"Bonjour," answered Serge. "But this rain isn't so bad. There's nothing like a storm to wake you up. In the meantime we can enjoy this petit dejeuner, non?"
The meal continued for several minutes before the usual briefing officer strode up to the projector and cleared his throat. "Good morning. I know it's early but we haven't got any time to lose. As you are all well aware, winter will be setting in shortly. The winters here are usually mild but they can still make things very difficult. Every available salvage team is being sent to the mainland for supplies. You would normally be sent there as well, but we found a mission that might require your specialized skills."
He pressed a button on the projector remote and brought up a picture of a cargo ship. It must have been pulled from an archive because that vessel was in impossibly good condition. "Two days ago we received a distress signal from the Lew Wallace, a Panamax container ship like the one you see here. Don't ask how it managed to survive all these years without sinking because we don't know. Apparently the engines have either been shut down or broken and it's drifting into our air cover. We can't pass up an opportunity like this. Our meteorologists predict that we'll have a one-day window to reach the ship before another storm shuts us down."
One of the other men at the projector pressed another button. At first Serge just heard static, and then a faint tapping. It sounded like somebody banging a baton on a metal surface. He noticed that a pattern developed, with three rapid taps followed by three more widely spaced taps, and then three more taps in rapid succession. It repeated itself again and he realized it was a looping sound track.
"That's an SOS signal in the old Morse code. It was probably made years ago along with the automated distress signal. Regardless, there's probably nobody left on board. And since the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea is most likely null and void, we can probably bring in a rich haul from that ship."
The briefing officer interjected. "Yes, there's probably a lot of pre-war manufactured goods from China or Japan on board. So here's your mission. You will leave in exactly one hour. The helicopter will drop you off on the ship and return to shuttle some more salvage teams to the mainland. You will probably have to rappel down because we have no idea what condition the deck's in. Search the bridge and find the cargo manifest. If you can, try to get the engines started; there might be some fuel left. Radio us and we'll decide what to do from there. You should be picked up by late afternoon."
He cleared his throat. "Ah yes, and about possible zombies... remember that container ships have small crews. Even if all of them got infected you won't be dealing with more than fifty zeds. That shouldn't be any problem for a team like you. Anyways, I know it's short notice, but this is such a rare find. You were chosen not only because some of you are ex-military, have experience at sea, or know your way around a machine shop. It's because you have managed to stay alive through two tough missions and came out on top. So get packed and meet up on the helipad within an hour. Dismissed."