Chapter 51 & 52
Rickie turned the two-way radio volume back up and keyed the mike.
“Anyone out there, this is Rick Ahmad. Any level one supervisors, please respond.”
The jumble of voices quieted down except for two individuals. Swiftly, Rickie established the location and circumstances of most of the platform employees.
The most likely place to seriously damage the apparatus and set back, for a long time if not forever, the production capabilities of this location. The Deepwater Horizon crude oil platform, in North America’s Gulf of Mexico, was forever sealed as the result of an accident. The South China Sea held a vast and unique biodiversity, with over 3400 varieties of fish alone, and the ecological threat was just as real as the economic one.
Rickie had a hunch that any explosive device would probably be somewhere near the marine riser. Attached to the blowout preventer, it housed the main drill bit and drillstring. A strong enough explosive could not only damage the drill and the tower itself, it had the potential to damage the blowout preventer and contaminate the freshwater aquifer currently protected by multiple layers of steel casing and cement.
Via the radio, Rickie sent a small group of experienced crew members and their gang boss to the lower levels of the tower to inspect the drill for explosives or anything unusual. For everyone else, he arranged to meet up at an area a short distance away from the Control Room. There were several people unaccounted for, however, and no one had seen John since supper, when Ani came into the mess hall and forced them all to stay there.
The cool night air playfully ruffled Rickie’s hair, but there was nothing amusing about the situation. At least two armed extremists were on his rig, and help was still some time out.
After locking the Control Room door with a set of keys he conveniently found on a nail on the wall, he silently made his way to the rendezvous point, hoping the rescue teams arrived soon.
In the designated room, the group of men huddled together, as if drawing comfort from each other. Rickie entered the room and received several back slaps as the crew acknowledged his presence. His radio made a squawk.
“Drill team to En Ahmad, over.”
Rickie immediately answered. “Did you find anything?” He held his breath.
“Yes, En Ahmad, there some type of box right at the marine tensioner coupling.”
Rickie cursed; this was bad news.
The marine tensioner provides a near constant force to maintain the stability of the riser with the drill platform. Within the riser itself, power and control lines to the subsea blowout preventer, as well as high pressure choke and kills lines for the drill itself are located. Damage to the riser could also cause a devastating cascade effect on both the platform above the waterline, and at the seafloor.
Rickie thought for a moment, and keyed the mike. “Don’t touch anything; I’m heading towards you now.” He nodded to the other in the room, hooked the radio on his belt, and peeked out the window before opening the door and stepping outside the room.
A detached, yet amused voice came over the radio as he shut the door behind him.
“Mr. Ahmad, I hope you enjoy our little present; be warned, there is nothing you can do to disarm it.”
Rickie pulled the radio off his waist and keyed it.
“Ani,” he began in a reasonable tone, “You know this isn’t going to work. I don’t want anyone hurt here. Would you like to meet? I’m willing to see you and discuss your conditions to stop this situation.” There was nothing but slight crackle from the radio speaker, and then…
“I’ve got the kill switch for our little surprise. Disabling it is, of course, not possible. I’ll think about and let you know.” There was no further answer or response, even after Rickie tried to talk to her further.
The ringing of his satellite phone interrupted his communication attempt.
“En Ahmad; this is STAR Team Bravo. We have spotted your tower and are waiting just south of your location. Do you have any additional intel?” Rickie advised them of the explosive attached to the platform, the location of the majority of the crew members, and the unknown position of the two extremists. Rickie took heart that help had finally arrived.
As it approached, the helicopter shone its powerful spot light on the darkened structure. Suddenly, a series of bright streaks from the helipad reached out into the dark sky. The helicopter suddenly turned off its spotlight and veered off. It was impossible to see if it was hit, but Rickie was sure that one of the terrorists was firing from the platform.
Quickly, he determined the fastest way to reach the platform, but before he headed there, the radio came to life again.
“John will keep them away until we are ready to show what we are capable of doing.” Ani spoke coldly, “And I will enjoy watching the light show.”
Rickie thought that, based on that statement, John, above on the helicopter platform, had every intention of dying on his rig. However, the most important person was Ani and the trigger for the bomb. If she was going to escape and set off the device remotely, her only option was the boat underneath the structure.
For now, radio silence was important. Dialing his satellite phone, he contacted Team Alpha, and swiftly brought them up to date with his thoughts as well as the situation on the tower. They were only several minutes out, and were coordinating their landing with the helicopter. He decided to go down to the landing dock to both look for Ani and to assist the team if possible.
Checking the reassuring weight of the firearm, he hastened down to where the boats were quietly bobbing against their tethers, and crouched down behind a suspended air conditioning unit, affording him both a hiding place and a clear view of the dock.