Authors: Jake Bible
WHEN GIANTS COLLIDE
Copyright 2014 by Jake Bible
Chapter One- Paradise Lost
The sun beat down on Ballantine as he paced back and forth across the blindingly bright sand of the unnamed beach. Dressed in his usual khakis and polo shirt, Ballantine felt the sweat trickle from his armpits and down his sides, as the speaker on the other end of the satellite phone he gripped made him more and more frustrated.
“I know that, William!” Ballantine shouted into the sat phone. “What the fuck do you think I’ve been doing all these months?”
Fit, tan, and muscular, Ballantine may have looked like a golf pro, but he was more than capable of handling himself, when the need arose. No matter his physical skills, or even his intellectual skills, his verbal skills was what he needed and they were failing him at that moment.
“Listen, you pencil pushing piece of rhino dung,” Ballantine spat, “you are where you are because of me. I created that division for you. Don’t interrupt me! Listen. That’s what I’m saying to you, got it? Just listen.”
Ballantine took his sunglasses off and pinched the bridge of his nose as the speaker did the opposite of his request. Before putting his sunglasses back on, Ballantine squinted out across the waves at the ship anchored in the deeper waters off the beach. At over 90 meters, the Beowulf III was a triple hulled “research vessel” styled along the lines of the RV Falkor that had been built and financed by Google many years before. Unlike that vessel, the Beowulf III was designed for purposes much more serious.
The B3, as its crew called it, was home to Team Grendel and an additional crew of 10. Ideally it would have had a support crew of 20 persons, but it had become harder and harder to find people willing to sign on to the dangerous, and covert work that Ballantine and Team Grendel were tasked with.
“William, stop,” Ballantine sighed as he closed his eyes and raised his face to the blinding sun. “You are preaching to the choir, my boy. I know exactly how deep I am with this situation. I’ve been running for my life for nearly six months now, so please don’t tell me- Fine. Explain it to me, but don’t forget who you are talking to.”
The ocean breeze made the thin drapes flutter as Shane Reynolds sat in the lounge chair, a large cocktail in one hand and an almost as large glass pipe in the other. He placed his lips to the stem of the pipe and sucked, as a beautiful Samoan woman lit the bowl that was filled with sticky, stanky pot. Smoke bubbled into the reservoir of water, curled up into the glass stem then disappeared into Shane’s mouth.
“That is amazing,” he said when he finally exhaled the smoke and smiled at the woman. “You have the gift of a green thumb, Linny.”
“Thank you, Shane,” the woman grinned as she took her hit then set the pipe aside.
Blond haired, green eyed, and tan, Shane had rugged good looks made even more rugged by the eyepatch over his right eye. Decorated with a mutli-colored pot leaf, the eye patch covered the reminder of Shane’s run in with a Somali pirate gang leader two years earlier. A solid reason why he no longer liked ice picks. While Shane had learned to live with the disability, it took some adjustment since he was an ex-Navy SEAL and trained sniper. As he told everyone on Team Grendel, “You only need one eye to shoot. You know, so I can see. Not that I’d shoot my eye. I didn’t mean that.”
Linny sat on Shane’s lap, dressed in a slight, thin dress, and placed a finger on the eye patch.
“My poor Shane,” she said, “what a cruel world it is to take the eye of such an accomplished shooter.”
She started to lift the eyepatch, but he stopped her as he gently gripped her hand.
“You don’t want to see what’s under there,” Shane said, setting his cocktail down on the table by the side of his lounge chair. “It will ruin the mood pretty quick.”
“I doubt that,” Linny said as she leaned in and kissed his hand, and then carefully plied it away from hers. “I’m not some weak stomached skirt that can’t handle the realities of life.”
“Weak stomached skirt?” Shane laughed. “Are we in some Sam Spade movie?”
“Who?” Linny asked.
“The Maltese Falcon?” Shane asked. “Humphrey Bogart?”
“Never saw it,” Linny said.
“Too bad,” Shane smiled, “it’s a great movie. I don’t know how many times I’ve blazed up and watched that flick. Max can care less about it, but I totally dig those old noir mysteries.”
“Yeah, I like movies with color,” Linny said, plucking the eyepatch off Shane’s face. “I prefer reality to style.”
Shane sat stock still as the beautiful woman in his lap studied the empty eye socket in his face. He waited for the recoil of horror and disgust, but instead, got a coy smile as she leaned in and kissed the edge of the socket then put the eyepatch back in place.
“Oh, my little sniper,” Linny said. “I have seen so much worse than that. Any girl that’s afraid of a little hole in the head is not paying attention to the right hole.”
“I think I get the innuendo there,” Shane sighed as Linny’s lips found his neck and started to work their way down to his bare chest. “I guess it doesn’t matter since we’re well past the innuendo portion of the afternoon it looks like.”
“Well past,” Linny said as she continued to kiss his chest then worked her way back up his neck and to his lips. “Time to move this to someplace more comfortable.”
She got up quickly, her long, brown legs peeking through the sheer skirt. She held out her hand and Shane took it as she led him over to the large bed in the center of the room. Two of the four walls were completely open to the view of the South Pacific Ocean and the warm breeze blew freely into the room, only slightly cooling the sheen of sweat on Shane’s body as he lay down on the bed.
Dressed only in a pair of camo cutoffs, Shane soon found himself without even those as Linny straddled him and pulled the dress up over her head. Shane let out a low, slow whistle as he looked at her tone body. His fingers traced the tight muscles of her stomach, her chest, her arms, and the many scars that crisscrossed everywhere.
“He should never have done this to you,” Shane said as he leaned up and kissed a large white scar that went from her left breast and down to her navel. “Sick fuck.”
“Love is a strange weapon,” Linny said as she let Shane’s fingers play across her skin. “It props you up even as it beats you down.”
“Do you ever miss him?” Shane asked.
“Never,” Linny said, “and always.”
Shane shook his head.
“He got what he deserved,” Shane said. “Every ounce of it.”
“Do you know what eighteen slugs weigh?” Linny smiled. “Because I do.”
“I bet you do,” Shane said. “What made you finally say you had enough?”
“Let’s not talk about that right now,” Linny said. “If you want something to break the mood, then talking about my late asshole of a husband is going to do it.”
“My bad,” Shane said as Linny leaned down and pressed her mouth to his. “Mmmmm, now it’s my good.”
“Not good,” Ballantine said as he tried not to snap the sat phone in half. “That just won’t do, William. We need supplies, we need financing, and we need rest. Most of all, we need sanctuary. There is no way the Beowulf III can just keep running indefinitely. There has to be something the company can do to… Yes, I know that… No, no, of course I take full responsibility, but that is beside the… Yes, yes, I understand. No, I’ll wait.”
Ballantine sighed and sat down right in the sand. He looked at the tips of his brown loafers and wondered how he’d gotten a thick scratch on the right one. Probably during one of the many firefights the Beowulf III had been in during the last eight months of travel and running.
“I’m guessing they don’t want to play along anymore,” Commander Vincent Thorne called out as he sat with his back against a palm tree, shaded by the thick tree line that bordered the beach. “Can’t exactly blame them. We’ve got some serious heat on our tails.”
Former commander of the Navy SEALs BUD/S training, Vincent Thorne was leader of Team Grendel, the band of ex-SEALs and other Special Forces misfits that Ballantine had brought together to handle less than ordinary situations. In his sixties, but still fit enough to take down men half his age, Thorne was not a man that minced words or wasted his time with pointless pleasantries.
“Commander,” Ballantine said without turning to look at the man, “how long have you been listening?”
“The whole time,” Thorne said. “I followed you down from the lodge when I saw you leave your room with the sat phone.”
“It’s not polite to eavesdrop, Commander,” Ballantine replied. “I obviously wanted privacy.”
“Nothing’s private anymore, Ballantine,” Thorne said. “Not when we keep having to run for our lives from black ops spooks. I signed on to lead Grendel, and work for you, because it was stated that we’d have the unlimited backing of a company with unlimited resources. These last few months have shown me that there are quite a few limitations.”
“We made some enemies,” Ballantine said. “It can’t be avoided in our line of work.”
“No, it can’t,” Thorne said, “but the whole point of working for a company that doesn’t even have a name is so those enemies are kept off our asses. The missions are what matters, right? Hard to focus on missions when we’re constantly looking over our shoulders.”
“Yes, I know that Vincent,” Ballantine said. “That is part of the purpose of this private conversation, so if you… Yes, of course I’m still here! Where...? How do you…?”
Thorne laced his hands behind his head and watched as Ballantine stood up and began to pace the beach once again.
“Like a fucking caged tiger,” a large man laughed as he watched the five foot tall woman before him.
At six feet and eight inches, the man was not only considerably taller than the woman was, but he also outweighed her by close to two hundred pounds. The bulk of his brown Samoan body stood like a mountain over her as she kept walking back and forth in front of him. He sneered down at the woman, ignoring the fact that she was obviously in great shape. With close cropped black hair and muscles tanned from months out on the open ocean, the woman would have been impressive to anyone that didn’t tower over her by almost two full feet.
“She ain’t got the balls for it, bra,” another man said from behind the first. “Just take the money and let’s go.”
“Hold on, hold on,” the first man replied. “Give the paumuku a chance to make good on her braggin’.”
The woman stopped and looked up at the man.
“Who you calling a paumuku, you susu poki?” the woman grinned.
Both men growled low at the insult and the sneer faded quickly from the first man’s face, quickly replaced by a deadly snarl.
“Uh, sugar ass? What did you just call the very large man?” Max Reynolds asked as he sat at a long table at the edge of a small cliff overlooking the ocean. “Darby? Baby? I don’t think you’re making friends here.”
The woman, Darby, turned and looked over her shoulder and gave Max a wide grin.
“Let me handle this,” she said. “He started it, I finish it.”
Max Reynolds looked almost exactly like his brother Shane, and they were often mistaken for twins, even though they were nine months apart. Or they used to be mistaken for twins before Max was wounded by an IED during his time in Afghanistan and ended up without a left ear and half of his face a mass of burn scars. He absentmindedly scratched at the scarring as he watched the woman he loved set herself for what was going to be one hell of a fight.
Trained as a Navy SEAL, Max could easily jump in and help Darby out, but he had more than a couple of reasons not to. First, Darby was ex-Israeli Special Forces, amongst other things, and could handle herself. Second, she’d kick his ass if he tried to step in. Third, his right leg was almost healed from a nasty break that had happened during Team Grendel’s previous mission in the deeps of the Amazon jungle, and the Beowulf III’s Chief Medical Officer, Gunnar Peterson, would gut him if he hurt it again.
More important than all the reasons, Max loved watching his woman kick the living shit out of people. It was a better high than the large joint he held between his fingers.
“Oh, I was totally going to let you handle it,” Max said as he took a drag off the joint. “I’m just saying that name calling isn’t the answer to solving conflict.”
He took another drag, held it, and then let it out slowly, watching as the smoke drifted in the slight breeze.
“So hurry up and kick this guy’s ass so we can go have lunch, will ya?” Max grinned. “I’m fucking starving here.”
“Fresh fruit!” Kinsey Thorne exclaimed, as the bowl of pineapple, mango, passion fruit, and bananas was set in front of her. She clapped her hands together as she sat at a table on the observation deck of the Beowulf III. “Oh, my fucking god, am I glad to see fresh fruit!”
“One of the perks of anchoring off a tropical paradise,” Darren Chambers said as he sat down opposite Kinsey. “Dig in, ‘Sey.”
“Thank you, ‘Ren, I think I will,” she replied as she grabbed her fork and started to stuff her mouth full of fruit. “Mmmm!”