Read The First End Online

Authors: Victor Elmalih

Tags: #action adventure

The First End

 

The First
End

By

 

Victor Elmalih

 

 

 

 

Copyright 2015 Victor Elmalih

Smashwords Edition

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Chapter 1

“Be ready!” shouted the leader of the operation,
while approaching the danger zone. The fishing boat rode the waves
of the High Seas much like a rodeo rider in one of those wild
fields that never fully revealed their secrets. Rusty stains marred
the hull, adding more ugliness to an already ugly ship. About 40
meters in length, the converted whaler seemed alone in the sea.
Indeed, if one looked closely enough, the Chinese men who manned
her were not very interested in fishing. The single crane was
positioned over the side and a long steel rope had been lowered
into the water.

Inside the bridge, Wong Lee studied his sonar
instruments carefully. He was able to keep track of his two divers
as they scoured the sea bottom for technology waste. Several large
waste contractors frequently disposed of military waste by sinking
parts into the ocean depths.

For some time, the Indian Ocean had become a
dump. Companies benefited from the chaos and anarchy in Somalia to
disperse military, nuclear and other waste. Somalia had become a
toxic land.

Military giants such as the United States turned
a blind eye to the practice, secretly utilizing these contractors
to save a dollar or two while condemning the practice from the
armchair of the media. As long as the sensitive material was
destroyed, who cared how it happened.

Lee had been on this assignment for over two
years, and in all that time they had found little that was worth
the effort. Most of the sensitive components, such as circuit
boards, memory chips, and other electronic systems were so corroded
and destroyed by the salt water as to be practically worthless.
Still, Beijing insisted on the covert search, no matter how many
useless reports he had written and sent their way. Personally, Lee
felt it was better to intercept the waste contractors before they
unloaded their cargo, but that would simply create an international
incident.

One of his subordinates stuck his head into the
cabin door. “Sir, a boat is approaching. They have ignored our
warnings to ward off and are still coming.”

“Pirates?” Lee asked, his heart racing. He
didn’t fear pirates. There was enough firepower on board to lay
waste to a good-sized vessel, but a firefight just might relieve
some of the monotony.

“Maybe. It’s rather small, though.”

Lee checked the radar screen, which confirmed
the observation. The approaching craft couldn’t have been carrying
more than five people. “Hold fire. Keep weapons out of sight. If
anything looks suspicious, we’ll sink it.”

“Yes, sir!” The man left to relay the
orders.

Lee considered his options. One could not be too
careful this close to Somalia. Pirates were known to scout
potential targets before trying to capture them. This small vessel
could be on a reconnaissance mission. If so, a show of force might
just convince the pirates to look for easier prey, but if not a
show of force might be relayed to several nearby governments,
effectively blowing his cover. Lee hated situations like this. It
would be so much easier just to blast them out of the water and to
ask questions later.

Lee made his way down to the deck and was handed
a pair of powerful binoculars. He trained them on the approaching
vessel. Indeed, it was small, and he seriously doubted that the
vessel had a powerful engine based on its current speed. “Hold
fire,” he ordered again, directing his command to his first mate,
Ho Ningh. The gaunt faced man, thin as a whip, but with a temper
that belied his frame, nodded, looking somewhat disappointed. “Have
the divers surface on the other side of the boat. I don’t want them
spotted.”

Another sailor left to carry out this
command.

Lee trained his binoculars on the approaching
vessel. Now he could see two young boys standing in the prow of
their boat waving fruits. “Hawkers!” he yelled, informing his crew
of the nature of the approaching vessel. “Orders stand!” He turned
to Ho. “Keep an eye on them. Buy some fruit and then send them on
their way. But if they are overly curious, kill them.”

Pirates routinely employed boys to act as spies
for them, marking vessels for plunder and capture. If these two
boys were other than sellers of fruit, he would kill them out of
hand and be done with it.

“Yes, sir,” Ho agreed, fingering the safety of
his automatic weapon. Ho was bloodthirsty, but he was also loyal.
He would not disobey his orders lightly, Lee was sure.

Returning to the control tower, Lee checked on
the progress of his two divers. They were still scouring the sea
floor, and had made no indication of any significant find as of
yet. Their air supply readings indicated that they had another half
hour before they had to surface, more than enough time to get rid
of the two hawkers. Because of the steep drop—nearly 800 meters to
the Indian Ocean floor—they had brought along a sophisticated
submersible. The unwieldy sub had to be stored in a special
compartment of the ship to keep it from being visible by fellow
ships.

Keeping one eye on both the radar and sonar
screens, Lee flipped open his laptop and began filling out his
report. He hadn’t heard from Chen yet, and frankly, he didn’t much
care to. Chen’s ranking was equal to Lee’s in most respects, but
while Lee reported directly to the army, Chen reported to the
secret service. Chen’s shadowy and vague orders gave him much more
latitude than Lee enjoyed, something that infuriated Lee no
end.

As if the thought of the man conjured him, Lee’s
satellite phone began ringing. It was Chen. Sighing, Lee answered
it. “Lee here.”

“Wong?” Chen responded. “My agents are scouring
the city, but so far we’ve come up with nothing. I’ve enlisted some
of the filthy street urchins to keep an eye open, but so far we’ve
only come up with a few items not completely destroyed by these
idiot pirates.”

“What have you found so far?” Wong demanded.

“Most of it is naval…Indian, I think. They are
the dominate power in these parts. The pirates stay away from them
for the most part, but they’ve managed to capture a few pieces.”
There was a pause. “I was hoping to come aboard while my agents
search.”

“Stay focused, Chen. Beijing is breathing down
our necks to find some US technology they can give their
scientists.”

“I know why we’re out here, Wong,” Chen snapped,
irritated. “I just don’t see why I have to stay in this filthy city
one moment longer. The men on the ground here are perfectly
capable, and you know it.”

“I can’t justify that with Beijing,” Wong lied.
Beijing would never know, but Wong didn’t much care for Chen. Chen
wasn’t really under his command. They possessed the same rank, more
or less, and both were up for promotion. Wong was determined not to
let the sly Chen get the advantage of him in this assignment.
“You’re just going to have to run things from land. I’ll pass on
any information you need as it comes in.”

“Wong, I don’t take orders from you.”

“True, but I don’t take them from you either.
How do you propose to force me to make landfall. This is about the
mission, Chen. Nothing more. Stay focused. Scour the pirate’s lairs
if you must, but find something useful for Beijing.”

“This is a complete waste of time,” Chen
muttered over the crackling line. “Beijing knows there is nothing
out here. The US wouldn’t be stupid enough to let anything out of
their sight.”

“It may be something lost in the two wars they
fought here in the Middle East, fool. Who knows how much tech is
just lying around in the deserts or at the bottom of the sea here!
That’s why we’re here, so that’s what we’ll do.”

“I don’t much care for your tone of voice,
Wong.”

“I don’t much care what you think,” Wong snapped
back. “Perhaps you should start looking through the city dumps.
Sifting through the garbage may help you focus on the task at
hand.”

Chen muttered something very unpleasant
regarding Wong’s ancestry and hung up. Wong sat back, deep in
thought. He didn’t like Chen at all, and before this assignment
ended, the two of them would no doubt have a confrontation of some
sort. Wong decided that he would come out on top no matter what the
risks or what he had to do.

Chapter 2

Bill shook his head, staring dispiritedly out
the window of the taxi. Athletic, still in his late thirties, Bill
Gardner hated what had become of his city. His skin crawling, he
almost tugged the sleeves down on his white shirt, decided against
it and instead rubbed his hands on his jeans—as if he could clean
off the filth of the city by doing so. He closed his eyes behind
his dark sunglasses and tried not to think what the scorching July
heat would do to all the refuse in the city. Already, he could
smell the sour and pungent aroma that hung like a dark cloud over
the city—even with the windows up.

“The city should do something about this,” he
muttered. In fact, he didn’t understand why the Mayor of New York
hadn’t done something. This was getting out of hand.

The taxi driver heard him. “The garbage?” he
asked. “Yeah, it’s pretty bad,” he finished, answering his own
question.

Bill stroked his well-groomed goatee. “Any word
when the strike will end?” he asked, knowing that most taxi drivers
knew the news before the broadcasters even had the chance to
announce it.

“No. Wastend employees still refuse to drive the
trucks. They demand more pay and more benefits before they return
to work. I just don’t know why the company doesn’t just either give
in to their demands, or hire a whole new batch of employees. The
trash has been piling up for a week now.” The gray haired driver
pointed to the dumpsters of a prominent hotel, which were
overflowing with bags of trash, much of it just lying in plain
sight.

The questions raised by the taxi driver touched
upon Bill’s lawyer instincts. “I bet it has to do with the union.
The union won’t allow any more new hires, trying to back the
company into a corner. If the company just gives in, they run the
risk of going bankrupt or passing on the higher costs to you and
I.”

The driver swore. “You know, I’ve been flushing
as much trash down the toilet as I can. At least the sewer still
works. My neighbors finally took all their trash to the landfill
themselves. It’s a 45 minute drive one way! I can’t afford to do
that!”

“I think we’re all screwed until the strike
ends,” Bill replied, sighing.

“The Mayor needs to do something,” the driver
muttered, echoing Bill’s thoughts from earlier. “He should have
never made that contract with Wastend to begin with.”

The corporate lawyer knew exactly what the
driver was referring to. The topic had been a favorite one of local
talk shows over the last few days. Two years ago, the Mayor had
signed a citywide contract with Wastend to pick up garbage for most
of the city, effectively driving out all other competitors. At the
time, it had seemed like a good deal as Wastend had negotiated fees
that were lower across the board. Now, the downside of that
contract was rearing its ugly head. With the competition gone,
there was no one to take up the slack when Wastend employees went
on strike. Oh, there were one or two tiny companies that were
picking up trash, but they were waging a losing battle in such a
large city.

No, this strike needed to end, and it needed to
end quickly.

The taxi rolled to a stop in front of the
corporate offices for Helm and Weiss Law Firm. “Here you are,
mister. That’ll be $15.22.”

Bill handed him a twenty. “Keep the change.”

The driver shrugged. It wasn’t much of a tip,
but Bill was in a hurry to get to his office. The air outside had
begun to smell faintly of refuse, causing the lawyer to recall what
one commentator had described as unsanitary conditions about to
incubate a whole host of diseases.
Great. Just what we all
need.
He hurried inside, where the recycled air at least
smelled better. When he reached the eleventh floor, he moved
through the lobby of his office.

His secretary, Cassie Byrne, smiled as he came
in. “Good morning, Mr. Gardner.”

“Cassie. I see you beat me here as usual.”

“Always, sir.”

He chuckled, and went over to the coffee machine
to retrieve a hot cup. “What’s my schedule like for today?”

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