The following is another sample chapter from my upcoming novel Expatriates: A Novel of the Coming Global Collapse. Please wait until the release day (October 1st, 2013) to place your order.
Introductory Notes: My upcoming novel opens with a prominent disclaimer that includes: “This is a work of fiction. All of the events described are imaginary, taking place in the future, and do not represent the world as we know it in the present day. It does not reflect the current geopolitical situation, governmental policies, or the strategic posture of any nation. It is not intended to be commentary on the policies, leadership, goals, strategies, or plans of any nation. This novel is not intended to be predictive of the territorial aspirations tactics of any nation or any planned use of terrorist tactics. Again, it takes place in the future, under fictional new leadership. Any resemblance to living people is purely coincidental.
This chapter describes a nighttime encounter between an essentially radar-transparent wooden outrigger Philippine fishing boat (the Tiburon) and an Indonesian fast patrol boat (the Sadarin.)
Chapter 20: E&E
“When it all comes down, the last man standing is going to be standing there in shorts and sneakers [armed] with a ’98 Mauser, and all the ninja-looking guys belly up at his feet – with all their cool gear.” – Louis Awerbuck
On Board Tiburon, The Banda Sea – Late October, The Second Year
The seas were calm and the night was almost pitch dark. It was overcast, the quarter moon had not yet risen, and the Jeffords could barely distinguish the horizon. They motored on, regularly checking the compass and the GPS.
Tatang sat dozing in the side chair while Peter held the wheel. As he gazed ahead, Peter saw the flare of a cigarette lighter about 400 or 500 yards ahead—someone lighting a cigarette on the deck of a boat of some sort. Jeffords hesitated for a moment, and then cut the throttle to bring Tiburon to slow maneuvering speed. He swung the wheel sharply. The motion roused Tatang. Peter ducked his head toward the old man’s ear and whispered, “Quiet.” He could hear excited voices in the distance.
A pair of big diesel engines rumbled to life. Just as Peter completed their turn about and the Tiburon’s stern was pointed toward the strange boat a searchlight snapped on and began scanning. Peter slammed the throttle forward and he said, “Take the wheel!”
Peter stepped away from the helm and snatched up Navarro’s M1 rifle. Tatang took the wheel and shoved hard on the throttle, but he found that it was already wide open. The searchlight found them, blindingly bright. Peter’s eyes had been accustomed to the darkness and this change overwhelmed his senses. There were more shouts from the other boat. It was now 500 yards away and had started to turn towards them. Peter judged that it was a 50-footer, and it had the profile of some sort of pilothouse patrol boat, with pedestal-mounted machineguns, fore and aft. Before it completed its turn, he could make out the boat’s hull number: 855.Tatang muttered, “We’re in a tight spot, aren’t we, Mister J.?”
Across the dark sea, Kapten Assegaf switched on Sadarin’s hailer, emitting a high warble. Then he keyed his microphone and issued a warning to stop, in Indonesian. He repeated the command in Dutch, and then English: “Hou’ vast! You are ordered to stop, or we will be shooting.” The young, impetuous captain was grinning. He knew that the outrigger boat was no match for his boat, with its pair of MTU diesels. Despite a few patches to its hull that gave her more drag than in her early days, Sadarin was still a very fast patrol boat.
The patrol boat was quickly gaining on Tiburon. Peter crouched behind the stern rail, put the rifle to his right shoulder and clicked its safety bar forward with the front of his trigger finger. He said aloud, “Help me get out of this, Lord.” Then he took aim at the searchlight. The glare was intense.
He fired three times in rapid succession. The third shot hit the searchlight, extinguishing it. Tatang then immediately jerked the wheel, turning Tiburon sharply to starboard. The .50 caliber M2 Browning on the forward deck of the patrol boat sputtered to life, firing blindly in reply, in a deep staccato.
To Peter’s dismay, moments later a second searchlight snapped on and began to scan. “Kasimanwa ko,” Tatang muttered, which Jeffords recognized as a Tagalog reference to excrement.
Peter fired two shots at the searchlight. The second one hit the mark, again casting them into darkness. Immediately after, Tatang wisely swung the wheel again, this time hard to port. The .50 caliber fired again blindly. The muzzle flashes were all they could see. The first few rounds passed over their heads. Every fifth round was a tracer. The arc of the tracers increased farther and farther to starboard. Tatang changed course once more, quartering away from Sadarin. Between bursts from the machinegun, they could hear excited shouts from the Indonesian crewmen. Two Indo sailors with Pindad SS2 5.56mm assault rifles joined in, blindly firing in long fully automatic bursts. But like the big Browning, all of their bursts were fired high and wide–nearly all toward their previous heading.
After a minute, they were about 1,000 yards away from the patrol boat. Peter realized that his rifle was more than half empty, so he fumbled for a minute to unload it and reload it with a full 8-round clip from his pocket. The Garand, he knew, had the limitation of an “all or nothing” ejecting cartridge clip—there was no way to top off the rifle without changing the clip completely. He wanted to be ready with a full 8-round clip in case he had to fire again.
Captain Assegaf used his bullhorn again, this time ordering his own crew, “Diam, diam!” The shooting stopped. Realizing what was happening, Peter whispered urgently, “Stop, stop! Preno!”
Tatang chopped the throttle and then turned off the engine completely. Moments later, the Indonesian captain shut his engines down, too. It was eerily quiet and still quite dark. Below deck, two of the Indonesian Air Force radar technicians were wailing and crying, convinced that they were about to die for failing to do their job.
Hoping to hear the engine of Tiburon, the Indonesians were listening intently. It was so quiet that Jeffords could hear the sound of squeaking footsteps on the deck of the patrol boat. There was an anxious, questioning voice from below deck and then another shout of “Diam!” from Captain Assegaf, this time without the benefit of the bullhorn.
Peter crept toward the helm chair. The storm door slowly slid open. Rhiannon’s head popped out. Peter reached across the door and clamped his hand across her mouth. He leaned forward and whispered into her ear: “An Indo patrol boat. I shot out their lights, so now it’s cat and mouse. Keep Sarah and Joseph super quiet.”
Rhiannon gave an exaggerated nod and quietly descended back into the cabin, sliding shut the storm door as gently as possible.
The unnerving quiet continued for two minutes. Sadarin’s signals officer approached Captain Assegaf to report that there was no radar contact. Worse yet, the ship’s sonar could only be used as a depth finder. It was not designed to locate other vessels. Assegaf began cursing loudly. He ordered hand flashlights and a flare gun be brought up from below, but there was some difficulty in finding the waterproof box that held the flare gun and flares. Instead of its usual location, it was inadvertently hidden under a pile of life vests. This led to even more consternation and shouting.
By the time that they started scanning with the hand flashlights, the two boats had drifted apart and were separated by 1,250 yards. Because the Indonesians’ flashlights lacked sufficient range, the sailors had no luck spotting Tiburon. Captain Assegaf let loose a long string of profanity and slapped his signals officer on the side of his head. Frustrated, he impetuously fired up the boat’s diesels. He hesitated for a moment, and then took a guess at Tiburon’s last heading, but he guessed wrong. He turned Sadarin 30 degrees to starboard as he advanced his throttles to 3/4th, pushing the boat up to 25 knots.
Peter inched up to Tatang and asked in a half-whisper, “Now that they’re started their engines, won’t that mask the sound if we start ours?”
The old man thought for a moment and then answered, “Yeah, but they could stop any time and listen again, and then they’d hear where we are. We’d really be in the kamalasan. Right now, they don’t know if we are pirates, smugglers, or refugees. And even refugees are probably all ‘shoot on sight.’ We are safer just drifting for now, Mister J. It is still six hours to the daylight, and the clouds will stop most of the moonlight. The moon rise won’t be for about two hours. Just pray hard that they get far enough away that they can’t hear our engine.”
Jeffords did pray, fervently.
The Indonesian patrol boat was more than a mile away when they began launching parachute flares. But at that distance, they didn’t throw enough light to reveal Tiburon’s position.
Even worse than the misplaced flare gun kit was the fact that up until fifteen days before, Sadarin had been equipped with a pair of Fulinon Gen 3 light amplification night vision goggles (NVGs). But the navy had requisitioned the NVGs from every ship less than 25 meters in length for an unspecified “priority tasking.” Assegaf assumed that this meant the Philippines campaign. He was furious. If he had the NVGs or at least if he had the flare gun close at hand, then the intruder would not have been able to slip away.
Rhiannon and Joseph came up on deck. “Sarah is asleep,” Rhiannon reported in a whisper.
Peter had the binoculars out, trying to gauge the distance between Tiburon and Sadarin. He started to chuckle and said, “I told you that you have a stealthy boat, Tatang.”
Tatang put on a huge grin that Peter could see even in the very dim light. “Yes, she’s a stealthy old shark, and she just put those Indo bastards on a whatcha-call wild geese chase.”
The two men shared a laugh.
After another half hour, when the Indonesian flares could barely be seen six miles away, Tatang restarted Tiburon’s engine. He turned the bow to the southeast, quartering away from the Indonesian boat. Speaking at a normal level for the first time since the incident began, Tatang said, “Now, we gotta put a lot a miles between them and us before the daylight. They’ll try to get a patrol plane up to look for us, sure as anything.” He pushed the throttle forward all the way to its stop and added, “Go, baby, go.”
Joseph said, “Do you know how lucky we are?”
Rhiannon shook her head and said, “Poor choice of words, Joey. The word isn’t lucky, it is blessed.”
As dawn broke, after a fruitless night of searching, Assegaf had a long talk with his first mate, an old NCO who had seventeen years of service with the navy. They discussed how they would write their report of the incident with the “unidentified fishing boat.” They agreed that it would be counterproductive to complain about the lack of NVGs and that the misplaced flare gun kit should be blamed on a junior grade sailor and a reprimand issued before they returned to port.
Assegaf’s next conversation was with the senior Air Force radar technician to determine why the radar couldn’t detect the fishing boat. After a brief lecture on radar fundamentals, the NCO explained that the ship’s radar had a feature called “near field clutter rejection.” Thus, the radar did not display any target less than two kilometers away if was moving at less than twenty kilometers per hour and if it had a radar cross section smaller than that of a small boat or passenger car.
Kapten Assegaf fumed about the fishing boat getting away. More than just the disappointment, it was writing the After Action Report that troubled him. Given the recent political shifts within the TNI-AL, his report would have to be very carefully worded.