The adventures of JOHN STORM and the SOLAR NAVIGATOR
CYBER WARS © by Jameson Hunter
CHAPTER 15: ATLANTIC DASH © Jameson Hunter 2008 - 2014
John Storm recalled news broadcasts a year or so back reporting experiments to demonstrate the hardy elements of the Aztecs and that such research was conducted on a number of natives at various locations along the Amazon River. Famous for his hunches he set out from London to cross the Atlantic as fast as the Navigator could take him. He recalled the reporter was Charley Temple. He also remembered that rather strangely this research had bee funded anonymously by a local conglomerate rumoured to have connections with drug barons. If he was wrong he’d still collect some DNA to complete his collection. If he was right; he wasn’t quite sure where that would lead, but Clint Eastwood was right when he said: “A man’s life can depend on a mere scrap of information,” in the film a Fist Full of Dollars. Storm loved a good western.
While John had been investigating corpses, Dan Hawk had been out on the town visiting the sights of old London town. He returned to the docks to find John heaving supplies aboard. “I got your message skip, what’s the score?”
“We’re off to South America for a few days. I think you’ll find it interesting.”
“Too right blue,” said Dan and he also started carrying the remaining boxes aboard with the enthusiasm of a schoolboy for a camping holiday.
The Navigator slipped out of the Thames estuary late in the evening so as not to attract attention. That meant traveling on batteries for eight hours before the sun came up. He hoisted the turbogens as far as they would go and was in luck, the four wind turbines worked together to produce 40 kilowatts, not far short of the maximum rating. When combined with the 55kW from the solar wings, this gave the Navigator a respectable turn of speed without draining her batteries, provided the crew were frugal with instruments and the galley. Soon they were doing 20 knots which increased to 24 knots as the following trade winds gusted to thirty miles an hour.
John calculated that at this speed they’d span the Atlantic in nine days and during the day they’d make better time with an extra 55 kilowatts to boost performance and maybe shave off another day. He headed south along the east coast of Africa to Dakar which took the best part of six days, then veered east toward the Leeward Islands, figuring a pit stop in Panama to see what he could find out about the Youtube runner.
They took turns to man the helm with ample support from ‘Bruce’ the autopilot. Thank heavens for Bruce. Many people mistakenly thought there was another crew member because of the way they referred to the specially adapted ‘Navitron Apollo’ guidance system. This package was like the TomTom of the ocean, but better – it could do the steering for you and let you know what was going on. It took autopilots to the next stage, almost dispensing for the need of crew. The voice sounded artificially intelligent. John and Dan had chosen a broad Aussie accent as their audio interface, or tour guide, hence the nickname Bruce.
“Better put a call in to Charley,” said John to Dan. “How’s the signal strength?” Dan checked the readings.
“Should be okay. What’s she doing on this gig?”
“Maybe it should be the other way round. What are we doing on her gig?” Dan looked suitably puzzled and listened for clues. John entered Charley’s number and waited. He was just about to hang up, when Charley answered.
“Is that you John? I’m in the gym,” she said trying to catch her breath. Charley was indeed in the middle of a five mile jog at level 8 on a running machine. She’d ignored the call to begin with intent on beating her best time, but eventually gave in to curiosity.
“Listen,” said John, “We’re half way to south America. Do you remember that piece you did about a year ago?” There was a long silence, forcing John to speak. “Are you still there Charley?”
“Remember it; I can’t get it out of my mind.”
"Really, why is that,” asked John? his curiosity roused.
“If we’re talking about the same thing, you’ll probably be headed inland up a very long river?”
“You’re on the money penny, but why is this so memorable?”
“Because of what I found and rumours of latent plans for world domination from the last century. Steve thought I was losing it.”
“Can you send us what you’ve got?”
“It’s complicated. If you’re serious about this, I’m okay to meet you, if you’ll share quid pro quo.”
“Quid pro quo and hush, hush?” offered John.
“Sounds like a deal, I need a break anyway.”
“Charley you’re a marvel. Thanks.”
“I’ll meet you at Manaus?”
“Spot on, you can’t miss us, next week then my treat. What will you be wearing?” Charley laughed and hung up.
Four days later they were closing on the Leeward Islands, when the weather suddenly took a turn for the worse. One minute the sky was clear and calm, the next the wind picked up and skies darkened. The sea was whipped up into a frenzy of disturbed waves as the winds gusted to 80 miles an hour. The sky turned ominously darker in gray color as the Navigator took a pounding from waves reaching forty feet, which had seconds before been just 5 feet. All this came out of nowhere, the mariners worst fear. The instruments had not given any clue what was in store from them. Bruce had let them down, which was of itself rather puzzling and something to think on later.
“Dan, its emergency lock down action stations – quick as you can. I’ll fold the wings, can you lower the boom?” There was no need for an answer and Storm didn’t wait for one; both men leapt into action. Dan felt the warning from the violent rising and falling of the Navigator, which he’d only felt once before on the east coast of Australia, but not as bad as this. Storm by name, Storm by nature, Dan thought to himself as he braved the wind from the aft helm position, lashed by driving sea spray. He lowered the turbo boom until it was below the helm, then folded the normally upright turbines until they were horizontal.
Thankfully there was ample safety railing to grasp hold of as the combined wind and water combination nearly blew him overboard more than once. The boom lowering was accomplished using just three hydraulic levers and two electrical levers. It was much like using the controls of a JCB, for the arm and tilt functions were not that dissimilar. The controls at the rear were under a hatch forming part of the seat back. Dan soon closed the hatch, after isolating the feed to the batteries and then shorting the generator outputs. In this position the powerful rare earth magnetic field worked as a brake against the rotor windings.
Having completed that task, Dan watched on as John battled to secure the starboard wing over the port. The wings could be folded hydraulically by overriding the auto tracking feature. But additional chain locks had to be fitted by hand – and such a storm called for every precaution. He was standing on the starboard bridge waiting for a lull to take the wing over when the strain on the structure would be reduced. Waves were now crashing over and through the central framework. The port wing was already secured. John looked up at Dan in the helm and shouted, “Get inside Dan, try to give us headway, then flood the ballast tanks.” As Dan disappeared another wave almost took John overboard. He shook off the warm Atlantic brine defiantly. A change of clothing would be called for.
The Navigator swung south-east facing into the oncoming wind and waves. This was the opportunity John was looking for as he deftly folded the starboard wing. The boat was being blown north-west at some speed. John climbed up and manually fitted the remaining security chains. Looking aft he could see the turbines were safe. They were swamped but obviously coping with the lashing. John swung back onto the main walkway and entered the command module. Inside the comm. Dan had already made himself comfortable. John worked his way out of his wet clothing and towelled himself off, then donned an all-in-one. “That’ll teach us to relax.”
“Yup,” nodded Dan, with a bothered look on his face.
“What’s troubling thee mate,” asked John, it wasn’t often that Dan looked worried about anything.
“We’re entering that devilish place in classic conditions and guess what? Our instruments are malfunctioning. Reckon I’m superstitious.” John wasn’t yet up to this. He cracked a Solar Tonic™ and grabbed a sandwich, which he wolfed down, then took the command seat and set about lowering the Navigator further into the ocean by venting more ballast tank. They were indeed being blown off course into the Bermuda Triangle. John scanned the instruments and they were acting strangely. As the weather outside deteriorated the wind speed increased lashing their screens with salt spray so visibility was close to nothing, even with the wipers at full pace. The weatherfax was not receiving anything and ‘Bruce’ refused to display anything for long enough to make sense.
“We’ll just have to ride this one out sport,” said John as a monster wave lifted the Navigator on its crest then let go so the boat plummeted down and dived to near total immersion; their stomachs tried to keep going down as the boat was coming back up. “Blimey,” said Dan “beats the wall of death hands down.” John was thinking the same thing. It was like riding a bucking bronco. Both men came out of their chairs simultaneously, and both re-adjusted their belts………
The Bermuda Triangle has claimed upwards of 5,000 missing ships and 150 aircraft; some vessels being found hundreds of miles away along the Florida coastline. The triangle’s peak is at Bermuda, and then extends west down to Miami, east to Haiti and north back up to Bermuda, an area of some 4,000 square miles. Due to the unique currents generated by the Florida Straight and the Atlantic as the dormant volcanic Bermuda Island obstacles smooth wave passage, waves from different directions occasionally converge reaching 120 feet in a vortex of extremes, a phenomenon referred to as Gulf Stream Displacement. The USS Cyclops was one such victim to a rogue wave which vanished without trace as it travelled from South America to the mid Atlantic. It does not help matters that the area is also prone to tropical revolving storms, the wrong combination of which would be sure to test the hardiest of mariners.
So far they’d not been engulfed, and now that John had settled the Navigator into sea-anchor mode, even if they were it wouldn’t matter. The Navigator had bubble hulls, a safety feature built in conceptually at the outset. That fact did nothing to allay Dan's fears but John thought to reassure Dan.
"Dan, we've got bubble hulls. That means the two life support modules automatically seal themselves in the event of capsize.
“It’s no joke John, I was fascinated by this subject as a boy. One of the eeriest true events happened on December the 5th 1945, Flight 19.”
“Yuh, I heard of that one. 5 US Navy Avenger torpedo bombers, disappeared without trace having been spotted in various locations by the Fort Lauderdale radio tracking station and later by the USS Solomon aircraft carrier going in the wrong directions, heading out to sea then heading inland over Flagler Beach.” Dan was impressed.
“In that case Flight Lieutenant C. C. Taylor had reported instruments going haywire, which partly explained his erratic course changes. So you’re saying that our instrument playing up puts us in the same situation?”
“In a nutshell,” said Dan.......
World map showing Atlantic crossing to South America and from the Amazon to Washington
WARS (CYBERCORE) Copyright
© Jameson Hunter 2008 and 2014.
right of Jameson Hunter to be identified as the
author of this work has been asserted in
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Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988.
In this work of fiction, the characters, places and events are either the product of the author’s imagination or they are used entirely fictitiously.
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