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Authors: Philip Roy

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BOOK: Eco Warrior
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So we sat, waited, and listened for the drone of an engine in the sky. But after a few minutes I just had to ask Brian something. I whispered. “Why did you come looking for me?”

“Aye. Well, Jewels told me about meeting you, before she flew back to Sydney. And then I saw on the news that they were looking for you, and I knew that you hadn’t done it, so I just had to lend you a hand. I couldn’t see a young fellah like yourself landing in prison for a crime you didn’t commit. I’ll be flying back to Sydney myself in a few days, just after I get a little fishin’ in with some of my mates. This jeep belongs to one of them.”

“I really appreciate that. But how did you know that it wasn’t me who did it?”

“Well…let’s just say I have an idea maybe I know who did. But the less we talk about that the better, don’t you think? You can’t be charged with conspiring to commit sabotage if you don’t know who did it.”

“Fair enough.”

“All I knew for certain was that it wasn’t you. And I couldn’t sit around and watch you take the fall for it.”

“Thank you for helping me out.”

“Aye. I’ve got a feeling you’d do the same for me.”

“I would.”

“There you go. Have you got a plan then, Alfred?”

“I was going to wait a week or so, then sneak back to the pier, grab the sub, and disappear.”

“Do you think maybe you’re safer taking it now when they’re thinking you’re up here wanderin’ around in the parks?”

“That’s a good point.”

“You’re good at disappearing I take it.”

“At sea I am.”

“Where do you plan on going next?”

“Tasmania.”

“Aye, that’s a great place. I’ve got friends there you can stay with, if you’d like. But tell me, how do you plan on sneaking into the pier with the dog on your back?”

“I’ll have to leave him on shore until I bring the sub up to the surface. Then I’ll jump out and carry him in.”

“But won’t they see the sub when it’s on the surface?”

“No. I’ll bring the portal out of the water just a couple of inches. And I’ll do it in the middle of the night. I’m not worried about being seen as much as being detected on radar.”

“So, supposing you get your dog inside, and you’re ready to go, how on earth do you sneak out of the harbour past the navy?”

“That’s the tricky part. I have to wait for a boat or ship to pass close enough to the pier to pedal underneath it. I have a stationary bike hooked up to the driveshaft. It’s slow, but undetectable by sonar. Once we’re under a ship, I turn on the battery power and follow the ship out to sea. That’s our best way to escape. We’ve done it before.”

“I think maybe you should be working for the Special Forces, Alfred. Or maybe you
are
working for the Special Forces already, and you’re not allowed to tell me. And that’s a Special Forces dog you’ve got there in the bag. He sniffs out bombs and terrorists, does he?”

I laughed. “He probably could, but I wouldn’t be willing to put his life at risk like that.”

“Tell me, Alfred, does it have to be a big ship that you hide under, or will a motorboat do?”

“A motorboat would do, if it’s big enough.”

“Well, you’re in luck then ’cause my mate’s got one down at the marina, and I’ll just have to ask him for the keys, and we’re all set.”

“Really? You wouldn’t mind going to all that trouble?”

“Not at all, my son, not at all. I know you’d do the same for me if I were a Special Forces agent trying to escape the Australian navy.”

“I would.”

“But do you truly know what you’re doing, attempting to escape right underneath their noses?”

“I have learned that sometimes the smartest thing to do is exactly what everyone assumes you’ll never do, because people don’t see what they’re not expecting to see. Besides, I don’t have a lot of choices.”

“I suppose not. But how do you get into the submarine when it’s sitting on the bottom? Have you got a special door underneath it then?”

“No. I go in through the hatch.”

“On the top?”

“Yah.”

“But doesn’t the sea flood into it?”

“Yes, but I open and close it so quickly that only a couple of feet of water comes in, and the sump pumps take it out in ten minutes or so.”

He turned and looked at me again. “You’re serious?”

“Yes.”

“But isn’t it some bloody unnerving to open the hatch under water?”

“I’m getting used to it.”

“You’re not your average teenager, you must know that, do you, Alfred?”

“Yah, I guess so. But I don’t know any other way to be.”

“Aye. That’d be true for the lot of us.”

Chapter Twelve

THE MOTORBOAT WAS A few feet shorter than the sub, but carried a tall cabin, and sat fat on the water, just fat enough to hide a small submarine from the air. If we could stay beneath her we could stay hidden. But it would take a lot of concentration to move at exactly the same speed. I would have to listen constantly for her motor. And though Brian would keep as steady a pace as possible, he’d have wind, waves and current to deal with. I would have just current.

We agreed to travel down the coast at eight knots. It would look less suspicious if Brian was not in a hurry. He would wear his fishing jacket and cap, and if we were discovered, would say he had no idea he was being followed by a submarine. I insisted upon that. It made no sense for both of us to get caught.

We parked the jeep by the marina after picking up the boat keys from Brian’s friend. Brian didn’t tell him anything, except that he was itching to fish for the day, which was true enough. He said that the less his friend knew the better, because he couldn’t be accused of involvement in an action he truly knew nothing about. Brian sounded like a lawyer, too, but told me his job was constructing trains. He was the safety officer. Cool.

When we stepped from the jeep, I saw Seaweed on the pier, and felt tremendous relief. I wouldn’t have known what to do if he hadn’t shown up. I knew that birds had eyesight far superior to humans, but Seaweed’s ability to track us from the air, even in a covered vehicle, boggled my mind.

It was the middle of the night when we climbed onto the boat, and dark still when we headed out of the marina and steered south, just like any other fisherman setting out early. Brian leaned his rods against the stern from where they could be seen. The plan was to stop very briefly by the breakwater, and make it look like he was checking something outside the cabin, just in case anyone was watching. I would slip over the side, swim down to the sub, open the hatch, and jump in. I’d pump air into the tanks and come up as quickly as possible, but I knew the sub would be sluggish because of the weight of the water. At exactly ten minutes Brian would rev the boat’s engine and leave. I would have to be close enough beneath him to hear it and follow. If the sun were up he’d be able to see the sub beneath him, but it wouldn’t be.

As we approached the breakwater, Brian signalled for me to get ready. Although I knew I had enough time, I was nervous. Opening the hatch under water was always nerve-wracking, but for some reason it was worse this time. I had told Seaweed to stay on the boat with Hollie, and I said it firmly three times, and hoped it would sink in. But he just looked at me and then turned his head. He would do what he wanted. If he flew back to the city, I didn’t know how I’d ever get him back. Worrying about that was probably what was making me nervous.

On Brian’s signal I took a few deep breaths, glanced at my watch, and went over the side. How I wished there was light, even a tiny bit, but it was pitch black. I might as well have had my eyes closed. It made it harder to find the sub, which wasn’t exactly where I thought it was, but about fifteen feet away. It felt like forever until I found it. Eventually I struck the stern of the hull with my arm, then pulled myself along the side, up the portal, and spun open the wheel of the hatch. I was running out of air already, which was early, and was probably because I was more nervous than I should have been. As always, I had to fight down feelings of panic. It wasn’t easy. Lifting the hatch felt harder, too. At the moment it was up, and I could feel the sea sucking downward from me, I had one of my worst panic feelings ever. My whole body resisted going inside the sub. It was rebelling against what felt like an act of suicide. I did manage to force myself down and inside, but lost probably two or three seconds hesitating, which meant a lot more water entered the sub before I pulled down the hatch and sealed it. I hung onto the ladder for a moment to collect my wits. My heart was pumping loudly in my head. There had to be an easier way to do this.

I jumped down the ladder into water up to my waist, waded over to the controls, and filled the tanks with air. The sub didn’t move. I looked at my watch. Two minutes had passed. The sump pumps were going full blast. The emergency lights were on, and I could see. I stuck my hand against the wall at the water line and watched to see how quickly the water was dropping. It was too slow. Two minutes later I felt the sub lift very gently off the harbour floor. The water had fallen about eight inches below my hand. It was too slow! I had six minutes before Brian would leave, and there was nothing I could do but wait, stare at the depth gauge, and listen for the motor when Brian revved it. I couldn’t turn on the sonar near the naval yard because they would hear it and know there was a submarine on the move.

Exactly six minutes later, I heard what sounded like a lawn mower above my head. It was distant through the steel hull, but was actually only ten feet away. I would have liked to have been closer, but time had run out. I engaged the batteries and followed the sound as well as I could.

It was hard at first, and I veered off-track a couple of times, but the further we went, the higher we rose, and the easier it became. At one point I felt the hatch very lightly bump the keel of the boat, and had to let a little water into the tanks. At least Brian knew we were beneath him. For the next five hours we would follow him like a giant remora underneath a small shark. The plan was to reach an area outside the three-mile zone, where Brian felt it was safe. Then he would rev the motor once again, and shut it off. I would surface awash, pick up Hollie and Seaweed, and continue on to Tasmania, another two thousand miles away.

It was a long and agonizing five hours. I had no way of knowing if Brian was being followed, either on the water, or in the air. He might not know, either. But five hours to the dot, he revved the engine once again, and shut it off. He was nothing if not precise. I shut the batteries, turned to portside, and pumped a little more air into the tanks. As we came up, I raised the periscope. It broke the surface into blazing sunlight. I saw the boat, Brian, Hollie, Seaweed, a distant freighter, and nothing else, so I surfaced awash beside them.

He was already handling his fishing rods when I opened the hatch, and even though he knew I was in a submarine, he looked shocked to see me.

“Bloody’ell! Have you ever been mistaken for a sea monster in that thing, Alfred?”

“Yah, once or twice.”

“Well, I can understand that. But we got away, didn’t we? The coast is clear.”

I looked around. “I hope so. I don’t know how many patrol boats Australia keeps along the coast, or how closely they watch the water, so I’ll have to be awfully careful.”

“I think you’ll do just fine, mate. I’ve never seen anybody with stealth like you. They’ll be searching for you till the cows come home.”

“I hope you’re right.”

“It’s only a matter of time before they realize it wasn’t you anyway.”

“Do you think so?”

“Aye. They’ll figure it out. In the meantime, you’ll be long gone.”

“We will.”

Brian gave me the names and addresses of his friends in Tasmania, and said that he would give them a heads up that I might drop in, but wouldn’t tell them exactly who I was, or how we were travelling. The less anyone knew the better. After I took Hollie and Seaweed on board, Brian and I shook hands, and I thanked him for his help.

“Not at all!” he said. “Jewels and I will be expecting you to visit us in Sydney, and we’ll be deeply insulted if you don’t show up.”

“I’ll do my best.”

“Just park your sea monster down the coast a ways, give me a call, and I’ll come and pick you up in my own jeep.”

“Okay.”

“Aye. Look after yourself now, my son, and have a fabulous sail to Tasmania.”

“We will. Thank you again for all your help!” I climbed into the portal, waved one last time, closed the hatch, jumped down the ladder, and started up the engine. As we headed out past Australia’s twelve-mile zone, I looked back through the periscope and saw Brian toss his fishing line into the sea. Thanks to him we were back on the water where we belonged. But once again I was an outlaw. I wondered who really had sabotaged the tanker, and how long I would be blamed for it. I had no idea but I sure was grateful to escape. I hoped the crew had enjoyed their shore leave, brief as it was; it would be another two weeks before we’d set eyes on land again.

Chapter Thirteen

BOOK: Eco Warrior
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