"Mankind are greater gainers by suffering each other to live as seems good to themselves, than by compelling each to live as seems good to the rest." ~ John Stuart Mill
Minerva, Chapter 33
'That's not good,' Matt said, peering through the binoculars. He could just make out the Navy destroyer.
'Mayday mayday,' Quinn said into the microphone, not knowing if this were the correct terminology but feeling the situation to be an emergency. 'I've got someone right on my ass; do you guys see him?'
'We are aware of the bogey,' the speaker informed the men. 'It is the U.S.S. Hopper. Immediately increase your speed to fifty knots.'
'We can't!' Quinn yelled. 'We're loaded down with barrels of oil. We're only making twenty-nine knots.'
'Your cargo is circuit boards,' the speaker said.
'I think I know what my fucking cargo is,' Quinn said. 'We were originally scheduled for electronics, but they changed it at the dock.'
'We've got you down as carrying circuit boards and capable of fifty knots,' the speaker said.
'Ahh shit,' Jim muttered.
'They're not stopping, sir,' the sailor informed Captain Pierce.
'We've still got plenty of room,' Pierce said, referring to the 200-kilometer radius. 'Fire a warning shot.'
The men heard the whistle of the shell as it approached and splashed a few dozen meters ahead of the ship.
'Jack, we need to stop,' Jim said.
'What's the sentence for smuggling?' Matt asked.
'It doesn't matter,' Jim said. 'Jack, we need to stop. With this much oil, one hit and we'll go up in flames.'
* * *
Quinn counted off the seconds in his head. He and his crew were being escorted, handcuffed behind their backs, to the brig by three M.P.s carrying M-16s.
Three Mississippi , two Mississippi , one, Quinn thought, and tensed. He had obviously counted a bit quickly, but knew it would be coming soon. Quinn had long ago decided which of the sailors was the most alert, and had made sure that Jim knew of his choice.
BCKKKKKK!!! Everyone except Quinn instinctively ducked his head when the small vessel exploded in flames. Quinn lifted his right foot and brought it down at an angle against the left knee of his sailor, who had been walking just behind Quinn and to his right. The young man howled with agony as his leg snapped inward, and then crumpled to the deck. In one smooth motion, Quinn brought his right foot back to the deck, spun clockwise on it, and brought his left knee squarely into the nose of the sailor. The young man's face squirted blood as he fell onto his back. Quinn stepped over his limp body, and carefully placed his right foot on the man's right wrist. Finally Quinn used his left foot to kick the weapon out of the man's hand.
As Quinn raced over to the rifle, he allowed himself to check the progress of the others. He was relieved to see that his crew had successfully disarmed the remaining two sailors, and were now in the process of trying to shoot Jim's handcuffs.
'Whoa, hold up!' Quinn yelled, and ran over to the men. Nook was holding the rifle, while Matt was overseeing the operation.
'Make sure that shit is pointed away from my ass,' Jim insisted.
'Bend your hands at the wrists,' Quinn said. 'Okay Chris, fire a single round.'
Within forty-five seconds, the six men were freed of their cuffs. With the sidearms carried by the Navy sailors, each of the men now had a weapon.
'Grab those two and let's move,' Quinn ordered. 'Matt, give me a hand.'
Quinn held the M-16 in his right hand and grabbed his downed sailor by the shirt collar with his left. As he dragged him toward the stairs, Matt belatedly offered assistance by grabbing one of the sailor's legs.
* * *
Zach Weller frantically sprayed foam onto the burning wreck. As the minutes rolled by, he and the other young men realized that there was little hope of retrieving anything but the charred corpses of those who had been searching the blockade runner.
'Move and you're dead.'
Zach felt a sharp object poking the small of his back. He was quickly patted down and ordered to turn around. As he did so, he saw with horror that the six smugglers had somehow gotten free and were now rounding up the crew as prisoners.
'Get me in touch with your captain,' Quinn said to Zach.
'Go fuck yourself,' Zach said.
Quinn shook his head with annoyance before grabbing Zach by the crotch and hoisting him over the edge of the destroyer.
'I want to talk to your captain,' Quinn said to the next sailor in line.
* * *
'You listen to me,' Quinn said over the phone. 'If you don't raise the white flag and head for Minervan water, I won't just kill your eighteen boys we're holding here. I will first blow off their kneecaps, wait a good five minutes, then blow off their nuts. I'll wait a few more minutes, then shoot them all once in the gut. Now you know as well as I do that your toy boat doesn't mean shit in this war. So just do what I say, and be a good captain to Tommy Mercer, Joey Marino . . . .'
Pierce's attention zoned away as Quinn recited the names of his captive men.
The damn COWARDS!! Pierce screamed in his mind.