Ladies and gents, from the Flight Deck, Cap’n Aux will be joining you in the back of the cabin today, for our Excellent Philippines Jumpseat Adventure!
(Some of you have been clamoring for this post since February, so here it finally is!)
But first . . .
Yesterday I got to meet one of my new Aviaiton Heroes. Here’s a short vid of our epic meeting!
And another first this year . . .
For the first time in years, I caught a glimpse of the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) as it stretched all the way down to us just before descent into KOMA!
|Caught our shadow following us! This is called a “sun dog.”
Although, technically, it’s actually an “Airbus dog,” LOL!
“Cap’n Aux, you have traffic 10 o’clock, Westbound, 1,000 feet below you.
An Air Force C-17 Globemaster III, closing fast . . .”
“Copy that, traffic in sight . . . and God Bless America!” 😉
OK, Enough Monkeyin’ around. It’s time for . . .
Cap’n Aux’s Excellent Philippines Adventure!
Costarring Your First Officer today:
My gf, tour guide, and Filipina Tagalog interpretor, Bunny!
. . . And we’re off! And waiting . . .
The easy part: jumpseating to SFO. . . and then waiting 4 hours for the connection!
Philippine Airlines (PAL) 105
The question is: as “Non-Rev Standbys” on the B-747, will we get on?!
GOT IT!! Let’s TRACK this bad boy!
Hey…is that non-rev sneaking an extra RnC?
“It’s ok, Ma’am. My gf is a former PAL Flight Attendant!”
What, only ONE episode of Big Bang Theory? I want my money back!
It’s nicer to chat with your lovely seat mate, anyway! Sneaking into First Class..trying to blend in…
The Cap’n invites us up to visit the B-747 Flight Deck.
|Folks, I am absolutely blown away!
Connie E. Montoro, the Executive Secretery for Philippines Department of Tourism’s Undersecretery Maria Victoria V. Jasmin, got wind of our arrival . . . . and
surprised us with a VIP’s Welcome!
|My first authentic taste of the Philippines, Bistek Filipino!
OMG I’m-a gonna gain 20 lbs. in the next 2 weeks!
And YESssss! Fresh mango juice!!!
|Shopping in Manila to replace the infamous Thai Watch…But these suckers are way too HUGE!!
“Jumpseating” on the “Jeepney” into IMC . . .
. . . and up to Imelda Marcos’ Palace in the Sky!
(Sadly, we didn’t find a single pair of Imelda’s shoes!)
“U wanna ride, bud? 20 pesos!” “OMG, Cap’n Aux is driving! Bail Ouuutt!!”
When clear, the palace overlooks Taal Volcano Lake.
That is: A lake . . . in a volcano . . . in a lake!
Meanwhile, back in Manila . . . .
Sampling “Civet” Coffee downtown.
The world’s most expensive luxury coffee . . . processed from . . . wait for it . . .
cat dung! (CAT DUNG?) Yep, Google it!
Sailing off to Corregidor Island, famous WWII outpost
Exploring miles of WWII tunnels…
Check out dem big GUNS!
I SHALL RETURN!
Cap’n Aux ‘n Bunny are invited aboard the Luxury SUPERyacht, Ark Angel.
Did I say, “Superyacht?” This sucker has, not one, but TWO helipads!
Aussie Cap’n Isaac and I really hit it off.
Here he explains to me some of the fancy, state-of-the-art Bridge gizmos.
My ‘Bus ain’t got nuthin’ on this beauty!
Cap’n at the helm! (Bare feet . . . I could get used to this gig!)
Once a Japanese Naval training vessel called the Taisha Maru, this superyacht is so impressive that I’m writing it into my new novel, Cartel Kidnapping, the sequel to my Young Adult spy novel, Code Name: Dodger (see excerpt, below!)
Winging off to Boracay Island . . .
. . . in my old Captainship, a De Havilland DHC “Dash 8!”
Planes, water taxis . . .
. . . & Trikes!
Life’s an adventure—& so are the Trikes!
Ate at the world famous “Hobbit House!”
New friends…delectable, fresh seafood every day….& staying in a Pinoy movie star’s condo….
Bunny’s PAL pals throw us a bash . . . w/the PAL pilots’ rock band, Flight Skool!
One last dinner invite—this time, with the stars of the movie, Bagets.
The Filipino equivalent of The Breakfast Club, these movie stars are household names in the Philippines!
Ol’ Cap’n Aux was surprised at all the gawks and ogling we received on the streets of Manila . . .
till he realized it was for THEM, not him! 😉
And as always, all good things got to come to an end . . . .
Folks, I can honestly say: In all my world travels, the Filipino people are one of the warmest, kindest, hardest working, honest and most welcoming and giving people I’ve ever met.
A sincere, heartfelt THANK YOU to my new Pinoy friends . . . .
I REALLY SHALL RETURN!
. . . Meanwhile, back in the States, let’s wrap it up with . . .
Sunrise, Sunset—the Sequel!
— — — — — — — — — —
the sequel to
Code Name: Dodger
In the new novel, teen orphan Justin Reed stows away aboard the villains’ superyacht Dark Angel, hoping to rescue his adopted father—CIA Agent Bob Cheney—who is kidnapped by drug smugglers!
Now available in Print or eBook!
Chapter 6: Intercept
King Cole, aka CIA Director Allen Cole, sat across from me, facing backwards. He had arrived in his private helicopter only minutes after the smugglers had tried to kidnap Bob, aka Agent Fagin, and me. Unfortunately for Bob, King Cole was too late.
Over the voice-activated speaker in my headset, Cole’s voice crackled.
“Ever flown in a helicopter before, Justin?” he asked.
“Does falling out of one count?” I replied.
“Hmph,” he said, shaking his head and chuckling. “Only you, Dodger. You’ll have to tell me the tale some time.”
“So, where are we going?” I asked.
Cole answered, “We’re to rendezvous with a Coast Guard cutter.”
I froze. “In . . . in the ocean?”
Cole flashed a surprised glance at me. “That’s usually where they keep Coast Guard cutters.”
I looked out the window. My knees weakened at the thought of riding on a ship in the middle of the deep ocean. “Wh-why?” I managed to peep.
“Air traffic control tracked a primary radar target—your smugglers’ helicopter—until it disappeared several miles off the coast. It had to have met a ship somewhere. So we dispatched the C.G. cutter to intercept on that vector. We’re tasking satellite coverage right now, but we’ve only got a few breaks in the overcast.”
“What about infrared?” I asked.
“Satellite ir will help, but not enough to ID the signatures. So for now, that’s our best guess. If they do find a ship, they’ll search it under the guise of a routine Customs inspection. We don’t want them to know we’re onto them. But they’ll really be looking for Bob.”
A few minutes later, the executive chopper zoomed past the coastline and out over open water. My grip on the armrest tightened. Staring at the deep ocean, I couldn’t help but imagine a giant kraken blasting out of the water, grabbing our fragile ship and dragging it down to the black depths of its watery dungeon. I sat back and closed my eyes, trying to think dry thoughts.
Taking a deep breath, I turned to CIA Director Cole, who was staring at me intensely. As always, I felt like he was reading my thoughts.
“So why do you need me?” I asked.
“To identify the kidnappers. If you can, then we’ll have Just Cause to impound the ship.”
“What if I don’t see them?”
Cole held up his hands, palms up. “We’ll have to trust our boys to do a thorough search.”
“Admiral Cole,” the pilot’s staticky voice rang in my ears.
I gave Cole a surprised look. So, in addition to being the CIA Director, he was a retired Navy Admiral as well.
“What is it, ensign?” Cole asked.
“We’ve intercepted a vessel named Dark Angel, a luxury megayacht flying Mexican colors, steaming south along the coast at full speed. Pulling ‘em over now.” He finished by telling Cole the registration number.
“Very good,” Cole replied, typing something into his spyPad. “Keep us apprised.”
Cole held his spyPad up to me. I peered back at a picture of an enormous gleeming luxury yacht, complete with no less than two helipads. “The Dark Angel,” Cole replied. “Computer, tell us about the ship.”
In my headset, a new voice spoke—the same one I had named “Madge” on the old spyPhone that I’d stolen from Bob.
“Certainly, Admiral,” Madge began. “Built by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in 1970 as a Japanese maritime training vessel, in 2000 the Taisha Maru was converted in the Philippines into a luxury megayacht. Sold, overhauled and upgraded several more times, she has sailed under multiple names: the Taisha Maru the Tiara II, the Galapagos, the Ark Angel, and finally, the Dark Angel. She is now owned by a private Mexican corporatation.”
“Madge, who owns it now?” I asked.
Upon hearing her name, Cole flashed me a funny look; I gave an embarrassed shrug.
“Registration is a bit nebulous, Agent Dodger,” Madge replied.
I was shocked that she recognized my voice, let alone called me Agent Dodger. I’d always just been a stupid New York street kid, not some CIA-trained superspy.
She continued. “Dark Angel is registered under a Belize flag.”
“Belize?” I said, surprised.
Cole nodded in understanding. “Belize registration gets a maritime vessel through a lot of red tape in some countries. It’s like an unspoken rule in the business, stating, ‘We’re rich and powerful enough to bypass your inspections. Don’t mess with us.”
Madge added, “In point of fact, Dark Angel is owned by a Mexican Corporation named Infinitum Industries.”
“Ocho infinite,” I said.
“What’s that?” Cole asked.
I opened my mouth to answer, but Madge beat me to it.
“Literal Spanish translation of the phrase ‘ocho infinite’ is ‘eight infinity’.”
“Our Mexican kidnappers kept babbling that phrase,” I explained, “but I never figured out what it meant.”
Cole furled his brows. “Hmm. Ocho is the name of the drug lord family that tried to kidnap you.”
“It sounds like a slogan or something,” I said. “Like, ‘Long live the Ocho family’.”
Cole nodded his head. “Exactly. In that case, it’s a good bet Infinitum Industries is a shell corporation for the Ocho organization. A money laundering front for their real trade in drugs, weapons and human trafficking. That’s a helluva break, Dodger. We’ll just have to peel away the onion and see what rotten core lies beneath. And where it resides. Computer—or, Madge,” Cole said with a faint smirk, “what’s the specs on the Dark Angel?”
The photo, which had been slowly spinning around in 3D mode to show the megayacht from all angles, became a schematic.
“Due to the multiple conversions,” Madge replied, “some information in CIA database may be inaccurate. Our best guess suggests the following estimates. Length: 78 meters. Beam: 10.0 meters. Draft: 2.4 meters at 50% load. Superstructure: Aluminum. Hull & decks, Carbon/Kevlar Composite. Displacement: 450 tons . . .”
As Madge yakked away, the schematic took us on a tour of the ship, including all passages, berths, even the engine room. In the upper corner, photos of the ship would pop up to highlight different features.
Madge continued her survey. “Engines: four by 400 kilowatt Daimler Turbo Compound; Power: 4,000 kilowatts. Berths: 18 Guest, 16 Crew. Helipads: two, fore and aft, capable of accommodating most standard executive-size helicopters.”
By the time she finished, I felt like I knew the ship as if I had lived on it.
“Wow,” I said. “Best guess? I feel like I could walk through that ship blindfolded.”
“What I’m afraid of,” Cole said, “is that, during all those conversions, they snuck in an undocumented smuggling hold or two.”
“Yeah,” I said, sitting back. I gazed out the window—and felt like a cattle prod had shocked me. During Madge’s briefing I’d forgotten the freaky fact that we were flying over deep, deep, dark ocean. Worse, now the waves raced by only a few feet below us; the pilot had descended to stay beneath the slate grey overcast.
Suddenly, we flew into a rain squall. Winds knocked us around. Rain pelted our fragile craft.
I closed my eyes and sat back, fighting off panic.
After an eternity of bouncing around, I felt ourselves slowing. I opened my eyes and looked ahead. The rain had passed and I could see to the horizon. Two dark spots appeared ahead in the distance. Over the next few minutes, they grew into ships, one painted the bright orange and white colors of a Coast Guard cutter. And the other, over twice as big, gleaming white and spotless, an enormous superyacht.
The Dark Angel
In case you missed it, here’s the fun Book Trailer to
Code Name: Dodger
Starring Yours Truly as CIA Agent Bob Cheney!