Now in this island of Atlantis, there was a great and wonderful empire which had rule over the whole island and several others, and over parts of the continent, and furthermore, the men of Atlantis had subjected the parts of Libya within the columns of Heracles as far as Egypt, and of Europe as far as Tyrrhenia…But afterwards there occurred violent earthquakes and floods; and in a single day and night of misfortune all your warlike men in a body sank into the earth, and the island of Atlantis in like manner disappeared in the depths of the sea. For which reason the sea in those parts is impassable and impenetrable, because there is a shoal of mud in the way; and this was caused by the substance of the island.
Plato from Timaeus 25
“You’ve done what?” Aiyana Zheutlin knew their next mission would be particularly dangerous and it would be difficult to travel back in time to an island that does not exist in the present, but what Colonel John Kelgarries was telling her sounded insane.
“Given the extraordinary situation we’re presented with, I think it’s the most reasonable solution and the Temporal Research Group, including Dr. Barnes, agrees with me.”
Ashe’s team was meeting with Kelgarries for the pre-mission briefing, however in addition to Antoine Barnes there were two other people seated around the conference table who were not normally present. The first was Thomas Lucius, now the top time gate technician at the Project and sometimes called “the Control Voice”. The second was a Naval Officer who introduced himself as Captain Owen Redfeld.
“Dr. Zheutlin, I would not have authorized this if I didn’t believe it was perfectly safe. True, it is an unorthodox application of our temporal technology, but I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t work.”
“I have to agree with Aiyana, Dr. Barnes. You’ve turned a submarine into a time machine? That’s a little like the Back to the Future movies, isn’t it?”
“Not at all, Mr. Murdock. In fact, I seriously doubt Captain Redfeld’s submarine could travel as fast as eighty-eight miles per hour.” Barnes was chuckling to himself but seemed to be the only one in the room who was amused.
“Actually, the Nereid’s top cruising speed is 35 knots or about 40 miles per hour.” Captain Redfeld, unlike Barnes, was being completely serious. In his dress uniform and his stoic facial expression, it was difficult for Murdock to imagine him being anything else.
“But a time traveling submarine, John?”
“It’s settled, Aiyana. The conversion of Captain Redfeld’s submarine has already been completed. This is the best way to get Gordon’s team on site at Atlantis and then retrieve you quickly if something should go wrong.”
“But who’s going to operate the gate technology? Is that why Thomas is here?”
“Aiyana, I’m here to certify that Lynn Huỳnh is now officially qualified to manage the operation of time gate technology, including what has been installed on board the USS Nereid.”
“You, dear Lynn?”
“Me, dear Vasnev.” Lynn was all smiles. Not only would she be the first person ever to send a temporally equipped vehicle back in time and then return it again, but she got to spend several weeks with Thomas being tutored on the technology. Her only disappointment was that he was already married.
“We’ve already got a team at US Naval Station Rota in Spain operating a small conventional gate. They’ve been sending back airborne and submersible drones to the era Dr. Barnes has pinpointed on the time map. However, the specifics on the date have introduced another problem. Dr. Barnes?”
“Yes Colonel, unfortunately we will have to send you back fairly close to the actual destruction of Atlantis, anywhere between a week and a month.”
“That’s an awfully close shave, especially if the destruction will be as massive as you’ve said.” Travis had developed a specialty of being a scout and generally responsible for security for the team, but while he enjoyed the work and was paid well, his wife and four children weren’t fond of his frequent absences.
And Travis was still getting used to having four children in this timeline rather than the two he remembered from before.
“That is quite true, Mr. Fox. However, it can’t be helped. All of my calculations indicate if you go back earlier than that, you will miss the opportunity to acquire your goal.”
“Tell us what our goal is again? I’m still a bit vague.”
“The answer to that Travis doesn’t leave this room.” Kelgarries leaned forward and his right arm nearly knocked over his coffee cup.
“Ross and Vasnev discovered information in the Library at Nineveh that, combined with other intel we’ve gathered and applied to Dr. Barnes’s time map calculations, establishes that some sort incredibly powerful energy source was being developed at Atlantis, one capable of incalculable destructive power. The team’s goal is to find that power source and, if possible, to destroy it.”
“Not bring it back, Kelgarries?”
“Absolutely not. This might make me sound like a traitor, but if what we believe is actually true, then no military power must acquire such as weapon, not America, not Russia, no one.”
“I wholeheartedly agree with the Colonel, and it pains me as a Russian officer to admit that. However, I know what my government would do with such knowledge should they acquire it and the Colonel knows all too well what you Americans would use it for.”
“So we’re the ones who go back and blow up Atlantis, Kelgarries? You’ve said that your recon drones recorded thousands of people inhabiting the main and three smaller islands. Isn’t that murder, maybe even genocide if they’re a unique culture?”
“I can appreciate your sentiment Travis, but history, or at least legend, records that Atlantis was totally destroyed and that its outposts throughout the Mediterranean and Aegean seas fell soon afterwards. Maybe we cause it or just make sure whatever is being developed there goes down with the islands.”
“Look. For all we know, we warn people to get out of Atlantis before it blows up. We could be the heroes of the story.”
“Always looking at the bright side, eh Lynn?”
“It’s better than going back believing our job is to commit murder, Romanovich.” Vasnev shouldn’t have been surprised that she snapped at him. She had made it clear more than once that she didn’t trust him. However, he hoped his admission that whatever was being created at Atlantis couldn’t fall into the hands of his own military would have softened her attitude towards him.
“The surveillance drones have recorded what appear to be trade ships going to and from Atlantis, representing a number of nations including Egypt and Greece. We’ll be sending in Gordon, Aiyana, and Ross back as traders. The rest of you don’t have the linguistic, cultural, and historical training to pass yourself off convincingly, so you’ll provide backup.
“Lynn, you’ll operate the temporal tech aboard the Nereid and once at Atlantis, will monitor the operations from the sub. Ideally, you’ll be able to detect the location of the power source and guide the three traders to it. Travis, you’ll provide security and you and Vasnev will be the extraction team if anything goes wrong with the primary mission. Captain Redfeld, of course, will pilot the sub. As always, Gordon will have overall authority for the mission. Any questions?”
“Yes, one for Captain Redfeld.” The Russian turned to the Navy Officer. “How do you feel about keeping secrets from your own superiors? Obviously the Colonel doesn’t have a problem with it, but then, he is operating from his original orders before the timeline changed. You, however, are part of this timeline, so where do your loyalties lie?”
Redfeld looked at Kelgarries for a moment and then back at Romanovich. “I know I’ve come into this pretty late in the game, but at least in this…timeline, I’ve known John for nearly fifteen years. We’ve served together, nearly gotten killed together a couple of times. He named his youngest son after me. I may not have known him in the timeline you’re from, but as far as I can tell, there’s nothing different about him now. He’s the same person I’ve always known and trusted and I’m willing to trust him now.”
“Even if it means being a traitor?”
“Major Romanovich, if you think I’m a traitor, given everything you said this afternoon, what does that make you?”
“Just checking, Captain. Thank you for clarifying things for me. Colonel, I just needed to make sure that we could trust everyone on the team, including Captain Redfeld.”
Ross smiled slightly. Vasnev told him what he was going to do before the briefing. There was still no way to be absolutely sure Redfeld would play ball. The Navy or the NSA may have him on a leash. Kelgarries vouched for him, but he only knew the Owen Redfeld of the other timeline. Would the submariner do what was necessary like the Colonel believed he would?
“Is that all, Major?” Kelgarries was angry but he also understood why Romanovich had been so confrontational. Owen seemed like the same trustworthy guy he knew, but there were so many variables. Team members have to trust one another. He was risking everything by trusting Owen and prayed his faith in him wasn’t misplaced.
“Then everyone get packed. You’re due to leave for Rota in seventy-two hours.”
NAVSTA Rota sits on 6,100 acres and supports both US and NATO forces with logistics, administrative, and emergency services. Ashe and his team accompanied by Captain Redfeld landed at the air field. Both Navy and Air Force vehicles were in evidence on the runway.
They were quickly passed through security and provided with land transport to their assigned storage facility which also sat on the water. Under the watchful eyes of the military police, Ashe and his team entered the building. Their equipment had been sent ahead of them, so everything should already be on board the Nereid.
An hour later, the six experienced time travelers were entering the top hatch which opened into the airlock. Redfeld was already in the tiny control center under a plexiglass dome at the top of the sub.
“Sorry about the snug fit, but including the pilot, normally the Nereid sits five. Two more seats were added in the aft section.”
“I’m sure we’ll be fine, Captain,” Ashe called up from the main deck.
“Everyone strap into your assigned seats. We’ll get underway as soon as you are all ready.”
“Aye, Captain.” Vasnev adopted his best “speak-like-a-pirate” voice. Lynn just rolled her eyes, sat down at her station on the boat’s port side, and then began to do her check of the temporal systems that had been integrated into the sub.
Gordon and Aiyana sat in the two seats forward, Travis and Ross took the two aft, and Vasnev got the starboard seat station.
“What was this boat of yours originally designed for, Captain?”
“She’s multipurpose, Mr. Ross. Primarily it’s for undersea research, locating mineral and oil deposits. Occasionally she’s used for search operations. We’ve even found a little lost Russian sub that was stuck on the bottom forty miles east of Boston.”
“Not my fault, Captain. I’m in the Army. We are much more efficient.”
“At what Romanovich, not getting caught?”
The exchange was supposed to be humorous, but Redfeld was still stung by the Russian’s accusations.
“I’m getting the departure signal.”
“We’re set down here, Captain. You can make way.”
“Thanks, Dr. Ashe.”
“The team’s pretty informal. First name basis. You mind, Owen?”
“Not at all Doc…uh, Gordon.”
Redfeld powered up the engines and started to maneuver the Nereid out of her makeshift sub pen and into the open sea.
“I’ll take her out a mile from shore and then submerge. The plan is that once we’re under 16 fathoms Ms…that is, Lynn will activate the temporal field and take us back in time.”
“Precisely to 1920 BCE, Owen.” Aiyana looked up as she spoke but Redfeld was behind her and she couldn’t turn enough to see him due to the seat restraints.
“You never said how you felt about traveling in time, Owen.” Lynn looked up from her controls, satisfied that everything was ready on her end.
“I can’t say I’m entirely comfortable with it, but John, or Colonel Kelgarries says it’s perfectly safe. No sensation of transition at all.”
“That might not be entirely true this time, Owen. Normally we walk through an energy field generated by a gate, but this time the field will be projected around the sub and we’ll be underwater.”
“What do you expect, Lynn?”
“Maybe a few bumps. Not sure but it shouldn’t be too dramatic.”
“Now she tells me.” It was Vasnev’s turn to roll his eyes.
Redfeld took the sub to the required location and then submerged the Nereid. Gordon and Aiyana had the best view besides Redfeld because of the large view plates directly in front of them. Lynn and Vasnev could swivel their seats to look as well, but in the aft section, Ross and Travis could only see bulkhead.
“Actually, in a way, I’m glad we’re making the time jump before traveling toward the site of Atlantis. In present day, that area of the Atlantic is a navigational nightmare. The shoal and the strange currents have been responsible for hundreds of shipwrecks over the centuries. Today, no sea going vessel goes near there.”
“I’m sure there’s a reason for that, Owen,” Gordon had done his research including reading Plato. Both he and Aiyana found it interesting how there were slight differences found in the text of Plato’s Timaeus 25 between their previous timeline and the current one.
“We are at depth, Lynn. It’s your show now.”
“Got it, Cappie.” She was feeling chipper and was wondering where the scared little girl went, the one who was terrified to be trapped on an alien spacecraft shooting all over the solar system. Maybe that was the answer. She’d survived. Nothing bad had happened to her. She’d travelled through space and time. What’s one more trip, even aboard a small submarine, the first one of its kind outfitted with its own onboard time technology.
“I’m powering up the temporal unit. It should take just a few minutes. Drawing power from the reactor. Sorry that I’m not Thomas but I’ll have to do as the ‘control voice.'”
“Guess we’ll just have to put up with the disappointment, Lynn.” Everyone laughed at Travis’s joke.
“Shut up, Travis.” Lynn was laughing, too.”
“Time jump in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1…”
Lynn was right. It wasn’t like walking through the temporal field between one era and the next. The Nereid was the gate and she, her passengers, everything moved through all at once.
The submarine rocked and shuttered. The light values around them changed. It was suddenly darker, then it was lighter again. Aiyana thought she saw a large school of fish directly in front of the sub and then they swam away.
“We made it. Readings indicate we are now in the 20th century BCE approximately ten days before the projected end of Atlantis.”
“It’ll take nearly two days to get there at the sub’s cruising speed.”
“Then Owen, I suggest we get underway.”
“Aye, Gordon. Powering up the engines. The drones are sending me directional coordinates as planned. Setting course.”
Everyone except Lynn and Travis had been aboard a submarine before, but the Nereid was small compared to the Navy subs, both American and Soviet, they’d experienced in the past (or rather in the alternate timeline). If you were used to flying on commercial jets and then you found yourself on a small, private plane, you’d definitely notice the difference. Smaller planes are closer and more vulnerable to the air. Smaller submarines are closer to the ocean.
“We have smooth sailing, so anyone who wants to get up and move around can do so.”
“Thanks, Owen.” Gordon and Aiyana were the first to unstrap and get out of their seats but Travis and Ross weren’t far behind. They moved to the front of the boat to get their first view outside. “The Atlantic Ocean over 2,600 years ago. I wonder how different it is?”
“For one thing Travis, it’s a whole lot cleaner. No significant pollution created by humans, no oxygen dead zones, no oil spills. A virtual paradise compared to the 21st century CE.”
“I didn’t know you felt so strongly about the environment, Aiyana.”
“Just because I have my head buried in the past doesn’t mean I don’t care about the future. After all, that’s our mission, isn’t it? To fix our future and correct our own mistakes?”
“What makes you think that climate change is man-made, Aiyana?”
“Because Ross found the first time map, the one indicating changes made by Soviet incursions in time in one of your bases, Vasnev.”
The Russian was making himself an unpleasant target, first of Lynn’s and now Aiyana’s. Did she really believe that if he hadn’t let Ross catch him taking the Nineveh artifact that he would have used it against the team, against the mission?
“I’ve got a sonar contact dead ahead on the surface.”
“What do you make of it, Owen?”
“Profile reads like a wooden sailing craft of some kind and it’s on the same bearing we’re on, Gordon.”
“Probably a trading vessel making for Atlantis, either an Atlantean ship returning home, or a craft from some other nation bringing trading goods.”
“They won’t be able to detect us, and even if they could somehow detect our motion, they’d mistake us for a large marine creature.”
“If they could see us Owen, they’d be scared out of their wits. They’d think we were a sea monster.”
“I’ve read those old stories, Gordon. Beyond here there be dragons.”
Everyone chuckled again.
“We’re pulling ahead of them fast. The wind is no match for nuclear driven turbines…wait.”
“What is it, Owen?”
Another sonar contact, this time behind and below us.”
“Marine life? A school of fish?”
It’s a whopper if it is a fish, Gordon. Nearly twenty meters long.”
“Doesn’t read like one, Aiyana. It’s overtaking us, passing underneath and cutting in front of our path.”
A shape like something out of a nightmare appeared to everyone as they stared though the front view plates. Owen Redfeld had the best look and felt suddenly and totally exposed in his transparent half dome.
“Oh my God. It’s supposed to have been extinct for millions of years.”
“What is it, Owen? Gordon, what is it?”
“A Megalodon. A gigantic shark that lived between 16 million and two million years ago. All we have left of them are their teeth since shark skeletons are made of cartilage…”
“And cartilage doesn’t fossilize. I know, Gordon. If it’s extinct, how hell is it here now?”
“Lynn, can you get us out of here with that thing?”
“If you mean with the temporal field Owen, I can try, but it’ll take minutes to power up.”
“Then we are all dead, my dear.” The Russian stared out the front view pane with a fatalistic look on his face. Our friend has turned and is heading straight toward us, mouth gaping wide.”
“This boat’s only 32 feet long. The Megalodon will rip through us like a bulldozer through an empty Coke can.”
Previous “chapters” in this book are:
- Prologue: The Defiant Agents
- The Time Trap
- Tomorrow or Yesterday
- Turn and Face the Change
- Ashurbanipal’s Library
This is part of my homage to the works of Andre Norton (Alice Mary Norton) which include The Time Traders, Galactic Derelict, and now The Defiant Agents. At this point, there’s no resemblance in my tales to Norton’s original story lines beyond the existence of some of the characters. Hopefully, she’d like how I’ve interpreted her vision.
The next chapter is The Tower at Meropis.