Gerry’s extra staff start arriving about 10:00 a.m. Wendy Paul is first to arrive, followed around 10:30 a.m. by Daniel Jackson and Anna (his sixteen year old sister is going with him). 11:15 a.m. sees the arrival of Felicity and Brenda Waters with Albert Jones ten minutes later. Gerry greets them when they arrive, and introduces them to everyone. He has his ‘Gopher Gang,’ as he calls it, set up in the Port Hull cabins. Each has their own cabin. Patrick and Shauna have the two rooms nearest the lounge, Daniel and his Anna have the next two, Felicity and Brenda the next two, with Wendy and Albert having the next two.
With everybody now aboard Sea Dream sets sail for England just after lunch. That afternoon Gerry sends Shauna and Anna to find Gina to talk to her, because they’ve been getting on well together. Gathering the hackers together in the No. 2 Lounge located in the port hull Gerry says, “You’re all top notch hackers. I’ve no intention of telling each one of you what the others’ on-line names are. If you want anyone to know, you tell them yourselves. I’m still recruiting for the team, and have two more to see in Europe. Wendy Paul here is going to be the team leader, because she’s had a lot of experience as the leader of a group of computer experts. I stole her from the FBI, so you may want to very carefully consider any bragging you do.” He hands out some folders while saying, “This is a brief of what I’ll be wanting you to do. Over the next few days I’d like you all, individually and collectively, to review the contents of these folders. After that I’ll want lists of hardware and software you want. Don’t let money worry you. I already have three new Cray super computers for the team. Regardless of how long this first project lasts I’ll employ you for a minimum of five years. I’d like to keep you all on the payroll after that, but I’ll understand if any of you wish to move on. I’ll leave you all to get better acquainted with each other.” He turns around, and leaves the room.
Although capable of going a lot faster Sea Dream cruises across the Atlantic to arrive in Liverpool in ten days. Everyone has a good time sunbathing and fishing during the day, with games and TV at night. Having all meals cooked by world class chefs doesn’t hurt, either. Two work on Sea Dream, sharing the duties. Gerry hired two; he figured they’d compete against each other, and is very happy to be proven right. Neither is complacent about what they cook. All the meals are top quality while they vie with each other to make their consumers happy. Something all the consumers are very appreciative of, and say so.
Mid-morning the second Monday after leaving New York they arrive in Liverpool. After checking through customs Sea Dream leaves for another anchorage on the Thames in London, one more suitable for their needs. Liverpool is mainly for international freight and cruise ships. Gerry makes initial docking here to process through customs, and to meet a local agent. While the yacht and everyone else heads south for London by sea, stopping at other ports on the way, Gerry heads into the city of Liverpool without any bodyguards. He feels safe because no one here knows him.
In a part of the city that’s little more than a sea of council houses he knocks on the door of a two story house. It’s one of two dozen that butt up to each other in this block, and the whole street is the same. The small front yard is in need of work, and the woodwork needs painting. A voice answers the knock, yelling, “It’s unlocked, come in.” He enters the building, the carpets are old and well worn, almost non-existent in places, the walls need new paint, and the woodwork needs varnishing. The voice, an old woman’s, calls out, “Straight down the hall, second door on the left.”
After a short walk Gerry enters the room to see it’s like the rest of the house - old, worn out, but neat and tidy. The same can be said of the old woman sitting in a worn out comfortable chair. The padding is worn, and the cover is a style popular between the two world wars. The woman says, “Oh, you don’t look like the council maintenance man. I’ve been expecting him for over a week.”
Smiling, he says, “No, I’m not. What’s the problem?”
She waves toward the back of the house while saying, “The hot water system don’t work.”
He says, “Excuse me a moment, I’ll be right back.” Leaving the room he goes to the front door, and waves his agent over. He gives him some instructions, and goes back into the house. The agent walks back to the car while he makes a call on his mobile phone.
Back with the old woman Gerry says, “Sorry if I’m disturbing you, Missus Jones, I wish to speak to your grandson about some work. I’ve just sent my man to organise a plumber to look at your hot water system, and to get us some lunch.”
She gives him a calculating look, nods slowly, and says, “Owen was called into work unexpectedly this morning. It’s his day off, and they need him until lunchtime. I expect him back in about thirty minutes. You do know I can’t pay for a proper plumber.”
He nods yes, “I do know you can’t, but I can. While I wait for Owen will you be very candid with me, and tell me what sort of a person he is. Does he help people or hurt them? The reports I’ve had are conflicting. The police check is a bit disturbing, so is his school behaviour record. They indicate some violence while personal reports say otherwise.”
She stares at him for a few minutes before saying, “Yes, he can be, and has been, violent. But usually in defence of others who can’t defend themselves. He helps me, and he helped Missus Smithers down the road until she passed on two months back. She could hardly walk, so he got her shopping each week, and put it away for her. Until he got this job at the computer shop he used to make money looking after everyone’s lawns. When he got accepted for the job he arranged for another local lad to mow the lawns for the same price.”
Gerry smiles, “Well, that helps a bit. If he takes my job offer he’ll be moving far away. You may wish to consider moving with him, because you’ve no other close relatives left. The job’s in a tropical area on the other side of the world, a nice sea port with fishing and tourism. The climate’s warm most of the time. The contract includes housing. You can live with him or nearby with some other retired people.”
She sits there looking at him while she thinks. About ten minutes later a plumber walks in the door, and is soon sent out the back to check the heater. A few minutes later he’s back to his van for the parts. It’s a simple job, drain the tank and replace the element. He’s just finishing when Gerry’s agent returns with some nicely cooked John Dory and chips. The four of them have just started eating when Owen arrives, and joins them. They’re fast to finish the meal. The plumber checks the work, because he had to wait for the tank to fill, and heads to his next job. The agent leaves with him to pay him when they go out. Owen is eyeing Gerry in a very suspicious manner.
Gerry looks at him, “Owen, I’m considering employing you at some high paid computing work, but I need some answers to some questions first. In the last four years have you ever stolen anything, if so, why?”
Owen looks at him, and his grandmother nods for him to answer. He says, “Yes, three years ago. I was working at the grocery shop. He fired me to employ his niece who just moved to the city. He claimed I was slack, so he withheld three days’ pay. I took the pay out in stock before I left that day. He never even noticed. Last year a new neighbour broke Missus Wellings’ front door lock. I swiped his, and changed them over.” A smiling Gerry nods and hands him the employment contract to read. Owen’s eyes go wide at the pay and terms, because it’s more than he’d ever dreamed of earning due to his low level of education. He hands the contract to his grandmother. He says, “That’s very good pay, why me?”
“I’m putting together a team of the top computer programmers and hackers in the world. Mersey Man rates in the top ten, don’t you?” Owen is very surprised to have been found out.
Mrs Jones says, “I told you to stop doing that computer stuff.”
Owen replies, “I don’t do any harm, and it’s fun. Anyway, it looks like something good is coming out of it.”
Gerry hands over a card with an address in London, plus two hundred pounds cash while saying, “Be at this address by ten a.m. Thursday if you want the job. You can bring your grandmother as well, if she wants to go. Get yourselves passports, and I’ll organise the visas.”
He leaves them to think it over. He returns to the car, and gets in. They head for the train station where he’s to catch a train to London.
While he’s waiting for the train Gerry notices a woman in her late twenties with four small children and two suit cases. He offers to carry the bags while she sorts out the children. Sitting on the platform they’ve about ten minutes to wait, and the children are very active. Grinning, Gerry gets up, and goes to the shop. He buys a few bags of lollies and six drinks. Returning to the seat beside the woman he calls the children to him. He hands them a drink each, and makes them sit while they drink it. He gives the woman one, and has the sixth himself.
The train arrives, and he helps her get aboard. They’re both heading to London, so they share a compartment. About twenty minutes later, when the children get restless and want to wander about, he pulls out a packet of lollies then studies the bag as if trying to work out how to get the lollies out. The eldest child, a ten year old girl, asks, “What’s t’matter mista? Don’t cha know how t’open t’em?”
Gerry looks up, “In my country most of the lolly packets come with the top open, and just rolled down. These are sealed shut.” Handing her the packet he says, “Here, can you open these, please?” Grinning, she does. He offers them around, and eats one himself. They sit there for a few minutes while eating the jelly beans he’d given them. When they start to get up again he says, “While I’ve such a good lolly pack opener here can you open these as well?” And hands her the packet of liquorice all sorts and the two packets of boiled lollies to open. She easily opens them for him, and he offers them around. The woman smiles at his method of keeping the children under control and in the compartment.
Grinning at him the girl says, “T’anks for ta lollies mista. Wes allow’d to take t’em from strangers if ma’s wid us.” The others nod their heads in agreement while they help themselves. With a huge grin she continues, “If they’s bribes to keep us here, they’s better left out.”
With a big grin Gerry hands them a packet each, “Share them around.” The children all smile when they accept the packets of lollies, one packet each. They sit there slowly eating the sweets. A nice pleasant trip for all. The woman thanks him for his help and generosity.
He smiles at her, and says, “You’re welcome, Ma’am. I can afford a few sweets and drinks for children, and it helps keep the noise down. I also believe in that line from the show ‘Hello Dolly.’ You know, where Dolly says, ‘Money is like fertiliser, it does no good unless you spread it around.’ I like to spread it around in ways that makes people smile.”
They all laugh when the eldest girl says, “Feel free to spread some of tat fertiliser on me.”
They reach King’s Cross Station, and get off the train. Gerry helps them with their bag to the exits. Stopping at the taxi ranks he asks, “Where are you going?” The woman looks surprised, and the girl gives an address. To the driver he asks, “How much to go there?”
The driver says, “About twenty-five pounds, Sir.”
Gerry hands him forty pounds, and says, “Help them inside with the bags when you get there, please. Keep the change.” The woman and children are round-eyed at his largess. Turning to them he helps them into the cab, and hands them a twenty pound note each while saying, “Buy yourselves something nice.” He walks off to the next cab before they can reply. Getting in the cab he gives an address, and it drives off. When the cabs drive down the road, side by side for a while, the children smile and wave at him. He smiles and waves back.
After getting out of the cab at the Berant Embassy Gerry heads toward the entrance. One of the Royal Guards on duty recognises him, and opens the gate while he comes to attention, and says, “Good afternoon, Sir, good to see you again.”
Gerry smiles, “Hello, Corporal Chektar. You’ll be happy to know both your sisters have been sponsored for the Charity Ball this year.”
Corporal Chektar smiles, and says, “That’s good to know. Thank you. How come you’ve arranged sponsorship for them so early?”
He replies, “The sponsorship includes hairstyle, make up kit, new ball-gown, swim suit, and a dress. All from top shops in Carmel. They have to keep their grades up to keep the sponsorship. Your mother says she’s never seen them study so hard before. They intend to earn those clothes.” They all laugh.
While still laughing Corporal Chektar says, “I always told mum they can do better, and they just needed a little incentive.”
In the embassy Gerry talks to the local RIS commander to get some intelligence updates, then issues a few orders. When the ambassador has a moment Gerry goes to his office to bring him up to date on the policy changes. The ambassador is happy about the changes. They’ll help with encouraging businesses to expand into Berant. Gerry downloads, from the government database, all of the information on the products that are now being allowed out of Berant. These will also help improve business relations with the UK.
Gerry spends the night in the embassy. The next day is spent talking to local businessmen the ambassador has arranged meetings with. Gerry also spends Tuesday night in the embassy. Sea Dream docks in London just after midnight; they took their time sailing around. Gerry arrives at the dock in time for breakfast, and to be included as an extra pack mule in a Seville Row shopping expedition. They spend the day shopping while they all enjoy themselves. Gerry sleeps on board that night.
Thursday morning the ladies and girls go shopping again, they think they missed a store in Seville Row yesterday. Gerry wonders how they could’ve, since they brought so much gear back. At 9:00 a.m. Owen and his grandmother arrive. They’re a bit overwhelmed by the size and luxury of the yacht. The cordon bleu breakfast is appreciated as well. Owen is given a cabin in the port hull while Mrs Jones is settled into a cabin in the main hull, so she has less distance to go for the meals.
Gerry introduces Owen to the rest of the Gophers, and they give him a brief of where they’re at. Looking around the Port Lounge, and the list of hardware they’ll have, Owen asks, “Gerry, are you a millionaire?”
He replies, “No, a billionaire. My yard makes these boats, and this is the class leader, they only cost twenty-five million dollars US to buy. About two weeks of my income.” He turns around, and leaves a stunned group behind him. Many are reassessing why he wants them. They’d thought he needed them to steal money to pay for the yacht.