So I know it has been a month (or something like that) since I last updated. I had this chapter half-written, but life has been getting in the way. It seems that work, uni and a community program I'm involved in have been working together to collectively destroy my social life. And it's not getting better, so I'm not sure when the following chapter will be up.

Enjoy and please review.


Chapter Six

It took Kate five hours and her XO back onboard for her to finally depart from the bridge and take a lunch break. A quick break, she knew it would be, but just long enough to eat and check-in with Commander Mike Flynn. He answered the phone in three rings.

"Mike Flynn."

"Sir, just calling to detail our movements."

"How's the search going, Kate?" He almost said 'X' instead.

"Nothing yet," she answered, "but you'll be the first to know if there is."

"Right, so you're calling because…"

"Because I thought that you'd want an update," she told him earnestly. "It's been hours." There was a short pause. "And mostly, I just wanted to apologise for what I said this morning."

Mike didn't respond.

"I know you're just doing what you can to find this boy," she continued. "I know what his father said got to you, and it's not my place to question your actions. I just-"

He cut her off. "Kate, stop. You shouldn't be apologising. You called me out on my unprofessional behaviour and you were right to do it. It should be me asking for your forgiveness."

She tried no to laugh. She had been expecting this.

And he knew that. "What?"

"Nothing, sir."

"No, really, Kate, what is it?"

She didn't want to answer, but he backed her into a corner with no hope of escape aside from hanging up the phone. "You always wait for me to make the first move. I'm always the one apologising. That's what it takes for you to recognise that you're wrong."

"If that's what you think, then clearly you don't know me as well as you thought," he retorted, harsher than he intended it to be.

"Perhaps I don't, but it's like trying to befriend a freight train. I get points for trying."

This conversation was going all wrong. She had called to get him to open up, not shut down. If there was anything going on in Gove, he'd find out and she wanted him focused. They had a little under 5 hours to find Edison Xiao. They didn't have time for this.

"But it's beyond the scope of this discussion," she added quickly and with more authority than ever. "We'll discuss this another time."

"Avoiding conflict?" he asked before changing the subject. "There's one major bank here."

"Right…" Kate responded, unsure of how that had any relevance to their conversation.

"It's mainly used by tourists since this port is a major stopover," he continued, unfazed. "As such, it turns over a good deal cash. Not city good, but definitely one of the biggest in northern Australia."

"And?"

"And internet access isn't great here. They mustn't have organised 3G, because your diver, the man that retrieved the money, he was there, in person, checking on a considerable amount that had been transferred early yesterday," Mike told her.

Kate came to a shocking realisation rather fast. "So they were in Nhulunbuy yesterday!"

"Yeah, we missed them. At least it answers the question of why."

"How much was this considerable amount?"

"One hundred and fifty thousand," Mike replied.

"Down payment. They still have the 500K."

Mike silently agreed.

"Do you think they're still in Nhulunbuy?" Kate asked solemnly.

"I don't know," Mike admitted. "Murphy's looking and I had better join him."

Her response came immediately. "Yes, sir."

"I have to say that I am amazed, Charge," Dutchy admitted. "Even the boss thinks your theory has merit this time."

Half the crew was queuing up at Sharkey's buffet line to be fed and, as per usual, it had turned into the Hammersley discussion line.

"So explain this to me," Sharkey requested as the plate of fish and chips landed in front of Bird's face. "This selling stocks thing?"

"Yeah," Bird piped up. "I don't see the point. This person has already sold his shares, right?"

"He shorted them," Raffy put in from the doorway of the officers' mess. The crew turned round immediately and waited for him to continue. "Technical term. It's called short-selling."

"Short-selling?" Sharkey asked.

"It happens in two steps," Raffy explained, "Firstly, the short seller doesn't buy stocks. He borrows from a third party with the intention of selling. The second part involves waiting for the prices to decrease, repurchasing the shares and returning them to the lender."

"People make money from that?" Bird asked.

"They make boatloads," the XO replied enthusiastically. "But mostly short-sellers guess that the stock prices are about to drop with some educative hypothesising. For example, if a company's major project fails or there is a new tax introduced that would negatively affect profits, such as the government's new mining supertax, then a price decrease is likely."

"So it's like poker," Bird summed up.

"Something like that, but you can't bluff your way out of hand. At some point, you need to be holding all the cards."

"Whoever it is…" Charge added. "He is making the stocks decrease."

"And if we are on the right track and this theory is responsible for Edison's abduction, then we are dealing with professionals," Raffy said and he lifted the empty plate above the bain-marie to a waiting Sharkey.

"Sounds bad," she commented back.

"This is going to go south, and when it does, they are going to cut their losses and run."

It was Dutchy's voice, then, that broke the gathering silence, voicing what they were all thinking in the dark chasms of their collective conscious. "What do you think will happen to the kid?"

"They don't leave living witnesses," Raffy answered gravely. "If we don't find Edison Xiao soon, then we won't find him alive."

"Sir!"

The voice of a young sailor trampling down the stairs disturbed them, and mostly just amused them when he fell.

"What is it, RO?" Raffy asked, picking his leading seaman up off the floor.

"The Feds have just reported that the boat were looking for was spotted yesterday afternoon heading towards Pobassoo Island," he responded in the same rapid pace. "We're approximately 18 miles off."

"Dutchy, let the boss know," Raffy ordered as he made certain headway towards the stairs.

His journey to the bridge was effortless, short and eventless. Within moments of RO's hail, he had assumed command, altered the ship's heading and instructed the radio operator to call ahead to NAVCOM. Kate was impressed when she arrived minutes later. Her XO had the skill, precision and efficiency of an experienced leader who had held the role many years, instead of just a few months. Yet his youthful electricity was vibrant enough to stir the pot and dynamically reinvent the routine of the Hammersley command structure.

"We'll be there in forty minutes, ma'am," Raffy alerted her. "They ventured farther than we had initially suspected."

"Very good, X," Kate murmured back, her gaze unwaveringly firm on the water ahead. "Organise two boarding parties. The island is large enough to be a problem and they could have gone anywhere."

"Coastwatch?" Swain asked.

Kate shook her head. "Commander Flynn called off a fly-over. He doesn't want to spook them."

"We're on our own?" Raffy asked.

"Feds are sending a vessel. It's six hours away."

That answered that question. A crew of twenty-one naval personnel, one big warship, two inflatables, three to four perps, one scared child, five hundred thousand dollars, and over a hundred thousand shares in a major Australian mining company, all on an island of approximately three hundred and eighty hectares. If nothing had ever happened on that grassy scrap of land a few metres above sea level, it was about to.

"Hands to boarding stations, hands to boarding stations, hands to boarding stations," Raffy called out thirty minutes later.

Their CO had ordered extra firepower and double Kevlar plates. Dutchy's team of Charge, Sharkey and RO were taking the RHIB, Thunder; Raffy, Swain, 2Dads and Tiger in Lightning. It did not take them long and as soon as the RHIBs were deployed, the Hammersley joined the search, scanning the eastern shore line for signs of activity. Dutchy headed north as soon as the island was in range and Raffy altered his inflatable's bearing to wrap around the island's southern most point and land on the western shoreline.

"We have four hours to find Edison," Raffy said into his radio. "Let's do just that."