Title: Curse of the Sea
Author: Joni Parker
Genre: Urban Fantasy
A NATO training exercise goes terribly wrong when five warships from different countries are mysteriously transported to Eledon, the Realm of the Elves. The warrior, Lady Alexin, is charged to escort the troops back home to London in the year 2031 with the aid of the Wizard Ecstasy and a magic shrinking potion. Yet, when the authorities question her story, Alex is detained and imprisoned under suspicion of terrorism. Caught in a web of politics, betrayal and bungling bureaucracy, the confusing world of the future will push her magical gifts to their limit, and her own future will hang in the balance, caught between “justice” and the place she calls home.
A short while later, Captain Jonas returned, accompanied by a middle-aged woman and a group of young sailors, male and female. The woman wore a mottled blue camouflage uniform and her blond hair was tucked under a dark blue cap with a brim and the name USS Lonestar emblazoned in gold.
“Alex, this is Captain Williams. She’ll take over…this place.” He grimaced as he looked around. “Captain Williams, I’ll check in later.” He nodded to her and marched out.
“Nice to meet you, Miss.” Captain Williams held out her hand.
Alex shook her hand and noticed the eagle pins on her collar. She was the same rank as Captain Jonas, equivalent to a Colonel, the rank of her foster father, Colonel Penser. “My name’s Alex. They allow women to be in charge of ships?”
The Captain’s smile grew. “Yep, sure do. Half my crew is female.” She winked. “The Captain disapproves.”
“I get the same reaction. Are you an American?” Alex’s smile broadened.
“Yes, ma’am, from Houston, Texas. Where’re you from?”
“I was born here, but my foster father’s from Texas. He’s a colonel and in charge of the Nyla Army Garrison. I thought I recognized your accent.”
“How long has he been here?”
“A long time. He said he was in a place called ‘Nam before.”
“You mean Vietnam?” The Captain rubbed her chin. “That was about sixty years ago.”
“Oh, he hasn’t been here that long.”
The woman paused, uncertain how to react and pressed her lips together. She turned to monitor the cleaning crew. “When was the last time this hospital was used?”
“We call it a healing house. I was here about three or four years ago. I guess no one’s needed it since.”
“What kind of equipment do you have? An X-ray machine?” She took notice of the bare walls. “What about electrical outlets? Running water?”
Alex shook her head. “We don’t have outlets for anything, but you can get water from the pump outside. We don’t have any kind of X equipment.”
“Uh, where exactly are we?”
“Seaward Isle. It’s part of Eledon, the Elf world. We haven’t had a shipwreck here in years and we just fixed the Elf grid to keep this from happening.”
On Earth, over the Atlantic Ocean, four helos from the aircraft carrier swept the sea, looking for survivors or debris and found nothing. Jets flew overhead for another look from the air and a second submarine surfaced in the area where the ships were last reported. No success. Other ships were diverted for search-and-rescue operations, to no avail.
Admiral Teller had no choice but to inform NATO headquarters. His mouth went dry and his chest burned; he took two antacid pills, but they didn’t help. The ship connected to headquarters via satellite phone and the Admiral picked up the receiver. At first, his voice faltered, but he cleared his throat and reported the loss. Once he hung up, tears rolled down his cheeks and he pressed his lips together to keep from sobbing. He’d never lost a ship before.
The British Royal Navy had been honored to lead this exercise, but with over seven hundred sailors and five ships missing, the Admiral prepared himself for the inevitable. He’d be relieved of command and forced to retire. There might even be a court-martial. His return to London would mark the end of his career, especially when he would debrief Admiral Sir Neville Chestermann, First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff. Teller hung his head.
An hour later, Captain Delacruz knocked on the Admiral’s cabin door. “Admiral, I hate to bother you at this time, but the press corps on the ship is asking questions. We need to tell them something.”
The Admiral sighed. “You’re right, Captain. Set up a press conference in the briefing room. I’ll be there in fifteen minutes.”
“Yes, Admiral.” The Captain left.
The Admiral rubbed his temples. He’d forgotten about the pool of journalists they’d taken on board to cover the exercise. Fortunately, none of them had been deployed to the five ships now missing. He took a deep breath. “Honesty is the best policy.” He wiped his face of sweat with a towel and went to the briefing room.
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Fantasy novels are Joni Parker’s writing passion. Thus far, she’s written two series—“The Seaward Isle Saga,” a trilogy, and “The Chronicles of Eledon,” the award-winning four-book series. Her latest project, “Curse of the Sea” is her eighth book and begins a new trilogy. Her work extends beyond novels into short stories with two appearing in an anthology, “Tucson and Beyond” by the Tucson Science Fiction Fantasy writers’ group. Joni’s retired from military and federal government service and devotes her time to writing. She currently resides in Tucson, Arizona.
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