The stillness of the morning was abruptly broken by the sound of feet striking the ground. This sound echoed off the buildings, causing mothers who were preparing breakfast for their families, to look out the window only to catch a glimpse of the passing teenage boy as he hurried down to the docks.
Gabby had arrived early to get her new boat ready. Her uncle had bought her a Jet-Capsule; a 4 seat vessel with a full canopy and windows. It looks like a teardrop on its side, almost like a bell helicopter without the tail. Gabby was securing the dive gear when she heard the sound of someone running. She looked up to see a teenage boy running towards her, his thick black hair bouncing with each step. His dress was suitable for the day, wearing a surfer shirt and bathing trunks.
“Hey Gabby”, Ashton called, out of breath, “sorry I’m late.”
“It’s okay Ash; we still have plenty of time. Do you have the spot picked out for today?”
“Yeah; I thought we would head out to the Fallen Grotto. It has a lot of rock and coral formations.
Ashton was the go-to person for good dive location around the island that they called home. His father had a business catching and selling tropical fish to people on the island and distributers who sell worldwide in stores that deal in salt water aquariums. Often a single fish would have a retail value of several hundred dollars. Ashton would go with him, when he was not in school or spending time with his friends, finding the best spots around the island.
“Sounds awesome”, Gabby answered. “I’ll call my dad and then well take off.”
Gabby’s father, a scientist doing research for the government, worked out of his personal laboratory at home. She hadn’t seen him when she left this morning; so she felt it was likely he was in the lab which is a separate building from the house. Gabby’s father’s phone rang and went to voice mail. He must be on the other line she thought.
“Hi Dad”, she said to the phone, “Ash and I are doing a dive out at Fallen Grotto. I’ll be home in time for supper. Bye!”
“Okay, ready?” she asked.
“Ready!” Ash replied with a grin. Gabby stated the engine, and slowly moved out of the harbor. Once out of the harbor, she powered up the boat to full throttle. The windows on the boat were open and they both enjoyed the cool air and salty ocean spray. The wind blew through her long black hair. Gabby’s mother had been Polynesian, so she inherited her dark hair and eyes from her.
The grotto is a large cave that had fallen in creating a big hole in the ocean floor. It has several cliffs, underwater rock formations, and loads of beautiful tropical fish. Gabby selected a spot and dropped anchor. They put on their tanks and buoyancy packs and dropped a buoy with divers down flag in the water.
Gabby entered the water first using the giant stride entry. Ashton followed. Once in the water they rotated to a heads down decent and swam to the bottom, which was at a 65 foot depth. They followed the bottom until they reached the fall off.
The underwater landscape was abundant with sea life abounded. At the fall off they looked down to see another ledge about 50 feet lower. Gabby tapped Ashton on the shoulder and pointed down. He nodded affirmatively and they launched themselves off the edge.
After exploring the ledge, Gabby thought of heading up, allowing for decompression stops. However, Ashton spotted something at a lower level. He pointed it out to Gabby and motioned to go down to it. She looked, and then glanced at her gages and shook her head no. She pointed to the surface but Ashton wanted to just take a look and then head back up. Gabby paused, and then agreed by nodding affirmatively.
The two headed down from a depth of 115 feet, through 150 feet, then 175 feet. Gabby noticed that it was getting darker. She looked up towards the surface. The volume of water over them was filtering out the sunlight. She then glanced at the dive tables and adjusted the time needed for decompression stops. The object became clearer as they descended. It was soon apparent it was a submarine. However it was unlike any submarine they had ever seen. In back the sub appeared to have two jet engines attached, similar to those on airliners; the front resembled a German U-boat. There were running and navigation lights on, indicating it was probably under power.
As Ashton was looking over the sub, Gabby began to pull on his shoulder to get his attention. Ashton looked at her as she pointed up. Thinking she was concerned about their air, he examined his gages and felt he had some time left, so he shook his head no. Ashton tended to push the limits on a dive. Gabby shook her head no vigorously and pointed up again. This time Ashton looked up. Above them they now had the company of five tiger sharks! They were in serious trouble, as they would have to pass through them to head for the surface.
They looked around for either an escape route or a good hiding place. Air was certainly going to be an issue, however right now, not being eaten was more important. Gabby spotted a round hatchway on the sub. Ashton saw what she was looking at and joined her. There were two large push buttons; one red and one white. Gabby didn’t know if this was an airlock. It looked like one. However it was just a feeling. As she inhaled she heard a beeping; the indication she was nearly out of air. She figured to go with the feeling and pushed the red button. The hatch slowly opened. As it was opening one of the tiger sharks cruised right past Aston, bumping his fin.
The hatch was finally open enough for them to enter. Once inside there were identical controls. Since the red button opened the hatch, she pushed the white one. The hatch closed and the water began to rapidly flush out, replaced by air. They removed their regulators and masks.
“I hope the people on the sub don’t mind having visitors” said Ashton.
“I’m sure the circumstances are more that valid for us to come aboard” replied Gabby.
“Well, I guess this is the submarine version of guess who’s coming to dinner” Ashton joked. Gabby didn’t laugh.
The water gone, the door allowing them to exit the air lock opened. They removed their dive gear stowing it nearby, and looked around the room they were in. They were uneasy. It seemed there was no one here. They decided to see if they could find someone. They began to move down the corridor when they got a sick feeling in their stomachs. The sub was now moving. They realized they were now leaving the dive spot. It was like the feeling of being on the wrong school bus.
“We need to find someone and let them know we’re on board” exclaimed Gabby.
As they headed along a corridor it felt like the sub was turning. Then it started to descend! Arriving at what appeared to be the control room they found it was abandoned. It was clear now that they were the only ones on board. Ashton looked at the instruments.
“Gabby, we are at 300 feet!”
“That’s impossible. The grotto is only 200 feet deep!”
They could feel the sub as it was maneuvering. The speed also seemed to be increasing. She joined Ashton at the control console. He was right, it now said 475 feet. She looked for a compass heading, but she could not find any magnetic heading instruments. She also thought about the fact that there was no crew. She suddenly turned to Ashton.
“This is a robot ship!”
“A robot ship?” Ashton replied. He thought for a second.
“Like a probe.”
With no one on the submarine but them, all they could do is wait to see where it goes. They were in this for the ride. They could hear the sound of water rushing past the hull of the sub. Suddenly there was silence. Then the sound of rushing water returned. They watched as various indicators flashed. They had no idea what they meant. Then Gabby felt the ship was ascending.
“Ash, check our depth.” He looked at the gauges.
“We are going up; we are at 400 feet now, now 300, 200, 150…”
They were tense with anticipation. Soon they felt the sub level off. There was a slight bounce which made them think they were probably at the surface. The depth indicator showed zero.
“Ash, let’s look for the hatch leading outside.”
They went back down the corridor and found a ladder. Gabby led the way to the top and opened the hatchway. They both climbed out onto the deck. Blue sky and sunshine had been replaced with the dim light of dusk and the weather was much cooler. They noticed there was no land in sight, at least not any land where they saw it before.
“Check it out” said Ash. They both looked into the sky. Instead of seeing a moon, they saw a planet. And this planet looked much larger than their own moon.
“Where are we?” asked Gabby
“I don’t know, but it sure isn’t earth!” answered Ashton
Soon city lights could be seen on the horizon. They sat on the deck of the sub and watched. Gabby’s thought were of her boat anchored at the grotto. She wondered what time it was there and she worried about the panic her father would feel when she didn’t come home for supper.
The city directly ahead was starting to become better defined as the sub approached, and the planet, rising behind the city, gave a strange glow to the sky.
Gabby and Ashton had not said a word since they sat down on the deck. The awesome scene unfolding in front of them held them speechless. Finally, Ashton spoke.
“Do you have any idea…?” His words were cut off when he looked at Gabby, who was shaking her head no in answering the question before he finished it.
The sub was moving towards some docks and they could see people moving about. This raised a concern.
“You know, I’m betting that it will not be a good thing for them to find us on this sub” said Gabby.
“You’re probably right” answered Ashton.
Ashton looked over the side at the water.
“Maybe if we could swim” said Ashton. “We could head for shore and come up in some less populated spot.”
Just then the sub rocked to one side almost throwing them off balance. Ashton looked over the side again to see a creature that appeared to be a 20 to 25 foot crocodile with a fin in the center of its back.
“Okay, maybe getting into the water is not such a good idea” he said.
“Well, we can’t stay here. They will certainly see us” said Gabby. “Let’s go below.”
“You know, I think it’s getting dark out” said Ashton as he climbed down the ladder. “Maybe by the time we dock, it will be dark enough to sneak off the sub and just blend in to the city”.
“Blend in!” exclaimed Gabby. “If you didn’t notice we still have on our bathing suits. It will be kind of hard to blend in!”
“Oh, Yeah” replied Ashton.
“Sometimes I wonder about you” said Gabby as she walked past him.
“Where are you going?”
“I’m going back to the air lock. They are probably going to enter the sub through the hatch we just used, and the control room seems a likely place for them to go. The air lock is in the opposite direction”
Once they reached the air lock, they decided to look for a good place to hide. Finding some compartments resembling lockers, they looked inside.
“Hey Gabby, check this out” he called.
Inside several of the lockers were one piece jump suits.
“They are probably for people to wear once they come aboard the sub through the air lock” said Gabby. “They are different sizes. Let’s see if we can find some that will fit us.”
They were able to locate a jump suit for each and they put them on over their swimsuits. Grabbing some tools off a work bench they entered the air lock. As they were getting in, they heard voices and footsteps in their direction.
“Quick,” said Gabby, “close the door.”
“They quietly waited. The voices grew louder. Soon they were right outside the air lock. They could hear them clearly now.
“We’ve got a lot of water here” a male voice was heard to say.
Gabby figured it was the water they left when they came aboard the sub…
“Yeah” said another male voice. “Maybe there’s a leak in the airlock seal. I’ll check it from the inside.”
“Quick,” she whispered, “look busy.” She crouched down like she was working on the base of the door. Ashton turned around and pretended he was working on the access panel.
The door opened and the two men paused, surprised by the two in the air lock.
“Sorry guys,” Aston said in the most adult voice he could muster, “we’ll be out of your way in a couple.”
The men hesitated for a moment, and then one took hold of Gabby’s collar and stood her up.
“My, my; our crew is getting smaller and prettier.”
The other man spun Aston around and pushed him backwards against the wall of the air lock.
“I don’t think they have signed up for the benefits program. It’s only right that we take them to see the coordinator.”
The two men escorted Gabby and Ashton off the sub and down to the docks. They were brought up to a uniformed man standing with his arms crossed. Gabby thought he doesn’t look very nice.
The truck drove rapidly through the city streets. Aston and Gabby could not see where they were. They were confined in the back; bound with some type of of restrains like handcuffs. They both had solemn expressions as they looked at each other. Suddenly the truck stopped with a jolt. The rear doors opened and they saw a uniformed man with an ominous looking rifle.
“Alright you two, get out!”
They exited the truck hesitantly, looking around. They could now see the buildings. The architecture appeared modern except they couldn’t help but to notice that all the buildings had huge hydraulic lifts attached to them. It appeared that the buildings could be raised like a car getting an oil change. It was now night and the city looked very beautiful lit against the dark sky. Some stars were visible.
“The truck had parked in a breezeway with steel gates on either end. The uniformed man unlocked a door. They entered the building and passed several empty cubicles with light beams that looked like bars. Gabby thought he was going to put them in one; however he walked them down a corridor.
At the end was a large round, transparent room that looked like a fish bowl. Inside the room were numerous women. Gabby was moved to a doorway which opened as she approached. Her binders were removed.
“In!” was the only command he gave,
She walked into the glass room and the door closed behind her. She stood there for a moment, her arms crossed over her chest in a defensive posture. She looked over her shoulder at Ashton being escorted by the uniformed man down another corridor.
“Don’t worry about him” said a woman in the cell with her. “He’s going to the male population tank. He has his own problems. You just need to worry about yours.”
Gabby’s back was to the glass. She was facing several women who were staring at her. Their eyes frightened her the most.
“Well, well; look what we have here” one said.
“You guys are frightening her” said an older woman with a sympathetic tone. “She is just a kid.” She looked at Gabby. “We mean her no harm.”
The woman started to reach for Gabby. A group of officers were gathering outside the glass to watch. Gabby wondered if this was a show for them or if they really meant to hurt her.
Her mind entered a defensive mode. The woman’s reach could have been meant to express compassion; however Gabby saw it as a move intended to grab her by the neck. She figured she needed to act first. She grabbed the woman by her extended arm and, using Aikido, threw her into the other women.
As she took the combat stance for the next opponent, the room suddenly grew brighter and a distinct mechanical hum could be heard. The hum grew rapidly louder, and the lights brighter until both the ears and eyes of everyone in the room physically hurt. Then, the lights and sound were gone. The door opened and Gabby was taken by the arm and removed from the room. Her mind was very foggy. Her vision and hearing were both impaired.
She was brought into a room with a single desk and two chairs, and placed onto the chair in front of the desk. She was the only one in the room for a moment. She still could not hear well when a man entered the room and sat down. He started to read some papers on the desk. As he did, Gabby’s vision and hearing stated to improve. She shook her head to try are clear the fogginess she was experiencing.
“It’s only temporary” the man said without looking up.
“What?” asked Gabby, looking through squinting eyes.
The man stopped reading and looked at Gabby. He didn’t speak; he just continued to look at her for a good minute. This made her feel very uneasy. Then he went back to the papers. Gabby could see and hear much better now. The man spoke.
“The effects of the system is disorientation, however it will wear off. You were captured on board the research vessel Argent. What was your purpose?”
“It was an accident,” she said attempting to keep panic from entering her voice. “We didn’t mean to trespass, but there were sharks, and we were almost out of air, and…” The man held up his hand for her to stop talking. He looked at her with compassion.
“What is your name please?”
“Your full name, please?”
“Gabriel Marie Freeman, sir.”
The man did some writing, then stopped and put his pen down, looking at her.
“Miss Freeman, my name is Ty Fuse. I am the Solicitor for this region. My job is to determine what punishment is suitable for you.”
“You mean if I am convicted?”
“No, you are already considered guilty. You will be sent before the Tribunal if I cannot determine a punishment, or you are charged with a political offense. You were brought in on a simple charge of trespassing. I am required to verify your crimes and determine if you will be reclassified.”
“What happens to me if it is verified?”
“You will be sent to a rehabilitation school for three months.”
The man got out of his chair and walked around to the front of the desk, sitting on the corner of it.
“We know you are from the planet earth. The Argent was there and that is the only place you could have boarded her,” he now spoke in a hushed tone, “and that’s a problem. By boarding the submarine while it was on earth, and then coming here, you will be reclassified as a political prisoner. As such, you will be scheduled to appear before the Tribunal.”
Gabby had a sinking feeling in her gut.
“What is the role of the Tribunal?”
“On the first session, they will determine what form of interrogation you will be subjected too. Then, if you survive the interrogation, you will return to appear before the Tribunal where they will decide if you will be executed or be confined to a labor camp.”
“What about Ash?”
“Your friend has been scheduled to appear before the Tribunal. However, I have different plans for both of you.”
Gabby raised her eyebrows forming an inquisitive look.
“Different plans?” she replied.
“For the two of you; it will appear that you two will have escaped and headed into the mountains. In reality you will be put back on the sub. It is set to depart for the same location on earth in two hours, and you will be onboard.”
“O-kay,” she said in a questioning tone.
“There is a minor condition. You will be told about it before you leave the docks.”
“I guess I don’t have a choice.”
“No, you don’t.”
Ty escorted Gabby down a hallway. At the exit door to the breezeway an officer stopped them.
“Orders please” he said and Ty produced some papers. The officer did some writing on the papers and handed them back. Once they entered the breezeway, Gabby saw Ashton waiting with the driver to the truck.
“This is Marcus. He will assist you. To avoid suspicion, I will be going to the Tribunal Chambers in my own vehicle.”
As he turned to leave, Gabby stopped him by putting her hand on his arm. He turned to look at her.
“Why are you doing this for us?”
“Some years back we were ruled by a Mikado; in your world a king. The Mikado, passes his throne to the oldest child upon his death. Last year the Mikado and his family disappeared. The Overload took charge and places us under horrific rules of the kingdom.”
“What is stopping him?”
“The Mikado’s oldest child is in hiding. As long as the child lives the Overlord cannot be made Mikado. Once the child reaches the age of 19, then the child becomes the new Mikado”
Gabby got into the back of the truck with Ashton. They were quiet on the ride to the docks. The truck again jolted to a stop. Ashton thought that they should get their breaks fixed. Marcus opened the doors and let them out taking them to the sub. As they opened the hatch, they were caught off guard with what they saw.
Looking up at them from inside the sub and smiling was a little girl. She looked to be maybe 11 years old.
“Good day” the girl said. Gabby looked at Marcus.
“This is your condition” said Marcus. “May I present Princess Kayla.”
“I’m lost here” Ashton said with curiosity.
“You will hide the princess on your planet until she turns 19. It was her idea to hide on earth. The portal was discovered before the royal family vanished, so Kayla knows a lot about earth. She has always wanted to visit your planet, so when you two came through the portal, it became a possibility.”
What’s to stop the Overlord from coming through the portal to get her?” ask Gabby.
“You will stop him. We have placed a sensor net projector on the sub. It will hide the portal making it impossible to access from our side. The sub will remain on your side of the portal. On the birthday of the Princess, by your calendar, that will be December 25th of her 19th year, you must reopen the portal so she can return to us.”
The driver handed Gabby an object that looked like a USB drive.
“On this are the instructions for the operation of the sub and the security senor net as well as the specific directions for the return of the Princess.”
Marcus looked at the Princess.
“Your majesty, we are leaving you in good hands. The elders send you with their prayers. Learn all that you can.” He then looked at Gabby and Ashton. “We leave her in your charge. Protect her and guard her heart. There may be others who will come to take her, so be ready. Trust that if she is found they will not hesitate to kill her, and if they find you, they will kill you.”
Gabby and Ashton looked at each other.
“What do you think?” Ashton asked.
“I don’t know. I wish I could ask Dad.”
“I am glad to have you as my surrogate family” said Kayla with a smile that could easily melt a heart.
“Thank you, your majesty” replied Gabby.
“Ah, Kayla will be just fine, Miss Gabriel. I will not be royalty for the next eight years.”
“Fine, Kayla. Likewise you may call me Gabby. I am looking forward to this. I’ve always wanted a sister.”
“Yeah” said Ashton, “but what will your dad say about having another daughter?”
Gabby looked at Ashton with a half-smile.
“Wasn’t it you who joked about guess who’s coming to dinner” said Gabby to Ashton.
Okay, let’s get onboard.”