"They're attacking! They're attacking!" Jurgen shouted. The other man was screaming a stream of obscenities.
"Settle down," Josh shouted. He was holding the vest open with one hand and the girl's wrist in the other. He didn't need a flashlight to see the look of horror on their faces. The light of the flames on the back of the Monticello was like a flare, even that far away.
Jurgen yanked on the outboard motor's pull cord. "I have to get back there," he said.
"Wait a minute," Josh yelled. He leaned over the gunwale and tried to grab the one guy by the collar of his jacket, but he was just out of reach. The sailboat keeled to the starboard side, the hull groaning as if in pain, and Josh scrambled to keep from falling into the water.
Jurgen wasn't listening anyway. The motor fired and he steered the Zodiac in the direction of the Monticello, shouting something Josh couldn't hear over the noise of the motor. Josh watched them go, his mouth hanging open. They were just a black blob with a bright yellow outline on the shimmering water moving toward the burning ship.
Another loud boom startled Josh again. He saw a flash of flame from the gun on the deck of the attack ship to the left of the Monticello. It lit the attack ship's hull, allowing Josh to see some details. Travis said it was small and fast, but it looked immense compared to the Monticello.
The Monticello exploded again. The blast rocked the smaller ship and snapped it in half. It sagged in the middle and began to sink. The attack ship moved in the direction of the sailboat, turning toward the tiny black shape of the Zodiac that bounced on the waves. A searchlight on the deck of the attack ship scanned in lazy arcs over the water. The beam was so bright Josh could see it penetrate a few feet into the greenish water.
He kept his eyes on the Zodiac and the attack ship as he struggled to get the girl into the lifevest. He was breathing hard and his hands were shaking. The distance between the Zodiac and the attack ship closed rapidly. He knew Jurgen felt he had to get back to rescue anyone who might be in the water, but he looked crazy enough to take on the attack ship himself.
The motor of the Zodiac was just a buzz. Behind it, the light from the fire on the Monticello faded as the ship went under. The spotlight passed over the Zodiac then backed up to find it again and stayed with it. Josh could see Jurgen and the other guy shielding their eyes and waving and shouting. They were cut off by the roar of a heavy caliber machine gun.
Josh watched in horror. The entire Zodiac was obscured by a thousand jets of water that sprayed up when the large bullets struck the surface around the boat. A second later it stopped and there was nothing in the bright, white light but the shredded remains of the rubber Zodiac hull, which quickly disappeared beneath the surface.
Then the only sound was the deep, low rumble of the attack ship's diesel motors and the only light was that of the powerful searchlight dancing over the tops of the waves, coming closer.
Josh knew he had to move fast to get himself and the girl off the sailboat and he only had a couple of minutes to do it. In the pitch blackness he managed to get the life vest on the girl. Glancing back at the attack ship, he decided he had enough time to go back into the sailboat. He remembered seeing something down there that would be useful.
Holding his hand over the end of the flashlight to prevent the attack ship from seeing the light, he searched through the debris. Floating in the water, which was deeper than the last time he walked in it, was a self inflating life raft. He grabbed it and stuffed it into his jacket, then went back up. The searchlight was closer. He grabbed the girl, pulled her to the edge of the boat on the port side, away from the attack ship, and lowered her into the water. She went under briefly and the life vest brought her back to the surface, where she floated on her back. Josh jumped in just as the searchlight passed over the sailboat and froze on it.
Copyright 2000 Burping Frog Publishing, Inc. All rights reserved.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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