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The Mystery of B14678

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The Mystery of B14678


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Tuesday, 14 April 1987 | 06:10 hrs [UTC-3]
Mediargic Sea | 54° 2' N, 46° 53' W

The KLP Europa had been at sea for about twenty odd hours now, having left early the prior morning from the Chernarussian port of Chernogorsk.  Loaded heavy with a few hundred containers, she was steaming on a northerly course, making about fourteen knots.  On the bridge, the mate of the watch, a Dosniman named Nadir and his helmsman, a Liari named Slavko carried little conversation between them.  It was early in the morning and everyone was a little tired, from those just waking up to those who would soon be coming off watch and going down for a few hours of rest.  The ship's captain, a Chernarussian named Lavro, had long since departed the bridge and bedded down for the evening, leaving Nadir in charge of piloting the vessel.  This was Nadir's fifth sailing with Lavro and he'd gotten used to the man, who was present on the bridge only during rough seas and to and from ports, otherwise he was elsewhere in the ship doing whatever it was that captains did when things were calm.

          Also joining Nadir and Slavko on the bridge was Iosif, another Chernarussian, who was on his first sailing with this crew.  Iosif was no green mariner but since he was new to the sailing, he'd garnered some of the less desirable jobs, which was why he had been standing watch for the better part of the past three hours.  Iosif seemed to be the opposite of Nadir.  Where Nadir was tired, Iosif was alert and awake; where Nadir was reserved, Iosif was outspoken and extroverted.  In the short time that Nadir had been exposed to this new crewmember he already could see his patience running thin on the man if just because he was much more energetic and that tended to wear on Nadir rather quickly.  In Nadir's wurldview, he'd joined the sea life to get away from people and enjoy the solitude of the ocean.  Iosif was exactly who he'd come to the sea to avoid.

          Nadir had been having a rough start to his rotation.  He'd left an angry wife at home and he'd been having all manner of trouble sleeping, so much so that he wasn't entirely surely what schedule he was on other than it was all jacked up and he could always use a few hours of sleep.  It took all his effort just to focus on the ship's course, especially because soon he'd command the helmsman to begin turning the ship to the west-northwest so that they could head into the Sakspati Sea, which the captain had explicitly told him to make before nightfall.  It was a bit of a tall endeavor but Nadir couldn't argue with the man, he was the captain after all.  The Sakspati Sea to their west was just a highway for them, so to speak, with no exits.  They were really heading to the Verde Sea, west even of this, where they'd make at least two port stops before heading out into Oriental Ocean and beyond for even more port stops.  The KLP Europa had fifteen stops to make before she turned around and rewound the journey, making all of the same stops again, this time bringing cargo back.

          God, I could use another cup of coffee, Nadir thought to himself as he looked out of the bridge and to the relatively cold but at least calm seas ahead of them.  The Mediargic was a deep sea and not often calm, especially in the winter months and though it was April, being this far north meant it was still pretty cold.  Standing near the helmsman, he checked his watch and then turned around and stepped to the area behind, where a large table held a detailed map of the ship's proposed course and journey.  He planted himself behind it and began to study the chart, looking where their turn was indicated.  He looked up to see what their coordinates were, which happened to be displayed near the helmsman in numbers big enough for him to see from where he was.  "Okay, we're on this course another forty minutes then we'll turn port to 2-9-5," he said aloud to the helmsman.  Nadir set his watch to count down from forty minutes and took a seat, resting his feet and staring back down at the charts.  

          "Aye, forty minutes," the helmsman answered, setting his own watch accordingly.  Nadir reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out a pack of cigarettes and was about to light one, the cigarette dangling from his mouth, when the insufferable Iosif broke the peace and the tranquility of the bridge.

          "Derelict ship, port side, about two miles," he called out from his watch station on the wing of the bridge.  

          Nadir let his head hang in disappointment and thought, I can't even have a cigarette in peace.  "Okay, can you see the name of it?"

          "No sir."

          "Fine, Slavko, make your course 3-0-0, slow to eight knots."

          "Aye, turning port to 3-0-0, slowing to eight knots," he began his turn first, bringing the ship from its northerly to a northwesterly course and then reached over and pulled down on the handle that controlled the ship's engines.  Power was reduced and the ship slowed down on its own, coming to a speed of eight knots fairly quickly enough.

          Nadir grabbed the radio mic and began hailing the vessel, "Unknown vessel, unknown vessel, this is the KLP Europa on your port side, respond."  There was no response.  He hailed again and again a few more times as they closed.  At one nautical mile, he ordered a speed of just five knots and had Slavko correct slightly so that they could pass just behind the vessel.  He also ordered the ship's horn blown, which more than awoke everyone on the ship who wasn't already sleeping.  If the vessel was having radio troubles, they would certainly hear the massive horn from the KLP Europa.  Yet, Iosif reported nothing and as Lavro came to the bridge to see what was happening, he too noticed the derelict vessel.

          "Captain, derelict vessel, definitely adrift, hailed them a few times, blew the horn, nothing."

          "Probably another refugee boat from @Garindina, god knows what happened to them," Lavro answered, "call it into the coast guard and let's get on our way."

          "Aye captain," Nadir answered and with that the captain was gone, a short visit.  Eyes on deck continued to watch the otherwise derelict vessel that looked like it had taken a few beatings.  The vessel itself looked as if it wasn't too well taken care of to begin with but the damage along the superstructure and the hull suggested that she'd been beaten up in a storm.  "Were there storms last night?"  Nadir asked as he looked through his binoculars towards the vessel now three hundred yards off their port side.

          "Last thing I saw was a bad storm about three or four days ago, might have been from then," Slavko answered, peering over the side of the window to see as best as he could without leaving his station.

          "Yeah, this thing's been adrift for a while, maybe a week or two, it's pretty bad looking," Iosif offered.

          "Well, you heard the captain, let's get on our way.  Bring us to 2-9-5 Slavko and let's get back up to speed, fourteen knots."

          "Aye, coming starboard 2-9-5, increasing speed to fourteen knots," Slavko made the motions while Nadir made the call to the Pojački Coast Guard using the satellite phone.  Sightings such as this were becoming increasingly common as the seemingly unending Garindinan Civil War stretched into a fourth year.

          When the war first broke out in 1983, hundreds of thousands of people were internally displaced but as the war continued, many began to flee the country.  At first, they took overland routes, where were the most accessible and most promising but as the refugee crisis spiraled out of control and political pushback came from the region, refugees found the borders less and less permeable, which sent them into the only logical other direction, the sea, which created a massive market for fishermen and merchant mariners looking to get extra money smuggling people out of the country.  That worked only for a brief time until prices became too much as more and more people looked to flee the country.

          As happens, people took matters into the own hands, commandeering whatever boats they could find to make their escape.  These were typically dilapidated boats that were hardly seaworthy.  It wasn't long before reports of capsized vessels and dozens of refugees killed made the news all around the Mediargic Sea.  In the Pojački capital of Rugi, the government was pressed to respond and so patrols were set up by both the Pojački Coast Guard and the Pojački National Maritime Force.  Their mission was largely passive, responding only to distress calls and nothing more.  They didn't bother stopping vessels or boarding them, leaving the refugees to their own devices instead; however, any rescues meant returning people to Garindina, a controversial move but necessary since the Pojački government had adopted an anti-refugee policy, a little bit of "get back at you" diplomacy for Garindina's support for and to the Chernarussian separatists during the Pojački Emergency.

          Those patrols were deep in the Mediargic, far from where B14678 was floating and where the KLP Europa encountered B14678, which meant they were hours upon hours away from reaching the derelict vessel being carried by the currents to the south at a few knots, bobbing up and down in the waters, entirely by its lonesome self.


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Tuesday, 14 April 1987 | 07:35 hrs [UTC-3]
Poja, Chernarus, Vybor | Vybor Air Base

Only an hour earlier, Vybor Air Base had been quiet and calm.  There had been no scheduled flights on this particular day until an assistant request came down from command, relayed through the Pojački Coast Guard.  An older Pojački National Air Force Base, Vybor was distinct because it wasn't one of the new, mountain air bases that had been constructed throughout the country over the past fifteen years.  This was probably why it was slated for transfer from the Pojački National Air Force to the Chernarussian Territorial Air Force, though that transfer was still five or six years away, maybe more.  The territorial air forces were largely an afterthought to the government.  Established in the wake of the Chernarussian War as a concession to the regions to establish their own, independent military forces that they could control, the territorial air forces had been supplied with hand-me-down equipment that was increasingly more expensive and time consuming to maintain and always a generation or two behind whatever the air force was operating.

          For example, the premier fighters operated by the PNAF were the ZuB-7MF2 Fishbed-L and the ZuB-6M Fitter-H.  They were originally supplied by Vosci as the MiG-21bis and the Su-17M-3 but given local designations under Zubareva-Bogolyubova, who was helping maintain the aircraft.  The territorial air forces thus got the aircraft they replaced, the ZuB-7MF Fishbed-J (MiG-21MF) and the ZuB-6 Fitter-A (Su-7BKL), both of which were a generation behind the PNAF aircraft and largely passed over for upgrades that the air force aircraft received.  One such upgrade was to the Fitters that gave them the ability to mount a laser-designation pod on their inner, wing hardpoints and thus gave them the ability to drop and self-guide laser-guided bombs.  This greatly increased their ability to strike targets.  The territorial air forces were still stuck dropping unguided bombs or firing unguided rockets, nothing more.  It caused a great bit of consternation but the Pojački government had offered another concession.  

          The PNAF was due to upgrade to a new, home-built, multirole fighter aircraft dubbed the ZuB-17 Ter'er.  When that happened, the Fishbed-Ls and Fitter-Hs would be pushed down to the territorial air forces, upgrades and all, and kept upgraded and up-to-date as long as they remained in service.  It was an agreement that everyone signed onto but it brought a caveat, the ZuB-17 wasn't due into service for another few years.  It was a way for the PNAF to hit the mute button on the territorial air forces and it had largely worked.  Handing over Vybor Air Base to the Chernarussians was a matter of economics.  A new, mountain base was under construction further to the south and once it was ready, the PNAF would move its fighter aircraft there, where they were much more protected from air strikes.  Vybor would then be classified as an auxiliary field for the air force, only used during times of war, which meant that it was up to the Chernarussians to do with it what they wanted, so long as they maintained it.

          Vybor Air Base was somewhere middle of the road.  It had three dozen hardened aircraft shelters but it also only had a single runway and whole sections of the base had fallen into disrepair since they weren't being used anymore.  Only one fighter squadron was based there now instead of the three that had been there during the Chernarussian War.  Strikes launched by Fitters and Fishbeds out of Vybor had been a major thorn in the separatists' side and they attacked the air base multiple times though they always failed to do significant damage to it.  Oftentimes, they sustained too many losses to press on with their attacks, resorting instead to lobbing mortars and artillery at it until the Pojački Army put a few artillery guns and a counter battery radar there to fire back, which proved rather successful in stopping the harassing separatist attacks.

          The call for assistance came with a two-fold request.  The coast guard itself was over ten hours away from getting to the vessel, perhaps even more so they wanted someone to get eyes on the ship who could provide details.  The report from the KLP Europa had been decent but not detailed enough for what the coast guard wanted.  In fact, the coast guard wanted them to stay in the area and monitor the ship but that had been flatly refused and the coast guard had little authority to press the matter and so while the KLP Europa sailed away, the derelict ship was left to its own devised.  The second part of the request was a need for aerial photography to prove the state of the ship before the coast guard made contact and to also prove it existed in case it sunk before the coast guard got there.  If any legal issues arose, the aerial photography would protect the Pojački government from any claims made against the coast guard.  It was silly but when it came to the Pojački government and the Garindinan Civil War, the motto "cover your ass," was almost part of government stationary and letterheads.

          For that reason, a pair of ZuB-6M Fitter-Gs had to be prepped for flight.  Because they were going out to sea, not much was really required from a payload standpoint.  Drop tanks were wheeled out and loaded onto the two belly hardpoints, a photoreconnaissance pod was put onto the aircraft's port-side, inner wing hardpoint while a laser designation pod was put onto the opposite wing hardpoint.  Two air-to-air missiles for self defense were loaded and the pilots went about their preflight checks.  Shortly after 07:30, they were wheels up and climbing into the morning sky over Chernarus, heading north towards the Bay of Novigrad, as the Pojački maps referred to it.  They would pass over it and out to the Mediargic Sea where the Fitters would attempt to locate the vessel.  Flight time would be a little under forty-five minutes to B14678's last known position.

          Leading the flight was squadron leader Potpukovnik Rastko "Snake" Živanović and on his wing was one of the greener members of the squadron, Poručnik Merdžan "Nerd" Matić, who had only recently joined them.  Nerd, named such because he was very into comic books, was definitely the youngest man in the squadron and one of the youngest men in the military and for the much older and more experienced Snake, this would be a good opportunity to see what Nerd's capabilities were on a relatively long but unchallenging sortie.  They'd climbed into their aircraft and taken off with little issue, climbing up to cruising altitude with little direction or correction from Snake, which meant that Nerd was off to a good start.  

          Nearly the search area, they dropped down from an altitude of 10,000 meters to just 1,500 meters, which would make seeing the derelict vessel easier visually, though their search area would be smaller.  The Fitters weren't ideal for this job though, they didn't have air-to-ground radars that could pick up ships so instead they would have to spot it visually and then use their targeting pods to get a lock onto it so that they could observe it.  That in and of itself was a challenge.  MFDs with mini-sticks for pod control had been retrofitted into their cockpits on the console and the mini-sticks were awkward to use and required a very light and gentle touch to operate effectively.  Then, once they'd locked onto the target, they had to make sure that they kept within certain flight parameters.  If they rolled, climbed, or descended too steeply, the sensor would lose gimbal lock and they'd lose the target.  They'd trained on how to fly with the laser designation pod before and while it was forgiving enough, it left a lot to be desired.  It was a second-generation targeting pod and if anyone thought that the kinks from the first-generation pods had been worked out, they sorely mistaken, especially when it came to stabilization and resolution.  Finding a structure was a chore with the pod, let alone a moving target or a ship.  Snake and Nerd would have their work cut out for them this morning.

          In the search area, they wound up picking up the ship pretty quickly.  It was drifting southwards at barely three knots and so hadn't moved too far from its last known position.  Calling out the ship, Snake opted to take them in for a low pass over the ship first, buzzing it at just two hundred meters, loud enough that if anyone was alive on it, they would surely come out onto the deck.  If there was one thing the Fitter was not, it was quiet.  The turbojet engines roared behind them and would easily shake the boat as they passed overhead.  Snake sent Nerd up to 3,000 meters and into an orbit so that he could observe the target with his targeting pod while the squadron leader made several passes over the ship at just 500 meters in altitude, taking photographs with the photoreconnaissance pod.  They reported the ship's position and remained on station for another ten minutes, observing the boat from 3,000 meters through their targeting pods, making out little except the ship itself.  

          As they were ready to come off the target though, Nerd glanced over at the MFD and thought he saw someone, "Snake, starboard side, do you see anyone?"

          Snake looked over at the MFD and looked hard, squinting almost at the low-resolution television image, "Two, not seeing anyone.  You see someone?"

          "Roger, I thought I did."

          "All right, we're at 'joker' but I'll go down and take a look.  Stay up here and keep an eye on it."

          "Roger that lead, maintaining orbit."  Nerd was in a very gradual, left-hand turn, running a wide circle around the ship at a distance of about four nautical miles.  He was keeping the aircraft's roll within the "green arc," which was an indicator on a gauge next to the MFD that told them If they were exceeding the pod's gimbal limits.  

          Snake dropped down to an altitude of just fifty meters and slowed down significantly.  He put out the flaps to give himself a little extra lift since he was below 200 knots and wasn't looking to go nose high on the attitude, which would have inhibited his vision.  First, he passed by the starboard side, looking out of his cockpit but saw nothing.  He retracted the flaps, gained some speed, and made another pass down the other side, just as slow, looking at the ship as he did.  "Nerd, I've got nothing here, you see anything further?"

          "No sir, must have just been my imagination."

          "Roger that, let's RTB, I'll meet you up at ten thousand."  Snake retracted the flaps once more and advanced the throttles back up to military power as he climbed out from the sea and up to a cruising altitude of 10,000 meters.  The rest of the flight home would be uneventful and they'd land about forty minutes after departing B14678.  Once they had taxied back into their hangars and shut down their engines, Snake's photoreconnaissance pod was removed and carted away from analysis.  Also taken away was the video tape from their targeting pods.  Neither of the two men thought anything of Nerd's "imaginary person" anymore and so there was no curiosity as to whether or not the young pilot had seen anyone.  They simply went to their debriefing without another care, climbed out of their flight suits, and enjoyed a down day, logging their flight hours accordingly and going back their previously assigned duties and tasks for the day.


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Tuesday, 14 April 1987 | 08:30 hrs [UTC-3]
Mediargic Sea | 53° 55' N, 46° 51' W

Igor Ivanov had been slipping in and out of consciousness when the KLP Europa had blasted its horn from a few hundred yards away form the vessel.  Delirious with thirst and hunger, Igor was also wounded and not the least bit traumatized by the ordeal that he'd experienced the past few days.  Just seventeen years old, he'd fled with a few dozen others onto B14678 to escape being pressed into military service and had kept a low profile onboard as they sailed into the Mediargic Sea.  He gave vague answers to his age, told no one his name, and never looked anyone in the face, fearful that someone would toss him overboard for being a coward or force him to go back.  He had no more family and whatever friends he thought he had he'd abandoned them to flee the country.  All he had to his name were the clothes on his back and a backpack stuffed with more clothes, some money, his identification, and little else.  If destitute had a photo pinned to it, it would be Igor looking terrified, downtrodden, and exhausted.  But that was days ago, an eternity to the young man who'd been through so much, seen things he never expected to see, experiencing things he never expected to experience.

         Sure, that the ship's horn was delirium-induced dreams, he didn't bother to rise from the hold of the ship.  There was no working radio anymore and whether the ship had ever had one was lost on Igor.  He might not even have known how to use it and so there was no response he could make.  Hours later, when the Fitters passed overhead, the entire boat shook and vibrated.  Igor was sure that it was sinking, that a massive gap had opened in the hull and water was soon to be pouring into the ship.  He clawed his way out of the hold or rather his brain told his body to do so, perhaps an innate will to survive taking over his motor reflexes.  In doing so, he came across a half-empty bottle of water and forced it down his throat, not caring to preserve it so thirsty was he that self-control had long since disappeared.  

         He made it onto the deck a few minutes later and looked around at the sea.  The boat bore the scars of its arduous journey and high overhead, he could see the circling Fitter.  He knew then what caused the noise, knew that the boat wasn't sinking, and as the boat bucked in the water, he lost his footing and fell backwards, into the hull and away from the decking moments before Snake passed by the ship.  It was a struggle to get to his feet and when he did, he did so just in time to see Snake's aircraft climbing into the distance.  Nerd was on the other side of the ship and the structure was blocking his pod from seeing Igor, standing outside the structure, looking towards the rising airplane.  I must be hallucinating, Igor thought to himself as he slipped back into the darkness of the hull, stepping over bodies, careful to avoid the slippery pools of blood, ignoring the stench of death that had caused him to vomit more than once already.  Wincing against the pain in his shoulder and his arm, expecting that B14678 was more than just his refugee now.  It was to be his coffin.

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Edited by Poja (see edit history)
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Sunday, July 20, 1986 

Rybolovny Posad, 3 km from Azurgrad (modern day Vladigrad) 



Igor was in his room, reading a book by his favorite author, Dimitri Volokov, he had just turned 17 yesterday, meaning he would have to fight in the war next year…

“… infighting has begun within Yuzhstova between Communists and the Rebel Government. Along with a Syndicalist uprising in Novokamensk, the northern front is gradually becoming unstable…” his mother had turned on the radio.

“Oh, now the Communist are up in arms! The government has completely failed!” She yelled 

“MOM! Don’t be so loud! If anyone hears you they’ll charge you with treason. What will become of me and Yelena? Dad’s dead, who will watch her after they take me?!” Igor asked.

Yelena was Igor’s 5 year old baby sister. She  was a small and sweet little girl, Igor has worried about her since their father died the previous year after being drafted. 

Igor’s mother was silent. Her silence spoke for her.




An explosion rocked their little home, dust fell from the ceiling. Yelena was crying.




They were being bombed!




Another explosion rocked the little house. The two scrambled for supplies to run. 

“I GOT YELENA! IGOR, RUN FOR THE HILL, I’LL MEET YOU THERE!” His mother yelled as she ran to Yelena’s room.

As Igor ran out the house, he could see others running for safety as well. Why were they bombing his village? There were no federal military bases or any other government buildings for kilometers. As Igor ran farther, another explosion knocked him off is feet.


He looked behind him to see where his house had been was a pile of rubble. Igor stumbled, his heart racing as he tried to comprehend the chaos around him. Dust filled the air, and the distant sounds of explosions echoed through the once-peaceful village.

As Igor reached to top of the hill, reality hit him. He looked back to se his village full of craters and on-fire, the bombardment had stopped. His mother and his sister were dead, all that was left of his family was gone. Igor fell to his knees, his eyes tearing up as he slowly began to realize what would become of him.

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• • • † • • •

Tuesday, 14 April 1987 | 18:40 hrs [UTC-3]
Mediargic Sea | 53° 17' N, 46° 55' W

Igor had long since returned to the hold of B14678 and since his morning encounter, he'd been slipping in and out of consciousness.  Delerium from dehydration and hunger had completely taken over his brain.  He'd kept his place in the hull of the ship, as if that was the place he'd been assigned to and couldn't deviate regardless of the fact that he was the only one left alive.  At times, he would sit upright and chatter incessantly to the decomposing, bloated bodies around him, as if they were alive, holding a conversation with him in return.  His speech was unintelligible most of the time and just who he was talking to would have been a mystery to everyone observing him.  Perhaps, he was talking to ghosts?  At other times, he was slumped over in a catatonic stupor, unconscious and barely breathing.  On the rare occasion he was lucid, which had perhaps been only once or twice for very brief amounts of time since the morning encounter, he spoke to Death, resigning himself to the fate that awaited him.  He yearned to see his family again, to hold his little sister who'd been erased from the wurld nine months earlier.

          The weather forecast had been hit or miss throughout the day.  It had been calm in the morning but rocky in the afternoon as a passing storm rocked the boat around, not as violently as the one that had rocked the ship on the second night of their journey, a storm so ferocious that those onboard never expected to wake up the following morning.  This had been the storm that Nadir and Slavko had spoken about when they passed the ship so many hours earlier.  That night felt like a lifetime ago for Igor, if he remembered it at all anymore.  The rocking the boat had experienced during the afternoon was light and only brief.  As the sun started going down, the seas calmed again.  The clouds cleared out and for a brief time it was sunny but now the sun was barely above the horizon, soon to be setting in just twenty minutes though, thanks to their high latitude, twilight would continue for over two hours thereafter.  

          With the boat itself gently rocking in the seas, adrift and working its way south with the currents, Igor was awoken from his catatonic slumber by a bright and brilliant white light shining through his eyelids.  It was enough stimuli that his brain roused him to consciousness.  Is this it?  He thought to himself as he stared into the blinding light, his eyes straining to stay open until a dark figure appeared in the midst of it, blocking a good amount of the light.  "Are you him?"  Igor asked but he didn't understand what the figure was saying.  He blinked his eyes a few times and saw stars, then focused his eyes again.  "Yelena," he called out to his dead sister, "I'm coming Yelena."  The figure in the bright light remained in front of him and Igor didn't feel scared.  In fact, he felt relief.  "Yelena, I'm coming to join you," he said again.  He felt a touch against his skin, a cold and inhuman touch.  "Are you Death?  Do you come to take me to Yelena?  I am ready."  He said, his words slurred and almost indecipherable.  The figure said something else but he didn't understand and he felt himself slipping, his energy depleted, his brain sending him back into unconsciousness so that he could make the journey to Yelena, to his mother, to his father, to so many he'd left behind, all of whom waited.

• • • • ‡ • • • •

The first day of the voyage had been largely uneventful.  Igor didn't know anything about ships, had never been on one in his life, and so he didn't know if they were supposed to be fast or slow.  To him it seemed that the ship was barely moving whenever he looked outside, which admittedly wasn't very often.  On the second morning, he woke up to see them deep at sea but also to see little else.  A thick fog had blanketed the Mediargic in the morning and cut visibility down to virtually nothing.  If the ship's crew had done anything differently, Igor didn't notice.  He didn't speak to them, or anyone else for that matter.  Food scraps and water were passed around but everyone was told to conserve the water and food so he only ate and drank a little, not nearly enough to quench his thirst or satiate his hunger.

• • • • ‡ • • • •

The sun was getting low on the horizon, making it harder and harder to see B14678 which sat adrift only a few hundred yards ahead of the cutter.  From the bow, where Mlađi Vodnik Mikhail Šupa was standing with a grappling hook, the ship was nothing more than a faint, gray outline off of their starboard side, at least until someone turned on the powerful spotlight and aimed it directly at the stern of the ship, illuminating the white hull and superstructure.  The Pojački Coast Guard cutter had been on the move for the past eleven hours now, making its way to the reported positions of B14678.  It had to slow down briefly during the passing shower but was then back up to full speed, screaming through the waters while those onboard went about their regular duties.  Finally reaching the ship, everyone felt a sense of excitement come over them, many having never seen or dealt with a derelict, drifting ship before.  It was certainly Mikhail's first.

          On the bridge, the helmsman had cut the speed of the cutter in half so that they would approach much slower and not overshoot the vessel.  He'd cut it down further to reduce the wake otherwise trying to grapple the ship would become a truly arduous task.  Mikhail had never grappled an actual drifting ship before and this would be his first though he'd practiced it more than a number of times in training.  Standing next to him was the ship's bosun, an aged and generally pleasant man who seemed to have only one volume to his voice, which was loud, perhaps because he had hearing loss or perhaps because he was just a loud individual.  He'd been giving distance and closure updates over the radio to the bridge ever since they'd first spotted the vessel, estimating both until they got close enough that the spotlight helped make it much easier.

          "What a mess," he commented in between calls as they closed to within just a hundred yards of the mangled vessel.  They could see the sustained damage that the ship had taken its journey across the Mediargic.  Parts of the superstructure were mangled and crushed, as if a 500-ton wall of water crashed onto it at once.  Lifebuoys fluttered apart, still hanging on by their ropes but clearly dislodged from their wall holders.  "Looks like shit, doesn't it?"  He said to Mikhail, "You're going to try to grab there on the side, just above that open door, you got it?"

          "Got it," Mikhail answered, wincing against the booming voice in his ear.  The cutter slowed further and Mikhail steadied his footing a little further as the cutter eased over so that the horizontal distance between them was much closer, only about twenty yards.  The helmsman was bringing the cutter in diagonally, more forward than over but it was still a diagonal progress.  That was the job that Mikhail wanted and once this tour was over, he would be applying for helmsman school, hoping to get one of the few coveted slots.  The man piloting this cutter was, in Mikhail's otherwise short career with the Pojački Obalna Straža or POS for short, the best he'd ever seen.  

          "Get ready," the bosun yelled into his ear now as the horizontal distance was halved and the bow was crossing the stern.  "Remember where I said."

          "Aye aye," Mikhail held the hook by his side and prepared to heave it towards the railing that the bosun had pointed out to him.  By now, the spotlight was reflecting off of almost the entire side of the vessel, the lens having gone wide to give the widest possible beam of light.  

          "Now Šupa," the bosun shouted and Mikhail threw the grappling hook over as the speed of the two vessels was equalized.  The hook sailed across the short gap and went right in between the railings like he'd intended.  Pulling the line taut, the hook skidded across the deck until it caught the railing's anchor post just above the doorway.  "Good throw Šupa, good throw, now let's tighten up that line," the bosun watched as two men tightened up the line and then he went onto the next and the next until three lines were tied from B14678 to the cutter.  The lines would continue to tighten now as the helmsman brought the two vessels together, the bumpers on the side of the cutter preventing any damage between the two hulls.  The spotlight's power was reduced and numerous other lights turned on to illuminate the hull as the boarding party of four men carefully crossed from one vessel to the other, having to do some climbing down onto B14678 but not a large amount.

          "Boarding party secure, commencing search," a voice echoed on the radio and Mikhail and his bosun remained at their post, surveying the damage.  The boarding party's flashlights went on and one-by-one, they disappeared into the hull.  It took maybe a half second before the point man reported the foul odors of death.  "We're going to find bodies in here, the smell is pretty bad.  Masks on."  The boarding party halted where they were and put on their gas masks, which would help against the smell.  "We've got large quantities of dried blood."  Mikhail and his bosun shared a look and wondered between themselves what more would they find.

          "Yep we've got a body," the boarding party halted, "been a few days, it's pretty badly bloated."  The boarding party continued and moved deeper into the vessel, "More dried blood.  Moving down into the hull."  It was quiet for a few moments as the two vessels bobbed together.  In the bridge, the captain was reporting the findings over satellite phone.  They would be towing B14678 back to port without a doubt now as suddenly this was a law enforcement investigation.  "Oh man," the boarding party had reached the hold where most of the bodies were, "there are a lot of bodies here.  All dead several days.  God it's bad down here.  Sweep around."

          "Hey!"  Someone said, "Hey!  I think.  We've got a live one, need medical personnel right away, he's in bad shape."  The ship's doctor was over the side of the railing within seconds, his own mask on, a medical kit bag in his hand.  "Hey, hey can you understand me?  He's talking about I don't know what he's saying.  Anyone translate?"

          "Šupa here.  Let me here."  Mikhail was Chernarussian and the Chernarussian language was very similar to Garindinan, similar enough that he could make out enough words and provide some manner of synopsis.  "He's talking to someone.  He's joining someone.  Sounds like he's seeing some vision and talking to them."  Mikhail listened more.  "He thinks you're Death.  He must be hallucinating."  

          "Aye aye, thanks Šupa.  We'll take it from here, he's, yeah, he's out now.  Still got a pulse but it's weak, really weak, Doc where are you?"

          "Coming down the stairs now," the doc said over the radio and moments later he was in the hold and stepping over the bodies and through the puddles of decomposition.  "What a f*cking mess," he commented.  "These people have definitely been dead for a while."  He was looking around at the mess, trying to see through the flashlights of the boarding party.  "We're not touching them," he said as he examined Igor.  "All right he's in really bad shape.  We've got to get an airlift going right away."

          "On it now Doc, will be about two hours," came the captain's voice.

          "Best we can do, I've got to get him onboard, he's probably severely dehydrated.  I see some wounds, old, probably infected.  Definitely need him onboard okay, I need the backboard now."

          "On the way," someone came over the radio and from their position, Mikhail and the bosun watched as two more men went over, masks already on, and disappeared into the hull.  A few minutes later, they emerged with the rest of the boarding party and Mikhail and the bosun assisted in getting Igor over the side of the boat and onto the deck for the rest to take him below to the ship's medical bay.  Neither watched as the entire boarding party, as soon as their masks were off, began vomiting over the side, both from the atrocious stench and from what they'd seen.  

          "All right, all right," the bosun yelled from the boat, "get it out of you, we've got to get the tow line set up, find a spot on the bow for it."  

          While the tow line was set up, the ship's doctor had already put the scene inside of the hull out of him.  He now had a patient before him who stunk to high heaven but who was in really poor shape.  His clothes were immediately cut off and thrown into a plastic bag and sealed, trapping the stench inside.  He hooked up Igor to the monitors and didn't like what he saw.  Igor was in bad shape, his pulse weak, his breathing shallow.  He quickly started an IV to get fluids into him, knowing that he would need several IVs, drawing a blood sample as well.  The ship had an old but reliable testing machine that could analyze the blood and tell them what they were seeing but it would take some time.  Seeing the wounds and their condition in better light, he knew that Igor was suffering an infection of sorts.  "All right man, all right, stay with us," he said as he worked on him, analyzing what he saw on the monitors and waiting for the blood results.  He expected the infection to be serious and, as a result, had a broad-spectrum antibiotic known as doxycycline ready to give to him.  An antibiotic from the 1960s, it was widely popular and effective enough.  A newer, very promising antibiotic was being introduced around the wurld called ciprofloxacin that was even more effective but it hadn't yet been made available to the POS and so the doctor worked with what he had, knowing the effects of doxycycline fairly well.

          When the results came back, he quickly gave him the antibiotic and saw that he had a whopping infection throughout his body that, combined with severe dehydration, starvation, and seriously low electrolyte balance all meant that poor Igor, who was nameless to the doctor and the crew of the cutter, was in a very rough spot; after all, he had slipped into a coma during his rescue.  The best the doctor could do was get fluids and an antibiotic into him.  He could clean the wounds as best as he could and conduct a thorough examination of him as best as he could but truth be told, Igor needed a hospital, which was precisely why a medevac was being flown out to them.  They'd load him into a basket and he'd be taken to a hospital in Chernarus while B14678 was towed back to port with all of its horrors ready for display.

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Edited by Poja (see edit history)
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