March 4, 2009

Kalluunle

II

By Dwayne MacInnes

Gulf of Aden: 0104 Hours

Nadif smiled at Abdi as he took a long drag on his cigarette. "Look, all we have to do now is get this ship back to port and we can sell the goods and even the ship."

"Better than that," Asad added. "We are not doing anything illegal. By maritime law when there is no one left on board we can claim salvage rights. So we don't have to worry about the navies. They cannot touch us. Isn't that so, kalluunle?"

Omar nodded his head. He did not know much about maritime law having spent most of the last ten years ignoring it. However, Asad used to be in the merchant marine and he believed what Asad said was correct.

Abdi relaxed and started to study the bridge equipment. He would need to familiarize himself if he wanted to successfully guide this ship into port.

"Nadif, make sure the skiffs are secured to the ship." Omar commanded. Nadif smiled and saluted before he exited the bridge.

"Asad, assemble the men and start taking an inventory of what we have aboard," Omar ordered the next man.

"Sayid!" Abdi exclaimed. "Look at the instruments. The radio is not working, the compass is going crazy and the GPS doesn't function!"

"Abdi you need to relax," Omar said as he walked up next to the younger fisherman. Before he started looking over the equipment Omar turned towards the remaining five men on the bridge. "You may want to give Asad a hand," He said. The remaining men left the bridge.

"Let us take a look at the equipment," Omar said in a calm voice to Abdi. The young man was probably his most superstitious pirate and saw everything as naxis, or bad luck.

Omar picked up the radio and turned a few knobs to pick up reception, but all that came over was static. This did not bother Omar much. Bad atmospherics could raise havoc on radios. He then looked at the compass. The needle spun around randomly and did not point in any specific direction. This too could be explained if there was something magnetic aboard ship or if the needle became damaged somehow.

The GPS system would only display numbers that did not make sense. Like a digital version of the ship's malfunctioning compass the numbers kept randomly changing. It too must have been damaged. Possibly this is what convinced the crew to abandon ship.

"The ship may have run into some electrical field and it damaged the equipment," Omar said to the nervous helmsman. "We'll bring the engines up to speed and borrow a compass from one of the fishing boats."

Omar did not know much about electrical fields but he figured that Abdi knew even less. The explanation seemed to work for Abdi began the task of preparing to bring the ship home.

"Do you have everything under control?" Omar asked.

"Haa sayid," Abdi replied.

"Dhurwaa, I am going to check with the men. If you need assistance use the intercom." With that Omar left the bridge.

Pirates

A score of pirates scampered across the bridge laughing and joking with each other as they took inventory of the cargo. The Kohl began to move again over the sea. Omar walked over to a rail and lit up another cigarette. The air was warm and still and the cloud cover began to hide the cold moonlight. "It was all dhurwaa, good," Omar thought. "Allah had blessed them with a great prize like this."

What happened to the crew did not seem to bother Omar too much. Before the fall of the Somali government Omar used to fish these waters with his father. But with the chaos of civil war and the competitive fishing from other nations Omar felt compelled to find another vocation. Over the last decade Omar found that he and his men did pretty well with the occasional captured ship.

Most of the time the crew were held hostage until ransom was made from the ship's owners. Sometimes the captain and chief engineer were ransomed bringing in an easy $50,000 American. Sometimes, useful items were found aboard the ship that could be sold on the black market.

Unfortunately with the latter the black market demands could rapidly shift. What was in high demand a month ago could suddenly be worthless the next day. There were other risks involved too. Some ships carried armed security through the Gulf. Some ship crews knew how to repel pirates by bringing the ship up to full speed and zigzagging back and forth to create great wakes that could capsize a skiff. Even if the pirates did approach one of these ships, they could be washed off from the spray of a high-pressure fire hose. The more modern ships had the LRAD or Long range acoustic device which are non-lethal, but the pulse of sound discharge would incapacitate anyone unfortunate enough to encounter one. Omar did once, and he never forgot it.

The greatest risk however was from the multitude of naval forces patrolling the Gulf of Aden. There were ships from the United States, Russia, Great Briton, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt to name just a few. The ships were one thing; the patrolling aircraft were another. Often they could see you before you saw them.

However, it only took one successful raid to make a pirate crew wealthy. Of course, if you did it once it was worth the risks to do it again. Omar had a good crew and over the years they were known as one of the best.

Omar could feel a mist rising around the ship. The air must be cooling off Omar figured. However, little things like this did not really concern Omar right now. He wanted to get the ship back to port before a trigger-happy frigate came across them. Even if they claimed the ship was abandoned before they captured it, it was highly unlikely anyone would believe them.

"kalluunle," Nadif said behind Omar breaking the pirate leader's train of thought.

"Haa, yes, Nadif," Omar said as he turned away from looking out to sea to speak to his lieutenant.

"I believe there is something you should see below decks," Nadif said in an uncharacteristic nervous voice.

"What is it, Nadif?" Omar asked flipping the spent cigarette butt over his shoulder and out to sea.

"The mess hall, it's...well, the mess is set but everyone is gone," Nadif said in a wavering voice.

Omar too was starting to feel uneasy. "Damn, these superstitious fools who see a wandering laab, spirit, everywhere. They are now making me shiver like a young girl," Omar cursed mentally.

"Haa, we know the crew left in a hurry," Omar said in a reassuring voice.

"Kalluunle, the food is still warm. The crew could not have left but a few minutes before we boarded."

Posted by deg at March 4, 2009 7:29 PM

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