THE GREAT WHITE RED ALERT
Arky was headed straight for the ship. For ship it was - they could all see it now, though it was unlike any they’d seen before.
It was over 60 meters long, painted a speckled, greenish-grey, almost like camouflage. There were several small structures near the bow. The tall command structure stood in the middle. Antennas and communication dishes sprouted like weeds at every level. At the stern, or back, were three giant coverings, over 5 meters in diameter, positioned side by side. From Arky’s position, Alena couldn’t tell what they were. Maybe the strangest thing about the ship was its hull: from the water up to nearly 10 meters where the deck started, the ship looked like it was floating on a bloated, round, dark something—like a huge inner tube, or skirt.
The Nous Venons was less than a kilometer away. Tyler wasn’t going to risk getting any closer until they knew more.
“The Poison Flower?” Jakob said.
“We’ll see. Arky. Circle,” ordered Alena. Arky began to circle.
“There’s no name that I can see,” Alena said a few minutes later. She found herself almost whispering. Something about the strange ship made her want to walk on tiptoe and cross her fingers. Arky focused on the stern of the ship and the huge coverings. Alena finally figured out what was underneath them. “Those are giant propellers!”
“It’s a hovercraft,” Tyler said. “Probably a Zubr. Made in Russia. I’ve heard of them, but never seen one. I didn’t know they were this big.”
All of a sudden the huge vessel came to life. Antennas turned toward the Nous Venons. The sub’s underwater microphones picked up a low thrumming sound, building in volume until Tyler had to turn down the speakers. Brutus jumped under the display console, shivering.
“What’s happening?” Tyler said.
“Nothing good. Look,” Alena said. Arky was sending back close-ups of the structures at the bow, or front, of the ship. “Guns! Deck-mounted machine guns!”
“We’re outta here,” Tyler said. “Hang on!” He revved up the sub’s powerful engine, jamming the throttle forward and cranking the rudder hard to starboard. Like the super-sub it was, the Nous Venons turned on a dime and began speeding toward the coast and safety.
Jakob was watching the craft with growing dread. “This is not good,” he said. “Not good at all. How fast can a Zubr go?”
“Sixty knots,” replied Tyler.
“What’s our top speed?”
Tyler looked over his shoulder, catching Alena’s eye, then looked at Jakob. “Maybe twenty. On a good day.”
“This is not feeling like a good day,” said Jakob. But the big ship hadn’t moved. “They’re not coming after us yet. Maybe we don’t have to worry about—”
Alena, who was still watching the video, suddenly interrupted. “Hey. Does that thing have a mouth?”
“What?” said Tyler.
“The whole front’s opening up.”
“Impossible,” said Tyler. “Hovercrafts are built for beach landings. The front opens after they hit land. You know, to unload equipment. If they open it in the water, they’ll flood.”
“I guess someone forgot to tell them that,” Alena said.
“Something’s coming out,” Jakob said.
“Hello. Alena Worthy.”
“Track whatever that is.”
“Track. Whatever. Good.” Each sweep of the radar screen now showed the big blip of the Zubr and four smaller images that were heading for the Nous Venons.
“They’re closing in,” said Alena. “A thousand meters...nine hundred....” She turned to watch the video. “Arky’s on them now. Oh, no! They’re go-fast boats. We’ll never outrun them!”