She stretched her legs out in front of her, letting the sand run through her toes. The sand felt good on her feet, the same feeling she remembered getting from a warm bath. Not that she’d been anywhere near a warm bath for years. Well, she’d best enjoy it because the sun was setting behind her and it would soon be freezing.
It was overcast and breezy. Had there been a lifeguard the red flags would be out. But of course there were no lifeguards and there never would be. She was watching a group of seabirds floating in a clutch on the swells. Every now and then a shaft of light would poke through the clouds and light up the gulls, iridescent against the dark water. And then just as quickly, all would be gray again.
She used to come to this beach with her family. A year ago, just thinking about her family; her two little girls and her husband, would have made her break down. Now she was just numb. No, numb wasn’t the word, she was still mad and she would have killed them slow if she had tracked down who’d taken the girls. She saw the animals that killed her husband…took him right out of his car and then dragged him behind it. They had been taken care of, and she’d made sure they knew why they were going to die. It had turned into a cold calculus; one thing happened and then another, and the next thing you know she’s sitting on her favorite beach with an AK-47. She didn’t have much ammo left, not that there was anyone left to shoot. The roving gangs died off, exterminating each other, the survivors dying of starvation or thirst. She hadn’t seen another woman in weeks, and any man she saw she shot on sight. She was the only one of her friends that hadn’t been murdered, raped, or otherwise assaulted, the only one still alive; see a man, shoot a man. It had worked so far, but of course there was hardly any point now.
It had started with the TV news: the networks figured out if you tell people what they want to hear and get them angry enough they couldn’t help but tune in. They traded in anger, but they couldn’t hold the beast they created. The irony was when things started to spiral out of control they were the first to go. It didn’t matter what side they were on. The killer was social media where “the crazy ones” were few but had the loudest voices. It spread like a virus, most people kept out of their arguments at first but soon the middle was gone. If you tried to make peace both sides hated you. She’d been called “complicit” by both sides. The right hated her because she was a “Latina”. The left hated her because we was the wrong kind of “Latina”. Fuck all of them.
At first it was just words, keyboard warriors fighting each other, but then people started to fight in real life. Homes were burned, businesses destroyed and soon everyone was weaponed up. It got hard to get to work, the truckers were afraid to drive and the trains stopped for lack of crews willing to take the chance of being burned alive in their cab units. Then the crops started failing. Everywhere. Food was like gold and people would trade anything for it. One of the few commodities you could exchange for food was, wait for it, sex. And so teenage girls and soon even younger children were being snatched everywhere. Crystal had been taken off the street, before she’d known that it wasn’t safe for young girls to be outside, even in their own front yards, even for a moment. She never saw who took her and she never saw Crystal again. She had fought hard for Janey but it was a gang and there were too many of them, and the only reason she was still alive herself was that a bigger gang showed up and they fought over the girl. She ran out to the street hoping to buy her back from the winner. She woke up a few minutes later in a pool of her own blood caused by her head hitting the ground. That’s when she started killing gang members. It didn’t matter which gang, they were all the same.
She looked back at the boardwalk, at the row of hotels. Not a sound, not a soul. Not surprising…it would have been shocking to actually see someone still alive. She was a survivor in a non-survivable world. Maybe the fish would survive…they didn’t need fresh water. She gave a bitter laugh, she would have “googled” it but google and its data centers and the people that maintained them were long gone. She was surprised by how long parts of the internet stayed active. That figured. The thing that had caused the destruction of humanity clung to life, just in case someone wanted to look up the feeding habits of zebras or watch the odd cat video.
She had some canned food, and she thought she knew where there was water; someone had told her of a hidden stash months ago a few miles from here. But that was a long way on foot and the thirst was overwhelming now. She felt dizzy and she wanted to be in her right mind long enough to end things. It was the water that killed them all. After the crazies got hold of the nukes and the bio weapons keys and started lobbing missiles, they’d poisoned all the drinking water. There was drinkable water, but not near enough and as soon as any was discovered people started killing for it. Most people died from drinking the poisoned water or salt water. You couldn’t help yourself, you get thirsty enough you’ll drink anything.
So now, thinking when she would do it…she wanted to see the ocean at night, with the moon reflecting off it one last time. It was darkening now and a couple of running lights, white and green, shown against the purple sky. It took a minute to register…there shouldn’t be a boat. It must be a buoy still running off solar power or maybe an abandoned ship. But no, it was moving, the green starboard light told her it was moving to her right…towards the inlet. It was in the channel even though the markers were long dead. She got up and started walking down the beach toward the inlet. The moon was not up yet so there was no way they could see her on the darkening beach. She needed to know who they were, where they came from. Did they have water? Food? Were they looking for it? Well, they would either share or she would be dead just like she had planned on anyway so it was a good gamble.
She was close enough that she could hear the engines going to idle as it slipped into the narrow part of the channel. There were no other boats to avoid but they must not be familiar with the layout of the small harbor. She was maybe 100 yards away from them now and watched as they shined a searchlight around, looking for something. She decided to let them find her, but kept her AK visible out of habit. Even if they had their own arsenal, at this range she could do serious damage to a small boat. She took it to be 42 feet with diesel engines. The light hit her and she froze. The light froze too…whatever they were looking for it probably wasn’t a crazed woman with an assault weapon. The standoff went on for what seemed like minutes but it was only seconds. Finally, from the boat, a woman’s voice “are you going to shoot us with that thing?” She relaxed just a hair…at least if wasn’t full of men. She wasn’t in the mood to shoot anyone else.
“Where did you come from and what are you doing here?” The boat woman replied “we’re looking for lobster and crab pots. Anything to extend our food supply.” Made sense, if they’d have said fuel she would have known they were lying; anyone with half a brain knew there wasn’t any fuel to be found on the whole eastern seaboard. “Are you hungry? You look hungry we have food and water”. The food was one thing but water? Where had they gotten potable water? They could see her suspicion, “look, do you want some or not? We don’t know you but we’re not going to let you die out here unless you insist.” “Okay, why not…I mean what do I have to lose”. She took the magazine out of the AK and showed it to them. “This comes with me, but you can hang onto the magazine.” “Fair enough. Meet us at that pier just ahead.”
When she got to the boat they had already tied up and what she saw made her stop in her tracks. The boat was painted grey and the woman she’d been talking with was wearing the blue coveralls of a US Navy sailor. “Who the hell are you and why aren’t you flying a flag?” “We’re ex US Navy”. The “ex” was the key word, as there had been no national command authority for several years. “But how…I mean we thought you were all destroyed?” “Not all of us. We went black. No electronic emissions, no weapons fired, no nothing”. “So what ship are you from?” “Not going to tell you that until you tell us your intentions. We think we can make a go of it but we need more people like you, so why don’t you tell us who you are”?
As she told her story, she realized that though she had relived every part of it over and over again in her mind, she had never spoken any of it. It took a long time to get the story out because she kept breaking down. Another woman had come forward to listen but the two men on the boat kept a respectful distance. When she was done, one of the women said “you’ll never replace what you’ve lost, but neither can any one us. It ain’t much but we’re trying to start over. Are you in?” “I think so but I’ve so many questions”. “We have to get back, so we’ll explain on the way and if you change your mind I promise we’ll drop you right back here.”
She woke up in a rack in what was formerly officer’s country, a real bed with clean sheets…how long had it been? There was an empty bunk but due to the reduced complement of the ship she had it to herself. The United States Navy might no longer exist, but it’s stamp was still everywhere from the cryptic emergency instructions stenciled on the bulkheads to the monogramed towels and blankets. She was hungry so she got dressed and followed the signs in the passageways and the directions they had written down the night before. The carrier was enormous and it took a number of wrong turns and about fifteen minutes to find the mess. She expected to be stared at, an outsider, but she was wearing navy coveralls and even the reduced complement on board offered a degree of anomonity. The food was as advertised, smallish portions, not fancy but healthy and expertly prepared. About halfway through her second slice of bacon it hit her. Where had they gotten the meat? Where had they gotten the fresh produce for that matter? She would soon find out.
She decided to look around, she was told there would be some dangerous off-limit areas like the reactor spaces but other than that she was free to wander. Someone would let her know if she was in the way. She climbed a series of ladders until she was on a deck with a partially opened side. She looked out at open ocean and what she saw took her breath away. As far as her eye could see there were ships…of every shape and size. “Holy shit!” Just then Leslie, her benefactor from the night before, walked up behind her “good morning, I went down to look for you, figured you’d sleep all day. You seem to be navigating the ship okay on your own.” She gestured toward the opening “you said there were other ships but I had no idea…” Leslie chuckled, lets go up to the flight deck, you can get a better view and I’ll try to answer your questions.
She was looking through a pair of high powered lookout binoculars and, sure enough, none of the ships flew national flags. For every question there was an answer “the carrier can sail for 30 more years on it’s reactor fuel”, “One of the tankers in the group carried aviation fuel because there were no refineries left.” “The other ships could run on unrefined crude and there were plenty of full storage tanks around the world” “The food? The container ships had been converted to floating farms.” “Who was in charge? A board voted on by all members and they were headquartered on one of the cruise ships”. As they walked around the ship, Leslie explaining how things worked, how often the fighters flew, etc. something was eating at her: it was just a little too perfect. And where had the crew gone? They had scattered to the other ships. To help with growing food, governing, etc. When she asked if the ship carried any nukes or bio weapons she’d been told they had been disposed of. There would be no need for those anymore…fair enough.
She had to admit, the whole thing was pretty…well, it was exciting. For the first time in years she allowed herself to feel some hope. Maybe humans could survive and rise above their old racist and tribal instincts. And also, she could scarcely believe what she was feeling: a little vanity about her appearance. She told herself, that it was natural, and a sign that her old optimism could return and that what these people thought of her would actually matter. Still, she felt a little guilty as he stood under the lights in the overhead and looked in the mirror in her quarters. Under the sunburn and the baked in grime she could still recognize her beautiful face. Her jet black hair was frizzled and speckled with a few streaks of gray but her piercing blue eyes still shown as bright as ever. Her stomach flipped and she gasped. Oh my god…she realized what was wrong. Where were the people of color on this ship? Latinos and African Americans made up half the damned US Navy but where the hell were they? She felt a cold shiver go up her spine…she was a Latina but didn’t look it and her last name was German…common in the country from which her parents emigrated.
She found Leslie’s quarters and knocked “Come in, wow you’re not sleeping much. Oh well, after you get used to being on board you’ll sleep better. What’s up? There’s a lounge at the end of this passageway with a TV and a movie library if you can’t sleep. ” She took a deep breath, “where are all the Latinos? Where are the African Americans?” Leslie sighed, “why don’t you sit down?” “Fuck you Leslie, time to start talking”.
“Alright, I was hoping to give you a few days to acclimate before we had the talk but lets just say everyone is where they should be”. “WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?”. “Well, some people are more suited for manual labor and some to run things, to make decisions, do the brain work. You understand that surely.” “No I don’t. Where are they?” Leslie made a wide gesture referring to the rest of the fleet. “They’re on the farm ships, the desalination ships, the tankers, etc.” “So they’re your slaves. That’s what you’re telling me. I want off this ship. You said you’d bring me back.” “Yes we will bring you back, but why go back to the beach only to die? And what a waste. Look at you, you must have perfect genes. Why don’t you sleep on it and if that’s still what you want in the morning fine. Your loss.”
She left in a rage and walked right by her quarters, trying to calm herself down. What could she do? It was just her and thousands of…oh my god. Nazis. When Leslie hit her with the spotlight back at the inlet she must have gotten one look at her blue eyes and gotten a fucking Nazi hard-on. She wandered the passageways aimlessly, passing the occasional sailor or civilian…they were all friendly and she fake-smiled back. She wondered how friendly they’d be if they knew of her indigenous blood. Some of the men gave her that wolf-stare, she hadn’t noticed it before but she’d been exhausted and high on adrenaline. Then something her cousin Rodrigo had said dawned on her. Rodrigo had snuck into the US and managed to enlist in the navy…it was the best thing he could have ever dreamed of. He loved the United States and wanted to serve and besides, it was the best food, clothing and housing he’d ever had in his life. It didn’t matter that he had a shit job…she couldn’t remember what it was, but it was hard, hot, manual labor and he told her he had only been top side 6 times during one seven month cruise. She passed a pair of Marines guarding some sensitive space, the reactors maybe? They saw her getting ready to take a ladder down and shouted to her “you sure you wanna go down there Miss? Rough characters.” Then she realized what they were guarding was the ladder…not to keep people from going down but to keep people from coming up. “I can take care of myself”. She heard one of them whisper to the other “I’ll take care of her”, both of them laughing. She started wishing she had a weapon. The AK was under her bed, they had let her keep it as promised, little good it was though without ammo. She turned around to glare at them and they quickly apologized, like they were afraid of her…strange.
She kept going down, and the spaces kept getting hotter and then finally she heard it, someone speaking Spanish. She crept around a corner and found herself in an open berthing area. She wasn’t the only one. Everyone stared, then someone said in heavily accented English “well it looks like someone sent us a princess”. Loud laughter broke out. She replied in Spanish asking if he wanted to have his balls stuffed down his throat. The laughing stopped. “What the hell are you doing here? Are you Latina? And why do you have the run of the ship? You must be some big shots toy. ” She ignored that. “I just came aboard, they think I’m Anglo or Aaryn or some bullshit. What the hell is going on here?” An African-American man came forward, it was obvious from his bearing he was, or had been an authority figure. “You are in Nazi-Heaven darling, and we…are at the bottom of the totem pole. He held out his hand, “Lt. Commander Garson…as was. Welcome to the new world.” She looked around at them…they were an impressive looking bunch. “How could you let this happen? You’re the only survivors of this, this Armageddon and you let a bunch of Nazi’s define the future?” Garson gestured to an empty rack, “have a seat, this could take awhile.”
“They told me they “disposed” of the nukes, I guess they did in a matter of speaking.” They’d told her the whole incredible horrifying story. And now she remembered something: there had been a guy on talk radio, even when almost all of the stations were off the air, you could hear him over most of the country on the AM band in the evening when the weather was right. Everyone wrote him off as a crackpot. People were blaming the Russians, Chinese, Iranians, even the Poles at some point. But this guy kept on, and what he kept on saying was that this was no miscalculation, no lunatics taking over the nuke and bio keys. It turned out that after so many years of so many ludicrous conspiracy theories no one could recognize a real conspiracy. THEY had flooded social media with fake news. THEY had sowed the seeds of division. THEY had put weapons in the hands of the zealots. Then they sat back and let evolution do its work. And finally, when the whole world had devolved into this Mad Max hell, they administered the Coup de Grace . And it had come from the sea.
“So, you’re all gonna spend the rest of your lives down here?” A woman spoke up “we’re just waiting for our chance…and you honey, are that chance”. “What the heck can I do?” “First thing is to avoid letting them get your DNA. Once they do that you’re cooked. You’re pretty so you won’t have it bad but still, you’ll be “assigned” to some perv Nazi. “How can I put it off, Leslie will make me do it won’t she?” They all started laughing. “You think they just pick up women at random and let them have the run of the ship? This is a giant hive and with that hair and those eyes, you’re one of the princess bees.” She was confused “because of the way I look?” Garson spoke up again “this is a giant gene pool factory…how you look is ALL they care about. You wanna test it? Go up that ladder and tell one of those asshole marines to put a bullet in Leslie.” She whistled…”are you serious?” “100%…but don’t, we think Leslie can be turned. Actually we think quite a few of them will be turned. They had to go along or they’d have just shot them and tossed them overboard. And there’s a reason they flew in and rescued their families”. How much more horrifying could this get she thought “their families are hostages on the cruise ships…”
They spoke of plans and plans for plans for a few more hours, but it seemed impossible. They had all the ratings they needed to get the job done but getting jets up to the flight deck, and then getting them armed and fueled, much less launching one, might just attract a wee bit of attention. They had thought through a lot of it but it depended too much on luck, and on people risking their lives, and the lives of their families, to come over to their side. They all needed some rest so she got ready to go back up for the night but then remembered her weapon. “I have an AK under my bed but I need ammo…where can I get some standard NATO?” Someone whistled “In an AK? Lady you will blow your face off. You never fired that gun in anger, did you? This whole Rambo girl story is all bullshit, you’ve been lying to us!” “No” she shouted back at him “It’s not a normal AK-47”. There was a lot of murmuring and some swearing, “bitch, you’re a spy. We’d kill you but they’d slaughter every one of us”. But then a calm, measured voice she hadn’t heard yet spoke up. It was a petite woman who looked like she could spit nails. “Israeli?” “Yes, a Galil dammit”. The new woman nodded “she’s right. 7.62 39mm will chamber just fine in a Galil. For gods sake tell her where she can find ammo. Bring it with you in the morning. It will be guarded but like we been telling you, you’re a princess. They won’t say shit cause they wanna live”.
They were right about the ammo. She found the ready ammo locker right down from her quarters and told the Marine guard to open it. He looked her over, nodded, and let her in. Then he went back to standing watch. The next morning she grabbed a shower in the officers head after instructing another Marine to watch the door and turn away any men. On the way out, she handed her dirty clothes to the Marine, told him to have them laundered and it had damn well better be back by 14:00. They told her to act a little arrogant and she was enjoying playing the part. When she got back to her quarters, surprise surprise, Leslie had stocked her locker with some decidedly feminine clothing. There was a note on her desk letting her know the plan for the day which was for her to be on her own until around 18:00 and then her and Leslie would hang out the rest of the day and they would talk about what was next. As she read through the note, catching a few subtleties in tone, she realized that she would have absolutely no problem turning Leslie. The only qualm she felt was that if Leslie indeed turned out to be a good egg waiting for the right time, she might wind up hurting her. TBD.
By the time she descended the ladder back to the berthing area, she had put her new outfit to good use and had acquired a posse of three loyal Marines. “Don’t worry they’re with us now”. The petite woman, Ramirez was her name, whistled “damn girl, you work fast”. Ramirez looked at the Marines…you jarheads are a taking a big risk on the UNLIKELY chance you’re gonna see some fresh poontang. “No Ma’am, its nothing like that! We don’t feel any of this is right…and besides, she’s kind of hard to say ‘no’ to.” Ramirez laughed, looking her straight in the eye “yeah, I bet you are, I’m just glad you’re on our side”.
They were going over the plan for what seemed like the 20th time, but it was complicated and for everything that could go wrong, there needed to be a contingency. And there were a lot of things that could go wrong. She looked around at the team and reminded herself that these were career military…warriors, aviators, engineers, and every other rating imaginable. They’d had the whole plan worked out months ago but were biding their time, waiting for the right moment. The right moment was the moment she showed up on the ship. With her status she could stand down almost anyone that tried to interfere. Almost. She was near but not at the top of the food chain and once the alarm went out bigger forces would get involved including a Marine Praetorian guard force that would shoot dead, on sight, anyone they even suspected was jeopardizing the larger mission.
There were five ready aircraft on the flight deck; 2 Hornets, 2 Lightnings an ASW bird and a Hawkeye. They needed the Hawkeye not for its AWACS suite but for its ECM capabilities. There was only one problem: no one among them knew how to operate the top secret ECM equipment that would have to decoy the raft of missiles that would be launched against the Hornets and the ASW chopper. The Lightnings could take care of themselves. Guess who was detailed to either turn, order or force an ECM operator onto the team? This was sticky…she would have to turn Leslie and then Leslie would have to lead her to an ECM operator. It was the riskiest part of the plan. The rest was black and white…it would work or it wouldn’t. Powering up the EMAS catapults, disabling the Phalanx close in defenses, which were a threat to the aircraft right after launch, was just activating or deactivating systems that they were familiar with…but they would start attracting attention immediately. Marine sentries would try to stop them but they’d either be turned quickly or killed. That would be tough because while they were the enemy they were also their former shipmates. If you’re gonna make an omelet though…
It took less than thirty seconds to win over Leslie, she told her there was a plan. “Who is in charge?” “Garson and Ramirez, good enough?” Leslie grabbed an illegal sidearm hidden in the overhead. “Let’s go.” There were three Marines, more than expected, guarding the weapons lockers. Two of them stepped aside at her command as expected but the third looked at her with his deep blue eyes and said “fuck off cunt”. Leslie pulled the AK-47 from behind her back and wasted all of them. There wasn’t time, in fact their colleagues who needed the weapons arrived almost as the last Marine hit the deck. “You two had better hurry up and get us a damned ECM officer or we’re all dead”. They walked/ran down passageways until they came to the airwing quarters. Leslie said “I got this. Wait here” A minute later she emerged with a young ensign at gunpoint. “Sending you in would have been a waste of time, I know all the ECM guys. Assholes every one.” “Jesus Les, what if he doesn’t cooperate?” She laughed, “Oh he will. If we get shot down he’ll die with us. This one’s a pussy, he won’t die for the cause”. Things were already starting to happen, the lights dimmed slightly in the passageway as the team fired up the EMAS.
When they emerged on the flight deck the first Super Hornet was just launching and the other one was right behind. They were moving the Hawkeye into place and the security squad had set up a perimeter to keep anyone from interfering. They’d disabled the elevators and had all the entries to the flight deck covered. The only real threat was from the Island as there was a defensive weapons locker there but they’d copped two M60’s and were ready to put up a hail of covering fire. Plus that Hornet was already circling back around and everyone on the Island knew it could take them out in a heartbeat. Sooner or later though there would be a surge of armed goons from below and they wouldn’t be able to stop them all so they had to move it. Leslie was sprinting over to the Hawkeye dragging the ECM asshole with her, while she ran over to the AWS bird. Two strong arms grabbed her and literally threw her to the rear of the chopper. They lifted off.
She looked back at the ship and could see both Hornets were gone and the second F35 and the Hawkeye were lined up. A cheer went up from the front of the chopper. “They took out that French Aegis cruiser! Oh my god it’s frigging vaporized”. They circled the carrier again at a distance ready to spray the deck with their 50 calibers, but all she could see now was a flight deck crowded with the enemy trying to line up a counter strike. Wisps of smoke emerging from the cat tracks told her that would be no more launches. The covering team had withdrawn from the deck, taken out the EMAS system and now had the job of protecting the other good guys until the carrier surrendered. She was sitting close to the ASW operator now and he shouted “Magnetic anomaly, possible submarine! Shit! I’m tracking a torpedo!” The pilot raced to an attack position to take out the sub, but someone yelled “they got the carrier!”. They could all see it now a ball of flame had shot out of the fantail and the carrier was beginning to list. “That was NOT part of the plan. Who the hell is that?” Whoever it was, ignorant of the overall plan and wanting in on the action, did the logical thing and took out the biggest threat. “Drop an active buoy and ping that damned submarine, we don’t want him taking out the cruise ships, the tankers or the containers.” As it turned out, the sub focused all of its efforts on the surface combatants. “So this sub is on our side, but are there others out there?” The AWS guy shook his head, “no, there were some boomers, I mean missile boats, but once the nukes flew they sank them, kind of useless at that point.” Meanwhile between the aircraft and the submarine a swarm of Harpoons and MK48 torpedoes had quickly reduced the Nazi battle fleet to a smoking debris field.
Now they were circling the burning carrier, it was still listing and smoke was pouring from the elevator openings. “They’ll be counterflooding now and if they can get the flames under control it won’t sink”. He didn’t have to say what they all knew, they were grateful for the sub coming into the fight on their side, but the fixed wings had nowhere to land and they’d be out of fuel before they could put down on the carrier even if it managed to stay afloat. “We’re going to have eight flight crew in the water and only one chopper. Get on the horn with that sub and get them on lifeguard duty pronto”. While they were trying to signal the sub she got into a conversation with one of the door gunners. “Why did you come over to us? You’re a blue eye.” She explained that she was a Latina and that no one had taken her DNA yet. “I like to think I wouldn’t have gone for their bullshit anyway.” The gunner nodded. “I’m Filipino, my family had been serving in the US Navy for over a hundred years. This is some hard shit to take. But you know what? He motioned to the carrier. That sub did us a big favor after all. They need everybody for damage control, they can’t save the ship without our guys so for now they won’t be focused on taking hostages or killing any of them.” She wanted to tell him that the whole plan revolved around having the carrier. There was a plan ‘B’, but it meant sacrificing some of the good guys on the other ships. Best keep that to myself she thought.
The only aircraft aloft now were the chopper and the Hawkeye. The Hawkeye was tracking the remaining civilian ships which were exiting the area at best speed and the chopper was directing the submarine onto the downed fliers. All had landed near the designated ditching point and all were being picked up. Meanwhile the list on the carrier had been partially corrected and the flames looked to be dying down. The submarine was back to doing submarine stuff, which meant they had no idea what it is was up to. The carrier wouldn’t answer their radio calls so they circled and blinkered at the bridge “any movement of aircraft on the flight deck and you will be sunk without warning. Acknowledge.” They had sabotaged the EMAS cats, but not beyond repair. The pilot called out over the intercom “we are bingo fuel. I’m gonna put down on a tanker and take on fuel.” From the flag bridge of the carrier came a terse “acknowledged” . One of the tankers carried aviation fuel for the carrier air wing and unlike the fighters and the Hawkeye, the big Sikorsky could set down and fill up. They chased down the tanker which was mostly manned by allies with the exception of a small Marine guard. They circled the pilot house with their weapons pointed right at the bridge windows. The tanker, having seen all their protective escorts taken out, got the message and signaled permission to land.
There were six Marines on board the tanker. Three of them came over to them and the rest were clapped in irons below decks. They took four crewman, the two Marines and a weapons stash from a locker and re-boarded the chopper. The tanker was left with a friendly commander and crew and told to hang back from the carrier. They lifted back off and in a few minutes were back circling the carrier. They were now in radio contact with Ramirez; she and a small assault team had stormed the CIC and taken over, the carrier was now secured from sinking but there was still a firefight raging over control of the ship. They had quickly liberated their allies and managed to turn a good number of crew members, but key command positions and most of the aviators had been carefully screened and they were not going to give up. The carrier was blind after one of the F35s had tore up the masts with its 20mm cannon so even if the cats were operational, nothing was going up as long as the submarine was lurking around. Ramirez held most of the ship forward of the island and most forward areas below decks. There was a standoff in the reactor spaces but most of the machine spaces including the turbines and the critical shaft alleys were held by Ramirez. She instructed the helo to drop the six armed crewman onto the forward flight deck. On the way back to the tanker for reinforcements they shot up the bridge for good measure. By now, there was a defensive position and the return fire killed the door gunner. They left his body on the tanker for later burial and returned with seven more fully armed fighters.
It took a couple of hours and a bloodbath but the ship was secured enough for the Hawkeye to land. While the AWACs was refueling, the chopper circled ready to pick off any heroes that showed up on deck trying to interfere. None did. When you get down to it, Nazis are idiots. By sending all the people of color to do the crap jobs they had isolated themselves into a few areas of the ships. The Marines they had posted below decks were quickly overwhelmed, but in most cases come over to the rebels once they saw who was involved and that they were going to be successful. They stood down the submarine and it surfaced and transferred the aviators back to the carrier and, in a nod to tradition, the carrier’s mess transferred 10 gallons of ice cream back to the submarine. Someone had hung a banner from the island “under new management”. After tense negotiations the surviving Nazis on the carrier were transferred to the headquarters cruise ship and people were shuffled between ships until all the Nazis were on the one cruise ship and everyone else was transferred to another ship. The Nazis were given a tanker full of bunker fuel and one of the floating farm container ships and told to leave the area. No one was happy.
That evening Garson led a tense meeting on the hanger deck for everyone that wanted to attend. By the time it was over, first watch had finished at midnight and a unanimous decision had been made. There were some vocal dissenters but in a show of solidarity they had taken the decision together. All those not on watch headed for the rack. Tomorrow was going to be a tough day.
At 0500 a flight of four F35s, loaded for stealth, was launched from the flight deck. They were quickly followed by an F18 tanker and a Hawkeye. Four heavily armed Seahawk helicopters also took off and headed in the same direction. Within 30 minutes the flight leader reported back “Tanker and Container both capsized, cruise ship is down at the bow and launching lifeboats. We are inbound.” The F35s had done their part of the job. The Seahawks were there to finish it. Though heavily armed, they were also outfitted for air-sea rescue, but when they returned to the carrier they brought no survivors and the armorers noted that the 50 caliber magazines were empty. One of the Seahawk gunners walked a few yards then fell to his knees and vomited on the flight deck. “You think he’ll be alright?’ Leslie shook her head. “I doubt it. It was a terrible thing we asked those crews to do…but necessary.” They went below decks and went out to the fantail opening and stared at the wake as the ship accelerated. The submarine was somewhere, skulking around looking for threats, and they had new company: a Canadian frigate had managed to ride things out and had cautiously challenged them. The Canadians thought they were taking a gamble but the truth is the Hawkeyes had been keeping an eye on them for the past two days. One wrong move and a Harpoon would have sent them to the bottom. As it turned out they were a welcome addition, able to scout far ahead of the carrier saving the fighters the trouble of a constant air patrol. Not that they would find anything.
They were heading south. There had been shortwave chatter, up until about a year ago, that the radiation was more survivable down south. It wasn’t bad out at sea, but most of them had been exposed enough already to dramatically shorten their lives…that is except for the submarine and the Canadian frigate which had locked down in “Castle Mode” and avoided the worst of it. So the sub and the frigate would explore close in, checking the radiation levels and looking for secure anchorages big enough for the carrier. Leslie chuckled and said “well, I’ve always wanted to go to New Zealand”. She didn’t respond. She could barely make out the masts of the rest of their little flotilla and she was both depressed that this might be the last of humanity and amazed that she was still alive. Leslie offered her hand and she took it. And they stood there, hand in hand, looking at the cold green sea.