10 minutes till jump......
“Ten minutes to time jump, repeat, ten minutes to jump, all non essential personnel to return to the zoo”
As Simons voice rang out over the lagoons and walkways topside, all the tech assistants and scientists helping with the preparation of the second island piled back into the zoo. The Sea Mist and its crew are helping Steve out of the water along with his camera. Over the last few minutes over a dozen white sharks have returned the jump zone in order to gorge themselves on the remains of their dead kin, sharks are cannibals and the orca’s left over’s will not go to waste......
“Rich to Sea Mist, come back.”
“Izzy here Rich, are you coming up?”
“How many whites are you picking up on the fish finder?”
“We had confirmed 15 a minute ago but they keep clumping together round the dead shark, because dead sharks sink they’re all hanging round the sea bed, still in jump range but we can’t get exact numbers.”
“That’s what I thought. Well I guess that settles it.”
“That settles What?” it was Kerry’s voice that answered, she was still standing in the lab watching everything from monitors and via the massive lexan window,
“I’m going down, try to get exact numbers so we can make the jump count.”
“We can make the next one count Rich, besides you need to jump too, one of us has to go.”
“I am going. I’ll jump with the sharks....”
“Are you nuts” Mark blurted, “If the manipulator fails, if those sharks come out the jump pocket angry Rich you won’t stand a chance.”
“Then we better pray Nick knows what he’s doing, hadn’t we.”
“Geez thanks Rich.” Nick replied over his own radio, “Just put it all on me.”
“Just trying to take the heat off me for a minute, mate.” Rich replied, “look guys don’t worry, I’ll be careful I promise.”
“Just promise us one thing Rich?” Kerry asked, “Promise us this isn’t just some stupid stunt for the cameras?”
Still unconvinced but realising there was no point in arguing, Kerry finally replied, “OK, let’s get one with this then, shall we.”
Rich turned his attention from the sharks to the time jumpers mounted on poles each rising fifty feet up from the sea bed, for the first time since his own first jump to the future, Rich was looking at them with concern. What if something did go wrong and he ended up lost in time with no land and only fifteen or more, angry great white sharks for company?
Up in the tower Simon is checking the final co-ordinates for the jump, the screen in front of him confirmed:
>..New Panthalassa Ocean.....
>..The Red Triangle
>..200 Million Years NE (New Earth)
>..commence final countdown......Y/N ?
Once Simon instigates the final countdown, the time jumpers will automatically instigate a pocket, then a ten second countdown will sound before the pocket pulls everything targeted by the computer into a jump.
Below the glassy surface, Rich is slowly diving down towards the sea bed, in the gloom he can make out the black shapes swarming the dead shark.
His breathing is heavy with nerves, Rich knows white sharks don’t frenzy when feeding so he shouldn’t be targeted as food. Sharks do not see us as prey, although many species identify us with food, from decades of chumming and lure fishing, we are still nothing like the prey a white shark would usually feed on, skinny and to many bones, nothing like the blubber filled seals and sea lions now happily playing above him....
“I’m counting now....” Rich radios the others, “I’m seeing at least fifteen animals from here, are you reading more or are they to close to get a precise number?”
Isobel answers, “We don’t have that many up here, they’re still too close to each other. We are picking you up though Rich please don’t get any closer, for my sake if not yours.”
Rich giggled inside his mask, “OK Izzy, I’ll wait right here, how about our fat friends up there anymore looking eager for a swim?”
“No I think we’ve got as many in the water as we’re going to get, must be close to eighty animals though.”
“We,ll get an exact number when the computer counts them going through. OK then let’s do it before those remains are gone and the sharks scatter again. Simon, instigate final countdown.”
Simon clicked ‘Y’ on the keyboard to begin the final countdown. Across Tethys a recorded voice announced, “FINAL TEN SECOND COUNTDOWN:
The crew of the Sea Mist are taking seats on either side of the deck while Mark mans the flying deck and readies himself at the wheel......
In the tower all hands but Simon, who is watching the time monitors, are at the windows watching the Sea Mist with both excitement and apprehension, all silently wishing their lead team and the animals luck and success.......and a safe return......
Kerry stands alone at the great lexan window watching her best friend floating in the murky water, she knows Rich can take care of himself, yet something in her stomach keeps tightening and making her feel sick. She wished she was going with them, with him.....
Steve is sitting in his place onboard the Sea Mist, his thoughts on what is about to happen, the science of it all fuelling his already temperamental nerves, ‘a pocket opens in time and then you literally get sucked through, inside the jump pocket the computer sends you by pre-programmed coordinates to the time line location....pre-programmed coordinates, everything relying on a computer and the people who told it what to do, oh god we’re all going to die...’ he closes his eyes to fight the urge to throw up.....
Rich is looking from the sharks below to the jumpers above, all his hopes and dreams for the quite literal future depends on this. If anything goes wrong, if the animals die it will have all been for nothing, then there will be no trips back in time, no rescue missions and most likely the end of his dearest friends career....
Tethys Aquarium holds its breath....
The jumpers flash, as Rich watches the entire ocean appears to turn to static, like being trapped inside a TV on a channel that’s closed down for the night. In the sheer moments the time pocket is open and dormant, Rich see’s the sharks and the seals suddenly stop, all of them dead in their tracks. Then something hisses in his ear and Rich knows it must be the jump firing. Then he feels a yank in his stomach, like someone has just grabbed him by the ribs and pulled him towards them, his ears ring and eyes begin to hurt so he closes them, the event in actuality only takes a few seconds, but right now it feels like several minutes have passed.
Then it stops. The hissing and the yanking sensation stop as quickly as it began. Rich opens his eyes and finds everything very disorienting, the sea is much clearer and blue than it had been moments ago, the rock formations have gone, so has the sea bed. The ocean now seems to stretch on in clear view for miles in every direction, Rich feels very, very small.
As he watches the sharks that jumped with him, he suddenly realised that the manipulator was meant to keep them in the exact state they were in before the jump, freezing their senses, and their senses had been set to feed. But now the shark body was gone, even if it had been pulled through there was no sea bed now and it must have sunk into the deep where even the sharks could not follow. Would they now attack him?
“Rich to Sea Mist, guys are you there?” he sounded nervous, being in the water with the sharks at Tethys has been one thing, but this was quite different, “Repeat Rich to Sea Mist are you receiving me, over?”
“We’re here Rich, all safe and accounted for, how are the sharks?”
“Pissed off their meals gone, I’m on my way up, quickly.”
“You might want to hurry we’re having problems up here.”
Rich was trying to figure out what problems they could have be having when he looked up towards the surface and saw the dark mass that was their seal island along with dozens of smaller shapes swimming around it. He had forgotten the seals, how could he forget?
Blaming the jump for his laps in memory, Rich begins kicking to the surface, his flippers flow smoothly through the crystal clear waters as he goes. The water is a lot warmer than he had anticipated and worries that it may be warm for the sharks and the seals, perhaps that was the problem above?
Reaching the surface and very grateful the sharks haven’t given chase, Rich swims to the Mist, removes his tank and mask, passing them up to Isobel, then climbs the boarding ladder up onto the deck where the others are waiting, they do not look impressed. Nick marches over......
“Empty” he snaps after checking the gage on Rich’s air tank, “I told you, you didn’t have enough air to stay down there.”
“Mate I’m OK see, no damage done.”
“That’s not the point Rich.” Nick marches right for him, stopping when the tip of his nose meets the top of Rich’s head, “You asked me to be your equipment specialist and I agreed on the proviso that I am fully in charge of all field and tech equipment...” he bends down to look Rich right in the eyes and whispers, “...so when I say “You haven’t got enough air to stay down, you get your scrawny little arse out of the water, understood.”
The two stare each other out for a moment before Rich reaches up and takes Nicks shoulder, “You know what Nick......I kinda love you.”
Both begin to snigger through their clenched teeth, any angry thoughts evaporated.
“Now....” Rich walks to the portside to look over the Island, “what’s the prob with our furry little friends?”
The seals and Sea Lions they had managed to pull through were floating on the surface honking and barking at the Island, occasionally darting back under the water to check on the sharks below.......
“I don’t get it, why aren’t they trying the island out, do you think they can still smell humans?” asked Mark
“No, no I don’t think that’s it....it looks like they’re searching for something.....see the way their all honking towards the Island like they expect a response or something?” Isobel offered,
“Izzy you’re brilliant.....” Rich replied, “....that’s exactly what they’re doing.”
Everyone turned to look at him.
“Think about it...” Rich continued, “...we sprayed the Island with salt water and urine.” They all looked at him blankly, Rich sighed, “Their urine, or rather, their mates....their mates, they’re parents their siblings, that’s what they’re doing, their calling for their family.”
“But why is that stopping them from going to shore, why don’t they just go and look for them?” Steve asked,
“Seals and lions are like dogs. They communicate with sound and smell.... touch to but not till their very close to each other.” Isobel answered
“So unless they get a response.....?” Steve turned back to the island, “this isn’t good, is it?”
“Way I see it, we can either wait for them to get tired and hope they go onto the island....or sit here and watch them drown or be eaten by the sharks......who by the way are starting to ascend.” Mark said,
Rich turned to the water and looked down, below the scene looked very much like a dozen fighter planes getting ready for a dog fight, and if the seals above didn’t make a move for the island, it would be a blood bath.
Minutes passed and the ever rising sharks were making it very difficult for the team to concentrate on the problem at hand. They all knew that there were minutes, perhaps seconds before the whites attacked the floating buffet or blubber.........and the seals were still making no attempt to go a shore......
“They’re at about thirty feet now.....” Mark said, “God I hate it when they’re eyes roll black, really does not help the image.”
“We have to think of something and fast, they’re going to attack any minute and those stupid seals are just gonna sit there and let it happen.” Rich slammed both hands onto the guard rail in frustration, “I wish Kez was here......” he admitted to them, “.....she’d know what to do.”
“So call her.” Nick replied,
“Call....her. Open a radio pocket and call Tethys.”
Rich jumped up and threw his arms around Nick screaming, “You complete and utter genius.”
Rich runs to the control centre on the flying deck and activates the Mists jumpers, setting destination for half an hour after they left Tethys, bypassing the other controls as a jump is not required, Rich opens a tiny time pocket......
“Tethys Aquarium from alpha team, are you reading us over?”
Nothing, Rich looks at Nick for help.
“There’s a time delay, give them a sec.”
“Tethys to alpha’s, we’re reading you loud and clear come back.” Simons voice.
“Simon, listen carefully, I need you to radio Kerry, tell her get her arse up topside and to take a portable mic and speaker with her, patch me through to her personal radio, over.”
“Understood Rich, I’ll patch you through then call you back, we’ll keep the pocket open this end, over.”
“Tell her to hurry Si, and thanks, alphas over and out.”
Rich leans over the rails of the flying deck and looks into the blue, the sharks are now almost at the surface, still circling their way up through the water seeking out they’re prey. He has a sudden idea.....
“Let’s see what you make of this.” Rich turns the engine over and revs up, the sharks below scatter as the noise of the propeller spinning attacks their lateral lines, the senses momentarily overwhelmed.
“Nice Rich, they’re going deep again.” Mark calls up to him,
‘Yer....’ Rich thinks to himself, ‘...but it won’t stop them for long’
Back at Tethys.....
Kerry is running along the open catwalks topside of the aquarium, she is carrying a large speaker with a microphone attached, still confused of its purpose. Stopping on the highest steel bridge, Kerry pulls the radio from her belt and calls the tower....
“Simon I’m up top, patch me back through to Rich.”
“You got it Kez...............OK you’re through.”
“Rich it’s Kez, can you hear me?” she waits but nothing comes back, Kerry turns to look up at the high windows in the tower, hoping Simon is monitoring,
“It’s a time delay just give him a second Kez.”
“Kez, I hear you honey, do you have the mic and speaker ready?”
“All ready hun, although I haven’t got a clue what you expect me to do with it, karaoke maybe?”
“No I’ve heard you sing.....Kez I need you to turn the mic up full blast, put your radio to the speaker and record the seals on the island.”
“I know I’m going to regret asking.....why?”
“Just hurry Kez, I’ll explain later, OK.”
“OK, I’m turning the mic on now.”
“Thanks. Simon, I need you to patch the sounds Kerry records back through the pocket to us, understood?”
“Not a problem Rich, just give me two minutes to make sure you don’t just get static.” Simon replied,
Rich revs the engine again but not to scare the sharks this time, this time he puts the Mist into gear and sets off as quickly as he can, on a direct course for the other side of the island.....
“What are you doing?” Steve asks,
“Making the first fourth dimensional marine mammal phone call.” Rich responds, “Nick, can you patch our radio up to the onboard speakers?” the Mist was originally equipped with speakers to reproduce whale song.
“Not a problem, ten seconds.” He rushes to a control panel in the lower deck, a few moments later Nick calls back, “All ready Rich hit it.”
Rich flips the radio volume to max and waits........nothing but static. He is about to radio back for more boost to the signal when Rich remembers the time delay....sure enough, a few seconds later they hear crisp clear honking and barking coming from the speakers on deck. The Mist is now completely around the island and Rich is cutting the engine.....now they would just have to wait and see if the seals buy it.......
“Over there.” Isobel points and shouts as an ominous shape rises out of the water like a rocket, a bloody, blubbery mess in its jaws.
“Mark, you can use the sonar to ping the island, right?”
“Because you can use it to tell us if any of the seals are coming ashore.”
“OK I’m on it dude.”
Rich and the team watch and wait, Mark staying on the sonar, pinging the island and waiting for the signal to bounce back the image, if there were animals on the island the sonar should pick them up moving about. A few seconds later and another ravenous white shark explodes from the sea clutching a kill. The team are on the brink of failing miserably on their first mission, when Mark yells out....
All turn to face him, “The sonar is picking up multiple targets, moving out of the water and onto the island, guys I think it’s working.”
Sure enough, as they turn to face the island, several seals and lions bounce over the small rise in the centre, honking and barking back at the Sea Mist. The up roar onboard is unbelievable, they have done it, the island is in the place, the sharks are hunting and the mammals are all taking to the island, but will it last?........
“Tell me you got that on camera?” Rich asks Steve breathlessly, unable to take his eyes away from the island,
Steve smiles and nods “Every single second mate.”
The crew of the Mist watched the seals as they explored their new home, for the moment they continued to blast the island with barking from the animals back in the present, although by this point they were playing back a recording Simon had made.....
“How long do you wanna stay out here?” Nick asks,
“Till nightfall, I just need to know their settled happy and won’t freak out when we turn the recording off.” Rich replies.
As the sun begins to set over a still dark blue ocean, Mark passes out sandwiches and cans of soft drinks he packed before they left, the crew happily watch the seals and lions finally begin to stretch and yawn, flopping out over the pebbles and sand, to the sounds of the sharks tails slapping against the water. Rich watches Isobel cross the deck and sprawl out in Steve’s lap, he brushes a strand of blonde hair away from her face, she closes her eyes smiling.
Rich and the others had watched the two friends become closer and closer over the last year or so. The brief times the team got to spend with each other, before Tethys, was always short lived, but never-the-less, Steve and Isobel were definitely becoming more than just good friends, but would anything ever happen?
Isobel spent most of her time with the navy on submarine and scuba dive’s, Steve, on the other hand, was usually being called away to war torn countries, recording for big name TV corporations, away from Tethys, could a relationship between them ever work?
When the sun had finally retreated beyond the horizon, the crew all marvelled at the amazing solar display of colours and lights no longer hindered by light pollution, it was a dazzling blanket of reds and greens and blues and stars shone brighter than the team had ever seen. The new Panthalassa Ocean was proving an amazing place to be.......
“OK guys....” Rich finally broke the silence, yawning, “...time to go home, as much as I’d love to stay here all night.”
Nick climbed to his feet and ascended to flying deck to activate the time jumpers.
“Hey....” Mark exclaimed suddenly, “.....I don’t know if it’s escaped everyone’s attention, but we just saved out first endangered species.”
“He’s right....” replied Rich, “....the whites, the great white is an endangered species, well I guess Tethys really is up and running.”
“You mean down and swimming”, Isobel giggled,
“Your funny” Rich said hugging her, “Come on Mark, time to go home yeah.”
“Just opening the pocket and sending Simon the recall signal, might as well let him do some work, I’ve set location for about the same time, really can’t be bothered to do today again.”
“Yeah, I’m exhausted....” Isobel continued for him, “....time for a shower and bed, what time do we have to be up in the morning Rich?”
“First thing....” Rich replied, “....then it’s another million years into the future from here to see how our friends are doing.”
“OK, jumpers online and Tethys is waiting, everyone in ya seats please.” Nick called,
Nick straps himself down in the flying deck’s chair and holds on, the team below hold on and wait. An automated voice announces,
........jump. The world goes static and the Sea Mist is yanked into the time pocket, headed back for the twenty-first century.