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Beware the Bright Moon

Beware the Bright Moon

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Beware the Bright Moon

400 pagine
5 ore
Sep 28, 2010


Things were looking up for Matthew Carlsen, Captain, USN. He survived a shipwreck, and made it to an island off the coast of Africa with 17 other people. After several weeks on the island, they found a vessel hidden in a cavern on the island, and they set course for the US and home. With all that going on, he even had time to fall in love with an enchanting Asian woman.

But now he's having a bad day. He's been shot; his ship has been fired upon, and he and his friends are fleeing from an Aswadán warship. They've been branded as terrorists, and a US submarine is after them with a sink-on-sight order. With fuel running low, he's wandering around the ocean trying to figure out what to do before the submarine finds them. At the moment, getting his friends home doesn't look good.

But Captain Matthew Carlsen hasn't given up yet. He still has a few tricks up his sleeve.

Sep 28, 2010

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Beware the Bright Moon - Andrew Alix

This wasn’t in the travel brochure…

Matthew looked at the radar screen. The other ship was getting close now. His initial conversation with its captain had been very discouraging.

The captain on the other ship was also looking at his radar screen. Ready the forward gun, he ordered as he picked up the microphone. Fire across her bow on my orders.

He keyed the mike. This is the captain of SS Targa to the captain of the Bright Moon. You have one minute to stop all engines. Otherwise you will be fired upon.

Matthew picked up the hand mike and responded. Captain. We’re survivors of the Evening Star which sank off the coast of Africa last May. All we want to do is go home.

The captain of the SS Targa sat back in his seat. Twenty seconds, Captain.

Matthew looked at his friends. The bridge was so quiet he could almost hear himself breathe. He tried again. Captain, we need more time. We’ve only got inexperienced civilians aboard. It’s going to take us a little time to shut down.

The seconds ticked. This was it, Matthew thought. They were up against an armed ship and a captain who wouldn’t hesitate to use force if he thought it was necessary.

He looked at Ron. They have to want the ship intact. I can’t believe they would shoot at us.

Then the gun roared, and the shock of the shell reverberated throughout the Bright Moon as pieces of the bow flew into the air.

Ron yelled. There’s your answer! They’re trying to sink us!

Matthew screamed into the mouthpiece. Hold your fire! We have women on this ship!

On the other ship, the captain was also screaming. I said across her bow! I will personally shoot that gunner if we lose that ship! He fought down his anger and got his voice under control. Fire, he said in a calmer tone. This time across her bow. Maybe it will scare them into submission. He was wrong.

Anger surged through Matthew’s body. "Hard to port! Flank speed.

Other Titles by Andrew Alix

Through the Portal series

Book One:

The Land

Book Two: (2018)

People of the Weir

Book Three: (2019)

The Egru

Beware the Bright Moon


Andrew Alix

Edited By Loris Yvonne Alix

Without whom this book wouldn’t exist.


Cindy Foley


Special thanks to my mother, mentor, and editor Loris Yvonne Alix, without whom this book would not exist. Thanks to Cindy Alix Foley for separating the chaff from the wheat and for helping me to dig a few (lots) wells. And, thank you to all my friends and relatives who have read this novel and encouraged me over the years to hone my craft and write more.

Mostly, I want to thank my wife Ruth, for patiently listening to me talk about this story for years and for putting up with the many hours I took to revise and edit it.

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental

Published by: AlixPublishing

Copyright © 2017 by Andrew Alix

All rights reserved.

including the right of reproduction

in whole or in part in any form.





Anne concentrated on the document in front of her, glancing occasionally at the man who sat in front of her desk staring at the pictures on the wall. He sat ramrod straight in the chair, yet she sensed his fidgeting. That alone would have made her feel sorry for anyone who entered this office –anyone but this man. She pushed the button on the intercom. He’s here.

The intercom sounded. Send him in, Anne.

Yes, sir. She looked at the man, who spared her the effort of speaking by standing up and walking to the door to the inner office. He stood in front of it for the briefest instant, while he took a deep breath, and opened it.

A steely voice spoke from within. Please sit down, Mr. Johnson.

A trace of a smile appeared on Anne’s lips as she resumed her attention to her work.

Randolph Johnson walked to the chair in front of the desk. The chair creaked as he sat down. He clutched his briefcase and struggled to keep still by concentrating on the desk in front of him.

The massive desk was made of solid mahogany. In and Out-boxes, each as elegant the desk, adorned the corner. Documents had been placed meticulously in each respective box, leaving only one document on the desk. Other than the paper and the In-Out boxes, the surface of the desk was bare, giving the impression that the desk was more massive than it was. Johnson was certain that if he measured it, he would find the paper perfectly centered in front of the man and aligned with the edge of the desk.

The man looked expectantly at Johnson. Is the ship ready?

No. The man stared and Johnson assured him. It’ll be ready.

And your crew?

We don’t have a crew yet, but we have plenty of time. The ship isn’t scheduled to leave for a month and a half.

The man turned his chair toward Johnson. Ah, yes… the schedule.

Johnson risked eye contact. Uh… the ship will leave her mooring in the Potomac River at eighteen hundred, May 17. The Seaview will leave Norfolk, Virginia, about an hour later and the Maryland will leave Newport, Rhode Island, at midnight. They will rendezvous off the Florida coast at midnight May 22. Johnson paused. What about the crew for the Maryland?

That part is taken care of. Just make sure you take care of your part.

We’ll make it, sir. The man looked doubtful. We’ll make it, Johnson insisted.

We’d better. There are already too many witnesses.

Johnson attempted a confident smile. No one suspects anything.

If you bungle this… The man’s voice was sinister, and Johnson’s smile disappeared. Then the man waved his hand in dismissal and looked at the document on his desk.


Frank Wadding threw the newspaper on the sofa when Johnson entered the lobby. They walked out together.

What did the old man say? Wadding asked as they approached the limo.

The Old Man, Johnson emphasized, is afraid that we aren’t going to make the dates.

What did you tell him?

I told him everything was going according to plan.

What are you going to tell him when he finds out that everything isn’t going according to plan?

He’s not going to find out, because we’re going to make it.

Wadding shrugged. It’s your life. He opened the door to the limo and Johnson got in. Wadding pulled out into the traffic. Found a crew?

Johnson sighed. Not yet.

Look, we only need four men. Just take them from the people that are working on the ship. They already know what’s on her.

True, but they don’t know what we’re going to with the ship. And you know how I hate witnesses.

Then we’ll just have to take care of that, won’t we? Wadding looked at Johnson’s reflection in the rear view mirror.

Johnson looked back at him. Right.


Ron and Doris Jefferson boarded the Evening Star. Ron felt like running away, but it was too late. Matthew Carlsen was already on deck waiting for them.

He hugged Doris. So glad you could come. It’s good to see you, Ron.

Ron took his hand. "Same here, Matthew. He took a deep breath and looked around the ship.

Relax, Ron. It’s gonna be fine.

Ron let go and smiled wanly. Right. He looked at Doris. That’s what my she told me. So did my dentist, and you know how I feel about that.

Matthew laughed. I get it. –You can do this, Ron.

Well, I guess I have to do it sometime. Now is as good as any. He turned to Doris. We should find our room, he said and left abruptly.

Ron! Wait. Doris cried and then turned to Matthew. Sorry. He doesn’t want to be on deck when the ship leaves port.

Go. I’ll see you later. She hurried after Ron.

Jeff and Marie Albertson joined him at the rail. Marie took his arm. You know you’re supposed to have a good time, don’t you.

Of course, Sis. I’m planning on it.

Good. Then you can start by taking off your wedding ring.

Matthew rolled his eyes. What? You too?

Oh? Is someone else giving you good advice?

Mr. Tong said the same thing. He called before I left invited me to visit after the cruise.

"Really! Are you gonna go?

I couldn’t really say no to him.

Good. Look, we’re gonna find our room. We’ll meet you on deck when the ship leaves.

Ok. See you then.


A half hour later, Matthew was on deck with his sister and brother-in-law. They leaned on the rail as the Evening Star began to move. A crowd had gathered as the ship set sail, and several jostled to get to the rail. A woman brushed against him while trying to avoid a collision with one of them. Excuse me, she said.

Matthew smiled and moved aside to give her room. For a split second their eyes met. Take off the ring, Matthew.

His sister interrupted the thought. Isn’t this fantastic, Matthew?

He smiled. Yeah, Marie. It’s great. He stole another glance at the woman and heard the voice again. Take off the ring.

The woman left once they were underway. Matthew had to suppress the urge to follow her and remained with Marie and Jeff until the ship passed the Statue of Liberty.

We’re going back to our cabin and unpack, Marie said. How ‘bout meeting us at the buffet restaurant around five.

Sounds like a plan. Matthew walked toward his cabin.


Ron and Doris stayed in the cabin when the ship got underway, but at the first sign of movement, he panicked. I gotta get out of here. He bolted for the door.

Doris followed him out of the cabin. You okay, Honey?

Ron halted, closed his eyes and inhaled deeply. He heard screaming in his head and felt searing heat in his face. I’m sorry. It’s not your fault. He choked as his eyes filled with tears.


Marie and Jeff were waiting for Matthew at the restaurant. Marie greeted him as he slid into his seat. Hello, Matthew. What kept you?

He recognized the mischievous smile. I just had to take care of a couple of things.

Oh? Was that Oriental lady one of them?

Matthew realized she must have seen the contact between him and the woman. If you’re going to be politically correct, it’s Asian, not Oriental.

Yeah, yeah. Was that Asian lady one of them?

No, she wasn’t.

She was very pretty.

I didn’t notice.

Marie smirked. Right.

He reddened and tried to change the subject. Are you finished unpacking?

Not yet. We have a little to do yet. You?

Yeah, I didn’t bring much.

Then you have some free time to check out that lady. Matthew laughed and she continued. You know, Brother. You really should take off your ring.

Come on, Marie. Give it a rest.

Well, Mr. Tong told you the same thing, and he’s right. I thought you said he invited you for a visit after the cruise.

Yes. He and Mrs. Tong have always given me special treatment. It will be nice to see them again.

I’ll bet they have some nice Chinese lady lined up for you. –Very honorable woman.

You might be right. He said his daughter will be visiting and that we have a lot in common.

"Really? You never told me Tong had a daughter.

They’ve never talked about her, so I never met her. But I got the distinct impression that she isn’t married.

And you accepted? Well, I declare! Big brother Matthew is coming to life! Thank you, Mr. Tong!

To his relief, Marie changed the subject, and they talked about their plans for the trip for the rest of the meal.

Don’t forget that lady, Matthew, she reminded him when they left.


Matthew left the restaurant and strolled toward his cabin. He checked his watch and took a deep breath, reveling in the scent of the salt air. The thought of being on a ship again, even as a civilian, surprised and excited him.

The Evening Star was a good size cruise ship, six hundred feet long, more than a tenth of a mile, and eighty feet wide. The ship carried about five hundred passengers and three hundred crewmembers. She was an older ship that had been rebuilt with many enhancements, including total computer control.

Ron and Doris walked toward him. Ron looked a little peaked, but he smiled. Hey, Matthew. As you can see, I’m surviving.

Matthew looked at Doris, who nodded slightly in confirmation. He wasn’t sure it had been wise to talk Ron into this trip. It had been Doris’ idea and she had enlisted Matthew’s help.

I can see that. You’ve come a long way.

Yeah. Ron looked out over the ocean. About a hundred and fifty miles. Only ten thousand to go.

Matthew laughed. A joke! You must be doing well.

Ron grinned back. Gallows humor.

Do you want me to walk with you?

No. We’re just getting some air. You go ahead.

Okay, I’ll see you later.

The full moon lit the ship almost as bright as daylight. Matthew leaned against the rail and gazed at the reflection of the moonlight as it shimmered in the gentle undulations of the waves. Déjà vu. He’d been here before. He continued his walk, pondering the old days in the Navy.

He rounded the bow and headed toward the stern when the Asian woman appeared. The moon illuminated her face. It was difficult to tell her age. She was somewhere between 35 and 55, with the beauty of Nancy Kwan, about five or six inches shorter than his five-eight frame. Her shoulder length hair was so dark that it appeared to have a bluish tint. Their eyes met as they passed under a bright light and the voice haunted him. Take off the ring, Matthew. He hid his left hand in his pocket.

He felt a strong urge to talk to her but couldn’t think of anything to say and just gave an almost imperceptible nod as they passed.


The fleeting contact left Su Li with mixed feelings. Did he nod as he passed her? She remembered the glint of the sunlight off the man’s wedding ring and grimaced. He is married. Yet she couldn’t shake the feeling that their destiny was intertwined somehow.

The feeling brought memories to the surface. Another man in another life, and a marriage that had come close to destroying her.

He is a treasure hunter, Su Li, her father had warned. I will not accept such a man in our family. If you marry him, you will do so without my blessing.

She had gone against his wishes. The resulting years had taught her a painful lesson that she had no intention of repeating. She turned the corner and entered the refuge of her cabin.


Ron was quiet as they strolled along the deck. Doris studied him. Over the years, she had learned to deal with his erratic behavior. Even considering his anxiety attacks, he was an attentive husband. But it was sometimes difficult to reason with him. At the moment though, she sensed that he was all right.

Ron gave her a smile. I might actually survive this.

You will, Baby.

He slipped his arm around her and they stopped at the rail to admire the moonlight. He kissed her. I love you.

They returned to the cabin and went to bed.


A thick, gray substance obscured the ground and made it difficult to walk. Ron had been here before, many times. He even knew he was dreaming. His heart pounded. Please, wake up before the thing comes. Too late. He sensed it. The gray thickened around his legs.

Get away! Get away from me.

The gray substance dissolved into a large flat surface, stretching as far as he could see. Something brushed his face, but he didn’t see anything. He didn’t hear a sound other than the throbbing of his heart.

The thing was here. No! He wouldn’t look this time. But he couldn’t stop himself. He had to look. He had to see the thing that had been chasing him for so long. He turned in slow motion.

The large flat surface became the deck of a ship. The thing was stalking him, dragging something that rattled on the steel deck. He stared, fascinated, recognizing what it was. The thing smiled showing a maw of razor sharp teeth.

Please, Ron whispered. Don’t. The explosion threw him into the air. He floated like a leaf, and then the deck rushed up at him. He hit it hard, yet didn’t wake up. He got up and slogged through the gray substance, which had somehow returned. Wild with fear, he looked back toward the raging ball of fire. The thing hurtled out of the flames straight at him. He instinctively raised his arm in defense.

Aargh! He woke, dripping with sweat.

Doris rocked him, crooning softly. He buried his face in her bosom and hid. Finally, he slept.


Su Li looked up when she heard the knock. She was reading the new employee’s file. Wu Ching was from Hong Kong. It was 8:00 AM and Helen Wilde, his immediate supervisor, should have been here to meet him, but she was late as usual. Su Li sighed. At least she would have an opportunity to talk to someone in her native tongue. Come in.

Wu Ching entered. When he saw her, his face turned to granite and there was a flash of hatred in his eyes. The instantaneous revulsion Su Li felt toward him surprised her. A voice warned. This man is dangerous. She remembered a time during the Chinese Cultural Revolution, when she had been a teacher in China. She’d had to hide from men like the one who stood in front of her.

But that had been twenty-five years ago, and this man couldn’t be more than thirty-five. Besides, he was an employee of the World Travel Bureau, and she had to work with him. She pulled herself together and spoke to him in Chinese.

Welcome to the Evening Star. I understand you are replacing your brother, Wu Lee.

Wu Ching in accented English that was laced with contempt. My brother is dead.

Su Li understood the implications of the statement. His brother had done something that shamed his family and had been ostracized. The voice warned again. This man will hurt you if he has a chance.

She switched to English. You would normally talk to Helen Wilde, but she is not available. She introduced the young man who was standing by the desk. This is John Slater. He will take you on a tour of the ship. When your supervisor is available, she will explain your responsibilities.

John stuck out his hand. Hi, glad to meet you.

Wu Ching acknowledged him with a curt nod, but didn’t take his hand.

John’s hand dropped to his side. Come with me and I’ll show you around?

Su Li was shaken and took a minute to compose herself before going out to the reception desk.

Helen finally appeared at 10:15. She smiled brightly at Su Li. Good morning, Su Li.

Su Li hid her annoyance by returning the smile. Good morning. The new employee has reported. He is with John.

I met him before I came here. Whew! What a cold fish. Su Li nodded in agreement. Helen took a bite of a doughnut and set her coffee cup on the desk. Her job was staffing the reception desk when things were busy, but she didn’t offer to take Su Li’s place. Thanks for covering for me. I’ll return the favor.

Su Li nodded. Hmm. Another passenger stepped up to the desk. Helen sipped her coffee. Su Li’s lips tightened for a second. Then, she smiled at the passenger and stood.

Good morning.

Good morning, the woman responded.

Su Li gestured toward Helen, who was taking another bite of her doughnut. This is Helen Wilde. She will take care of you.

Helen tried frantically to swallow.


During a lull at the reception desk, Su Li found herself daydreaming about her encounter with the man. Stop it! The man is married. She tried to force him from her mind, but his image mocked her and refused to leave. A voice shook her out of her reverie.

Excuse me. Marie and her husband stepped up to the desk.

Su Li looked around. Helen had disappeared. She blushed and barely heard as Marie continued.

My husband and I would like to put some valuables in the ship’s safe.

Su Li glanced at Jeff in confusion. Uh… I thought the other gentleman was your husband. Instantly embarrassed, she lowered her eyes.

Oh. Marie’s eyes twinkled in amusement. That was my brother Matthew. This is my husband, Jeff Albertson, and I’m Marie.

I –I’m sorry. I saw him standing beside you when the ship left the harbor. When you talked to him, I just thought…

I understand. Marie said. Matthew’s wife died a few years ago.

Su Li swallowed her embarrassment. Uh, you wanted to put something in the ship’s safe?


Matthew and James Klein had served together on the USS Columbus in the Mediterranean and again on the USS Forrestal. Matthew thought Klein was still in the Navy so he was surprised to see him on the Evening Star, and even more surprised when he realized that Klein was the captain.

Jimmy Durante! he shouted using Klein’s old nickname.

Matthew Carlsen! Captain James Klein did look like Jimmy Durante, had the same New York dialect and proudly sported the bulbous nose. They hugged, but Klein pushed him away.

Hey, Matt. I’m the captain; I can’t be seen fraternizing with common people.

Common people. You probably knocked off the real captain and took his place. They laughed and Matthew said in a warm tone. It’s good to see you, Jimmy. You look great. Klein was far from fat, but he had a little paunch, and Matthew couldn’t resist pointing a finger at it. I see that life agrees with you.

Yeah, yeah. The food is good on this ship. In six weeks you’re gonna look like this. How long has it been? Twenty years? Last time I saw you, we were on the Forrestal.

Yeah, it’s been a long time. Matt nodded. When did you get out?

Look Matt, I can’t talk right now. Meet me on the bridge at three o’clock. I’ll give you the grand tour, and then we’ll eat.

Sounds great. See you then.


Matthew sat back, patted his stomach, and sighed. Lobster and fillet mignon. If you eat like this every night, I’m surprised you don’t weigh more.

I did. I had to go on a diet. The food’s a lot better than what we got in the Navy.

Oh, the food wasn’t that bad. But I sure got sick of roast beef.

"Me too. I didn’t eat roast beef for two years after I got out.

When did you get out? Matthew asked. Last time I heard, you were captain of a frigate.

I was, but I got an offer from the World Travel Bureau three years ago that was too good to pass up.

Had enough action, huh?

You could say that. A couple times, I thought we were never gonna make it home to Mama.

Yeah. –Got that right.

Klein changed the subject. You remember Sears & Roebuck?

Oh God. Who could forget Sears & Roebuck? What was his real name?

Jacob Roebuck. Klein remembered everybody’s name. He’s an admiral now.

You’re kidding! Roebuck? An admiral?

He’s been one for about ten years –three stars.

I don’t believe it. He was lucky to make lieutenant commander. I’m surprised he even got through the Academy.

Don’t sell him short, Matt. Roebuck’s a smart man. Matthew’s eyebrows rose questioningly.

No; really, Klein said. Don’t let your personal feelings fool you. He’s gung ho, just the kind of material the Navy wants, and he’s intelligent.


Hey Matt. He has integrity. That’s more than I can say for a lot of the others. Matthew looked at him with doubtful expression and Klein touched the side of his nose. Trust d’ nose, Matt. D’ nose knows.

Matthew laughed. I never figured out what he had against me. I never did anything to him.

It was just a personality conflict, Matt. You were too relaxed with the enlisted men. It went against everything he believed. You know how the Navy is when it comes to mixing with enlisted men. Anyway, enough about Roebuck. Let’s talk about you. You still do side jobs for the Navy?

Not for the last three years. I just don’t have the drive, since my wife died.

Sorry. Klein paused respectfully. How ‘bout that Chinese fellow? Tong? You used to work for him, didn’t you?

Yeah, but he hasn’t asked me in a while. I guess he’s waiting until I’m ready.

Well are you?

Up to now, I would’ve said no.

But now you’re looking for something? Klein’s intuition had always served him well. That was one thing that made him a good captain.

Yeah, I guess I am.

Well, maybe I can help. You still like reading exciting material? You know –tech manuals and stuff like that?

Of course, Matthew said with enthusiasm.

Good! I’ll tell the chief engineer. He can provide you with all the literature about the ship, including technical manuals on anything you’re interested in.


Su Li was troubled about the meeting with Wu Ching that morning. Wu was his surname. The Chinese put the family name first. Su Li had adopted the Western custom to avoid confusion when she moved to the United States.

The Wu name was common in China, so she hadn’t thought much of it when she read his file, but her father’s worst enemy was from the Wu family. Was Wu Ching part of that family? Why else would he be so antagonistic?

Engrossed in her thoughts, she climbed the stairs to the deck. She didn’t see the man until she almost bumped into him. He stopped abruptly to avoid bumping into her. Whoops. Excuse me; I didn’t see you.

I’m sorry. I was not paying attention.

That’s all right; neither was I. He stepped back and gestured graciously. You first.

She returned his smile as she walked passed him.

Matthew watched her walk toward the stern of the ship, and then continued his stroll. Take off the ring, Matthew. He couldn’t get the woman off his mind. Take off the ring, Matthew. He leaned against the rail.

His fingers twisted his wedding ring around his finger. He took it off. His heart wrenched as he looked at its warm golden sheen. It glittered in the moonlight. He’d worn the ring for almost thirty years. It seemed disloyal to take it off, especially considering the way his wife had died.

His wife’s face smiled at him and his vision blurred momentarily. Good bye, Kathy, he whispered.

He let go. The ring seemed to float, weightless, through the air before it fell into the ocean. He stared at the spot where it hit the water, After several somber minutes, he walked slowly back to his cabin.

The telephone was ringing when he walked in. It was Marie Hi, Matthew, how about a nightcap? We’ll meet you at the club.

Sounds like a plan. Be right there. As he hung up, he almost regretted dropping the ring over the side. Marie had been hounding him to take it off for a long time, and he wasn’t in the mood for her badgering tonight.

They were waiting for him outside. Marie cocked her head. Her intense look and smile confirmed that she noticed the ring was gone. She kissed him on the cheek. Love ya, Matthew, she said softly. She took his arm and walked with him to the bar.


Helen was responsible for assigning Wu Ching his tasks so she started early. She hated the reception desk and tried to avoid it when she could. Some were good at it. Helen was not; but she was a good supervisor and wasn’t about to give that job to anyone else, in particular Su Li. Especially after the confrontation she and Captain Klein had witnessed between Su Li and Wu Ching last night. It was obvious that Wu Ching had said something insulting.

Wu Ching arrived. Good morning, she said. His nod was barely perceptible.

Come with me please. Helen took him around the ship and explained his tasks in each area. Her normal conversational manner became a lecture, since he barely said a word.

She introduced him to the chief engineer. This is Chief Engineer Leary. If you need anything and can’t find me, ask him.

The chief engineer smiled and stuck his hand out. Wu Ching hesitated for a moment, then took it. Glad to meet you, son, said Leary. Wu Ching nodded but remained silent. The chief engineer looked over his glasses at Helen.

Do you have any questions? Helen asked.


Do you understand what is required?


Helen didn’t know what else to say.

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