Johnny flew the ship towards the city he saw below. He was unsure which city it was, but the bright lights were a beacon, and drew him like a moth to the flame. Jade had busied herself with some or other unfathomable feminine task downstairs, and Johnny sat alone at the controls of the ship.
The ship was invisible, as usual, but Johnny had been given quite a scare in the jungles of Brazil when the helicopters of the attacking force had somehow been able to track him. He still wasn’t sure how they had managed it, and he sat forward now in his seat as the ship approached overhead.
‘Ruaz,’ Johnny asked, ‘are we near our destination?’
‘There is still a distance to travel Master,’ the ship replied.
‘Remind me where it is again?’
‘Master, we are in search of what remains of the civilization of the Aryans. It is one of several regions colonised by your people, and I believe we may find a clue to our next step in that region. It lies to the East yet, and this is not where we are meant to be.’
Johnny remained silent as the ship cruised silently above the sprawling city. Wood fires competed with artificial light in a city where resources had been depleted by the attrition of war, and poverty was rife. A particularly bright area caught his attention, and Johnny saw the unmistakeable criss-cross pattern of an airport ahead. Curiosity warred with caution as Johnny edged the ship closer. He could see the myriad of aircraft parked in their bays, and saw the cluster of lights that signified communal areas like restaurants and sleeping quarters.
He felt an unexpected pang as he watched people going about their business in the quiet night. Reading a book, getting a bite to eat, a couple walking hand in hand under the bright lights of the sentry towers. It was ironic that such a peaceful scene could exist in what was obviously a highly militarized base, and Johnny didn’t need to look far to see the stars and stripes flying high.
That was enough to get him going again, and he was about to fly off into the darkness when a flume of bright orange flame erupted at the far end of the compound. Shocked, Johnny stared as the sky lit up as bright as day. Sirens broke the evening silence, and he watched as pandemonium erupted on the ground. People scattered in all directions, and Johnny felt a stab in his guts as he noticed the couple he had seen earlier lying in a tangled heap not far from where the explosion had occurred.
He had a sudden need for Jade. He wanted to feel her warmth beside him and give her the comfort that she still hadn’t realised she gave him.
‘Jade!’ he called. He received no answer. ‘Ruaz, summon Jade please,’ he instructed.
He continued looking on at the carnage below, knowing the ship would alert Jade to what was happening, and that she would be beside him in moments.
Johnny watched in morbid fascination as order emerged from the chaos, as the well-oiled military machine came to life. Another explosion lit up the sky, but this time they were prepared, and answering fire merged with the rumble of the blast.
He noticed a group of people emerge from a nondescript building in a dark area of the compound, and something about their demeanour tweaked Johnny’s curiosity. A few stumbled as if injured, though they were far from the conflict, and Johnny instinctively recognised the behaviour of people drunk on alcohol. Having been raised by a drunk he knew the signs.
Military police were shepherding them away from the chaos, and Johnny figured they had been detailed this job because somebody had the presence of mind to realise that tonights drinkers would need minding.
He noticed a young female slightly apart from the main group, and she seemed to have her wits about her. While the others milled about in studied concentration, she had already distanced herself from the main group and seemed intent on making her own way to safety. Johnny watched with wry humour as he realised he was watching the age old dilemma of the law abiding citizen caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. She slipped into the shadow of a nearby building just as a mortar landed in the midst of the revellers.
Bodies flew in every direction and Johnny gasped at the carnage. He was still reeling from the shock when the young female emerged, limping, bleeding profusely, and obviously dazed. She shook her head in confusion, blood pouring down her face, and collapsed to her knees, her arms hanging limply at her sides. Her eyes fluttered and she fell to the ground senseless.
Johnny felt helpless in the face of this devastation. Like a wildlife documentary producer, he had the terrible responsibility of deciding whether to intervene, or to let the natural course of events unfold. He glanced around the immediate area, still feeling a sense of hopeless detachment.
The drums of aviation fuel had been moved to the back of the base after having been found to be contaminated. They were supposed to have been removed for filtering, but as with so many things, they had been forgotten, and sat amongst a collection of crates, tarpaulins, and old aircraft parts near the workshop that had become the semi-legal drinking hole that served as the bar.
A tongue of flame licked at an old sheet of canvass soiled by months of oil residue and fuel spills. Turning blue, it gained in ferocity as it slaked its thirst on the fumes released by the sheet. A loud hiss signalled the failure of one of the derelict drums of fuel, and a jet of blue flame erupted from the pile of junk. Johnny braced himself for the inevitable.
Johnny turned around to see Jade standing at his shoulder, her face grim and determined.
‘Save her now!’ she shouted.
Johnny leapt into action, and as the first drum exploded, setting off a chain reaction that produced a blast of staggering proportions, the girl on the ground disappeared into the night.
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