The Megalodon was swimming straight for the Nereid. Avoiding a collision seemed impossible so Captain Owen Redfeld did the only thing he could think of. He ramped up the engines to full and accelerated toward the (supposedly) extinct shark.
“Everybody in your seats. Strap in. Brace for impact.”
The six time travelers obeyed out of a sense of discipline and self-preservation, but Travis yelled up at the submariner, “Have you lost your damn mind?”
Nereid and the gigantic shark sped toward each other seemingly destined for a head on collision, and then the Megalodon veered off, suddenly turning 90 degrees straight down and diving. Redfeld pulled the controls up and to starboard. Sea creature and submarine missed each other by less than two meters.
The turbulence threw Nereid out of control momentarily, but Redfeld had thousands of hours in the sub and, as one of the original designers, knew just about everything there was to know about his vessel.
The Nereid was rapidly heading toward the surface. They were only twenty-five feet underwater and if they came up at this speed, it would be impossible for the ancient trading ship less than a kilometer behind to notice their presence.
“Hang on everyone.” Redfeld leveled the craft at four meters below the surface and corrected his course so they were once again headed for Atlantis. He slowly began to descend and looked at the sonar. The Megalodon was still there behind them, but it seemed to be waiting.
“Owen, you bastard. You scared the shit out of me. What the hell happened?”
The Naval Officer was regaining control of his breathing. “Aiyana, predators don’t like confrontation. I thought if we could make ourselves look intimidating, it might back off.”
“So you knew this for sure, Captain?”
“Not exactly, Vasnev. I scuba dive, do sunken ship dives. It’s a hobby. One time I got careless and let my guide line get caught in a wreck’s scaffolding. The friction as the line moves makes a sound sharks interpret as a fish in distress.
“When I left the wreck and looked down, I saw a large female Tiger Shark directly under me, flanked on either side by two smaller males. Suddenly, she came straight toward me from beneath and opened her mouth. There wasn’t anything I could do except for one thing. I made eye contact and kept looking at her. She turned away at the last second. Predators don’t like prey to be confrontational.”
“Charming, Captain Redfeld. What happened next?”
“The same thing that’s probably going to happen to us now. The sharks followed me until they got bored and then moved off.”
“Is that what your sonar says, Owen?”
“Actually, the Megalodon is moving off to port and descending.”
“And it won’t be back?”
“Sharks are unpredictable, Lynn, but we can hope.”
The time technician powered down the circuits to the temporal device. In another minute, she could have transported them back to the 21st century, but that would have delayed and perhaps completely ended their mission. Temporal fields are tricky. Once you visit a time and leave, the residual field effects could make it difficult if not impossible to return. It’s why when they discovered Byrd and his people in the past, they couldn’t simply go back ten years earlier and rescue them when they first arrived in ancient Arizona.
“We could do without any more excitement, Owen, that is, if you can arrange it.”
“I’ll see what I can do, Ross.”
Redfeld kept a sharp watch on the sonar, but the shark didn’t return. What the hell was something that should have died off at least two million years ago doing in the 21st century BCE Atlantic?
At first everyone was vigilant and even paranoid about the Megalodon’s return, but nearly two days later as they were approaching the Atlantis island chain, it had still not made a reappearance.
The Nereid was at periscope depth and Owen Redfeld was broadcasting what he was seeing to small monitors placed at each of their stations.
“Fantastic.” Gordon Ashe felt like the proverbial kid in a candy shop. The view of the big island’s main harbor was magnificent. On a rocky rise to the right was a gigantic statue of Poseidon. Perhaps this was a tribute to appease the sea king.
A greek ship was just entering the harbor almost completely surrounded by sheer cliffs, with some structures built on top and then descending so that the lower levels were built into the rock.
Numerous waterfalls were present adding to the majesty of the scene. It was truly a city of legend, and they could only see a small part of it.
Lynn Huỳnh had her sensing device tied into the periscope mast and was taking readings. It was approximately eight days until the final destruction of Atlantis would take place and they needed to achieve their mission and be far away before that happened.
“Yes, I’m getting something, a very powerful energy source. It’s inland but definitely here on main island.”
“I don’t get it. I mean Atlantis is a very advanced city for this era as far as I can tell, but it still seems like all of it is perfectly reasonable for this time. Where does an artificial power source come in?”
“I wish I could tell you, Owen. It’s somewhat similar to a Forerunner ship’s drive emissions but there’s something really weird about it.”
“Forerunners. Then they are here.”
“Apparently, Vasnev. Some of the documents in the Nineveh Library dated back to the Bronze Age era where we know there was Forerunner activity.”
“Then you are saying there has been a Forerunner presence on Earth for over 2,000 years, Aiyana.”
“Maybe, or maybe they used a time gate to jump ahead.”
“I don’t have any more of an answer than Lynn does, Vasnev. That’s what we’re here to find out.”
“Intel from the drones confirms what Owen mentioned earlier.” Travis was reading from the latest automated reports provided by the surveillance devices that were sent into the past. “For the most part, all four islands have structures, technology, and people consistent with this time frame. Only the tower on the main island here differs.”
“Then here is where we’ll concentrate our investigations.” Ross got up from his seat. “Gordon, I think it’s time to break out our gear.”
“Right. Aiyana, see to the costumes while Ross and I break out the raft. Vasnev, you and Travis get your gear, too.”
Owen took the Nereid down 100 feet to prevent some curious sailor aboard a trade ship from seeing the periscope, but Lynn was still gathering data from the drones in the area. Fortunately, the flying drones were shaped like large birds, so at a distance, no one should suspect they weren’t.
Gordon, Aiyana, and Ross got into their trader costumes and refreshed themselves on their roles. Just like previously, Ashe and Aiyana would pose as the trader Assa and his wife Ai. Ross would once again become Rossa. They were from mid-Europe attempting to establish trading posts in Greece and Libya, and the most prized location of all, Atlantis.
They couldn’t take the time to travel here on a conventional ship, so they’d go ashore on a small, inflatable raft and hope people would buy their cover story about having arrived last week and not check to see if this were true. They were clothed to blend in, and since Greek was the lingua franca of this time period, no one would be suspicious of strangers speaking it with a foreign accent.
Since Ross had the least experience with that language, he’d let Assa and Ai do most of the talking. He’d pretend to have just learned Greek, which wasn’t far from the truth.
Vasnev and Travis were going along, but they’d wait at the landing site. If all went well, their only problem would be boredom, but if something went wrong, they’d be on site as the extraction team. They would be the only ones to go ashore with modern weapons, but had strict orders to use them only if the lives of the time agents were at risk.
Owen was on the main deck going over an aerial map with the landing team. “You can land on that narrow beach to the South. You three will have to use ropes to climb to the top of the cliff, but at this point, it isn’t more than a few hundred feet, so you’ll be fine. Vasnev and Travis will wait with the raft unless they get a signal from one of you or from me here on the sub.”
Where Ross was deficient in his knowledge of Greek, Aiyana was concerned about her climbing skills. She’d trained for weeks before the jump, but knew Gordon and Ross were much more experienced, Ashe because he’d been an agent for years, and Murdock because his former occupation required such skills.
“There appear to be guards at key locations, but not patrolling the shoreline. From what you’ve said, the Atlanteans were considered warlike, but only when provoked.”
“Right, Owen. My guess is that trade with Atlantis was highly desirable, and given their reputation for violent conflict and colonization, the Mediterranean empires would rather maintain friendly relations, so Atlantis wasn’t expecting an invasion.”
“They’ll get one tonight, Gordon. An invasion of three.”
“Please, Ross. Five. It’s just that Travis and I, as you say, will not be joining the party.”
“Not if everything goes right, Vasnev.”
“I’ll surface just after sunset so there’ll be enough darkness to cover us when you launch the raft. Just do it fast. I don’t want the Nereid out in the open for too long.”
“Right, Owen. We’ve done this sort of thing before, so we know the drill.”
“Okay, Ross. We’ve got less than an hour now.”
Travis and Vasnev had hidden the raft behind some rocks where they landed. That’s where they’d spend their stay in Atlantis. There wasn’t access to the beach except by sea or climbing down the cliffs, so they were sure they would remain unobserved.
Aiyana found the climb more difficult than the simulations, not because of the physical hardship, but because it was so dark. Ross had fired three hooks with ropes attached using a pneumatic launcher that was almost completely silent. They all made the ascent and found ground cover to hide the equipment they’d need to return to the beach and the raft. Their retrieval team had two more ropes with hooks and the launcher remained with them, just in case.
“Glad Lynn briefed me on this scanner.”
“Just don’t let anyone see you, Ross.”
“Not a chance, Aiyana. Yup. The power source is definitely at the center of the city ahead. Now all we have to do is bluff our way in.”
“Why were you outside Meropis after dark?”
The city guard’s Greek was excellent though he seemed to resemble someone from Spain or Portugal. One theory had it that the Atlantean islands were originally settled by people from those two nations.
“It’s my fault…” Ai began.
“Silence. Let your husband speak.”
Ai knew that her taking initiative would cause problems which is why she used it as a distraction.
“I am Assa of the traders. My wife speaks the truth. She wished to walk around the beautiful country side and see the great falls to the south. We became lost and couldn’t find our way back until now.”
“Is this true? Do you speak?” The guard aggressively addressed Rossa, probably to push his weight around.
“Yes. It is true. Forgive. My Greek. Not good.”
“Fine. You are allowed entry, but next time, hire a guide.”
The guard called up and had the gates opened. Then he stood aside and let the trio enter.
“Fools,” he whispered under his breath.
They all silently appreciated the judgment since it meant he didn’t suspect they were spies.
Assa and Ai went to the main market place, still lively in the well lit city, to inquire of any current news which might relate to their investigation, while Rossa stayed to the alleyways so he would be less likely to be observed using the scanner. It was a smaller version of Lynn’s unit specifically designed to pick up the unusual energy emissions.
The landing party stayed in contact with each other and the sub using hearing pieces and mikes surgically implanted under their skin. They couldn’t risk anyone spotting an ear piece. Owen once more had the Nereid at periscope depth. It was too dangerous for galleys to approach the island at night, so they weren’t expecting any sea traffic. Lynn was continuing to receive data both from the drones and from Murdock’s device, while Owen monitored the surface and underwater.
“My wife Ai is a seer, as you are. Tell her what you told me.”
Assa had introduced his wife to Polydora who sold fabrics at the market but who was also a mystic devoted to the god Apollo. The trader had passed some silver pieces to the older woman to encourage her cooperation.
“Have you seen the visions, read the portents as I?”
“Atlantis is a doomed place.” Ai was taking a risk if this wasn’t Polydora’s conclusion as well, but the merchant’s hushed tone told her the risk would be worth it.
“I tried to tell my patron, but he wouldn’t hear of it. I could be banned from the market for heresy. Atlantis is called the Eternal Realm.”
“I see flames. A great earthquake. Islands sinking into the sea, never to be seen again.”
“Yes. It is horrible.” Polydora looked down and then drew even closer to the pair. Whispering, she said, “I’ve booked passage aboard a Roman galley two days hence. I believe I’ll escape just in time. Please traders, if you value your lives, leave soon. There is no business here for you now.”
“Bless you for your counsel, Polydora and safe journey.”
“Safe journey Trader Assa and Ai.”
It was getting late and the market place was nearly empty. They walked some distance so they could converse unheard.
“Same story from a dozen other sources, Ai. The upper and middle classes dismiss the rumors, but the common folk are terrified, but too terrified of the government to leave.”
“Are you getting all this, Rossa?”
“Got it, Ai. I’m approaching the tower now. Guard patrols are thick and I don’t think it’s just the city’s treasury they’re guarding.”
“Do you have your approach?”
“Please Assa, I am a thief. This isn’t my first break in. The info I’m getting relayed to me from Lynn showed me a way in. There are fewer guards inside the compound than out, probably because they think no one could get inside. Their patrol patterns are regular and I’ve found a window of opportunity where I can make it over the wall to the northeast.”
“When are you going in?”
“In about fifteen minutes, Assa. Over the wall, across the lawn, then up the side of the wall. It’s irregular enough that I should be able to climb without a rope.”
“Just make sure you can get out again, Rossa.”
“Right. Get in, do recon, get out. Take nothing.”
“Good luck, Rossa.”
“Thanks, Ai. I’ll need all the help I can get.”
It was late enough that Assa and Ai would be conspicuous if they remained on the streets. Fortunately, the information they were given identified the likely quarter of the city where they would find an inn. There was one room left at the first one they found first but no meals were served at this hour. They took the room and weren’t hungry because they had eaten before they left the sub, but Ai wished she could have tried some of the local cuisine.
“If Ross is successful, we won’t be here for breakfast. I’d like to leave before dawn, my dear wife.”
“Spoilsport.” Ai pretended to pout.
As Rossa predicted, getting into the tower’s compound wasn’t difficult. He silently went over the wall and quietly ran across the grassy area toward the tower. It was made of a black stone carved with ornate figures and symbols, probably for religious reasons, but they knew so little of Atlantean culture. Pity they wouldn’t have time to learn.
There were no windows or other openings on the lower part of the tower, but Rossa was shocked when he found upper windows had glass panes. No, not glass, but something familiar. “Forerunner transparent material,” he muttered. His voice was still picked up on his mike and carried to all of the others.
“More evidence of a Forerunner presence then, Rossa. Be extraordinarily careful.”
“You don’t have to tell me that twice, Boss.”
Rossa hoped there’d be a way in from the roof since there was no way to open or break through any of the windows.
Climbing over the edge, the former thief found himself on a platform. The tower still went higher, but he needed to rest a moment. He opened his scanner and took another reading.
“Interesting stuff. There’s more than one power source. They’re located above me. The one we’re looking for is at the very top. Not looking forward to the climb.”
“What about the other energy signature?”
“Signatures, Lynn. There are two more just above me. They read like Forerunner ship engines.”
“Ross, I’m receiving readings from your device and we’ve got big problems. The energy output is increasing. It’s slow, but if it increases at a constant rate, then it will reach 100% output in seven days.”
“You’re saying whatever it is up there will cause the destruction of Atlantis.”
“It’s got more than enough power to destroy the entire island chain and it’s definitely Forerunner technology.”
“Gordon cutting in here. With the new information Ross, what do you think are your chances of locating and deactivating it?”
“I still can’t get any life form readings, but that could be the energy emissions masking those signals. They’re certainly strong enough.”
“I agree with Ross, Gordon. I think he should get out of there.”
“Thanks for the vote of confidence Lynn, but I got this far unobserved.” Murdock looked at this scanner again. “Wait. I might have company. Have to sign off.”
Rossa closed the device and put it back inside his clothing. Even disguised as a contemporary trader, it would be impossible to explain his presence here as anything other than the act of a thief.
There were several large, square and rectangular stones placed around the platform so he hid behind one. He saw a door open from the central tower. A single man emerged and left the door half-open. He walked to the edge and leaned against the wall, seemingly taking in the view.
Rossa took a chance and softly walked toward the open door. He managed to get inside without being detected by the other man.
He could see a barracks to the left, probably for the guards patrolling inside the tower. The man outside had likely gotten bored and stepped out for a minute. The others inside were throwing dice or something like them, gambling. Rossa was able to move past the open door without attracting attention.
He kept moving until he came upon something totally unexpected. A small bank of elevators. To the right was another door. It was unlocked and led to a staircase. Murdock crept up one floor. It was silent on the stairs but the door leading to the next floor hummed and vibrated. Rossa opened it a crack and peeked inside.
“A docking bay. I see a Forerunner ship. Wait. It’s not right.”
“What is it, Rossa.”
“Humans working with Forerunners, Assa, but that’s not all.”
Sudden loud metallic sounds pulled Rossa’s attention away from the ship. He looked at the staircase and some sort of emergency doors had closed, blocking his way both up and down. The door to the docking bay burst open and three Atlantean guards holding swords stood in front of Ross.
“You can’t get away. Come with us.” The guard’s Greek was passable, certainly enough for Rossa to understand what was being said. He weighed his options and decided to comply. There was nowhere else to go and he couldn’t fight three armed men in such confined quarters.
They escorted him further into the spacecraft bay but not toward the ship. There were a number of square and rectangular shapes, much larger than those on the tower platform, but similar to what they discovered in the ancient Forerunner base in Arizona during their trip to rescue Byrd.
He was taken into one. Rossa stepped through the doorway. There was a man standing inside. “An Orange Forerunner,” he murmured knowing the others could still hear him.
That’s what Murdock noticed about the ship. It was an Orange scout ship, just like the one that had taken the time travelers to Ceres and Eupora.
The Orange took an all too familiar telepathic device from his belt and moments later, Ross felt his mind being ripped apart.
The incident involving the sunken ship dive and the sharks actually happened to my brother several years ago, so it’s possible and even likely that if the Nereid charged at the Megalodon at full speed, it might veer off.
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 and final chapter in this book is Atlantis Descending.
4 thoughts on “The Tower at Meropis”
Well, the jig is up now, isn’t it? The Orange agent will have access to the whole story from Ross’s mind. It is possible, I suppose, that he will recognize the intention to correct the timeline that has gone awry, but, of course, we don’t know yet what his own plans are. For all we know, he was responsible in another timeline for sinking Atlantis; and the power build-up in this timeline may be intended for the same purpose, except that something will go wrong. It does raise questions, though, whether he was there in response to Atlantean tinkering with Forerunner equipment, or whether he alone was doing the tinkering with the timeline. The presence of a megalodon does suggest that someone didn’t know what they were doing; and perhaps the Orange is there to fix matters. Stay tuned, kiddies; for the next exciting episode….
Now even I’m suspenseful. Since I’m writing these tales with only a loose outline in mind, I’m still exploring ways for Ross to escape and for the rest of my plan to reach fruition. I think it’s exciting, too.
As I was reading back over my comment, the memory popped into my head of the narrator in the Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoon serialized stories about foiling some plot by Boris and Natasha, as he summarized the sticky situation so far and posed questions about what might happen next. Hokey Smokes, Bullwinkle! I didn’t intend it that way, but now I can’t get that narrator’s voice out of my head (nor that of Rocket J. Squirrel).
It seems we’ve had similar childhoods, at least as far as Rocky and Bullwinkle are concerned.