Under the Jo**y Roger, Part 22

However I know that the most likely source of my rescue will come in a reply to my message to the Admiralty. Why is it taking them so long to reply?

Unfortunately for Jacky her protector in London is facing a few problems of his own. The Major's political overlords are ducking for cover as the news media have a field day over recent disastrous attempts at gunboat diplomacy. The politicians want a scapegoat, and have unanimously agreed Major Barrington-Smyth is to be it. The Major is being sent to some backwater post in the Indian Ocean. He has until 5 pm to clear his desk.

The message received this morning from Lieutenant Faber is the single bright spot in an otherwise wretched day. He briefly considers leaving it to be dealt with by his successor, whoever that may be. But Faber has been his most promising protégé and it would be churlish of him not to make sure she is alright. But she has picked a very dangerous enemy in the Comte to Monte Blanc. A man with access to almost unlimited money, and welcome in the circles of most of African and European high society.

The Major scribbles out an order and hands it to Captain Peel. The one man he can rely on who will be here tomorrow. Strange how Flashby and Blifil are untouched by the political fallout; but then they always knew how to be toadies.

With the order safely handed to Captain Peel, the Major gathers his things and leaves. No sense in hanging around until 5 o'clock. The politicians can go and … yes, well, never mind what.

I'm marched to Captain Turnbull's cabin just before 4 o'clock.

"I've received orders concerning you, Lieutenant Faber. I don't claim to understand why the orders are made, but they have been confirmed by the Admiralty," says Captain Turnbull. "As of this moment you are released from custody. I am ordered to take you to the Canary Islands where you are to leave us and catch a flight to Boston in America. It seems the Admiralty wishes you to complete your education at some Ladies Academy there. Heaven knows why! Here are your written orders which confirm what I've just told you."

I'm free! But only to be parted from Jaimy once more. It seems we are fated to be torn apart. At least we have a few days to repair the effects of our separation. My idle thoughts of romantic trysts with Jaimy are interrupted when I see two small ships approaching the Wolverine. At first I and the rest of the crew pay little attention to them. But as they draw closer I recognise them as two of the Monte Blanc Trading Company ships I'd seen in Nouadhibou.

Something about them makes me suspicious. Why should the two small ships be sailing close together like that. As if to answer my question, I see the most crew of one ship transfer to the other. Suddenly it dawns on me what they're going to do. I rush to the bridge.

"Pirates! They're going to ram us!" I shout to Lieutenant Beasley, who is on watch.

"Get a grip of yourself, Faber. They're nothing of the sort. See. They're flying the Comte de Monte Blanc's flag," replies Lieutenant Beasley. He's about to say more, but suddenly realises I'm not lost in a fanciful dream.

"Hard to port! Sound the collision alarm! Close all watertight doors!" yells Lieutenant Beasley, suddenly a man of action.

I look across to the ships and see the last of the crew leaving one of them. But not before pointing their ship at us. At this range we will be hard pressed to avoid a collision.

Captain Turnbull arrives on the bridge in response to the alarm. He assesses the situation in a few seconds.

"Sparks. Send a message to the Admiralty. 'Under attack by two pirate ships'; give our position. Lieutenant Beasley; form a squad of men and arm them. The other ship may try to board us. Lieutenant Faber, muster the fire control teams and have them ready. We've enough fuel left on board to blow us all sky high if it ignites."

I rush below and find the three fire crews are almost ready, and waiting for instructions. I dispatch two of the teams to where I think they will be safe from any damage from a collision, but close enough to deal with any fires. The third team I keep with me, ready to rush to any trouble spot.

The wait seems to last forever, but can only have been a few minutes. Suddenly there is another blast on the collision alarm followed by a sickening crunch on our starboard side, near our stern. Most of the men lose their balance in the collision, but are quickly on their feet. We dash towards where we think we are needed. Suddenly we are bowled over by a huge explosion. The other ship must have been loaded with explosives.

I quickly check the men with me are alright, and we rush towards the flames that are now visible ahead of us. I quickly assess the damage. While the explosion was too far aft to damage the huge tanks holding the fuel we use for resupplying other ships, the smaller tanks which hold our own ship's fuel are dangerously close to the fire. I quickly make a report to the Captain through the ship's intercom.

The other two fire crews soon join us and we battle the fire. We are holding our own until two small explosions send pieces of metal flying through the air around us. I notice some of the men are hit, and the medical team behind us are quickly to their side. I don't have time to see who is down.

We renew our efforts to control the fire and eventually we bring it under control. We've saved the ship, although the damage is severe. The Wolverine is going to need extensive repairs before she can sail unaided. I go to the bridge to give a report to the Captain.

"Well done, Faber. You and your fire teams have saved us. This shall go in my report to the Admiralty. But we have a more pressing problem. A French frigate is coming to our aide. The French Admiral is aware you are on board and demanding you be arrested for piracy and handed over to the frigate's Captain. It's most irregular, but some officer in the Admiralty by the name of Flashby has agreed to the French request."

"But I'm a serving Royal Navy Officer. You can't do this."

"I agree. I don't know who this Flashby is, but he's not following Regulations. So I'm going to put you on our launch with Delaney and McConnaughty, and send you on your way to the Canary Islands as originally ordered. Three or four days sailing should get you there. Don't worry about the pirates, Beasley and his men emptied enough ammunition into the other ship to send them scurrying back to port. Be ready to leave in ten minutes."

I grab my things and try to find Jaimy. He should be in the Communications cabin, but isn't. Just as I'm about to board the cutter I see him with Lieutenant Beasley and his men. He sees me and I have just enough time to signal B-O-S-T-O-N in semaphore before the launch in lowered into the sea.

[The end]