Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Sampan

In my Monday night In Harm's Way: Pigboats Game, we had an interesting situation. The submarine, USS Pike, was heading north at night to position itself for a daylight submurged transit of the Lombok Strait between the islands of Bali and Lombok in the Japanese-controlled Dutch East Indies. The Lombok Strait - unlike most of the straits in this area - is fairly wide and deep, and uncluttered with inconvenient little islets and reefs. The US subs use it constantly as a shortcut to the Java and Sulu seas north of the archipelago, and the Japanese are very aware of this fact, countering with strong air and sea patrols.

The Pike was on the surface when a lookout called out a sighting. A large sampan with the typical deckhouse covering half the length of the boat, and a single mast, though the mast was lowered and it was traveling on a gasoline engine. The sampan was putting from west to east across the route to the Strait. The Skipper and XO looked it over with their night glasses, both scoring phenomenally good successes. The Captain saw two people on her deck, with one sitting at the tiller in the stern, and the other walking towards the deckhouse carrying a bundle - "Maybe explosives" he added - and also noted the silver thread of a radio antenna in the quarter moonlight. The XO said the second person was a woman, based on her walk. The Lookout muttered to the other lookout that he barely even saw the boat.

The Pike swung in beside the sampan - which proved fairly large at about 50 feet long - and sent a stream of tracer across the bow, while one of the Lieutenant jgs tried various languages to call out for a halt. The sampan first tried to cut away, but realizing it was hopeless, soon cut its engine and waited. The boat linked up, and the Skipper sent Lt. jg O'Grady, the Signals officer, Ensign Rodriguez, and three volunteers over to the sampan.

The helmsman of the sampan proved to be a Malay, wearing loose cotton pants, a kris, and a turban. Lt. jg O'Grady interrogated him in Dutch, with one sailor standing guard with a rifle, while Ensign Rodriguez and the other two men went to investigate the deckhouse, presumably where the woman had gone to. The helmsman tried to mouth the word "Japanese" to O'Grady, who figured it out in time for a shout to the men at the deckhouse.

Innis, the lead seaman on the detail, had already opened the door to the deckhouse, but Rodriguez and the other seaman were able to throw themselves to the sides as a submachine gun burst slammed into Innis and dropped him immediately. A grenade came out of the deckhouse next, but it clipped the coaming and fell off into the sea harmlessly, where it exploded. Then two Japanese soldiers charged out of  the door of the Sampan, screaming "Banzai!". One shot a SMG burst at Rodriguez, but he had taken cover behind a crate on the deck, and the burst just blew splinters into the air. The other fired a burst at seaman two, but missed high.

Seaman two (never named, unlike Innis) fired his rifle from the hip, catching the second Japanese soldier in the leg. He fell to his knees, but was not out. Rodrigez fired his .45 pistol at the first soldier, but missed wildly as the man ran by. O'Grady fired his .45 and hit the first Japanese soldier in the left arm, but the man kept on running at him like a berserker. He fired his pistol at O'Grady, but was in bad condition and missed terribly. O'Grady fired again and the man was dead, drilled with a torso shot. He skidded to a stop in front of O'Grady and bled out in a pool at O'Grady's feet. The other solder took another SMG burst at Rodriguez, but missed again with the effects of his wounds. Seaman 2 and Rodriguez both hit him with shots, and he too was gone.

O'Grady started to walk up the deck to the others but the Malay helmsman shoved by him, attempted to hurdle Rodriguez, who was assessing if Innis was still alive - he was, but was out cold and loosing blood - but clipped Rodriguez and spun into the coaming, cracking his head and knocking him senseless.

O'Grady and Rodriguez had no idea what was going on, but O'Grady got past him and went down into the deckhouse. There he found the woman - a Malay - with her throat cut. On her lap was a wailing baby girl, covered in blood from her mother. O'Grady shouted something and stumbled out on deck, vomiting over the side. Rodriguez took one glance inside, and turned away, face blanched, not wanting to see more. O'Grady recovered enough to get some rags and clean the baby up, and the session ended there.

Next session, a decision must be made by the Skipper as to what to do about the sampan, the Malay man, and the baby. Does he put them into the sampan and let them go? They could talk about his presence - would have to in fact. Does he keep them as prisoners and destroy the boat?  A quandry.

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