When is a boat not a boat ? When it’s a Q boat. These were originally covert merchant vessels designed to lure submarines to the surface in WW1. Why waste a perfectly good torpedo on something so small, when you can blast it to pieces with a deck gun. This was a surprisingly good tactic, although towards the end of the war the Germans wised up some what. The Soviets revised the practice in the 1960’s using converted fishing trawlers to shadow the Nato fleet whenever it left port. One or two even had concealed torpedoes, although this was never really a threat, it was more annoying having to pretend that we didn’t know what they were up to. You could say, the whole covert thing was bust from their perspective, but from ours it was brilliant; why bother looking for the enemy when you can just have them follow you around all day.
Today they are still used, mainly as floating radar and relay stations. Modern electronic systems easily surpass the 12 mile territorial limits observed by nations, making the ships a sort of nautical early warning system. All you have to do is park it off the coast and watch and listen.
Today, I am in Portsmouth overseeing the auditing and clearing of a boat M.I.6 has been ‘borrowing’. Having met my allocated team, I’m not sure this isn’t part of some de-motivational program instigated by the other side.
Special Op’s have laid on a cover story for the benefit of the port authorities. We arrive under the guise of a decontamination team following a suspected out break of Hanta virus. Suspected out breaks always make a good cover story. The press love them, gets them nicely looking in the wrong direction. Then there’s all the public relief of the “Thank god it was nothing, good job we ever so slightly over reacted, I mean, these boats travel all over the place, god alone knows what they pick up.” With the added bonus of no one questioning how much you’re spending. It would take a brave politician to criticise those trying to save the public.
A safety cordon with barriers, dutifully festooned with warning tape, will keep Joe public at bay. Portable showers are set up on the dock, as the brave inspectors board this modern day plague ship. They waddle across the deck safely kitted out in Hazmat suits and in camera range of the local press; if you’re going to sell a lie, sell it!
Once below decks the first order of business is to allocate tasks. The whole boat has to be cleaned with respect to D.N.A. We strongly suspect that counter agencies are building a data base of our agents D.N.A. This is problematic, particularly as the testing of trace is getting easier and quicker. Unless precautions are taken, it will be theoretically impossible to insert an agent anywhere, particularly if any new face is checked against such a list. So until we can think of anything better, we are for all intent and purpose bleaching down an entire boat. Nothing destroys trace evidence better than household bleach, you can have that one, you’re welcome.
I split the cleaners into teams and send them off to start spraying, Norman is still wearing his hazmat suit.
“Norman you can take that off now, you only have to wear it above decks.”
“But last time there were magazines.”
“Pornographic magazines..…under bunks.”
“Well.…point taken, you can wear the suit,….everyone else be careful.”
Gary puts up his hand.
“We’re not in school Gary what is it ?”
“I feel sea sick.”
“We’re in dry dock…..as in dry.….because there’s no water…..Why don’t you wear your suit as well.’
“Will it help?”
“You, no……me yes.”
George enters the cabin with a grin.
“Found some plastic in the engine room.”
He proudly hold up four brick sized grey blocks.
“Are those marked ‘Scuttling charges. Danger Do not remove?”
“Oh yeah……would you like me to put them back. ?
“I’d like you not to blow us all up if that’s okay.”
Our next priority is to ensure the we leave the environment script free, this is exactly the same principle we use when vacating a hotel room or safe house, or rental cars come to mention it. The amount of personal and none personal information we leave in an environment is staggering. We’re not talking cyber trails here, this is real word stuff, stuff that we interact with everyday. They’re like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that we leave lying around, and all it takes is one determined bastard and your life, if not your whole day can be ruined.
Don’t believe me, empty your wallet and take a look at the contents. ATM receipts, store receipts, these all have location, date and time stamps. Okay, so you got rid of those, what about paper money? Well, if you think that serial numbers aren’t tracked through the system, you need to think again.
If by some unbelievable miracle, you’ve managed to get through an international airport using no traceable method of payment, whatever you do, don’t be tempted to pick up the free newspaper, even if it’s offered. I mean you can, but not if we’re closing in. We can track back any newspaper or magazine to a particular airport or airplane, from there it’s a relatively simple matter of cross referencing this with tickets, boarding passes and passenger manifestos, easy peasy thanks to computers, and that net, just got tighter.
The same can be said of virtually anything thats sold or produced, it can be all tracked back to build a picture of the individual who used, or purchased that item. With this in mind, we sweep the boat from top to bottom and remove everything that’s not bolted down. The only things that will be left are the hard fittings and the plastic covered mattresses in the bunks, which, just for laughs we smuggled out of North Korea.
Mark reappears with a plumbers wrench. Now I am really worried.
“And you’ve been where ?”
“The toilet, to remove the pump.”
“Why…would you…why ?”
“So you’ve removed the pump, the works in conjunction with the sea-valve, the thing that stops sea water coming back into the boat? The thing that stops it sinking. I mean, you could have bleached it, that would have worked.”
“So……I should put it back?”
The other-side should know us, and be afraid…..for so many reasons.