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Bewildering Stories

Aidan Lucid, The Zargothian Tales

Return of the Son of Hamorin


The Zargothian Tales
Author: Aidan Lucid
Publisher: WordTechs Press, fall 2010
Pre-orders: The Zargothian Tales
Price: $7.50
ISBN: pending
Chapter One

November 5, 1945

Many thousands of feet above the salty waters of the area now known as the infamous Bermuda Triangle, the nasal-like sound coming from the TBF Avenger disturbed the silence and serenity of the blue sky. The TBF Avenger was a dark blue Torpedo Bomber used in World War II. Captain Edward “Tally-Ho” Johnson from Oxford and his friend, Sergeant Conor MacCall, crewed the craft. MacCall, a green-eyed, red-head from Scotland sat in the rear of the plane in control of the turret gun and radio. Johnson, a rakish man with dark-blond hair, a blond handlebar moustache, and brown eyes, piloted the aircraft. The two seemed unlikely crewmen for an American military craft. They flew without a bombardier/belly-gunner because they did not expect any danger on this routine patrol for the Naval Air Station in Fort Lauderdale.

“It’s a good morning for flying, Captain,” MacCall said in his strong Glasgow accent, looking out upon the blue sky and golden, sun-streaked sea. “The one thing I haven’t missed since the RAF lent us to the fellas over here is the miserable English weather.”

“Yes, I agree with you on that one,” Johnson replied. “I guess we’ll head back. Radio the station to all clear the area.”

“Aye, Captain.”

The sun massaged the aluminum body of the plane and only a miniscule breeze blew. When they were twenty minutes from base, a brilliant white light engulfed the sky and a terrible booming sound exploded a short distance away from the airplane. The light was so blinding that it caused both men to shield their eyes from the strong glare. The light vanished almost as quickly as it began and the sky resumed its peaceful autumn hues.

“What in blazes just happened?” MacCall said.

“Your guess is as good as mine, Sergeant,” Johnson replied, equally startled.

A radio transmission interrupted the discussion.

“Fort Lauderdale to FT-4, do you read me? It’s urgent!”

“This is Fox Tare Four to Fort Lauderdale; we read you loud and clear. What’s the problem? Over.”

“You got two unidentified bogies closing in on your position.”

MacCall looked to the right of him and didn’t see anything. He looked again, squinting against the brightness, and saw the bogies approaching the plane. “Roger that, Lauderdale. Bogies spotted. Captain, there are two bogies approaching our right wing. They’re closing in on us fast.”

“I’m aware of that, Sergeant,” Johnson coolly replied.

At first, MacCall thought he was seeing things. He rubbed his eyes. The Scot’s first inspection had been right and his vision didn’t deceive him. Now, he was ready to jump into action. “Sir, I know this may sound strange, but they don’t seem to be planes.”

“Of course they are! If they’re not planes then what are they?”

MacCall squinted, focusing harder. His jaw dropped. “I think they’re giant birds!”

“This is no time for jokes!”

“I’m not joking, Captain. They’re gaining on us. Break left!”

“Don’t be daft, Sergeant! There’s no such-” The English pilot stopped in mid-sentence. “My God!” he exclaimed in awe. “Hold on.”

The Avenger now swooped down. The sleek, black dragon followed. Opening its large mouth, it emitted fire and narrowly missed the tail of the Avenger.

“It just blew fire at us so it must be a - dragon!” MacCall cried. “This can’t be happening!” The Scotsman unleashed a wave of bullets from the turret gun but the dragon deftly evaded them.

Johnson again performed an Immelman Turn, which began as a loop but at the top and while upside down, the plane rolled over ending right side up, higher, and going in the opposite direction. When the captain had finished the manoeuver, MacCall resumed firing upon the pursuing beast. From this angle, MacCall and Johnson could see their reptilian antagonist bore an armored rider. The rider carried some sort of pole arm, but there was no time for studying the unusual creatures. They had more urgent issues.

The dragon turned upside down and again blew fire upon them. The flames caressed the plexiglass of the plane, cracking it. The fumes from the flames leaked through the cracks.

MacCall’s eyes widened at the damage and he yelped. “That was close, sir. If we don’t lose that thing, we’re toast!”

The black dragon flew over the plane and the Sadarkian rider laughed as they passed by. The dragon’s tail was inches away from the cockpit. The dragon leapt into the sky and ended up behind the frightened airmen once more.

“It’s behind us again, sir! By my estimation, it’s only four to five inches away from our tail.”

“Hold your fire and tell me when the monster is about to open its mouth,” Johnson replied, his face a picture of concentration.

MacCall watched the dragon’s bright, yellow eyes with serpent-like slit pupils. They were now alight with a volcanic, orange glow. “I think it’s ready to blow,” he warned, his voice rising an octave. He stared back at the jet-black monster and gulped.

“Brace yourself, Sergeant.” The pilot pulled up, briefly soared into the sky, and flew upside down over the back of the dragon, landing right side up at the rear of the tail. “Let’s see how you like this,” he yelled and unleashed a torrent of bullets at the dragon.

The rider abandoned his flying mount and fell to the sea. When the Sadarkian hit the ocean, the yellow-skinned creature turned to dust. The onslaught of fire from the plane ripped through the flying fire-breathing menace. Its right wing shredded as the bullets found their mark. The dragon followed its rider into the raging waters below.

“Bull’s-eye!” Johnson hollered.

MacCall watched the dragon hit the ocean.

“Good shooting, Captain. Phew, that was close.” The Scot wiped his brow, moist with salty perspiration.

“Yes it was close, and I’m glad we made it. I can’t believe what just happened. How on Earth did that dragon get here? Anyway, we’re alive and that’s all that matters. Thank God that’s over. ”

Another dragon dropped down five feet away from the airmen and bellowed a war cry so loud, that the whole plane shuddered.

“Oh, not another one,” MacCall shouted in despair.

Johnson banked the Avenger to the left and just managed to evade a burst of fire. The temperature in the aircraft increased by fifteen degrees Celsius, and MacCall unzipped his flight suit. The dragon ascended into the sky beyond the sight of the two men, and it seemed that the threat had gone, but to both the airmen’s dismay, it reappeared behind them.

“I’ll try and hold it off again, Captain.”

MacCall manned the rear turret gun and directed its fire at the dragon. His hands vibrated with each shudder of the weapon. Johnson made the plane climb but did not shake off the pursuer. When that failed, he plunged the plane into a 360 degree spiral and then shot up again. This failed, too.

“It’s good,” MacCall said. “Can we shake it off?”

“Don’t worry, Sergeant, I’ve still got one trick left up my sleeve. Hold on tight.”

* * *

Like his fellow Sadarkians, he wore goggles over his eyes to protect them from the sunlight. Peering through the bubble lenses, the Sadarkian bore a devilish smile as he gazed upon the human form of air transportation.

“I have you now, humans! You cannot escape me.” He watched the aircraft thrust and dodge at great speed. With practiced ease, he chased the inefficient machine.

* * *

“Are you sure about these manoeuvers, sir?” MacCall asked, looking at the sea below, which seemed to be rising up to meet them. Once again, he fired at the creature, but it deftly dodged the bullets from the turret gun.

“Yes, Sergeant,” Johnson answered.

The plane began to shudder. Johnson fought to keep the aircraft under control. The water was perilously close.

Sweat dotted MacCall’s brow. He could feel the relentless thumping of his heart. He was on the verge of hyperventilation. “Four hundred feet toward the water and closing,” the Scot announced, a quiver creeping into his voice.

“I know what I’m doing, Sergeant.”

“Three hundred feet, sir.”

No response from the captain.

“Two hundred.”

Still no response.

“One hundred,” MacCall said, mentally questioning the sanity of the captain. “Fifty feet. Pull out, Captain. Pull out!”

In a single smooth move, Johnson pulled the Avenger up, narrowly averting disaster. The water below rippled as the aircraft slid past; a wake of air-stirred spray marked the plane’s proximity. Unable to match the plane’s swift turn, the Sadarkian and his mount splashed into the ocean.

MacCall breathed a sigh of relief. “They’re gone! I thought we were done for!”

“I can’t believe you doubted me,” Johnson said with mock surprise. “Have faith in your captain.”

“Aye, sir, but try tellin’ me underwear that!”

* * *

After the excitement, MacCall caught his breath and turned the conversation toward the day’s strange events. “First there was that blinding light and then we get attacked by two dragons. What a day! Where in God’s name did they come from? How is this even possible?”

“I wish I knew, Sergeant, but I think it’s best if we don’t tell Lauderdale the truth.”

“What will we tell them, sir?”

“Radio back and inform them that-”

An ominous, new sound interrupted the discussion. The radial engine sputtered. An eerie silence enveloped them and for the first time they could hear the wind blowing across the canopy. The engine’s comforting vibration stopped.

“Dammit,” Johnson cursed.

MacCall knew that his captain would lower the nose to establish a glide. Both men remained calm; there was still time to regain control. Their plane, now at 8,000 feet, descended.

“Switching the fuel...” Johnson rotated a lever in the reserve tanks’ direction.

“Any luck, Captain?

“I’m afraid not. Trying to restart the engine...”

To restart the engine, the pilot moved the throttle back and forth while adjusting the prop with the lever next to the throttle. With his other hand, he trimmed up the stick.

“The engine won’t restart.”

“That’s just bloody great,” MacCall mumbled.

The TBF was now at 1,700 feet and they could see a clear view of the glittering ocean.

After Johnson made several more failed attempts to restart the engine, he gave MacCall the order to call upon Lauderdale for help.

“Aye, sir,” MacCall said, turning to the radio. “Mayday, mayday, this is Fox Tare Four to Fort Lauderdale. We need help. We’re going down. I repeat -- we’re going down!”

“Fox Tare Four, this is base. We did not copy your full message. Please repeat. Over.”

“Dammit! Try again, Sergeant.”

“Base this is Sergeant Conor MacCall from FT-4.” MacCall’s panic shut out protocol. “Our engine has stopped working and we’re going down fast! We need your help! Over.”

“Base to FT-4, there appears to be interference in your signal. We cannot receive all of your transmission.”

MacCall continued to repeat his message, but Lauderdale’s transmissions became garbled, then ceased.

“I’ve lost connection, Captain! I don’t understand why that’s happening.”

The plane still glided over the water, now less than 900 feet.

“In what direction is the breeze blowing, Sergeant?” Johnson asked, distracting the young airman.

“It’s a north westerly breeze, sir.”

The Avenger was now moving northwest -- toward visible land.

The water was tantalizingly close. At four hundred feet, Johnson had to admit defeat.

“Four hundred feet and closing, sir,” MacCall said.

“I know, Sergeant. Parachuting from this height would be pointless. It looks like we’ll have to ditch. I’ve tried everything and the engine won’t restart. Tighten your seatbelt and shoulder harness as much as you can.”

They were now only thirty seconds away from hitting the ocean.

“Make sure to tighten your seatbelt, Sergeant. We may flip so remember your Dilbert Dunker training.”

The turret-gunner tightened the strap across his lap, and turned to look at his captain. “It was an honor serving with you, Captain.”

“The honor was all mine, Sergeant.”

The ocean seemed to surround them. Beyond the captain’s helmet, MacCall could see the water. Then the ocean separated and a black, menacing hole appeared. Both men gasped. They were heading straight for it. Both men screamed as the TBF nose-dived into the hole. The chasm fluctuated inward and created a winding, violet pathway. When the portal had engulfed the silent machine, it closed and the waters stilled.

Copyright © 2010 by Aidan Lucid

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