Excerpt from “The Mystery of the Solar Wind”

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The Tall and the Tough
Everyone was accounted for. Nobody had gone overboard. Radomir Lascek punched the submerging sequence into the console and watched the rigging through the lashing rain. The sails closed; the rigging started folding up. ut then it got stuck. Radomir Lascek peered out into the storm! trying to fathom what was going on. The problem seemed to be the "row#s Nest. $t wasn#t collapsing the way it should. The "aptain stared at it! worried. This was no good% &ithout the "row#s Nest flattening out and the rigging folding against the deck! the masts could not be secured down. 'nd he couldn#t submerge the (olar &ind without the rigging secured. The sea would annihilate it% )erry hells% *e#d have to send someone out there! into that hurricane from *ades! to sort it out% +,ederi and (chat-!. he called into the intercom. +Need you back on deck to fi/ up the "row#s Nest% 'nd be careful! men%. Rhine 0old beckoned to the gypsy and led the way up to the bridge! out into the torrential weather and down the steps. (lippery stuff; but he was wearing his heavy sea boots that he had procured in *amburg before setting out. They were really good stuff. They were specially designed for e/tra grip on compounding decks in heavy weather. $n the North (ea they had already given him good service in a few of those icy

storms. *e wondered if *awaii would have any of those boots 1 he#d like to get some for Ronan! too. *e shook his golden curls out of his face! splattering like a wet dog! and peered up into the rigging with its half2closed booms! hanging onto a line. The sky was grey with dusk now! darkening the clouds further. The white "row#s Nest contrasted starkly. 3es! that thing was indeed stuck. They#d get to that in a second% *e forged his way forward along the handhold lines! ignoring the water that gushed around his boots. *e was a born and bred *amburger% it of sea didn#t frighten him% *e dashed a glance over his shoulder to see if ,ederi was following! wondering how the scrawny man stood up to the 4ob in times like these. 'nd yet ,ederi was one of the toughest sailors on the ship. Rhine 0old supposed that he compensated for his physical shortages with sheer willpower. +Lifeline%. barked the Romany. Rhine 0old grinned and tied a lifeline around his middle. 'lmost he#d forgotten% 5irates or no! he#d make "aptain proud of him% *e started up into the rigging of the foremast. Radomir Lascek watched from the bridge. *e also hoped that ,ederi would handle the situation! if young Rhine 0old got into trouble. The two unequal sailors! the tall and the tough! climbed into the rigging! securing e/tra knots like mountaineers as they went. ,ederi stared at the gigantic waves boiling towards and around them and grinned. There were moments when they

hung almost below the waves; only to get whipped back upright the ne/t second. The rigging with its slight elasticity% *e#d never get used to this% $n all his years on the (olar &ind he hadn#t yet. $t terrified him anew every time. 'nd yet there was a streak in him that loved the very fear of it! every second. +6'327! 6a2aaa2ayo%+ he bellowed. (inging lessons8 *e thought he#d like some% ,or added volume. Rhine 0old heard the gypsy#s voice and glanced down. (uddenly his life paused. There was an enormous wave moving across the deck! nearly the height of the bridge; it passed what looked like inches underneath ,ederi. The ship tilted as the wave moved on. The rigging rose up towards the darkening skies. The deck cleared of water 1 and the descent began. They went down with the rigging in an arc! towards that gaping void of black water 1 and another monster thundering towards them! reaching for them9 +Three 'N'N'!. ,ederi yelled delightedly! nearly level with him now. +*ow#re you holding up! mate8 "ome on! not far now%. Rhine 0old stared at the unlikely man with the drenched purple scarf around his tatty black tangles. *e wanted to give an answer! but his 4aw was clenched and wouldn#t release. 6itto his hands. They hung at fourty2five degrees for a moment! then the rigging rode up again. *e could feel his whole body beginning to shake! but he couldn#t unclasp a hand from those ropes. +"ome on! old buddy!. yelled ,ederi. +0ot to do this% &e#ll finish it and go back below deck%.

Rhine 0old managed to get his 4aws unlocked! but what came out had him cringe with fear and embarrassment. +$#m going to die%. +3ou#re not%. came a shout from below. Ronan was right underneath him. +"ome! man. Ronan 6onegal#s here. 3ou saved my life 4ust now. $ won#t let a friend like you drown%. Ronan was beside him now. +6onegal%. shouted ,ederi. +Thank the (tars% &hat8. +"aptain#s orders!. said Ronan! grinning. +3ow2wee% Roller coaster#s an understatement%. +,ederi%. :on )arsden was right behind him. +0ood to see you! mate% 6onegal! (chat- 1 below deck% ,ederi and $ will sort the "row#s Nest%. ,ederi climbed higher! nearly floating with relief. That had been a nasty moment there% ,or a second he had wondered how he was going to get (chat- back down to the deck% ut if Ronan could stabili-e Rhine 0old9 *e glanced down at the two young men. $f Ronan hadn#t managed by the time he and :on were done with the "row#s Nest! they#d pick up that blond pussycat by his ears and his toes and carry him back below the deck% *e turned his attention to the "row#s Nest. $t was a hinge. ' single! forsaken little hinge that had been installed the wrong way% ,ederi hooked his elbow around a rope the way he had forbidden 6onegal to do earlier! took out his pocket knife and started loosening screws. :on )arsden was there beside him! securing three more lifelines before releasing the rigging altogether and helping with his small toolkit that he had brought up here for the 4ob. The gale lashed

around their ears! the surf crashed over the deck! the ship pitched and rolled! tossed about like a ball by the waves. Not losing the little screws was the trickiest part of the whole 4ob. ,ederi was bored with the banana boat song by now. :on )arsden ground his teeth. *e knew what was ne/t. +)a2haaaa2la 2%%. bellowed ,ederi! delighted. *e grinned and listened. Ronan feared that the mast might break. + last! it doesn#t work% $t never works on this ship% (hould have heard them on "aptain 'li#s ship%. +&e did hear them!. growled )arsden. The national hymn of (outhern ,ree. ,ederi did the same little act every time% The (olar &ind pitched forward steeply. Ronan#s fears for the mast and rigging were shared by the "aptain. *e watched from the bridge and wondered if he ought to abandon the steering to 6r :ake and go out there to help them. ut nobody could hold the (olar &ind as steady as he could in such a situation. *e would not be doing them a favour. $t took Ronan longer to get Rhine 0old down from the rigging than it took ,ederi and )arsden to sort out the problem with the "row#s Nest. The two young sailors arrived on the bridge only moments before the salted men. The (olar &ind sealed. The "row#s Nest and rigging folded up neatly now! the hooks secured it to the deck. The four mavericks watched from the bridge with the "aptain. 'nother huge wave rolled across the deck and foamed right past the bridge. Ronan grabbed onto something in fear. The water rose! and rose9 +&e#re submerging!. ,ederi pointed out. Ronan breathed again.

's the ship dropped well below the surface! the wild thrashing and churning calmed down into steadier rocking. Radomir Lascek wasn#t content until they were deep enough that the ship was a lot steadier. Then he released the console! turned and grinned at his men. +&ell done%. ,ederi had escaped to the galley. *e had ordered the sailors to get into dry clothes; now it was time to prepare supper. *e sat down at the $ronwood table! his own clothes still dripping! his mind a blank. *e needed to think up a meal. 'll he could think of was that horrific storm outside. &hy had "aptain tried to fly this one8 $t had been far too choppy! the wind hopelessly too unsteady% $t had nearly cost them two sailors! that attempt at flying! and then closing the rigging too late. "aptain#s 4udgement in storms was better than this% ,ederi scowled and stared at the one eye in the $ronwood table that had originally made him buy the antique. $t stared back at him without an answer. &hy on Earth would "aptain want to fly a storm like this8 &hy take such a risk8 &as it the aftermath of surviving Lake 0atun8 7r was it something deeper8 (omething darker8 *is gypsy radar clamoured about this. *e#d have to find out. (hawn stuck his head into the galley. +There you are! ,ederi%. +*elp me! 6onegal!. said the gypsy bleakly. +&hat the hell am $ going to make them for eats8 Ratted crew wants to eat all the darned time%.

+5ancakes%. cheered the young boy. ,ederi lightened up. There was no staying gloomy or scared with those two younger 6onegals around! the chirpy twelve2year2old and his impish sister. ,ar behind them! "aptain 0ome- was being flung about in the storm. The T;<= had headed straight into it; being an e/clusively motor2driven craft! though! at least she didn#t face the risk of losing a mast. +*e can#t survive this!. said 0ome- to 0ina! tapping at the screen with the vague positronic trace signal of the (olar &ind. +There is no way a sailboat can come through this kind of squall%. ' huge wave very nearly capsi-ed them; but given the rounded nature of the T;<=! this hardly mattered. These sturdy little craft didn#t have outside decks at all; they were shaped a bit like a cross between flying saucers and tadpoles. Their windows were large! all thick armour glass that bullets could not penetrate and even a cannonball would have trouble cracking. $f they were turned upside down by a gigantic wave! a thirty2footer like this one coming towards them now 1 aargh%% 1 the craft would simply right itself again! by the hugely disproportionate weight of the triangular fin and with a blast of all the correct drives. The people inside the craft 1 well now 1 if they got hurt it was their own fault for not fastening their star2shaped seatbelts% 0ina rubbed her head where she had banged it on the wall. +0lad about one thing!. she said. +&hat is that8.

+That we managed to put that )iller hag ashore in 5anama.. +*a!. said 0ome-. +$f $ hadn#t woken up minutes before her! and dosed her with another sip of coffee before she was properly awake9. $n a plush hotel room in 5anama! e/pensive linen pillows were being torn to shreds and crystal decanters were being flung at crystal mirrors with gilded frames.

End of excerpt – find more at The )ystery of the (olar &ind at www.pkaboo.net>sw?.html or on 'ma-on