João Santos set aside his radio headset and said, “Liam, I'm not getting any signal from Lisbon control.”
“There something wrong with our radios?” Liam asked stepping away from the charts.
“No, I'm getting static, but no response.”
“You sure we're in range? On the right channel?”
“I have tried all of their channels, even the emergency channel, Liam, and I am getting nothing,” João Santos said.
Liam took the headset from him and listened to the static. He sighed, “Wonder what the issue is. Keep up our approach, but slow us down.”
“Captain!” One of the crew exclaimed. “We've got three ships coming at us fast! Two from the north, one from the south.”
“Can you identify them?”
“Santos, put us back on the common frequency and try to get their attention,” Liam said. He picked up a pair of binoculars and scanned the afternoon sky around him. He made out a pair of dots to the north-north-east. “I can't make out their silhouette.”
“I've got something,” João Santos said.
“Put it on the speakers.”
“Aye, aye, Liam.”
A staticy British voice said,“-eelewood Industries ship Forrest Sherman to S.S. Holdsworth, respond immediately. Over.”
“Steelewood. Shit,” Liam spat. “Santos, take the wheel and turn us around. I want full throttle on the engines. Open up and get us out of here. And someone get Isadora up here!”
“Aye,” Santos said running to the helm. He disabled the auto-pilot and jerked the wheel hard starboard. The ship responded to his movements with the grace of a drunken whale.
Liam took the microphone off the radio set and said, “This is the S.S. Holdsworth, what can I do for you, Forrest Sherman?”
“Slow your engines to one-quarter power and proceed to port in Lisbon.”
“On what authority?”
Liam scoffed, “I don't answer to your Steelewood authority.”
“Yeah? How about superior firepower?”
“This is a civilian vessel, you won't-” Liam ate his words when the water before him exploded in a great white blast, shaking the Holdsworth. The shot missed them by only about a hundred yards. “You son of a-”
“Captain Mitchell, I have orders to take you, the rest of the Mitchell family, and Miss Fleming into port alive. I could care less about the rest of your crew and your ship. If I have to sink your ship and drag your arse out of the water, I will.”
Isadora came through the door and asked, “What's going on?”
“Three Steelewood ships,” Liam said. “They just fired a warning shot and they're demanding we take port in Lisbon.”
“Bloody hell,” Isadora sighed. “There shouldn't be any Steelewood presence in Lisbon unless- Goodwin, you bloody bastard.”
“What should I do?” Liam asked.
“Are you talking to Steelewood now?”
“Let me talk to them.” She took the microphone. “This is Isadora Fleming. Stand down.”
“I have orders to take you in, I can't do that. We have you surrounded and outgunned. There's no use running.”
She asked Liam, “What's the name of the ship I'm talking to?”
“Forrest Sherman,” Liam replied.
“That's Captain Talbot's ship,” Isadora said. She pressed the receiver, “Captain Talbot, what is Steelewood doing in Lisbon?”
“Ma'am, I need to take you in.”
“If we agree to your terms, will you answer my questions?”
There was a pause.
“Reverse course immediately. I'll answer what I can. No promises.”
“Do it, Liam.”
“Are you sure we're out of options?”
“The Sherman is an old American Navy missile destroyer we converted. Their armament consists of missiles
that could strike a cat on the other side of the world. We're positively no match.”
Liam briefly thought it over, hoping to find something no one had yet thought of, but there was nothing. So he said, “Santos, turn us around and take us into port at one-quarter speed.”
“Aye,” Santos replied with an air of sadness.
“You said you would try and answer my questions,” Isadora said into the microphone.
“Are there Steelewood ground forces in Lisbon?”
“What sort of numbers?”
“I can't say; enough to occupy the city though.”
“Who is commanding the ground force?”
Liam noticed that Isadora seemed relieved at that revelation. She asked, “Why is Steelewood in Lisbon?”
“Can't say. I just follow orders.”
“Like a good soldier.”
“No, ma'am. I'm a sailor.”
“Like a good sailor, then. That's all I need to know for now. Thank you.”
“I apologize that I couldn't be much help. Thank you for cooperating. I'm quite glad I didn't have to shoot you.”
“As am I, Captain Talbot.” She let go the button. “As am I.”
“Who's General Bertrand?” Liam asked.
“Commander of the English branch of Steelewood. He's a friend.”
“You think we'll be alright?”
“I may be able to appeal to his better nature, but there's no telling what will happen. I can only guess at Goodwin's endgame play here, but it's got something to do with the Fujikawa Network. He wants full control.”
Liam clenched his fist, but resigned with a sigh. “Years of work just taken away like that. Should have known this would happen.”
“Don't count yourself out just yet. He can't have access without your password, remember?”
“Right,” Liam said. “But I'd rather just give it to him than- than let anyone else die.”
“I don't think anyone else will. Sergei stayed behind to go after Goodwin, remember? We can't count him out. Sergei has never failed me.”
“So, what's going on in Lisbon?”
“I haven't the slightest idea. And that terrifies me.”