Troy, Phones and Marina were pressed against their seats as Stingray surged ahead, accelerating to its incredible maximum speed of 600 knots.
Phones glanced at his instruments, “Rate 6 puts us just under 2 hours cruisin’ from Therminos, Troy.”
“Right,” Troy answered, “and once we get there, we’re going to have to work fast. The geological readings indicate that underwater volcano could erupt at any time. If it does, then Therminos and all the people living there could be in real danger.” He turned towards the rear cabin area and gestured to Marina. “Marina, could you come up here for a moment?”
Marina unfastened her lap strap and made her way to the forward control area. She waited expectantly for Troy to continue.
“Now, as I understand it, Therminos is one of Pacifica’s closest allies, is that right?”
Troy continued, “Things could get tricky if we ask these people to leave their homes, Marina. Will you be able to communicate with them? Let them know we’re trying to help?”
Once more Marina nodded, though Troy and Phones could see a flicker of uncertainty cross her face.
Phones smiled, “Don’t worry, Marina, you’ll do just fine. Troy and I know you’ll do your best, and hopefully we’ll have this little ol’ mission wrapped up and be back in Marineville in time for supper.”
Marina smiled in return, grateful for the reassurance.
“Okay, that’s settled then.” Troy said, relieved. “Phones, switch to automatic bosun. Let’s take another look at the charts and see if we can come up with a plan of action.”
Stingray sailed onward under computer control as Troy, Phones and Marina made their plans.
Meanwhile, the people of Therminos were becoming uneasy. The mountain that stood at the centre of their underwater city had begun to rumble, as if some huge beast of the deep was tossing and turning at its heart.
In the council chamber, Supreme Ruler Donatra addressed her fellow council members.
“My friends, we face a great crisis. If we are to survive, we must accept the help offered by the Terraineans.”
The faces around the giant clam-shell table looked back, some with approval, others in dismay.
Korvus, the leader of the opposition, spoke first, “And what proof do we have that the Terraineans can be trusted, Supreme Ruler? Might they not be glad to see our underwater civilisation destroyed? We have heard many reports of their destructive war-like ways. We need only look to the destruction of Solarstar as evidence of their aggressive tendencies.”
“You speak without thinking, Korvus!” Donatra’s voice was controlled, but firm. “The people of Solarstar, well known for their xenophobic hostility, launched a series of unprovoked attacks against the Terraineans, who responded in self defence.”
Undeterred, Korvus rallied again, “If they succeeded in destroying Therminos, there would be nothing to prevent them from claiming they also did so in self defence. We would not be here to dispute their lies.”
“Enough!” Donatra uttered the rebuke like a whip-crack. “You are not here to question my orders, but to carry them out! You each have your assigned duties. When the Terrainean craft arrives, I expect you to extend them every courtesy and assistance. Prepare the city for evacuation.”
Back in Stingray’s cabin, the automatic bosun began to reduce the craft’s speed.
“Approachin’ Therminos, Troy.”
“Disengage automatic bosun and reduce to investigation cruise.”
They cleared a rocky outcrop and then saw Therminos ahead. The twinkling lights of the underwater city, surrounding the base of the huge volcano, which loomed up from the sea floor like a giant gaping maw.
One of the indicators on Phones’ console began to flash urgently.
“Troy! I’m picking up some violent activity over there, it could be the— Look!”
As Phones spoke, a stream of bubbles burst from the mouth of the volcano.
“Step on it, Phones! Take us in, quick! The sea’s starting to boil and if we don’t move fast, everyone in Therminos will be finished!
TO BE CONTINUED…