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Corky’s bloody hands gripped the wheel of the Crestliner Phantom 2100 as it pounded out across the sea. He rammed the throttle all the way forward, trying to eke out maximum speed. It was not until this moment that he felt the searing pain. He looked down and saw his right leg spurting blood. He instantly felt dizzy.

Propping himself against the wheel, he turned and looked back at the Goya, willing the helicopter to follow him. With Tolland and Rachel trapped up on the catwalk, Corky had not been able to reach them. He’d been forced to make a snap decision.

Divide and conquer.

Corky knew if he could lure the chopper far enough away from the Goya, maybe Tolland and Rachel could radio for help. Unfortunately, as he looked over his shoulder at the illuminated ship, Corky could see the chopper still hovering there, as if undecided.

Come on, you bastards! Follow me!

But the helicopter did not follow. Instead it banked over the stern of the Goya, aligned itself, and dropped down, landing on the deck. No! Corky watched in horror, now realizing he’d left Tolland and Rachel behind to be killed.

Knowing it was now up to him to radio for help, Corky groped the dashboard and found the radio. He flicked the power switch. Nothing happened. No lights. No static. He turned the volume knob all the way up. Nothing. Come on! Letting go of the wheel, he knelt down for a look. His leg screamed in pain as he bent down. His eyes focused on the radio. He could not believe what he was looking at. The dashboard had been strafed by bullets, and the radio dial was shattered. Loose wires hung out the front. He stared, incredulous.

Of all the goddamned luck . . .

Weak‑kneed, Corky stood back up, wondering how things could get any worse. As he looked back at the Goya, he got his answer. Two armed soldiers jumped out of the chopper onto the deck. Then the chopper lifted off again, turning in Corky’s direction and coming after him at full speed.

Corky slumped. Divide and conquer. Apparently he was not the only one with that bright idea tonight.

As Delta‑Three made his way across the deck and approached the grated ramp leading belowdecks, he heard a woman shouting somewhere beneath him. He turned and motioned to Delta‑Two that he was going belowdecks to check it out. His partner nodded, remaining behind to cover the upper level. The two men could stay in contact via CrypTalk; the Kiowa’s jamming system ingeniously left an obscure bandwidth open for their own communications.

Clutching his snub‑nose machine gun, Delta‑Three moved quietly toward the ramp that led belowdecks. With the vigilance of a trained killer, he began inching downward, gun leveled.

The incline provided limited visibility, and Delta‑Three crouched low for a better view. He could hear the shouting more clearly now. He kept descending. Halfway down the stairs he could now make out the twisted maze of walkways attached to the underside of the Goya. The shouting grew louder.

Then he saw her. Midway across the traversing catwalk, Rachel Sexton was peering over a railing and calling desperately toward the water for Michael Tolland.

Did Tolland fall in? Perhaps in the blast?

If so, Delta‑Three’s job would be even easier than expected. He only needed to descend another couple of feet to have an open shot. Shooting fish in a barrel. His only vague concern was Rachel standing near an open equipment locker, which meant she might have a weapon‑a speargun or a shark rifle‑although neither would be any match for his machine gun. Confident he was in control of the situation, Delta‑Three leveled his weapon and took another step down. Rachel Sexton was almost in perfect view now. He raised the gun.

One more step.

The flurry of movement came from beneath him, under the stairs. Delta‑Three was more confused than frightened as he looked down and saw Michael Tolland thrusting an aluminum pole out toward his feet. Although Delta‑Three had been tricked, he almost laughed at this lame attempt to trip him up.

Then he felt the tip of the stick connect with his heel.

A blast of white‑hot pain shot through his body as his right foot exploded out from under him from a blistering impact. His balance gone, Delta‑Three flailed, tumbling down the stairs. His machine gun clattered down the ramp and went overboard as he collapsed on the catwalk. In anguish, he curled up to grip his right foot, but it was no longer there.

Tolland was standing over his attacker immediately with his hands still clenching the smoking bang‑stick‑a five‑foot Powerhead Shark‑Control Device. The aluminum pole had been tipped with a pressure‑sensitive, twelve‑gauge shotgun shell and was intended for self‑defense in the event of shark attack. Tolland had reloaded the bang‑stick with another shell, and now held the jagged, smoldering point to his attacker’s Adam’s apple. The man lay on his back as if paralyzed, staring up at Tolland with an expression of astonished rage and agony.

Rachel came running up the catwalk. The plan was for her to take the man’s machine gun, but unfortunately the weapon had gone over the edge of the catwalk into the ocean.

The communications device on the man’s belt crackled. The voice coming out was robotic. “Delta‑Three? Come in. I heard a shot.”

The man made no move to answer.

The device crackled again. “Delta‑Three? Confirm. Do you need backup?”

Almost immediately, a new voice crackled over the line. It was also robotic but distinguishable by the sound of a helicopter noise in the background. “This is Delta‑One,” the pilot said. “I’m in pursuit of the departing vessel. Delta‑Three, confirm. Are you down? Do you need backup?”

Tolland pressed the bang‑stick into the man’s throat. “Tell the helicopter to back off that speedboat. If they kill my friend, you die.”

The soldier winced in pain as he lifted his communication device to his lips. He looked directly at Tolland as he pressed the button and spoke. “Delta‑Three, here. I’m fine. Destroy the departing vessel.”