The Indian Ocean
27.9 Nautical Miles off the coast of Port Hedland
Waves crashed against the hull, but could barely shift the weight of the HMAS Byron. The vessel, an Armidale class patrol ship commissioned by the Australian Naval Forces, thrust three hundred tons of steel through the tide, and cut through the water at a cruising speed of eighteen knots.
Officer Stanley Simpson lingered on the front deck and stared into the wilderness. Through his salt-coated gaze he could see only blue, but there was more out there; reports had come in of a raft, small as it was ambitious, casting life into the current and praying to whatever god that better fortune would wash back.
It wasn’t his first mission, far from it. Every few weeks there was another boat, and every time they would intercept and board only to find the traces of former humans, covered in filth, stinking and begging for clean water. Men, women, and often children, fleeing from homes torn by war and persecution, only to land in their hands.