Lieutenant Pickles takes great pride in being able to field-strip and ready an assault rifle in complete silence.
She looks at her companions, and thinks: These two may think I’m inexperienced but I’ll show them.
Pickles peers round the capstan of the super tanker behind which the three marines hide. Distant lights show through the fog, dim halos in the night.
‘Alright, there’s no movement.’ Pickles looks back at the sergeant. Strong, solid and dependable in all circumstances other than when he hears Welsh jokes – when bones get broken – and Neeps the corporal, wiry, blue-eyed olive-skinned and ginger-haired, sitting relaxed on the damp deck.
‘You two!’ Pickles hisses, ‘Put those phones away.’
Neeps ignores Pickles, frowning and pushing buttons so fast her fingers blur. She stares cross-eyed at the screen.
‘Won’t be a minute, ma’am,’ the sergeant says.
‘What are you doing?’
‘Checking my credit rating, ma’am.’
‘What? We are supposed to be engaging pirates. Neeps, stop whatever you ‘re doing and get ready.’
The sergeant stares at Pickles in mild surprise. ‘You won’t get her off that for a bit, ma’am. What is it Neeps? Gears of Halo Theft Auto Zombie Five?’
Neep’s eyes flick from the screen to the sergeant and back in a picosecond. ‘S’lol innit?’
Pickles feels sweat on the back of her neck and thinks: I’m not in control.
‘Neeps,’ she barks, ‘you may look like a one woman racial minority but at least attempt English.’
Neeps doesn’t react.
Pickles says, ‘Sergeant, get this woman going; we’re Royal Marines and we have a job to do. We’ll creep along the starboard side and use the outer ladders to reach the bridge.’
‘Are you sure that’s wise, ma’am?’ the sergeant asks, settling himself more comfortably among the hawsers and scanning the bridge deck through binoculars.
‘They could have guns and stuff.’ His phone beeps. He glances at the screen. ‘Good God, your credit rating is awful, ma’am.’
‘Sergeant! We have guns too: get moving!’
‘Ma’am, if I may point out, you know, before we do anything rash, someone could get hurt and that would be very bad. Wait a moment – I know those faces on the bridge. I’m calling them.’
‘The pirates, ma’am. Hello, Nathan, hey, how are you doing? What’s it like being a pirate? Yes merry Christmas to you too, kids OK? Yeah, we’re on board. Sorry but there must have been a cock up. Will you do the honours? We’re right in the bows, hot mince pies and rum, please. I’ll tell the chopper we’re ready to be lifted out.’
The sergeant studies Pickles whose face switches through so many expressions and with such speed it vibrates. He sighs. ‘You’re new to this, ma’am. We can’t hurt any of them. Nathan’s unit is funded by The Royal Bank of Scotland – and they’re family so to speak.’
Pickles’ face produces the equivalent of Windows blue-screen.
The sergeant adds, ‘It’s Asda that’s the real problem. This is their ship. If we take it from Nathan we have to give it back Asda, embarrass ourselves, and bang goes our funding.’
Pickles’ mouth produces a variety of shapes, like an amoeba dancing to jazz. She regains control with great difficulty and says, ‘We’re funded by Her Majesty’s Government.’
‘Good God no, ma’am. They can’t afford anything these days. No, it’s all privatised now: we’re Tesco’s.
©Gary Bonn 2011