He looked over at Mecho, who still stood, braced against the stem seats. Mecho was watching him. It seemed the big man had read Puller’s mind as he had studied the dials in front of him.
Then he looked over Puller’s shoulder and slowly pointed up ahead.
turned back and looked at where he was pointing.
A huge structure suddenly became visible in the middle of the storm’s fury.
Neptune’s Seat was dead ahead.
They had reached the battlefield, exhausted and nearly drowned.
And now the real fight was about to begin.
Nearly two hundred people were clustered in cages meant to hold half that number.
Diego and Mateo crouched in a comer of one cage. Both were seasick from the journey out here. There were many others who were in the same condition. Pools of vomit lay everywhere. The stench made more people sick to their stomachs, which only added to the vileness of the cages.
Diego gripped Mateo’s hand and looked around.
The guards were everywhere but they didn’t look as confident now.
Perhaps it was because there were far more prisoners than normal.
Perhaps it was because they all could feel the battering effects of the angry ocean against the steel frame of the oil platform. The room they were in shook with every wave.
Mateo’s eyes were big as he watched the ceiling, and his fingers tightened around Diego’s every time a wave slammed into them.
Diego dipped his lips to Mateo’s ear. “It will be okay, Mateo. We’ll be okay.”
Mateo said nothing. He just kept looking at the ceiling, kept tightening his grip.
Diego looked down at his finger. Where the ring had been.
He had dropped it at the place where they had been held. He hoped someone would find it. Someone other than these people.
He kept a brave face for Mateo. But their odds of getting out of this were dwindling. If the storm did not kill them, Diego had no idea what would happen to them or where they would end up.
With this thought, a feeling of terror seized him and he tightened his grip around Mateo’s hand.
Perhaps sensing this, Mateo put his mouth to Diego’s ear and whispered, “It’ll be okay, Diego. We’ll be okay.”
Puller eased off the throttle and slipped his night-vision goggles over his eyes for a better look.
He studied the structure that had risen up from the midst of the storm. It seemed to tower right up to the top of the sky. Waves were crashing over its lower platform. Its steel legs shuddered with the pounding from millions of tons of water hitting it, driven by the fierce winds propelling Danielle landward.
Puller was looking for sentries first.
Entry points second.
Overall weaknesses third.
Mecho joined him at the helm.
“Docking will be a problem,” said Puller as he watched the floating platform pitching and rolling with the waves.
“I don’t think we can dock. It will crush the boat.”
“Well, we can’t exactly jump in and swim for it. The wind is heading away from the platform and right at us. We’ll be swept out in seconds.”
Puller ran his gaze over the platform once more.
“I’m thinking that in a storm like this they’re not expecting any visitors. They’re probably inside trying to stay warm and dry.”
“I mean, someone would have to be batshit crazy to be out here attacking this place in the middle of a tropical storm.”
“Batshit crazy,” agreed Mecho.
“And they have no way of knowing that we could find our way to this platform.” Puller had a sudden terrifying thought, despite the coordinates Carson’s people had sent. “You’re sure it’s the right platform? There are a lot of them out here.”
“It’s the one I was on. I jumped from that deck.”
Puller looked up about forty feet. “And then you swam to shore?”
“Yes. With help from some fishermen.”
“No perimeter security. Wind coming from the south. Floating platform over there.”
“What’s your plan?”
Puller told the others what he was thinking. Carson shook her head as she surveyed the rough seas and the approaching storm.
“No margin of error, Puller,” she said.
“No, it’s slight, but it’s there.”
Landry said, “Is this the only way?”
“Only one I can think of, and if we wait much longer that plan won’t work.”
Mecho said, “We need to try it.”
Diaz nodded. “Okay, and let’s break out the weapons. We’re going to need them.”
“I’ll take care of it,” said Puller.
“And once we’re on the platform?” said Diaz. Mecho pointed up at the enclosed structure. “They’ll be in there. There are multiple entry and exit points. Prisoners and guards. The guards are not that well trained but they have heavy firepower. More than what we have.”
“So we have to hit them hard and fast and take them by surprise,” said Carson as a large wave pummeled the boat, forcing everyone to grab something to hold on to. “That will negate their superior numbers and ordnance.”
She looked at Puller. “So how are you going to get us there?”
“Two at a time,” he replied.
“What exactly does that mean?” asked Landry.
“It means, exactly, that you’re going to have to jump. Two at a time.”
Puller aimed the bow of the boat directly at the floating platform. The bow rider fought through the waves and against the wind.
At the last possible instant he swerved, missing the bucking platform by only half a foot.
“Now,” shouted Puller.
Mecho and Diaz, standing on the starboard side, leapt off the gunwale and landed, sprawled, on the platform.
Puller pulled the boat away from the platform and had Landry take the wheel while he unlocked a storage compartment on the boat and opened the watertight compartment inside where he had stored their weapons. He organized their arsenal as Landry focused on keeping the boat within striking distance of the platform.
Finished with the weapons, Puller put them in a collapsible, watertight duffel, zipped it shut, and handed it to Carson.
He retook the wheel from Landry and swung the boat back around.
He looked at Carson and then down at the duffel she held. “That’s not exactly light.” He glanced at Landry. “I think it’ll be a team effort.”
Landry gripped one end of the duffel. “We’ll get it there,” she said.
He hit the throttle and once more steered the bow rider right at the