Duncan stared out the window. Orange stretched from the horizon, interrupted only by shadows cast by the hills and ridges. Between them Wungurra sat as a cluster of roofs, so small yet so sparse.
Every mile dimmed the warmth of Les’s smile. “They couldn’t leave you rest,” the elder had lamented; “go on, save the world. I’ll be here.” Their embrace lingered, even from a distance.
By his side Little Rip slept, curled up on her back to feel the massage of engines. She kicked and whined with the turbulence, but fell back to sleep when it passed.
The hero gripped his seat. Skin against leather pulled with the tightness around his lungs. For every mile that scaled down his home the more he wound his shoulders and adjusted.
Boomerang stepped from the rear compartment with a bowl in hand. “Breakfast of champions,” he mused, and continued to break Weet Bix and sliced banana into the milky mush. He sat opposite the hero and smiled. “There’s plenty more in the back if you want some.”
True Blue huffed.
“You okay? Everything alright?”
The old man scratched the flecks of buckshot embedded in the pores off his chest and frowned. He said nothing, but considered to look back at the town he was leaving behind. Every bone rattled, demanding he turn back.
Boomerang spooned his cereal and shrugged. “So I hear you don’t wear the Union Jack no more,” he said. “I remember how shocked everyone was at first, you casting off British heritage, but I want you to know how much I respect that. Personally, I mean.”
The silence was broken when Tracey emerged from the cockpit and swivelled into the chair between them. “Don’t worry about the old guy, kid,” she smirked. “He was practically born a curmudgeon.”
“I’m waiting for you to tell me what I’m doing here,” True Blue said.
Cocking a brow at him the middle aged woman reached into a satchel by her chair and removed a tablet from it. Her fingers danced across the touchpad and unlocked the content, which she then laid bare in the hero’s lap.
He scrolled through the pictures; satellite photos, mostly, followed by images of bodies, all men in navy garb. True Blue’s scowl intensified with each picture.
“These were taken yesterday just off the coast of Port Hedland,” Tracey said. “It was supposed to be a standard run, sweeping the ocean for undocumented immigrants making a run for freedom.”
“‘Illegals’,” True Blue murmured.
Tracey sighed. “I know. Immigration policy sucks, but we have bigger fish to fry.” She reached to the tablet and scrolled to an image with three vessels photographed from above.
“What’s that third boat?” Blue asked.
“That’s what we’re trying to work out.”
“The middle one looks to be a raft, but the third is a military vessel,” he observed. “I take it that’s not one of ours.”
“Not by a long shot.”
Tracey swiped to the final image, revealing the blur jumping from one boat to the next. Though distorted there was no mistaking the uniform, nor the mask underneath her cap.
“Frau von Nebel,” Tracy continued, “the ‘Woman of Mist’, straight out of World War Two and abducting boat people from under the nose of the Royal Australian Navy.”
Rip lifted her head as True Blue stood and marched to a wall to lean on. She picked herself up and pushed in front of him, then licked his hand. It seemed to ease the hero, but only slightly.
“Christ,” he grunted. “It’s too early for a beer.”
Boomerang lowered the bowl of cereal into his lap and looked to his partner. “Tell him what the game plan is,” he urged.
“We’ve put feelers out in the South East Asian and Arabic communities,” she continued. “There are community leaders and Imams who are helping, and when we can we’re offering naturalisation to those who have any relevant information.”
True Blue sighed and took a moment. “Any takers?”
“You know how it is, Blue. They’re immigrants, we’re the government. They’re scared. How do they know we’re not out to lock them up?”
“We’ve also been tracking the hundreds of white supremacist groups around the country,” Boomerang continued. “Given that the mist woman was a fully fledged nazi we figure she’ll use status to her benefit.”
True Blue stood upright. “Can you give me a list of all racial hate groups? Not just the ones who’ve been kicking up a stink; all of them, past and present.”
Tracey browsed the tablet functions and brought up a menu before handing it over.
“I fought these blokes for six years non-stop. I watched a lot of good men die,” the hero said. “Who’d have thought I’d still be fighting them three quarters of a century later?”
To be continued…