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Michael and the Minke Whale
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ISBN-10: 0-96896-299-7
Genre: Young Adult/Mystery
eBook Length: 101 Pages
Published: January 2006

From inside the flap

Michael Small received an invitation from Victoria Windemere, an archaeologist he helped in her work in the Yucatan peninsula and the discovery of Roman artifacts in North America before the time of the Aztecs. His new hobby scuba diving lets Dr. Windemere hire him as an apprentice diver on site in the Mediterranean to work on the recovery of two ships that may date back to the time of the Iron Age. Dive with Michael as he risks his life to save a submersible that has been carried to the bottom. Feel his pain and what he has to suffer to rescue them. He is helped from drowning by a young woman who has her own ghosts. When she tells him about them he helps her unravel a mystery where her grandfather and grandmother were accused of being spies and traitors in the Second World War.

Michael and the Minke Whale (Excerpt)

Michael and the Minke Whale

Mediterranean Sea 2200 years ago

Ahmed was looking forward to getting home. He was proud of his Phoenician origin, but had decided that he needed to go to where cargos could be readily found. This meant he had to go to the land of the Philistines. Greece was too far away and he didn?t want to be caught under the yoke of the Egyptians. By being an equal distance from his homeland and from Greece, he could have the best of all worlds in Ashkelon. His home was new to him and his family; they had migrated to Ashkelon two years ago and were becoming established, with his growing fleet, now six ships. Finally, after years of hard work, he was making a name for himself. The King, impressed by Ahmedís experience of traveling around Africa, had decided that the former waif from the gutter would now carry the Kingís goods. So for two years he had maintained the schedules and made sure all of his ships were well crewed and well cared for. Even with the best of modern ships, he knew he could not foresee all things that might make a shipment late or, may the gods forbid, make him lose a ship. With thirty years of wind in his face and salt in his eyes, he knew Nature was a capricious mistress. No man controlled her - you never knew what mood she?d be in when you encountered her whiles again. No, nature was never to be ignored, nor taken for granted.

Ashkelon was a thriving trading center, visited by ships from as far away as the pillars of Atlas, by camel trains from the mysterious east carrying strange riches from stranger places. It had a history dating back thousands of years, filled with strife, and conquering rulers who used the town/city as a pawn. The city walls were thick and fortified to withstand powerful attackers. The ramparts were 150 feet thick, the walls as much as 50 feet in height. An intimidation to any attacker, protecting a dynamic people

Ahmed felt secure in a city of such power. It was a cosmopolitan community exploited by different nations over centuries. The Canaanites were masters for over 300 years until the Egyptians swept in. The Ashkelon kings had been the scourge of the pharaohs and only by conquering this city-state in 1550 B.C. did the Egyptians stop the pirating. Their control lasted four hundred years, until another powerful foe usurped power in 1175 B.C., The Philistines.

This was Ahmedís world. He had not thought much about where the Philistines came from. It was rumoured they had been Greeks who started up their own cities on returning from the sack of Troy. As they became more powerful, they conquered more countries and occupied more land. It was a good time to be alive. He was not too old. His children were on their own and only he, his wife Zoria, and his three dogs and a precious cat occupied his small villa. From where it was situated he could see the purple-blue Mediterranean. Yes, it was good to be alive, and to have a home that his wife made so welcoming. The sea had its own attraction. How could he never want to be near it to feel its heart beat? The saltwater was in his blood, a lifelong addiction. The sails flapped in the wind, and he turned.

For a moment he thought his eyes were playing tricks on him, then a distinct odour teased at his nostrils, his memory. A cold chill froze him, as he stood looking from his deck at the waves through which his ship had been passing. What did it all mean? Abruptly he began yelling, and the crew turned to watch him in wonder.

Ahmed looked in the direction of the wind, smelling it. Long ago he had learned to respect the power of nature and the gods controlling every aspect of life. He couldn?t stop the fear that came when he knew that once again the gods were angry. Whether they were angry with him mattered little. The smell of the desert, the pungent odour of scented flowers growing hundreds of leagues away on the other side of the dry zone, was now in the air. It could mean only one thing. When a haboob was forming it was as if a mysterious messenger were coming, and then its power grew and all those in its path learned what fear was. It was a messenger of the gods who were seeking retribution on someone who had not followed their laws.

"Get those sails down! Ship the masts and tie down anything that can be moved. A haboob is coming."

His sailors looked up with horror. They had faith in their captain and when he said that a haboob was coming, none doubted him. They had heard of this strange storm that changed the colour of the sea to a murky green. They had heard that the sky too turned green and that only one in 1,000 who saw the strange sight lived to tell the tale.

Ahmed turned to Abdul. "Go below and make sure all the wine is securely stowed. Soon we will be fighting for our lives, loose cargo could puncture our hull. - Quick man! Take as many as you need!" Abdul ran off, fear screaming from his eyes.

Ahmed surveyed the calm sea. It seemed impossible that within a few minutes it would all change. The ship in his wake was closing. The fools must have thought him crazy to suddenly lower his sails and ship the masts on a so perfect day.

He hailed the vessel through his megaphone, "For the love of all that you hold precious, lower your sails, ship your masts and tie everything down - a haboob is coming! You don?t have much time!"

The word haboob transformed his sister ship as its crew battled to get ready in time?

Within minutes he no longer would be able to see the ship that was within two or three cables. No, in a few minutes he would not be able to see anything but green water and green angry clouds that would descend like a death shroud and blind him.