Castle Roland


by Kyle Aarons

In Progress

Chapter 2

Published: 1 Dec 2014


Kyle Aarons

Bryan and Alex cleaned up, had red snapper for supper, and headed down to the launch-area. Bryan took note that two of the SACs were not in the bay and looked over to the status board. The lower left corner of mission board had the current missions of SACs one and five as 'Hunting Frenchman'. He immediately knew Stan was behind it. He pointed it out to Alex.

Alex's face broke out into a wide grin, "I sure hope they bag a few."

"For Mom?"

"Yea. And for the pirate activity they are involved with."

"How did you know about that?"

"I get to sit in on the mission briefings with the others in the Security Force Cadet Program. Most of the guys don't go, but Shelly and I think they put out some cool information. I'm glad you let Uncle Stan setup that program."

"It sounded like a pretty good idea. I'm somewhat surprised so many of the kids on board joined in, but I'm glad it is working out. By the way, when are you going to bring this Shelly over for dinner?"

Alex turned a shade of red that almost matched his hair, "Oh Dad!"

Bryan ruffled his son's hair and went over to the launch bay operator. It was good to know Alex was embarrassed about having his first girlfriend. At least some things didn't seem to change. "Are those new drones loaded?"

The man snapped to attention. Stan ran a next to military ship, especially with the security force. "Yes sir. It will just take a few minutes to secure the drone pod to MORSAV One."

Alex looked up from the mission terminal, "New drones?"

Bryan smiled almost deviously, "You better take a look Son. No more turkey shoots for you."

Alex walked over and looked into the drone-launching pod. "Are these the new engines you developed?"

"I had to do something to level the playing field."

Alex took a closer look, "Hey!"

Bryan glanced up from MORSAV's log book, "What?"

"These things have our new laser reflective coating!"

Bryan turned to the launch bay operator, "Do they?"

"Yes sir. Mr. Richardson ordered them to be outfitted with the coating yesterday."

"Good ole Stan. How much do each of these run?"

"With the hook up to TAC, laser reflective coating, long range laser, and the new turbo engine, just over 35,000 credits each. Sales is working on selling them and a smaller version of TAC to the British and Australians. Sounds pretty promising."

"Good. I need to make up for sending my son out to hunt them." Alex jumped up and came over to the two men; "They have a link with the Tactical Analysis Computer too?"

His dad flashed him a grin, "Only the very best for you today."

"That means it'll be ten on one out there."

"It always is."

"Not like this! This should be fun."

Bryan shook his head and muttered, "Not to mention much more expensive."

"How about you just give me the money for them instead?"

"What would you do with 350,000 credits?"

Alex thought it over, "I could always go up to Spain and buy me a slave that is good with programming computers. That way I could have him do my homework for me."

Bryan couldn't help but laugh. Alex was gifted in many ways; however, he just didn't have the nice logical mind needed to work with computers. His grades in other classes were all above average, and in writing and languages down right superb, but computers continually haunted him. Alex was fine with the basics, such as word processing and game playing, but any more than that he had to struggle.

Still chuckling about the comment he spoke, "And what would you do with him when we had a port of call in Unified North or United Britain?"

"As long as he does the computer homework, he would be treated so well he wouldn't even notice he was a slave Dad. I bet he wouldn't even care and would stay with us even if he was technically freed."

"Oh get in MORSAV and run down the pre-dive check list, will you?"

Alex did a perfect back flip onto the deck of MORSAV and climbed into the hatch. He ran down the checklist with a degree of caution seldom found in an eleven-year-old boy.

This was to the credit of Stan. The first time he saw the boy fudging on the checklist, he took a few key systems offline and drained the battery power from a few others. Alex sat for almost three hours alone at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico with no radio contact before being 'rescued'. He got the message loud and clear.

That was the last time he had ever sped through a checklist. As soon as he was absolutely sure everything was in working order, he climbed back on deck and had a young assistant help him install a couple of extra pods. "She's ready Dad."

"What did you put on down there?"

"You'll find out."

Bryan took a deep breath, "Oh boy. I can hardly wait." He checked to make sure the drone pod was properly attached before crossing over to the submersible to join his son.

Alex took her down real slow. He was very careful when it came time to avoid the anti-torpedo net. It had been over a year since he had last hit the thing. The last thing he wanted was to break such an impressive streak on one of the rare times when his father could be with him. The ocean currents around the ship made it a little more difficult than normal, but he compensated for the drag to starboard and eased her forward. As soon as he was clear, he took the craft down to two hundred and fifty meters. "Where to Dad?"

"Head northwest. As soon as you clear the coastal shelf, go deep. We'll release the drones where they have room to roam."

Alex put MORSAV into a shallow dive and headed for deep water. As soon as he was sure he had the proper course, he turned to his father, "Have you ever surveyed Rockall Trough before?"

"No, can't say I have. You want to make this an extended trip with your old man?"

"Can we?"

"Why not, but only if you do your school work and take care of getting things put together for your team to fly into Britain."

Alex's head bobbed up and down enthusiastically, "No problem."

"Fine. ELF in that we will be out for approximately seventy-two hours."

"Cool!" Alex put the submersible on autopilot and went back to the Extremely Low Frequency (ELF) transmitter. He radioed Cynthia's security center to inform them of the unexpected change of plans. He also took a few minutes to send a message to Stan, so he could start getting things together to play the same team from earlier in the day on British soil.

When he came forward, he found his dad looking over the latest charts of the area, "What you looking for?"

"Well, I have a mountain valley twenty klicks out, five degrees to starboard. I'll double your allowance for the next month if you can navigate it without autopilot at full standard speed. You got to stay less than ten meters off the ocean floor for the entire run."

"What if I hit something?"

"Then I get your allowance for the next two weeks."

"Deal!" Alex took the craft off autopilot, pushed the throttle all the way up, and guided it into the valley. It turned out that his father had not chosen an easy test. The valley was full of rocky outcroppings, and narrow passages. At just under seventy knots, the task required split second timing and even faster reflexes.

Bryan knew his son would take the chance. MORSAV could handle smashing into a rocky wall without penetrating the new Fero-Titanium hull, but it would damage or destroy several thousand credits worth of equipment. MORSAV had originally been designed for finding and exploring sunken ships. It had external arms that could lift several thousand pounds or gently pick up a Ming vase without so much as scratching it. It also carried a whole host of tools. Everything that could be used to explore an old wreck was readily at hand, cutting torches, silt suction hoses with filters, cameras, lights, and several different type of detectors. Almost all of which were mounted on the outside of the vessel.

Although the risks were quite real, he wasn't terribly concerned. Alex was an excellent pilot. The last few months he had even taken to learning how to fly the stealth attack helicopters.

Alex found the first part quite challenging, but then the valley straightened out some. He decided to practice a few maneuvers the security force sub drivers had been teaching him. He took MORSAV as close to a large rock cropping as he dared to and broke hard to port. The result was a near miss close enough to set off the proximity alarms, which meant they had come closer than five meters.

Bryan clamped on to the copilot seat hard. "What was that‽"


"For what‽ Getting us killed?"

Alex smiled and giggled, "No silly. Anti-torpedo drills. The idea is to turn real close to an outcropping. With any luck the torpedo won't recognize the need to turn fast enough and smash into it instead of us."

To further prove how well he was doing at sub driving, he reached over and engaged the HEAT (Heated Exhaust, Accelerated Thrust) unit. Cold ocean water was taken into a chamber just aft of the fusion power plant and instantly super-heated. The extremely hot water was then pushed out the back of the craft much like a jet engine. MORSAV jumped from seventy knots to just over a hundred and forty. Alex leveled off at the near breakneck speed for the rest of the valley trip.

As soon as he had shot the whole valley he pulled up and disengaged HEAT. "Did I win?"

Bryan forced his hands to release the armrests, "Ye... yes. However, you ever do that to me again and I will dock you allowances for a year. I must have aged at least that much in the last five minutes."

"Oh Dad, we were never in danger."

"Maybe not, but my heart tells me otherwise."

Alex couldn't stop smiling as he headed down just outside of the coastal shelf. At almost two kilometers deep he looked to his dad. "Can I release the drone pods?"

"Sure, want to make this hard on you though. Engage HEAT and put fifty klicks between it and us before you send the go signal."

Alex took a deep breath, "This should be interesting." He did as he was told. He watched on passive sonar as the drones split into three distinct groups. Three veered to the port, three to starboard, and four basically straight on. Those four split up as well: two going deep and the other two taking a direct approach. Alex watched with growing concern. "This is new. They want to completely envelop me."

"Better act fast Son."

"Good point." Alex sent out a false pod and pumped in extra ballast. As soon as he was below all of the four coming straight at him, he engaged HEAT.

The false pod sent out a signal meant to fool sonar into thinking that was where MORSAV was at. As Alex had hoped, some of the drones went after it. Unfortunately, not all of them. The lower two and the three to starboard continued to close on him.

He took a direct course for the lead two. As soon as he was in range he targeted and fired off two rocket guns, one at each. The first drone was torn in half but the second one sustained only a scrape.

Bryan was impressed, "So that's what you installed. Very good. The rocket guns aren't affected by the laser reflective coating."

"But they are a heck of a lot harder to target, and the rockets move much slower than a light pulse. This is going to be harder than I thought."

The slightly damaged drone fired off its nose laser. The high intensity beam was set too low to damage MORSAV, but electronic sensors took into account what was hit and created the illusion of actual damage. This actually gave the drones a bit of an advantage. MORSAV was equipped with the same laser reflective coating as the drones, but the sensors didn't take this into account when accessing probable damage. Fortunately, this time the attacking drone missed altogether.

Alex saw the false pod was under attack by the other five drones and it quickly went offline. He needed to act fast. He ejected all the ballast and shot upward at an incredible rate of speed. G-forces pushed him and his father into their seats. He fired off both rocket guns at the injured drone and a pulse laser at two others on the starboard side. The damaged drone took a square hit and sank. One of the laser pulses also struck a drone dead center. The laser reflective coating did little to save it. At such short range it simply melted. The other drone's coating saved it and it was able to score a hit against the port side rocket gun taking it out of action.

Alex saw that he was in trouble with the other five closing much too fast for his liking. A clean hit from the surviving rocket gun destroyed one more of the attacking drones. He fired both pulse lasers at the last drone from the first group turning it into instant slag. He then switched to computer aided targeting. With the help of the computer he managed to acquire and destroy the lead drone of the second group with the surviving rocket gun. He was able to take out one more before an unlucky shot locked his entire port side. The last three closed in for the easy kill. Even then, he was able to seriously damage one more of them with a snapshot fired more on instinct than anything else.

The control panel suddenly lit up as all systems went offline. Alex hit the armrests in frustration. "Wow! That coordinated attack makes it next to impossible to kill all ten." He flipped the reset switches and called off the remaining drones.

"Don't be so frustrated Son. TAC gave the drones a 99.976% chance of killing you with five or fewer losses. Unless my math is off, that means only just over two in ten thousand should have been able to kill six."

"Just shows you a computer will never be able to do what a person can. Until they can use imagination, I'll beat the percentages every time!"

Bryan grunted. He had heard this argument often from his son. The boy's lack of skill with computers had turned him into a person that felt humans were better than machines all the time. He was beginning to think his son might just be right. His company had been working on Al (Artificial Intelligence) almost since the company's first days. The problem was a computer only had an off or an on position. It couldn't see gray areas. Until a way was figured out to give a switch a 'possible' selection in addition to a yes or no, Al would not, could not, work. Alex's performance proved that.

He hated to see what the computer would say the chances were of someone disabling seven drones and seriously damaging an eighth. The numbers would most likely come out fairly staggering. On the other hand, the next time should be even harder because TAC was already analyzing this fight and building a file on how Alex fought. It would then incorporate what weapons Alex had used to build a profile on his son's fighting styles. Each time Alex went out the profile would grow and TAC would get a better understanding of his boy.

He reached over and gave his son a reassuring squeeze on the shoulder. "Why don't you see if we can't recover some of the drones you shot with the rocket guns? With any luck we'll be able to fix or at least salvage them."

"Let me guess." Alex stated with a sly grin, "This will also make good search and recovery practice."

"Very good Son." Bryan grinned and ruffled his boy's hair; "You are getting to be quite a young man. I am impressed!"

Alex blushed, "Thanks Dad. I love you too."

Bryan gave his son a hard squeeze then headed to the back of the ship, "Want some orange juice?"

"Sure!" Alex responded as he slowly set the computer to project where each of the drones went down.

Alex spent the next two hours recovering the three surviving drones and four others he had destroyed with the rocket guns. The others were a complete loss.

Bryan was impressed. Alex handled the job with a goodly amount of skill. Some of the electronics and at least one engine would be able to be reused. "You know, firing off 250 credit rockets might actually save me some money in the long run."

"If I keep this up, the parts that get reused will begin to hate me."

Bryan headed back and popped in a couple of microwave dinners laughing the whole way. "You are impossible. Take her down and set-up an autopilot grid search. I'll get the chess board ready."

"What do you want Metal Find set at?"

"Put it on standard and record. Tomorrow you can go back over the holographic recording and play with the settings. It'll be good practice for you."

"How come you always have to make things into work?"

"Would you prefer to go back to the ship for school tomorrow?" Alex rolled his eyes. He hated when his father trapped him like this. "Never mind."

Bryan stifled a chuckle. "I thought so."

The two played a game of chess and retired for the night. The autopilot and threat sensors would awaken them if trouble turned up. A separate alarm was also set to go off if Metal Find came into contact with a serious hit. The inside of MORSAV was actually quite roomy for a small submersible. It had seating and sleeping capacity of six, a small shower, and a galley. Everything was state of the art. Even the air and fresh water was handled by advances in technology.

Water was constantly drawn in to a lower chamber and broken down into hydrogen and oxygen. Contaminates and salt were then dumped back into the ocean. Some of the oxygen was used to replace spent oxygen from the breathing of the crew. The rest of the oxygen and hydrogen were then shunted into a separate chamber and ignited. This made for very fresh and clean drinking and showering water. The power for all this came from the small fusion power plant that also powered all of the other ship's functions.

Alex never liked sleeping in the small compartments in MORSAV's sleeping section. He felt more like a canned sardine then a person. Normally this meant that he wouldn't get a very fitful sleep. This night, however, was different. He quickly fell into a deep sleep. His sleep was not without some problems, however.

Only an hour or so after drifting off Alex found himself in a very strange dream. His normal dreams were about sports, shooting, flying, or other favorite activities, but not this night. It was also quite real with color, sights, background sounds, and the like. He really felt as if he was there.

The dream even started out oddly. He was suddenly walking down a hallway of a great stone structure. The workmanship was of old, medieval or slightly before. At first he thought he was in an old church, but no. Although the structure was of a time long ago, it appeared quite new. His feet were cold. He looked down at himself. He was wearing a plain brown nightshirt and had no shoes on. He was younger than what he should have been, seven or eight at the most. He noticed the floor was stone as well. He heard voices coming from down the hall and saw the flickering of firelight. The voices were of two men and a woman. They seemed to be trying to keep their voices down, but all held the tones of underlying anger.

Alex continued down the hall and peaked in the room. Heat from the blazing fire in the fireplace made it tempting to go into the room, but somehow he knew that was not a good idea. The woman seemed to be in command of the meeting. She had long red hair, wore a flowing blue dress with a fur collar and had a shining necklace on. Down around her waist was a curved sheath with the handle of a weapon sticking out of it.

Next to her was a young man of about 17. He wore a thick fur coat and had a large backpack with him. The backpack was crudely made by Alex's standards and appeared to be leather. He carried a wicked looking spear and appeared to be very subservient to the female.

The last man sat in a large chair. A small crown was worn above his brow. He had a huge wooden axe handle with a spiked metal ball attached to the top. His hair was silverish, lengthy, and braided on both sides. The long braids hung down and were loosely wrapped around his neck. His green eyes blazed with an inner intensity that should have been frightening, but somehow they comforted Alex. This man was somehow very familiar to him.

The man with the crown stood, "How can you possibly even think of this." The voice carried power. It was the voice of a man used to making tough decisions.

The woman looked at the young man with her, "Show him what the newest in our order can do."

The boy gave a slight bow, "Yes, my Lady." He turned to the blazing fire and spoke strange words which filled Alex with awe and an inner power. He knew the words but didn't know how or why. He watched in sheer amazement as the sparkles flew from the young man's fingertips toward the fire. Moments later the fire went out and the room became ice cold. The whole of the fireplace was replaced with a large block of ice.

The man with the crown shivered and spoke a few words of his own. Again the ancient sounds coming out of the man's mouth were filled with power and Alex found himself muttering the words as the man spoke them.

They, too, were extremely familiar to him. Flame shot out of the man's hand who wore the crown, melted the ice, and re-lit the fire.

The man shrugged, "Not bad, but why should we be so concerned?"

"Because he has only been my apprentice for six months. Don't you see?"

The man gazed at the younger man, "Six months?"

"Yes, my Lord."

The man stood up and started pacing; "It is already to the point where those of us in command can destroy a village single-handedly. If the new inductees can do this within six months of starting, magic is becoming too powerful. A single rogue could destroy a kingdom. What is it that Merlin purposes?"

"To lock up magic forever."

"How? No matter what we do, we cannot hope to contain all of it. Those that will come after us will search it out and be all powerful."

"It is not that simple. We have gotten with the Elves. They forged twelve magic devices that will hold the magic."

"So the Elves are with Merlin. That is good. One problem, however. How will we protect those items once we don't have our powers?"

"My Lord, there is only one answer. We put them where no one can get to them, ever."

"What of the Dragons?"

"That is why we have to do this together. If we combine and force magic from the focal points, Dragons, Centaurs, Griffins, and the other beasts will be put into a forever slumber. The little magic that remains will not be powerful enough to sustain them. If we act fast, they will not be able to mount a defense."

"And what of my son and the others in the Guild? Don't they deserve a chance to use their powers for the betterment of man?"

The woman was frustrated, and it showed. "My Lord, he and many others will still have some powers. Not all magic will be gone. He will still be on the top of the pecking order. You need not worry."

"What if I say no?"

"I think you know the answer to that."

"I will be declared rogue, and all that I have will be taken."

"That is by Merlin's orders."

The man's voice took on a resigned tone, "Very well, Lady Guinevere. I will be at the first focal point three days hence."

Alex saw the woman was putting on her coat. Not wanting to get caught he headed back down the hall toward a room he somehow knew to be his. He was just about there when the man with the crown came up behind him. "My son?"

Alex turned. The man was shaking his head sadly. "How much did you hear?"

Alex didn't know what to say. All he was able to manage was three short words. They came automatically, but his voice was weak. He could barely whisper. "All of it."

"Under any other circumstances I would punish you dearly for acting like a thief in the night, but you will lose much in the next few days as it is. Merlin's plan is sure to have problems. Hold still. It is time to cast the last major spell of my life."

Alex felt a new sense of power about him. Massive lights flickered about him as the man continued to speak strange words. Seconds after he fell to the floor and was picked up by the man.

The man tucked him into a bed with a thick blanket that looked to be made from a large animal. The golden hair was soft and thick. The blanket warmed him almost instantly. The man then knelt next to Alex, "My son, magic will return some day. When it does your lineage will draw that power first and be the most powerful. This is a gift that will permeate your line.

"You, my youngest, will have to go out on your own. For Merlin will surely have you hunted down and killed when he finds out what I have done this night. I will have a peasant family take you in and hide you." Tears rolled down the man's cheeks as he kissed Alex on the forehead.

Alex woke with tears of his own coming out of his eyes. This seemed particularly strange. He was with his father for an extended stay on the ocean floor, but none the less he was sad. He looked over at the digital readout and saw that it was only 0327 GMT. The dream was fresh in his mind, as no other had ever been. Even as he walked quietly to the galley, he could recall every sound, smell, and footfall. It was an eerie feeling.

For some reason his thoughts went toward his missing friend, "Ryan, where are you?" He whispered in the darkness of the galley. Shaking his head, Alex got a glass of pineapple juice and went back to bed. The rest of the night was free of all dreams.

Half a world away, in Sydney Australia, Ryan Yerris was not having a very good time at all. The last two weeks had turned into an awful nightmare. First, he had watched as his entire family was systematically slaughtered when the yacht his father had just purchased was raided by the new breed of pirate patrolling the high seas. They were no longer armed with inadequate weapons. Some of them had high-tech frigates, destroyers, and even missile boats. Life on the high seas had turned into a matter of those with the biggest guns held the right to do what they wanted. Most of the pirates only wanted loot and riches, but others were far more insidious. They were after everything they could get. Everything included slaves. It was one of these groups which had happened upon the White Shark.

When it became evident his father and mother wouldn't surrender, they went on a rampage. Torture and death became the rule of the day. Ryan, being the youngest, was being saved for last. Just as his turn was coming, two specks appeared on the horizon. The two Caldwell Aerospace designed and built F-57 Death Dealers made short work of the pirate's missile frigate.

Fortunately for Ryan, the blast of the exploding magazines destroyed the White Shark as well. By sheer luck Ryan was thrown clear while the pirates all became part of the fireball and died within moments.

Hours later an Australian ship picked him up. From the deck of the Australian war ship, Viper, a helicopter took him to Sydney. The orphanage was horrible. The staff didn't really care what happened as long as they weren't bothered. Making matters worse, Ryan had come from a good home and was not used to the tougher breed of kids staying at the state-run facility. It wasn't that he couldn't defend himself; on the contrary. He knew some martial arts. The real problem was he was continually ganged up on.

Then things started looking up. A couple of naval demolition's experts started stopping by on almost a daily basis. They let him know that his best friend's uncle had found out what had happened and wanted to make sure he was OK. He knew the man was not truly Alex's uncle, but he might as well have been.

Ryan knew everything there was to know about Alex. He and Alex had become instant friends from the first time they had accidentally met. Accidental was a real mild word. His mother had actually been broadsided by the driver Alex's father had paid to take him inland to see some of Australia. The man had run a stop sign because a bee had stung him in the cheek.

The collision with Mr. Caldwell's vehicle got everyone sent to the hospital.

Alex had been put into Ryan's room for observation. Neither boy had been hurt, but the doctors and Mr. Caldwell had insisted. Friendship had taken only moments.

For almost four months they spent every day together playing on the beaches, fishing, or going out in one of Alex's father's submersibles. It seemed they liked the exact same things. Everything from food to games, to sports, to movies were either liked or hated by both of them. They even had the exact same birthday.

All Ryan really wanted was to talk to his friend. He hoped now that Stan Richardson had found out what had happened, Alex would find and contact him again. He optimistically believed maybe today would be the day. As the day wore on, however, he found himself slipping deeper and deeper into despair. Neither of the navy guys had come to see him nor there was no word from Alex. He retired to his small room to take a nap. It was something he had been doing a lot of since the dreadful day his family had been tortured and killed in front of him. He nodded off quickly and slipped into a new nightmare.

His dream was every bit as real as Alex's. The dream started off rather oddly. A woman handed him a bucket and pointed out to an old fashioned well. The lady was quite short and was dressed in little more than rags. Moldy bread sat on the table and a pot of foul smelling stew was cooking over an open fire in the middle of-the floor.

He realized that he was dressed just as poorly and was slightly younger than he actually was. His bare feet were dirty, as was the rest of him. Five other children sat around the table and watched him. As he was headed out the door the oldest girl tripped him. He fell and hit his head on the bucket. The other children laughed at him.

A man came in the front door, "Such a clumsy boy. It is no wonder your father wanted to get rid of you."

He swallowed his pride and walked out to the well. Even though he had never seen a well like this in real life, he somehow knew what to do. He opened a small box next to the well and took out a long length of rope. He then tied it on the handle of the bucket and lowered it down into the well. He hefted the bucket back up and bent over to untie the rope.

Just as he did, he heard the woman who had sent him to the well to get water scream. The scream sounded very similar to the ones his own mother let out only a couple of weeks before. Scared, he peered over the top of the well but stayed crouched down. He saw the man that had mocked him lay at the door to the house with over ten crossbow bolts stuck into him. His mind spun as he realized he knew what a crossbow bolt looked like and could tell it apart from an arrow. His mind refocused on what was going on around him as he heard more screams and pleas.

He watched in absolute horror as the small dirt-floored, grass-roofed house he had left only minutes before turned into a raging inferno. The other boys and girls of the house were being systematically rounded up. One of the children pointed at him. He ran toward the trees in panic. A few bolts fired from the men rounding up the other children narrowly missed him.

Suddenly, he found himself being pursued by hordes of shining armor wearing knights. Many of them carried colorful banners that he somehow recognized as belonging to people he should be able to trust, but no longer could. The why's and how's escaped him for some reason though.

He again turned and ran. His little bare feet carried him for what seemed to be forever before he finally he slipped and fell into a fast moving stream. He struggled desperately to swim but somehow he couldn't.

This really seemed very strange to the now tossing and turning Ryan. Even as he slept and dreamed his mind kept telling him what he should do to swim. He had been one of the best swimmers on the ten-to-twelve-year-old's swim team before his family had been murdered and the strokes he should use in the dream came to mind but his arms wouldn't obey. His swimming abilities had saved him from the pirates and allowed him to stay afloat until a cutter from the Australian Navy got to him. Yet here he was struggling to stay above water in a simple river.

Time and time again he felt himself sinking and swallowing huge amounts of water. For a few minutes he thought he would be safe. Ryan managed to grab onto a tree sticking out into the water, but then he saw a man with a crossbow aiming at him. He knew the man. He had been a friend, but not anymore. Knowing he was a sitting duck, he let go of the branch. The bolt splashed into the water only centimeters from his head. Again he fought what seemed to be a losing battle with the river. All at once the river dropped out from under him. He looked down and saw he was plummeting off a large waterfall. He yelled in surprise and fear. A second later he felt the water splash around him. He landed in the deep pool below with an immense crashing sound. The impact with the water knocked what little breath remained out of him and his mouth filled with water. Ryan woke up and had to stifle a scream. He looked at the clock. He had only been asleep for about forty minutes. The clock read 1327 Local 0327 GMT.

Holding back tears, Ryan clutched at his blanket and shuddered. Every sight sound and even smell from the dream stuck with him. "Alex why don't you write or something?" He moaned lightly to himself. "I think I'm going crazy."

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