White tendrils of fog rose like fingers wrapping around the boat as if some ghost from below wanted to pull it down into the black depths.
Everyone willed the boat to go faster, to get to their destination quicker, yet no one dared ask the Captain to start the larger engine of the two.
It was hard to move, hard to breath, everyone was on high alert. Jack felt as though he was pulled as far as possible without being ripped into two. The darkness surrounded them, hiding their fears or maybe intensifying them because they could not see the enemy lurking behind it. The glow of the GPS illuminated the captain’s face an eerie green and was the only light onboard.
Jack could just make out the shapes of the men, women, and children on the deck below huddled together. Their only hope, only chance at freedom, was to get to the ship waiting out in the deep water.
The Canadian and US Navies were floating out in the dark, standing guard, waiting for the opportunity to strike. An opportunity only postponed by the threat of nuclear weapons hidden somewhere in every Western Country in the world. The threat held the world hostage, regardless if the bombs were real.
“You OK kiddo?” Nick’s voice was barely a whisper.
He stood up straighter to look more confident and powerful then he felt deep inside. Nick patted him on the shoulder and that small act gave Jack the courage to look for the enemy in the dark.
The first time they’d met, Nick was busting Jack and his friends for lighting off fireworks in the middle of the night in the school field. He’d put Jack in the back of his police car and driven home to face the wrath of Jack’s single mom. It seemed like a lifetime ago, so much had happened since that night. It was hard to believe that only four months had passed since that last night of freedom.
Now freedom was just a memory and their daily lives were a constant reminder of what they’d lost when the soldiers invaded. The power outages were more than an inconvenience. The lack of Internet and Cell service, a step back into the stone-age. The inability to travel between towns meant he couldn’t go find his dad. There was no way to travel in and around BC’s Lower Mainland without the expressed permission of those in charge and Jack didn’t have it.
“Jack. Take a look.”
Nick handed him a pair of night goggles. What was inky black now had a greenish outline. He could see the waves breaking on top of the surface and the land rising up out of the water. His gaze panned across the ocean seeking the outline of the ship that awaited them, his head gently being guided by Nick.
“See there.” Nick’s voice whispered.
The outline of a small ship rose out of the water.
“Yeah. I see it.”
Now that he could see the small coast guard vessel it seemed to take forever to get closer to it. His heart was beating in his throat as he scanned the shoreline looking for the patrols that ran between the war ships and the shores.
If the enemy patrol caught them it would mean certain death. Jack searched the waters. Enough notice and the captain may be able to outrun a patrol boat and make it to the safety of the Navy barricade. That option was just as dire to Jack because it would mean they wouldn’t be able to return to shore, leaving both his mom and dad alone behind enemy lines.
He saw waves. Land beyond the water. Nothing else. He scanned to the left and a blurry object moved. A larger wave? A seal? He prayed it was a seal. He focused the lens to sharpen the distant spot.
Not a wave. Not a seal. A small pleasure craft, smaller than theirs, moving rapidly along the water’s surface. A patrol boat.
Jack’s heart stopped beating, his breath caught in his throat as he focused on the moving object that was coming their way. Had they been seen? The boat was still too far to see what stood on its decks. To see if someone stood watching him through night vision binoculars as he stared back. If they got close enough would they lock gazes?
He handed the goggles back pointing at where he’d seen the boat. The man took up the watch and then whispered something to the captain. The boat lurched forward causing Jack to lose his balance. He grabbed at the side to keep from toppling over.
His eyes strained to see out into the darkness, without the aid of night vision, he saw only black.
Shouldn’t they be going faster? Jack’s gaze pleaded with the Captain to go faster, but the message was not being received. The large engines stayed silently off, only the small quieter engine propelled them forward.
“Nick. Shouldn’t we go faster.”
“I’m not certain they’ve seen us yet. They don’t seem to be coming straight at us, yet.”
They were risking their lives for the people below, the ones inside the vessel and the one standing on the deck.
Keeping their heads down, obeying the soldiers, making sure they followed the rules would have kept them safe. However, they’d done the opposite, Jack, Nick & his Mom. They helped smuggle people to safety and did their best to collect information on the enemy.
So far none of the people they’d helped escape the sports complexes had seen his dad. Nick’s friends still had no idea where the soldiers took the city leaders, the executives, the tradesmen, the police officers who’d refused to comply. Where could they be? Where was his dad?
Nick lowered the goggles and pointed. There, rising up from the dark water was a larger ship. They had arrived at the rendezvous with the coast guard and safety.
Jack grabbed at the side of the small sized ship pulling and pushing to keep from scrapping the sides of the boats together. His arms burned from the effort. Once stopped, yellow bouyes were thrown between the boats to make sure they didn’t knock into each other and ropes secured the small pleasure craft to the coast guard’s vessel.
Men in uniform stood on the larger ship extending their arms to help the people over the side onto the their deck. Young, old, men, women, everyone Nick’s group had been able to smuggle out of the detention camps to safety.
“’Kay Jack, that’s the last of them, your turn.” Nick said.
“I’m not leaving mom. I told you that.”
Anger, resentment and conviction filled his voice. He wasn’t getting on that ship. He wasn’t leaving his parents behind no matter what his mother wanted. That must be how Nick had convinced her to let him come. To get him out of the occupation zone and to the freedom these refugees were about to enter.
No. Not a chance. Why did they feel the need to make decisions for him? Anger seethed below his skin and he was about to lash out at Nick, when the man replied.
“I know and she’s not happy about it. Don’t worry, you’re coming back with me. I promise. We have someone to meet first.”
Jack followed Nick onto the other ship’s deck with a distrustful feeling deep in his gut. There was nothing to stop the pleasure boat from leaving both of him and Nick there with no way to return to his mother. Nick wouldn’t leave her, he thought. Nick had other responsibilities to friends, coworkers, and those people still in danger. Would he leave them? To get Jack to safety for his mom, Nick might take the chance.
“Nick I mean it. I am not leaving mom and dad. I’m not.”
“I know. Don’t worry, against my better judgement and your mother’s wishes, you’re going back to shore with me tonight.”
That morning his mother had ordered him to go with the coastguard, to call his grandparents to come get him. If he was honest with himself a part of him wanted to stay with the coast guard because it was safer than returning to the occupied zone. Still, there was no way he was going to leave his parents and friends behind.
Jack knew that when Nick said something, he was true to his word, so he really had no reason to distrust him. Still, something was nagging at him. Something just felt wrong.
Book 2 is being written, however I know the delay is longer than I’d anticipated. So without further delay, I am posting chapters.
Book 1 – THIRTEEN, available in ebook and paperback, focused on the invasion of Vancouver and the Lower Mainland of BC.
Book 2 – Still needs a name, ideas welcome, focuses on life in an occupied totalitarian, militarized zone. Jack gets to do some pretty cool stuff as he searches for people who are important to him. Plus there is a huge surprise that will change one of the boy’s lives forever.
Shannon Peel is the author of THIRTEEN and is currently working on Book 2 in the series about a boy, his mom, a cop, and an invading army. She has brought war to a North American town to answer the question, what if it happened here?