An exciting sequel to the Captain Nemo adventures enjoyed by millions in Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.
Sea monsters are sinking ships up and down the Atlantic Coast. Enraged that his navy is helpless against this onslaught and facing a possible World War as a result, President Ulysses S. Grant is forced to ask for assistance from the notorious Captain Nemo, in Federal prison for war crimes and scheduled for execution.
Grant returns Nemo’s submarine, the infamous Victorian Steampunk marvel Nautilus, and promises a full Presidential pardon if Nemo hunts down and destroys the source of the attacks. Accompanied by the beautiful niece of Grant’s chief advisor, Nemo sets off under the sea in search of answers. Unfortunately, the enemy may be closer than they realize...
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|Publisher:||Tom Doherty Associates|
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A punch of fast air shattered white vapor as the creature broke through the clouds during its descent, then flew at mid-altitude over the last fifty kilometers of ocean. There was no headwind to fight, and the moon reflected brightly across the always- moving details of the water below, allowing for perfect targeting.
Curving its wings, it picked up speed and dipped toward a freighter steaming for the horizon.
* * *
The writing was a child's, some letters scrawled together in an attempt at script, and the rest printed large and bold, including the date: April 20, 1870, with the "p" backward.
Horst couldn't help his smile, reading it through for the fifth time, eyes settling proudly on the words that were spelled correctly, and forgiving ones that weren't.
"Wievielen Malen können Sie das lesen?"
Krieg coughed his question as he reached for the coffeepot on the squat iron stove, then continued in English as guttural as his German: "All the day, you read that thing. You're not the only grandpa of the world."
"Her first letter not to St. Nicholas, and she's trying in English."
Krieg snorted. "Eine zeitverschwendung," he said, pouring the last of the belly-wash coffee into a misshapen mug, his name painted on its side.
Horst said, "Your grandson made that thing. I've never seen you without it."
"Yah." Krieg drank, the wash dribbling as usual. "Because it's of use."
He wrung his coffee-soaked beard, then dropped a silver alarm whistle dangling from a chain and a Colt single-action pistol onto the small wooden table next to the stove. He settled on a crew bench, rolls from his hips swallowing most of it.
The bench groaned, but not loud enough to cover the hollow sound of the ocean slapping against the ship's iron hull. The wave-echo was a constant, but years as sea dogs made Krieg and Horst deaf to it.
A mess boy put out a fresh pot without a word, as Horst slipped his granddaughter's letter in one pocket, the pistol in the other, and hung the whistle around his neck. Krieg mumbled his standard warning about ducking below the crossbeam before starting up the stairs to the upper deck.
Horst always ducked.
The Broomhilde was the newest ship Horst ever crewed, and for him, taking the deck-watch meant time for admiration, particularly if she was under full steam, like tonight.
He'd gotten the habit of walking stern to bow as an apprentice seaman, stepping beyond the rail's end to that last bit of rigging; looking down at the waterline, seeing the cutting of the ocean, feeling the vessel's to and fro.
His hands traced the wood- and steelwork, memorizing every join, instinctively knowing when they were sure. It was Horst's connection with the ship that allowed him to sense when she was about to pitch; his nerves, stinging needles before an actual crisis.
Moving toward the stern, checking the worthiness of the lifeboat ties, Horst couldn't improve on Broomhilde. She was exactly as she should be at ten bells, with anchor chains coiled, cargo holds bolted.
He relit his clay pipe, listening to the gear-works heartbeat of the Day, Summers and Company engines. He knew he'd miss that pulse when he packed off. He checked his pocket again for the letter's comfort, continued to the opposite rail, then stopped, cocking his head.
There was something. Somewhere, in the dark. He listened, nerves taking over. Feeling the sting.
And then — the grinding.
The sound was low and mechanical. That groan of metal-on-metal, twisting before shearing, and rising, louder. Horst looked to the stacks. Their steam billowed, with no ruptures. No breach.
The groan became a steel scream.
He grabbed the brass amplifier crew call, blowing the whistle for the engine room. The scream around him intensified, beating the air, slicing his eardrums with a hot, invisible blade. He clamped his hands over his ears, squinting tight, trying to block something out. Anything.
The noise overwhelmed.
He threw open the hatch to the belowdecks, yelling to Krieg, "Notfall! Alle Mann an Deck!"
Horst made it to the rails, pistol drawn. Crewmen charged the stairs, rushing the deck, pulling on boots and pants, shouting orders that couldn't be heard over the sound.
Rifles were pulled from the weapons stores, ammunition slammed home. Others grabbed fire axes and sand buckets.
Horst pointed crew to either side of the ship as they brought guns to shoulders, taking aim at a calm sea.
Barrels raked the water's surface for a target. For anything. The sound, still louder.
Krieg and the Captain were last up the stairs, grabbing Horst by the lapels: it was his deck-watch. What the hell was happening? The metallic noise, the grinding fire, reached its crescendo. Krieg's glasses shattered.
The Captain's blood sprayed Horst like a burst of ocean foam as he was yanked high off his feet, a spiny prong jutting through his chest from the back.
The Captain was hurled a hundred feet through the air before rag-dolling, heels twisted against his neck, into the black water. And gone.
Crewmen backed off the rails, some falling to their knees. Horst swore and prayed with the same breath as the huge, manta ray–like creature roared past the ship, its dragon-split tail slashing wild, and gigantic wings blocking out the sky.
Then it circled back.
The men could feel speed and heat. More legs buckled, with just enough time to open fire.
The ray dove for the ship, fins guiding it on a blasting-hot stream of air, skin glistening as if polished steel, with brackish liquid pouring from open wounds around its throat and gill bars.
Its eyes were glowing mazes of color: red colliding with green in the orb, breaking into blinding white that lit up the deck.
Rifles flamed, bullet after bullet sparking off the ray's underbelly, then ricocheting back to the crew. Slugs lead-punched through chests, dropping the men as if they'd been Gatling-gunned.
They crawled blindly, bloodied and rolling, screaming their last. Others kept shooting, the whip-tail tearing the smokestacks behind them, steel folding in on itself.
Horst dove out of the way as the stacks crashed to the deck, jagged edges chopping through planking to the holds below. Bursts of steam exploded out of the engine room, blowing plates off the hull, filling the air with spinning, hot metal the crew couldn't escape.
Fire and razors.
Krieg pulled himself to Horst with his arms, his legs gone, begging for something Horst couldn't hear, but understood. Horst pressed the barrel of the pistol against his mate's forehead. The sound of the ray turned the shot into a silent flash.
Men ran, pushing past each other for the lifeboats, tumbling into the water. Panic. The fins of the thing smashed through the masts, catapulting them over the side, log-crushing sailors frantically swimming away.
Horst stood defiant at the splintered railing, the ray diving directly out of the moon. He steadied his gun with both hands, focusing on an eye that kaleidoscoped white, orange, red.
The bullet pierced the glowing eye, liquid erupted, with the ray's head thrashing as if fighting a harpoon.
It collided with what was left of the ship, ripping down the middle, the tail hurling massive hunks of steel, sections of engine, sails, and the bodies of men into the ocean, all drowning together.
The Broomhilde heaved over, an explosion tearing the boiler room, gutting what was left of her. The blast was volcanic from the center cargo hold, black powder and fuel mixing, sending a plume of flame and smoke across the night.
Shockwaves followed, force bending the air, and murdering all sound for hundreds of miles. Finally, there were no more cries for help, or gunfire. Nothing, as the stern's edge was the last of the ship to be lost.
The ray circled wide, away from the wreckage, but close to the water, then climbed, wounded, toward the moon, before vanishing behind rolling clouds and smoke.
Death had taken less than two minutes. Left was debris, bodies floating, wide streaks of bloody oil on the water's surface, and a child's letter, carried across a rolling wake.
DEATH MESSAGES AND DECLARATIONS
"How the bloody hell do you fight something that doesn't exist?!"
Ulysses S. Grant's question was thunder through the door of his personal office, stopping Efrem in mid-knock. He'd fallen twice, cutting his chin, while running the telegram upstairs from the White House communications room.
Efrem could hear a calmer voice: "Causing great havoc all the same."
"Are you pointing out the goddamn obvious?"
A Guard standing post in the second-floor corridor watched the twelve-year-old struggling: holding the red URGENT envelope, wiping his chin, minding the crease in his pants, then, lightly knocking.
Grant's voice was a rifle shot from the office: "No interruptions!"
Efrem glanced at the Guard, holding a Carbine and smirking, as someone moved on the other side of the office door, turned the brass knob, then opened it halfway.
John Duncan, the calm voice, stood before Efrem. "Son?"
Tall as the door frame, but compromised by an academic's stoop, Duncan sported a full beard on a thin face and thick lenses that enlarged blue eyes, which had no brows.
"Sir. A special communication, sir. Urgent, and special. Sir."
President Grant was by his desk, in a small alcove on the far side of the L- shaped room, topping a near-full glass of bourbon with branch water. He was a silhouette that didn't look in Efrem's direction. "When did it come?"
Efrem leaned in from the waist. "About three minutes ago, Mr. President."
Grant gave his glass a tilt to mix, then half-killed it. He stood by a large, rain- streaked window, and all Efrem could positively see was the back of his head, profile of a tight beard, and the lit end of a cigar.
"Too damn slow," Grant said. "And, it was never delivered. Understood?"
Efrem saluted, nodded, and saluted again. He tried "Yes, sir," but choked. Duncan gestured to his chin, silently telling Efrem to get bandaged, before shutting the door, and saying to Grant, "That's another one you scared to death."
"When I was a cadet at the Point, an officer would bark, I'd practically soil my drawers."
"A youngster," Duncan said, reading the message. "With no idea he was handling top-secret information."
"That ignorance makes him damn lucky. And trustworthy. Which country?"
Duncan put the opened URGENT envelope on a stack with the others. "With nothing pirated, ship destroyed, and all hands lost."
"In our shipping lanes. We might as well plant Old Glory on the wreckage," Grant said. "A few days for a formal protest, then half of Europe will have their cannons aimed at us."
"I'm praying it won't come to that, sir."
"Then pray harder. Our harbors aren't big enough to hold all their warships — they'll be waiting in line to open fire, because they think us responsible for the sinkings, and then trying to alibi behind this half-brained lunacy of sea monsters."
Duncan said, "It's not that simple to dismiss," waited, and then, "is it?"
"Unfortunately, nations are punished for the transgressions of individuals."
Grant moved to the long table that dominated the office, stacks of CONFIDENTIAL folders littering its polished top, and grabbed one at random, breaking its black- ribbon seal.
"You believe these?"
Duncan chose his words: "Do I believe that they're an accurate record of the witness statements?"
"Stop dancing. You know damn well what I'm asking."
"Certainly not what you want to hear, but yes, I do."
Grant pushed the folder aside, knocking the last of his bourbon and branch. "Then you're a crazy fool, too."
"Mr. President, you wanted to know if I thought the sailors were telling the truth. For the record, I think they are."
"Well stated. For my record, they're probably all pissed as Lords, couldn't see a damn thing, and rammed some poor bastard's fishing boat, and that sank 'em both."
"Perhaps that explains one incident," Duncan said. "But that's skating thin. Sir."
"You're shooting credibility in the head if you side with this pile."
"Dying declarations. Precise details of the order of events in half a dozen languages."
Duncan caught Grant's dark scowl, kept a calm measure. "Is that the report citing a sea serpent?"
"What the hell does it matter?"
"The statement by the Swedish boson's mate, with the exact times? He was bleeding out ..."
"The Captain of the Chinese freighter said a monster squid." Grant opened another folder, and another, scattering pages. "Of course, the Greeks claim a Cyclops, smashing a two-master with his fists!"
"Sir, all the reports have a common —"
Grant cut him off: "Want to run that one by the Secretary of the Navy?"
"I don't believe I would."
"See, there's your doubt," Grant said. "My worst imbibing days, maybe I've felt the spiders crawling, but I never saw a damn Cyclops."
Duncan was forward in his chair. "I believe those men saw something outrageous, and made truthful statements before dying."
Grant said, "I've heard my share of dying men, saying good-bye to their wives, or confessing their sins, some thinking they're about to walk the streets of glory, and some, not giving a damn."
Duncan said, "But they don't waste those last seconds to tell an outrageous lie." He picked up the red telegram. "The Broomhilde, her entire crew gone, courtesy of a giant flying manta ray. A Devil fish."
"Who claimed that?"
"Mess boy, fished up by a trawler, died of shock half an hour after rescue. That's nine vessels and crews, from five different countries, in our shipping lanes. Whatever the claims, we're pulling a lot of corpses out of our waters."
Grant said, "The world thinks we cut them into shark bait — and don't quote me."
"I never do." Duncan stood. "These aren't wild stories concocted to sell newspapers. And these aren't warships."
"I know where you're going," Grant's voice was a warning growl, "and it's deep water."
"So far we've managed to keep press away from the wilder details, but how long before one of these men makes a dying declaration to a reporter? You know what that'll bring."
"All these nations waiting for our play, and we're holding an empty hand. If Congress heard this sea monster guff, they'd have me trussed up in a straitjacket, which half of them want anyway," Grant said, waving the cigar. "Beware the drunken despot."
Duncan laughed to lighten the mood. "I imagine some representatives would be pleased."
"Carl Shurz'd be dancing a Missouri jig."
Grant walked back to the small desk in the alcove, his hands flat on its ink- stained, leather inlay. "Lincoln called this 'The Shop' because he could sit back here, the Senators around that table, take in all their horseshit, then find the truth of it. Solved the most impossible problems in the world, from this old desk."
"With your expert help."
"Hell's fire, it wasn't just me." Grant considered his next words. "Arrow-straight, what's going on at sea?"
"Want more theories you'll despise? That's what I can give you, as will every engineer or biologist we've got under Naval contract."
Grant held the whiskey decanter over his glass, thought better of it, didn't pour. "I have to make some kind of statement."
Duncan said, "There's one man who knows more about the mysteries of the ocean than anyone."
"Supposedly that's you, but you're claiming different."
"I'm a bloody novice by comparison."
Grant took half a cigar from his jacket pocket, lit it with a long match he struck against the fireplace. The fire was now just glowing embers and no comfort from the damp. Grant drew deep, letting the smoke curl. Not looking at Duncan.
"I do not want to hear that name."
Duncan said, "Five years ago, and the front pages were full of nothing but stories of sea monsters sinking warships from around the world. More people read about that than read about Appomattox, and he was responsible for that lunacy, and the panic it caused."
Grant said, "It was a goddamned embarrassment."
"Every Navy was his target. How many frigates did we lose, how many men?"
Grant regarded Duncan, mouth drawn tight. Frozen.
Duncan continued. "Who would know more about these current happenings, Mr. President? And perhaps, how to stop them."
"You're goading me, you son of a bitch."
Duncan agreed with a nod, but still said, "He is who you need."
Grant grabbed the bourbon, poured himself two fingers, downed it, and said, "Damn your eyes."
MADMAN OF THE SEAS
The paper tube contained two needle-thin metal rods. Stamped TOP SECRET: THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA V. PRISONER #3579, President Grant had given it to Duncan an hour earlier, saying, "Maybe you'll learn something."
A blue-steel lockbox, with the same serial number, was waiting for Duncan when he returned to his small White House corner office.
He approached the box as a bomb that needed defusing, taking the needles, finding portals on the polished steel sides, then inserting them simultaneously. The sides dropped away in a mechanical flowering.
Inside were the sea-damaged journal of Professor Pierre Arronax, wrapped in preservation paper; a large, gilt-edged envelope; and a .52 caliber cartridge.
Duncan pulled a shelf from his draftsman's table, placed a chimney lamp on a hollowed space designed to hold it. From a false-bottom drawer came a Magic Lantern lens and bracket, completing the projector.
Excerpted from "Nemo Rising"
Copyright © 2017 C. Courtney Joyner.
Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Sky Demon,
Chapter 2: Death Messages and Declarations,
Chapter 3: Madman of the Seas,
Chapter 4: The Devil's Warehouse,
Chapter 5: Dakkar,
Chapter 6: Red Tide,
Chapter 7: Iron and Stone,
Chapter 8: Profondo Rosso,
Chapter 9: Deal with the Devil,
Chapter 10: Combatants,
Chapter 11: Rust and Blood,
Chapter 12: Inside the Beast,
Chapter 13: The Violence of Night,
Chapter 14: Loyalties,
Chapter 15: Dead Treasure,
Chapter 16: Hearts of Machines and Men,
Chapter 17: Waterfront,
Chapter 18: Invaders from All Quarters,
Chapter 19: Fortress,
Chapter 20: Sword of the Ocean,
Chapter 21: Beneath the Waves,
Chapter 22: Leprechaun,
Chapter 23: Harpies,
Chapter 24: Lieutenant,
Chapter 25: Dark Waters,
Chapter 26: Blue Fire,
Chapter 27: Preparations,
Chapter 28: Ghost from the Mist,
Chapter 29: Spider,
Chapter 30: Another Launch,
Chapter 31: Two Ships,
Chapter 32: Resurrected,
Chapter 33: The Survivor,
Chapter 34: Beasts and the Sea,
Chapter 35: Requiem,
Chapter 36: The Terror,
Chapter 37: The City in the Sky,
Chapter 38: Firestorm,
About the Author,