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NEW-CUE, Inc. is a non-profit, environmental education organization founded primarily to assist writers and educators who are dedicated to enhancing the public's awareness of environmental issues.
The Biscuit Eater
It was high twelve and low in the night, and all things were quiet, especially on the water front, where you could most-times, occasionally, hear a fog horn and a toot around the far bell house.
The weather was freezing, long ice-lets hanging on every structure and boat, caused by the dense fog as it found its way into every crevice, on this, the nastiest night of nights. Its-alus damp on the waterway anyway, don't matter even ifnit's late January, and the so-called springtime - just 'round the bend. Temperatures stay pretty much the same around here all year anyway; don't get much above cold in these parts! And, things just don't look right to the Captain. He wanted to blame it on old age, you know - bones-a-ache'n from the frigid-cold-air laying low on the water; and the pea-soup (fog) that got on your slicker and stuck, till it froze to ice crystals - if you stayed in one position too long, when you moved, the dampness would crackle and . . . break off.
The sloop was barely visible as it glided ever so slowly around, The Point. "The Biscuit Eater," having just a speck of light in the house - you wouldn't have seen it ifnit weren't so dark on the water. The old man, Cap'n Buster Sharp, sat nimbly at the wheel as the BE churned silently, just above an idle, closer and closer to the shore line; he'd been steering these waters for close to 30 years before the war, he hadn't been back in 12, and yet nothing had changed either. It was so much like he'd left it, he could almost follow the shore line in his sleep. But, tonight was no night to sleep, except for the dogs and he hoped they wouldn't start up. If they did it might arouse the clan and that wouldn't be good . . . not tonight anyway! Many of the ignorant wouldn't take kindly to an intruder and theft of their only son and daughter.
He peered out the side of the window of the pilothouse, a gentle breeze and chill brushing against his weathered old face. His pulled his cap down so he could see just along the front edges of it, to sight the tell-tale spot they had agreed on. Hard to see, . . . but there it was, just beyond the "High Seas." The old oyster boat was in dry dock for overhaul. Buster thought from the sight of it, the old bucket of rust needed more than an overhaul.
The BE slid by the "High Seas," and on down past several piers, just gliding along. No one unless they were on the water, or sitting on the end of the pier, would ever know that the sloop was moving toward its destination over by the McFerguson's. The rendezvous was for 2 AM, and Buster had to slow the BE down, he was a little ahead of schedule - he cut the generators and drifted with the current. Quiet, was as stealth. Eerie sounds pummeled the night, the long groaning of a ships wooden belly against their ropes and docks. Buster could hardly make out the name of, "The Lola Bell," as he drifted by the monstrous boat. It was beginning to be heavy water (thicker fog) and getting worse, or, maybe that's better he mused! He wished he could lite-up his pipe, but he dared not.
A dog barked in the distance, a toot, and a low fog horn out on the high seas rolled in through the dense and jelly-like murkiness . . . perfect weather, perfect timing thought Buster. Lights came on up where the dog barked, voices could be heard in the night, a door slammed, again it was quiet. Small white water pushed by the sloop, with an occasional lap against the side. Buster looked at the glow of his watch, it read 1:30 AM. He pushed the start button on the panel, and the engine-generators, (muffled) purred to life.
He realized what he was doing was risky for the children and everybody, but it was the only thing to do - they just, had to do it. The little 6 year old boy Prince Damian, and 8 year old girl Princess Catherine, would be killed and all those trying to help them escape, if they should be caught. The children had been held prisoner's in a squalid mountain site for over three months after their family was, "taken away." They'd been exploited by the warring Whocatarians. Many have said the children were held for ransom, which wasn't true. No, not likely with the Whocatarians, for they were barbarians of the worst kind and it was just a matter of time and the children would be killed too. It became urgent for them to move quickly on their decision. They realized that the time was now, tonight, for the loyalist to recover the children and spirit them safely out of the country. Timing was important - absolutely imperative. The Captain new from past experiences of this kind, it was a matter of life or death. He thought of his friends who called him, "The Missionary," when actually he was a part time, "Mercenary."
One moon ago on the dark of the darkest hour, four slender boys of build scaled the rock tower of Mt. Roe, and under the black shadows of the high walls, four young hero's lowered the children to safety through a series of ropes. The ropes all dangling and swinging wildly in air while the children were being skirted away to safety in minutes by the men in black. The young commandeers were found by the Whocatarian guards as they too tried to escape over the wall, they were trapped, they could not escape the wrath of a fooled enemy, and they died a terrible fate. Their voices and screams were heard to the miles of forever, as they were tied to the ropes and thrown over the side of Mt. Roe to their death.
The children were moved between two and three secret-safe houses while the infuriated enemy searched and destroyed every hamlet looking for the children. The children were the only living heir's to the throne, since the country had been over run by the warring Whocatarians, and it was important for them to eliminate any competition to their grip on the kingdom, even the children. The loyalist (now) who once marched and rose banners and great noise against the kingdom in anti-protest, for their just cause, who had given repeal to their freedoms and acceptance to the future of unseen unmasked fanaticism's and ultimate oppression. They now having seen the fate of their faults - having been over run by deception, illusion and trickery, having now understood what they had, . . . and lost, . . . they would now give their lives for the children's safety, to save them from harm praying for their safe and triumphant return from a neighboring country . . . the children to be conquers, bringing back to them their precious freedoms, . . . one future day.
These thoughts and determination was heavy on the mind of Captain Buster Sharp as he slipped silently into pier number 14 and waited. He remembered an historic paper he once read - a General-President Washington, giving his Farewell Address, reflecting on "factions" and their evil intentions to beware.
It was past Two A.M. and the Captain was beginning to feel uncomfortable. An ole' alley cat out on the prowl stopped to look in his direction - he wondered who else was looking his way, who else might be able to see him through their night goggles, or heat sensors. He was wearing chafe, his engines were under water, so there was very little heat rising and escaping from the sloop. Everything was quiet as a mouse, the distant buoy bell rang, "ding - ding . . . ding."
He startled when he heard an ever-so soft knocking on the hull of the BE's lee-side. Again, an ever so lightly, "knock - knock - knock." He hurried to the side of the boat and squinted down into the murk, where he could just make out a figure leaning to the hull. He quietly answered with a soft - "knock." From below, in the darkness of the water - a response - "knock-knock," The captain smiled and gave a last, soft - "knock."
A rope ladder was lowered over the side by Ramon, (Capt'n Buster's unseen deck hand. Ramon was 6'6" and weighed 250 lbs., and was a double-black belt) he lifted the little Prince first and then the smiling little Princess-Catherine from the abyss -- he hurried them to the lower rooms and bid them to be very quiet. He was instructed not to leave them alone under any circumstances. The Captain beckoned the two men in the johnboat to come aboard and chance the freedom that lie ahead. Not saying a word, they waved off indicating they had other things to do, and slowly dipped their oars into the ripples of liquid, and soon, . . . they were ghost in the night.
The Biscuit Eater was a remarkable boat. Sleek and low in the water, carried a wide berth under water where two quiet super-charged diesel engines lay, not running. The BE moved about, from powerful battery operated twin generators, circulating seawater through the turbines aft to twin variable rudders. This arrangement allowed the turbines to reverse flow the seawater through two twin vanes, one on each side in the front hull. Varying the pitch of either turbine, the BE could turn on a dime, forward or backward. The BE backed out of pier number 14 as stealthily as she had moved in. Backing past and between two trawlers with their menacing booms and cranes; turning 'round between the larger boats gave the BE cover. Finally moving against the current she slowly began heading past the old fish house where fishing boats loaded with their catch from the high seas, would unload their weeks work tomorrow.
Below, Ramon comforted the children by placing a warm blanket around them, giving them a prepared sandwich and sipped a hot clam chowder broth with them. It was one of Ramon's favorite drinks on a cold night; the children were making faces and thinking twice about the clam chowder, . . . but they ate the sandwich and were thankful to the huge man in black. They liked him, he was gentle and had a nice face.
The captain pulled his cap down again so he could just see below the beak, he keep watching for the marker, finally, the old rusting bucket in dry dock, the, "High Seas." Buster knew that just beyond the turn and out from the slip, he could throttle-up a little.
As he made the turn just beyond the point he heard voices along the shore line, voices loud and shouting to one another. Strong beams of light running back and forth, focusing out into the fog and dark waters where light ocean waves were crashing onto the beach. He turned seaward and nudged the yoke. The BE responded with a slight rising of the bow, a thrust and a throaty growl in her belly below, as he switched on the turbines, and they began to wind-up - the boat shook a little from its sudden intake of sea water, the children's eyes grew wide, and Ramon with comforting words said, "'its ok, we're going home."
When the Biscuit Eater passed the last marker and outer buoy to the channel, he waved to the high powered speed boat that had been ringing the buoy's bell, "'ding - ding . . . ding,"' signaling all's well on their end of the water. If things were bad they would have rung a successive number of "dings." In passing, their black wet suits hardly recognizable from the reflection of the red lantern on top of the buoy . . . they returned the wave with a, "ding - ding . . . ding." The Captain throttled to 20, then 30, faster and faster and higher and higher the bow rose, till all of a sudden the BE shot out of the water like a rocket at 3/4's Full Ahead . . . skimming along the wave tops in a thick fog, so thick that no one could see with the eye, yet, the BE's radar led the way to the beckoning of freedom's call. The heading set at NE by NE at fixed Latitude-Longitude to rendezvous with "Mother."
The swells began to rise and fall with the deeper ocean and Captain Buster adjusted the rake, to the waves, so the children wouldn't get seasick. However, he saw on the scope an imagery division, activity mounting from the shoreline and it appeared the Whocatarins would soon be in hot pursuit. He dared not to break silence on the radio, they could run a fix on his position and send an unexpected laser guided torpedo into the BE, "and that would hurt." He again nudged the throttle, to 90 % and said, the children and all will have to endure . . . he pushed for full throttle and the BE notched 35,000 rpm's from each of the turbines. They were literally flying across the waters from swell to swell. He could see by the reflection of the Whocatarians directional finder, that they hadn't found him, yet. The Biscuit Eater had been refitted with a new hull that made it nearly invisible to even the latest technology. Something like the old USAF Blackbird spy plane nearly 80-90 years ago. He called down the intercom where Ramon and the children were huddled and said, "Ramon, we're nearly there, you know what to do. Do it fast, do it quick, we have no time to waste . . . the "Who's" are on the high seas and will be closing by the time the "IIe" is ready to depart."
"Aye - aye, sir."
With closing time on "Mother," he broke silence, keyed the Mike and tapped out an encryption on the mike-head - an encryption prepared ahead of time. The Whocatarians would hear it as "white noise" if they were sweeping that particular channel - they wouldn't detect it until too late. "Mother," monitoring the frequency would know that the approaching vessel was legitimate and the BE wouldn't be blown out of the water with one of BE-IIe's missiles. There was only one problem. The Whocatarians had use of several satellite systems left over from the war. One of the satellites focus on hard imagery. (solids) It had already picked up on a fast moving object in the waters off their beach and approaching NE by NE at a high rate. They had "locked-on," and were tracking the object and could fire at any time.
The Biscuit Eater was approaching the BE-IIe on her starboard side about 500 yards out, she slowed to a wide loop and inched up to the rear while the doors were being lowered into the sea. The BE crawled right up into the open hull, the doors closed and the bay was purged of its seawater. The boat was lifted out of the remaining water by a deck-dock constructed inside the hull of the BE-IIe, and the BE became - "Dry-Docked."
As soon as the BE reached its landing, Ramon was carrying the children off to a safer section of the ship, in case any one decided to bomb or strafe them. The "Old Salt," Captain Buster Sharp, man of action, man of adventure, headed straight to the bridge, slid into his "Captains Chair," his favorite chair, that of commanding the "Biscuit Eater-IIe." The old Ancient Mariner lite his pipe, leaning over to a row of lights and dials, he began pushing a series of silver button's on the panel of lights, dials and sweeps, breaking all communicative silence's within the BE-IIe, he reverently said, "Ok Boy's, Rev. "em up, lets get the heck outta here!"
He dialed the frequency on the Whocatarians last plotted "satellite fix" and was sorry to see, they had blown up a fast moving vessel close to their waters and beach. He knew it was those brave men who had given their lives to capture and protect the children. Those men in the night air, wet and cold from the fridge and darkened waters. They had run a decoy for us, close to the beach to draw off the enemy and away from the BE, it worked. Captain Buster Sharp gave a snap salute towards the shoreline in honor of, and memory to those who solemnly give their lives again and again for freedom.
He reached over and flipped a switch that made the ship rumble and shake in the waters. The most advanced engines in the year 2043 jumped to life. The turbine's in the front hull screamed their displeasure with the waters drawn into their ducks, feeding and cooling the dual JTE-9 water cooled jet engine's mounted inside the breast plate that was to raise the boat by degrees in the water, while within that same fluid motion, the jet expulsion of gases propelling the 150' craft upward and forward to a position slightly within the top-waters, reducing the "drag" and giving increase to the forward thrust -- the BE-IIe became the fastest attack boat on earth. Oh yes, she bristled with armament unmentionable here. Why(?), . . . well, . . . just because . . .
The galley steward appeared at the helm and said, "Hot Biscuits, Captain, have one." The Captain looked at his watch, and it was almost 6:30. "Time for breakfast!" With a hot buttered biscuit in one hand, and the throttle in the other he pushed gently on the twin yoke - the boat throbbed under its power to eventual full speed, and the Biscuit Eater-IIe cut a mean wake, and a straight line to freedom's shore.