Gaia’s Warriors

 

Chapter One

 

Merkel pulled on his wetsuit as the four metre electric powered rigid inflatable boat (RIB) he was sitting in slid to a stop. The sea was calm tonight; a slow half metre swell gently rocked the boat as two other RIBs slowed and came to a stop beside his. The sliver of the moon shed just enough light for Merkel to see his comrades donning their own equipment.

 

They had been waiting for the call to launch the assault for months, now they were a go; the call had come from their man on-board the vessel two weeks ago. Two weeks’ notice gave them plenty of time to make all the preparations necessary for this dive. It was going to be a long, hard, cold one and all the divers wore 7mm wetsuits and re-breathers to accomplish their mission.

 

One by one the men slipped into the inky black water to begin their six nautical mile underwater swim. They checked the GPS navigators strapped to their wrists, orienting themselves toward their destination, submerged and set off a minute apart.

 

The surveillance and security equipment both the ship and at the on-land security and communication centre possessed were formidable, necessitating such a long dive both there and back. Nevertheless the men were well prepared and had trained for this event for months. If all went well they would rendezvous with their RIBS in seven hours and be away before they were detected.

 

The defence system was multi-layered. The ship itself possessed two radar systems; the first the latest Sea Hawk system capable of detecting small craft such as the RIBs, up to five nautical miles away. And the second, an eight foot X Band antenna with a two hundred and fifty mile range, but unable to detect such small craft. There was also a sonar system. The Doppler Multi Beam Sonar was primarily an underwater navigation device but was also capable of detecting underwater objects approaching the ship. This was augmented by a system of Sonar Buoys that hung in the water forming a two mile perimeter all around the vessel.

 

On land there were larger X band systems, hook-ups to the military satellite systems and of course fast response helicopters capable of responding within thirty minutes. Nothing not even the smallest and stealthiest of crafts could approach, either on the surface, in the air or underwater within five miles without being detected.

 

The RIBs had left from a deserted beach, on the Orange River estuary at 6.00 PM, just after sunset, making their drop-off point a little after 8.00. As the last of them submerged the only sound to be heard was the gentle lap of the waves against their small boats. All of them were keenly aware that they had to make it back to the RIBs by 3.30 AM, to allow them enough time to rendezvous with their ship before sunrise at 5.30. Those that didn’t would be left behind, with little chance of making it back to shore.

 

…….

 

Operations on the one hundred and sixty nine metre Peace of South Africa ran twenty four hours a day. Never was there a moment of silence. Pumps throbbed and the conveyor belts groaned under the weight of their loads. And lights blazed everywhere.

 

She was operating some forty nautical miles off the Namaqualand coast in the Northern Cape. One hundred metres below her on the sea floor, a monstrous tractor slowly crept along the bottom. It sucked up everything in its path, passing it through a metre wide tube and delivered it to a processing plant mounted on the back of the ship, at a rate of four tonnes per minute. Two more tubes, one mounted each side of the vessel spat the spoil back into the sea. Daylight would have exposed a slick miles long, the sea now longer blue but tainted dark brown, with the dredging operations waste.

 

A crew of seven, on eight hour shifts operated the dredging process and a security contingent patrolled the decks constantly, reporting back to the security and communication centre hourly, on the hour.

 

Petre, the new man on the security crew opened the door to the control centre, to be greeted by a draft of cold conditioned air. He relished his hourly visits for the brief respites it offered from the noise and stifling heat upon the decks he patrolled.

 

Jack looked up from his desk.

 

“How’s it going out there?”

 

“Seems fine, the dredge is working well it seems. I can’t believe we haven’t had to shut down except the regulars for over three weeks. Our bonuses are going to be good this month”

 

“Grab a coffee” Jack said “And bring me one, this chair might be great but my back is killing me. I’m spending far too much time hunched over these damn screens. Take over for a while.”

 

The ship although not new, had only just been converted for this operation, and every fitting from its galley, through its dredging and sorting operations, to this communication centre was state of the art. Petre took the command chair as Jack stretched out his aching back; he then grabbed a cigarette from the packet on the console. Taking his coffee with him, he went out onto the walkway and peered down into the murky water below him as he lit and sucked on his cigarette.

 

He exhaled wafts of white smoke with a satisfied ‘arhh’. Within a few minutes he was back, relieved to be away from the cacophony of sound that washed over the ship.

 

“Give us my seat back mate”

 

As Jack settled back into his seat a small blip appeared upon the sonar display.

 

“What’s that?” asked Petre

 

“A shark, most probably, don’t go swimming round here mate, got Great White’s round here you know.”

 

Had the full spectrum of the Multi Band Sonar been running, it would have given an accurate visual representation of the disturbance the dredge created, showing huge clouds of debris thrown up into the surrounding water. As it was only the side beams were running, which showed a visual of the surrounding ocean. Large fish and sharks were sometimes detected on the sonar, but as Petre pointed out, they tended to be frightened off by the noise generated by the dredging operations.

 

“Catch ya later, better be going, thanks for the coffee. See ya in an hour.”

 

“Yeah, later mate.”

 

As Petre closed the door to the communications centre the first of the divers arrived under the keel of the ship, there to wait for the rest of the men. Although it was a long underwater swim, he was as with all of them were supremely fit, and despite the pitch blackness underwater he had easily navigated the distance. The GPS on his wrist showed not only his destination and their start point but also all the other divers trailing behind For the last mile or so the ever increasing noise of the dredge guided him in and for the final few hundred metres the blaze of lights hanging on the stern of the vessel illuminated their target.

 

Over the next twenty minutes the rest arrived, there were nine in all, and all had made it as easily as the first. Seven of them would board the ship, all equipped with waterproofed and silenced MP5’s, the other two would stay under the ship having other duties to perform. They all rested for ten minutes before making their way to the stern of the vessel past the two huge stern azimuth thrusters.

 

Thirty minutes now remained to make it onto the vessel, through the well deck cut into the stern and to be in position for the next security patrol. One by one they each crawled up over the well deck, careful to remain in the shadow of the enormous derrick attached to the tractor below and into to their allotted positions. This part of the assault had been meticulously planned and rehearsed on a mock-up of the ship, and by five minutes before midnight all were in place.

 

At precisely midnight Petre re-entered the communications room just as expected, giving Jack and nod and a smile.

 

“Just going to use the head,” he said and received a nonchalant wave from Jack.

 

As Petre left the head, Jack was just finishing his two hourly report back to the on-land control centre located in Alexander Bay.

 

“Yep, it’s all going great, see ya,” were the last words he would utter.

 

As Jack hung up the microphone, Petre slid out the black ceramic blade that had been secreted in his sleeve, plunging it deep into Jack’s throat, and then pushed it forward to instantly severe Jack’s vocal cords. Jack was dead within seconds, his blood spurting from his severed carotid artery all over the desk in huge gouts. Casually Petre pulled Jack’s body out of the chair rolling it under the console with his right foot.  Then sitting on the chair himself he reached forward, mindful of Jack’s blood pooling on the lip, and turned off the work lights at the stern of the ship.

 

At this signal the men secreted away knew they were on, each in addition to his MP5 had night vision gear which each slipped into place.

 

The grave yard shift consisted of six men working on the dredge with a further man at the dredge controls. It wasn’t uncommon to have technical problems, so the fact they were suddenly plunged into darkness didn’t particularly trouble them. It had been a trouble free three weeks and all of them expected something to break somewhere soon. Before any of them could reach for the radios they were cut down with multiple rounds from the silenced MP5’s.

 

One member of the assault team had been allotted the bridge as his target, one to the remaining security guard on duty and one more to the engine room. Each took down his targets in the same manner, within five minutes of the lights going out the all fourteen active grave yard shift members lay in pools of their own blood.

 

The assault team now had effective control of the ship along with all its communications equipment. The remainder of the crew another thirty men were all below decks and most would probably be asleep. No personal mobiles were allowed on the ship so they weren’t concerned on that issue. No communication to outside was possible and the next scheduled report was nearly two hours away.

 

The assault team split up, one stayed on the bridge and two went below decks to ensure they weren’t disturbed by any off duty personnel that happened to be awake. Two of them stayed on deck, leaving two: Merkel and Gunter to complete their mission.

 

Merkel and Gunter descended into the bowels of the ship, the final sorting area of the dredging operations, eventually stopping a large steel door. On this door was attached a security key pad, they weren’t going to bother with that. They knew that the security procedures of entering this room dictated that three people had to enter together, all entering their own passwords along with their finger prints.

 

Merkel pulled out a small shaped explosive charge and attached it to the door along with a detonator. Nodding to Gunter they retreated around the corner and blew the door. Inside they were greeted by a similar door and repeated this performance again.

 

With the doors blown they made their way into the final room, both now eager to get the job finished.

 

In the middle of the room stood a large automated machine totally encased in glass, floor to ceiling. Merkel’s eyes widened as he peered through the glass. A huge grin appearing on his face.

 

To one end stood thirty three tins, each the size of a soup tin, completely unadorned with the exception of a small white label, on which was a bar code.

 

At the other end of the machine stood a single tin as yet neither unsealed nor labelled by the automated process. Above which was a narrow stainless steel tube extended from the ceiling above, and as they watched a small white diamond slid from the tube into the tin, sparkling as it fell. Merkel looked at Gunter, neither able to hold back their chortled laughter.

 

“It’s all true” he said. “Up until now I could hardly believe it, but there it is.”

 

On the other side of the glassed enclosure stood two hundred and fifty million dollars worth of uncut diamonds, untouched by human hands and utterly untraceable.

 

 

 

They’d waited until a rich deposit was hit by the dredging operation. Normally at the end of every month there would have been at least forty million up for grabs, but this month the ship had hit pay dirt, discovering the richest deposit by far, astounding the ship’s owners back in South Africa.

 

They were still on the clock, and they wasted no time attaching another small piece of Det-Cord and detonator, just enough to breach the glass. With the glass cleared away, both men grabbed the tins depositing them into a back pack each carried, and then ran out of the room along the companion way and toward the deck of the ship. They had been on the vessel for fifty five minutes and now five minutes remained before they were due back in the water.

 

Precisely on time they all met back at the well deck, below which they had stowed their diving equipment hanging from carabineers under the water. The assault team, now accompanied by Petre, slipped back into the water to begin their long swim back to the rendezvous, no longer were they assaulted by the roar of the dredger beneath them. Thirty minutes later a sharp crack, followed by a roar issued through the water, as the explosives detonated under the keel of the Peace of South Africa and ripped her apart. It would be another fifteen minutes before anyone at the on-land communication centre realised there was a problem on the ship and at least an hour after that, before they managed to get a helicopter over the area. By then the ship would be on the bottom of the ocean and they would back in the RIB’s soon to rendezvous with their ship, the Guardian of the Seas, which would deliver them home.

 

 

 

Chapter Two

 

 

 

Alec Shepherd sat transfixed by the horror that was being revealed on the TV screen in front of him. Tears welled up from his large blue eyes, ran down his face and onto the paperwork on the desk in front of him. Those once clear sparkling eyes which usually captivated women were now rimmed with red as he watching a SBC news broadcast. Within a minute he could no longer see the screen clearly in front of him: his vision so blurred with the tears.

 

He would like to have said he was surprised by what he’d seen, but that was not the case, he had been expecting this for a long time.

 

These were the first shots to be taken of the disaster, and were provided by an Arctic survey crew that had been hurriedly dispatched contamination suits to protect themselves while their helicopter flew over the area. For an area of over five miles in all directions, radioactive dust from the explosion settled upon the water and the ice. Initially the black dust was slow to settle with just a peppering over the ice but now fell as if heavy rain, blackening whole areas of sea and pack ice, and with it the unseen but far more deadly radiation.

 

As radiation rained in from the sky more radioactive contamination seeped from the shattered hulls of the two sunken ice breakers. The radiation was making it virtually impossible to approach the area to even assess that damage, never mind begin cleaning it up. The radiation detectors the entire helicopter’s crew were wearing were already in the caution zone after only a few minutes of exposure.

 

 The oil slick was plain to see and with it the deadly radiation, stretching into the distance slowly pulled by the current toward the cod fishing grounds of the Northern Atlantic. The last shot Shepherd was able to see before his tears completely obscured his vision, was of huge pieces of ice loosened in the blast, blackened by the oil, drifting over the ever-increasing oil slick.

 

Of the four nations that were extracting oil from deep within the Arctic Circle the Russians had decided due that to the extreme conditions and the large amounts of electrical power that were necessary for these operations, they would use nuclear reactors to provide this. They had designed the Prirazlomnaya platform, the first ice-resistant oil drilling rig in the world which had been installed in the Pechora Sea and used small nuclear power plants fitted to some ancient ice breakers to power the drilling operations.

 

Shepherd, as had many others, had warned of the incredible dangers of such a risky methodology. No one had listened and now the world was going to pay an unbelievably high price of this gluttony.

 

The nuclear power plant on one of the three ships had gone critical, and could not be shut down in time before it exploded. The result was catastrophic. The blast damaged and sank both the other two nuclear power ships; their reactors breached they began leaking radioactive material into the surrounding sea. The well head, rig and pumping station were practically vaporized by the explosion of the ship moored alongside, severing the undersea well, from which was spewing out thousands of barrels of oil an hour.

 

Shepherd, unable to watch more of this devastation, clicked off the TV remote and rubbed the tears from his eyes. He walked over to the windows of his Orchard Towers’ office, high above Orchard Road in Singapore, and looked down at humanity flowing through the streets below. Still only mid-morning but the pavements teemed with people and it would only get busier as the day drew on.

 

Orchard Road never really slept. Once the office workers went home, and the shops closed which rarely happened before 10, not the tourist based shops as most were, then the nightlife would begin. Orchard Towers was pretty much the epicentre of that. The building was dubbed locally as the Four Floors of Whores, not that that was  entirely true but the floor floors above the bottom two shopping levels did contain an assortment of clubs, karaoke bars and massage parlours along with the odd sex shop thrown in.  Alec’s home and office comprised the top floor when in Singapore.

 

Alec Shepherd was known the world over, some thought him deranged, others that he was a criminal and yet others worshiped the man. He was a gregarious and flamboyant character from his early days when he first came to the attention of the media as the captain of a converted trawler chasing down Japanese whalers operating in the Pacific to what he was now the CEO of the largest marine environmental company.

 

For nearly thirty years he had campaigned, protested and lobbied for clean energy production and marine conservation always believing that mankind would eventually see the light. He and his company made huge strides in marine aquaculture and energy production and were working with many countries across the world. But, the events in the UK and then the Middle East a year ago changed all that, and now his operations were limited to South East Asia and New Zealand.

 

The regime changes in Iran to a pro-western government along the discovery of the huge oil deposits that existed there unbeknown until that time to all but the ruling elite, resulted in a tripling in the output of oil from the Middle East. That coupled with the discovery and exploitation of massive shale gas reserves in Europe, The USA and South America meant that the world was more reliant on fossil fuel energy resources that ever before. Energy was cheap again, and many of the world’s governments had turned their backs on renewable energy, citing that this was good for the planets flailing economies.

 

Nobody could argue against this. It was a statement of fact; cheaper oil meant an increase in output and a reduction in costs. Manufacturing was up and so was construction, and most importantly unemployment was down. The man in the street now had a little more money in his pocket and the weight of the depression the world had endured over the past few years was lifting. And, that was the way governments and the oil companies wanted it to remain. Almost all of the renewable energy projects around the world came to standstill: off shore wind farm development was halted and in those few that were completed maintenance stopped and soon were being subject to breakdowns which went unattended. Tidal and wave energy projects were mothballed and along with them the aquaculture projects that were intrinsically tidied to them. Even work on the huge floating platform in the Mediterranean which was about to go online was halted.

 

The description floating platform really wasn’t adequate it was more a floating city. The structure was oval in shape, 7 miles long and 5 miles wide. Once commissioned it would house a marine research centre, hospital, schools, a manufacturing centre and living space along with the entire gamut amenities one would expect in a city even to a runway which ran down the centre of the structure that would cater to the biggest planes.

 

Alec’s company designed and supervised the construction of the platform as the first serious step toward the Hydrogen Economy. The perimeter structure contained wave and current electrical generation devices with enough power production to run the entire city. On the southern edge sat a cargo terminal that would rival any other in the Med and beside that a hydrogen refuelling and export dock sat capable of servicing several large ships at the same time. A third of the structure was dedicated to aquaculture; here kelp would have been grown to be later converted into hydrogen, in a balanced ecosystem with fish and shellfish.

 

The aquaculture system was revolutionary and Alec’s pride and joy: all the feeds were produced within the system and the system itself produced no waste products or pollution. Once fully functional it would produce 100,000 cubic metres of hydrogen annually and increase the seafood production of the Mediterranean by 40%.  But, now only a skeleton crew remain upon the mammoth structure, their job to mothball it and then remain as the security crew.  It now appeared as though the only use it would see would be the housing of (name) Alec’s research marine institute, which up until recently was distributed amongst several universities. The work on marine energy and aquaculture systems had been spread amongst Plymouth, Karlsruhe in Germany and Canakkale in Turkey, with their work on Zebrafish and heart disease along with the human genome project at NIH in the US. Three years ago it had made economic sense to house all their research in one state of the art facility, now Alec had serious misgivings about this decision but it was too late for that, and he would have to find another means of supporting their ground breaking research. 

 

Alec drew away from the window, his heart slowing and his eyes drying. He had nothing against any individual that he could see walking with the masses below the Orchard Towers and the many that he interacted with on a daily basis. But, together the congregated masses of the planet formed a disease, a disease that was slowly killing mother earth.

 

He knew what he had to do. 

 

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I hope you have enjoyed this sneak preview of Gaia’s Warriors, the sequel to A Plague Of Dissent. Gaia’s Warriors will be published later this year.

First Carbon Neutral Rugby Club

Front

The design is complete, the build costed and the funding package is nearly in place for the first carbon neutral rugby club anywhere. It has taken months of work but all willing we will be building phase one over the summer and should be open for the beginning of next season.

Sales of A Plague Of Dissent are contributing towards the build costs for phase one and will form part of the phase two and three funds. A Plague Of Dissent is available through many e book sales sites including Amazon http://www.amazon.co.uk/A-Plague-Of-Dissent-ebook/dp/B00BRI7YMQ/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1362908235&sr=8-1 and Smashwords https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/293433

It will also be available in paper back in two weeks. So if you haven’t bought a copy do so now and support sport in the community

 

A Plague of Dissent — Re-write Chapter Five

Chapter Five

 

“No, Don’t Do That” came the voice through the fog, and a little later, “No, Leave That Alone”.

As his senses gradually returned, Adam felt the mask being removed and his drugged stupor gradually subsiding. His first coherent thoughts were how much he hated coming out of a general anaesthetic, unable to think clearly, unable to move. He really ought to make sure this was the last time. He has been in this situation far too often for such a fit young man, with the vast majority of the occasions of his own making.

The problem had started early, or at least made itself known early the previous evening. As he walked off the pitch after a two hour training session, the pain was already creeping up his abdomen, which was really nothing unusual. The core sessions he did as part of his daily workout routine in the gym always left him a little sore, as they should. No Pain No Gain being the gym rats’ universal by-line. On top of that, his brother Dan always managed to get some good punches into his ribs during their rucks and mauls, so he thought nothing of it.

That evening’s events went on much as usual. After they had showered and removed the mud, it was down to the Barbican. The Barbican, the hub of the entertainment area of Plymouth was always busy during the summer months with its numerous pubs and restaurants along the harbour walls, perhaps too busy for hungry, thirsty rugby players after training. But winter was perfect: plenty of space for something to eat and a couple of beers with the squad.

The brothers had almost been inseparable since Adam’s return to England a few months earlier. Dan convinced the head coach at Albion that he would recover from his knee injury that had plagued him for the last year far quicker if Adam were allowed to train with them. Nobody ever said No to Dan, his nickname was Bear but it wasn’t just the 120 kilos of muscle which was daunting in itself. He had a way of charming everyone around him and he always got his own way. Ever since he was a baby, all he had to do was look at you with his big brown eyes and that cheeky grin, to get exactly what he wanted or get away with whatever he had done this time. One look and girls lost their knickers in every country he had played in during his international career as a wing forward for England; at home in Plymouth he was legendary.

Adam hadn’t initially been sure that training with Albion would be a good idea but had allowed himself to be talked into it. It wasn’t that he too hadn’t been a very good rugby player, but he hadn’t played seriously for several years since the boys were at university together. And then it hadn’t been with a Premiership winning team. As a ninety kilo winger having a pack of forwards topping a thousand kilos running at you, was a daunting experience.

The boys or men as they were by now, were the product of an English father and a Singaporean mother. Nobody was sure where their size came from. Many of the couples’ friends joked that they must have really large milkmen in Singapore. Their mother was tiny, with classic South-East Asian looks which the boys had inherited; their father a marine biologist, by no means small, had topped out at a fraction under 6 foot. And had been exceptionally fit until the day that bomb took both their lives.

Ironically, it was the terrorist bombings in Bali where they lived until the boys’ early teens that had brought them back to the UK, only for their parents to get on a tube train in London a few years later and run into another suicide bomber.

Dan’s team mates at Albion had heard all about his brother. In fact, he was famous for his exploits throughout the local rugby community, mostly through Dan’s tales. So he was very welcome within the group both on and off the pitch and constantly harassed for more stories. A particular favourite was one of Jamaica.

Dan had gone to Jamaica to visit Adam and after a nights’ drinking at Pier One, Adam had suggested they go and score some weed from some friends of his that lived on a beach in a ramshackle hotel beside the airport.

It was situated just outside Montego Bay, on an old road that was no longer used since the building of a new one at the other side of the airport. After being dropped off by a bewildered taxi driver, who had tried to tell them the place was closed, Dan was led along the beach to a series of tented cabanas.

It was a classic Jamaican evening with a light breeze blowing off the sea; the huge full moon hanging so low in the sky it appeared to touch the water, with the sound of waves gently breaking over the white sand beach. A setting from paradise, with a surprise Dan was not expecting.

As they got closer, they could hear voices and music playing softly. Pulling the billowing curtains aside, Adam ushered Dan through to where he witnessed four stunning girls, three dark skinned and the fourth fair with long blonde hair. The girls, upon seeing Adam rushed forward to plaster him with kisses.

What Adam hadn’t told his brother was that his friends: these four girls were the most exclusive escorts in Jamaica. They had bought this place as their private retreat when it had closed down as a place to relax and meet with friends when they weren’t out working. Adam being a good friend of the girls, regularly visited them after a night’s partying in Montego Bay. He had told them of his brother’s forthcoming visit, prearranging the evening many days before.

Dan could never remember if he was given their names or not. He did remember being led away by two of the girls, the leggy blonde and a small exquisite dark skinned girl, to a more secluded part of the cabana arrangement, which he realised at some point during the night was made from parachutes.

The brothers spent the rest of the night there, eventually kissing their goodbyes as the sun rose, to head off for an ackee and salt fish breakfast. Of course, nobody ever believed this story, nevertheless it was greatly enjoyed by all the players with frequent requests for retelling by those that hadn’t heard it firsthand.

Part way through the second beer that evening, Adam decided to go home. By then they had the company of several pretty girls, but he wasn’t interested. In fact, he had recently met a girl who he was very interested in. And his abs were seriously hurting by now, so it really was time to go home. Bidding good night to his brother, he got a cab and headed home.

They lived together in a house in Wembury, a couple of miles from Plymouth, which their parents had left them. His dad had built it years before, just outside the village, on the headland overlooking the sea.

So typical of his dad, it wasn’t quite finished and the brothers had left it that way. Not through being lazy or lack of money, neither of the boys had to work, the IP’s their dad had created left them very well off. But this way it reminded them of their dad.

The house was a large modern looking structure with full height windows on both floors and a terrace on the first floor extending the full width of the house. With its unfinished garages and workshops behind, the house sat alone on the rocky headland with breathtaking views out to sea and across Wembury Bay itself.

As the taxi approached the house, the first signs of the coming storm were in the air. Lightning flickered out to sea. The trees beside the unfinished workshop swayed in the wind, their overgrown branches scraping along the roof.

The weather reflected the general talk that winter, which was gloomy, of a severe cold winter ahead, stock market declines, unemployment, the looming general strike and a triple-dip recession in the air. It was all the news channels talked about at the moment.

Getting out of the cab, Adam walked around to the front of the house, noticing the gravel drive already covered in dead leaves from the early autumn, his mood was dropping. Thinking of his dad, Adam sat on a bench beside the porch, looking out over the leaden grey sea, the crest of the waves flecked in white, illuminated by the lightning as they broke upon the rocky shore. The storm was going to be a big one; rain was coming in at 45 degrees already, and the wind was picking up.

Despite that it had been many years since his parents had been murdered by a suicide bomber, he still thought about his father a great deal. In good moods, which they were for the most part, his thoughts were about all the good times.

Although his father was a workaholic, they had spent a lot of time together. He coached their rugby team, taught them to dive and to sail when they were still young boys living in Bali as well as talking about his work and beliefs in a more sustainable future. His passions, particularly in the oceans had rubbed off on Adam.

In his darker moods, as he was by now, he thought how things would have been different if his dad hadn’t gone to London that day. If he hadn’t got on that tube to go to the conference, or if he hadn’t on this very rare occasion taken the boys’ mother with him with a promise of a shopping trip after his presentation.

Up until that fateful day things had been very different. He had been due to go to the University of Bath that September to study marine biology or more importantly to him, play rugby. He and his brother were in the West England Rugby Academy; both were destined for great rugby careers. Dan had achieved his, although his present knee injury had plagued him for the last year. He was now finally on the mend and set to reclaim his No 6 England shirt.

Adam had not. Not that he regretted his choices at all, but instead of going to Bath University, he was too distraught about the death of his parents at the hands of a terrorist who neither knew nor cared who they were. Desperate for some sort of pay back, Adam had joined the Naval Intelligence Services. 

He may not have regretted this choice. Like his dad he knew there was no point in that, you learn from it and move on, but he did realize what a stupid decision it was. Adam was not well suited for an army career being extremely opinionated, and possessing a big mouth that he could never learn to keep shut. He got himself into trouble at every turn. Not that at times he hadn’t enjoyed some of it. He’d made lifelong friends and perhaps enemies and learnt skills he never thought at that moment he would need again. After six years he left, knowing how pissed his dad would have been with him for wasting his talents, and he reapplied to Bath.

As luck would have it, his brother was also still at Bath University finishing a Master’s in marine engineering. Not that he had been captured by the marine bug of his dad but he was smart enough to know that even if he did earn a place as a professional rugby player, an education was still important; an injury could end his career in seconds.

Adam, his mood lightening a little, with memories of the two of them terrorising Bath for that year, went into the house. Dropping his soaking wet clothes on the hallway floor, he grabbed himself a protein shake and a handful of pain killers, stuck his feet up on the couch and clicked on the TV.

The lounge was warm as it always was in winter; a large room with little clusters of seating areas, the main one beside the fire where Adam now sat. The blinds to the full-height windows remained open and the lightning out to sea briefly illuminated the darkened room with its intense flashes of cold blue light.

By midnight the pain had eased slightly. Dan still wasn’t home, which wasn’t unusual. He’d probably turn up in the morning rather worse for wear. Adam decided bed was the best option; maybe sleep would help, not that he slept at all in the end. The pain in his abs got worse as he thought,

What have I broken this time and God why did I let Dan talk me into training with them

And the pain rose in waves.

No, this can’t be right I need to do something about it now.

Deciding to take the Pajero, as it was the most comfortable to drive and being an automatic he reckoned that he could manage to drive it despite his present doubled up stature. He pulled on a reasonably clean set of trackies, a hoodie and made his way gingerly down the stairs, making judicious use of the banister for support. Pausing at the front door, Adam thought

Maybe I should call an ambulance

Those 20 metres to the car and the 8 mile drive to the hospital were not enticing, but the alternative! Call an ambulance, wait for an hour, get to the hospital and then get sent home with bruised ribs. No, his brother would never forget that and nor would any of the Albion players, and Dan was sure to tell them all about it. They would all have a field day rubbing that in.

Once in the car the plan seemed achievable. By leaning forward the pain seemed to subside enough to be able to drive. Fortunately, the traffic was light but arriving at the hospital Adam discovered the holes in his plan. The trackies he was wearing had no money in them, nor did there seem to be any change in the car for parking in the usual places he kept it.

After a once around the car park closest to the A&E, only to discover no empty spaces, there seemed to be only one thing to do, dump the car by the fence. If he got onto the grass it wouldn’t block anyone in. Yes he would get tickets but they wouldn’t be able to tow it from there. So, in the words of the numerous coaches he had throughout the years, it was suck it up and get on with it.

Later in recollection, this was going to seem very funny, not that it was at the time.

Open the door, swing out your legs, fall over, grab the fence, pull yourself up and use it as support as far as the crossing. 20 metres to go, hobble over the road, 10 metres to go and make the door. Done, now it should be easy.

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