A thousand days had passed since Jeffrey took this job. He could take it no longer. He knew the disrespect his staff showed him, and what they said behind his back. He knew by the way they stared at him, the jokes, and mockery. He couldn’t tolerate it any longer, this had to end.
Then the intercom sounded “Captain, please report to the bridge.”
Jeff took one last drag off his cigar and exhaled the smoky air. It slowly drifted away into the dark ominous clouds above. Off on the distant horizon, a volcano was venting ash against the setting sun. Beautiful! Jeffery left for the bridge.
“What is it Jessica?”
“Headquarters dispatched a message. Guests are saying that they are dissatisfied with our service.” said his XO, a young hispanic woman.
“Did they say why?”
“They said that the champagne is all gone.”
“How is that possible? There should be two days stock remaining.”
“I know. The guests got excited last night.”
“Do I need to ask why?”
“Last night the 49ers won the championship.”
“I wasn’t paying attention. Last night the engineer interrupted my dinner to explain that the main diesel engine is overheating. It is probably corrosion in the heat exchanger. He will do his best to fix it with the available spare parts, but power is down thirty percent.”
“What about the backup engine?” replied Jessica visibly concerned.
“It is running in the meantime, but can’t propel the ship at full speed.”
“That reminds me, corporate is ordering an immediate detour to Fiji for restocking.” said Jessica concerned.
“That is two days out of our way. Four days at half speed.”
“I aware of that Captain.”
“Did you make the course correction?” replied Jeff annoyed.
“I can’t without your permission.” said Jessica.
“Go ahead and do it,” he said concealing his frustration.
Jessica went to a computer terminal and typed in a few commands. “Matthew, set a new course southeast.”
“Captain, we have a problem. There is a tropical storm three hundred miles west of Fiji. It could collide with Fiji in the next week.”
“Maintain course, and recheck the survival gear.”
“Corporate won’t tolerate us navigating into a storm.” replied Jessica with rising anxiety.
“I’m aware of that, update me daily. Jessica, you have the bridge.”
Jeff made a quick dash for engineering, he needed an update on the situation. How could this be happening? The ship is only seven years old. Is this a plot against him? Jessica must be colluding for the captain’s seat with the engineer.
Jeff was back on the deck early the next morning socializing with the passengers. He found rising early to be a breeze, because he couldn’t sleep anymore. With all his anxiety, how could he? They knew! They were taunting him! They knew he was a fraud, and they were conspiring against him.
“Hey Captain!” shouted a dark haired middle aged man gleefully. It was Patrick Stevens, his longest riding passenger. Jeff had first met Patrick a year ago on his first voyage. He had earned a fortune in the sale of automotive sensors and wanted to explore the world. This would be his fifth trip.
“I should commend you for your job. This voyage is amazing! The sights and the food! When are we expected to arrive in Auckland?”
“I apologize for that Patrick, we will be running a week late. Last night corporate ordered me to divert to Fiji for resupply and maintenance.”
“But my family was anticipating visiting a music festival,” replied Patrick annoyed. Then his blond haired wife arrived in a red bikini that struggled to hold her breasts.
“Sarah, Jeffery says that we are diverting to Fiji.”
“But captain, we’ve made plans already!”
“I’m sorry Sarah. The stocks are running low, and I have my concerns over the engine.”
“Are we in danger!?” replied Sarah.
“Not at all Sarah. The Hollywood is propelled by twin engines. We could navigate the Pacific ocean on one engine alone. Headquarters only wants the best experience for you. I promise we will make up the time once the engine is repaired,” said Jeff.
“That is unaccepted Jeff! You need to continue to Auckland. I’m calling your boss!”
Patrick gently touched her bosom, and calmed her like a cat with yarn “It’s okay Honey. It is better to arrive well fed and safe than risk any complications.”
“You are completely safe Sarah. This ship carries the latest satellite communications.You can radio shore at anytime,” said Jeff.
Is Patrick fucking with him? Was it him that whined to corporate? He is a wealthy customer and he can take over this whole boat.
Still concealing deep anger, Sarah commanded “Okay, that is acceptable. Please get me a margarita!”
Jeff made a dash for the bartender “I need a margarita for Sarah.”
“Really! Aye sir,” replied Tony, a young energetic African man with dreadlocks. Jeffery had originally met Tony at Puerto Rico shortly after the hurricane. He had desperately needed work and could mix music well, alcohol even better.
“How so?” inquired Jeff.
“That is her third in the past hour and I’ve never seen anyone get as abusive as her over breakfast tacos. I really don’t know what he sees in her.”
Jeff turned around “I could guess. Any concerns for the other passengers?”
“More whines over the champagne. They assume that we have a private cache. How I wish that were true. Some weed would be awesome.”
“You don’t have weed?” interrupted Jeff probing.
“No captain!” replied Tony blushed and embarrassed.
“Good, because I really need a hit. You let me know if you find anything exciting,” commanded Jeff with a grin.
“Aye sir!” replied Tony finishing the margarita. Jeff took it over to Sarah and she offered a false thanks. Then Jeff continued socializing with the passengers, but he was suspicious. Patrick had every reason to lie to him. He had wealth and that ditzy wife.
This job was infuriating! There can’t be anything more insulting than the way his staff teased him. Standing there at their stations on the bridge in the morning with their perfectly pressed uniforms.
“We got a problem Captain. That storm is still on a collision course with Fiji. The service forecasts a near miss in the next 24 hours. They are expecting 40 knot winds and heavy downpours,” said his surprisingly cheerful XO Jessica.
“What are our options?” asked Jeff sipping his unstimulating coffee and admiring the hostile shadowy clouds on the horizon.
“At our present speed we can’t make port before the storm strikes.”
“I am also not permitted to dock in a storm,” interrupted Jeffery.
“The fuel stores are more than adequate for waiting out the storm at sea. We could turn west and come about in a day.”
“How about the food?”
“At our current rate the drinks won’t last an extra day. Everything else is plentiful.”
“My passengers won’t tolerate any more reductions. I need another option,” commanded Jeff.
Then Matthew interrupted “Captain, you could also navigate the edge of the storm.”
“That is forbidden Matthew and you know that!” interrupted Jessica frustrated.
“Please explain,” demanded Jeff.
“The gale force winds and downpours are confined to a forty square mile area south of Fiji. Outside of that zone the winds are breezy with rain. No worse than any ordinary showers at sea. Navigated correctly the trip could be cut in half.”
“That could work Matthew. Are you confident that you can avoid the brunt of the storm?” Jeff asked inquisitively.
“Aye sir, the weather radar on this boat is fully modern with mile length resolution.”
“I must oppose this Captain! You are playing the rules very close,” barked Jessica angry.
“Your objection is noted. You may proceed Matthew,” commanded Jeff.
“Thank you captain,” replied Matthew.
“Jeff, the passengers will not be happy sailing through rain,” said Jessica still annoyed.
“They will go apeshit once the booze is gone,” retorted Jeff.
“Matthew, what is your ETA?”
“We can reach port in 16 hours. Probably hit the edge of the storm within the hour,” replied Matthew.
“Proceed with caution. I need to update the passengers.”
He knew it, but then he had always known it. Jessica was conspiring against him. Surly with Donald to sabotage the ship. Then when the passengers were irate, she’d come in like a hero and replace him.
Broadcasting incredible glee and confidence, Jeff walked into the unoccupied officers mess hall located two levels below the bridge. With machine precision, he opened a cabinet door revealing a large grey steel safe.
Click, click, click, click
He opened the door, exposing an array of firearms and ammunition. He pulled out two Winchester pump-action shotguns and shotshells.
Snap, snap, snap, snap, snap, he loaded the guns. Then he retrieved two Glock pistols and inspected each. Then he checked the hollow point ammunition and began loading.
Click, click, click, click, click
“Captain, is there a problem?” asked Jessica standing next to the door frightened and perspiring.
“I got an alert from the Navy of a ship hijacking in the region. This is a precaution.”
“What are your orders?” replied Jessica relaxing.
“Lock and load.”
With much diminished anxiety Jessica went to the open locker to grab a weapon. Jeff raised his Glock and aimed for her neck.
He then grabbed Jessica by her shirt sleeve and pulled her into a janitor’s closet while she coughed up blood. Her blood soaked his hands, and he ended up tearing her collar as he pulled her. Then with as much haste as he could, he tossed her in the closet and locked it.
He then climbed the confined steps to the bridge.
“Captain?” said the pale Helmsman Matthew Craig in his disheveled uniform.
Jeff raised his shotgun from a tool bag and fired, evaporating Matthew’s face in a mist of blood. The other crew members ran for the door before Matthew collapsed.
BANG He cut them down with a single shot, and they fell like pins. He calmly walked through their growing pool of blood, and wiped away the pungent white smoke cloud like it was a bad fart.
On the deck the passengers were already scattering, however some schmuck Jason was shooting him with his phone while his girlfriend watched. He raised his gun and fired. The blast splintered the phone and Jason fell like a tree. Susan turned to run, and he fired again. Her bikini flew off in a splash of blood that matched its color.
The rest of the terrified passengers were running for the stern, but that only made his vengeance easier.
A dark skinned couple collapsed and begin screaming. He tossed the empty shotgun and retrieved the next. At the bar a freshly made fancy drink was flaming. With curious fascination he fired. It evaporated into a brilliant ghostly flame and another chorus of screams followed. Tony emerged on fire and dived into the ocean. The remaining passengers were gathering at the stern, desperately seeking escape.
Very bravely Patrick came forward, his wife hiding behind him. She had her arms wrapped around her like the saddest form of protection.
“Put the gun down Jeff, we can talk about it.”
Patrick’s face switched from fear to bewilderment, and he fell in agony.
“For the love of god!” screamed Sarah trying to climb over the fence.
Bang and she fell into the ocean.
The last passengers jumped overboard before he could fire, but he took it as an opportunity to reload.
Snap, snap, snap, snap, snap
Bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, the ocean turned red. Jeff tossed the gun and reached for his Glock. Finally he had peace, and took a few minutes wandering the deck. Four fresh breakfast tacos were waiting at the counter next to the charred bar. He ate them with the ease of a vacationer and headed for communications adjustment to the bridge.
Jeff switched the radio to an emergency channel.
“Mayday! Mayday! This is Captain Brandt of the Hollywood at four hundred miles northeast of Fiji. There’s been an explosion!”
He pulled down a shelf with a loud thud.
“Fuck! The smoke is getting thick!”
He pulled a fire extinguisher and blasted it. “I don’t know how much longer we have. I’m ordering the ship abandoned.”
Then Jeff smashed the radio with the empty extinguisher.
Then he quietly walked the blood stained ship. The rain had started falling and it was slowly transforming the slippery red deck into modern art. Lightning flashed in the distance and he could hear thunder. Patrick was still groaning in agony on the deck while he was holding his entrails. He reached for his Glock, but then decided to continue. Casually he descended to the roaring engine room, where everything was still pristine. Inside he found the engineer Donald panicking beneath a fuel pump housing.
“What the fuck happened Captain?” demanded the shaking greying engineer Michael.
“Jessica lost it and started shooting everyone on the deck! I shot her but I don’t know if she is alone. Can you send a distress signal from here?”
Shaking Michael made a dash for the intercom. Jeff raised his Glock Bang
With disciplined concentration, Jeff got back to work. He located two heavy cylinders of Acetylene gas and oxygen on a trolly. With concerted effort, he pulled them over to the primary fuel pump next to the bulkhead. Using his full strength Jeff maneuvered the cylinders into a nook between the two incoming fuel lines. Then he found a hammer and smashed the valves open on each cylinder. A few minutes later, he returned with a flare. With casual ease he ripped off the top, igniting it in a brilliant red plume. Then he retrieved a cigar from his last box and lit it, taking a long drag and admiring the wisps of red smoke that floated away like a river. Then he threw the flare into the engine compartment, sealed the door, and casually walked to the deck.
With rehearsed professional ease, he removed an orange lifeboat. It inflated automatically with the pull of a string and he threw it into the rolling ocean. Then he took one last look around the blood splattered deck and jumped in.
With a metallic thud, a dragon like breath of flame ripped open the deck of the shiny white yacht. Then silence followed as the gaping hole exhaled a thick white cloud of smoke.
Disappointed, Jeff looked forward and continued rowing. Then an ear shattering blast tossed him from the raft. Rising for air, he saw a crimson explosion rise from the broken superstructure. With ears ringing, he rose above the swirling ocean. Parts of the boat, burnt flesh, and flaming oil rained down from the rolling black cloud.
With all his effort, he remounted the orange raft. He could already feel the blistering rain of the storm as it erased the remnant of the Hollywood.
Deranged and exhausted, he awoke in the cold steel cabin of a ship. Above him was a tired thirty something male Navy sailor.
“You are safe Jeffery. We received your distress call. You are aboard the US California. What happened?”