took over the hotel, began paying the resident islanders a
regular wage for very little labor and built them housing on the smaller
Cay he named Black's Cay, word spread and the small population grew
unwieldy. This ended suddenly when Doug promoted young Ace to Head Man and
gave him the authority to control immigration. Ace evicted all the new
would be residents at gun point if necessary before he handed out enormous
bonuses to every resident, man, woman and child. Of course word of Doug's
generosity spread throughout the Bahamas and the flood of hopeful
immigrants continued to grow not decline.

The boys described incidents where some people arrived armed, ready to take
over. Those unfortunates were surprised to find that they were totally out
gunned and were lucky to depart with their lives if nothing else but a
stripped powerboat. Then they confided that there were two attempted
nighttime invasions; those invaders simply disappeared with their boats
somewhere out beyond the reef `wall' where the water depth was around 1200
feet. While the boys tried to look innocent, they couldn't hide their
pleased smiles and snickers.

Bucky was suddenly inspired. While the Somalian pirates spoke Arabic, most
were black. The agreed plan was to welcome the first pirates aboard
crippled Sea Song, capture them, and then allow the Cats to interrogate
them as well as touch their minds to best clean out the entire nest,
particularly the leaders. However to lure the rest of the local pirates out
to Sea Song, blacks would have to be visible on deck and appear to be in
control of the ship from a distance. There would be some of Ali's men
(Arabs) on board for Arabic communications but most of them would be too
light skinned to play the rolls of black skinned pirates. He wondered if 10
or 15 of Doug's army accompanied by their wives or partners would be
interested in becoming paid mercenaries on board Sea Song for a few days
out of a two week vacation on Sea Song and/or in the country, Bachal.

Buck realized that he must have been thinking out loud due to the wine when
both boys volunteered for duty to protect Master Doug (their `Golden
Goose') and Master Bucky they hastened to add, with their lives if
necessary. No one would harm a single hair on Master Doug's head as long as
they were around. Bucky sent them off with their empty wine boxes to see if
they could find a few more volunteers who would have to be ready late the
next day when everyone would depart on Big Bird. It turned out that flying
on the giant airplane was no small additional incentive.

Bucky had no sooner explained to the dinner party what he'd done when Jake
and Calvin returned to find him on the terrace. Both teenagers were armed
to the teeth and were ready to go. They told Bucky and Master Doug that
every man and some women on Black's Cay had volunteered for duty. Jake
whispered to Doug that he and Calvin had chosen 14 single guys, all their
trusted friends and proven soldiers if Doug agreed.

"Sure," Doug agreed, "I didn't even know I had an army," he told the
partners.

"Yo' got a bunch of mean motherfuckers Masta Doug," Jake assured. He
whispered in Doug's ear again, "An' we all partners, if yo' know what I
mean; we protect yo', an' each other, yas sir." He winked at Doug
meaningfully while looking at Buck.

"How much should I pay them?" Doug asked Bucky after Jake and Calvin left.

"What am I, Swiss cheese?" Buck corrected, "What doofus meant was how much
should WE pay them?" He said with a nasty look at Doug as a reminder that
he was now half owner of Dagger Cay.

After a brief discussion, it was agreed that `Doug's Army' should be paid
$10,000 each since they alone would be visible to the additional pirates
who would be lured to Sea Song, meaning they would be on the front line and
at greatest risk while the other mercenaries would remain hidden unless
their services were required.

Bucky polled the parents during dinner; he wanted to know which of them
preferred to stay in the safety of Bachal with their sons. A hush fell over
the terrace as parents looked to their sons. The only questionable boy was
Hughie. Squeak and Hughie had usurped a single chair between Spot and
Freckles where Tracy planned to sit after the boys promised to tend to the
Cats and Douggie wandered around the table top.

"White Warrior Hughie will come to no harm," Spot sent subliminally to
Pettie and Sara Cross, "These two Cats will protect him just like we
protect Tara Squeak," he assured the Cross adults with a confirming hiss
from Douggie.

Squeak and Hughie looked up at Spot suddenly, "And we two brave warriors
will protect YOU," the little boys announced together and aloud
confidently.

Both Spot and Freckles looked down on the boys in some surprise; they
shouldn't have been able to overhear the message directed at Hughie's
parents. "Well," Hughie scolded with a shake of his finger up at Spot, "if
you didn't want us to hear, you shouldn't shout."

"I suppose if we say you can't go, Sea Song will have to be searched for a
stowaway before she, I mean he, leaves the dock." Big Pettie said with a
grin at his very determined youngest son. The two boys and the two Cats
agreed with Pettie's assessment with shakes of their heads while they
continued to eat Maine lobster rolls and locally caught fried snapper and
prawns on rolls; one of each for Hughie, three of each for Squeak and a
tray of each for Freckles and Spot respectively.

Doug and Tommy worked extra hard to contact the dolphin pod showing images
of the boys with their parents. While the boys were pictured naked, all the
adults were shown wearing bathing suits. Doug was trying to invite the wild
pod into the lagoon Christmas morning to meet and perhaps give rides to the
parents as a rare treat but he wanted to be sure Rocket, Comet and the
other males in the pod understood there was to be NO hanky-panky with the
adults or with any of the guys while the parents were present.

Rocket responded with images of Bucky, since the pod had seen him, being
towed with Bucky holding on to his dorsal fin, not straddling his nose, a
position that the boys loved because it was guaranteed to give any human
male a hard on followed by the inevitable consequence of getting off before
the ride ended. Then he sent an image of Evan's mother, Jessica Connor
getting a ride in the same manner. Doug hoped those images meant that
Rocket understood. At any rate the dolphin agreed to the meeting at nine or
10 o'clock in the morning based on the height of the sun in the images.

The pod arrived in force including new mothers with their babies; perhaps
their first ever exposure to the friendly Dagger Cay humans. Old Momma with
the scar on her head headed straight into the shallows to take charge of
Squeak and Hughie. It was presumed that since they were very young, she
intended to teach them to swim the only correct way, the dolphin way. She
had no trouble with Hughie in forcing him to broach to breathe but she
didn't have the same luck with Squeak who didn't need to breathe as
regularly as Hughie.

Finally, Squeak tapped Momma on the head to get her to look him in the eyes
while he sat on the sandy bottom. Apparently he was able to make contact
with her to explain that Cat warriors had advanced abilities that the other
boys, inferior humans, didn't possess including holding their breath for
extended periods of time. Squeak even went so far as to show her images of
his Maine lobster fishing adventure. Momma broached at that point and
stayed up to chatter to the rest of the pod.

Whatever Momma said caused the others to chatter back before Rocket, Comet
and other adults joined to cut Peter, Bani, Kad and Sidi out of the group,
insert their beaks between the boy's legs, kidnap them, and head toward the
pinchers. There was an immediate flurry of mind-speak to inquire about what
was happening.

Squeak replied that a very select mixed species group was going lobster
fishing all along the vertical underwater pincher walls that the locals
never fished because of the swift current. Lobster abounded in crevices
that the dolphin could see but couldn't get at. Squeak would help by
stunning crustaceans if necessary while the other warriors would catch them
by hand while being held in place by a dolphin.

Hughie begged Spot to give him a ride out to the site, while Freckles asked
Doug to bring out the dive boat so he and Spot as well as everyone else
could motor out to watch if not dive tethered by lines to the boat. The
Cats could swim but that would take too long and the Taras Bani, Squeak and
Peter would be unprotected except for Kad and Sidi who would no doubt be
ejaculating repeatedly as only Cat warriors could and did if given the
opportunity. Doug and Buck ran the short distance to the dock and soon had
the dive boat idling in shallow water so everyone could board including the
Cats, by climbing the stern steps. That would be everyone but Hughie; Momma
took charge of him for his first dolphin ride mounted on her nose, she and
Hughie lead the rest of the pod without riders who were eager to have a
tasty feast of their own.

The lobster hunters encouraged Doug to hurry with the dive boat. They all
wanted gloves which were aboard because the quarry didn't have defensive
toothy claws, but they did have hard spines and were difficult to hold
since they didn't want to be caught. Squeak was the most successful because
he was able to stun his target without cooking and then pulled from their
dens by their whiskers without a fight, the next dolphin in line to be fed
took over with a crunch of shell as they swam away to eat. Squeak tried,
but he couldn't teach the others the use of a pointed finger perhaps
because he alone was the Enforcer.

Of course the Great Cat brothers jumped off the dive platform as soon as
the boat arrived in the pinchers but they had nothing to do except set the
anchor, so they went on a walkabout outside the pincers but inside the reef
to admire the pretty coral formations and wonderful kaleidoscope of
colors. The dolphin watched the Cats closely when they were within sight
and then listened for sounds of distress when they were further away. They
were amazed by the strange furred animals with teeth larger than sharks' on
one end and a single versatile tentacle on the other that were as
intelligent as dolphin that didn't seem to need as much air, while being
completely friendly with and protective of their humans.

Once Hughie was given swim goggles and a pair of gloves, he and Momma went
hunting on their own, for Momma's sole benefit. The only time Momma allowed
Hughie away from his perch on her nose was while he was pulling a lobster
from a hole and when she was eating the capture. At all other times she
made sure he surfaced for air more often than he needed. Big Pettie, his
wife Sara, Little Pettie and Scott hovered close by to watch the new
symbiotic relationship before they were satisfied that Hughie was safe, and
they went to try their hands at catching lobster to feed the other dolphin.

Ace interrupted the fun when he motored out to remind Doug that the
Christmas feast was almost ready to be served and could not be delayed
because it involved everyone living or staying on both islands and Doug,
now with his partner Buck, were hosts. By then there were over 300 cadets
living in the sprawling newly completed four story dormitory, there was a
large faculty and support staff at the school, there were all the residents
of Black's Cay, plus flight crews, a large aircraft ground crew contingent
and temporary construction workers on site as expansion continued.

Both islands had been completely decorated for Christmas soon after
Thanksgiving. Lights twinkled wherever possible and the keystone of all the
decorations was a 60 foot Norfolk Island Pine that was growing near the
pool terrace. Its decorations rivaled those on the tree at New York City's
Rockefeller Center. Overnight, ground cloths had been spread and a number
of large wrapped Christmas gifts appeared that had not been labeled so no
one touched them except the bravest cadets and islanders who gave each a
hearty shake to guess the contents. Whatever was inside seemed to shift,
but they weren't heavy enough to venture a guess, so absolutely everyone,
all non-guests, were crowded around the Dagger Cay Christmas tree at high
noon per Doug's instructions.

Doug, Buck, Bucky, Evan and Bill Henderson, Doug's father, appeared wearing
Santa hats to be Santa's helpers in distributing what appeared to be a very
few wrapped gifts considering that there was well over 1000 people watching
expectantly. Doug waved a hand at the boxes and they all popped open with
the sound of tearing paper in the total silence. Then miraculously colored
envelopes began to drift up in series in front of one of the
`helpers'. Doug began calling out islander names, Buck called out island
support names, Bill called names of his construction workers that included
some islanders, Bucky first called up every student before he moved to the
school staff and Evan called out all of his permanent staff from Big Bird.

When the crowd realized which helper was handing envelopes to whom, there
was a quick shuffle of bodies just before the whoops of joy began. Doug and
Buck's gifts included cash of course and many special people included a
photo of a new boat. Doug was pleased to announce that all the pictured
boats would shortly arrive from Miami by freighter.

Bucky was pleased to hand out gift cards to the cadets that contained at
least $500 (officers got more), a gift certificate for a cellphone and a
day pass off Dagger to pick up their new phones in Ft. Lauderdale and spend
the money as they wished. Only one cadet had the nerve to remind the
Godfather that cellphones didn't work that far out in the middle of
nowhere. Bucky just laughed, grinned and bet the boy a dollar that they
would. None of the boys knew about Snoopy.

As the presentations ended, Bucky called up Ben Golden, Harman and
Spencer's father. There was just one more gift to be given to
everyone. There were other Ancient storage boxes full of jeweler's
boxes. Each contained a redesigned Dagger pendent with a larger, heavier,
gold dagger and a pair of matching three carat diamonds to represent the
dagger hilt (or a pair of balls if you happened to be a gay boy). The
parents, especially the women appreciated the gift and put them on at once

Evan didn't have as many envelopes to give out on Dagger Cay but similar
envelopes were being delivered simultaneously to Falconburg employees
around the world. Bill Henderson did the same thing at Henderson
Constructors since there were fewer workers stationed on Dagger Key.

It was no accident that Charlie and his Cat warrior friends were equally
popular. They handed out containers of Stuff to Charlie's Cadet friends and
gift certificates to the rest of the student population and of course there
were interactive `demonstrations' in Stuff's proper use most of Christmas
Eve night. It should be mentioned that Charlie, so far, was the one and
only Dagger Cay Marine Academy hero since he alone graduated to be one of
the Family and had found a very exciting exotic partner, not to mention
that he was wearing a priceless gem around his neck that he didn't steal.

The Dagger Cay Christmas dinner took place all over the island to feed the
entire population. There was half a steer and a whole pig that had
everyone's mouths watering, turning slowly on spits on the beach where
tables groaned with the weight of side dishes. The original restaurant was
serving, as was the spanking new cadet dining room in their dorm while the
first congregation of the Family dined in the big house dining room. The
volunteers who did the cooking and serving had been drinking and eating
anything they wanted since dinner preparations began so there were no
complaints, lots of holiday laughter with just a few complaining of gaps in
their memories, but they hoped they had a good time.

All too soon, it was time to board Big Bird for the flight to Bachal. The
flight and ground support crews had already eaten, completed their
preflight checks and were waiting for the passengers. The baggage had been
stowed and the jet's engines were ready to be started after the hatches
were closed and Big Bird's stairs had been driven away.

The Great Cats got everyone's attention when their travel bowls and serving
platters disappeared while everyone was still seated. Tracy sighed
pitifully. "Damn it I just served you two full drinks and full platters,"
he scolded as the Cats raced each other out the door to be first to board,
"Did you send all that to nothingness?"

Freckles replied in mind-speak, "Certainly not, we were not finished
eating, everything is waiting for us inside Big Bird. Come let us hurry to
start the engines; Friend Snoopy has plotted a course so we can go very
fast most of the way!"

"Well, if we don't want to fly crowded on Kermit, we best get our butts
moving," Bucky suggested indulgently, "or Big Bird and the Cats will leave
us behind."

"Someone grab the cat carrier," Victoria ordered the boys, while Hughie
carried Douggie.

The two jets actually raced across the Atlantic - that would be, they raced
each other. While Freckles and Spot sat in Big Bird's main lounge cheating
at playing video games and stretching gullible boys, Freckles was actually
controlling Kermit and Spot commandeered control of Big Bird. Freckles
thought that the plane's crew didn't like him because of the impromptu
`improvements' he'd made always seemed to be completed at above 30,000 feet
altitude, which was not the time to experiment.

The only incident occurred over Spain when they were about to land for fuel
because of the extraordinary fuel consumption rates required to maintain
Mach 2.0 and above across the Atlantic. Kermit had reduced speed to avoid a
sonic boom over land, and Spot sought to gain an advantage by getting ahead
of Freckles so Big Bird could land first to be refueled first. While half
of Spain and all of Gibraltar heard the boom, fortunately no military
investigation or defensive fighter jets were launched before the guilty
party had landed. Everyone knew that commercial and private jet aircraft
were incapable of flying that fast.

Once in the air again, Snoopy's plotted course took them roughly down the
center of the Mediterranean Sea before it veered south over the Suez into
Saudi airspace, hence into Bachal's international airport that was bustling
with scheduled commercial jets, charters and private jet aircraft.

It had been agreed in advance that the guest party would be transported
directly to the manmade harbor to board Sea Song directly rather than waste
time with the normal `pomp and circumstance' required when visiting the
Emir in his palace.

Everyone thought that they would simply debark Big Bird, walk down the
steps and climb into the line of cars that had been driven to the side of
the plane, but they forgot about Doug's 16 man army that Doug had playfully
dubbed the `Mean Motherfuckers'. The Great Cats beat everyone to Big Bird
but Doug's Army. They had been aboard for a full hour, shed and stored
whatever gear they brought and were waiting for the main party to
arrive. No one stopped them because there was no one else on board at the
time; everyone was celebrating Christmas.

They first explored the interior, found the galley and made themselves
something to eat, had soft drinks and sat on the carpet near the hatch
waiting for Doug and further instructions. They were not about to sit on
any of the furnishings although they did thump the beds they found to judge
probable durability when put to use that did not include sleeping while
thousands of feet in the air. The Dagger Cay helicopters were nothing like
Big Bird's luxury.

On the flight, the boys were encouraged to be just 16 more guests in the
party. They were persuaded to sit on the furniture like everyone else, they
ate and drank whatever they were served by stewards and soon became
involved in the boy's activities, particularly video games. While the
natives had satellite TV, the boys didn't seem to be aware that there were
game consoles and thousands of games they could play, including every sport
and contests involving death, destruction and general mayhem, those were
everyone's favorites, even the Cats.

Since no one could beat the Cats or the warriors, they were challenged to
play each other. Of course none of them actually needed the game
controllers and battles very quickly included new heroes who suspiciously
resembled the gamers. These matches got everyone's attention when a
character that looked exactly like Squeak was about to be eaten by a
monster that had been modified with a Great Cat head. Squeak, on the screen
not only retreated, somehow he abandoned the TV to reappear as a realistic
hologram to run through the air to behind the flat screen only to reappear
onscreen behind the monster and successfully stab him in the tailless ass.

A twin Great Cat squabble began immediately with each questioning and
accusing the other of forgetting to equip their monster with a suitable
tail; the only reason they lost the battle; the only battle they lost all
day. The vocal discussion ended when the frustrated pilot announced very
sarcastically that they would be landing in Bachal in 15 to 30 minutes
depending on who was controlling Big Bird's speed. The Cats ran to don
their Cat packs, neckties and glasses while the Mean Motherfuckers
disappeared into the back of the plane to get their equipment. Doug's army
was casually dressed in khaki Bermuda shorts, assorted colorful shirts and
flip flops when the Family first saw them but when they returned to the
main lounge they were all very smartly attired in uniforms.

Somewhere, Ace found an army surplus store or website, a British army
surplus store. The uniforms they were wearing dated from the Second World
War, originally worn by Montgomery's army in the North Africa campaign
complete with pith helmets, only marred by the modern body armor, backpacks
and of course the latest in weapons supplied by Evan. They were outfitted
perfectly for the desert or the tropics where they lived. They took pride
in wearing their uniforms while patrolling the archipelago and it was just
their appearance that caused some would be unwanted immigrant laden boats
to haul ass out of the Dagger Cay area.

Jake insisted that they would exit Big Bird first so they could provide
Master Doug and company a proper screen with their weapons pointed at
wherever they looked. The Bachal officials waiting to escort the Crown
Prince and his guests took one look at the Motherfuckers and pointed
vaguely to the collection of limos and SUVs; they wanted nothing to do with
the serious looking uniformed, armed black guards.

When Medi didn't see his father and his usual entourage waiting at the
steps, he assumed the role of host by ushering Bucky, Buck, Doug and Evan
with all their regular bodyguards to the first limo; the longest stretched
Hummer that any of the visitors had ever seen that would probably seat 30
comfortably. The car flew both the Bachal state flag and the Emir's
personal pennant. Medi grinned and began looking at the officials more
closely; only he knew that wherever the Emir's pennant flew; the Emir
himself was present somewhere close by.

None of the guys realized that Huss, as the Emir's half-brother and Medi's
uncle would be subject to the same degree of respect and ass kissing by the
local officials as Crown Prince Mohamed since he was also a Prince,
although to a lesser degree. At any rate, it took a good ten minutes for
Medi and Huss to reach Big Bird's wing tip with another 100 feet to go to
reach the Hummer limo, until the Great Cats joined the less intimidating
Mean Motherfuckers; then the endless receiving line melted away and
protocol be damned.

When Bucky was about to climb into the limo, the footman who was holding
the door whispered something that caused Bucky to grin and walk to the
front of the car and join the driver as the passenger. The Great Cats
discovered that they could walk the center aisle standing upright, and even
better, there were three sunroofs to light the spacious interior.

Medi saw Freckles and Spot looking up. "I don't think they open," he said
as two of the overhead windows disappeared. "I'll get in more trouble if
you don't put them back," he sort of pleaded, "This was father's favorite
car too," he added with a moan.

While the monster ostentatious limo always attracted attention wherever it
went in Bachal, that day everyone was pointing at the roof line that had
been interrupted by the front halves of the two Great Cats. Both were
standing on their hind legs and resting their front legs on the roof while
their faces were distorted by the force of the wind they faced as the cars
hurtled through the city to the harbor.

"Have you seen father about?" Medi asked his uncle Huss.

"I certainly did," Huss replied, "Didn't you see me fasten my seat belt?"

Medi glanced nervously at the forward end of the truck that was partitioned
off with opaque glass and proceeded to fasten his own seat belt as they
screech to a halt inches from the edge of the pier and Sea Song's side, "We
have arrived!" Ali announced over the intercom before he and Bucky walked
way back to the rear door.

Ali was still wearing his palm frond hat, sunglasses, no shirt and
different color ragged shorts. He told everyone he was incognito so he
wouldn't be recognized while he was actually easily recognized because he
was the only Arab that wasn't properly attired in public. Even the foreign
dock workers were better dressed.

Freckles wanted Spot to meet Sea Song, and couldn't wait to use the car
door so they climbed to the big truck's roof and jumped to the main deck
from there to disappear inside the ship. Sea Song soon had everyone ducking
with a joyous 30 second blast of his horns. It took a good half hour to get
everyone and all the luggage aboard through the side hatch before it could
be closed. The stairs had already been withdrawn in preparation for
immediate departure.

Hans and Herman along with 50 of the finest mercenaries, all former Special
Forces from a number of countries that very angry Evan's money could buy,
were already aboard so with Doug's troop of 16 Mean Motherfuckers to pose
as pirates, there was a total of 66. This did not include two Great Cats
with their abilities, three Taras with their extraordinary mini-tools, two
Cat warriors and their tools, plus the additional firepower from the boys
and some of the fathers. None of the above included Sea Song's vastly
improved capabilities or, of course, Snoopy looking down on everything and
every moving thing no matter where they thought they were hidden.

Sea Song's temporary armor plating had been replaced with permanent
installations. Most noticeable was the enlarged crow's nest that had taken
on the same lines as Sea Song's sharp dagger bow. Marc was the first to
notice the change in his old mini-gun firing station and after a quick
visit; he reported that his mini-gun had been permanently installed along
with carefully engineered brackets to hold 10 ammunition canisters; five on
each side looped together to serve the twin 20mm cannons. The entire fly
bridge had also been fitted with armor plating and those mini-guns also had
been permanently installed while the helicopter pad's open stern railing
had also been replaced with solid steel and the mini-guns were fixed on
swing up brackets so they were hidden when not in use. Evan also had twin
12 tube swiveling rocket launchers installed that flanked the main bow
cannon

Gregor and Meesha agreed to give Snoopy his head to plot the course. Bachal
was a tiny 100 square miles, located between Kuwait and Bahrain on the
coast of the Persian Gulf. The original oasis where Ali's nomadic tribe
sought refuge during the First World War had been designated as a national
treasure that had been completely restored. It was surrounded by Bachal
City much like New York City's Central Park. It still supplied some of the
fresh sweet water to the small inhabited areas of the country while a
desalinization plant supplied the rest. The balance of the country was an
oilfield; some pumping wells had been spotted as little as 100 yards apart
where the oil pool was closest to the surface.

Snoopy took Sea Song to the middle of the Persian Gulf at flank speed, and
then veered to the southwest into the Strait of Hormuz at 20 knots where
they knew traffic was always monitored by Iran and possibly reported to
their hostile friends in the region. Then once through the Straight, Sea
Song sped up to 40 knots to the middle of the Gulf of Oman and stayed well
out of sight from the shore, southwest until they closed with Yemen's coast
where they once again wanted to be viewed as a small cruise ship moving at
normal 20 knot cruise ship speed. Fortunately Sea Song was unknown in these
waters and wasn't recognized as a private yacht or more specifically as
Evan Falconburg's yacht, intent on revenge and rescue.

Sea Song became bait that night as they closed to 15 miles off the Yemen
coast; always in international waters, but with every light burning
brightly so his silhouette was obviously that of a small cruise ship. If
there were no pirate bands operating along that coast, surely their
presence would be reported elsewhere in return for a share of some
amorphous profit if the cruise ship was taken by others, IF, a big if, it
didn't turn north into the Red Sea into heavy ship traffic, instead of
viewing the coast of Africa to the south beginning with the sunny shores of
the Horn of Africa, part of Somalia!

Meanwhile, Hans and Herman used Snoopy to spot possible Somalin coastal
villages and encampments where there was what looked like a tall radio
tower, something that few fishermen had use for. He also looked for signs
of armed organization, of new found wealth, including cars and boats with
new faster engines but no fishing equipment on board those boats.

They also had Snoopy panning the country's fishing grounds. They were in
search of the reason Somalian fishermen had turned to piracy in the first
place; foreign commercial fishermen, big trawlers and floating factory
ships that arrived in the fertile grounds and had so depleted the fishery
stocks that the less efficient native fishermen were starving. These fish
stealers arrived after the government all but collapsed including the
military, specifically the navy that had protected the fishing grounds.

Bani and the warriors were incensed on discovering the root cause of piracy
and they wanted to help the Somalian fishermen by perhaps putting them in
business big time. Big time, to the Cat People meant taking over the fish
stealer's boats and presenting the native fishermen with the captured boats
just like they did for their friends the Sea People.

After a flurry of open mind-speak, Tara Peter the Finder, was posted to the
fly bridge with Freckles and Spot. Peter had been charged with finding the
closest fish stealers. Sea Song was in the Gulf of Aden, approaching the
Somali coast but hadn't sighted land when Peter pointed south by southeast
suddenly. When the twin Great Cats looked in that direction Snoopy was
reoriented and Sea Song changed course to that direction without human
help.

Meesha shrugged and Gregor rolled his eyes before he reported to the bridge
that Freckles and Spot had the con until further notice. "We should go
below to Evan's lounge to watch the big monitor for the best view of what's
happening," Peter suggested to the clustered family members that were on
the fly bridge.

The blinds covering the new forward `picture' windows had been drawn to
better view the wall to wall and console to ceiling monitor on the opposite
wall. Snoopy had zeroed in on a modern fishing fleet consisting of a mother
or factory ship and an even dozen trawlers. Ten of the 12 trawlers had
their nets out, while two were intent on dispersing at least 20 assorted
native fishing craft while they in turn were intent on disrupting the
fishing operation. One of the `guard' trawlers managed to ram a smaller
boat as they watched. This caused three other small boats to stop to pick
up survivors. They noticed that the trawler did not stop to help; instead,
it turned about and was about to charge full speed into the rescue.

The situation looked grim until Freckles hissed and the predator stopped
dead in the water. With the rescue complete, the three native boats were
first to converge on the helpless trawler. It seemed that while all the
crews were armed with rifles, the trawler crew was out gunned and
surrounded by the native fishermen and after several splashes around all
the boats, the natives were able to board. It didn't matter that the
surviving trawler crew had their hands in the air, knives flashed in the
sun briefly before there were more splashes. That was when Freckles
restored power to the trawler.

Everyone watching forgot that the Somali fishermen were expert seaman,
navigators and necessarily expert mechanics as need arose 100s of miles or
more from shore. The captured trawler soon turned toward the second guard
boat with the other native boats converging to follow. The second boat
thought to run but it too went dead in the water after Spot took his turn
at hissing at the monitor.

###

Douggie the kitten had been lounging on a face cloth draped over Hughie's
bare shoulder. He hissed as loud as he was able, imitating Freckles and
Spot. "How was that?" He asked in Hughie's mind.

"You'll get better as you grow up just like me," Hughie replied, "Just keep
practicing, just like me."

###

The second aggressive trawler crew decided to escape by abandoning ship. A
large tender/life boat and three inflatables were launched in the hope that
the crew could reach safety on the mother ship, but it was five miles away
and had increased speed, attempting to distance itself from what was
clearly a losing battle, so the second trawler's crew joined their brothers
in the briny deep. The mother ship's freezers were almost full and the
company owner could replace the trawlers with the sale of the load.

Then with two trawlers under their command, the native seamen headed for
the 10 who had their drag nets in the water and couldn't run. When they all
lost power simultaneously, the nets acted as anchors. The crews had been
too far away to see the fate of their brother crews so they surrendered
with multiple small splashes as they tossed their weapons overboard.

It was clear to the Family that the natives realized that they didn't have
enough people to take over 10 more trawlers that had their nets down and
hopefully full of valuable fish. Surprisingly, Ali asked if it would be
possible to make contact with the two captured boats. Edvard was happy to
hand him a handset.

Ali introduced himself as Ali, but not as the Emir of Bachal. He suggested
the wisdom of hiring the ten crews to be paid after the factory ship's load
of product could be sold and then continue paying them a much higher wage
to keep on fishing for them with Somali captains under the Somali flag.

The Somali's correctly pointed out that the mother ship had fled the
scene. Ali countered that the same ship was headed directly at him and
would be intercepted with all hands intact if not free and returned to
Somali control. He very modestly admitted that he had been responsible for
the two trawler's temporary engine problems to reassure the fishermen.

Ali was able to disconnect before the booing, jeering, catcalls and more
hissing began because he took all credit for the mission. The hissing by
the Cats was followed by them giving the Emir his first ever stretching
treatment, which fell on deaf ears since he couldn't quite stop laughing at
his unprecedented mistreatment by the astounding Great Cats that were not
known to exist.

By then Sea Song had come over the horizon and was visible to the naked
eye, while the factory ship had already seen them on radar and was aiming
for them, seeking its protection without knowing or caring that Sea Song
had been outfitted as a destroyer. Snoopy was already blocking outgoing
radio signals so the owner did not know that they were about to lose an
entire fishing fleet to the ragtag Somali fishermen with a bit of outside
help and they were in no condition to complain since they were in fact
fishing in another sovereign country's waters.

Evan's lounge was all but evacuated except for the Masters of Machines John
and Edvard, when Gregor announced `call to quarters' and all the boys
headed for the same positions they had been given during the Venezuelan
adventure when they met the Cat People and the Great Cats. Only this time
they were accompanied by their parents.

Marc had been up in the new crow's nest for an hour. The coverings over his
mini-gun had been removed, swung up into firing position as well as being
locked and loaded in eager anticipation of a fight. Marc's father John and
his brother Paul decided to see what Marc was up to in the crow's nest, the
highest firing position on the ship. John had just crested the last rung on
the ladder when he realized that `up to' was a poor choice of words. Marc
was way up into Alex his partner. An act the boys thought relaxing just
before a fight. John backed away down the ladder quietly so Marc wouldn't
know he and Alex had been caught in the `act'; however Paul had no such
reservations and felt free to use some of Marc's Stuff in order to further
relax his little brother.

Medi took his father's hand to almost drag him through the ship to his
cannon firing station on the bridge without telling Ali what he was
supposed to do if given the order to fire the most deadly long range weapon
on the ship. What he did do was press a button that raised the cannon
barrel above the bow bulkheads. He pointed proudly when the muzzle came
into view from the bridge windows.

The other mini-gun crews stripped the concealing covers from their weapons
while others stripped the covers from the deadly Snoopy controlled Gatling
guns on the fly bridge that John and Snoopy enjoyed playing with much to
the other guy's consternation. It was an unpleasant feeling to have those
twin barrels track you as you walked around the fly bridge.

Little Pettie had been presented with a sniper's rifle when he first
boarded. He knew his position was on the fly bridge, normally using a
mini-gun. If he had to fire the rifle, he would be assisted by Freckles
and/or Spot and he was concerned about the side effects with his mother
present, so he encouraged her to stay in Evan's lounge with the other
non-combatants and watch the events, if any, on the big monitor. He just
hoped that one of the Cats would not look his way to see and display his
full blown erection or see what else would happen on the same monitor
through his erection if he had to shoot his rifle.

When the factory ship was in hailing range, Gregor called for them to
heave to and prepare to be boarded. Someone, an officer presumably,
answered in Hindi first, then in very poor unintelligible English before he
finally tried fluent Arabic, to wit; "Fuck you, we will not be boarded!"

The Factory ship lost all power after Ali translated that refusal over Sea
Song's PA system. Then a single rifle shot rang out with the bullet
plinking off the new fly bridge armor plate. Squeak had to stand on a bench
seat so he could see over the bulkhead. He had his tool in his hand. "The
shooter is crouched below that part that sticks out," he told Pettie. He
meant the bridge wing; officers frequently used the small port and
starboard decks when maneuvering in tight places so they could see the side
of the ship. "I will rock that boat to make him stand so you can claim that
kill, warrior Pettie," Squeak advised.

Squeak soon had the big ship rocking and rolling as if it was in a mammoth
washing machine. Everyone on the decks on that side of the ship was
clutching the rails desperately trying to keep from being tossed
overboard. Freckles stood with his paws on the bench alongside Pettie. Then
Pettie felt a furry tail wrap around his thigh with the tip wrapped around
his cock, which was pointed at the bridge wing. The enemy finally stood up
and had to drop his rifle so he could hold the rail with both hands. Pettie
fired his rifle and his ejaculate at the same time. Scott and Hughie
mourned the waste silently. It couldn't be helped, in broad daylight with
Big Pettie Cross watching, no matter that he'd already seen some low down
kissing at the ranch swimming pool.

After the dead body flew backward through the door to the bridge; a ships'
officer appeared waving a white tee shirt, and a wide side port just like
Sea Song's opened with more white flags waving. With nothing more to do,
Squeak hurriedly mind-spoke Hughie. If Hughie wanted to become a full Cat
warrior, they needed to fetch Hughie's second Christmas gift from Pettie
after they boarded the yacht; a new semiautomatic 22cal rifle and hurry to
the boat that was to carry the boarding party.

Freckles and Spot decided to accompany the boys so they quickly scanned or
touched minds all over the factory ship; all but two minds were justifiably
afraid of the immediate future, however two were the sons of an owner who
were supposed to be learning the business from the ground up, or in their
case, from the keel to the masthead and they were outraged at the probable
loss of some inheritance so they were prepared to fight to keep what they
considered to be their wealth, disregarding insurance money.

When Squeak and Hughie were alone and could not be overheard, Squeak
explained how the two greedy young idiot's planned to retake their fleet
and quite possibly take over what was either a small cruise ship or a
stunningly beautiful gigantic yacht that was ideally suited for sailing
these troubled waters since it was also very well armed. The two young men
planned to introduce themselves as owners and request to see the pirate
leaders to negotiate a generous ransom, first for themselves and then for
the their fishing fleet. Crews could be replaced. Both had handguns that
would be used to get the drop on the pirate leaders and then threaten them
with death if their fleet was not returned along with the ship alongside
that bristled with weapons. The pirate crew would then be released and
given the freedom to swim wherever they wished to go. Their guile and
demeanor was beyond arrogant and the actual ships' crew they had contact
with would not mind if they were `lost' at sea during their training but so
far, they were rarely seen outside their guest stateroom.

The fathers of the high caste pair of Indian boys were only allowed to have
one body servant that they were forced to share since they were `roughing
it' by working at menial jobs. When Spot, Freckles and Squeak scanned the
crew's minds they were not looking for hatred of one individual by another
crew member so they missed the body servant's hatred of his employers.

The pair treated their servant like dirt. They forced him to sleep on the
deck at the foot of their bed unless he was required to give one, the other
or both sexual relief in some manner at any time of the day or night. They
were also fond of ridiculing his body generally and his cock specifically,
not because it was small and/or deformed but because it was huge, perfectly
formed and with a pair of balls to match; male beauty compared to
theirs. Of course the boys had no use for an untouchable servant cock; just
his mouth and ass.

The boy Rog decided the time for revenge had arrived. After the boys were
dead, he would attempt to join the pirate band, or at least throw himself
on their mercy by asking for a quick kill since the pirates would not
receive the same ransom for two dead bodies as for two alive that were
slightly abused but otherwise intact.

The two boys dressed in their best traditional Indian finery for the
meeting that was to take place on the bridge. They were dressed to impress
and for success, while Rog was only dressed in shorts and a cast off shirt,
he also had a six inch steak knife stuffed in the small of his back. His
presence was required to open and close doors at the very least. Much of
the boy's arrogance changed to fear and trepidation as they entered the
bridge.

The pirate leaders were mostly white except for two young Arabs who spoke
with British accents and a few exotic boys who might be servants. They
expected coal black, homely, ignorant or dumb Somali fishermen. They
certainly didn't dream of meeting a pair of wild cats who were taller than
either of them when seated. Of course the Great Cats knew of Squeak's plan
to make Hughie a full white Cat warrior by Hughie offing one or both of the
two arrogant Indian assholes and breaking in his new rifle at the same
time.

Spot just glanced at the lowly Indian servant boy standing behind his
employers who appeared to be scratching his back. Spot looked again,
scanned the boy's mind, read his intent and beamed the same urgent message
to Squeak and Hughie, "You must only wound the boy servant FIRST before you
shoot the one asshole that the boy does not kill with his knife. The boy
servant means us no harm and will seek refuge after he gets his revenge."

"KNIFE!" Squeak screamed only after the boy plunged it into one asshole's
back and wiggled it for good measure. There was no need to wound the very
surprised boy.

"GUN!" Hughie screamed and fired into the second asshole's
forehead. Because of the small caliber bullet, he didn't wish to wound with
a shot to the body and additional shots would demonstrate poor
marksmanship.

Everyone on the bridge knew where the knife was since it was still imbedded
in the body, but Hughie received questioning looks because there was no
gun. That is until Rog helpfully and delicately removed them from
waistbands with two fingers to drop them to the deck. "Those guns Sirs," he
told the surprised guys in slightly accented British English and a deep bow
before he began to plead his case to join the likeable pirates or at least
not be tortured before he was finally killed.

It turned out that Rog didn't need to plead. Meesha hired him to work as a
steward on Sea Song and after he dressed down to match the crew and younger
guests; Ali took one look at his heretofore unused very male attributes and
hired him to work in his palace as the Emir's personal valet starting at
once since the Emir forgot to bring one on the trip.

The mothership Captain had no particular love or loyalty to the company he
worked for because that company tended to pour all their profits into their
personal pockets and paid their crews as little as possible while pleading
near bankruptcy, so he was completely agreeable to switch employers and
bring his own fishing fleet along to sweeten the deal.

After Sea Song's boarding party left the factory ship, it turned about and
went back to its trawler fleet. It arrived just in time to accept and begin
processing 10 loads of fish while Sea Song returned to its planned course
and mission. They decided not to creep along the coast since they already
knew where probable pirate operations were located. They would zip between
sites, interrupt communications and then limp to within a dozen miles off
the coast before sending a localized distress signal directly to the
village or encampment.

Freckles asked Sea Song to cough up some black smoke so they could claim
engine problems, but Sea Song and Gregor refused because they didn't want
to smooch up fresh white paint with greasy black soot. They compromised by
blaming faulty electronics without which modern ships do not move. The
first target was an isolated coastal encampment flying the flags of the
Al-Shahab, Somali's terrorist militant group. From Snoopy's view, the group
seemed to have an unlimited budget for black flags but no budget for basics
like food, sanitation or any kind of modern arms beyond the traditional
AK-47 and a small mountain of ammunition boxes in the middle of the
camp. They did have what looked like three long low Somali fishing boats
among an assortment of others, only they were constructed of fiberglass
that had been painted to look like weathered wood and were powered by
inboard engines.

Ali was happy to claim the job of radio man and Medi was his
interpreter. Both father and son had a facility for languages necessary to
own and operate a destination country that attracted visitors from around
the world. Ali's call for help involved the urgent need of electronic parts
necessary to operate the ship. The ship would pay in US dollars, British
pounds, Euros or gold to have the costly parts ordered and flown in to the
nearest airport to be delivered to the ship as fast as possible. To further
sweeten the deal he mentioned that even their communications had been
affected and they could not reach home office for further directions or
even report their location.

The base commander, an alleged poor fisherman was almost coming in his
drawers as he agreed he would personally visit the stricken ship at once to
pick up the parts list and the advance payment. While they were onboard, he
wondered if he and his small crew could tour such a magnificent vessel that
they surely would never see the inside of again.

Ali directed Sea Song's saviors to board through the side hatch where entry
could be tightly controlled directly into the ship's hold to meet the
surprising welcome party. Snoopy watched the poor fisherman and his cohorts
hide their long guns on the boat and conceal their side arms on their
persons. In all, there were 15 crewmen and the commander; all dressed from
head to toe in black except for their eyes and hands which of course were
also black.

In contrast, Gregor and Meesha and all visible crew were wearing their
dress whites for the occasion while guest husband and wife teams and two
little boys, lounged at the upper deck rails to laugh and wave at the
arriving fishermen. All of those worthies were so anxious to share in the
immediate wealth, they boarded Sea Song without setting at least one person
to watch their boat.

This lapse resulted in the pirates being stripped as soon as possible so
Jake and his Mean Motherfuckers could dress in black in order to retrieve
the hidden AK-47s since they and the small boat could be seen from
shore. Collecting those weapons meant that the takeover had been a
success. Ali hastened to confirm that by calling home to request all hands
to control the huge crew and wealthy guests who did not wish to be raped
and robbed.

It was fortunate that Ali's call launched everything that would float with
every al-Shahab member in the boats, because Jake and company took a sniff
of the filthy black uniform clothing they were supposed to wear to act as
the welcoming committee and refused to dress until everything was washed no
matter how much they were being paid.

Snoopy scanned the encampment for warm bodies, possibly prisoners, slaves
or family. After he found no one, not even a guard, Medi launched a single
rocket he aimed at the ammo dump that was improperly located in the middle
of the camp. The single thump, some smoke from the ship's bow and the
explosion in the camp caused a mass reversal of small boat courses;
something was horribly wrong; it was the Al-Shahab who should be destroying
things, raping, pillaging and killing but it was too late to escape, they
were literally sitting ducks for the Gatling and mini-guns to use as target
practice.

Evan watched the decimation from the top of the padded box on the fly
bridge. When he was satisfied that nothing human was moving, he shot the
whole mess both middle fingers, "That will teach you motherfuckers to touch
one of my crewmen or ships again!" he shouted into the silence.

The luckless 16 so called `fishermen' had been thoroughly blasted with the
high pressure two inch hose on the boat deck before they were hustled,
while still dripping wet, into the freezer with the thermostat turned low
to await questioning. They had already seen the Great Cats and Asian boys
watching them bathe but assumed that they were just someone's expensive
exotic pets and playthings. They also heard the explosion that eliminated
their camp and the heavy caliber firing that they rightly assumed
eliminated any possible rescue, but at the moment they were more concerned
about freezing to death beginning wherever they had wet hair; long
unkempt/washed wet heads, untrimmed beards and hirsute bodies were
beginning to ice.

The 15 soldiers wandered around aimlessly as hypothermia began to affect
their thinking while the commander couldn't stop thinking about the other
Al-Shahab camps and occupied villages that were spread along the coast. He
itemized the estimated number of fighters, their weapons stocks, their
individual successes capturing whatever shipping that came to their
attention and the result of their ransom demands. The other Al-Shahab units
all seemed to be more successful than his.

The cruise ship he was aboard was to be his first big `score', far bigger
than the profit would be from the loaded supertanker whose owners had
already paid $20 million to retrieve unsuccessfully. He knew of the trouble
and deaths that, that ransom had caused. While the factions fought for a
share, the mass of currency was still on the barge because no one group was
strong enough to wipe out the others and to make matters worse contingents
from other installations were arriving daily to claim and fight for their
fair share if not the entire mass of US currency if they were very lucky.

The commander dreamed of returning home to Syria where he should have
stayed, he thought, as he fell asleep while standing up after taking one
long last deep breath of freezing air.

"Tara Bani, Chief Bucky," Freckles protested, "that form of questioning was
not amusing to these Great Cats." The group that had been outside the
freezer just returned to Evan's lounge. All the Great Cats had to do down
there was listening as Bani stripped information from the Al-Shahab
commander's mind. Freckles and Spot planned a stalk in the boat deck; 16
fighters with knives, against only two Great Cats seemed fair if the
fighters were given 30 minutes to hide.

"Okay, next time, I promise," Bani compromised to end the squabble while
the rest of the guys laughed.

Bucky asked John if anyone at the barge had managed to break into the
welded hatches that led down into the bilges. The barge had been beached at
high tide and after two days, it was slowly settling into the sand,
permanently grounded. "No Sir," John said and brought up Snoopy's image of
the barge and the battered beachside village.

They could see that someone had removed the canvass that once hid the horde
of currency and a few black clad bodies on the barge as well as others
littering the beach but no one living was nearby. However there seemed to
be hundreds of living fighters clustered in groups, either dug in somewhere
up and down the beach, slightly inland or using the walls of buildings for
cover and each group seemed to be firing their weapons out somewhere
without aiming at anything; just making noise as a statement.

"Are there any civilians close by?" Bucky asked.

"Nope they all bailed. They're camped out in the desert on the other side
of the coastal highway." John moved Snoopy to the highway and whistled in
surprise at the traffic on the screen. There was a line of cars and trucks
converging on the village from both directions. There were many more of the
same that had been parked haphazardly along the road from the highway into
the village.

"We should have gotten the parking concession, or one of them should have,"
Bucky joked. "Now if this works most of them won't have anything to drive
assuming they survive," he added cryptically. Hans, Herman and Ali all
broke up laughing.

Buck thought he knew his father pretty well. He imagined that someone would
pay for the $20 million, perhaps with their lives. "What did you do Dad,
plant a bomb inside that barge?"

Bucky nodded, while Herman elaborated; "It is not just a bomb, we hope it
is a Claymore mine, the largest ever constructed." He went on to say they
used two tons of Evan's very special incendiary high explosive that was not
yet available commercially. They directed the future blast toward the
barge's bow and sides with the use of steel plate and sand bags packed
toward the stern, then just sandbags on top the explosive and bags full of
nuts, bolts, screws and nails on the other three sides, stacked five to ten
feet away from those three sides. The directed force of the detonation
should send the metal shrapnel and pieces of the barge up and down the
beach and out for 100s of yards through the village, perhaps as far as the
highway, hopefully to be followed by a shower of whole and partially burned
one dollar bills that hadn't been turned to ash.

The boys were all eager to blow the barge until they noticed that the new
arrivals apparently had come to some agreement to join forces in
advance. The crowded cars and trucks were abandoned in some order, and the
new fighters fanned out in a semicircle and began to advance on the
entrenched fighters from behind, taking out one cell at a time. "So much
for Al-Shahab loyalty to their cause," Buck mumbled with a grin.

Two hours later, superior numbers and advance strategic planning won the
day; the newer fighters were grouped around the barge and gesticulating at
the slightly scattered fortune. Now that they had it, there seemed to be as
many suggestions as fighters as to what to do with it; how it should be
divided and where the shares could be taken and hidden.

When Bucky saw that slung rifles were beginning to be unslung and readied,
and separate groups began to form, he nodded to Hans. He handed the little
black detonator to Evan, who pushed the single button without the slightest
hesitation.

While Snoopy's view was of the whole area from over the water at about a 30
degree angle, the resulting fiery holocaust still had everyone in the
lounge cringing if not ducking their heads even though Snoopy was incapable
of sound or 3-D. The smoke first formed a fast rising mushroom that also
grew a tidal wave of flame followed by a fast moving root system of
brightly burning tendrils that crept out from where at least two thirds of
the barge once rested and the resulting crater began to fill with water
when a mini-tsunami returned to the shore.

The fire followed the concussion out in a semicircle as far as one third of
where the fleet of cars and trucks were parked. The first vehicles lifted
and flew as they were ignited like fire balls to start other vehicles
burning further out. Of the more flammable, hence perishable, Al-Shahab
fighters living, or already dead, there was little to no trace; a
smoldering leg here, a blackened skull there.

"Well, I think we've fooled around here just about enough," Bucky opined,
"Please have Snoopy check out the villages and the Al-Shahab encampments
further south. I'm glad that the majority of fishermen don't really seem to
be involved as I assumed. I suggest we clean up any remaining fighters and
their camps, then find some more illegal fishermen and present their boats
to any villages we find if there are any native fishermen left alive." He
looked over at Doug's Mean Motherfuckers who always stayed in a corner of
the room trying to remain inconspicuous; `out of sight, out of mind'. "Say
Jake, are your guys ready to take over this ship and sail it in to where
Evan's tanker is anchored? You'll be exposed while we convince those
pirates that you took it as a prize and you need help to ransom it and the
passengers."

"Shit Dad, what are we going to be doing tomorrow?" Bucky quipped a tiny
bit sarcastically.

"Can we invite them big bosses aboard jus' like las' time, only this time
let Freckles an' Spot Cats have some fun wid' `em?" Jake asked hopefully
while the rest of his boys nodded.

Edvard interrupted to report Snoopy found a big trawler less than 50 miles
away but well within Somali fishing grounds. Ali suggested that it be
captured and turned over to the natives of the village they just destroyed
as partial compensation. A show of hands agreed, so Sea Song was turned to
approach the coast.

The plan was to make contact with the surviving village fishermen and bring
them along so Somali nationals would actually take command of the target
and claim it for Somalia, just like the local Navy might have done if there
was a functioning navy. (When there was a Somali navy they tended to sink
illegal fishermen in the past if a sufficient bribe was not forthcoming,
which only exacerbated the problem.)

Gregor allowed Ali to replace some of Sea Song's pleasure craft in the boat
deck with a pair of Bachal's patrol boats that had been placed right at the
stern so nothing else could be launched. Sea Song anchored well within the
12 mile limit just opposite the smoldering village and Ali appointed
himself as Admiral of the two boat fleet with his son Medi as Vice-Admiral
onboard one boat to command his two Arabic speaking crews and with Herman
commanding the marine shore party who just happened to be Israelis who of
course also spoke fluent Arabic.

They already knew that the surviving villagers had returned to their homes
after arming themselves with weapons and ammunition from trucks that had
survived the blast and were busy insuring that any wounded fighters felt no
more pain before they began to salvage food, any other supplies and a
fortune in US currency that was scattered as far as a mile away that the
fighters had no more use for.

While two inflatables beached, only Ali, Medi and Huss climbed from one of
the boats. They were very clearly unarmed since they were wearing shorts
and as they entered the ruined village, all three seemed to know exactly
where the villagers were hiding and waved while they called out to parley
with the headman. The villagers could see Sea Song anchored five miles out
and the two armed patrol boats anchored only a mile distant. The men in the
beached boats, were obviously armed and watching the young emissaries but
they were not sitting with their weapons trained on the village.

Medi carried a laptop and turned it on and around when he was close to a
low wall where the village leaders were hiding and began to show a video of
12 trawlers and a factory ship's defeat with the help of Somali fishermen
from the other side of the Horn. He began to narrate as the show progressed
which first drew the elders out of hiding before the rest of the villagers
arrived for a closer look.

That was when Ali began to suggest that they could possess their own
trawler as well if they were willing to take possession after it was
captured. The only delicate point was that the villagers had to trust the
people on the ship they could see. He assured them that the people on the
ship obviously had no love for Al-Shahab, he pointed at some human debris,
or the fish stealers from other countries the natives could see splashing
into the open sea on the video. Medi pointed to the very delighted Somali
fishermen on one of the Indian trawlers as that flag was lowered and
replaced with their blue flag with a single white star in the center. The
only condition was; there was to be no more pirating of ships.

The village chief kicked a nearby fighter's crispy torso and pointed at
those responsible by taking advantage of their inability to keep the
foreign fisherman out of local waters. He claimed that it was the Al-Shahab
fighters who were the pirates.

The deal was done when the headman tested Ali by asking if they could bring
their newly acquired weapons along on the big ship. Of course Ali agreed
and even agreed to supply all the men in the village with new modern
weapons that were superior to their old AK-47s. The new weapons could be
used to drive foreign fisherman away or the Al-Shahab if they returned.

The village Somali men and boys stood on Sea Song's fly bridge with one eye
on the trawler they were approaching and hoped to own, and the other eye on
the Great Cats who were sitting on the padded box trying to look friendly;
an almost impossible task. The difference between a Cat smile and frown was
too difficult for strangers to comprehend.

The target trawler was big with refrigerated holds and was flying a South
African flag so when the holds were full it could run for home very
quickly. Its monster drag net was down so there was no way they could or
would cut the cables and run so Sea Song simply drew alongside, matched
speed and presented its fixed weapons along with over 200 men pointing
automatic weapons on that side of the ship. That was the end of that sea
battle without a shot fired.

Since the trawler's seamen were black while the officers and supervisors
were white, there was no love lost between the two groups. The officers
were pleased that the new Somali owners would drop them off in Mogadishu
when the catch was sold and they could return home to South Africa, alive
and well; just minus one modern trawler.

A day later, Sea Song creeped into the anchorage where Evan's supertanker
was still being slowly unloaded into three smaller older tankers; one was
low in the water indicating it had been loaded, one was half full and the
third was still empty. Every eye on every boat in the anchorage was on Sea
Song with the Mean Motherfuckers firing AK-47s in the air from the bow and
the fly bridge to announce their presence. For ease of communication, it
was decided that Ali would play the role of a wealthy Saudi rebel who was
bored with life at home and wanted adventure. He assembled a mixed band of
cutthroats and entered the pirating business before the rest of the world's
navies combined to put the Somalian pirates out of business.

`Mr. Ali', the boss man managed to take over the beautiful cruise ship by
buying passages for he and some of his men while others had been hired as
able seamen. After smuggling their weapons on board they simply waited
until Sea Song put to sea before the ship was his by getting the drop on
the officers without the passengers being aware that they weren't going on
a world cruise before being ransomed by their families.

The radio traffic had heated up just before Sea Song arrived. Mr. Ali
needed a safe anchorage while ransoms were negotiated so there he was with
a human cargo, ready to pay anchorage fees to the local `business leaders'
if they would come aboard to have dinner with him that evening to discuss
terms and enjoy the finest wines and fresh food while it was still
available and the chef and the rest of the crew was still alive to cook and
serve.

Cocktails were planned for seven, with dinner at nine P.M. John and Edvard
noticed straight away that all communications were sent from the third
tanker, not from the captured tanker that they saw Evan had named `Oily
Byrd' (Early Bird, pronounced with a New York accent.) Snoopy's closer
inspection revealed that the third tanker had been converted to carry dry
freight; a smuggler's dream, and that much of the superstructure had been
converted into the quarters of a luxurious yacht. It didn't take long to
determine from radio signals that the hybrid ship was there to collect most
of the $20 million ransom after payoffs and return to South Africa.

They also determined that the big boss of the whole pirating operation was
still in South Africa and demanding to know where the $20 million was, and
the man that was to attend Ali's dinner party was his second in
command. The big boss was only appeased by the thought of taking the cruise
ship from the Arab upstart since he foolishly sailed it into his able
assistant's hands. Meanwhile he still expected the arrival of at least $19
million since he was informed that it had been delivered to the fishing
village from which the super tanker's high jacking took place originally. A
force of Al-Shahab rebels had been dispatched to see to the matter but
communications with them had suddenly ceased without explanation.

Carl, the big boss' representative on site arrived at Sea Song's side hatch
aboard an elegant tender. He was to be accompanied to dinner by four armed
bodyguards while 10 more remained on the tender. They were to force their
way into the ship when signaled. They were pleased and surprised when they
saw that no guards had been posted at the hatch and more surprised when
Huss, a couple of Asian kids and a few white teenagers arrived to invite
them aboard to have dinner with them while they waited for their boss.

Meanwhile, up on the fly bridge and especially from the crow's nest Jake
and the Mean Motherfuckers kept firing their AK-47's incessantly. Of course
after dark the distinctive sound was accompanied by muzzle flashes and
occasional tracer rounds that the Cats thought were pretty. They were also
instructed to occasionally, aim at one of the tankers so the additional
sound of ricochets kept the enemy guards ducking while they got accustomed
to random bullets flying their way, rifle fire generally and muzzle
flashes.

Carl and his guards were overwhelmed and disarmed in the main deck lounge
while the ten guards from the tender were led into the boat deck where they
were introduced to Freckles and Spot after they were disarmed and then
rearmed with knives and locked in for 10 minutes as Bani promised the Cats
earlier.

"This will be better than those video games," Spot assured Squeak and
Hughie while they waited outside the hatch.

"Do not take too long," Squeak cautioned, "or we will miss our ride to the
tanker in the enemy tender. Then we will have a real hunt," he told Hughie,
"Freckles will carry you with your rifle and Spot will take me with my
tool."

"I'm really lucky that my daddy and Pettie are up in the crow's nest; if
they weren't busy, they'd keep me from goin' along," Hughie said. "Chief
Bucky could still stop me..."

"If he sees you," Squeak interrupted, "but white warriors won't see us
after we shut off all the power, while Freckles will help you see in the
dark just like us," he promised Hughie confidently.

At that moment there was a different rifle sound, more of a sharp
crack. The two Pettie's, father and son and Marc, the best shots on Sea
Song, had replaced Jake's boys in the crow's nest and had begun
methodically removing any visible enemy from the lookouts down on all four
tankers beginning with Oily Byrd, the ship to be boarded first. The enemy
had brazenly lit up all the boats for better security, they thought, while
it was actually easier for the sharpshooters to nail them through the
portholes without the aid of their night vision scopes.

"I can't see a damned thing," Hughie told Squeak in mind-speak. The boys
and Tracy followed the Cats into the boat deck and Tracy closed and dogged
down the water tight hatch as instructed.

"Take my hand," Squeak countered, "You must see the Great Cats stalk their
prey," he said. Tracy put his hand on Squeak's shoulder so he could see
what was going to happen too.

"Tell me you guys aren't going to make a big mess for me to clean up,"
Tracy sent to his employers. Actually it was more like begging the Cats not
to make a mess. He and the kids could see one Cat flatten his body so he
looked like a wall hanging as he silently climbed the side of a boat on
chocks. Then he sort of flowed over the gunnel followed by a choked off
human scream.

"One for me," Freckles reported, "and here is proof," he added. He sent the
kids and Tracy a mind-speak video of a human head disappearing into his
open mouth and then they could clearly hear a definite crunch of a skull
collapsing. Freckles stepped back so the whole body could be seen before he
sent it and the blood spatter to nothingness. "There cry baby Tracy, are
you happy now?"

"Yes, thank you," Tracy said by way of apology after a gulp of air to try
to keep down his dinner.

They lost sight of Spot but heard him snarl from under one of Ali's patrol
boats. Then they heard what might have been a brief scuffle. "Two for me,"
Spot sent his score accompanied by more video of two mangled bodies before
they disappeared.

And so the hunt continued until only ten very sharp knives remained of the
big guy's body guards. Fortunately the Great Cats' score was five to five
so a rough and tumble was avoided, and there wasn't time anyway.

Gregor advised the boat deck that the stern was about to open so the crew
could launch both patrol boats and two of Sea Song's tenders. It was time
to take back Oily Byrd and free the 17 crew/hostages after clearing the
whole ship of hostiles. The clearing was to be Spot and Freckles' job with
Squeak accompanying Spot as before. No one thought about Hughie wanting to
go along until he was seen on the captured tender on its way to Oily
Byrd. Since he was sitting comfortably on Freckles back no one questioned
his right to be there or Freckles' right to bring him along, and both
Petties were still up in the crow's nest banging away at unsuspecting
targets in the target rich environment of the three smaller tankers.

Of course the Big Boss's tender was welcome anywhere without being
challenged. Two guards were guarding the boarding ladder to the main deck
from an alcove where they couldn't be shot. They discovered not challenging
was a very big mistake when two giant cats being ridden by two little boys,
managed to board without using the ladder and the score rose to six kills
each. As yet, no alarm had been sounded.

Sea Song's weapons were ready if there was an alarm. Only small arms
including the Gatling guns would be used to fire on the small tankers
because of the risk of an oil spill. While the small tankers were fully
crewed, Oily Byrd was over populated with fighters. They had given up
searching for the hidden crewmen however those in charge had the
intelligence to keep guards posted in areas where the crew `might' be
hidden, such as the engine spaces where the crew were actually hidden, so
they couldn't get out to further sabotage the huge tanker before additional
ransom was paid.

Bucky, Evan and the boarding party's first priority was freeing the Captain
and the mate who were being held in the Captain's stateroom just behind the
bridge. The Great Cats and their kids separated at the main deck to climb
to the bridge via the port and starboard ladders (stairs) while clearing
each deck level as they climbed after lights winked out on each successive
higher deck. Evan, with Bucky and the rest went down toward the engine
spaces where Snoopy reported that there were a half dozen diesel mechanics
who were vainly attempting to restart the engines while their expertise
didn't extend beyond heavy equipment and truck engines. There were also
guards guarding the spaces and others guarding the mechanics. Snoopy
detected a total of 35 enemy located very near where the crew was hidden in
the ship's safe room.

Gunfire was inevitable down below; there were infinite places to take
cover, but those sounds were masked by the single gigantic engine that was
still in operation. These were the butchers who slaughtered a mate just
because they could and to serve as an example if the $20 million wasn't
paid. There had been no thought of taking prisoners.

While Spot and Squeak once again worked as an exterminator team, Hughie was
reluctant to take another life since his single kill qualified him as a
full-fledged Cat warrior. Freckles talked Hughie into a compromise, Hughie
would only wound any enemy they encountered and Freckles would get credit
for the actual kill using his teeth and claws. This ultimately gave
Freckles the win over Spot for most kills.

Somehow word that there was a wild cat aboard, possibly a lion or leopard,
spread ahead of the Cats and kids' approach so the enemy began to climb up
toward the bridge deck, faster when they heard screams that stopped
abruptly. The Al-Shahab didn't know that there were two cats on the boat
until everyone met on the bridge. The Cats occupied port and starboard and
the remaining terrified fighters were in the middle. Squeak held his tool
ready but worked to refine his pointed finger technique while Hughie kept
aiming his new rifle at moving human knees to incapacitate and Freckles
went in for the kill while holding Hughie aloft out of the way and so he
wouldn't be hurt.

When Tracy arrived he nearly fainted; it was a scene from the depths of
hell that he avoided on the boat deck, although this time the Cats
considered the bridge as a trophy room until the final body count was
completed. "Is the Captain and the Mate alright?"

Hughie slipped off Freckles' back and ran to the central companionway. He
found the door was locked and there was no key, "Will it to open," Squeak
instructed optimistically.

Hughie went into a fighting crouch and pointed just like he'd seen Squeak
do. He added, "Abracadabra!" Whatever he did, it worked! He stepped back
and put his hands behind his back innocently when the deadbolt began to
smoke and turn cherry red before the metal lock assembly started to run
down the door. He approached the door in a crouch again and gave it a hardy
karate kick, and almost fell into the Captain's arms inside the room.

The freed Captain's only concern was for the welfare of his crew in the
safe room. That reminded Freckles that their presence was required in the
engine spaces where a few fighters had climbed up into the miles of
overhead piping that ran in all directions. Hughie and Squeak were left
with Bucky after every light blinked off in the spaces; advantage; Great
Cats and warriors.

There were screams of pain and then dull thunks as fighters began to rain
down on the diamond plate decks until the area was declared safe with the
return of lighting. The door to the safe room appeared to be the end cap of
a boiler or fixture, five feet in diameter that the crew inside opened
after the Captain thumped out a code on the steel. The crewmen were
uninjured and just wanted cold drinks before they sought their bunks.

The two real tankers and one smuggler's tanker, actually a freighter and
yacht hybrid disguised as a tanker, were easy to take over with no loss of
life or injury unless the crewman was on the losing team; none of them
survived.

Once back aboard Sea Song the second in command boss man was introduced to
the boat deck and the Great Cats at the same time; a very traumatic
experience. The man was more than happy to give up his boss, an Indian
national; a business man of some repute and enormous wealth living quietly
in South Africa.

The family discussed options before Bucky remembered a story Anton told of
an annoyingly successful German banker who led a syndicate of bankers and
businessmen intent on eliminating Anton to take control of the Snoopy
system and the rest of his empire. He summoned Will and Billie who Anton
described as wizards, and added John, Edvard, Spot and Freckles to the team
of computer wizards. They were charged with the task of utterly and
completely bankrupting this Big Boss Man. Bucky wanted every nickel, every
possession and every inch of real estate before him, Evan, Hans and Herman
visited to initiate an inquisition including at minimum; his feet boiled in
stolen crude oil, major bones broken and a length of time in an iron maiden
if they could find or have one recreated. With that mission underway, Sea
Song took a leisurely cruise back to Bachal City to begin their holiday
vacation.

#######

Once again I wish to thank my editor, Emoe for all the work he expended on
this chapter. This one was particularly nasty; I know because I wrote it
with difficulty and sent him a `mess' to clean up. I also take
responsibility for the unconscionable delay.

HAPPY READING!

Jamie Haze


 

 

 

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