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Subject: Makarovia! Sure, I Know Where That Is! Chapter 21 Breeching the Distance Story: Makarovia! Sure, I Know Where That Is Chapter 21 Breeching the Distance Author: Eric McQueen ail) Adult Readers, Sexual Situations, Sex Freedom of expression is precious. To do that Nifty needs help. Your donation is greatly desired. Give to fty/ or this story ends and all the others! That would be a crime! Picking up Boris and Yuri they checked for something that made it possible to be tracked. The reason Yuri insisted the Security Agents keep emotional distance is found out. Breeching the Distance Cosmo was joking, but I wondered that myself in the beginning. He could seem cold or without emotions or compassion. I now knew that wasn’t true. He did it because of what he was asked to do. I suddenly got a slight epiphany! Could it be that simple? No. However, it did make sense. “What?” Peter asked me as he ate his one omelet. He didn’t know what it was, but he saw it on my face. Yep, I had no poker face at all with Peter so I just went with it. “He’s not just protecting us,” I stated as I rolled the theory in my head. “He’s protecting himself!” Peter sat back. “He’s protecting himself from who?” I pointed at Mikell, Alec and our other agents. “From them!” “What!? Why?” Mikell asked. “Captain,” I smiled. “Why are you down here? Right now.” Luke sort of chuckled. “To let these others know, I am Captain, but we are a crew.” He held up a single finger. “One crew and I am part of that crew.” I was nodding. “Excellent explanation.” I waved at our agents. “Does Yuri do that?” “He’s eaten at the same time and area,” Alec said, “but never with us.” “He doesn’t with the agents in Boston either.” I looked at Peter. “He took forever to express any emotion at home…even to Boris! Their married, but you’d never guess by looking at them.” I looked at the others. “Would you be surprised Peter and I are married?” “Hell, no!” Rolph answered quickly. “I see one of you. I know the other is very nearby.” Peter nodded with a chuckled. “Eric was always hugging Yuri until he got to expect and give one his own. Now he does it all the time.” Mercea looked at me. His expression said it, but he asked. “Why?” I smiled at Mercea. “This all guesswork and theory until I speak with him.” I knew I shouldn’t have done this, but I needed to talk it out. “I ask you not to talk to Yuri about it until I do. Trying to get you to be a unit, you need to know. I’ll tell you or Yuri will tell you.” “You’re not a doctor, so patient confidentiality doesn’t apply,” Cosmo said wanting more. Cosmo was the sneaky one. Always helping and did his job and his antics were harmless. He was a tall, dark-haired hairy overgrown version of Dennis the Menace. Maybe we should put Cosmo in the corner. “No.” I agreed. “And you’re not really his next of kin. Boris is.” I looked at Peter. “I guess we are…” I turned back to them. “It is against the friend code to speculate.” “The friend’s code…” Mikell was about to question. Peter raised his hand quickly. “Eep!” He said fast and short. “Don’t bother. He knows all the codes and rules to just about everything.” I sat back an inch from Peter. He looked the same, but he knew. “Those rules and codes avoid misunderstanding and chaos!” Peter nodded. “Yes, it does.” It wasn’t that condescending. Peter and I told Henri we’d dine alone again. Nothing fancy, just alone. The last night exclusively of our honeymoon. We could have other nights alone, but… We didn’t plan anything. They had a card game going, Mercea was in the pool at the moment. Mikell was reading off of one of the library’s pads. I was just enjoying what I saw. Of course, Peter couldn’t just let it pass. We were on a couple of plush and comfortable lounges by the pool. “You’re not worried about Yuri anymore.” He said and not as a question. “That must be some theory you have.” I nodded. “If I’m right.” “You are sure you are.” Again, not a question. I grinned. “Am I that easy to read?” “For me? Yes.” Peter chuckled. “I’ve studied you for almost two years. You know how I feel just by looking in my eyes.” He reached over and took my hand. “Can you give me a hint?” “I am not an expert or even qualified to give an opinion…” “Eric.” He growled slow and softly squeezing my hand. I held a hand up. “I’m just saying. He doesn’t want to become attached to them.” “Why not?” Peter asked.” He could get hurt.” I shrugged. “Why specifically only he knows. He did it with you and me!” Peter laughed at that. “And how long did that last with you? A few weeks?” “Everyone needs and wants love,” I said simply and shrugged. “He would get it from Boris…when they were alone, which was seldom. Does Yuri love Boris? Hell, yes. Does Boris love Yuri? Again, Hell, yes. Once Yuri got used to it from us dry he started soaking it up like a sponge!” Now, I looked forward to seeing them and a lot less worried about hurting anyone. Yuri could still be hurt, but not because of me or about what I wanted with them. People would proceed with what they thought was needed and end up doing more harm. I had to be careful. Yuri was a strong man. Physically. Whatever made him turn that portion of his life off if I just started tearing away carelessly could hurt him more. An untrained therapist could harm easily, That was me. Along with those many wise words, Grandma told me that just because a person has all those letters after the last name, doesn’t mean they won’t do just as badly. A big difference is that same feeling. Love. You’ll know when you push too hard. I prayed that would prove to be true. There was just one…incident. I’ll tell you. I never felt any fear, but probably should have been. It’s one of the oldest ploys on any record. On Southern records, it’s the “poor litl ol me” routine. Make sure the Southern Drawl is on heavy. You have them, too. The car has broken down on the side of the road. The beautiful woman stranded with no help. Damsel in distress? The knights inside men came out. This time a woman was twenty kilometers from Sicily’s Westside. A crewman came and spoke to Mikell who looked startled a little, but nodded and told the other agents and approached Peter and me. Peter frowned. “What’s wrong, Mike?” Mikell waved it off with a hand. “It’s likely nothing.” He said casually. “Nothing to worry about.” “Great!” I said. “But we need to get below in case it is something to worry about.” Mikell nodded scratching the of his head, but not because of an itch as he looked away from us. “Yeah. Please? Our quarters have small portholes to see.” “Sure.” Peter got up and pulled me to my feet and we went down. I hadn’t asked to see their quarters, but I was impressed. They each had two bunks each. Or racks as they called them in the navy. There were two more that could be opened above the two for two more additional people if needed. One would be comfortable. Two would be cozy, but three or four would make it crowded. I had friends in the navy. They spoke of sharing racks. No. Not together but some did, I bet. Eight hours work, eight hours up and about and eight hours in the rack. The rack was never empty. Submarines had four shifts in the day of six hours each. I did it again. Sorry. We slowed with a boat off our starboard side. I learned that and didn’t say “the right.” I may be right at the moment but left other times. It may not move, but they on the left, but it was always starboard on that side of the ship. This new boat wasn’t big, but more than a little boat with an outboard motor. There was a cabin below the Helm or whatever. Where they steered the damned thing! I heard Luke’s voice amplified and he really said it. It wasn’t just on TV. “Ahoy.” That very word! “Ahoy. Do you need assistance?” They might as declare English the International Language. Whenever two strangers met, before the country was known, English was always tried first. I have nothing but my experiences to base that on but seemed true. She came up from that cabin. Long dark hair and dark skin, not African but had some in her ancestry. One thing was evident. She was very pretty and filled that skimpy bikini up overloading the material. Particularly her bikini top. Pointing down she nodded. “Boat…” she struggled with the language. “…busted? Broke?” She said. “Busted is a good word,” I muttered softly. “What?” I patted Peter’s arm. “I promise to tell you in a minute.” “Husband…” She added. “Sick? Ill. No fix.” She waved at the Duchess. “You…help.” Peter looked at me. “She said she’s in trouble and needs help.” “Yes.” I nodded. “She did.” I looked at Peter. “She may be telling the truth. It could also be a trap.” “A woman alone with a sick husband?” Peter asked. “Is all there is?” I asked “Husband very ill…” She begged. “What’s under your boat?” Luke asked in a cold voice. “Don’t bother denying it. Some vessels can see what’s there. I commend the efforts to hide that from noticing you were two objects. Not just one. Staying close some would read you like one.” The woman’s lack of English was suddenly gone. “We didn’t fool you.” “No,” Luke replied. “I’m curious to know what country is home but you’ll lie.” “That’s true.” She nodded. I chuckled. “She’s a pirate.” Peter’s eyes widened. “She…is a pirate.” The sound of extreme doubt in his voice. “Yes.” I grinned. “Not the kind you see on television or read about, but yes…a pirate.” I tapped him on the chest. “Again, you just didn’t know. Some greedy people will make victims of trusting, kindhearted people.” I shook my head. “I was approached twice in Charleston.” I grinned. “One wanted a dollar to get something off the dollar menu at Burger King or something. I said I’d take him into any of them and get him whatever he wanted even on the regular menu, not the dollar menu.” I chuckled. “Then he came with the special diet and…he just wanted the money to buy alcohol.” Peter looked at me. “And the other?” “This one deserved an award for his performance.” I chuckled. “He was from out of town, his wife was in the hospital and he ran out of gas. Just he and his children…his kids were in the car waiting and he had a gas container…” “God!” Peter stated. “That’s terrible!” “It had to be to work!” I grinned. “He was good,” I said in near admiration. “Could he have been telling the truth?” I gave a grudging nod. “I thought…maybe he did tell the truth.” “And?” Peter asked urging me on. “I’m getting there,” I said. “I saw him and a buddy putting the money the story had worked on. Then another came.” I waved it off. “Not from out of town, no kids and they had enough for a tank of gas, but got beer and some corn chips.” I pointed at the pirate and her boat. “She’s not alone.” “Oh,” Luke said. “Those three coming underwater…the men onboard will be shooting at some dangers in the water. Agħmel lest.” I would learn was Maltese to make ready. “Okay!” She hurried grabbed what looked like a bullhorn and held it under the water’s surface off the side. “Okay.” She said something and two African men came up from below. “If you do or don’t mind,” Luke stated. “There is a schedule.” He spoke into his hand. “Mur.” Which meant either let’s go. Because the Duchess suddenly shot forward. There’s no equivalent for rapid, rubber-screeching peel off in a boat, but that’s what the Duchess did. Earl, the Duchesses crewman came in. “You can come out now.” Peter still was having the issue. “She…is a pirate.” Earl chuckled. “Oh, yes. She bills herself the Beauty and the Beast.” He looked to see some understanding on Peter’s face. “You know. She’s both?” “Why?” Earl shrugged. “She’s extremely good at it.” “There have been a few female pirates.” I nodded. “Two operated in and around the Charleston.” Earl nodded. “This one is one of the deadliest.” He pointed over his shoulder with his thumb. “That’s why we’re booking it outta here before she has help.” Peter held his head as he seemed to wrestle with the news. “Busted.” “booking…what!?” I nodded. “And I’ll explain it, I turned to Earl. ” Isn’t she a little far North? And too close to Italy?” Earl gave a slight nod. “It’s not unknown for her to do. Normally, she operates farther out. She’s closer to Sicily that I heard she does normally. She targets wealthy yachts and we appear to be almost empty crew wise. We could have been something she hadn’t planned on, but couldn’t resist.” I nodded. “This isn’t a known route we’re on,” I confirmed. “No,” Earl replied. “There is a narrow passage between Italy and Sicily we could go near Torre Faro.” I nodded. “Ignorance speaking again.” I looked at Earl. “There’s no forecasted route plan submitted, is there?” “Not for this trip,” Earl said. “A yacht like the Duchess can file one so if they don’t show up, someone knows to be on the lookout and know. Even if there could be a problem and know where to look.” I nodded again. “Just checking. It could be what you said. A tempting target she just happened on. Not planned and waited for.” Earl thought a minute. “I don’t see how. I never understood about whole reading tea leaves or palms.” He shrugged. “I’m not sure the Captain knew until he decided on the fly.” “Eric,” Peter growled out through gritted teeth. “On the fly?” He held his finger to nose level. “It’s up to here. Do we just allow them to pile up? I’ll be in a class all day!” It was understandably difficult to learn everything about a language and you feel left out if don’t know. I nodded and anyone who knows what was saying if they watched me. My hands gave an extremely exaggerated curve over my upper chest. That Mac obviously a woman’s bust. Doing something on the fly meant planning to do something while doing it. Booking would take longer explaining “hightailing it” or hurried. I grinned as he was nodding as I explained. “Are we good now?” Peter nodded. “For now.” His left eye squinted. “You know what we have trouble with English. So many sayings making twists and turns making it hard to navigate like a drunk in a maze!” “Not like Makarovian or Ukrainian.” I nodded. “I know them!” I waved at him. “And now you know these, too.” He sobered a little. “You’re thinking it the Consortium?” I shrugged. “I also don’t know it isn’t.” I pointed out. I turned to Earl. “Are we in Italy’s water or international?” Again, there was the grudging nod. “Really. There is no International Waters in the Mediterranean. It’s regional. Why?” “Can you carry a gun on the Duchess?” I asked and raised my hand. “No hedging. Yes, or no?” “Hedging?” Peter wailed quietly to me. “No,” Earl admitted with a smile. “They aren’t supposed to either. Who are they gonna call to tell we broke the law? The Police!?” As funny as it was having Peter not get a lot of things in English. It was my fault. I simply didn’t use the phrases or words with him. He just didn’t know. From day one, I spoke clearly in English so he could understand me. Signing me up with Peter was assigned for that reason and I just…did it. I make mistakes all of the time. It could be in English, Russian, Ukrainian or Makarovian. Language and customs were something you learned when…wait for it…did on the fly. Yeah, I know. It was predictable. The Consortium was still out there and very much a threat…plus some countries in the Middle East…and some Extremists Fundamentalists Groups…a lot of people didn’t like us. We had to change where we were going on our Honeymoon. Neither Peter nor I were disappointed a bit. We made new friends because of it. I had told Henri nothing fancy, but in one ear and out the other. I’d have to explain it to Peter if I said it aloud. I kind of enjoyed it. He was vulnerable. We didn’t dress up formally to eat but wore shirts that buttoned on the front and we entered at the correct time. Actually, a little early as Henri requested us to be. It was dark in the dining room and again the candles mezitli escort burned. Some slow piano dance music touched our ears gently. Henri came out and instantly waved us to remain where we were. “I am…in’vizebel? Pas ici.” He whispered in our direction. He had a different cart this time. It was taller and had a smaller surface top. He pressed something with his foot locking the cart in place if we were rocking, which I never felt. “This from the Duchess.” He gave his grudging nod. “From her crew. This is your last night with just us. It has been a pleasure having you onboard.” I recognize small crystal dish of small dark gray…beads. I only had this once in my entire life. It wasn’t cheap. From the size of the beads it said it was not cheap. There were two small spoons made of crystal. Metal spoons changed the taste, I’m told. As odd as it seemed, Peter knew exactly what it was. “Caviar!” I nodded. “Beluga Caviar.” I pointed out. Peter looked closer at it. “This is grade one, premium caviar!” Henri frowned and smirked. “How does he know that and never had escargot?” He demanded. I chuckled patting Henri on the arm. “We have caviar on holidays. Especially during Christmas.” I dipped a spoon in the caviar. “Often Salmon Caviar. I’ve had Beluga Caviar once.” I put the little spoon in my mouth. It had a taste…unique. It was delicious and that fine little “pop” sensations as they eggs burst their flavor told me this was good quality. Henri had those little pieces of buttered toast to put the caviar. “Oh,” Henri said. “I see. Some of us were worried you wouldn’t like it.” “Are you kidding!?” Peter shook his head. “I love caviar!” I nodded. “Me, too. Let them know we appreciate it very much.” “Champagne and sour cream.” He placed a small dish creamy white stuff between us. Peter was about to put his spoon in the caviar again and froze. “Of course, you and I will be double-dipping…” “Aw, we’re sharing germs,” I said in a mocking isn’t that so sweet tone and pulled him into a kiss where every germ in his body and mine was shared. “We’re safe.” Peter and I opened the champagne and some more caviar. We even danced to the music. For someone to say they only danced alone in their room. He did very well with me. There was a special connection even with casual dancers. We had worked out routines for energetic dancing. We required no instruction on slow dancing. We didn’t speed things up, but it was time to eat and were getting hungry. I grinned when we were given Oysters on the half shell. A half a dozen each. The chuckle just came out and I pushed it down quickly. Peter looked at me and asked in a loud stage whisper. “Isn’t all this…afrodyziaky?” No. It wasn’t said in English, but was close in pronunciation…even though I never heard or remembered it in Ukrainian or Makarovian, I knew what he asked. “Yes.” I nodded again. “They are said to be aphrodisiacs.” I grinned. “They are trying to make us desire to do something.” I shrugged. “I think we can wait to go to our quarters.” He picked up an oyster. “Caviar I got.” He touched the oyster in the shell. “How the Hell do I eat this?” Things went back into balance after I showed him how. I didn’t tell him about parties where they just dumped some on the table, hot and ready, whenever you shucked it. Another lesson in the future. Then I remembered. “Henri.” Henri came in seconds. “Yes?” “How’d you get these?” I asked. “There’s no R in June.” Henri smiled nodding as he understood. “Ah, yes. That old wive’s tale.” I chuckled. “Damn those old biddy wives.” Henri nodded and gave a short laugh. “The truth is, they don’t have a season. Many of your local fishermen and harvesters still follow that tale and don’t bring them in.” He looked at us. “Anything else?” “We’ll think of something.” I nodded and looked at Peter. “What?” He asked calmly and softly as he didn’t understand and again. He knew enough to know what was being said but didn’t understand what it was about. He knew what oysters were, but old wives. The lack of a letter in the month’s name. I explained it and Pete nodded as he was understanding. She-crab soup. When Henri revealed it from under the metal cover, it blew my mind as my turn to be the know-it-all returned. Yes, I often am, but from asking so many questions! I don’t know it all. Once I’m told the answer, I verify it. I’ve done it all my life! I inhaled slowly enjoying the luxury of the scent. “She-crap Soup.” Henri grinned and nodded. “That’s right. Or, I should say She-crab Soup A’la Henri.” I smiled. “One of your discoveries?” “Yes.” “She-crab.” Peter stated. “No he-crab?” I shook my head. “It has crab roe in it.” And I explained the roe are eggs in the she crab. “It’s another of the things South Carolina can proudly claim.” Peter nodded smiling. “You start the Civil War, take a break to eat she-crab and dance on the beach.” I nodded. “Yes.” I simply said. Getting some on my spoon and did the blow on it thing as delicate steam did the enticement dance under my nose. After tasting, I had a decision to make. Crabmeat was sweet She-crab even more so. Savory, but sweet. “What do I do, Peter?” He was his fourth or fifth spoonful. “About what? I think it’s delicious! Don’t you like yours?” I nodded. “And therein lies the problem,” I said a bit dramatic, but who isn’t? “It’s She-Crab Soup. Do I take the position of the loyal Southern man from South Carolina and kill him for his blasphemy?” Henri grinned but asked. “What blasphemy?” “You took a dish that has been passed from generation to generation and changed something in it.” I pointed at Henri with one of my eyes squinted. “That’s like changing the words in the Bible to say what you want.” Henri chuckled. “They do that all the time!” “Well,” I said. “Who do you think you are changing so dear legend that spans centuries? You call it She-Crab Soup!” “Ah,” Peter grinned. “Which you confirmed it was, but he added the a’la Henri. You knew it was going to be different.” I nodded. “And there is the dilemma.” Henri chuckled. “Should I rename it?” “No,” I said. “I know! There is a huge population of French in Charleston. Probably the people who came up with it was French and began the whole thing. We’ll say it’s how the French originally started it!” “No, it’s not,” Henri said. “Prove it.” I challenged. Henri thought and ended up shaking his head. “No one person did it.” “There,” I said smugly. “And no one can prove it wasn’t.” It was a nice dinner. Even with his comedic antics, Henri left us pretty much alone. When he came out with two plates that had some very large lobster shells on them sending up steam. I will admit a part of me that reacted so much in favor of it, had lowered the flags in his hands and gave much weaker, “Yah.” Less enthusiastically than the first ones. I sniffed the air. It didn’t smell right. I could smell the onions, garlic, bacon, and jalapenos. Henri’s eyes turned to me and he smiled. He had taken what was in the lobster, chopped it up and put the lobster meat back in the shell, but kept adding more things. “You made Chili!” I pointed at my shell that looked as though it had burst from the inside out threatening to spill off the plate it was so full. “You made Chili with…lobster!?” I couldn’t believe it. “I had to!” Henri shouted back telling us he was helpless not to. “You had to?” Peter repeated smiling. “Why?” “Because I was told it was impossible.” He said and waved at the shells or bowls…shell-bowls? “So, what’s that?” I laughed as I nodded. “Lobster Chili!” Henri nodded. “Tell me it can’t be done. I showed him.” He muttered as he went in the galley and still he muttered. Peter shook with laughter and pointed at the galley door. “Okay, I love that man.” I smiled tasting the impossible chili. “That’s alright. I do, too.” How do you describe a flavor in words? The meat of a lobster was like most shellfish or mussels. It was sweet-tasting meat. It still was, in the chili. Yet, Henri combined the onion, garlic, bacon, jalapenos, with chili powder and ground cumin and tomatoes. Other spices were in it, but he wouldn’t say what they are, so I didn’t bother asking. I was very happy there were no beans. At all. No beans. He created a flavor that didn’t drown the taste but brought it forward with a slight tangy bite. It was very, very good. The sweet was separated from the savory but in a delicious marriage of the two. We walked back to our quarters. “This is just the beginning,” Peter stated quietly. “And this trip isn’t over.” I nodded. “I look favorably to the future for all Makarovians.” I looked at my watch. “We were a little delayed by that female pirate. We should arrive before dawn.” I tightened my hold at his waist. “This was a once-in-a-lifetime trip.” Peter looked at me. “Hopefully Aunt Maria will let us take her out…” I was nodding as he began speaking. “Yes, yes…hopefully, she will. We take the Duchess for a vacation or anniversary, but our honeymoon will be in the past.” “Oooooh,” Peter nodded. “I get it” He shrugged. “We can always take a page from Rolph’s Playbook.” I looked at Peter, no longer surprised at what he would say. “Those must have been quite a few hours with Ted. I know he had to tell you that.” Peter nodded. “He did.” He smiled. “I’ll miss him. He graduated at the end of last month. He was speaking with real fondness. “He got married, but he is still alive.” I saw his expression. “I didn’t realize you’d gotten so close to him.” Peter looked at me and shook his head suddenly. “Not like that…” I tightened my hold on Peter. “I’m not saying you were. It’s very possible, make that probably, to be friends with another person. You make a terrific friend. We married. We don’t own each other.” I waved at him. “He’s your David.” Peter’s head went back an inch to get that better view. “My…what!?” I nodded as I insisted. “I’m pretty sure I like U. S. General David Burke more than you do. You two get along…” Peter nodded with a grin. “Not at the level you do.” He stopped. “I can also say I never kissed Ted.” “I never kissed David!” I shot back. “He kissed me! And I don’t care to repeat that whole wedding thing for twenty-five years at the least to do it again. He did it in front of you, his own wife, General Hammond, Olek, and Mom!” There was no anger on the part of anyone. We both knew that. Knowing the other’s buttons, we got pleasure from pushing them. It’s never boring with us. Peter and I had oysters and caviar to work with what enhancements there were, so we went in our quarters. I woke up again as I realized we were no longer moving. No lazy clang of any sea bell. You need other boats for that. What was also dangerous on the Duchess were the no appointments. No alarm clocks and no rush to start the day! No schedule. I looked at my watch. It was almost nine in the morning. I looked over at Peter. He wasn’t doing his deep sleep breathing, so he wasn’t that asleep. Leaning over him I kissed my way up his chest to his lips, which turned the corners up. “I was just waiting for you.” Peter excused himself. Doing the “aw, that’s so sweet” voice, I nodded. “That’s very thoughtful of you. Unless you want to be served in bed, Boris and Yuri will be biding their time if they see the Duchess, but don’t see us.” “And that’s another thing!” Peter threw his sheet back and groused. “I’ve spoken English in my life and daily for the past two years…all day! In the past week or two I’m hearing words I never knew about. Why?” “Simple,” I said smiling getting up myself. My destination was the bathroom with just a slight detour. I pulled him in a kiss. “You’ve done it so well for so long; you sound like a native now and can handle standard slang as you now sound.” I had a surprised Makarovian here a few seconds. His growing smile of satisfaction was turning the wattage of that smile way up. “Really?” He even sounded pleased with himself. I chuckled holding three of my fingers up in a cub scout, boy scout or any other scout groups for boys…none of which I ever belonged to. “Honest Injun.” Peter did it again, backed his head a little and said. “Huh?” I patted him on the arm. “Even that was done very like a native. Keep up the good work!” Peter grunted. “What did you say?” That one wasn’t really fair. Many people in the United States didn’t know that one. It was what? A hundred years ago? Trusted Native Americans swearing to tell the truth like that would take offense by it now. And they should! They were insulted! They weren’t Indians at all! A man from Italy was funded and given ships by Spain, had gotten lost and thought he was where he wasn’t and the name for the people there just…stuck. And he is credited for discovering where he never set foot on! (That…was a deliberate sidebar. I loathed stupidity. I didn’t want to be stupid. Ignorance is understandable if they couldn’t know about whatever. No excuses. Learn, damn it! That’s a sure cure for ignorance.) Peter and I didn’t rush through our morning routines but we did make it up to the main deck by nine-fifteen. I saw the Captain talking with Earl under the covered part of the main deck. Earl was in warm water scuba gear. The neoprene short sleeve and short pants. I grinned as I noticed his air tank was a bright, nearly luminescent pink. That was not really a fashion statement, but safety. Easily spotted on dark blue waters. The diver would get rescued faster. “Is there a problem, Captain?” I asked stopping by them. Luke hesitated. “It might not be anything…” “So, Earl is just going for a dip?” I asked my voice hopefully transmitted I knew better. Luke nodded. “We’re looking for tracking devices.” “Do you think that Beast Woman placed one on us?” Peter asked. “Or used by her to know we were coming,” I said. Peter’s eyes grew again. “She was a pirate! Now, she’s part of this groups that extort money!?” I shrugged. Earl took a step toward me. “You got me that would have been the perfect location. It could have just been an accidental encounter.” I nodded and added. “Or it wasn’t because she knew we were coming and waited.” “But how would she know?” Earl asked in general but looked at me. “Unless we were tracked!” “You’re talking about this Consortium using pirates,” Peter said to be sure he was following the line of conversation. I nodded. “The United States did it with the Mafia during World War II!” I pointed out the window, not at Mario’s Island, but Sicily. “Right over there a few kilometers away.” Earl nodded. “And I think it was a test.” “For what?” Peter asked. “How prepared we were for a crisis.” Luke nodded. “We’re only on the Duchess a few more days,” Peter said. “A lot can happen in a few days,” I mumbled. “How many are down there with you?” “Just Gretchen and I,” Earl said. “The Captain is certified, but one command officer…” “I’m PADI certified.” I grudging nod. “It’s been five or six years…” Luke’s eyes widened in shock. “I can’t let you do that! I’m supposed to keep you out of danger…” “Captain Agius!” I said firmly but smiled at him. “One or two people can’t cover all of that hull.” “Then I go, too!” Peter declared. I nodded. “What’s the signal you’re in distress? How much counterweight is needed for you to counter any buoyancy? Mine is between ten and fifteen pounds in weights.” I asked and nodded. “I’ll worry about you drowning.” “And I won’t?” Peter asked. “Who’s Patty and what can she do to make your dive safer?” Even I got momentarily sidetracked with that. I chuckled. “Not Patty, but P. A. D. I. The Professional Association of Diving Instructors.” Peter shook his head. “So, where’s the other one?” I grinned as two faces came out of the sunshine to the sheltered deck. “Right there!” I pointed at Yuri’s smiling face. I will be the first one to admit it. (I should be only one.) He and Boris were pozcu escort practically different men! Boris had tanned nicely and was a nice bronze color. He was more like Peter, as in when he didn’t have the tan he was more pale, not quite Mom’s complexion. The color change looked good on him. His hair was normally combed back and very well-groomed. It had been combed sometime that morning, but now was windblown and he didn’t care. Yuri was slightly darker like Olek was to Peter. He was also more tan than that before, but his hair was just past where he normally had it cut. Their hands clasped with each other’s hand. The expressions on their faces were open and relaxed as I never saw on them before! They had on shorts loose shirts and looked much younger! Who did I hug first? We went with the one facing us the closest. Grabbing Yuri I squeezed him hard. What I suspected I’d find out. These two were big brothers. Yuri was capable of a lot of love once you got him past a certain point. He was a great guy. I loved Boris very quickly, but he loved me back just as quickly. He trusted me just within a few days. Yuri took a little longer. I never backed down. I knew he’d give in. “I was going to have you thrown off the Duchess!” I said still squeezing him. “I could barely believe it’s you!” “You, too!” Yuri said smiling and he was squeezing me back. Then he parted from me just a little. “We woke up and saw the ship, but no moved on her or seemed to up! I was beginning to think this was another Demeter!” The name of the Demeter is a proper noun. However, my hearing it in Makarovian took me a second or two longer. Peter got it instantly and burst out laughing. It finally came to me, which I laughed, too. “Oh, yeah, right! The ship that brought Dracula to England…” I tried to remember, “What the town’s name?” I really ask anyone and no one. “Whitby, England,” Peter said. “It was written in different languages. Romania was one of the last to have it translated. He was a hero to them.” “Yeah, but you’ve forgotten one other,” Boris said happily as he bounced a couple of times. “There is no Makarovian translation.” Peter nodded as he hugged Yuri. “It was in Ukrainian and other than some spelling issues and pronunciations it’s the same language. Any school child learning to read could get through it. Maybe not what a word means…” He put a hand on his chest proudly. “I read mine in English.” “Well,” Yuri shrugged to concede. “How many books are you hoping to sell? Makarovian is a limited market.” “The vampire thing.” Peter nodded. “But that’s what Eric said! When we first met, he told me I was so pale I reminded him of vampires!” “But that wasn’t all of it.” I grinned and I heard Earl almost mutter to Luke. “Have you understood anything?” Earl asked Luke. Luke was stroking his clean-shaven chin as he listened but shook his head. “Not really.” He pointed at me. “I believe he said something about Dracula.” He pointed at Peter. “He said something about vampires.” Luke shrugged. “I don’t know.” He pointed a scolding finger at Earl. “And don’t tell everybody that was correct. I could be totally missing something and be completely wrong!” I turned to chuckle at them. “But you are correct, Captain.” “It was a momentary thing.” Boris smiled. “At that moment we forgot the etiquette of the situation.” Peter looked at Boris. “Ooo, e-ti-quette.” He emphasized each syllable as he teased which Boris tolerated with a smile. “That’s one of those expensive words you store and only use to impress.” I chuckled remembering what Peter had done as a child to save Olek from making the wrong choice on a future wife. The mouse down her blouse? I saw a glimpse of that mischievous little boy in Peter now. Yuri, however, was still security. “What happened?” Luke nodded. “It may be over.” “Which and means it also may not be,” Yuri stated. “Tell me.” We got Gretchen up and we sat down to tell him. Earl got to take his extra gear off. Don’t worry; you don’t need to hear it again. You were there! Yuri had learned to listen before he asked any questions. “What was it you saw under her boat?” Yuri asked. “Nothing really,” Luke replied seeing Peter’s face and he wasn’t understanding Luke. “We do have the latest in Sonar technology.” He looked at Peter. “We have the three-dimensional readings…” He thought how best to explain. “Regular sonar works as soundwaves are sent out come back and,” he did finger quotes, “sees because what’s different when it comes back. Any obstruction makes it different. The Duchess’ does a thousand in the length of time it takes regular does one. It causes what we get back to have more detail. We see with sound. An image of what’s there is what we have. Cameras work best on drones. There are cameras on the Duchess but at the wrong angle. The images we got with sonar showed a second vessel below the first and it was the bigger of the two. A regular sonar would send a signal. One signal saying one object. We saw two. The second was a submersible. We also picked up three individuals leave that submersible and swim toward us.” “Which led us to question if they had a way of finding us by satellite,” Earl explained further. “They didn’t have time plant an additional anything,” Luke said. “Which wouldn’t have to if it was here already.” Earl gave a nod. “We were in Athens two nights. They had time.” “Which we couldn’t see if they came at night and attached it to the hull.” Luke pointed out. `”They couldn’t sneak onboard.” “You touched on it that very day,” Earl said to me. “You asked if she did it often this far North and close to land.” He shrugged. “She has!” “When she has a lucrative target in her sights,” Luke said. “Meaning she knew it was.” He smiled. “How did she do that? She waited for us!” In a normal situation would have been humorous. They were completing each other’s sentences and unspoken thoughts. Then Peter leaned toward me. “How long do you think they’ve been married?” I know my eyes opened wide amazed and I quickly stood up. “Okay, that’s it!” I pointed off the Duchess. “Get out! Get out now!” At first, Peter’s face held surprise. It became less surprised and an understanding smile grew. The others were startled by the tone I never used with Peter. “What’s wrong, Eric?” Luke asked concerned. I pointed at Peter. “He’s in my head,” I grumbled leaning close to Peter. “Again.” “What?” Earl asked as a ghost of a smile started. “He does it all the time,” I explained as Peter grinned. “Something comes to my mind and he just blurts it out.” I looked at the others. “I don’t have to say a thing.” Yuri pointed a Boris. “He does it to me all the time.” He dismissed. “It’s what we do.” Boris grinned. “We’re married.” “You do it with him.” Yuri pointed at Peter with a chuckle. “You two have been married a while.” “You said you had been certified as a scuba diver,” I said sitting again by Peter again. “I am.” Yuri nodded. “Earl and Gretchen are going over the hull to try to locate any tracking devices,” Peter said. “You can help them do that and might recognize one quicker.” “What about your AIS?” Yuri asked Luke. Luke thought. “It’s always on.” I saw Peter getting ready to ask, so I said, “Automatic Identification System. It’s a means for a ship to tell by satellite who they are, position, course, and speed.” Peter grinned nodding at me. “I didn’t ask.” I smiled back pointing at his face. “You were going to.” “I can turn it off.” Yuri grinned. I frowned. “It’s built-in,” I said, “and automatic.” Yuri nodded. “It has to be powered on. I know how to power it down.” He chuckled. “With more time, I could program it to say we’re on the Queen Mary or even the Titanic.” Boris actually looked embarrassed. “You need a good breakfast beforehand. I would have made it in the house…if we had the supplies and…” “Henri’s making it.” I smiled. I turned to the Captain. “We have time, don’t you think?” “Sure.” Luke nodded. “Even she’s not brazen enough to attack now. She prefers isolated, cut-off attacks.” He indicated the island. “I’ve not heard of an attack on land.” I smiled at Yuri. “You will see…” I began, “there have been a lot of changes.” I held him so he could see my eyes. “You’ve become someone very important to Peter and me. We love you, Yuri. You are family.” Yuri smiled but looked uncertain where I was going with what I was saying. “Okay.” We walked down to the crew’s galley where they ate. I had told them to be themselves. “Thank God!!!” Cosmo said with a loud relieved sigh. He pointed at Mercea’s place at the table. “He wouldn’t survive much longer without food.” “At least that’s what we kept hearing.” Rolph chuckled. I smiled at the casual friendly banter. “I said I was hungry over an hour ago!” Mercea protested with a grin. “An hour agony and suffering!!” “Leave Mercea alone,” Peter said as we got some plates. “He’s a growing boy.” I looked at Yuri’s face and saw the shock there. I took the plate Peter offered to me. I nodded. “Which he’d be in trouble if he just took and threw it away. He ate all five waffles yesterday.” Mikell shook his head. “It’s impolite to not wait for all to come to the table.” “When all the signals your brain gets when you’re hungry,” Peter handed Boris and Yuri plates. “What’s polite and not polite becomes less important when you’re hurting.” “You didn’t tell us,” I said looking at Rolph. “We left Malta, did you find anything to surprise Alina and Darla?” Peter laughed at that. “Aren’t you forgetting someone? Andreea? He’s supposed to be winning her, isn’t he? Or is that a done deal?” “That’s what makes it magical doing what we do.” Rolph said simply. “It’s never a done deal.” He shrugged. “I got Andreea this great necklace. It reminded me of her.” He looked at me inquisitively. “I got Alina and Darla dolls again. If you can think of another toy or something for them, Eric. I am all ears.” I nodded. “They aren’t Barbies, are they?” “No.” He said in an are-you-kidding tone. “Barbie is available everywhere…even Makarovia.” I chuckled about to get something as I saw near panic and horror on Yuri’s face as he slowly shook his head. I touched Yuri’s arm, but he ignored it or was in denial. “They have become good friends, Yuri.” This reaction was way more than a simple unwelcomed emotion. “They are good men. You’ll like them.” Yuri shook his head. “I…I can’t.” “Why not?” I asked. “They’ll die!!” Yuri stated loud giving me looks the others have said they couldn’t believe it. I put my plate down. “No one will know why he said that if we just stare at each other. I’ll have to ask him.” Yuri was still walking away. Boris passed by me in a run and grabbed his husband and clutched Yuri against him. In what I saw and felt, this was a moment between husbands. My worry was that I had done what I was afraid I might do and pushed Yuri too hard. I stopped. My knowing any answers now wasn’t important, so I turned to go back to the agents. “Please, stay, Your Highness,” Boris asked me quietly and very seriously. It wasn’t a full formal address, but more a way of telling me it was a more informal request. Yuri and Boris were standing so close; Yuri said something which only Boris could hear. “I think you should,” Boris said to Yuri’s comment. “Who is better than someone who loves you like they obviously do? You know I do.” He hugged Yuri again and kissed him gently. “Then you might be able to let it go.” Boris looked at me and with a simple nod, left Yuri with me. I walked up to Yuri. “I was sweating this a while. I was so concerned about hurting your feelings. I did everything to prevent that. You were so happy only minutes earlier. I was just thinking I might have really hurt you.” Yuri let go of a breath letting a mournful sound out, but still couldn’t look at me yet. “I can tell it is painful,” I said getting closer to him. “I’m not asking, but if you want to say anything, I’ll listen.” There was no judgment from me as I encouraged Yuri. I waited a minute or two and turned to the stairs thinking he wasn’t ready but I would be there. “We put them on the front line,” Yuri said softly. “On purpose.” I turned back to Yuri. “And give them the training to do it well in defense.” I nodded. “Which they elect to do and they’re financially rewarded more than regular guards for it.” “If there is an attack,” Yuri said. “They are the ones killed.” I nodded. “I worry about that, too. It isn’t fair.” I waved at the Duchess. “Why am I here? Did I earn any of it?” I asked. “Not a damned bit. All I did was fall for the tall guy in the back of the class. Many times I feel like I’m just along for the ride.” I shook my head to get off going down the wrong track of thought. “You said they’ll die. Not they could die or might die. They will die. How do you know?” “That’s their job! They always do!” Yuri said angrily. His anger was not at me. I was just there. “Makarovia hasn’t done that. We haven’t lost any agents.” I tried to understand. “This happened in Russia?” He was nodding, “You keep from becoming attached to them so it doesn’t happen now.” I said. “Does it help?” Yuri still wouldn’t look at me. “You’ve lost some people that meant a lot to you,” I stated. “This professional distance helps with the loss? Has it reduced the pain?” Yuri looked very uncomfortable. Men don’t talk about feelings! That was against the Men’s Code and Rule Book men seem to religiously follow. “Those men down there are not,” I stopped. I didn’t know the word in Makarovian, or Russian. I switched to English. “Cannon fodder?” The problem was I didn’t know of any word in Makarovian, Ukrainian or Russian for that word and Yuri didn’t know the English word I used. “Men we put on the frontline knowing they will get killed first.” Yuri took a second two and then nodded. “Pushechnoye myaso?” “If you say so,” I shrugged. “I don’t know.” Yuri gave a little smile. “I only knew it in Russian.” “And I only knew it in English.” I smiled. “I hope it’s the same thing.” I looked at Yuri carefully. “You suffered the pain of loss because someone left you.” I held my hand up to stop what he might say. “I don’t really want to know who or why. This isn’t a contest. Loss happens. Your feelings are valid. You feel what you feel. Blocking emotions to save yourself the pain isn’t the way to live your life. You should feel pain…” Yuri looked startled and I put my hand on his arm. “You grieve. If they meant anything to you, you’ll grieve their loss. I miss a few people very much still even today. They had meaning to me.” I pointed down the stairs. “Those men have begun to mean a great deal to us.” I smiled. “They’re good men. I don’t want them hurt or lose any of them; not for me. They have just as much value as anyone.” “There have been several losses. Here were two I think of often,” Yuri began. “In Russia when I was in my teens and I was dealing with…” he thought, “my feelings toward men. I ventured out at night. I didn’t use good judgment then. I had heard of this area where men like us would meet.” Now tears were coming to his eyes. “I just wanted to talk to someone! I never even knew his name. He saw me come up and smiled. It was a nice smile, but before I got there another group of men came and began beating him.” Now, Yuri was crying. “They killed him and I didn’t do a thing!” I nodded. “How old were you?” “Fourteen,” Yuri answered. “Fifteen a month later.” “How many men did this?” I asked. Yuri’s head wobbled in a shrug. “Three or four. I could have helped him!” Yuri said as if I wasn’t getting what he was saying. ”I was afraid to call the police. I just watched him get killed!” “And we might not have met,” I said. “You could have been killed. You’re doing the whole could have and should have thing.” I shook my finger in his face. “Stop it. For millions of years, a fight or flight reflex evolved in escort bayan us we learned to ignore. It’s helped us survive and will kick in with almost no warning, making us take action before we even know there’s a threat or what the threat is.” I said. “You didn’t think you could.” “I promised myself I’d never do that again.” I nodded. “I’d say you made good on that promise. Is that when you decided to become a security agent?” Yuri nodded. “Partly. I enrolled in the MVD…” he looked at me. “You know them?” I nodded. “None personally, that’s training center for the police in Russia.” Yuri nodded. “That’s right. I was assigned a partner. Daiki. He was in his forties. A very nice guy. I was twenty when we met.” He started to laugh, but not from humor. “I fell in love with him.” “Did you tell him?” I asked knowing many Russians did not approve of us. “How’d that go?” “Oh, he never knew,” Yuri said. “I couldn’t tell him, but…I never got the chance.” Now, he was crying more. “We were partners for two years. He…was my hero. We were in a situation and being held to get what the criminals wanted. They were going to shoot me to make the negotiator give in. The gun was pointed at my head!” Yuri turned away. “Daiki jumped up and took the bullet for me!” “That would leave a huge impression,” I said. Both were men he developed feelings for but never expressed them. A teenager’s memories, the horror of seeing a man killed and guilt. A young man’s hero killed instead of him. That would be emotional agony. “I am so sorry.” No saying, “I understand” or “it will be alright.” I couldn’t understand and it would never be alright. He had to live with it and get used to that and adjust. “I understand about emotional distance. Making rational decisions on the job is often critical.” I said. “That distance is not for me.” I grinned. “It’s your fault.” Yuri wiped his face to get rid of the tears and looked a bit unsure about what I said. “My fault!? How did you come to that opinion?” “You’re the one that sent us to Greece!” “Didn’t you like it?” Yuri asked. “Not a little bit.” I shook my head. “We love it! We discovered some friends there I can’t wait for you to meet.” I looked into Yuri’s eyes. “We love you. I love you and I do not ever want to ever hurt you, Yuri. Are you okay now?” Yuri nodded. “Sure.” He stopped me from walking off. “How does my directing you to Greece fit in with this?” I smiled. “We were never really unaccepted in Greece. Going back in history to the age of all those gods, our being there was just another part of humanity. Many of their gods had homosexual relations.” I shrugged. “No one was shocked or surprised. It was almost like a bigger Makarovia.” “This pirate,” Yuri began going to the topic of possible crisis now. “Could she be part of the Consortium?” “Who knows?” I shrugged. “Or she’s being used by them. I don’t know if we were even targeted.” Yuri nodded. “We’ll take a look and see.” We began to walk back down to get breakfast. “Did Mercea leave any for us?” I asked everyone and no oneBoris was talking to Henri. No doubt they were talking about food. The agents looked at Yuri and me. Peter looked at me with a look of hope and I gave him a slight nod. Boris came from talking with Henri to Yuri’s side. With just a look Boris asked and Yuri answered. Not a word from either of them was uttered, but they understood each other. No one even mentioned Yuri’s outburst. I knew Yuri had love to spare in him. The emotions he showed on the main deck were not simple. Is there a simple basic emotion? Usually, it was an emotion shrouded with other emotions and ideas. Nothing was just black and white. You couldn’t just say “I Love You” and be simply understood. For instance, the word for love. There are many forms of love in the Greek language. Eros for sexual passion, philia for really deep friendships, ludus for playful love, storge for love of a child or family member, agape for love of everyone, pragma for long-standing love, and philautia is loving yourself. Impressed?Well, don’t be. I knew there were a few words in the Greco-Roman language for love, but…yeah… I had to look them up. I can’t just rattle them off. English was the only language I spoke other than Ukrainian, Makarovian, Russian are Slavic languages. If Grandma hadn’t defected I would probably only speak any Slavic languages. What am I saying!? If she hadn’t, I wouldn’t speak any language. I wouldn’t even be!! Thanks, Grandpa. You just wouldn’t give up on Katrina. Yuri, Boris, Peter, Luke, Earl, and I discussed any possible options. “I can switch the AIS off, but that causes other problems,” Yuri stated. “Because of that lady pirate, you’ll be inside the Italian Territorial Waters.” “We have to,” Luke stated. “We can stick close to Italy. About fifteen kilometers out is territorial waters and well patrolled by Italy. We’ll be cutting across the Ionian Sea from Santa Maria to Corfu. It’s the shortest distance of open water. That will be the only regional water we’ll be in. We’ll have to take the Corinth Canal again. That area has a good bit of traffic.” “The Italian or Greek Navy doesn’t patrol that?” I asked. Luke gave a slow grudge of a nod. “Weeell…” I raised my hand stopping him. “Say no more. I momentarily forgot. I got it.” Peter shook his head. “I don’t.” “It’s been said…” I didn’t like badmouthing anyone. “Italy’s Government and Military are corrupt.” I looked at Peter. “Mario and his sister were born into families with money. I don’t have to ask if they were raised behind walls and had armed guards to prevent kidnapping.” Luke nodded with a chuckle. “Ask any of my crew. Most of the countries in Europe consider Italy the most corrupt country in Europe.” are suspect. “No one will stop this!?” Peter asked. “Who?” I shrugged at the notion. “The government? I can in a few seconds and show you case after case of some pretty telling articles and testimonies that can give you a rundown of many, many convictions showing evidence of guilt. Many are suspected. It’s sort of how they operate.” Luke nodded. “Even with the anti-corruption campaign group Transparency International working to stop the corruption, it’s pretty much unchanged.” Peter thought a second and then realized something. “Was there a group from Italy at the Wedding or Proposal?” He was searching through his own head. I could see him mentally searching and wondered if what he had was what he was looking for. Seeing it wasn’t there, he tossed it away. “I can’t remember seeing one.” Yuri shrugged. “There is a small group of Italian Military in Makarovia, I don’t recall any dignitaries.” Then Yuri moved the conversation to what he was talking about. “We can visually scan the hull. The problem is it could be anywhere and practically microscopic now.” He shook his finger at no one as he thought. “The receiver needs to be close to pick up that signal.” He looked at Luke. “Were the swimmers carrying anything?” Luke shook his head. “I couldn’t see that.” Yuri nodded. “It too could be very small.” He thought. “Even an enhancer for the tracker.” “That’s good, right?” I asked. “Putting something to tell them this is the ship means they could lose us.” “We’re talking as if it’s all true.” Peter pointed out. “We don’t know if it’s a fact.” “You’re right,” Yuri said. “You can’t prove or disprove anything with no evidence,” Luke agreed. “That doesn’t mean can’t prepare like it is right.” I pointed out. “I’ll fix your AIS from tracking you in the Regional Waters,” Yuri said. Mario’s island was just inside the Territorial Waters of Italy. It is true what we said about Italy. There was corruption. That doesn’t mean all Italians are corrupt. They had good people there, too. Using that corruption, I’m sure Mario had a few naval ship captains on his private payroll to help protect his island. What that meant I didn’t have any idea. Peter, Olek, and I had only spent a week here. I couldn’t recall any navy vessel, from any country pass by. Nor did I remember seeing any other vessel. The island was north of Sicily. Yes, I know you’ve seen that said by me before. Think about being told to look up in the sky. Now, I’m handing you binoculars and directing you to a particular part of that sky. The island was North of Palermo, Sicily on the coast of, but outh of the island Ustica. Ustica was a small island. Smaller than Malta, but it offered hotels, restaurants, and the ever-popular beaches. It was beautiful. Mario’s island was even smaller. Checking the equipment you did every time before a dive. Every time. Your life depended on it. I am not saying maybe. It did! When suddenly you can’t breathe, you panic. Your first solution is to take that mask off to breathe. Guess what? You drown and you die. I had an audience. Not just Peter, but from Alec, Mikell, and Mercea. Eight pair of concerned eyes. Okay, two of those pair were worried. Mercea concerned, but it was exciting for him! Peter looked worried the most. “I’ve done it a few times,” I said to the silent inquiry. “About ten, I think. One was even a night dive. I’m still here.” I reached down and got two pieces of polished…plastic? About the size of a traditional flip cell phone. I slipped them in one of the many pockets the suit had that lined my waist. “What are those for?” Mercea asked fascinated. “They’re weights,” I answered. “Whether at play or working you want to stay in one place. You sort of…hover? Humans are buoyant and will rise toward the surface naturally. These help me not to do that.” That explanation served two purposes. It answered Mercea’s curiosity and reassured Peter I did know what I was doing. Peter pointed at me…or rather, he pointed to my short sleeve and short pants scuba suit. “You’re not wearing the whole suit?” I nodded in a testy voice all for humor. “Everything necessary is covered and protected.” I insisted and then said seriously. “The temperature of the water is seventy-six degrees Fahrenheit.” And quickly held my hand up. “I can convert it, but I don’t want to…” “Twenty-four degrees.” Peter smiled. “See?” I brought him in kissing him. “I didn’t hurt one bit. I’ll be fine.” Then Peter scowled. “Why don’t I know this about you?” I shrugged. “It never came up?” “We live right next to the water in Boston,” Peter explained as I nodded. “There are two things I won’t do. That water is freezing and too damned cold all year round!” I added. “Go pretty much anywhere above Cape Hatteras, North Carolina and will be all the way up!” I explained. “The Gulf Stream? It veers off there and heads toward England?” Peter was now more comforted. He was smiling. “The other thing?” “I don’t do river dives,” I said firmly. “I’m not crazy about lake diving. I’ll skip them, too, but I refuse to river dive.” Peter’s inquiring eyebrow rose. “Why? It’s all water.” He shrugged. I looked at Peter. “Have you seen some rivers? Charleston has two big ones and grayish-brown due to too much dirt in the water. Visibility is maybe a foot or two. I like to see.” I looked away a little and added quietly. “I’m scared I could run into someone.” “Run into someone?” Peter’s brow wrinkled. “Another diver?” He asked confused. I sighed and turned facing him. “No, someone who was given an offer they couldn’t refuse. No scuba gear offered or needed,” Peter’s face broke in a smile and then laughed. So did Mercea, Alec, and Mikell. I nodded folding my arms over my chest pretending indignation. “Go ahead.” I waved at them. “It won’t be funny when it happens to you.” I pointed to the island. “This is Sicily!” As I said, that was for those reasons again. Peter was laughing as he hugged me. He was still concerned, but less worried. Humor was a cure for many things weighing on minds. (But I refuse to river dive.) Yuri walked up sitting by me. “I agree with Luke.” He said. “You should not be going.” I sat up straighter. “And who do you have to replace me?” I waved at Luke. Its regulation there must be a Command Officer must be on board. They can both dive, but not at the same time on this trip. When someone is below the surface a Command Officer has to remain on board. I’m not just a Professionally Trained Professionally Diver. I’m Open Water certified.” Yuri smiled nodding. “Yeah, I am too.” “Which means?” Peter asked. Yuri chuckled. “All this.” “All of the Oceans and Seas,” I explained and looked at Mercea who was still looking at the equipment trying to see what it did. “I think you’d have a willing student if you asked.” It was more than just being able to breathe. You had to learn skills to go down there. Mercea was only partially listening but looked up with his eyes widening. “Me? To do this!!?” He asked looking at a tank. “Hell, yeah! Sign me up!!” He was a big boy that just got the best surprise ever for Christmas! “Why?” Peter asked. “Makarovia has no seas.” Yuri waved around him. “Because it might be needed, like now.” You’ve always seen movies or television shows where the divers just fall backward over the side. Like before with the approach of the badasses to the Big Bar. We didn’t do that backward drop thing either. At the same place Mikell, Peter, and I fished Mercea out of the water was where we climbed into the water and drifted out a little. “The hull is a Fiberglass-wood mix,” Earl instructed. “The strength of wood but endures like fiberglass. It’s the newest thing in making ships able to cross oceans and not weigh as much as some boats even smaller than the Duchess.” That fact really wasn’t important. He was proud of what he did and where he did it. I grinned at a thought and he liked who he did it with. I know, I know, I’m told many times I wished the world were gay. Well, why not? Giving birth would really be a decision and done to have a child. Don’t waste your time and breathe with practicalities of the Human Race, continuing the species and yadda, yadda. I still look at men with women and ask: what’s he doing with her!? No offense intended ladies, but I am gay. “There really isn’t a seam,” Earl said. “Gretchen and I have searched in places where there are breaks like the maneuvering thrusters and engines.” Yuri nodded. “There is nothing that can be magnetized in the framework.” He said to verify. Earl thought but ended up shaking his head. “The frame is a mix also of several those metals, but most is aluminum.” He smiled and moved his hand over the water. “You know. Lighter and burns less fuel?” “We understand that.” I laughed. “The problems is…” Yuri said. “These trackers need a boost. That’s what I think you were stopped for. We will send a signal while in Italy’s waters and stop when we aren’t. Only the line of sight will tell anyone what we are.” “Let’s go.” Gretchen smiled pulling her mask down and putting the regulator in and gently lowered in the water. Once down there, I remembered how much I loved it. I sort of abandoned some of my dreams somewhat. Mom got sick and I sort of pushed it to the back of my mind. Now I was feeling it again. There was a sense of freedom here. I was also right when I said you hovered. No rising or lowering because of the weights. The water here was so clear but got darker blue the farther you could see. I could also see we were not the only creatures down here. Schools of fish swam with a few darting by alone, but away from us. How could they be late for anything? I also knew there bigger fish and mammals like the whales that surfaced one night. I heard them but didn’t see them. Looking away from the island I couldn’t make out what some were. It could get busy down here. I was willing to bet Peter would like this. It was better than any pool any day. He knew how to swim. Didn’t he? He did it a year ago here and in the house in Boston. I was pleased with myself. I’d have to ask him. We could do this together! Hockey was great, for Peter and Olek. This we could do! If he agreed. It would also be an excuse to come to Greece! I turned and went toward the black hull and began looking. Looking for something that may not be there at all and where to look to find it, we didn’t know what it was if we did see it! Yes, it wasn’t a highlight of our honeymoon for me.

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