by A21 Reporter Andy Clems
Stingray, the WASP’s supersonic undersea craft, blasted out of its launch tunnel on a new assignment, the outcome of which rested on a knife edge.
On board the fantastic aquatic vessel were Captain Troy Tempest, Hydrophone Operator George Lee ‘Phones’ Sheridan and Princess Marina of the Kingdom of Pacifica. Their mission was to secure a peaceful settlement with the distant undersea nation of Neptunus, a mysterious civilisation poised on the brink of war with the people of the land.
First contact with the inhabitants of Neptunus was a disastrous affair, with miscommunications by both sides resulting in open combat between the vessels of the WASP and the Neptunian Fleet. Since the event, the situation remained tense until Lady Kakara, ruler of the undersea city, agreed to allow one WASP vessel to visit on a mission of peace. However, not all the people of Neptunus agreed with her decision and two of Kakara’s closest advisors, Gyllus and Krill, conspired to have her killed and make the Terrainean diplomats take the blame. They hoped to provoke Neptunus into a war with the surface dwellers, a conflict they were sure they could win.
Stingray arrived at Neptunus on schedule and the crew were greeted with a polite, if slightly suspicious, welcome. Shown to their quarters, they were told that a banquet had been arranged in their honour, prior to the beginning of formal negotiations. Troy, Phones and Marina took in their new surroundings. The walls were supported by vast stone columns decorated with beautiful shells of every colour and all around they could see the wonders of the ocean through huge picture windows. Marina seemed particularly at home and nodded her agreement when Troy asked if she was reminded of her home city.
Meanwhile, the scheming Gyllus and Krill went about their murderous plan. While Krill distracted Lady Kakara on the pretext of some minor state business, Gyllus slipped into the grand state room and placed an explosive charge close to Kakara’s chair. Satisfied that suspicion would fall on the WASP crew, he left the room almost as he had found it.
The banquet was as grand as any Troy, Phones and Marina had ever seen and when it had concluded, they offered high compliments to Lady Kakara. Though the atmosphere during the meal had been at best lukewarm, Kakara accepted their thanks graciously before inviting the three to the state room to begin the negotiations.
The Stingray crew took their seats at one end of a long table as Kakara and Gyllus took their places at the other. The meeting commenced on a sombre note, with Kakara recounting the disastrous first meeting of the two peoples before progressing to the fragile situation they now found themselves in. Troy made an impassioned speech on behalf of World Security HQ, assuring Lady Kakara that all future meetings would be peaceful and extending a diplomatic invitation for her to visit Marineville.
Before Lady Kakara could reply, there was a knock at the door. Krill entered and announced that there was an important message for Gyllus. With a great display of apologising, Gyllus excused himself from the meeting and left with Krill.
Evidently annoyed at the interruption, Lady Kakara stood and walked to the window, gazing out at the ocean around Neptunus and collecting her thoughts. As she returned to the table, Phones rose and pulled out her chair, but as he did so, part of the back detached, revealing the bomb.
Kakara was about to cry out, but Phones threw up his hand and asked her to back away slowly. He motioned Troy and Marina to get behind one of the sturdy stone columns with her. The bomb was attached to the inside of the chair by a series of wires. A timer showed 20 seconds to detonation. There was no time for second guessing, time was running out. With 5 seconds to go, Phones cut the yellow wire leading to the circuit on the casing and tensed his whole body. The timer froze. The bomb had been disarmed.
Lady Kakara was at first relieved and then furious, accusing the Stingray crew of trying to assassinate her. However, Troy was quick to point out that none of them had been to the state room before the meeting and that Gyllus had been called away just before the bomb had been due to explode. He suggested testing his theory and explained his plan to the group.
Standing at the window once more, Lady Kakara summoned Gyllus, back to the room. If he was shocked that she was still alive, he didn’t give anything away at first. Kakara asked him to have a seat at the table. Gyllus looked at the others seated at one end and then looked to the other end where Kakara’s chair sat empty. His chair was nowhere to be seen. He turned to ask about this, but in a matter-of-fact tone Troy interjected that Lady Kakara would prefer to stand. Kakara agreed, inviting Gyllus to sit in her chair.
Gyllus turned pale. He took one step towards the chair then froze, his silver lips twitching. Troy asked if anything was the matter. Gyllus hesitated. Kakara commanded her subordinate to be seated. Gyllus took one more step and then turned on his heels and ran for the door, but before he could get half way across the room, Troy tackled him with a flying leap, sending the villain crashing to the floor.
With his plan exposed, it didn’t take long for Gyllus to confess and implicate his fellow traitor Krill and their sympathisers. All of them are now awaiting trial for crimes against Neptunus. Lady Kakara has accepted the invitation to visit Marineville at the earliest opportunity and has requested her trio new friends Troy, Phones and Marina, will be her personal escort on the journey.