Johnny struggled with all his might, but he was powerless. His attackers manhandled him into the inflatable, and the rest of the men jumped in as the engine surged to full power. He could feel the spray of the surf on his face as the little boat fought the waves on her way back out to sea.
He knew Jade had gotten away – he had seen her escaping into the nothingness that was the invisible ship before being overwhelmed by his attackers.
By now the boat had cleared the breakers and Johnny raised his head in an attempt to get his bearings. Just beyond the reef, he noticed something that he hadn’t seen before. A huge, black shape bulked low in the water, and Johnny knew at last where his attackers had come from and where he was going.
They came alongside the massive submarine, and within a matter of minutes they had whisked Johnny on-board, deflated the boat, and the submarine began its descent into the cold, dark depths of the ocean.
Johnny lay on his back somewhere, disorientated and scared.
‘Clear a path!’ somebody shouted. Johnny looked up as a large, middle-aged man with close-cropped sandy hair looked down at him.
‘Who are you, son?’ he asked, not unkindly. Johnny didn’t reply.
‘I asked you a question,’ the large man said with a little more force this time.
‘Tell me who you are first,’ said Johnny.
‘Very well. I am Captain Frank Little, and you are on board the USS North Carolina, a Virginia class nuclear powered submarine,’ he said. ‘And now, who are you, young man?’
“My name is Johnny. Johnny Roberts, and I suggest you put me back on my island sharpish and bugger off before something really horrible happens to you.’
The captain seemed amused. ‘Really? And how is that?’
Johnny thought for a moment. ‘Why did you capture me? Why did you shoot me? I did nothing wrong!’
Captain Little gave him an appraising look. ‘I think my men may have acted a little rashly, Johnny. I’ll have the ship’s surgeon sort you out, but first we need to establish a few things,’ he said.
‘What were you doing on the island?’ he asked.
‘What’s it to you?’ Johnny replied. ‘It’s not a crime!’
‘No, Johnny, I suppose it isn’t a crime, but then I’m sure you can appreciate that the US Navy doesn’t go around abducting innocent sunbathers for the fun of it?’
‘So why am I here then?’ Johnny asked.
‘Okay, I suppose there’s no harm. We picked up a strange signal on our instruments and US intelligence ordered us to investigate,’ he replied. ‘Who was the young girl, Johnny? And where is she now?’
Johnny ignored him. Frank leaned in closer and spoke very clearly, very slowly.
‘Listen to me, my young friend. This isn’t a game. You are on board one of the most powerful warships in the world. We have it within our power to destroy nations – do you understand? You are now a captive of the US government, and if you ever want to see the light of day again, I suggest you start cooperating.’
Johnny sat up on his elbow and put his face right up to Frank’s.
‘Now you listen to me, Bub – if you don’t get me off this ship right now, your worst nightmare is going to come true! Want to know what your government is looking for?’ he asked. ‘Want to know who the girl is? Her name is Jade, and right now she is in control of a power that will make your little submarine look like a popcorn machine – and I’m willing to bet she’s real angry right about now!’
Frank Little was not amused. ‘Very well then, Johnny. If that’s how it is, so be it. Seers, get this kid to the brig, and get the Doc to him. Make sure nobody speaks to him,’ he said before walking away.
He strode onto the bridge. ‘Pettrucci, get me a secure line to Langley,’ he instructed.
‘Sir! You’ve gotta come have a look at this!’ one of the seamen shouted. Little looked up in agitation.
‘What is it?’
‘Sir, that strange signal is back again, Sir!’
‘It’s tracking us Sir!’ the seaman looked nervous.
‘Tracking us? How…? What is it …?’
‘Oh crap!’ the seaman shouted, rising out of his chair, eyes glued to the screen in front of him. ‘It’s coming!’
‘I’ve got Sonar sir!’ another man shouted. ‘Large submerged object inbound!’
‘Speed and bearing?’
‘Bearing one-nine-zero inbound, speed three hundred knots and rising!’ the sonar operator shouted.
‘Three hundred knots? Underwater? That’s impossible!’
‘Speed now four hundred and fifty knots sir!’ the seaman yelled. ‘Range twenty-five miles. It’ll be on us in three minutes sir!’
‘Evasive action!’ Little yelled. ‘All men to battle stations!’
‘We need to find Johnny,’ Jade told the ship. ‘I need your help.’
‘As you wish, Mistress. May I suggest you attire yourself in preparation?’
Jade realised she was still wearing her cast-offs from the jungle which she had returned to wearing on the island. The black suit and robes that she and Johnny wore while on-board were not at all suitable for frolicking in the sand.
‘Mistress, may I suggest you look for suitable apparel in the armoury? It would be wise to be prepared should anything unexpected arise.’
Jade vaguely remembered Johnny wearing a suit of some sort when he had saved her from the clutches of Pedro and Francesco all those long weeks ago. She raced to the armoury and ten minutes later she was back at the controls again, though now she looked entirely different.
She was dressed in a suit of futuristic armour; silver and black, and wore a helmet that had two red slits in the visor. She sent her senses out again, hoping to see a trace of Johnny, but the sea was as calm and blue and empty as always.
‘Ship, I need your help locating Johnny,’ she said.
‘Of course, Mistress.’ Jade got the impression the ship was performing a scan of some sort. Presently it returned to her.
‘Mistress, there is a large vessel beneath the water some distance from the island. It is making its way south. I have found Johnny’s presence on board. This vessel is well armed.’
The ship rose into the air and dropped its nose slightly as it accelerated out over the waves. Jade felt a thrill of excitement, and decided that she would definitely be insisting on sharing piloting duties from now on. About half a mile from the island, the ship plunged downwards and sluiced into the sea.
Jade found herself staring at a new world. As new and exciting as it had been to first behold the world from above, now she again gasped in wonder as she beheld the world from below. The sea was not that deep in the area, and Jade could clearly see the white, sandy bottom rushing past as they closed in on the sub that had taken Johnny. Patches of marine grasses and weeds dotted the sea floor, and Jade glimpsed schools of brightly coloured fish flash by as they sped onwards. The sun sent shafts of sunlight through the water, which danced on the sand. It was beautiful, and Jade was enchanted.
‘Mistress, the vessel you seek will be coming into view shortly,’ the ship prompted.
Jade stared forwards, and sure enough, a dark blur ahead began to resolve itself, and within seconds, they were on it. She was puzzled – the submarine was behaving oddly. It zigzagged in the water as though trying to evade a troublesome insect. Jade halted the ship and watched as the submarine continued its solo performance, and it struck her just how ungainly it was.
‘Mistress, the vessel has fired upon us.’
Jade only had a moment to digest this when she saw a long, white plume of bubbles headed her way. She watched in fascination as it made its slow, ponderous way towards the ship. With a mere thought, she side stepped the torpedo, and turned to watch it as it sailed blindly onwards. She turned back to the submarine, which was still zigzagging madly. She moved in closer and began to circle the craft with curiosity.
It began a turn to face her, but it took a while and Jade watched it with contempt. She had absolutely no familiarity with technology other than what she had seen on the ship, but whatever this thing was, it didn’t impress her at all.
The sub finally completed its turn and faced her. Another torpedo shot from its bows, and this time Jade reached forward with her senses and gave it a sharp pinch. It exploded with force, and although she didn’t feel a thing, Jade saw the sub rock violently as the shockwave hammered it.
‘Oh no – Johnny!’ she breathed. Jade realized that playing the fool with this ungainly craft could very well have disastrous consequences, and she decided on more direct action. She sent her senses closer and was pleased to notice that she could hear what was going on inside. She couldn’t understand the language, but she got the gist.
‘Oh crap – oh crap – oh crap!’ someone was saying, clearly scared.
‘Calm down!’ This voice sounded in control, and Jade got the impression that whoever it belonged to was in charge.
‘Captain – what is that thing?’ somebody shouted.
‘I don’t fucking know, Simmons!’ the voice shouted back, and Jade could sense the fear and panic that her arrival had induced in the men on board. She spoke, her voice echoing through the sub like a megaphone.
‘Return Johnny to me, or I will destroy you and the little tube of metal you call home!’ Jade had no notion of governments and armies, and assumed this was some sort of floating village of warriors.
The men inside went berserk. ‘You hear that? Oh my God!’
‘What did it say? It sounded foreign. Was it Russian?’ Jade sensed that they had misunderstood her, and turned to the ship for help.
‘Mistress, they do not speak your tongue. I can help,’ it said. A burst of white light erupted in her brain, on and off, a thousand miles an hour, and Jade could do nothing but sit there with her mouth hanging open. It lasted only a few seconds, but when it was over Jade felt like a pomegranate, her head bursting with seeds.
She tried again. ‘Return Johnny to me, or I will destroy you!’
This time she knew they understood. A deathly silence descended on the sub. She could hear faint murmurings and mutterings, and was pleased to note that she could understand them too.
‘Who the hell is Johnny?’ somebody whispered.
‘He’s that kid we brought on board, dumbass! Captain sent him to the brig.’ Jade gave them a moment and then spoke again.
‘You have been warned! I will rip the guts out of this vessel of yours and feed you to the fish. There is nothing, nothing, that will stand in my way!’ Jade was starting to tremble with a mixture of rage and fright.
‘I want my Johnny back!’ she shouted. A voice replied. The same one she had heard bringing order to chaos earlier.
‘This is the USS North Carolina, and we are the sovereign property of the United States of America. Any act of aggression on your part will be construed as an act of war!’ it warned. Jade couldn’t believe the audacity of that statement and turned to the ship. ‘Where is Johnny?’ she asked.
‘He is within,’ it replied.
‘Can you bring him to us?’ she asked again.
‘I am sorry, Mistress. I am able to transport solid objects to and from myself; it is the nature of my construction, but I am unable to project solid matter through foreign surfaces,’ it explained.
‘Where is he?’ she asked again. A segment near the aft of the sub lit up, and Jade saw clearly the layout before her. Johnny was in a small room in the rear half of the sub. She spoke directly to him in the language of the forest.
‘Johnny, I am going to get you out. Hold tight – this could get rough!’
‘But of course you are, my delicate flower of revenge and retribution. I wobble in your presence! …’course that may just be the leg!’ he said.
Jade giggled, despite herself, and it occurred to her that the whole sub had listened to this exchange, and while obviously unable to understand them, would realize what was about to happen.
‘You have been warned!’ she shouted in English. ‘Your doom is upon you!’
And with that, she went into action. Seizing the stationary submarine, she urged the ship upwards, dragging the unwilling vessel behind it. She erupted out of the water into clear sunlight, and levitated the now dripping submarine above the waves. Like a fish out of water, it hung suspended a hundred feet above the sea. A torpedo popped out of one of the front chutes and promptly fell into the water below with a splat.
Jade pulled the submarine apart like a Christmas cracker, tossing the front portion high into the sky, and concentrated on the remaining aft section. Men fell screaming into the water below, and steam and oil billowed out of numerous severed pipes and lines.
‘I have located him, Mistress,’ the ship said.
‘Where?’ she asked.
‘He is beyond that door, my lady,’ it replied. Jade saw immediately what it was referring to. A white door; bolted and locked, and with no more than a thought she blasted it off its hinges. Johnny emerged, limping, and the ship immediately took over. It levitated him from the shattered remains of the submarine and within moments he was on-board. Jade removed the helmet and ran to him, almost bowling him over in her eagerness.
‘Oh Johnny!’ she gasped, holding him as tightly as she could. ‘I thought I would lose you forever, my lord!’ she said, reverting to her original deference without thinking.
‘Jade, my darling, this is now the second time you’ve saved me,’ Johnny said, looking down at her. ‘You know what that means, don’t you?’
‘No?’ she said with an uncertain smile.
‘It means I have to make dinner!’
‘Oh, Johnny! Always the jokes!’ she said, and started crying.
Published Titles in the Johnny Roberts Series:
Book Two: Johnny Roberts and the Gods of Eden
Andrew Noble © 2013
Cover artwork: John Killin © 2013
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© 2013 Andrew Noble All Rights Reserved