Sir Michael Dean Haymill opens the glass double doors to his office at the top of the zoo, running alongside the comms room. The entire upper section of the zoo’s top floor is glass, a lot like a air traffic control tower, allowing a clear view across the entire aquarium and on for miles.
Sir Michael is 39 years old, a privately wealthy man who was educated at Eton collage, 5ft 6, blonde and despite the fit of his expensive suit, very athletic.
Rich has to catch the office door as it swings back and threatens to hit him in the face, sending Sir Michael a distasteful look as he follows him into the office.
Rich once loved coming up to this particular spot at the zoo, until the United Nations sent word that Sir Michael would be overseeing all matters relating to the zoo and research teams. Up until this point, Rich had believed that he was to have full control over the Tethys project. Still he accepted the U.N’s decision, until learning that Sir Michael had absolutely no experience with wild animals what-so-ever, since his arrival, Sir Michael and Rich have remained at cross swords, usually with Kerry acting as a go between.....
“I’m not a Doctor.”
“Ah, my mistake really must stop doing that...” Sir Michael continues not looking up from the papers on his glass top desk, his strong upper class accent annoying Rich, “Professor then...”
“No, I’m not a professor or a doctor, Rich will, as usual, be fine.”
“Very well, Richard, perhaps you’d like to explain to me what you think you are doing?”
“I think I’m trying to get Tethys ready for its biggest day to date, although I’m sure your about to correct me.”
Still Sir Michael refused to look up at Rich, this only served to antagonise Rich further he hated ignorance in anyone.
“Exactly who gave you permission to begin filming today?”
“Well we’re filming day one, I obviously thought day one would be a good place to start filming day one, clearly I’m wrong.”
Rich’s tone was starting to get to Sir Michael who always managed to give his frustration away by fiddling with an overly neat pen pot on his desk, Rich wasn’t exactly being rude, but the less than respectful tone he was using was not what Sir Michael was used too.
“Until the particulars of what the United Nations are happy with the public seeing and knowing has been finalised, there can be no filming at all, especially since we learned that the crew of that eyesore out there are currently electrocuting Seals and Sea Lions on the Island?”
“The shocks are too mild for the animals to actually feel, they’re only enough to loosen their bladders a bit, we did submit a plan to Green Peace which has been approved, no animals will ever and let me clarify that, EVER, be harmed while I am in charge of the zoo”, Rich knew what he’d said the second he finish saying it.
“While you’re in charge, I was under the impression that I was in charge?”
“Well we all know that”
Sir Michael did look up this time and Rich knew he was going too far, pushing his luck would only result in his being replaced on the team and last thing he wanted was to leave Kerry, Mark, Steve and the others alone with Sir Michael.
“Richard I’m not going to lie to you...,” he put his pen down and crossed his hands under his chin, “I don’t like you or your team, I think you’re a bunch of rank, amateurs who like playing with animals and I would be a lot more comfortable if this projected was being lead by a U.N. appointed scientist and seasoned assistants.”
“Seasoned.......have you actually read our files? Steve has filmed in Palestine, Iraq and South Africa. Isobel has dived with the US Navy SEALs in mine filled waters. Nick has worked through the world’s rainforests and the Great Barrier Reef. Kerry has swum with some of the world’s most dangerous animals, including a twenty foot great white this very morning and Mark and myself have been sailing and shark diving since we were twelve.....oh did I mention that the rest of my team are doctors?”
Sir Michael seemed neither moved nor impressed clearly he’d read their files which leads Rich to believe that his dislike of the team comes from something else, something he does not want to share with them.
“All filming of the Tethys Aquarium and Zoo structures, inside and out will stop immediately, all filming of the lagoons and staff will stop immediately or until I deem it time to start again, you may continue filming events such as the arrival of that island of yours later today and the rescue of the animals, is that clear Mr Henson?”
“Crystal” and with that, Rich turned to storm out, only stopping halfway through the door to call back, “And don’t call the Sea Mist II an eyesore.”
As the staff door opens in the reception area, Isobel and Mark, who are leaning over the front desk egging Simon on to complete his game, see the look on Rich’s face and already know it’s not good news.....
Mark was about to ask how his meeting with Sir Michael had gone, when Rich walked straight past them both and the reception desk muttering, “He called me Richard, don’t even ask.”
Mark and Isobel are already wearing their ‘Tethys Aquarium’ jump suits carrying a third which Isobel attempts to hand Rich as he makes his way along the corridor towards the zoo’s exit...
“What’s the point, at this rate I’ll be out before the first jump” Rich says leaning over a railing and peering into the dark depths of the first lagoon. In his mind’s eye he can already see the extinct leviathan he intends to save, but the image is less clear than it had been before. When the zoo had first been completed, Rich could swear at times when he was alone, that he could even hear the calls of some of the marine reptiles on his list.
“Come on dude, you can’t give up just cos you and the boss fell out again, if he really wanted you out he wouldn’t bother with these little meetings or memos, he’d just replace you.” Mark tried handing the jump suit to Rich again, “You notice the colour?”
Rich looked at his suit, it was dark silver grey, his favourite colour, the colour of the great white.
Isobel stood on Rich’s left hand side, she put her arm round his waist hugging him close, her head only just reaching his shoulder.
“What did he say to piss you off so much?”
“He told me to stop Steve filming.”
Rich jumped back as they both shrieked “WHAT?”
“In his words, until the UN have finalised how much they wish the public to see and know about Tethys, we can only film the ‘one time deal’ stuff, like the islands arrival and the rescues.”
“Well that’s not too bad is it, I mean it’s not like they’re stopping filming altogether?” Isobel asked hopefully.
“No, we can fill the rest in, I just wanted everything filmed at the right times, I don’t wanna go on camera in two months and tell people it’s the first day, it just won’t feel natural.”
“OK, don’t bite my head off dude but don’t you think your being a little too picky about some stuff?” Mark asked, almost wishing he’d taken a step back first.
“Yes, I do” Rich’s response takes them both by surprise, “But I can’t help it, this entire project has become my whole life, I don’t just want it to work I need it to work, I honestly don’t know what I’ll do if it doesn’t.”
“You’’ll spend two weeks on the Mist with me and your ipod.” Mark told his friend. Rich smiled, sailing away on the Mist actually seemed like a very good and simple answer to the stress he was having to deal with under Sir Michael and the UN, but he needed Tethys and nothing was going to convince him to just leave voluntarily.
As the three friends stood in the sun together, they could see Kerry and two Tethys dive assistants across the lagoons attempting to rescue Kerry’s air tank from where it had been caught in the mesh fencing. From the way Kerry was watching the water and the look on the dive assistants faces, Rich guessed the angry white was still hanging around the lagoons bottom, perhaps still attracted to the electro magnetism of the air tank itself.
“Tower to Rich, over”
Rich took his radio from his belt, “Go ahead tower, over.”
“Just had word from the convoy, the package will be here in under an hour, over.”
“Thanks Nick, I’ll radio the Mist II back to dock. I’ll need you down here mate, over.”
“On my way...tower over and out.”
“Well I guess this is it, make or break time guys. Go get ready you know what you have to do.”
As Mark and Isobel left him, Rich watched as Kerry finally showed the two larger male assistants how it was done by simply diving into the water, taking her chances with the shark. A side from the ripples Kerry’s body had made splashing into the water, the ocean was calm, still and peaceful..........Rich had no idea how that was all about to change......forever...
An Hour Later.....
and it’s all hands on deck, the walkways which had been all but deserted an hour before are now teaming with engineers and scientists all getting ready for the arrival of the Island by helicopter. The Sea Mist is circling Tethys, trying to get an estimate on water temperature differences between 2009 and the future. Simon is in the comms tower overseeing the approach of the convoy and the time jumper ‘dry run’ simulations, Steve having been instructed to cease filming is now setting up all the remote cameras around Tethys complaining ‘stupid diving, stupid sharks’ as he goes. Kerry and Rich are waiting by the dock for the Sea Mist to return with Mark and Isobel...
“I’d better get down to the observation lab.” Kerry said,
“Yeah, I still can’t believe that you’re not coming with us, we always said we’d do this together.”
“It’s only one jump Rich they’ll be plenty more, besides we need to keep Haymill sweet for all our sakes.”
“Where the hell is the convoy...,” Rich says scanning the sky line, “it should have been here ten minutes ago?”
“Well they’re trying to be careful, it’s not easy flying two miles of water proof rock without anyone noticing, what was the cover story again?”
“Emergency damming, like anyone would actually believe that.”
Kerry laughed, “Well you know the government, as long as the majority believes it they can just label the others conspiracy freaks.”
Kerry bent down and kissed Rich on the cheek, “Good luck honey, and be careful in the water, OK?”
“You know me Kezzer.”
“That’s exactly what I mean.”
Rich is watching Kerry walk back towards the zoo, pushing her way through the increasingly manic crowd, when he becomes aware of a low rhythmic sound coming across the water. Flying low over the pacific towards Tethys, is a large dark mass surrounded by smaller shapes, the new Seal Island and its convoy of helicopters are less than a mile away, watching it approach, Rich feels the adrenaline burst and excitement he first felt stepping off the Sea Mist onto Tethys Aquarium back in the beginning.
All dwelling thoughts of Sir Michael and UN interference gone, this is what it was all about, this was all their dreams coming to life and he was now determined not to let anything ruin this day for any of them......
Steve has set up his camera at the far end of the dock, behind Rich is a clear view of the real Seal Island and the hovering replica which its convoy of helicopters is getting ready to drop right next to the real thing....
“As you can see we are almost ready to make our first time jump to the future panthalassa ocean, but first things first, we need to drop our replica island and test run its buoyancy weights in the ocean. As soon as we’re satisfied that our island won’t float away in the first storm, we will be jumping the first island and as many sea lions, seals and sharks as we can. My number two Kerry Thornton is monitoring activity under the water via the observatory in the lab. The rest of the team will be aboard the Sea Mist getting ready to journey to the future with the island.”
“The reason we’re going with the island is simple, should anything go wrong for the marine mammals we’re taking, such as a dislike for our island, the Sea Mist is fully equipped with jumpers to return the animals to 2009, again I would like to stress the issue that none of the animals you see will be harmed in anyway and I think I can speak for the whole team when I say we’d rather risk our own lives than the lives of the creatures in our charge. Now I think the helicopters are getting ready to drop the island into position, once it hits the water, the buoyancy weights will automatically drop from beneath, held tight to the base of the island by eight inch thick titanium chains, so if you will excuse me, my part of this mission takes place in the water and I need to get my wetsuit on.”
Steve cuts filming and gives Rich a rather disapproving look, Rich has noticed Steve is finding it increasingly more difficult to stop looking at the large dark grey dorsal fins cutting through the water around them, his nervousness could become a problem under water....
“I really hope you weren’t including me in that ‘risk our own lives first’ bit, not that I wouldn’t love to die saving a big, toothy, ugly, grey.....”
“OK, OK I get the point mate, not a fan of our finned friends down there but I have already promised you that you will be safe.....”
Steve cuts him off mid sentence, “Electro-magnetic output, you said all metal creates it”
“I did, what’s your point?”
“My point is my camera. My camera my air tank my watch all metal Rich.”
Steve is shaking badly and Rich is beginning to wonder if his old friend is going to be able to dive with him after all.
“Steve we have cameras all over the Mist, why don’t you stay onboard, we can document everything we need with them and the zoos under water cameras?”
Steve closes his eyes, having an argument inside his head.
“No, no I’m going down with you just like I said I would, but the first sign of trouble and I am ditching your shark bait arse.”
Rich beams at him, “Fair enough dude, fair enough.”
Rich and Steve board the Sea Mist and make their way below deck to the onboard lockers, each one labelled with one of the team. Steve retrieves his black wet suit then joins Rich at his locker, Rich has four wet suits, one shark grey like his jump suit, one a bright electric blue, one plain black and the last also plain black but with tiny strands of fibre optic lights sewn into the seams....
“What the hell are they for?” Steve asks,
“That’s a surprise.” Rich grins at the suit then takes his electric blue, flippers and mask.
Back on deck the two dress quickly, Mark and Isobel helping them with their air tanks weight belts and Steve with his camera. Just as the two friends drop into the murky dark waters, the intercom system sends Simon’s voice out over Tethys....
“All hands to final positions, cargo is being dropped, repeat, all hands to final positions, cargo is being dropped.”
Seconds later came the sound of metal screeching as the helicopters dropped their burden into the ocean, two miles of manmade island slams down into the pacific. Below the water, Rich and Steve watch the giant black silhouette fall from the sky and smash down so hard, they could hear it slap against the waves under water.
The crew of Tethys aquarium are now faced with the nasty part of the job, they have loaded the contents of the barrels, marine mammal urine collected earlier that day, into a massive water tank attached to a hose used to extinguish fires onboard oil tankers. Once the helicopters are clear, the hose is turned onto the island and gallons of fresh urine and sea water is sprayed across the mass, but will the seals buy it?
Steve turns the camera towards Rich, it cannot record him speaking under the sea, but the face masks they breathe through are equipped with radio transmitters so the team can stay in touch, all communications are recorded for editing to film in the comms tower.
“Right above us, the helicopters that transported our seal island all the way here have shed their payload, its massive bulk is literally blocking out the sun, as if it wasn’t murky enough down here. The activity of the animals has changed dramatically, the playful seals and sea lions have bolted for their own island and the stalking white sharks have dashed back out into the depths, this is what I’ve been most worried about, how long will it take for them to decide this area is still safe and come back.”
Steve turns a slow 360 getting in footage of the empty churned up sea....
“Mammals are naturally inquisitive and shouldn’t take long to venture back into the water, once they do the sharks will return to hunt, slaves to their own unique sensory organs.”
Several minutes passed and nothing, Rich begins to worry that perhaps he spoke to soon and maybe returning to the Mist until the mammals return to the water would be wise, at this rate they were going to run out of air before anything happened.
Aboard the Sea Mist Isobel, Mark and Nick are watching the real islands residents. The Seals and lions were staring and honking at the new land mass which had just arrived rudely on their door step, Isobel was worried....
“Maybe it’s the smell of the urine confusing them?” she offered.
“Or maybe they just really don’t like islands being dropped on their heads?” Mark jested.
“We knew it might take a while for them to feel comfortable about going back into the water, but this is taking too long” Nick said,
Isobel turned to him, “Do the boys have enough air for this?”
Nick shook his head, “They only have an hour’s worth, figured the seals wouldn’t be this nervous”
“Maybe we should’a had the Mist II drag the damn thing in?” Mark offered
“Well we considered it but chances are the II would have ripped it apart, they’ll go back in we just need to be patient....and hope Steve has a lot of film” said Nick.
On the island, a juvenile Harbour Seal is shuffling along on its blubbery stomach towards the water’s edge. As it approach the surf slapping against the low bank of the island, it raised it puppy like face into the air and sniffed, its whiskers twitching. The larger adults were watching its progress with interest, it was not the sudden arrival of this massive intruder to their waters that was keeping from returning, but something else, hiding in the gloom, an enemy provoking a primal fear in the animals.
It had stalked these waters for generations, the adult animals on the island feared it beyond all other predators just as their parents had and theirs before them, in the gloom of the deep, waiting for its senses to be triggered by the return of the seals was a true modern day monster.
“Over there” Isobel shrieked, the boys shifted their binoculars to see what she was seeing and sure enough, a juvenile harbour seal was leading the way for others back to the water, “What’s it waiting for?”
“I don’t know, maybe it’s still trying to figure the other island out?”
“I don’t think that’s it?” Isobel replied
“Well what do you think it is the sharks?”
“Maybe.....but they’re always there, the seals are quite used to dodging them.......unless?”
Isobel pulled the radio from her belt, “Rich can you hear me, it’s Izzy?”
“What’s up Iz?”
“Is there any activity down their yet?”
“No, the sharks are staying out in the deep, not even a shadow in the gloom, why?”
“Oh.....nothing, I guess” she did not sound convinced
“Izzy, what is it?”
“Well the seals are making their way back to the water’s edge, but they all seem really worried about something, I thought they’d have given into curiosity by now”
“So did I.......you think something else is keeping them away?”
“I don’t know, I’ll keep an eye on the Mists fish finder, anything shows up I’ll let you know”
“Iz, heads up they’re going back in, looks like it was nothing” Nick called, but Isobel wasn’t convinced, that was the problem with the ocean, whenever you thought it was nothing....it almost always turned out to be something”
Across the island, the adults were taking the cue from the younger animals, knowing the sharks would hit the first in the water. Patience was everything in surviving life in the red triangle. Below the surface Rich and Steve were watching the seals diving into the water and continuing their daily lives ignoring the second land mass completely.....
“At last the mammals are returning to the water” Rich begins as Steve starts filming again, “continuing to hunt and play, their blubbery bodies become streamline in the water, the speed these animals are capable of is astounding. There must be over a dozen animals swimming around us now, they keep darting in and out from us like torpedoes, just one problem, there are no sharks...”
It’s Ampullae of lorenzini had detected the electric impulses first, steering the massive fish out of the depths and towards its intended prey. As its half moon cordial fin propels in through the water, the shark slowly opens and closes its mouth to flush water over its gills. Its nostrils have detected a scent it cannot ignore, urine in the water, an even more powerful shark allure than blood. The Great White is huge, over twenty-five feet long it is big even for its species.....and it is very hungry.
Steve and Rich are continuing to film the playful seals when the few dashing around them break away, they are not fleeing back to the island, just swimming towards the rocks on the sea floor, some making a break for the surface to breath.
Onboard the Sea Mist, the acoustic fish finder suddenly pings. Isobel checks the monitor and is momentarily frozen by the sheer mass of the object swimming towards her friends in the water....
“Rich, come in Rich, quickly please” she was begging
“I’m here honey, what is it?”
“Rich there something coming right at you, it’s big, really big.....”
Isobel is cut out by Steve, “Rich there”
Rich turns in the water just in time to witness the terrifying sight, an enormous triangular head appears out of the gloom, it’s mouth is wide open and jaws hyper-extended, a thick protective layer of skin like film rolls over its eyes, turning them jet black.
“Jesus.....it’s a twenty-five footer...” Rich’s voice is trembling, Steve is beyond scared, he is now only filming because looking through the camera makes everything feel more like a movie than real life, “I never ever thought I’d see a white this big.”
Rich starts wishing he had chosen one of his black suits. Originally he had planned on wearing his blue so the sharks that decided to nose around them would be more interested in him than Steve, but this colossal male changed everything.
The shark is homing in on Rich’s suit, the colour is to intriguing to ignore, its three foot wide mouth houses hundreds of razor sharp serrated teeth, if it gets its jaws around either man, they would be cut to ribbons in seconds, sharks like this swallowed prey whole.
The shark circled them, choosing to keep its distance and pace itself, Rich was starting to wish it would make some kind of decision about attacking or not, once it went for him he could radio Steve to get the hell out of the water and then Simon and the tower to fire the jumpers.
“Rich can you actually still here me?”
Isobel’s voice, how long had she been calling him?
“Izzy it’s circling us, a twenty-five foot long great white, I’d bet my job it’s one of the oldest in the ocean, any chance you guys could try and distract it before it actually decides it eat us?”
“Shark?” Rich did not like the tone she was using, “Rich I’m not talking about a shark, can’t you see it yet it right underneath you, it’s a........”
Before Isobel could finish her sentence the shark made its mind up and charge. With one quick swish of its cordial fin in lunged forwards like a speeding bus, jaws wide and teeth bared when..............WHAM!
Rich and Steve are pushed backwards in the water as a giant black and white shape launches from the depths and slams into the great white, dozens of bullet like teeth tear at the predatory fish, ripping its stomach open and killing it instantly, one of the top apex killers of the twenty first century has just been out done......
Finally getting control of his body again and staring up through the swimming pool sized blood cloud, Rich can see exactly what happened, what Isobel was actually trying to warn them about and the real reason the marine mammals had been so scared of getting into the water. The great white had been hit by an orca, the killer whale. At thirty feet long, the orca is a master hunter that feeds on both marine mammals and the sharks....
“WOW” Rich screams in his mask, “that was just unbelievable, that killer whale, also known as the orca, just came out of nowhere. They’re not uncommon in these waters over 200 different species have been seen over the last few years. Not all orcas will attack sharks especially not a great white that size, but this fellow above me, chowing down on that shark is probably over thirty feet long and weighs nearly 4 tons, that shark never stood a chance.”
Rich, Steve and above the water, the crew of the Sea Mist, watch as the orca leaves the area having gorged itself on the shark, as it makes its way back out into open water, the seals and lions all start belly flopping towards the surf again. Under the water, Steve suddenly points his finger and the camera out into the depths where the smaller whites are swimming back towards the island....
“Rich to tower”
“Come back Rich” Simons voice
“Is everything set for the jump, we have just about enough animals around to make it worthwhile.”
“You sure you don’t wanna wait for Free Willy to come back?”
Rich laughed, “No thanks, maybe another time, Nick, you guys ready to jump up there?”
“We’re all set Rich, just give the word”
“Well then, I guess this is it.”