SYDNEY AUSTRALIA - WILL READING
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The adventures of John Storm and the Elizabeth Swann. John Storm is an ocean adventurer and conservationist. The Elizabeth Swann is a fast solar powered boat. During a race around the world, news of the sinking of a pirate whaling ship reaches John Storm and his mate Dan Hook. They decide to abandon the race and try and save the whale.
(Original Book Chapter 4) – Sydney Australia - 150 S, 1550 E
ARCTIC MELT <<<
Forty billion years ago Antarctica divided to form a new continent named Australasia, of which the biggest land mass, Australia, is a rugged and dusty land with diverse cultures and intriguing, specialised, marsupial animals not found on other continents. This fact once again reinforces Darwin’s principles of evolution by natural selection, in that life adapts to overcome specific geographical challenges. The kangaroo is one such prime example, so too the nomadic lifestyle of the native Aborigines.
The famous British explorer Captain James Cook changed all that for good when he charted this extraordinary landmass during his epic cartographic voyage in 1771, after which emigrants came from all over the world to exploit and develop the continent irreversibly. Some deliberately committing crimes so as to be shipped to the land of opportunity, from a life of poverty in England.
Lord Sydney renamed Port Jackson to ‘Sydney’ in 1788 to found the city that became the state capital of the New South Wales territory, from the first British penal colony. The natural harbour is famous for the dramatic swooping layered roof of the Sydney Opera House resembling sea-shells, or glistening white upturned boat hulls and the steel bridge nicknamed the ‘Coat-Hanger.’ Sydney is also the financial and industrial hub of this region and home to the offices of ‘Franks, Swindles and Gentry’, a long established firm of solicitors, well known in the city for handling high level legal cases.
It was another sweltering summer, two years ago when John Storm arrived late as usual, at these offices in downtown Sydney, for the reading of his uncle’s last will and testament. Gliding through two automatic glass doors into the reception area, a well-presented receptionist caught his attention and motioned silently to the next-door down on the right and smiled. John smiled back and let himself in carefully without knocking. The receptionist had obviously been primed to direct the gathering.
Uncharacteristically, John was sporting a blue blazer and tie, chinos and dark brown brogues. The door opening created a sudden inrush of air demanding attention as the relatives gathered in the room, turned to acknowledge the late arrival, apparently recognising him after years of little or no contact with smiles and nods. He blended into the background as best he could and prepared himself to listen. Everyone was formally dressed in dark clothes. A well-spoken suited man sitting behind an impressive wooden desk, said in a stout English accent:
“Good you could join us. Make yourself comfortable John,” intending for John to sit in one of the sumptuous padded leather seats lining the rear office walls.
“Thanks,” said John nodding to his host. But he preferred to remain standing in strange situations. As the minutes turned into an hour, he started to think on the snug looking seats as an attractive proposition, but stubbornly stood by his first choice.
Other members of his family - aunties, nieces and cousins, each received substantial cash sums, as George Franks read from a list of names methodically from behind his desk. On hearing of their good fortune the person being named smiled appreciatively, with varying degrees of animation, as others in the group softly murmured approval, trying to mask their delight in being remembered ahead of their cousin. Close friends were left mementos, while the remainder of the estate went to various research charities and it was beginning to dawn on those in the room that John would be left very little. John grinned inwardly; this was just like his uncle. He’d always been taught to fend for himself – to be self reliant. This must be the final lesson.
As the reading concluded, the room emptied slowly, everyone shaking hands and exchanging polite cheek kisses. George Franks got up from his desk and shook hands with everyone as they filed past him toward the door like a vicar after morning service. As John turned to leave the by now empty chambers, George, the most senior partner in this most respected law firm, and trusted to handle his uncle’s affairs called out commandingly.
George directed John to the desk with an authorative hand gesture. He was the kind of man who you immediately felt at ease with. Not because of his impressive chambers, height, and immaculate dress sense, but because of his relaxed Churchillian facial features, fine rimmed gold spectacles and neatly trimmed moustache. George had the ability to slow time down just by engaging you with his intense blue eyes, all together demanding the utmost respect and attention lest you missed just one of his carefully considered words.
For all that George looked like a regular lawyer. If he hadn’t engaged you orally, you’d probably not have given him more than a passing thought for the considerate gentleman that he was. Once engaged, you could not help notice that everything about his appearance was faultless. He was wearing a dark pin-stripped suit exquisitely cut from the most expensive wool blend. George stretched out his hand and as John got closer to shake it, he noticed that the solicitor’s handkerchief was folded to a perfect pinnacle. On shaking George’s hand firmly and unhurriedly, John smelled a combination of exotic spices that he could not quite place, but wanted to sample more. The handshake lasted just that bit longer as the two men finally considered each other. They had spoken on the telephone before, but they’d never met face-to-face or discussed anything of consequence.
George could see that John was all that he’d been led to believe. He’d heard about the lad’s wreck diving exploits searching for treasure trove, from his uncle, and read about him rock climbing at difficult archaeological sites and just for the hell of it. From his deportment it was obvious that John could handle himself in a tough spot, but he had a ready smile and preferred negotiation to physical contact. George could not help but admire John’s rugged good looks and military-cut dark brown hair. He knew that John walked unpredictably on the wild side. He’d heard that John had once dropped everything to join an expedition looking for anthropological relics, about which he was thought to be developing an obsession.
Bringing them both back to the room, George pulled out a faded tan envelope from his left desk drawer and held it up, which John stared at for a few moments, then looked quizzically at the older man.
“This is for you. It’s sealed.”
It was like a scene from a Bond movie, where ‘M’ hands 007 a dossier on a suspect. Somewhat reluctantly, John leaned over the desk for a rather exquisite paper knife, which he carefully slid under the larger end flap and cut open. The envelope was very high quality velum and rather tough. Inside were two sheets of paper, which he removed. One sheet was a personal letter, the other some instructions and an address. The letter read:
John my boy,
I’m passing this to you hoping you might appreciate the concept. The family are trusting you to use it in the spirit intended.
Modify her as you see fit. I didn’t have time to put her to good use.
His uncle was actually Professor Douglas Storm. He'd worked on a lot of top-secret energy projects and high speed craft. He'd also developed a computer program that had been dubbed 'Hal,' the dawn of Artificial Intelligence, after Arthur C Clarke's Space Odyssey.
His uncle Douglas had helped John develop a computer archive they named 'The Ark,' where he could store and retrieve DNA samples digitally. He remembered those days fondly. Then his uncle had died in a deep sea accident, which the military had hushed up.
“What’s this all about?” said John looking to George.
“Well, I’m not entirely sure,” said George, “but if you don’t want whatever it is, it’s to go to the new department of light particle research at CERN in Genève, Switzerland. There are some keys to go with the instructions. Do you want them?”
Thinking for a few moments, John was trying to decide whether he needed yet more hassle in his life, but then, no pain – no gain.
“If I decide to check it out, I can always come back?”
“Of course,” said the older man. “If he’s expecting too much, your uncle would understand.”
John grimaced. Expecting too much, that sounded like responsibility – he’d spent his life avoiding that.
John stretched out his hand to meet that of George Franks again as if he’d decided to shake goodbye and refuse the invitation. George responded.
“Oh, by the by, if you need us for anything, we’re here to assist you. I really must emphasize – anything! But, only if you decide to take the keys.”
George carefully took a key from his right waistcoat pocket and inserted into the lock of his desk’s centre drawer.
“Anything?” said John mystified, watching George slide the draw open and pull out a slim black leather notebook.
“That’s a very broad compass. Just where are the boundaries?” George responded eagerly, “That’s for me to decide in the field, as it were.”
George opened the notebook and removed two nicely machined brass keys that were taped to the inside cover. This was getting more intriguing by the minute. Just as John went to fire off a barrage of questions, George interrupted.
“John, I know this is all rather irregular, so could I suggest that you look at the lay of the land, then perhaps give me a call to frame your questions.” He said this holding up the keys by way of a calculated dare.
John couldn’t argue with that, and knew from the tone of voice, that he’d have to see what it was for himself or decline the offer. He’d have to take the keys.
The graphic novel translation omits many of the above chapters entirely, and condenses others, aiming for a livelier visual read.
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