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Calypso by Brian Nicholson

Calypso by Brian Nicholson

Ratings: (0)|Views: 61 |Likes:
Published by Kevin Jacobson
ABOUT CALYPSO


The secret of what happened to the weapons of mass destruction – if they ever existed, died with Saddam Hussein on the gallows. Or did it? The United Nations teams of nuclear, biological and chemical scientists who searched for the WMDs were on a hiding to nothing, looking for something that Saddam Hussein had had ten years to hide in a landmass the same size as the United Kingdom. All of those involved in the hiding of those weapons had been murdered – some by Saddam Hussein himself, so we are told – or had they? One man who knew a great deal about the research and production of biological and chemical weapons had been sent to the USA just prior to the destruction of the World Trade Centre’s twin towers in September 2001. In the 9/11 aftermath of mass arrests by the CIA, living under an alias, that man was incarcerated, along with some 600 other suspected terrorists, in Camp X-ray at Guantanamo Bay. He was a relative of ‘Chemical Ali’ and had been the instrument of the mass gassing of the Kurdish enclave in Northern Iraq in 1988.
His real identity and his location in Camp Delta – to which all ‘illegal combatants’ were moved in Guantanamo Bay in April 2004 - were known by two parties – one wanted to achieve his release to kill him very slowly to ensure he suffered as much as the thousands of Kurds he gassed with Lewisite and Sarin. The other wanted him released because of his knowledge of where Saddam Hussein had hidden his store of biological and chemical weapons so that they could carry out the postponed atrocity in the UK which had been planned to coincide with 9/11 in the USA.
But how is all this connected to the disappearance of charter yachts in the Caribbean, a British warship which disappears like the Marie Celeste and a Queen’s ransom of jewels and gold buried on a remote Caribbean island by Blackbeard the Pirate in the 18th Century? To answer those questions, John Gunn is sent to the Caribbean by the British Intelligence Directorate and this assignment leads to a terrifying race against time to prevent a catastrophic terrorist atrocity in London.
ABOUT CALYPSO


The secret of what happened to the weapons of mass destruction – if they ever existed, died with Saddam Hussein on the gallows. Or did it? The United Nations teams of nuclear, biological and chemical scientists who searched for the WMDs were on a hiding to nothing, looking for something that Saddam Hussein had had ten years to hide in a landmass the same size as the United Kingdom. All of those involved in the hiding of those weapons had been murdered – some by Saddam Hussein himself, so we are told – or had they? One man who knew a great deal about the research and production of biological and chemical weapons had been sent to the USA just prior to the destruction of the World Trade Centre’s twin towers in September 2001. In the 9/11 aftermath of mass arrests by the CIA, living under an alias, that man was incarcerated, along with some 600 other suspected terrorists, in Camp X-ray at Guantanamo Bay. He was a relative of ‘Chemical Ali’ and had been the instrument of the mass gassing of the Kurdish enclave in Northern Iraq in 1988.
His real identity and his location in Camp Delta – to which all ‘illegal combatants’ were moved in Guantanamo Bay in April 2004 - were known by two parties – one wanted to achieve his release to kill him very slowly to ensure he suffered as much as the thousands of Kurds he gassed with Lewisite and Sarin. The other wanted him released because of his knowledge of where Saddam Hussein had hidden his store of biological and chemical weapons so that they could carry out the postponed atrocity in the UK which had been planned to coincide with 9/11 in the USA.
But how is all this connected to the disappearance of charter yachts in the Caribbean, a British warship which disappears like the Marie Celeste and a Queen’s ransom of jewels and gold buried on a remote Caribbean island by Blackbeard the Pirate in the 18th Century? To answer those questions, John Gunn is sent to the Caribbean by the British Intelligence Directorate and this assignment leads to a terrifying race against time to prevent a catastrophic terrorist atrocity in London.

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Published by: Kevin Jacobson on Nov 04, 2009
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PROLOGUE‘Deux bateaux de pirates, mon Capitaine!’Captain Charles d’Ocier noted the falsetto note in the voice of his first officerwho had just lowered the telescope from his right eye. The Captain held out hishand for the telescope and raised it to his eye. Pirates! This was the latest in along run of bad luck to add to the misery of the grim voyage from Port Bouet onthe Côte d’Ivoire with his stinking cargo of slaves. Charles d’Ocier lowered thetelescope. There were two pirate ships – small in comparison to Concorde, his300 ton, three-masted clipper. Both were sloops-o-war; no more than 70 or 80feet in length, d’Ocier estimated. Both were rigged as brigantines – square-rigged on the foremast and schooner-rigged on the main mast.‘Merde!’ The Captain’s expletive did nothing to reassure his first officer – ‘andonly a day’s sailing from Fort-de–France in Martinique,’ he muttered to himself. The Captain glanced up at the top of the mizzen mast from which hung a ratherlimp tri-colour. The light wind favoured the smaller, lighter pirate craft, whichwere rapidly gaining on Concorde. ‘Monsieur Gavray, please give the order toclear the decks for action and run out the guns, smartly now!’‘Aye, aye sir,’ but no encouragement was needed. The crew of Concordewas well aware of the brutality of the privateers plying the lucrative waters of theCaribbean and all of them were reluctant to forgo the handsome profit from thesale of the slaves, of whom only 28 had died of the original cargo of 150 loadedin Port Bouet. What the crew did not know was that Concorde was also loadedwith a cargo of gold dust, silver plate and jewels, which would add considerablyto the profit margin – for the Captain.Concorde was within sight of the island of St Vincent, which lay fine on herport bow some twelve miles away. On her starboard quarter lay the island of Barbados, but Martinique and its safe harbour of Fort-de-France was still some120 miles away. Had there been a strong wind, Concorde might have been ableto outrun the pirate vessels. Even sheltering in a British colonial port waspreferable to an encounter with pirates. But the last week in March was still tooearly in the year to expect the strong - sometimes hurricane force winds - thatprevailed in this part of the Caribbean between June and September. The lightsouth-easterly wind favoured the lighter displacement pirate ships which werenow only two miles astern of Concorde.Captain d’Ocier steadied the telescope once again on the two pirate ships;the leading vessel was flying the Jolly Roger from its masthead, but the followingvessel’s masthead pennant had what appeared to be a skeleton brandishing aspear. The pirates’ attack plan was obvious; by approaching Concorde fromastern, none of her 26 canons could engage the attackers until the very lastminute by which time the grappling irons would already have been locked ontothe piratesprey. Any crew attempting to fend them off from Concorde’ssterncas’le would be swept away by the grapeshot fired from the pirates’ bow1
 
chasers. The battle was brief and bloody. The two pirate vessels attacked from bothsides of Concorde’s stern and in less than 20 minutes Captain d’Ociersurrendered his ship. The Concorde was taken as a prize and the survivingmembers of the crew were put ashore on St Vincent. Benjamin Horngold led thisattack; it was to be his last act of piracy. He had decided to retire from piracyand accept the Queen’s pardon. He gave the 300 ton Concorde to his protégé,Edward Teach – soon to be become one of the most feared pirates ever toplunder the seas – Blackbeard.Concorde was re-named Queen Anne’s Revenge and the number of hercanons increased from 26 to 40. Blackbeard’s new flagship now flew hisdistinctive ensign: a dancing skeleton wielding a spear, as if taunting its victims.Shortly after setting sail from St Vincent in what was now the largest and bestarmed pirate vessel in the Caribbean, Blackbeard attacked anothermerchantman, the Great Allen, which he stripped of all valuables and then set onfire and scuttled. News of this engagement spread rapidly and the 30 gun man-of-war, HMS Scarborough, was sent to deal with Blackbeard. Far from beingintimidated by one of Her Majesty’s warships, Blackbeard decided to do battlewith HMS Scarborough: he succeeded in damaging her so badly that her Captainwithdrew from the engagement. Blackbeard’s reputation now knew no bounds:so terrifying was the sight of this black-bearded pirate that his intended preyusually surrendered without a fight. Crews that survived the ordeal swore thathe was the ‘devil incarnate’ and Blackbeard did everything to encourage thisreputation by twisting slow burning hemp cord into his black, matted hair underhis hat. This he lit just before an engagement and the slow-burning hemp wouldenvelope him in smoke as he went into battle festooned with pistols andcutlasses. The Queen Anne’s Revenge was now laden with booty and it was time to finda safe haven for this treasure before he returned to his lucrative hunting groundin the shoals and shallow waters off Charles Town – later to become Charleston -and the South Carolina coast. Navigation was still a black art; for more than athousand years mariners had been able to establish the Latitude of their positionon the World’s seas by measuring the altitude of the Pole Star or the sun. Themeans of identifying Longitude – and by so doing establish a definitive plot - wasnot discovered until the invention of the chronometer in the 18
th
century.Navigation was not Blackbeard’s strong point and he was not adept at the use of the cross-staff to measure angles to the stars or sun. After selling the wretchedcargo of slaves in St Vincent’s King’s Town, Blackbeard set a course nor-nor-westto return to South Carolina. In 1717, the year of the capture of the Queen Anne’sRevenge, the only means of navigation available to mariners when sailing northor south was the compass and dead reckoning.Blackbeard was aiming for the Anegada Passage between the Virgin Islandsand the Leeward Islands having kept the Windward Islands on his starboardquarter as he sailed north. Once through the Anegada Passage, the QueenAnne’s Revenge would come onto a north-westerly course and sail along thechain of Bahamas Islands and Cays to Florida and South Carolina. By purechance, on the third day out of St Vincent, the lookout in the crow’s nest shouteddown to the Captain that there was an island dead ahead. Blackbeard wentdown to his cabin and poured over the chart. There was nothing marked on the2
 
chart anywhere near his plot of only ten minutes prior to the lookout’s warning.Dominica should be on his starboard quarter and the French Island of Guadeloupe on the starboard bow followed by the small but distinctive island of Montserrat with its 3,000 foot active volcano, Soufrière – a name shared with thevolcanoes on the islands of Guadeloupe and St Vincent - and its white plume of smoke hanging on the lip of the caldera. Blackbeard summoned BartholomewNesbit, his first officer, and after a careful study of the chart both went back upon deck and studied the island, clearly visible now to the naked eye. Either theQueen Anne’s Revenge was many miles off course to the east or Blackbeard had,by sheer chance, discovered an island that was, as yet, uncharted. Blackbeardhad made no allowance for the then unknown strong westerly tidal set in hisreckoning, which had carried the Queen Anne’s Revenge more than 30 milesfurther to the west than the plot. This would also explain why he had had nosight of any of the islands on his starboard quarter. Unintentionally, he had justdiscovered the ideal place to bury his treasure before returning to the BeaufortInlet on the South Carolina coast.Having no idea of the waters or the dangers surrounding this island,Blackbeard ordered the leadsman into the chains on the bow of the ship wherehe strapped himself in with a canvas apron to allow the use of both hands toheave the lead. The Caribbean Islands tend to be one of two geological origins;either volcanic or coral. Montserrat, Granada, St Vincent, St Lucia andGuadeloupe clearly indicate their steep-sided, conical origin as the peak of ahuge subsurface volcano, while the islands of Barbados, Antigua, the Turks andCaicos and Cayman Islands all owe their origin to coral formations andsubterranean upheavals over many millions of years. The island discovered byBlackbeard was of the latter variety with its highest point no more than some 60feet above sea level. The island’s lack of altitude probably explained why it hadnever been sighted before and its absence from Blackbeard’s charts, the verylatest editions available, all stolen from plundered ships. Cautiously, the QueenAnne’s Revenge circumnavigated the island with the leadsman calling out thedepth. There was no sign of either human or animal occupation of the island otherthan the many varieties of sea bird. Having completed a circuit of the island,Blackbeard decided to anchor his ship on the north side of the island where shewould be on a lee shore from the prevailing south-easterly wind. BartholomewNesbit gave the order to hand the t’gallants, skys’ls, moonrakers and stuns’lswhich involved both watches swarming up the ratlin’s to furl the sails. It wasnow early evening and the light was fading fast; they had no time to spare. Assoon as the leadsman indicated that the water was shoaling from ‘the mark five’to ‘the mark three’, the pin was knocked out from the starboard bower anchorand it plunged into the crystal clear water.At first light the next morning the jolly-boat was lowered and a well-armedshore party was sent to search the island, not only for any signs of humanhabitation, but also for water, fruit and any creature worth slaughtering. Theisland was circular in shape, about two miles in diameter and covered in denseand luxuriant vegetation, which indicated the presence of fresh water. The shoreparty returned by midday with welcome news that there was a natural springproviding plenty of fresh water, fruit in abundance, no indication of any form of human presence – ever - and no animals except turtles. But the best news3

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