BY: GINNY FITE
To save her own life, Elena must save Hana, whose mission is to protect her tribe. They’re stronger together. The problem is they’re 4,000 years and 6,000 miles apart.
Wounded during a terrorist attack, NYC police commando Elena Labat wakes aboard a Phoenician boat on the Mediterranean Sea to find a young girl lashed to the mast. The girl is Hana, who has trekked across ancient Lebanon to prevent a king from destroying her tribe. Elena knows she must save her. Hana must escape the barbarians who abducted her before she can go home. Slipping in and out of consciousness, Elena teaches Hana everything she can. But Elena’s family needs her, and she can’t stay in the past. Hana will have to succeed on her own.
TAYLOR JONES SAYS: In Blue Girl on a Night Dream Sea by Ginny Fite, Elena Labat is rescuing hostages from terrorists in NYC when she is badly injured. She loses consciousness, and when she wakes, she is on board an ancient Phoenician ship on the Mediterranean Sea. Elena realizes that she there to rescue Hana, a girl who is lashed to the ship’s mast, and help her save her people. But Elena is needed in the present and she has very little time in the past to teach Hana everything she can.
Expertly combining the past and present, science fiction, and suspense, Fite weaves a tale that will keep you enthralled from beginning to end.
REGAN MURPHY SAYS: Blue Girl on a Night Dream Sea by Ginny Fite is the story of Elena Labat who is a lieutenant with NYC’s counter-terrorism unit. She is injured while rescuing hostages from terrorists and ends up in a coma. As she slips in and out of consciousness, she finds herself in ancient Phoenicia, trying to help a girl tied to the mast of a ship. The girl’s name is Hana, and Elena tries to protect her—first from kidnappers and then from a priestess, and finally from a king. Hana thinks Elena is a goddess, helping her to save her tribe.
Blue Girl on a Night Dream Sea is a combination time-travel fantasy, a historical thriller, and a modern-day suspense. Well written, fast paced, and intense, this one will keep you glued to the edge of your seat all the way through.
Lieutenant Elena Labat put her team’s chance of surviving somewhat north of fifty percent. Not too bad. They approached the skyscraper from the southwest. From helicopters a mile above them, the rescue team was a pre-dawn shadow moving beneath trees in the plaza. We’re here to save the world, Elena reminded herself and half-smiled. Humor was where she retreated when all seemed lost. Today it wasn’t really a joke.
It was late May, still cool at six-thirty in the morning, ten minutes until dawn. Light rising from the east would reflect off the skyscraper’s thousands of windows and send indecipherable signals flashing across the sky. Despite the cool, Elena was sweating—pre-op anxiety. It would abate when they got going, replaced by the sweat of physical exertion.
Dressed in black garments meant to wick away sweat, with sleek oxygen masks, backpacks, climbing shoes and harnesses, eight elite officers took a knee and held in place—anonymous, ready, and waiting for “Go.” Hidden in the shadow of the giant building, they geared up mentally. They had the skills and training for this operation. Tested under fire during the last five years, they were good at their job. This wasn’t the time for misgivings, although each of them had their own. Elena certainly had hers.
She scanned the environment for anything out of place. All streets around the entire World Trade Center complex in lower Manhattan were closed to traffic and pedestrians. SWAT teams assembled on the north side of the building waited for a signal to storm the front, back, and side doors on the ground floor simultaneously. National Guard troops were in place around the entire perimeter and throughout the below-ground visitor and retail space. Social media transmissions were blocked within a square mile to prevent civilians from posting images of their impending strike. Press, cordoned off two city blocks back from the building and barricaded by police, were embargoed from reporting on this mission until it was completed. Media had been warned: anyone breaking the police line would be treated as a terrorist.
Elena tucked an errant black curl back under her helmet. In spite of the cool weather, sweat trickled down the back of her neck. Inside her mask, the world smelled empty. She patted her utility belt for one last check: knife, Ruger LCP semi-automatic pistol and loaded back-up clips, taser, truncheon, ropes, carabineers, oxygen concentrator, nearly forty pounds more weight in weapons than she carried on her bones. Touching the shoulder straps of her emergency parachute, she reminded herself BASE jumpers had climbed up the building in 2013 before it was completed, opened their chutes, jumped, and survived. If she slipped, she could survive also.
Her problem was waiting. It was now half an hour since they took their places. She wasn’t good at waiting. Waiting opened the wormhole of fear, fear that rendered her either inert or bent on a rampage. Waiting preceded the death of people she cared for. Waiting was what you did before your buddy stepped out from cover into a sniper bullet or your vehicle rolled over an IED.
Elena snapped her mind back to the task at hand. Her squad had trained in buildering, climbing up the face of skyscrapers, but never under this kind of pressure, never for real, and never this high. It was 1,268 vertical feet to the top floor. They would climb two-thirds of that distance, ascending in pairs, scaling first the special grooved glass that encased the concrete and steel podium at the base of the building. The first one to reach a steel cross beam would lash a rope to it and so on up a thousand feet. No looking down. No time for fear. No second-guessing.
They had no illusions about the feasibility of this mission. It just had to be done. They deliberately quashed memories of the beautiful September day two decades before when two commercial planes flew into the twin towers: the flying debris, the smoke, the sudden collapse of thousands of tons of steel, glass, and concrete that stunned the world. They called only on their fury from that day. Fury fed resolve. Grief they left at street level.
Elena’s sister, Alissa, was one of the hostages who did not escape from this skyscraper yesterday. Alissa told her family she needed to complete a brief before she knocked off for the long weekend. She’d now been out of contact for twelve hours—no texts or calls to or from her cell phone since four-thrity p.m. yesterday. Elena refused to believe her sister was dead.
It doesn’t matter what the terrorists demand, Elena thought. It doesn’t matter, either, what the hostage negotiator is saying to the terrorists, or that the US Attorney General is claiming these criminals would be brought to justice. That was all smoke. Any negotiation was only performance. We’re going to find them and kill them. The directive was simple and clear.
Their advantage is that they don’t value life the way we do. Elena’s thought startled her. In spite of everything she’d seen as an Army medic under fire, she’d never allowed herself to admit indifference to life was a tactical advantage.
Her mind flashed frame by frame through the video and slides the squad had been shown to acquaint them with the skyscraper’s interior: three-million square feet of space, miles of corridors, thousands of doors. Alissa must be hiding somewhere in all of that space, in an over-looked closet that wouldn’t be checked by the terrorists in a rapid search. She had to hope that was true. She had to get to her sister before the terrorists found her, before any bombs went off, before the building collapsed.
Minimal information gave Elena a kind of claustrophobia. She felt boxed in, only knowing what she was told by her supervisors. They knew only what was happening after the fact, after it was reported to them. Everything else was speculation. Anything could go wrong and probably would. That was the norm. That was the way it went in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In the early morning briefing, the Captain told them the operation was risky. They might die. They might lose civilians. RANGE-R radar devices mounted on drones flying circles around the building had taken infrared images through the windows. Individual red and yellow blobs that roamed freely through the structure were presumably terrorists moving around to control their hostages and patrol the building. Hostages were huddled together on five floors from the seventeenth to the eleventh, making rescue more difficult. But terrorists would expect a police incursion from ground level, not from above them. A first rescue attempt to rappel down from stealth helicopters hovering above the building was scuttled when wind shear slammed the lead jumper into the building’s four-hundred-foot spire.
Elena’s team would make the second attempt. After the ascent, their job was to clear the top portion of the building floor by floor from the observation deck to the twentieth floor. From the twentieth floor, they would rappel in pairs down four different elevator shafts to the floor directly above where a group of hostages were held. They would take the seventeenth floor first, kill the terrorists, save the hostages, and proceed to the next floor. That was the plan, and it had to be executed perfectly or the terrorists might blow everyone in the building to kingdom come.
On her earpiece she heard the voice of the deputy commissioner for counterterrorism. “We’ve got a go!”
Holding her hand up to get the squad’s attention, Elena pointed to the building. “Move out.”
She raced forward and leaped up to grab a handhold on the highest angled glass fin protruding from stainless steel panels she could reach. For however long the climb took, her complete focus would now be on her hands, feet, breathing, and pushing her body up the face of the building to the platform above.
Her fingertips gripped the thin edge. She pushed up to the next tiny ridge, looking for toe holds in the slimmest rim where glass window plates had been fitted together. Creeping up the side of the building as if it was laid horizontal and she could simply push with her legs and reach with her arms, she crawled across its surface section by section. It was less than a quarter of a mile to their destination, a distance she could do in under a minute running on the ground. All thought fled.
H ana had climbed halfway up the mountain and paused to look back and catch her breath. The world she knew lay far beneath her, undulating in green and blue. Great heights of snow-covered mountains hugged depths of dark blue lake surrounded by white sands. Black earth littered with tiny gems glinting red, green, white, and blue was behind her.
At this height, the wide river wound out of the lake like a loose thread from a spool of silver. Home was the world wrapped in a glowing blue cloak. In the other direction, the direction she climbed, lay nothing familiar, a landscape as foreign as the first was known, a place where ground devoured stones and earth shifted under her feet at every step.
Hana swallowed the loss in her throat and stepped forward, hard ground meeting her foot halfway, jarring her. The ground tilted upward. She lost her balance and tottered like an elder, who, at twelve grain harvests, she was many seasons from becoming. She looked ahead and saw rain-starved trees writhing skyward in the distance like a wandering charcoal mark made by a gnarled hand moving shakily across sandstone. She sighed and inhaled scorching air. Her mother said she must make it across this wasteland to save her village.
“You must go,” her mother said when Hana objected to being sent away from her home. “You are our tribute to the king, and you must deliver that gift yourself. He has demanded you, and your obedience is required if our tribe is to continue.”
She held Hana’s face between two hands and looked into her eyes. There was something else in her eyes: a warning, a message. Her face, usually the color of fresh apricots, was tinged pomegranate-seed red. Her brown eyes tried to tell Hana what she couldn’t say out loud. Hana could barely take in the words her mother said. She couldn’t guess what she meant to say but didn’t.
“This is a test of your courage, my dearest. You are braver than you think you are.” What was her mother forbidden to say out loud, bound by the laws of their clan?
Her words made a small tremor start in Hana’s belly and continue down her legs. She gripped her mother’s hand. “What do you mean, Ouma? I don’t want to go anywhere. I want to stay here with you.”
She wanted to wrap her hands up in her mother’s long black hair as she’d done as a child. She wanted to climb into her lap, lean against her breast, and be comforted by the rhythmic beating of her heart. Instead, tears burning her eyes, she turned away from her mother, defiant. “I won’t go! I’ll run away to another clan.”
Strong hands clasped Hana’s shoulders and spun her around. “My sweet girl, we must comply with the clan’s demands. You’ve been sent for by the king. If you don’t go, everyone here, our entire clan, will be killed.” She swept the air with her hands as if to erase everything in their path. “The world is small. The king’s men will find you wherever you go. They will kill you. You must obey. It’s our only hope.”
As if her parents had piled stones on her chest and placed her on a raft in the river for her death ceremony, Hana was suddenly too tired to run. She wanted to lie down and never get up. A bird flew by on blue wings. Bird song lilted from nearby trees. How could she leave this place?
Her mother smoothed the hair away from Hana’s face and embraced her. “We have made arrangements with members of our tribe,” she whispered in her ear. “You will have a guide, but I don’t know who has been chosen. He cannot be seen here lest someone betray us. He will meet you in the wasteland and take you to Batnoam’s house in Sidon and from there to the Matron. She is one of us and serves the queen. We hope she can find a way to prevent the worst.”
She broke off and kissed Hana’s cheeks and forehead many times, holding her close, breathing with her.
Hana pushed her mother away. “What is the worst? Why are you doing this?” Her skin felt turned inside out, burning rippled along her arms and legs. Her vision blurred. “Why is it me? Why can’t the elders send someone else?”
“It is you, my dear one, because you are the one spoken of in dreams of our ancestors, the one with eyes of lapis lazuli. The king has demanded that you go to him. We must comply.”
Hana shook her head until her black curls tangled. “I don’t understand how you could do this to me.” She looked away. Hurt in her chest stopped words. Questions lodged in her throat. Her mother was sending her away. That was all she could comprehend. Nothing else mattered. She closed her eyes. Nearby, the river swished against the rocks on the shore. Grass in the meadow rustled in the breeze.
No one would tell her what the worst was, or what would happen after she completed this journey. The elder brushed away Hana’s many questions with a swipe of her hand. “You will not see this village again.” The old woman’s head shook, the cracked clay of her face breaking into tiny fissures as she spoke. “It is no matter. This village is just a collection of sticks and lumps of clay. You will not miss it.”
Hana was affronted by this description. Her home was the people in these huts, the songs they sang as they worked mud from the riverbank into pots, the murmur of their voices as they spun yarn and wove cloth. Her home was the rustle of reeds at the river’s edge, the splash of fish surfacing to snatch a fly out of the air.
She didn’t believe the elder who said she must save her village. If the village wasn’t important, why should she leave everything she loved to save it? There was something they weren’t telling her. It couldn’t be her fate never to return. Would she never see her mother and father again? Questions exhausted her.
She had now walked farther than she had ever gone before, more than four times the length of the river from her village to the waterfall and back. Her heart was hungry for home. She left behind safe shelter, a comfortable bed, layers of wool carpets beneath her feet, bowls of grapes, olives, and figs she could nibble on any time she was hungry. She already missed the people who brought her cool water and kissed her cheeks, who filled the air with the sound of flutes and strings.
As instructed, she had climbed the green mountain until she reached snow and stepped onto a path the elder described to her. It took her from dawn until dusk to reach the path. She looked ahead for the next marker.
“At the mountain’s apex, there are two large rocks as black as the river at night,” the elder explained to her, gray head nodding as if in agreement with her own words. “They are as tall as your shoulder and shine in the moonlight if you arrive at night when the moon is high. You cannot miss them. They flank the path you must take. At the top of one of the rocks is carved the shape of the feather you carry. Even in the dark, you can feel the carving with your fingers. You will know you are going the right way if you stand between the rocks and the stone with the carved feather is under your right hand.”
Her parents nodded but she saw loss in their stricken faces. This was not their choice for her. They wanted her to stay with them in their village, marry, make her marks on the sides of clay pots, weave baskets, have children, and sing with her mother. Her father gave her a bronze dagger he forged in his fire and beat into shape. He placed it in a small leather pouch he hung by straps from the leather girdle that held her tunic and blue scarf secure to her body.
“As a last resort, to save yourself, you must jab this dagger into your attacker’s neck just here.” He placed his fingertips at the spot on her throat and kissed her forehead. “Push the blade in with all your strength.” His face was the color of hot metal. “Do it quickly.” His anger singed her skin. He didn’t want her to go.
“Why don’t you run away with me, Aba, take me away from this village and this horrible king?” she whispered. “How can the village be more important to you than I am?”
He didn’t answer her questions.
Her mother slipped a ring with a flashing blue stone onto Hana’s finger. “This is our bond,” she said, holding up her hand to show Hana the matching ring on her own finger. “Wear it always.” Her voice rasped. “It will guide you on your journey as if I were there whispering in your ear. If you look into its many surfaces, you will see me.”
She held Hana’s hand as long as she could.
Hana’s entire clan accompanied her to the foot of the mountain. She ascended the grassy slope, from time to time looking behind her. Her mother stood where she had left her, her hand still outstretched as if to grasp Hana’s. Soon, her mother was only a speck of purple in a sea of green grass. Hana turned to wave one last time and then gave her full attention to the steeply rising mountain, scrambling on all fours, grasping the roots of trees and the edges of small boulders to ascend.
By the time Hana reached the marker rocks, the moon was riding high in the sky. Soaked in sweat and chilled by the sudden cold, she was surprised the stones the elders described were really there, the ground between them tamped down where a slight depression marked many footfalls of people who had passed through before.
When had all this coming and going occurred? She had been completely oblivious to anything but her own child’s life. Her days had been filled with singing and dancing, fishing and weaving baskets from fronds she and her mother picked near the river’s edge. She chased butterflies and raced along the river with her friends.
Spellbound, she had watched sparks flitting around her father as he melted ore in the fire and beat out heated metal into spear heads, swords, daggers, bowls, and once an orb of bright yellow metal for someone’s head. A gold crown, he told her, for a prince.
Her father was a god to her, strong and all powerful. His arms around her were all the protection she needed. He talked to her as he worked. “Something inside me reaches out into the molten ore and sees the shape it must be. It is as if I had other eyes that saw what was not yet there. We breathe together, the rock and I. We become one for a time.”
His words are a kind of magic, Hana thought. They bring something new into being that is not yet there. The words made her think she could do something that had never been done. When it was time for her to take on her adult task, Hana wanted to make clay pots. She imagined special marks she would paint on them and practiced drawing them in the sand at the riverbank, swirls of stars and wavy lines for the river shining in the sunlight. At night, she fell asleep to the sound of her mother’s voice telling about her clan’s beginnings. She dreamed of making designs that would tell their story.
Hana pulled herself away from the tug of memories. She selected a round white stone from among many small rocks strewn along the ground and placed it atop the black rock next to the engraved feather to indicate she had arrived at the crossroads. In case anyone climbed the mountain to see if she had made it this far, they would see the stone and know she not been eaten by lions or blinded by the claws of an eagle enraged that she stumbled near its nest.
The moon lit her way as she walked through the night, her eyes on her feet to make sure she stayed on the path. Twice she thought she heard a large-winged bird fly overhead but when she looked up, she saw only an endless sky of stars. Her ears were playing tricks on her. Now, with the sun rising ahead of her, the wind whistled in her ears and worried her scarf. Sand burrowed into the folds of her clothing. All else was silence. No birds, no animals, at least none that she could see. The world was the color of clay and dust.
For a few heart beats, she closed her eyes. In the self-imposed darkness, she saw her people, a chalk outline on a sandstone wall with some parts painted in—a hand emerging like an offering of help, a sandaled foot, a small yellow coin being held aloft. A picture formed itself in her mind, the story of who she was, where she had been, where she was going. She couldn’t see the end of the painting from here. She sank to a crouch with her back against a large rock and slept.
© 2019 by Ginny Fite