Inspired by this Guardian article about an 18-foot fiberglass boat that washed up on the Marshall Islands, stuffed to the gunwales with cocaine, an $80 million haul. The Maritime Executive has a slightly longer version, with photographs.
Sourced from CNN via jonastur68
I've talked about ghost ships before. From North Korea's fishing boats to the Mary Celeste, pausing briefly to admire cruise ships stuffed with cannibal rats, derelicts infest the ocean blue. This one's a bit of a head-scratcher. You just don't take an 18-foot putt-putt far from shore. Not if you value your life and cargo, and someone must have valued this cargo if not the life of whichever shmuck was paid to pilot. Presumably it wasn't piracy, or the cargo would have vanished.
So it was probably a coastal storm of some description, bad enough to wash the pilot overboard but not bad enough to sink the boat. Fiberglass is difficult to sink, but every other year here in Bermuda hurricanes prove that difficult is not the same thing as impossible. You regularly see boats sunk at their anchorage, perhaps a bit of the bimini sticking above the surface. The pilot almost certainly drowned, and if he didn't he must have wished he had. Explaining that sort of thing to the bosses is not an easy task.
The bit I like is at the end of the Guardian article:
University of Hawaii researchers conducted 16 computer simulations of drift patterns from the Mexico coast and found nearly all eventually arrived in the Marshall Islands.
The Maritime Executive has an interesting addition:
Some of these lost-and-found narcotics re-enter the supply chain: earlier this year, a resident of remote Ailuk was caught and arrested after trying to board an airplane with three kilos of cocaine in his possession. The source, he told investigators, was from a different batch of lost "bricks."
The Marshalls have been independent since 1986; before that it was part of the American-administered Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, and before that it bounced from pillar to post in the usual that-colony's-mine-until-I-don't-want-it way that was so popular from the 1500s onwards. Before that it was one of the many islands settled by Micronesians, well before the birth of Christ. These days it's a parliamentary republic with an interest in fishing, selling flags of convenience to shipping companies, and bitcoin, not necessarily in that order. There's not a lot of ways to make money if you're the Marshall Islands.
A little under 78,000 people live there, the vast majority being Marshallese. The islanders have their own language, but English is widely spoken. Median age is (roughly) 23, and the population mostly lives on the atolls of Majuro and Ebeye. The US takes care of defense and the Marshallese police take care of internal issues.
Past nuclear tests nearby have left a toxic legacy. While compensation has been granted it has not been paid, and some of the atolls are completely uninhabitable due to radiation poisoning.
According to the CIA, no TV broadcast station; a cable network is available on Majuro with programming via videotape replay and satellite relays; 4 radio broadcast stations; American Armed Forces Radio and Television Service (AFRTS) provides satellite radio and television service to Kwajalein Atoll (2019).
Roughly 40% of the island has internet access.
With all that in mind:
Lost and Gone (Fear Itself, Esoterrorists)
It ought to have been simple. When the boat drifted ashore with its load of cocaine at Ailuk, a remote and lightly-inhabited coral atoll about 200 nautical miles to the north of Majuro, the plan was to burn most of it and turn over a few bricks for the DEA to analyze. A couple agents were given the onerous task of flying over to collect - never let a chance for a visit to a semi-tropical paradise pass you by, must be the company motto. The bricks were supposed to be kept secure at the air base at Bucholtz, on Kwajalein Island.
Nobody knows where those bricks are. As for the ones that were supposed to be destroyed ... rumor has it that not all of those found their way into the incinerator. Each one's practically a pension for whoever has them. Bucholtz is being torn apart in the search for the two that were supposed to be there, and the cops who had possession of the rest are under intense scrutiny.
Meanwhile rumors are flying, strange lights are seen out at sea, and some fishermen say a new boat's been seen out on the water at night - one without a pilot, yet it seems to be getting about just fine.
- Free Meal. The original pilot was attacked by a Skitch (Unremitting Horror) and killed, but that left the insect-like meat eater with a problem. Once the boat was out at sea, there were no ways to spread its eggs. The Skitch was at the very end of its life cycle when the boat drifted up to Ailuk, its carcass smeared across the deck. Some of it was snatched up by birds, some by rats and crabs, before the boat was discovered. These have slowly found their way back into the human food chain, through cats (who eat the rats and birds) or other means. The bit about the missing cocaine is a red herring; the real problem is the skitch eggs which are now spreading rapidly through the local population.
- Bad Trip. That wasn't cocaine. Perhaps it was Liao, perhaps something else, but whatever occult substance is in those bricks someone at Bucholtz knows what it really is. That person isn't a cultist nor yet trained in mystic arts but they know just enough to know how insanely valuable the stuff is. Far too valuable to go up in an incinerator. So this person arranged for the cops to hand over their supply and made sure the two bricks kept for the DEA went missing. Meanwhile they sent out feelers to people they knew in Hong Kong and Macau: does anyone want to take this stuff off my hands? Now the problem is how to keep everyone bribed and compliant long enough for someone who actually knows how to handle the drug to show up and take it away.
- Bright Lights. The boat was targeted off the coast of Mexico by Something - say, Greys from Delta Green. Those same Greys tracked the boat all the way across the ocean, wanting to carry out an ocean drift patterns experiment of their own. Where would it end up? Now the Greys know, but evidently that wasn't the end of the experiment. Whatever it is, it's still hanging around in the skies above the Marshalls, dogging whoever came into contact with the boat or its cargo. The cops who stole a pension, the army guys who 'lost' a couple bricks of cocaine, they're all being tracked, abducted, experimented on, and returned to their ordinary lives - perhaps a little traumatized, otherwise fine. The question is, what do the Greys really want - and what will it take to persuade them to go away?