It was now early Saturday morning and everybody finally retired to bed until about lunchtime. As people started to rise, Lewis had an idea.
“Let’s have a BBQ while everyone is here. To celebrate our new friend, Harri and to celebrate the same return of our friends, Josh, Ryan and Matt.”
So the BBQ went on, everybody laughing and joking, Ryan propped up in a deck chair resting his bad ankle as the rest waited on him, much to his delight.
Tom’s phone rang and he answered it casually “Yeah” but his attitude and tone of voice changed immediately. “Yes Sir.”
Chris, Bradin and James all turned to look.
“Yes Sir that’s correct… thank you sir. Yes Sir I will. OK Sir, bye bye”
He put the phone down and looked at the assembled audience, all looking to him
“The Colonel has heard of our little adventure. He sends his congratulations and he’d like to see you for a chat. Monday 09:00 at Hamworthy.
The young lads looked at Lewis, who in turn looked at Tom
“He wants to see me?”
“No, he wants to see all of you.”
The group exchanged bemused looks.
Monday morning dawned. Harri was now living in the spare bedroom of the three friends house.
At the breakfast table, there was confusion.
“What do we wear? Asked Ryan.
“I don’t know” replied Josh. I don’t know what we are expected to do when we get there.
“Gosh, I hope it doesn’t involve wetsuits, I want a few days rest from neoprene” added Matt.
Just as the confusion deepened, Lewis knocked at the back door.
“Oh come in man” called Ryan.
Josh pounced on him straight away. “Lewis, what are we meant to wear this morning?” he stopped to look over Lewis.
Lewis was dressed in smart shoes, jeans and a shirt. “Smart casual, like this” Lewis replied.
The group finished breakfast and changed, each of appearing in the living room for inspection by Lewis. The day before, they’d taken Harri clothes shopping, splitting the bill between them.
He reported to the living room. Dark brown shoes, deep blue jeans and a checked shirt with the shelves rolled up to his elbows. His dark blond hair was brushed forward and down toward is left eye.
Lewis sharply drew in a breath and Harri’s face changed from a pleased look to concern.
“Only kidding, you’ll pass. Now get the rest of them down here or we’ll be late”
Harri relaxed and grinned, now he felt at ease. Soon the living room was filled with his friends, equally well turned out with their own touch of style, especially hair.
Josh drove the group down to Hamworthy. If they were to meet a Colonel, it was no use turning up in Lewis’s work van, or Ryan’s tired Nissan Almera. His Dad had given him a brand new VW Passat for his birthday and it was his second pride in joy, his surfboard being his first.
They reached the gate and the sentry approached Josh’s side of the car.
“Erm…?” He looked over to Lewis, in the front passenger seat, for help
“Lewis Coburn. We have an appointment with Colonel Dempsey”
The solider scanned the list on his clipboard and found the name “Ah yes, Coburn plus four.”
He stepped back and signalled to the gatehouse to raise the barrier.
Josh drove forward, cautiously creeping round the base as Lewis directed, Various groups of men moved about the base, some walking casually, some marching and the odd running group.
Finally they parked in front of a brick building.
Above the main door was a coat of arms. A sword pointed straight up, piercing through two wavy horizontal blue stripes. An un ravelled scroll crossed the handle of the sword and read “Through strength and guile”
Lewis led the group through the door and down a maze of corridors, finally stopping outside a big office. He adjacent the door was a desk, manned by a young man dressed in lightly coloured combats, a green beret was strapped to his shoulder.
Seeing the group approaching, he stood and held out his hand.
“Lance Corporal Morgan, pleased to meet you”
“Lewis Coburn. We have an appointment with the Colonel.”
“Yes, Mr Coburn, the Colonel is expecting you. I’ll show you in”
The young Marine knocked at the closed door, a voice from inside shouted “Enter.”
He opened the door and stepped inside, standing to attention he announced “Sir. Mr Coburn and friends to see you.”
“Thank you Morgan, show them in.”
He turned to the group, waiting outside the office “The Colonel will see you now, please come in”
One by one they filed into the office. Ryan moved slowly, using crutches to take the weight off his damaged ankle. Lewis stood forward and the rest formed a semi circle behind him, Ryan doing his best to stand bolt upright like the rest.
“Gentlemen. Thank you for coming. My name is Colonel Jonathan Dempsey, I’m the Commanding Officer of M Squadron, Maritime Counter Terrorism specialists.”
He shook hands with each of them in turn, starting with Lewis.
“Good to see you again Lewis, it’s been a while”
“You too Sir.”
Next he moved to Ryan. Ryan propped himself up on the crutch and shook hands
“Have a seat, take the weight off that ankle”
“Thank you Colonel”
He finished shaking hands and spoke to the Lance Corporal who was still standing at the door
“Bring in some refreshments please Morgan”
“Very well Sir.” he said, closing the door behind him.
“Well Gentlemen. What a busy few days you’ve had. I’ve read the after action reports submitted by my men. It’s an honour to meet you. Each of you displayed outstanding bravery, team work, honour and dedication.
Josh. You kept the group strong after the initial capture and repeatedly put yourself in danger to protect your friends. First with your capture at the house, then offering your surrender in exchange for your friends release. Then, when Ryan was tortured, you demanded to take his place more than once.
Ryan. You kept the spirits up during the period of uncertain captivity. You refused to show any pain when you were beaten and then tortured. You fought to survive when pain overwhelmed your body. Still you put your friends first.
Matthew. Swimming 3 miles, in darkness with no navigation aids. A truly brave act alone, but then you go back to the heart of your capture to rescue your friends. Outstanding.
Pierre, or should I say, Harri. You risked yourself over and over to help the three lads. Matt’s escape, Ryan’s care, the general care of all three lads. All while maintaining the image of their jailer.
Lewis. You coordinated the detailed rescue of four prisoners based on little information, while preventing the capture of three more prisoners simultaneously. After the rescue, you carried on your responsibilities, the medical care of Ryan, the alerting of authorities to prisoners at multiple locations and maintaining the secrecy of the Squadron.
You should all be very proud of yourselves. I won’t beat about the bush any longer”
Lewis cracked a slight smile, the Colonel had always been one for straight talking.
“What you encountered was truly shocking, but it’s not an isolated case. We have picked up intelligence suggesting there are up to twenty similar operations throughout Europe and up to one hundred world wide.
Your escape has provided us with lots of new information. How they identify targets, snatch them, transport them and prepare them for onward shipment. It’s like a tap dripping intelligence has now been flung wide open.
We believe that as many as 50 young British males have been abducted in this manner in the last three years. We need to find them and bring them home.
However we can’t do this through the normal channels. If the press were to find out, especially that we knew these people had been taken, they’d have a field day.
In addition our special forces are stretched too thinly and all in the Middle East. What forces we have on home soil, we need for National defense and Counter Terrorism.
What we need, is a team that can operate off the books. We need you. The wetsuit slaves of the world need you.”
The door of the office opened and the group filed out. In the corridor were Red team. Tom, Chris, Bradin and James.
The two groups looked at each other for a moment and Tom asked
“Well, are you in then?”
To be continued…