Eco Warrior (Book 7 in the Submarine Outlaw series) by Philip Roy “We are in a war to save our oceans from ourselves. And if we lose, we all lose because if the oceans die, we all die – it’s as simple as that.” -
CAPTAIN PAUL WATSON
Chapter One A HUNDRED YEARS AGO, I would be on my way to World War I. I’d have to lie about my age and say I was eighteen, as a lot of boys did. Then they’d give me a uniform, a rifle, and a gas mask. They’d ship me across the sea with thousands of other recruits, and we’d fight in the trenches of northern France, beside soldiers from other countries. Behind us would be horses, artillery, and ambulances. In front of us would be barbed wire, bullets, and poisonous gas. We’d huddle in the middle, and fight the best we could. Probably I’d die, the war would end, and the enemies would become friends again. That’s what happens: things go
back to how they were before the war began, mostly, until twenty-one years later, when they’d do it all over again in World War II. Now I’m on my way to a different kind of war. It’s complicated. I’m not sure who the enemy is. I’m not sure what the weapons are, or who my allies are, or even how to fight. I only know that I can learn. This is the war of my time, the war to save the planet. ζ We were sailing across the Indian Ocean from South Africa to Australia, along one of the least travelled routes in the world. It was mid-afternoon. The sea was choppy, but not swelling. The sun was out, and clouds were drifting across the sky from the north. We hadn’t seen another vessel in almost a week. Neither had we seen a shark. But we had seen lots of jellyfish, in fact, thousands of them. On the radio I heard a scientist say that when everything else in the sea was dead and gone, there would still be jellyfish. I had climbed out of the portal onto the hull while the sub was moving at fifteen knots. It wasn’t something I normally did, but I wanted to watch the action of the rudder while the sub was sailing, because it seemed to me it was pulling us to starboard. When I examined the rudder at rest, it was fine. I needed to see it in motion. I was wearing the harness tied to a ten-foot rope. It was an unbreakable rule to wear the harness when the sub was moving, a rule I never disobeyed. The sub was twenty-five 2
feet long, but the distance from the portal to the stern was just slightly more than ten feet. I could reach the stern, but couldn’t look over the edge, so I went back inside, untied the harness, and re-tied it to the next-shortest piece of rope, which was thirty feet. I hesitated for a moment, wondering if I should cut the thirty-foot piece in two, but decided against it. If I fell into the sea, I’d have to pull myself only twenty feet back to the sub, which wasn’t far. And chances were, if I fell, I’d grab the rope on my way down anyway, and just pull myself right back up. I was pretty sure of that. When I reached the stern, I bent one knee to the hull, placed both hands down, and gripped the steel with my fingers—the position a runner takes at the starting line. I peered over the edge. The propeller was churning the water into invisible ribbons. It’s funny how you can see movement in water like that, without lines or borders or colours or anything, like waves in the air over a hot road. It was so fascinating for me to watch, because I almost never got to see that. To look more closely at the rudder, I shifted my position, putting more weight on my right hand. But as I moved, and took the weight off my left hand for just a second, my right hand slid across the steel on something slippery, like bird droppings, I lost my balance, and, with the movement of the sub, went headfirst into the water. My immediate thought was to make sure my limbs were clear of the propeller. But that was not a problem because in the two seconds it took to fall, the sub left me five to ten feet 3
behind. Contrary to what I had believed, I did not manage to grab the rope on my way down. The sub was now dragging me behind it like a buoy. No need to panic, I thought, I was attached to the rope with the harness. All I had to do was pull myself back up. But the rope had jammed itself between the rudder and propeller, and the moment I reached thirty feet, and the rope grew taut, it went down. In an instant the rope was severed by the propeller, and I was cut adrift. The full impact of what had just happened didn’t hit me right away. I just assumed I would simply swim back to the hull and climb up. In fact, I didn’t even start swimming immediately, but waited for a few seconds, just three or four, to catch my senses. Then, I sprang into action and began to swim. It was tricky, though, because I couldn’t swim straight into a spinning propeller, I had to swim to the side of it, which I started to do. Very quickly I realized I wasn’t swimming fast enough— the sub was pulling away from me. So, I shut my eyes and threw everything I had into it. To my utter disbelief, I couldn’t seem to gain any distance on the sub. In fact, she kept pulling further away from me. I swam harder. I swam harder than I ever swam in all my life. I swam until my lungs were bursting and I was seeing spots. It made no difference; I could not catch her. I stopped swimming because I had to catch my breath, and watched with horror as the sub sailed away. A wave of emotion rushed up from my stomach into my 4
eyes, and I was about to burst into tears, but an inner voice interrupted. It was the voice of the sailor I had become over the past two years, the sailor who had sailed around the world, and had many close calls, and had always come through. It was the voice of the boy who had learned not to panic, to push fears aside and concentrate on the problem at hand. Surviving a dangerous situation required all of your energy, all of your intelligence, and all of your concentration. So, I began to analyze the situation. I was a strong swimmer, but was in the middle of the ocean; there was nowhere to swim. I was wearing jeans, a t-shirt, sneakers, and the harness, which was just two strips of wide polyester criss-crossing my torso and waist. I had no floatation devices. I could tread water for maybe a couple of hours—I wasn’t really sure how long I could do it if my life depended on it. There were five hours of daylight left. Could I tread water for five hours? But what if I did, and then it turned dark? It would be dark for at least ten hours. Could I. . . no, of course I couldn’t! I started to panic. “Stop!” I yelled at myself out loud. “Don’t panic!” It was my inner voice again. If I panicked, I was finished. If I panicked, I was dead. What were the chances I’d get spotted and rescued? Pretty much zero, I figured, though I didn’t want to believe that. We hadn’t seen a single aircraft since we left South Africa. I felt the ball of panic roll in my stomach again, but forced myself to breathe slowly, and move my arms and legs only as much as necessary to stay afloat. The water was cool, but not cold.
So long as I kept moving, I would stay warm enough . . . for a while. But the risk of hypothermia would grow as my body grew tired. When I became exhausted, I would begin to shiver, which was the body’s attempt to retain heat. Eventually the exhaustion would overcome me, and I’d slip beneath the waves and drown. All of these things I knew because I had studied them, and read other people’s accounts of being lost at sea. But some people had survived at sea for remarkably long periods of time, against incredible odds, because they had simply refused to give up. I decided that I would be one of them. At first, I swung my arms in wide, slow, circular movements, and kicked my legs far in front and back. But my arms kept coming closer to my body, as if protectively, and my movements sped up. I looked up at the sun. The clouds were beginning to cover it in patches. I looked for the sub. I could still see it. On the surface of a calm sea, you can see a whole vessel for about three miles. That is all. Beyond that, it will begin to disappear beneath the horizon. If you are on a ship, or a cliff, or in a lighthouse, you can see much further. When I could no longer see the hull of the sub, I would know it was more than three miles away. But the sub was difficult to spot in the water anyway. Fully surfaced, the portal rose only four feet above the surface. Another seven feet of submarine lay beneath the surface, with the keel a foot below that. I stared at my watch. It was seventeen minutes after two. I guessed I had been in the water for five minutes already. 6
I forced myself to think: if the sub was moving at fifteen knots, how long would it take to sail three miles? It was hard to concentrate. Part of me was already beginning to wonder what it would be like to die. “Concentrate!” I yelled at myself. Fifteen knots meant fifteen nautical miles in an hour. A nautical mile was 1.15 regular miles, which was close enough to call it a regular mile for a short distance. If the sub would move fifteen miles in one hour, how long would three miles take? Concentrating hard on the math, I swallowed a mouthful of water. I gagged, and spit it out. “Figure it out!” I yelled. One fifth of an hour, I answered in my mind. One fifth of an hour was . . . twelve minutes. Only twelve minutes? I found that hard to believe. Would the sub begin to go out of sight in just twelve minutes? I searched for it again. I had to raise my head above the choppy waves. There it was. It was smaller but didn’t look like it was sinking below the horizon. I looked up at the sun. It was covered by cloud, but I could still see where it was. I stared at my watch. I estimated I had been in the water for seven minutes. My thoughts turned to my crew. Seaweed, my first mate, was a seagull. The hatch was open. He could climb out and fly away. There was nowhere to fly, but he could find bits of food on the water perhaps, and return to the sub, and rest. I believed he would survive. Then I thought of Hollie, my second mate. He was just a 7
small dog. He was safe as long as he stayed inside the sub, where he had food and water for maybe two days. I strained to remember if I had left the storage compartment open or not, where his dog food was. If it were open, he’d have food for more than a month, but no water. So, he would die of thirst. The sub would keep sailing until it ran out of fuel. It was aiming straight for Perth, Australia. If the engine ran non-stop, it would take only a week or so to strike the coast. But if the rudder was pulling it to starboard, maybe it would miss Australia altogether and sail to Antarctica. Or maybe it would simply go around and around in circles in the Indian Ocean until it ran out of fuel. Hollie had shown once before that he could climb the ladder by himself, and I imagined that that’s what he’d do when I hadn’t returned for a long time. He’d jump into the water, and in a short time, he’d drown, too. My heart sank. I was too young to die. Hollie was too young to die. I knew that this was the risk we had been taking every day since we first went to sea, but I had never minded taking it on Hollie’s behalf because I had found him at sea, in a dory, after someone threw him off a wharf with a stone around his neck. I always felt that every day he spent after that was kind of a gift . . . until now. Now, I would feel responsible for his death because I had made a stupid mistake. It was unforgivable. “Stop thinking like that!” I yelled. “If you want to survive, start acting like it!” I stared at my watch. It was twenty-four minutes after two. By my estimation, I had been in the water for twelve 8
minutes. If my calculations were correct, the sub should be going out of sight by now. I searched for it. No, there it was. Strangely, it hadnâ€™t grown any smaller than it was five minutes earlier. Why was that? I looked at my watch again to make sure. It was twenty-five minutes after two. What was happening? Were my calculations wrong? I started to panic again, so I shut my eyes and took deep breaths until I got it under control. Then I went through the math again. No, twelve minutes was right. I stared at my watch. It was twothirty. I looked for the sub. There it was, the same size as before. I looked up at the sun. It was slipping out from beneath a cloud, but had moved. No, the sub had moved. Suddenly I realized I was looking at the starboard side of the sub. It was turning. It was sailing in a circle.
This is the first chapter in the seventh volume of Philip Roy's Submarine Outlaw adventure series.