Johnny heard her footsteps on the sand and looked up in pleasure. Jade walked towards him, a coconut cradled in one arm, the other swinging in rhythm to the swaying of her hips. He stared at them in wonder. It did funny things to his stomach and made him feel slightly ill, but he had a hard time tearing his eyes away nonetheless. She smiled at him as she caught his eye, and he grinned back.
‘Enjoy your walk, my pretty butterfly?’ he asked her playfully.
‘I did, my lord,’ she said, throwing him a kiss and a wink. It really was incredible what a few months on a secluded beach, miles from anybody else, could do for a person’s soul. Day after blissful day they spent swimming, eating, and talking – getting to know each other. Lying in the sun and watching the palm fronds wave in the gentle tropical breeze. Neither of them had ever experienced this kind of life before.
Johnny came from the greys and browns of Johannesburg, and he only knew tarmac roads and a skyline broken by the skyscrapers of the city and the dirty yellow mine dumps that pervaded three of the four Rands, or regions, that surrounded the city. The East, West, and South Rands all had them – only the North Rand, or Northern suburbs, was free of these eyesores.
Jade, on the other hand, had never seen a tarred road in her life, having grown up in the depths of the Brazilian rainforest. Until a few months ago, her life had centred on village culture, where one hunted or fished for food, spent every evening around the communal village bonfire, and retired at the end of the night to a grass hut in the middle of the jungle. Johnny was the first person she had ever met who wasn’t from her village, and she still thought of him as a god.
This island setting was new to both of them. White beaches, turquoise sea, blue, blue sky, and a sense of wellbeing that even Jade had never known. They were at peace, but it wasn’t always so. Their dramatic departure from Jade’s village two months previously had impressed upon both of them the danger and fragility of their situation.
What had Cheryl Parker, the CIA agent who had tracked them down to the deserted village, said?
‘You know that there are people out there who will try and stop you, Johnny. A kid flying around in a UFO isn’t the kind of thing that makes governments very comfortable.’
And that was the bones of it, really. All Johnny wanted was that they be left alone. He wanted to keep Jade safe, sheltered, and happy, but Cheryl’s words were never far from his thoughts and he worried if, or when, her words may turn prophetic.
Jade crossed her legs and sat down in the shade, placing the large coconut on her lap. She started the long process of de-husking it with the viciously sharp knife they had found in the ship’s armoury, and Johnny felt a glow of pride at her innocent independence; her unaffected happiness. She had endured terrible trauma – losing the old man that was as a father to her, then captured by the brigands who had decimated her village and beaten her so severely that, had it not been for the technology of the ship, she may have died. Yet now she sat and hummed a simple tune as she stripped the husk from the coconut.
Johnny felt a lump rise in his throat. She had saved his life, even though she was on death’s doorstep herself. The guerrilla leader, Francesco, had overpowered him on the ship, and would have succeeded in gaining full control had Jade not awoken from her pain-induced stupor, picked up the discarded gun, and shot him in the head.
That simple action had some serious connotations. The gun belonged to the ship and to the strange, blonde gods who had built it and flown it thousands of years ago. When Francesco attempted to use it, it had nearly taken his hand off in a flash of blinding refusal, yet Jade had picked it up and killed him with impunity. Johnny had researched this enigma, questioning the ship at length, and it had made it quite clear that both Jade and Johnny shared a genetic link to these long lost people, whereas the brigand did not.
Johnny and Jade both knew now that they weren’t human, per se, despite appearances. While Johnny could see quite plainly where Jade’s blood came from, he was at an absolute loss as to where he may have inherited their genes. Jade and her entire village claimed direct lineage from the ancient gods, with Jade and the Guardian carrying the royal gene undiluted through the millennia. But all that Johnny knew about his own past was that his parents had adopted him, and when his father told him, he’d knocked him senseless and run away.
They couldn’t spend the rest of their lives on this tiny island however, as attractive as it sounded, and Johnny had been meaning to speak to Jade for several days now.
‘Goddess, the brilliance of your countenance fills me with wonder, and I grovel in the presence of your divine hotness!’ he said with gravity.
Jade giggled. She couldn’t resist it when he turned the full force of his charm on her, but she had learnt to play along. Without looking up from the coconut on her lap, she replied.
‘Well, servant, I see you have yet to learn the sacred art which is grovelling. It is a pity, for I am, in truth, a little fond of you.’
‘Really, my queen? How much?’ he asked, laughter in his eyes.
‘Just a little,’ she teased. She played along with real pleasure, enjoying the game, but she was still a little in awe of Johnny and it felt weird to be so familiar with him. She knew she was in love with him, and she believed with all her heart that he loved her too, but they were both still very young – far too young to think of marriage or the other benefits that went along with it. Johnny was thirteen, though he looked and acted closer to seventeen, and Jade was twelve, but – as with Johnny, she appeared a person much older.
A stranger happening upon them may assume they were high school sweethearts on the verge of adulthood, and would have allowed them a certain degree of license when it came to their private indulgences, but they didn’t go there. In fact, they stopped short of open affection, limiting themselves to affectionate teasing and innocent flirting instead.
They both knew, though, and were content for the moment.
Johnny smiled at Jade. ‘Such insolence! Why – mere months ago you thought the sun shone out of my …’
‘Okay, okay – just kidding, my precious flower,’ he laughed. ‘I actually wanted to speak to you about something, Jade.’ She looked up at him, noting the use of her name.
‘We know there must be others of our kind somewhere, Jade, and I’ve been wondering whether …’
He didn’t finish his sentence. Jade was staring out over the breakers, frowning in concern, and Johnny turned to see what had distracted her. He heard it at the same time that he saw it. A black inflatable dingy was skimming over the water, about to reach the outer breakers, and several men dressed in black were on board.
Jade seemed uncertain, having never seen an inflatable boat or wetsuits before, but Johnny knew without a doubt what was going on.
‘Run Jade! Run now! To the ship!’ he shouted. She still seemed unsure, and Johnny grabbed her by the arm and propelled her up the beach towards the ship.
‘The enemy is upon us!’ he shouted into her ear as they ran, and she snapped out of her confusion. She had been involved in attacks on her village by hostile tribes many times in her young life. Her parents had died in just such an attack, and she ran with renewed purpose.
The ship was invisible to the naked eye. They both knew exactly where it was, however, as, besides the trail of footprints they’d left over the last two months, it had the very useful feature of leaving the ramp and doorway visible, like a portal to nowhere.
Jade ran with Johnny directly behind her. She heard a gunshot, and her heart stopped as she heard Johnny cry out.
‘Johnny!’ she screamed, turning back. He lay sprawled in the sand, holding his lower leg. The boat had reached the shore and the men in black were running towards them.
‘No! No! Run Jade! Get to the ship. Leave me! Get to the ship – it will obey you, Jade. Trust me.’
Jade hesitated. She knew she didn’t have the strength to carry Johnny, and the ship was still a dozen or more meters away. The attackers had covered over half the distance to them, and with despair, she realized they would be on her within moments.
She turned and ran with all her might, hearing Johnny urging her on as she ran. Glancing over her shoulder she saw men stooping over him, and with a cry of fright, she saw the rest coming directly at her. She ran up the ramp, turned around, and placed her hand on the imprint used to close it. The man in the lead was moments away, and she sobbed with relief as the ramp shut just as he closed the last few feet that separated them. She ran up the stairs to the third level and sat down behind the controls. She looked at the two indented handprints that she has seen Johnny use so many times before and tried to swallow her fear.
Although Johnny had come into her life nearly three months ago, and although they had been together almost constantly in that time, Jade had never interacted with the ship before. Not at this level anyway. That was Johnny’s department and she was quite happy to leave that to him.
Jade now had to face the fact that she had no choice, and the ugly reality loomed over her like a dark shadow. The ship killed or seriously harmed all who attempted to use it without right. They had discussed at length the fact that she shared Johnny’s genetic legacy, but she had never actually put it to the test. Not in the cold hard light of day, at least. It didn’t occur to her that the simple act of closing the ramp proved it, and now she sat trembling at the main controls of the ship.
Thinking of Johnny, she fought back her fear, closed her eyes, placed her hands tentatively on the controls, and let out a cry of delight. The entire view of the beach opened up before her, even clearer than when she looked at it with her own eyes. At the same time, she felt a warm, energizing force flow through her body, and she knew now how Johnny felt when in control of the ship, and why he loved it so much.
‘Greetings Mistress. How may I serve?’
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