Curse of Cortes'

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Chapter 33: Rusted Sacrifice

Túumben Epoca, Offshore Isla Barbareta

June 20th 2:44 pm | 16 hours to Mayan chaa

Lost again, weaving through the massive ship corridors, Hansen leaves a trail of bloody footprints.

“Lord, keep the Plunder and Sophie safe for me,” he prays after hearing a huge explosion in the bay several moments ago. If they destroyed the Plunder, his escape plan will be dead in the water.

Disoriented and lost, he enters the main salon by mistake, seconds before his interrogator steps out of an elegant gold trimmed toilet room buckling his belt. Caught by surprise, Hansen lands two powerful blows to the larynx, closing the commando’s air passage. Instinct and training take over as the Seal slams his boot-knife heel against the wall behind him, while yanking the choking man down by his collar. Throwing his weight backward, he kicks up with his boot blade, jabbing the soldier hard in the heart. Both men collapse with a heavy thud as blood instantly spreads over the expensive carpet.

Breathless and paralyzed by the penetrating, piercing pain, each wisp of air cuts like glass inside his rib cage. Forced to wait precious, dangerous seconds, he prays in silence, fearful of failing his crew. Slowly forcing himself up, he takes the dead man’s gun before turning to the transom corridor. Before he can take a single step, a second dog of war enters the salon from a different entrance. Dazed by the scene, Hansen whips up the gun to shoot a single shot, dropping the soldier in the doorway. Anxious to leave before others show up, he shuffles as fast as he can toward the expansive watercraft garage.

From the view inside the garage, a quarter of a mile behind the ship, Plunder Lust races in his direction. ‘Hallelujah Lord, right on time’ he thinks, too starved for air to speak before he realizes the Plunder speeds toward him on a collision course. “Oh crap,” he mutters.

With only minutes before the collision, and no longer able to dive for an escape, he moves the small engineless tender toward the open transom before he remembers. ’Damn, the detonator,’ he silently curses his forgetfulness.

In the seconds that it takes him to return with the detonator, the zodiac has drifted a few feet away from the transom. With no time left and mind searing agony he leaps toward the inflatable, clicking the detonator, and knowing mid jump he won’t make it all the way.

From the corner of his eye, he spots a sharpshooter on the deck. A sharp crack of gunfire sends a blazing bolt of fire into his shoulder in the same instant an explosion lifts the ocean in a cauldron of fury, shuddering the enormous ship. Hitting the edge of the zodiac, he bounces off with unbelievable pain, and then everything goes black.

Plunder Lust, offshore Isla Barbareta

June 20th 2:58 pm | 16 hours to Mayan chaa

“I see him, I see Hansen,” shouts Darcy. “Jackson, slow down. Stop the bloody boat.”

Jackson pulls the throttle back to neutral, instantly reducing the hull vibrations and speed, but a hundred and fifty tons of momentum continues to push them forward.

Her sheer joy quickly turns into frosty alarm when Hansen disappears behind an inflatable, pushed closer to the deadly reef by the underwater explosion. As the inflatable spins around, Hansen hangs with one arm entangled in the zodiac grab line, and his head partly dangling in the water.

“Aim between Hansen and that ship, and don’t you bloody dare hit Hansen,” Darcy orders as she runs off the bridge.

“What about the reef?” Jackson yells back in a squeaky voice concerned with the narrow space between the ship and the reef.

Darcy doesn’t answer but feels Plunder lean as Jackson adjusts course to evade a collision. They may all sink, but she’s not giving up on Hansen, not a second time. She snatches two life jackets on her way, and with a leap onto a capstan housing, she jumps over the railing, throwing the floatation devices in front of her.

Resurfacing with adrenaline surging through her system she swims toward the wayward zodiac to find Hansen unconscious, but still breathing. Placing a floatation unit under his head, and a second one under his huge torso, she climbs into the inflatable with a grunt. Unable to haul the enormous man into the boat, she lashes him to the pontoon like a harpooned whale, his head held out of water by life vests.

Out of breath, she hadn’t noticed the shark fins approaching the zodiac, drawn by the blood dripping from Hansen’s arm and wrists. Grabbing an oar, she swats at one before she digs in to row, but she can’t pull away from the swell that keeps pushing her toward the waves crashing on coral.

Two small boats slip round the large ship, and approach her with weapons raised toward her and the ship. One sailor fires a short burst of rounds at a shark getting too close to Hansen, sending the wounded shark to dart into deeper water, leading a frenzy of other sharks chasing after the familiar scent.

One of the men throws her a tug line, and then points ahead of the grand ship. Following his gesture, she breathes a sigh of relief to see that Jackson pulled off a miracle. Avoiding the reef, the Plunder has pulled ahead of the ship to drop anchor.

“Ace job Dr. Healy, positively ace,” he mumbles.

Careful of Hansen, the islanders tow her zodiac only feet away from the breaking waves. Above her, the sharp shooters have disappeared likely attempting to save their own ship. As they approach Plunder Lust, the men towing her inflatable leap aboard the transom platform to lift the heavy, unconscious giant off the pontoon. After resting a moment, it takes four men to carry the limp hulk to the mess hall where they lay him on a long table, winded from their effort.

Escorted behind them, Darcy watches the eyes of Mai, Juniper, and Jackson react with shock over Hansen’s bloody and bruised condition. Under armed guard, she motions with her palm for them to stay quiet. An awkward moment of silence falls where no one attends to the unconscious man on the table.

“This man needs medical help,” Darcy demands, as nervous men raise their weapons in her direction. “What are you bloody waiting for?”

From the aft deck entrance a tall, boyishly handsome man in his forties hurries in with a doctor’s bag.

“They’re waiting for me,” he replies, motioning to the guards who lower their weapons. The man steps up to Hansen and opens his bag.

“My name is Dr. Augusto Morales,” he introduces himself as he begins an examination.

Salvation from the reef, and care for Hansen quiets her tongue if not her anxieties, at least for the moment.

“Did you see the explosion?” he asks.

Darcy shakes her head, signaling to her team to keep quiet. Instead, she tries to change the subject. “Nacon trapped our skipper and crew on the island. We need to go find them.”

He ignores her. “Patient is unconscious and may have a concussion,” he dictates into his smart phone video as he records the injuries. “There’s bleeding from the nose and ears with potential dental injuries. I note severe bruising to the face, ribs, and chest. A possible fractured, or broken rib on the left side, and what look like defensive wounds on both arms. A ragged bullet graze wound to the right shoulder, surgery and stitches indicated. Deep cuts on the wrists, likely from zip ties. I see no other open wounds, but he may have internal bleeding. Immediate hospitalization is recommended,” Dr. Morales concludes.

“Thank you doctor,” Darcy softens. Deeply disturbed to hear how much Hansen suffered so they could escape. “I agree he needs a hospital immediately.” She tries cooperation instead of confrontation, at least for the moment.

Dr. Morales looks at her. “First tell me who you are, and why people are dying.”

Darcy avoids looking toward the cameras in the ceiling corner. They taped over the red lights to make them less obvious. She hesitates, anxious of sounding crazy, and unsure what words will help rescue Miguel, or help Hansen.

Augusto grunts at her silence. “So is the enemy of my enemy a friend or foe?”

She finds his gaze and then she finds her voice. “I assure you Dr. Morales, we are not an enemy.”

She waits a beat, and then tries a new approach. “My name is Dr. Darcy O’Sullivan, a Cambridge archaeologist,” she explains. “We came to help a local woman named Sophia Martinez to retrieve valuable relics she found after a recent earthquake. Cartel mercenaries attacked us in Belize, and have now trapped Sophia, and our shore crew on the island. You just saw a pilot and another friend crash into the lagoon, and they may need urgent medical assistance. Frankly, doctor, we’re wasting time when we need to go save them.”

Darcy makes a bet the locals will know Sophia, and maybe it will give her more credibility. She desperately wants to be on the island to find Miguel, Brenda and the others.

Dr. Morales studies her a long moment. “Thank you for your honesty Dr. O’ Sullivan,” he replies, “but I have a few more questions.”

Her eyes fall on Hansen, then her team, and then the guns. She can’t give up now, but she’s losing patience and time. Aware of the streaming video, she tries her father’s standard approach of the pushy and impatient cooperation of entitlement.

“Well then, scurry on with it doctor,” she snips. “Ask what you must, but lives linger in the balance man. Let’s not lose one with wasteful chit chat.”

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