The Butterfly Dragon: Night Boat: Episode 01 (First Draft - Artwork To Come)

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Excerpt From The Butterfly Dragon: The Two Butterflies Episode 01

The tension is thick in the air as Alomera Zek arrives on the bridge of the Many Faced Maiden.

"What brings you here?" asked George, already knowing the answer to that question.

"Its a trap. You're falling right into their trap," Zek warned Steadman.

"I'm taking us away from the vicinity of Treadwater as fast as I can, towards the Marshall Islands, where we'll have a distinct advantage.

"They're squeezing you, knowing full well that you'll run. They'll be looking for every ship headed this direction because they've already got the Panama Canal under surveillance. They've likely performed spot checks on every ship going through from west to east Panama. We only got through to the west side on a fluke if you'll recall. They're hunting me, and pressing your buttons to trick you into exposing us!" Zek informed him.

"They know we were there!" Steadman shot back.

"No they don't! They're only making you think they know, but they don't! That's their game. The only thing they know is that I'm in North America or South America. That's all. They don't know where. They're not looking for you! They're looking for me! Every act of political blackmail we've succeeded in over the last week was conducted with my data, and my methods. Its likely that someone high up ordered the CIA into action against us. Against me!" Zek countered him.

"Ever since I fled the authorities at Tokyo International Airport on one of my helicopters, they've been after me. They want me because Future Tangent is going to hang up the whole Cora Hau scandal on me! That cost nearly twenty billion dollars of investor money. Some of those investors have friends in high places. This isn't about you and your liberate Pan America movement Nacho Zekko! This is all about me and hanging me up for good on a flag pole with a rope around my neck, dead for all to see. You're a post cold war Industrialist criminal has been. I'm a different sort of prey for them, and they want to make a big example," Steadman found his cool again, though retained his firmness.

"Then you're playing right into their trap. If you continue on this route, within a day or two, this boat and its entire crew compliment of three hundred will be sitting on the bottom of the ocean!" Zek assured him.

Excerpt From The Butterfly Dragon: We Who Stand On Guard Episode 01

In the data center of a Nimitz Class Aircraft Carrier, Vice Admiral Harris interrogates the officers of the Strategic Intelligence Section about the nature of the satellite and reconnaissance imaging they're looking at.

"Alright son, what are we looking at here?" asked Vice Admiral Harris of the station operator.

"Sir, this is a high detail scan returned by MILSAT at 0630 from the region of the Marshall Islands. North of Submarine Monitoring Station DELTA FOTROT 37-NINER by about five nautical miles or about eight clicks, sir," the station operator reported.

"What's that glitch in the image, sailor?" asked Vice Admiral Harris.

"Sir, you tell us?" the station operator responded.

"Why are you even showing this to me then? Are you reporting faulty equipment?" asked Vice Admiral Harris.

"No sir. Because sir, yesterday at the same time, about two hundred and thirty nautical miles or three hundred clicks, we detected this... at 0629..." the station operator reported.

The image on screen looked eerily similar to the other. A large misshaped glitch in the image as if they were looking through a giant magnifying glass at the ocean floor near that spot.

"How would you explain this anomaly son?" asked Vice Admiral Harris.

"Sir, I've never seen anything like this before, but I have a friend in the University Of Washington in the special operations survey program that indicated to me that a recent stealth technology would produce warped images like this one," the station operator confirmed.

"Son, you realize that sharing strategic data with civilians is grounds for a court martial?" asked Vice Admiral Harris.

"Yes sir, but my friend hasn't seen these images. Instead, he's working with a software simulation that renders the technology employed for that stealth system. Here's the image of a Montana Class Battleship employing this theoretical stealth technology. It was sent to me by my friend directly from his software," the station operator showed Vice Admiral Harris the image.

Although it had the tell tale signs of computer generated imagery, it looked uncannily familiar.

It appeared like someone had taken the screen capture in the presence of a large magnifying glass lens that had warped the image and magnified the sea floor beneath the allegedly concealed Battleship.

"There's an entire Battleship in that glitch?" confirmed Vice Admiral Harris.

"Yes sir. They call it ELSA. Electromagnetic Lensing Stealth Aperture technology," the station operator reported to his commanding officer.

The Butterfly Dragon: Night Boat Episode 01

Sunrise On The Boat

Steadman ran as fast as he could for the chopper in the distance. The rounds of small arms fire whizzed by his ears as he remained low, almost having been reduced to a crawl as the authorities pursued him.

"Just a little further!" he pushed himself, looking back to see his pursuers as they ran after him along runway nine at Tokyo International Airport.

When he looked back to the helicopter, his goal, it appeared much further than it had been before.

"Nooooo!" he got up and began sprinting as fast as he could, clutching the briefcase that contained his  future financial freedom.

The chase continued with the rounds flying past him to either side. He continued his sprint to the point  that he was no more than twenty yards from the deck of the helicopter. He pushed himself that much more to get a final burst of speed. That was when the first round hit him, in the left thigh.

He stumbled forward, falling to the paved surface using the briefcase to break his fall. The pain shot up through his thigh as he struggled to get back to his feet. As he did and was standing upright, another round clipped him in the right shoulder, sending him spinning to the pavement once again.

He lay there in the late afternoon sunlight as one of his pursuers approached with a gun leveled at Steadman. George struggled to get a look at the man's face, which was obscured by the sunlight above. As the man stepped into the sun effectively blocking it, George saw the face of Alomera Zek as he pulled the trigger.

Steadman awoke from his nightmare, sweat pouring from his brow and down into his eyes in the tropical temperatures of the Marshall Islands. After he wiped his face with the cloth he'd kept on his night table, he leaned over to kiss Celeste, only to find that she wasn't in bed.

As his eyes adjusted, he saw through the port hole that the sun had just risen and was out of sight beyond the stern of the Many Faced Maiden. He quickly jumped in the shower and once he was clean and shaven, he donned his uniform and made his way to the galley.

There at Steadman's favourite table sat Celeste and Zek, eating breakfast together. Steadman walked nonchalantly over to the table as if it didn't bother him (though it did) and kissed the top of Celeste's head as he passed.

"Good morning darling," Celeste said to him lovingly.

"Is it?" asked Steadman, already sounding a bit grumpy.

"We're still alive, aren't we?" responded Zek quickly.

"Was that a chided reference to our discussion on the bridge yesterday?" asked Steadman as one of the kitchen hands served his breakfast onto a tray.

"Maybe," Zek replied, shoveling a fork full of scrambled eggs into his mouth.

Steadman returned to the table with his tray and sat down across from Celeste and beside Zek.

"How's progress going with the decryption of the SY349 formula?" asked Steadman.

"Slow... I might have forgotten a character or two in the decryption key," Zek responded, now on the defense himself.

"You're telling me that after having successfully recalled over twenty different keys and codes we needed to rebuild your blackmail database, that you're having difficulty remembering an eight digit key code?" confirmed Steadman, whose impatience was clearly growing.

"Stress. It could be stress," Zek responded with a hint of sarcasm, which further infuriated Steadman.

"My little friend, you have no concept of what real stress is..." Steadman spoke while toying with his breakfast.

Zek simply held up his right stump to Steadman's face.

"You've lost one, are you offering up the other as a fitting sacrifice?" confirmed Steadman as he cut a piece of his eggs benedict and carefully put it in his mouth.

"That would most certainly bring the decryption to a stand still, wouldn't it?" Zek posed the question for Steadman.

"I don't know, you might just blurt the key out in anticipation of the pain while on the operating table, especially while the loss of your right hand is still so fresh on your memory," Steadman corrected him.

"On one side of three doors is the little pig, who has three secrets that the wolf, who is on the other side, must figure out to get through the doors to eat the pig. The wolf already has two of the secrets. Should the pig then give the wolf the third secret as an act of good will in the hopes that he might not be eaten?" Zek asked Steadman metaphorically.

"That's a clever anecdote, but it begs the question which one of us is the wolf and which the pig?" asked Steadman who looked over to Zek for the first time during their breakfast.

"Sir! Sir! You need to see this!" one of the armed guards came running into the galley, calling out to Steadman.

"What is it Lemton?! I hope its important for you to interrupt my breakfast!" Steadman faced the sailor.

"Its important. Real important," the guard responded.

"I'll be up on the bridge in a moment. Dismissed!" Steadman assured the guard, who quickly left.

"As for you little man. My crew better have that formula decrypted within seven days or you're going to be short another hand, and it will be my joy to watch you eat your breakfast from a bowl every day like a dog!" Steadman spoke firmly as he stood.

He leaned over and gave Celeste a kiss on the lips and then made his way up to the bridge.

A New Threat

Norman who was currently at the helm, turned to see the door to the bridge open.

"What's going on Norman?" asked Steadman as he stepped through the door and into the bridge.

"Sir, the stealth drone picked this up today on its most recent recon flight," Norman reported to Steadman, pointing to one of the computer screens where an distinct image outlined a small fleet of ships, one of them clearly an aircraft carrier.

"That's a contact! Why wasn't I notified when it happened?" asked Steadman in a firm voice.

"Because sir... it literally just happened," Norman replied.

"That's the third fleet, isn't it?" asked Steadman.

"Correct sir. A Nimitz class aircraft carrier, two Aegis class destroyers and two fast attack craft. Missile Boat Drones. PHM2 Class. Completely unmanned, with stealth capabilities armed with four harpoon missiles, and eight fifth generation HARM radar homing missiles. Undoubtedly they'll have the assistance of the coast guard of any country whose shores we get close to if they've identified us yet," Norman informed Steadman whose face seemed to pale as Norman spoke.

"Activate the veil if it isn't already!" Steadman ordered.

"Already done sir. I activated it an hour before sunrise as you ordered," Norman responded.

"So in all likelihood they haven't spotted us yet," Steadman asked his first Officer.

"Correct sir. All indications are that they're still in the dark about us," Norman replied.

"We need a distraction. Something to get their attention away from us," Steadman spoke his thoughts aloud.

Steadman turned to one of the guards on the bridge.

"Go get Zek and bring him to me now!" Steadman ordered.


Alomera Zek sat by himself finishing the last of his breakfast when a guard arrived in the galley and came over to him.

"The big man wants you on the bridge. Right now!" the guard ordered him.

"You mean he couldn't let an old one-handed man finish his breakfast in peace? Very well," Zek stood up and accompanied the guard up to the bridge.


"I presume its important if you had someone come get me," Zek responded calmly.

"We need to use the blackmail database again," Steadman requested of Zek, who looked at him cautiously.

"Tell me who, and what do we need done?" asked Zek.

"We need the third naval fleet of the United States Navy recalled back to port. It appears they might be on an intercept course, and we can't afford a run in with the Navy," Steadman ordered.

"You want me to blackmail a politician into an order of that magnitude? That's going to take some weight, but I think I have just the man for the job. A Navy Admiral himself approaching retirement. A man implicated in an illegal arms deal with Iraq during the early nineteen nineties. He'd likely rather avert a court marshal and lengthy sentence, especially with retirement so close..." Zek offered.

"Ensure that nobody is harmed in the process," Steadman ordered Zek.

"Am I to understand that you're acquiring a conscience after all this time?" Zek asked in amazement.

"No. I just want to ensure that if we're apprehended, that my sentence is shorter than yours," Steadman replied honestly.

"Good, because a conscience in our business can be a liability you know," Zek responded, already growing comfortable with the weight shifting in his favour.

"My lack of a conscience is only a liability for you at this point. Do this, and I'll extend your decryption deadline another week. Don't do it, and I'll shoot you in the foot and throw you overboard into these shark infested waters," Steadman wasn't ready to give up his power so easily, but in the eyes of the crew, that weight was already dwindling.

"Aye Aye, my Captain," Zek gave a mock salute to Steadman as the guard led him to the communications room.

"Norman, keep us at this speed for now. I don't want to attract any attention from that fleet or any lookouts on the Marshall Islands," Steadman ordered Norman.

"Aye Sir," Norman replied as he returned his attention to the helm.

Vanquisher Of The Veil

Steadman left the bridge, and found his way down into the innards of the ship, all the way to the engine room. Steadman wasn't an engineer, nor were the ship's enormous engines his area of interest. Instead, he made his way to the device he'd referred to as the veil.

The device itself was the size of a compact car. It had two copper coils protruding from its top, while just outside of the device an ominous humming could be heard. He checked the shielded data screen for the vitals of the veil and found it to be functioning within its required parameters.

"So the problem isn't with our little stealth device here," he said as he suddenly noticed a large cylindrical object affixed to the metal siding of the veil. An object that had not been there when he'd had the device installed.

Steadman grabbed hold of the cylinder and tried with all of his strength to remove the device. It didn't budge, but he could clearly see that it was not welded there. It was being held in place by something altogether different.

"Who the hell put an industrial magnet on the veil?!" Steadman spoke aloud as he figured out what the cylindrical object was.

"Norman! Send the tech down to the engine room immediately! Someone's been tampering with the veil!" Steadman ordered his first Officer from the engine room radio.

"You want me to pull him off of the decryption job?" confirmed Norman.

"I certainly do! On the double!" Steadman confirmed that Norman had heard him correctly.

Steadman waited in the engine room as the ship keeled ever so slightly with its rocking motion. When his impatience got the best of him, he addressed one of the engineers, asking him for a crowbar. The engineer grabbed a big heavy crowbar from the tool rack and handed to Steadman, who nearly dropped it upon receiving its weight.

He then went over to the veil and carefully placed the business end of the crowbar against the magnet, and the veil's metal siding as the tech arrived.

"What's that?" asked the tech, pointing at the magnet.

"I was hoping you could tell me. It appears to be a magnet. An industrial strength magnet," Steadman said as he attempted to pry it off of the veil.

"If that's true, that would really mess it up," the tech informed Steadman.

"Why's that? I thought this thing was super advanced," asked Steadman.

"Its basically a supermagnet so powerful that it bends radio and light waves at a convergence point about a hundred meters from the hull of the ship, so that they wrap around the opposite side. To anyone looking with visual or radio instrumentation, they'd essentially see nothing," the tech explained.

"So how would an industrial magnet stuck on the side of it affect it?" asked Steadman, who tried again with all his might to pry the magnet off.

"First of all, it would deform the convergence field so that parts of the ship might be exposed and visible on radar. Secondly, the metal parts of the veil would become magnetized and would give false readings on the data display, and once again deform the convergence field, further exposing the ship," the tech summed up the risks posed by the magnet.

"How do we demagnetize the metal siding?" asked Steadman.

"The veil is grounded to the hull of the ship, and would naturally demagnetize over the course of a few weeks," the tech explained.

"Any way to speed that process up?" Steadman asked as he took a third attempt at breaking the hold the magnet had on the siding.

"Not really. We're just going to have to wait it out and hope that its not so bad that the ship is visible on radar and satellites," the tech told him as he managed to free the magnet.

It feel to the metal floor on its rounded side and when Steadman went to pick it up, the tech stopped him.

"Don't pick that thing up yet. Do you have any metal pins in your bones? A pacemaker? Anything that might respond to magnetism?" asked the tech.

Steadman nodded negatively and then spoke.

"Hold onto this," Steadman handed the tech his metal pen.

He then picked up the magnet, which weighed at least forty-five pounds (twenty kilograms).

"Take the crowbar and give it back to the engineer over there, then give the veil a full diagnostic and report back to me when you're done!" Steadman ordered the tech.

"Yes sir!" the tech responded, barely able to pick up the crowbar.

He dragged it back to the engineer as Steadman made his way carefully with the industrial magnet along the halls of a metal ship to throw it over board.

Viva Revolution

"You shoulda heard him stand down the big man! Isn't that right Zek?" asked Carlos, one of the guards.

"He's in a bind right now, but he won't be for long. That's why you have to take advantage of this opportunity. Once the morale of his crew is low enough, we can start bringing up the idea of a mutiny. First, we need to ensure that we outnumber the men still supporting his leadership," Zek assured the guards he'd already commandeered to his effort.

"Once they find out that it was you that saved his ass once again, they'll start to see things our way," Sanandra responded to Zek's insight.

"One opportunity this will afford us is the opportunity to make communications with our revolutionary brothers back home. You see, not only can we muster the manpower, we can muster another ship too. One to help convince Steadman and his crew that their time is at an end and that mine is about to begin," Zek said as he typed the blackmail message to the Admiral, with Steadman's request to recall the third fleet back to port.

"With my power, I can take away one threat, and empower another threat altogether," Zek smiled as he hit the send button on his blackmail message.

"As simple as that," Zek continued.

"Here's the phone you requested. We should be within range of the cellular towers of the Marshall Islands," Lemton handed Zek a brand new phone, which he'd previously activated.

Zek placed the phone on his lap and began dialing carefully with his left finger. When he'd finished keying the number, he picked up the phone with his left hand and held it to his ear.

"Hola?" answered a voice on the other end of the line.

"Dantos my old friend. If you can't bring the chicken and the egg..." Zek greeted an old contact of his.

"...then bring the fajita and the rooster! How are you Zek you old devil! I knew they couldn't kill you!" Dantos laughed in joy on the other end of the phone.

"I may not be dead, Dantos, but like my brothers and sisters throughout the world, I am far from free," Zek spoke his rhetoric solemnly.

"Viva the revolution!" Dantos exclaimed.

"Yes my friend. To the revolution. Which brings me to the reason I contacted you, my trusted old friend," Zek began.

"What is it. What can I do for our revolutionary messiah?" asked Dantos.

"I need you. I need a reputable crew. I need a frigate. You know the one I'm referring to, right?" asked Zek.

"She's safe in port, as we speak, but she may be deployed again soon. I can get the crew together in a day. We've been waiting for your signal. However, we're going to need a little help from above. Someone to coax the port authority to look the other way?" asked Dantos.

"Consider it done. I'll make the arrangements so that you'll have a window of opportunity tomorrow in the evening. About seven Columbia time. Are we clear on this request?" asked Zek.

"We are, but without a destination, we're as good as dead in the water," Dantos insisted of Zek.

"Within three days, we'll be south of Puerto Ayora, on the west side of the Panama Canal. I'd like for you to intercept us about a hundred nautical miles due south of that point, at -2.1690 degrees South by -90.2868 degrees West," Zek told Dantos, checking the coordinates he'd scrawled with a pen on his right forearm.

"If you take care of the Port Authority for us, you can count on my arrival," Dantos assured Zek.

"You'll need an armed boarding party if we're to procure control of situation, if you understand my meaning," Zek asked him discretely.

"Oh, I most certainly do. That brings me to another topic. You are aware that something has overtaken the Americas. North America especially. It is as if evil spirits have inhabited the people and is driving them crazy one by one..." Dantos explained to Zek.

"My allies here have mentioned that something strange is happening in society American and Canadian society, but they couldn't explain it to me in any meaningful way. You say that it is driving people mad?" confirmed Zek.

"It is like a communicable disease of the mind. It is driving some mad, while others become automatons, as if without a will of their own. These are obviously the end times and a sign that the time is right for a revolution! Who better to lead the people than our own messiah! Alomera Zek! Viva Revolution!" Dantos exclaimed over the phone.

"Perhaps it is best to to know whiskers from teeth first, before we leap directly into the jaws of the Jaguar. We first will deal with our obstacles at my location, then we'll uncover the mystery about which you speak, from the safety of our own little fleet," Zek assured him.

To be continued in The Butterfly Dragon: Night Boat Episode 02

Credits and attribution:

Artwork: Amy WongWendy PuseyGhastly, Brian Joseph Johns, Daz3DUnreal Engine...

Tools: Daz3DCorel PainterAdobe PhotoshopLightwave 3DBlender, Borderline Obsession...

PS: NO, I'm not trying to be Tony Stark. Is that now the destiny of every man who grows a beard and goatee?

Copyright © 2023 Brian Joseph Johns