Rickie stood unmoving on the beach, his binoculars trained at the Waterfront some distance away, where constantly-shifting throngs of people swirled around, intent on watching the colorful boats and their rows of straining men. Outside the buoys marking the race course, vessels large and small lay quietly at anchor.
And in one of them, his very heart lay trapped and surrounded by evil.
Lost in reverie, he was startled by a touch at his elbow.
"The boat's almost here," Raine said, "We need to go down to the APMM dock and meet them."
After showing their credentials to the guards, they drove to the main pier and parked Raine's car. As they walked down to the dock, a dark gray cigarette boat eased up alongside the deck, and an unsmiling soldier in dark fatigues on the bow tossed a rope, which Raine expertly caught. She wrapped it around the capstan and pulled, causing the boat to move towards the boat bumpers.
When the vessel touched the side of the dock, both Rickie and Raine jumped aboard.
Raine and Rickie made their way aft to the staging area. There the STAR troops, dressed in their American-style Army Combat Uniforms and already familiar from the sabotage situation, were being briefed on the available information.
"We have two rigid hulls here right now to try and find the terrorists' boat or boats. From what intelligence data we have, we know that the vessel containing the hostage is constructed, at least partially, of Fiberglas. We have set up a discreet perimeter around the harbor, and are scrutinizing each vessel, although we are only detaining and searching a percentage of these.
"Our analysis states that these terrorists will remain in the area until they are able to procure the files they are looking for or can confirm that it has been destroyed. We are not sure what information is entailed in that data; the Special Branch has determined that this covert organisation may be the one that their agents were investigating approximately a year ago.
"Are there any questions? Good luck, men." As one unit, they saluted before they began preparing their gear. Rickie walked up to the front podium.
"Leftenan Komander, which team am I assigned to?" The commander shook his head.
"You are injured, and a liability in this operation. I request that you stay at the command base and wait for any new information." Rickie looked ready to argue, and the officer clapped a hand to his shoulder. "You need to think what's best for the hostage. You'll be doing her a disservice if we need to abort the operation to return you to base."
Rickie bowed respectively, knowing better than to argue. But privately, he fumed to Raine once they were back on shore.
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"How can they keep me out of this?! I've already been up against them, and I know their strengths and weaknesses. I have a better chance of spotting them."
Raine pulled back on his arm to slow down his stride.
"You have to admit, Rickie that you are badly injured. Everything he said is correct, and I agree with him. You are too emotional here, my friend, and that's not what's needed now."
Rickie nodded curtly, then took a deep breath and blew it out. "I understand. I just hate feeling helpless."
"You wouldn't be our Prince if you just sat on your bum," Raine chuckled. She gave him a quick hug.
"Are you going to come with me to the command post?"
Rickie shook his head. "I think I want to be by myself for a little bit. Don't worry, I won't sneak aboard." Raine looked at him with narrowed eyes, but then shrugged.
"Call me if you need a ride. Otherwise, if you start walking, you'll be there in about 15 minutes." She pointed out the building a short distance away, and Rickie nodded.
And with that, Raine walked to her car and drove off with a wave towards the main building. She never noticed that his eyes flashed with a dangerous light.
As soon as Raine's vehicle was far enough away, he opened his cell phone and called the personnel at his boat house.