This was beyond Johnny’s wildest dreams; the feeling of power and control he felt at the helm of this ship was like nothing he could ever have imagined.
He looped the loop. Wow! he thought, this is too easy! He decided to land somewhere and map out some kind of plan. The terrain was flat, brown, covered with grey-green shrubs and trees, and dried-out rivers – not a soul for miles in any direction, and he realized he was north of the border, in Botswana.
He landed the ship near an isolated salt-pan, and removed his hands from the controls. The ship became silent again. The lights were still on however, and Johnny knew instinctively that whilst he was on board this ship, it would continue to generate power.
He needed to choose his next course of action. Looking down at himself, he realized just how dirty and threadbare his clothing really was. He decided to look around downstairs and see if he could find anything that would fit him.
Reaching the second level, Johnny went through several rooms before he found what he was looking for. In a closet, he found clothing that seemed to be of about the right size, but it wasn’t like any clothing he had ever seen before. It was black in colour and the material looked as though it were some kind of Lycra or Spandex. It felt and looked like leather, and had intricate designs etched into the surface. It looked hardwearing and durable, yet soft and comfortable. He climbed into the one-piece suit and found a pair of boots in the next room that fitted as though made for him. Looking down at himself, he smiled as he realized that he struck an impressive figure. He had noticed robes of different colours and designs in most of the closets, but figured they must be for the girls and decided against choosing one to wear.
Already feeling better about the situation, he thought of his next move. He was hungry; he had not eaten since the previous day, so he decided to investigate what he had thought was the kitchen, on the fourth level.
Climbing the stairs, he looked around. It wasn’t very big and he was surprised that he didn’t recognize anything at all. There wasn’t even a sink – no stove, no oven, no pots and pans that he could find. As he searched further, he noticed an object that looked similar to a microwave oven – only this contraption didn’t have any buttons or dials; instead, it had a single handprint. Johnny placed his hand over the imprint and closed his eyes. He started laughing softly to himself.
The image he saw in his mind was like a menu – an unusual kind of menu – and all he had to do was make his selection. He scanned the options in his mind, registering all the different flavours and tastes on offer on his tongue. Within a few seconds, he made his choice. He opened his eyes and watched as a soft, yellow glow pulsed from inside, and within moments it delivered his meal through a slot in the front. Johnny examined the plate; it looked like some type of plastic and he assumed there would be some means to dispose of it, and that the ship would take care of the rest. He didn’t know what he was about to eat; all he knew was that it smelled delicious.
He took his food downstairs to the dining area and sat down. As he took his first bite, he realized there was no meat in his food. He wasn’t sure if it was because this particular meal was vegetarian, or if meat was too difficult to preserve, and was omitted from the menu for this reason – or if the original occupants of this ship avoided eating meat as a rule.
Well, he thought as he ate ravenously, whoever this ship belonged to must have been as close to human as to make almost no difference. The fact that solid foods were eaten, there were beds and bedrooms downstairs, showers and toilets, at least they weren’t lizard men, or cockroaches, or something. He wondered who actually did own this ship, and what had happened to them.
Finishing his meal, he walked across to the pilot’s station, collapsed into the chair in front of the control panel and placed his hands onto the controls. He closed his eyes and asked, ‘Ship, are you there?’
‘Of course, Master. How may I help?’
‘I was wondering. Who do you belong to?’ A flood of images rushed into Johnny’s mind… images of beautiful, tall, elegant people. Blonde-haired, blue-eyed and regal. They were dressed in long robes, had long hair and peaceful eyes, and yet were almost arrogant in their superiority. Johnny noticed that both men and women wore robes, and more importantly, it seemed that most of them wore the same black undergarment as he was wearing, beneath their robes.
The women fairly took ones breath away with their exquisite beauty, and seemed the pinnacle of physical perfection. The men, however, radiated a power and a beauty so staggering that he had the urge to throw himself at their feet in supplication – an emotion as alien to him as these people obviously were, and yet, at the same time Johnny felt an overwhelming sense of connection to them.
The very idea was absurd, yet Johnny felt as if he belonged with these people. He supposed that anybody encountering these beings would crave their approval, but he still felt as if he had been missing something his whole life and now, having caught a glimpse, he was denied their presence. He felt a great sense of joy, and an even greater sense of loss. For the first time in his young life, Johnny Roberts was humbled.
He took a deep breath. He had never felt so vulnerable before. He had built up walls – walls of solitude, rebellion, independence and anger, yet in these few moments those walls had been shaken. His heart yearned for these people – people he knew nothing about. People that he, even at his young age and limited experience, realized existed on an unfathomable plane to his own.
Who was he compared to them? Yes, he had found their ship, but that did not make him one of them. Opening his eyes, Johnny let out a sigh. Well, if nothing else, they will probably want their ship back, he thought.
He closed his eyes again and said, ‘Where are they?’
‘I do not know, Master.’
‘Where did they go?’
‘I do not know, Master.’
He opened his eyes and thought hard. If the ship didn’t know what had happened to its former occupants, it should at least know where its home base was.
Closing his eyes once more, he asked, ‘Where is home?’
Once again, the ship filled his mind with images. He saw the same people as before, but this time he could see them in context to the cities they inhabited… pyramids, canals, gardens, and white gods worshipped by the populace. He immediately recognised the cities – cities found only in South America.
‘You mean they were the gods?’ he asked incredulously.
‘And these were their cities?’
That can’t be right, he thought. He remembered reading about the ancient Maya, Inca and Aztec ruins in central and southern America, but he could not bring himself to believe that these images he’d just seen were the truth behind the legends. The stories of gods walking the earth were myth. It contradicted everything that he had been taught at school and at church, yet sitting here in this technological impossibility; a veritable UFO, Johnny couldn’t help wondering – what if?
These ancient civilizations had always fascinated him, and he had spent a lot of time reading his father’s large geographical magazine collection at home. According to them, savages in the jungle built the pyramids in South America; just as loin-cloth wearing peasants in the desert built the pyramids in Egypt at the whim of a Pharaoh; and the pyramids in China constructed at the decree of an Emperor.
He had never entertained the thought before, but he now wondered how separate cultures on different sides of the planet could have independently conceived a structure as unique as the pyramid. The more he thought about it, the less sense it made. The only possible explanation he could come up with was that the pyramids were a design as unique in their own way as this ship was, and just like the ship, the pyramids served the gods. It was a cultural icon unique to them, and they had brought it with them to Earth from wherever they may have come. The technology evinced by some of these structures was light years ahead of mankind’s today. Johnny then realized that the very ship he was sitting in must have been flying these skies when mankind was still using bows and arrows. His head spun.
‘What are your intentions, Master?’
‘I want to find these people,’ he answered. ‘Take me to their cities.’
‘I do not know the way, Master.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘I am damaged, Master. I am unable to navigate in my present condition, Master.’
That caught Johnny by surprise. He had assumed the ship was in perfect working order.
‘Is there anything that can be done to repair you?’ he asked.
‘Yes, Master. In the central column behind you is a panel, behind which you will find the Star.’
‘The Star?’ asked Johnny.
‘Yes, Master. The Star is a crystal which acts as my soul. Without it I will die. At this moment, the Star is damaged, and I have lost the ability to navigate.’
‘So what happens if I remove it?’ he asked.
‘I will cease to function, Master.’
‘Then how am I to repair you?’ Johnny asked again.
‘You will have to locate another Star, Master.’
‘How the hell am I supposed to do that?’ he exclaimed in exasperation.
‘I believe you may find what you seek in the cities of the gods, Master.’
Johnny sat back and opened his eyes. ‘This is just brilliant!’ he muttered to himself. He needed to locate another crystal in the lost Cities of the gods, before the ship could guide him to the frigging lost Cities of the gods. What a joke!
He stood up and walked over to the central column. Sure enough, there was a panel about the size of a shoebox, slightly in-set in the surface of the column. As with the ramp and the oven, there was a hand-print on it. Johnny opened the panel and looked inside.
There hung, suspended within a glowing blue enclosure, a crystal the size of a baseball. Johnny examined it, careful not to disturb it in any way, anxious to avoid doing any further damage. The ship was right; a large crack ran diagonally from the top of the crystal, almost to its base. One large knock would split it in two, if it didn’t just fall apart of its own volition, and Johnny would lose the ship forever.
Closing the panel as gently as possible, Johnny returned to the control panel and closed his eyes.
‘Right. The Star is damaged beyond repair, and I’m afraid it may not last for very long,’ he said.
‘I think I know where we need to go, but I’m going to need all the help you can give me.’
‘Fly west, over the ocean, towards the setting sun. That is where I think your cities are,’ he instructed.
Without warning, the ship shot up into the air, gaining altitude at an incredible rate. To Johnny’s surprise, the ship went straight up like an elevator, as opposed to flying away in a straight line as he would have imagined. Within a matter of seconds, the landscape resolved itself and to Johnny’s utter astonishment, he was looking down at the world. He could see wisps of cloud far below him; oceans, continents, and Johnny realized he must be in space. To his right, he could see the bulge of Africa, and in front of him, almost directly due west; he could already see the outline of South America.
As before, Johnny had no sensation of movement. It was if he was watching a movie, and yet he knew he should have his brains splashed all over the walls. There was no way his body could survive the incredible forces the ship generated in flight, so he asked.
The ship explained that it used magnetic energy as its primary power source. It was infinite, as the earth, any other planet or heavenly body, was essentially a gigantic magnet. It fed off the earth’s natural power, and bent it to its will. Instead of using conventional thrust to propel the ship forward, thus requiring safety harnesses for its occupants and limiting its performance; the ship enclosed itself and its occupants in a magnetic bubble that effectively made them one and the same.
When the ship required forward thrust, or a sudden high-speed change of direction, everything and everyone inside the craft became part of the thrust mechanism, and therefore felt absolutely no sensation.
It was as if you filled a fish bowl with water, sealed tight without any air, and put a goldfish inside. If you picked the fish bowl up, swung it around, and shook it up and down, the goldfish would have no idea, because it was part of the fish bowls environment. It wouldn’t tumble around and get injured; it would stay more or less in the middle of the bowl. Johnny knew it was a poor analogy, but to him, it made perfect sense. He was as much part of this ship as the steel out of which it was constructed. It could turn on a dime without spilling a cup of coffee on the table.
The ship gave Johnny another insight that he would never have considered. Because it didn’t rely on airflow to give it lift, or air intake, fuel combustion, and exhaust to provide its thrust; it wasn’t subject to the same laws that conventional aircraft must obey. This ship could fly at speeds undreamed of; no sonic boom, no turbulence, no limits. It could fly into space, and to Johnny’s utter astonishment, he realized that it could fly underwater too!
He was brought back to reality as the ship began to plunge headlong towards the Earth, and he saw the twin continents racing up to meet him. He realised that he had not gone straight up as he had originally thought, but had already covered half the distance to South America.
That must be Miami, to the far right, and Cuba to the left of it, and those must be Caribbean islands and the Bahamas. Johnny could not believe he was on the other side of the world!
As the ship neared the ground, Johnny could see the landscape below him more clearly, and he began scanning the land for the lost cities. Almost immediately, he noticed an area that seemed to look like ancient ruins. Johnny felt hope surge within him. It had obviously become a tourist attraction, complete with souvenir stalls and refreshment stands. In the distance, he could see a young couple walking hand-in-hand across a manicured lawn, away from the main pyramid, talking to one another. To his surprise, he could hear what they were saying.
‘Are you okay, my angel?’
‘Of course I am Gerald, stop being such a prissy! It’s a longer climb than I thought, and the way down was awfully frightening! It’s so steep! How did the priests even get their victims up all those steps at such an angle?’
Johnny chuckled. Is there no end to this ship’s capabilities? he thought.
Turning his attention back to the ship, he asked; ‘Is this the lost city I am looking for?’
‘I think not, Master. Further south we will find what we seek, Master.’
‘I thought you couldn’t navigate?’
‘I cannot, Master, but I still retain memories, and I recognise this place. I can guide you now, Master.’
‘Excellent!’ he said, as the ship changed direction and began a slow, weaving descent to the south.
Soon there appeared, in the far distance, a green hill that pushed its way through the canopy of trees that surrounded it. After the many solitary hours Johnny had spent studying books and magazines in the school library and at home, he had a very good idea as to where they were heading – the Amazon Jungle, in Brazil. He was certain that this part of the jungle was hundreds of miles away from any civilization, and there was a high probability that it had never been visited by a westerner in recorded history.
Johnny sensed the ship take control. He opened his eyes, and although he still couldn’t discern any movement in the ship, he knew it was in the process of landing. As the ship came to a gentle halt, he made his way down the staircase, placed his hand on the imprint, and stood in mute disbelief as the door opened. The ship wasn’t perched on top of a hill at all, as he had expected. Instead, he found himself standing on top of the ramp looking down on a perfectly preserved pyramid. Dust hung in the air, and he could see the remains of trees and shrubs flung out on all sides. Somehow, his arrival had stripped millennia of growth from this edifice, almost as if it had been expecting him.
He walked slowly down the ramp, admiring his surroundings. The view from up here allowed him to see clearly above the tree line, and he could see the expanse of the jungle stretching out for miles on all sides. It was a beautiful, cloudless day with only the faintest breeze. Johnny marvelled at the beauty that surrounded him.
The landscape offered lush, green trees and vegetation, with fruits and flowers of the brightest, most exotic colours. He could hear the sounds of the creatures of the forest; monkeys, parrots, even the coughing of a large cat far off in the distance. An aroma filled the air, so rich Johnny felt almost intoxicated by the diversity of it all. This is paradise! he thought.
Then, just below, down by the trees, a flash of movement caught his eye. From a dense thicket of bush emerged an old man, wary of Johnny’s presence. He seemed afraid and slipped warily back into the cover. Johnny raised his hand in greeting, hopeful that he would see that he did not intend him any harm. The old man re-emerged and edged slowly in Johnny’s direction. He began to climb the pyramid.
Johnny could now see other figures moving swiftly through the trees, all congregating around the pyramid upon which he stood. He waited.
The old man climbed the last steps on his way to the summit. Dressed in ragged, dirt stained robes, bare footed and wrinkled, Johnny scarcely believed his eyes – the old man was white!
Published Titles in the Johnny Roberts Series:
Book Two: Johnny Roberts and the Gods of Eden
Andrew Noble © 2012
Cover artwork: Adam Van Der Riet © 2012
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© 2012 Andrew Noble All Rights Reserved