Authors: Jake Bible
It wasn’t an actual forty foot whale that broke the surface of the water in the marina hangar bay. It wasn’t alive in any way, but it could fool anyone, even the crew that developed and built it. Same with the second and third non-whales that surfaced next to it.
“How’d it go?” Jimmy McCarthy asked, looking over his shoulder at a woman standing a few feet away as he crouched at the edge of the dock, watching the non-whales, their backs splitting as hatches opened and wet suit clad men pulled themselves out of the machines.
Mid-fifties, white crew cut, muscled arms and legs under his t-shirt and Bermuda shorts, McCarthy looked and acted like a man that didn’t take shit. Even crouched down so his flip-flops waggled beneath his heels, no one that knew him would ever mistake the man for anything but dangerous.
“Flying colors,” Dr. Lisa Morganton replied, checking over a tablet she held. Streams of data and information flew by on the tablet, but her trained eyes missed none of it. Maybe late forties, with short, bobbed blonde hair and hazel eyes, Dr. Morganton was known as calm, cool and collected. A smooth operator and all business. She smiled and looked up, catching McCarthy’s eye. “Everything in the green. Speed tests went better than expected. Detection is almost zero. These could swim right under a Coast Guard cutter and they wouldn’t even know it.”
“They’d know it, but they would think they were looking at adolescent blue whales,” McCarthy grinned. “We still need them to se
so there are no alarming anomalies. Last thing we need is a sonar tech getting curious.”
“Right,” Dr. Morganton nodded. “They look to eyes and electronics like adolescent blue whales. Exactly as designed. They are the perfect stealth submarines.”
“Good,” McCarthy smiled as he stood up, watching the sub pilots crawl their way across the gangways that were extended to their masqueraded machines from the dock. Several techs hurried about the marina hangar, tossing lines to the sub. “How about you boys?”
“Ship shape, Jimmy,” the first pilot replied.
Despite missing both legs below the knees, former SEAL John Sherman could never be mistaken for handicapped. Arms like trees and a barrel chest bigger than two men combined, John was in prime shape, and at thirty-two, he planned on staying that way. Just needed to sock away some cash so he could get his life back on track. And the gig with McCarthy allowed him to do just that.
“Any issues to report?” Dr. Morganton asked.
“None,” John replied as he strapped on a pair of prosthetic legs one by one. “Smoothest SDV I’ve ever been in. Takes a little getting used to with the tail propulsion system and fin rudders, but after a few minutes I almost felt like a fucking whale myself.”
“And you, gentlemen?” McCarthy asked the other two pilots.
Like John, they were also missing their legs below the knees. The wars hadn’t been kind to young men in the US military, but they each had been given new starts by coming on board with McCarthy and Dr. Morganton.
Former SEAL Bart Stern was twenty-five and like John, was in amazing shape. He crawled across the gangway and a tech handed him his alloy steel legs, just like the ones John wore. He strapped them on then flipped over and pushed himself upright. He bounced on his “legs” a few times then gave a thumbs up to the tech who hurried off to help former SEAL Mike Pearlman.
Mike waved the tech off, preferring to hand walk his way over to a waiting wheelchair on his own. His torso wasn’t thick and muscled like John’s or Bart’s, but long and lean with ropey arms that looked like they could twist and turn several ways at once. He climbed into his wheelchair, released the brake and wheeled over to McCarthy.
“You never get used to how populated the waters are in the tropics,” Mike said to McCarthy. “There’s more life down there than up here.”
“It’s Baja, baby,” McCarthy smiled. “There’s always more life here.”
“What types of marine life did you encounter?” Dr. Morganton asked, her eyes drawn from her tablet to the former SEAL. “Can you identify them?”
“Fish,” Mike smiled. “Lots of fish. A couple other whales.”
“And something else, for sure,” Bart added. “It was big. Did you catch it on the sonar?”
“I caught several big shapes, Mr. Stern,” Dr. Morganton replied, watching the men carefully. “Can you describe what you saw?”
“Not really,” Bart replied. “It was dark and the video cameras aren’t the highest resolution.”
“Why not?” McCarthy asked, looking at Dr. Morganton. “These things should have the best tech available.”
“They do,” Dr. Morganton replied. “But we are talking about conditions that are less than ideal. Submerged, moving, pilot error.”
“Hey,” John snapped. “Don’t blame it on the operators. We did our jobs; we can’t help it if the toys don’t work right.”
Dr. Morganton frowned at the man and looked back at her tablet. The men waited impatiently as she tapped at various applications then spun the tablet around.
“Is this what you saw?” she asked Bart.
Bart looked at the image on the tablet and nodded.
“Yeah,” he replied. “That’s it. Looks a lot better on your thing there.”
“Must be the video monitor resolution, not the video cameras because the recorded feed is crystal clear.”
“What is that?” McCarthy asked, walking over and taking the tablet from her. Dr. Morganton started to protest then remembered whom she was dealing with and let it go. “What kind of whale is that?”
“It is not a whale, Mr. McCarthy,” Dr. Morganton replied. “It is a shark.”
“Big fucking shark,” McCarthy said. “That a great white?”
“I would guess so,” Dr. Morganton responded, holding out her hand. McCarthy gave her back the tablet and smiled. She was not comforted by the smile in the least. “Although the water has distorted the image somewhat, so I can’t say for sure. But this being the time blue whales migrate back to the area in large numbers, I would believe it is a great white looking for a meal.”
“Ballsy,” McCarthy smiled wider, looking very much like a shark himself. “Some of the whales out there are two or three times the size of great whites.”
Dr. Morganton didn’t reply as she was busy studying the image on the tablet.
“Doctor?” McCarthy asked. “Hello? I said a shark like that is pretty ballsy.” He didn’t like the puzzled look on the doctor’s face and his smile dropped away instantly. “Talk to me. What is it? Something wrong with the subs?”
“I should hope not,” a man said as a door to the marina hangar opened and he walked through, followed by eight heavily armed men. “You promised me they would be ready for delivery today. I hope that is the case, James. For your sake.”
Max and Shane Reynolds sang along with the Beach Boys at the top of their lungs as they sped down I-5 in their Jeep Wrangler, top down, sun in their faces, life good.
The Wrangler was silver, but with the classic Rasta colors of Jamaica striped along the hood and doors. It was jacked up and looked like it had done some serious off-roading, which it had. The front and rear bumpers were reinforced, with the front having a good sized winch mounted to it. The side running boards were more than just stepping planks and had the same reinforced look as the front and rear bumpers.
The Rasta colors were more of a nod to their clientele- Northern California pot growers that hired the Reynolds so they could learn to protect their fields with more than just good vibes. Since the Reynolds were both ex-Navy SEALs, they had the expertise to train anyone that wanted to learn. And wanted to pay. Which NorCal pot growers could easily do.
The Reynolds brothers were nine months apart and almost looked identical, both with yellow-blond hair, green eyes, and freckles across their noses. However, there was one easy way to tell the difference- Max was missing his left ear and had scar tissue running from his scalp, down his neck, and onto his shoulder while Shane was missing his left eye.
Shane sat in the passenger’s seat, a joint firmly planted between his lips as he sang loud and proud. He lifted the black eye patch, which had a very prominent marijuana leaf stitched into it, and scratched at the empty socket underneath.
“Knock that off,” Max said, slapping at his brother’s hand just before he plucked the joint from his lips. “No scratching.”
“But it itches,” Shane whined. “It’s like I have ants crawling around in there.”
“Tell it to the doctors, bro,” Max said. He took a long drag off the joint and handed it back to Shane. “What exit is the VA again?”
“Right there,” Shane pointed as they passed the exit.
“Hold on,” Max said casually. He hit the brakes, spun the Jeep to the right, slammed down the accelerator, and gunned it down the embankment of the off ramp. “There. Smooth as silk.”
A multitude of horns blared around them, but the brothers didn’t pay any mind to the angry drivers. They just casually passed the joint back and forth, as the next Beach Boys track came up.
“Thar she be, bro,” Shane said, pointing to the large entrance of the San Diego Veterans Administration Medical Center. “Pull up front and drop me off.”
“You sure you don’t want me to hang?” Max asked. “I totally don’t mind waiting.”
“Nah,” Shane said, giving his brother the joint back as they screeched to a stop in front of the VA building. “You know how long it takes before I get to see the docs. It could be an hour or two. Head to Gunnar’s and wait for my call.”
“Yes, master,” Max said in a bad Igor voice. “Anything you say, master.”
“Exactly, bee-otch,” Shane grinned. He hoped out, stopped, turned around and grabbed the joint back. He sucked it almost dead before handing the roach to Max. “That’ll help pass the time.”
“Dude,” Max frowned, looking at the spent joint. “Not cool. I don’t have another rolled.”
“You can roll one at Gunnar’s,” Shane said then slapped his forehead. “Shit, no you can’t.”
“Kinsey,” Max said.
“Kinsey,” Shane nodded.
“I’m way too stoned to hang with Kinsey right now,” Max said. “I’ll park and wait for ya.”
“You sure?” Shane asked. “Like I said, bro, it could be a while.”
“That’ll give me time to sober up a little before we have to see Sis,” Max said. “Probably not a good idea to walk in all blazed while Kinsey is only a year sober, right?”
“Good call,” Shane said. “Park this bitch. I’ll be in the always waiting room.”
“Dammit, Gun!” Kinsey Thorne shouted as she tore back the covers and yanked Gunnar Peterson from his bed. “You aren’t ready yet? They’ll be here any minute!”
Gunnar’s head slammed against his bedroom floor and he started swatting at Kinsey as she pulled him towards his bathroom.
Her blonde hair was cut short, but no longer spiked and colored like it had been several months before. But that wasn’t the major difference in Kinsey’s appearance. Instead of the strung out junkie with pallid skin that hung from her like damp clothes on a summer clothesline, Kinsey’s frame was filled out and muscular. She’d been sober close to a year and turned her cravings for heroin, crank, booze, pills, whatever, into building her muscle mass back up to her fighting weight when she had been in the Marines.
At one time, she had been the first female candidate to make it through the Navy SEALs BUD/S training and move into the SQT portion. All she had to do was survive a little longer and she would have been assigned to a SEAL Team and made US history. But she broke, started using amphetamines, and when she was found out, she was dishonorably discharged.
That led to a downward spiral of drug abuse which resulted in her doing pretty much anything for a fix. Actually, there was no “pretty much” to it; Kinsey blew and fucked her way through most of the San Diego underground to stay high.
But that was before her father, former Navy SEAL Commander Vincent Thorne, forced her to become a part of Team Grendel- a group of highly trained ex-SEALs and former military types that worked for the mysterious Mr. Ballantine and “the company”. Ballantine never explained who the company was, and all being former Special Operations, everyone knew not to ask too many questions.
So, it was the new Kinsey that manhandled Dr. Gunnar Peterson that morning. And Gunnar was less than happy about it.
“Kins? Kins! Knock it off!” Gunnar shouted. “What the hell? What time is it?”
“Time to get your ass up,” Kinsey said. “What time did you get in last night?”
Gunnar kicked at Kinsey until she finally let him go and allowed him to stand up. He looked down and realized he was naked then turned to the bed.
“He snuck out a couple hours ago,” Kinsey smirked. “How was he?”
Gunnar rubbed at his head and frowned. “Not sure. I think I got a little drunk last night.”
“No shit, Sherlock,” Kinsey replied. “You two were louder than two raccoons. I was worried the neighbors would call the cops.”
“It’s a discrete condo complex,” Gunnar said. “More than a couple celebrities have places here. No one calls the cops.”