by A21 Reporter Andy Clems
After a long voyage, Stingray finally surfaced off the coast of the small picturesque port of El Sombra. Atlanta had been looking forward to some well-deserved shore leave and the thought of a few nights in the little coastal town lifted her spirits enormously.
Troy and Phones were equally cheerful about the prospect of some rest and relaxation after a grueling series of patrols and several skirmishes with Titan’s underwater armies. Marina, the beautiful princess they had rescued from Titan’s evil clutches, had taken the opportunity to visit her father at the undersea kingdom of Pacificia and the Stingray crew would collect her on the voyage back to Marineville.
The trio dressed in comfortable off-duty clothes and went ashore for a bite to eat. They quickly found a quaint little restaurant called Villa Sanchez overlooking the harbour. Troy intended to enjoy himself to the full, but always felt better knowing he could check on Stingray from time to time. After their run-in with Professor Corda some months earlier, he didn’t want to take any chances that something might happen to the craft while they were away.
The meal was delicious and the three companions passed several pleasant hours before they decided to call it a night. On their way back to the harbour, Atlanta noticed a strange, eerie light coming from somewhere along the side of the cove. She mentioned it to Troy and Phones, but they saw no sign of it and passed it off as a reflection of the lights from the town. Reluctantly, Atlanta agreed that she had probably been mistaken.
Back on board Stingray, Atlanta was restless. Try as she might, she couldn’t sleep a wink and decided to go up on deck to get some fresh air. The cool night breeze ruffled her hair as the forward hatch opened and she climbed out. The town looked as beautiful as ever in the light of the moon, though most of the lights in the village were extinguished. She turned and gazed out to sea for a long moment, lost in her thoughts about nothing in particular.
Then, just as it had done earlier in the evening, a mysterious light caught her attention from the shadows in a cove off to the the starboard side. Troy and Phones had been wrong, there was no way it could have been a reflection. Atlanta decided to investigate. She left a note for the others and then boarded her monocopter and glided over towards the side of the cove.
She landed softly and dismounted, making her way towards the mouth of a small cave in the rock face. As she approached, she began to feel vaguely ridiculous. There she was, snooping around alone in the middle of the night all because she thought she’d seen a strange light. What if there was a perfectly reasonable explanation? Perhaps it was just a fisherman’s lamp or something equally simple to explain.
Atlanta was just about to turn around and head back to Stingray when she heard voices from inside and they didn’t sound at all friendly. She crept nearer, peering around the edge of the rock wall. In the eerie glow of some strange phosphorescent rock, she saw them. There were two of them, undersea aliens of a kind Atlanta was unfamiliar with. The taller one, evidently in charge, was doing most of the talking. He gestured to something just out of Atlanta’s line of sight. The shorter alien went in that direction and returned pushing a cart with a heavy load on top, covered with a tarpaulin. The taller alien stepped forward and ripped the covering away to reveal a deadly-looking laser cannon.
Looking pleased, the alien boasted that the destruction of Stingray was now within their reach and ordered his subordinate to position the weapon ready for firing. That was all Atlanta needed to hear. She scrambled back along the cliff face heading for her monocopter as quickly as she could. Somehow she had to warn the others, to get them and Stingray out of danger. She was almost at the monocopter when she slipped on a slimy rock and fell hard, knocking the breath out of her body with a cry.
From the direction of the cave there was a shout, followed by a scrabbling of feet on rock. Atlanta got up, stumbling forward once more. She heard a voice calling for her to stop, but she paid no heed. She was less than 6 feet away when the projectile hit her in the back. A sharp pin-prick of pain, a creeping numbness and then nothing. The world spun into darkness, and she was lost.
TO BE CONTINUED…