It’s 8am and the red triangle area of the Pacific Ocean is calm and serene. Across from the massive concrete structure of “the zoo”, Seal Islands inhabitants are lazing in the sun barking and honking at each other as the seals and sea lions scramble for beach space and to get in line for a quick swim. Across the dark grey waters, the only disturbance is the rise and fall of the occasional dorsal fin as white sharks slice their way through the water, eagerly awaiting the first kill of the morning.
As well as the massive seven story zoo, the aquariums massive lagoons and tanks and linked by metal walk ways and bridges, each designed to keep researchers within a close, but safe distance of all the aquariums future guests....and they are expecting some very big guests.
Across the centre lagoons, numbers 4 5 and 6, is the main dock. Permanent home of the Sea Mist II, the battleships upper bridge decks and satellite receivers blocking out the morning sun, below the wake of its enormous bow, the Sea Mist has just docked, Mark is busying himself securing the sailboat and performing routine checks while Rich makes his way off deck and towards the zoo, Steve following with his camera as always...
“It’s an amazingly warm morning here at Tethys Aquarium, the air is fresh and quite warm for the hour of the morning, it’s early summer here which is exactly the time we wanted construction of Tethys completed by, the white shark population is at its highest of the year, there are literally hundreds of new seal and sea lion pups across the way on Seal Island and everything is perfect for us to begin our initial transplant this afternoon.
The first of our Island replicas should be arriving in a few hours, being delivered by no less than six Apache helicopters, that’s how many it’s taking to transport the entire two mile wide construct from the salt planes of New Mexico. All the replicas have been under construction for the last two years, it has been pain staking work trying to replicate all the conditions that the animals on the real Island need to be comfortable, the completed structures are all over two miles long and all the rocks are built from light weight breeze blocks so we can actually transport them.”
Rich stops and Steve turns off the camera...
“Two miles of breeze blocks and sand, covering a total of six replicas Islands making a grand total of 12 miles of......rubble?”
Rich laughs, “Yeah you could put it like that, but this part of the mission is essential Steve, if the seals and lions don’t take to the other Island we are in serious trouble, we need a totally natural feeding environment for the sharks and then the other predators we’re rescuing, without it there will be no equilibrium, oh and don’t forget the pee”,
“I’m sorry, the pee?”
“The Islands will stink of humans, if we want the seals to even consider them as homes we have to make them smell like home, which will require spraying all the blocks and rubble as you put it, with seal and sea lion urine, preferably from the actual animals on the real Island”
“You really have no intention of making this easy on us, do you?”
“How on earth do you expect to be able to collect the urine?” Steve asks genuinely puzzled,
“That’s already underway, the crew of the Sea Mist II are working with the local wild life preservation societies to collect as much as possible for us, the idea is to use extremely low voltage shocks to “loosen” their bladders.....then we wait, basically. Once we have enough, Kez and I’s last estimate was in the region of 60 gallons.....”
“Electric shocks, are you sure Green Peace are gonna be cool with this?”
“Relax, the animals won’t even feel anything more than a poke from a stick, all we need is the current to travel in the right direction to produce the correct results, like at a sleep over when you put one of your mates heads in a bowl of warm water so they wet themselves, same principle, different approach”
“Ok, but sixty gallons?”
“Yeah....sixty gallons should be enough to mix with salt water and then spray the Islands. We’ll spray the first Island here, apart from anything else the scent in the water should bring even more white sharks towards the jumpers, ok turn the camera back on.”
Steve places the camera carefully back on his shoulder then cues Rich back in.....
“Once the Island arrives and we’ve successfully tested its bouncy and weights in the water, we have one last task to perform before we can send it and its future residents through to the future, we have to spray it, and I mean that quite literally. As I talk to you now, animal experts and members of our massive research vessel the Sea Mist II, are working hard to collect as much Seal and Sea Lion urine as possible to, in effect, disinfect the new Island, like all wild animals, seals and sea lions find the scent of man disturbing and will normally avoid it at all cost, this would be a disaster for us and the seals as once in the future they will have nowhere else to live and sleep and would eventually tire and drown in the open ocean.”
Rich and Steve move further along the walkways towards the zoo, its top two stories rising up and out of the water rather like the very top of a giant concrete totem pole. The sun glistens off the newly installed windows leading up the very centre of the structure to the top story which homes radio communications and resembles an air traffic control building....
“This is “The Zoo”, my team claim they nick named the building to coincide with the aquarium although personally I think it’s a better description of the living quarters. The zoo was built as a research centre, medical unit for injured animals and people and as a temporary home to the team. The structure itself is seven stories high and rises up from the sea bed, the sixth story homes visitor’s area and reception, the seventh is for radio communications and satellite telemetry.”
“Under the water, story five is dedicated to offices and our medical centre, four is living quarters, three is home to our technical department and equipment building while story two is the wet lab for treating animals and at the very base of the zoo is the dry dock where we can land mini subs used to travel under the aquarium.”
Rich continues walking until her reaches the very last of the strong titanium mesh fences that separate the lagoons, all the fence reach up to 20 feet from the water’s surface.....
“As you can see, all the lagoons are cut off from each other by these titanium fences, however, to keep the illusion of open water for the sharks and seals, each fence has a small passing point, approximately 8 feet across with allows the smaller animals to swim between the lagoons. These are important for two reasons, the first as I’ve said is to make the natural residents of the red triangle feel as at ease as possible, the second is to allow the future occupants the chance to hunt freely inside the aquarium, the last thing we want to do is hand feed the animals, the sharks of today already associate us with food from years of fishing, baiting and chumming, we must ensure that our animals have as little contact with us as and food as we can, now if you’ll follow me, it’s time to visit the zoo.
Steve cuts filming again.....
“Yeah I’m liking the whole, “not associating us with food” thing”
“It’s bad enough that we’ll probably end up having to bait most of our targets, I just wish there was another way to bait them”
“If there is, I’m sure you’ll think of it mate”
“Kez is already all over it, I honestly don’t know what I’d do without that girl”
“Kerry’s a girl?”
Rich ignores Steve and continues his walk to the zoo, once at the main doors, both 8 feet high and solid steel, he reaches into his back pocket and produces a key card, swiping it through the locking device on the wall by the door, there is an electronic ‘beep’, a hiss of cold air and the doors slowly open inwards.
Beyond the doors lies a long steel grey corridor leading to a reception desk with a door situated on either side, the first bore a plague reading, “Visitors Area” the second “Personnel Only”.
The walls are adorned with photographs of different areas of the aquarium and paintings of some of the animals Rich and the team are hoping to save. Behind the desk sits a man in his early thirties with light brown hair and heavy stubble, dressed in a dark blue and black jump suit, as Rich approaches, he spots the logo on the man’s chest, “Tethys Aquarium” in bold black print and a shark swimming over them against the image of the earth sliced in two down right down the middle....
“Morning Simon, this is Simon Morgan, he is our IT manager and organises all parties and research teams coming to and from the zoo” Rich explains to the camera, “Say hello Simon....err....Simon?”
Simon looks away from the computer monitor where a small cartoon character is attempting to stomp on the head on a walking mushroom, he smiles at Rich, looks back at the screen before registering the camera in Steve’s hands.....
“Oh.....err....yes, YES. Hello” Simon blurts going extremely red in the face, “I was....err.....catching up on paperwork”
“Still not got onto level eleven huh?” Rich asks giggling
“No I was just......aw hell, captured”
Rich continues laughing at his friend, “Dude, we’re not live you know?”
Simon breaths in deeply, “Oh thank god, that would have looked really good wouldn’t it, caught on line playing games”
“We are still rolling though” Rich points out, “perhaps we could get back to the script?”
“Yes, sorry Rich, anyway.........where were we?”
“Don’t worry I hadn’t asked anything yet, just say hello to the camera and we’ll carry on, okay?”
“Right, okay, cue me in again.”
“And is in charge of all research teams coming to and from the zoo, say hello Simon”
“Hi everyone, welcome to “The Zoo”, as I’m Rich has explained by now, the zoo is the control centre for the entire aquarium, home to communications, lab research, meds and IT management, it is also the hub for the time jumper systems.”
“Thank you Simon, now as you can see the reception corridor leads onto the visitors centre and employee areas. The visitors centre is mostly recreation and meeting areas and some overnight quarters, but that’s all very boring really. Right now we are going to head down into the depths of the zoo so you can see where the tech action is all going to take place, thanks Simon, we’ll see you later.”
Steve shuts off the camera then both burst into fits of laughter....
“Oh yes, very funny indeed” Simon snaps before returning to his game, then turning back, “Rich we just got an email from the Mist II, she says the collection process is going well and they are on schedule for this afternoon, oh and your paying their dry cleaning bills”
“Thought I might be” Rich responds smiling, “by the way, when did the uniforms arrive?” he points to Simon’s jumpsuit.
“This morning just before you and Mark got back, their all in your lockers, have to admit I’m a little confused by the logo, why is the earth sliced in half?”
“The left hand side is the world 350 million years ago, the right is the world 350 million from now, the “shark” represents animals we are sending through.”
“Why did you just say shark like that?”Steve’s voice betrays his nervousness.
“Well, we will be dealing with quite a few mate, especially today, I have to admit, I’m very curious to see what a million years of evolution does to the great whites we jump.”
“Excited............yeah.........not a word I’d care to use right now I’m afraid.” Steve say’s looking quite pale.
“Don’t worry mate, the sharks aren’t going to come anywhere near us and even If they do, I promise you, they will only be coming for me, I wouldn’t let anything happen to any of you, besides, Kez will be with us.”
“Actually I won’t” say’s a very attractive young woman exiting from the personnel only door wearing a “Tethys Aquarium” Tee-shirt and shorts.
“Hey Kez, whatdaya mean, you won’t?”
“Our lord and master has spoken” she is referring to the newly appointed “Minister to Tethys” by the United Nations, an elected official to oversee all activities involving the aquarium and the time jump technology, one Sir Michael Dean Haymill.
Rich groans, “What has that moron decreed now?”
“That we need a senior biologist in the control room during transfer, apparently there are concerns about ‘infective radiation’ or something equally as dumb.”
“Radiation, what radiation?” Steve blurts out.
“Yeah seriously, the tech has been tested time and time again, if you’ll pardon the pun.” Simon adds.
“Okay okay, i’ll talk at him later, right now, we need to get on.” Rich checks his watch, “Damn, we’re gonna have to edit the tour a bit, okay forget the living quarters, IT rooms and offices and we’ll head straight for the labs, we’ll add the others in at a later date, Kez where are you off too?”
“Lagoon 5, apparently there’s a shark trapped in one of recesses.”
“Really....?” asks Rich sounding very concerned, “how did it get stuck, the recess should be big enough for a small killer whale to pass through?”
“I don’t know, Nick thinks it might be the jumpers in the lagoon, apparently there’s been trouble stemming the electromagnetic flow of the metal, the sharks keep trying to swim at them and getting there fins caught in the meshing, this is the only one that hasn’t worked itself free so far, perhaps we should rethink the size of the recess?”
“No, any larger and we’d risk the chance of some of the smaller specimens escaping, as much as we love them we cannot allow any animals we bring back from leaving the aquarium and threatening human life, tell Nick to get the EMF sorted, now.”
Kerry nods to her friends then carries on her way, Simon starts sending emails while Rich and Steve carry on their way through the zoo. The two friends make their way through the personnel door and enter another corridor this one, is full of doors leading to different offices and suites. At the end lies a large pair of steel doors, the staff elevator goes one floor up, five floors down. Rich and Steve head straight for the elevator, as they walk Rich looks into the windows of the offices and frowns, all the workers play crucial roles at Tethys Aquarium but thanks to Haymill he would have to save their introductions and praise for another day.....
“Why can’t he stop interfering?”
“You mean Hayhead, I don’t know mate, I’m sure he thinks he’s doing that right thing.” Steve attempts to help calm his friend,
“No, he thinks he’s being in charge, he cannot deal with me making decisions without his input, like he knows a damn thing about sharks and the ocean.”
“Then maybe you should try including him?”
Rich sends Steve a dirty look as the elevator arrives and the two embark. Rich pushes the button for floor seven and the doors close.
As the elevator descends, Rich stares at the floor buttons as they slowly blink to life then out again....
“It’s not that I don’t want to discuss things with him, generally I do, it’s a tad hard to spend fifty thousand dollars on a new lexan glass shield for the zoo without asking him, the problem is he needs to feel in charge which is fine when it comes down to the running of the aquarium but not the rescue missions.”
“Don’t you think your taking this a tad personally?” Steve interjected careful not to provoke his friend.
“Oh it’s totally personal” Rich blurted as the elevator arrived at floor six.
The doors hiss open and Rich marches out and across the lab towards a massive lexan glass viewing window at the far end of the room. The laboratory is roughly the size of an indoor basketball court, the walls and floor are all white tiled and surrounded by dozens of stainless steel work benches and mini labs.
Steve watches Rich with concern, he knows how much work his friend has put into the forth coming missions and that above all else, the safety of the animals and his team is foremost in his mind, it can’t be easy having a government suit sweep in and take control of everything...
Steve jogs to catch up with Rich. Throws the camera back onto his shoulder and starts rolling.....
Rich has stopped in front of what can only be described as the world’s largest fish tank, “This is what I call the “Isolation Wing”, actually it’s nothing of the kind, beyond this eighteen inch thick lexan glass viewing station, for anyone who doesn’t know, lexan glass is a mix of super strong plastics built to with stand even the pressures of outer space or the deep sea trenches, is a sixty foot deep water canal that leads out into one of the seventeen lagoons. The purpose of this tank is because the creature intended for this lagoon is a fish and has some of the biggest eyes in the fossil record.
Fish have extremely light sensitive eyes and it has always been my belief that this fish would have spent most of the day in deep waters away from the surface, to come up and feed in the early evening as the sun set.”
Rich moves to the wall next to the tank and activates a series of controls, suddenly, the entire inside of the tank is lit in dark red light, much like a photographer uses in their dark room, as the light flashes to life, several silhouettes dart into the depths, away from the window...
“Looks like some of our local great whites have decided they like the dark.” Rich grins as the last cordial fin disappears into the darkness of the canal, “as with the lagoons, the tank is readily accessible by the local wild life so our guest can continue to hunt its own food.”
“Hey Rich, you’d better come look at this.” Nick calls from across the lab where he’s been running routine checks of the underwater cameras.
Rich and Steve cross the room, Steve still filming. As they reach the console Nick is standing watching an enormous flat screen monitor descend over the giant viewing window from one of the work stations. Rich and Steve gasp as an image appears on the screen, it shows a titanium mesh fence, Kerry in her scuba gear....and one very, angry Great White Shark....
Above the water, Tethys Aquarium is nothing more than open water, the top two floors of the zoo and seal island, but under the water it was a completely different world, through the dark waters could be seen seals and sea lions darting through the water like torpedoes while the immense sharks give chase, but everyone’s attention was on Kerry and more importantly, the shark.
Kerry has managed to free the seventeen foot apex predators pectoral fin but has only made it angrier, the shark has obviously rammed Kerry with its snout and forced her back against the fence, pinning her by her own air tank, now the shark is circling its saviour, sizing her up as prey.
At seventeen feet, the shark’s mouth is half a foot across and full of row upon row of serrated razor sharp teeth, each one perfectly designed by nature for slicing flesh.
The shark swims away from Kerry who is trying to free her tank as subtly as she can, knowing full well that any motion in the water will be picked up by the shark’s Ampullae of lorenzini.
Ampullae of lorenzini, hundreds of tiny jelly filled sacks covering the shark’s snout which pick up any electric currents in the water, this amazing adaption of nature means the shark knows exactly where it’s prey is and can take all the time in the world.
Rich watches mesmerized by the scene barely aware of Steve saying his name...
“Rich, we gotta do something!”
“No........what the hell do you mean No?”
“Just watch and don’t stop filming.”
Steve points the camera at the screen, both he and Nick scared to death by the shark’s continuous lunges at Kerry, but know Rich wouldn’t just be standing there if he thought she couldn’t handle herself, Kerry was Rich’s best friend and the only person he trusted to run things without him.
Kerry has given up trying to free the tank and is now busying herself trying to remove the oxygen tank altogether but the fasten on her belt is stuck, the shark lunges in again, this time it’s snout and open mouth are mere inches from Kerry’s legs, it charges away again, both Rich and Kerry know that an attack will follow the next charge and when it happens there is nothing Kerry can do about it.
Reaching down her leg, Kerry grabs her diving knife and pulls it from its hilt, quickly she begins trying to cut her way free of the pinned air tank, then she feels it, the current shifting as something very large starts its death charge towards her.
Suddenly the shark appears out of nowhere, moving at incredible speed it hyper-extends its massive jaws towards Kerry....just as she slices through the last strands of belt and flips herself upside-down over the tank. Holding onto the mesh fence and tilting the tank towards the face of her attacker, Kerry frees all the remaining air from at the shark like a shield of bubbles.
The shark swims right into the wall, confusing its senses and sending it hurtling back into the gloom of deeper waters.
Watching in the lab, Rich Steve and Nick breathe a sigh of relief as they watch Kerry pulling herself out of the water, using the fence as a ladder. Rich has an enormous smile across his face.
“That’s my Kez.”
“I’m gonna head up and make sure our girls okay” Nick informs the others,
“I’m sure Kerry’s fine, shaken but fine”, Rich responds
Nick laughs, “No mate, I mean the shark.”
As Nick strolls away, Rich turns back to the camera...
“As you’ve seen, life at Tethys is never dull, that was Kerry Thornton, one of the senior biologists here and my best friend, showing an angry great white that us Brits don’t make easy fish food, but back to the lab.”
Rich strolls into the centre of the room....
“As you can see, as well as the tank and viewing stations, the lab is fully equipped with smaller specimen tanks, scanning equipment and a full medical facility for the animals, now you’re probably wondering how we get the animals into the lab, well, this recess which looks rather like an empty Olympic swimming pool, is actually an elevator, this one designed to carry the weight of a whale.
The trick is to get the animals to come to the elevator in order for us to sedate them and treat, unfortunately, until we’ve have established safe ways to attract the animals without having to feed them, we just don’t know.
The lab is however stock piled with everything we would need to sedate the animals in their own lagoons and treat them there, although this is not the optional solution, it will do for the time being. Obviously no-one really knows how an extinct animal is going to react so a lot of our work will be trial and error, on that note may I just add that when it comes to the safety of the animals we are taking no risks, each lagoon is fitted with time jumpers and if needs be we can and will send the animals back to their own times.”
Steve cuts the camera off and Rich checks his watch...
“Okay” says Rich, “we have a couple of hours till the island arrives, I think it would be a good idea to double check everything is ready for the jump this afternoon, why don’t you go and check the camera’s on the Sea Mist and i’ll find out how long II is going to be, if you see Nick tell him I want the jumpers tested before this afternoon too.”
“Not a problem” Steve calls back.
As Steve trudges off towards the elevator, Rich turns back to the enormous lexan window, staring out into the dark water. Several sea lions are playing on the surface, taking it in turns to jump over the others then dive down again, Rich wondered if they even knew there were a pair of twenty foot great whites circling them on the sea floor.
Rich had seen the attack a dozen times on his first day at Tethys alone, he knew exactly what was going to happen. The first shark began to ascend slowly, moving up in precise circular motions, as it reached about twenty feet from the surface it stopped, one of the sea lions had dived again, the shark was acting like a cat, trying to remain unnoticed.
As the sea lion reached the surface again to breathe, the shark made its move. Now almost flying straight up, the two ton predator opened its mouth, hyper-extended its jaws and rolled a black protective membrane over its eyes, the sea lion never saw it coming.
As the mammoth shark hit the sea lion and the surface it leapt twelve feet out of the water, it was like watching a juggernaut hit a mini metro, killing the sea lion on impact. The shark swam back down to the depths with its prize, leaving a bloody trail in its wake, Rich watched the jaws clamp down its meal and then swallow it whole, only half a flipper fell away from the mouth and sunk sadly to the bottom of the sea.
Rich began picturing the events of the afternoon in his head, he and at least four of his team mates were getting into that water, they would be mere yards from the real island and he knew that that made them prey, these sharks were hungry and had no time to waste identifying food.
“As long as the jumpers do their job, everything should be fine.”
“I’m sorry, are you speaking to me?” asked a very well spoken voice from behind Rich, a voice he knew much better than he wanted to.
“Hello Sir Michael.”