Dina was on her knees, her hands grasping at tufts of dry grass as she wailed into the night, then Henry dropped to her side and whispered in her ear –
– and like a switch had been thrown she stopped – crying, breathing, thinking –
– and in the next instant she too disappeared.
“Fuck-goddam-shit!” Anton roared as he stumbled backwards, tripping over a dock line and vaulting into the canal – again.
Mike looked at Henry. “Them?” he asked, pointing at the sky.
“Yup. And I think we just got caught up in a dominance dance.”
“Swell. Say, what is it with this guy? He really must like falling into the canal?”
“He’s not a particularly good swimmer, is he? I guess we ought to help him again.”
“Better than watching him drown.”
Henry nodded. “I suppose it’s time to tell him what’s going on.”
“That ought to be fun. Mind if I listen in?”
“Better than self abuse, I reckon.”
Eva had crept down to the rocks, the gathering crowds still just out of sight, but the orcas were nowhere to be seen – and without them the water would be unbearably cold. Then…she saw a vague disturbance in the water and without thinking dove in.
‘What if it’s a shark?’ she thought as she swam a few feet under the surface…
Then a blinding white light hit her and she looked up through the clear water, saw a police helicopter hovering almost directly overhead, then a diver in a red and yellow drysuit jumping from the helicopter’s float, almost landing on top of her…
…but when the disturbance cleared the diver found this second naked woman was gone too…as if she too had simply disappeared. Boats and divers moved to this new area, but an hour later this latest search was called off. Again.
“So,” Anton said, still clearly exasperated, “this group you belong to, was in Seattle, yes?”
“This Boeing group builds one of these space ships, but it never works. This is right?”
“Correct. The flight control system is maintained by direct neural link. We could never get it to respond to our efforts.”
“Ship is still in Seattle?”
“As far as I know. There were also ships out on Long island and Edwards Air Force Base.”
“What about this Area 51? Nothing there?”
Taggart shrugged. “If there is, I don’t know about it.”
“What about you. You think you can fly now? This reach out thing you speak of…is this not the means to control such aircraft?”
“It could be. We had no idea how specific and focused such thoughts could be, at least not then. Just food for thought here, Anton, but there were people still at work on the problem when I left a few years ago. There’s no telling how far along they are now.”
“Maybe that why The Others leave now, maybe?”
“We must get one of these ships,” Anton sighed. “We can get girls back, and the boy too, if we have such a ship.”
“But,” Mike interjected, “they don’t need ships, do they? They can just reach out and take anyone, anywhere. Right?”
“It sure looks that way,” Henry nodded, “but you’ve got to keep one thing in mind: most of this behavior is new to me. They’ve not done things like this before, so I really have no idea what their real capabilities are.”
“Only that they’re probably millions of years further along the evolutionary ladder that we are,” Mike added.
Henry sighed. “We play chess. They play chess in four dimensions.”
“Four?” Anton asked. “How this so?”
“Time is the fourth dimension, at least I think it is.”
“They move around time?” Anton asked, almost gagging, clearly struggling with the idea.
“I think so, but I have no proof.”
“Then ship make no difference. Would be fun though.”
Henry looked around the canal, at the massive damage that had been left in the storm’s wake, as he watched the sun rising through silhouettes of burnt trees and smoldering rubble. “We’re going to need to push through these lines and get out to sea – and today, if possible.”
“What about…” Anton began, then he stopped. “Da, they find us if they want.”
“Yeah. And I don’t want to get caught in here if conditions deteriorate.”
“What are you thinking?” Mike asked. “Riots?”
“Or worse. If food and medical supply distribution stops for a few days, there’s no telling how fast a collapse might happen. Anyway, I don’t want to find out.”
“Okay,” Anton said, standing up and moving to the aft deck, “so we get dock lines and you start engine. We talk about no more, we go.”
“I like the way you think, Anton…”
And then Dina and Rolf reappeared – just a few inches from the aviator –
– who shrieked before somersaulting over the rail into the canal. Once again.
Eva tried to get her bearings again, and failed – again. She was submerged in some kind of fluid – yet she was breathing – and it was pitch black here – wherever here was.
‘Clear your mind,’ a voice told her. ‘Others are searching for you, and they intend to take you away.’
‘Clear your mind.’
But that was impossible. She was caught like a fly in honey – at night – with no idea where she was – and it was impossible to think of anything else.
But then she felt warmth on her flesh and she recognized the smooth skin of the large female, and in a heartbeat a sense of well being permeated the space around her. She relaxed when she felt the offered pectoral, and after she took hold she felt them moving through the void…
Rolf helped Anton climb back up onto the swim platform, but then Rolf sniffed the air around the Russian and stepped back. “Henry? I think he’s covered in diesel fuel…?”
Dina hopped down to the platform and pulled out the shower head, but when she turned the valve nothing happened. “Is the breaker on?” she called out to the cockpit.
Henry shrugged then ducked below. After he turned it on he picked up a bottle a glycerin soap and carried it topsides. “Here, use this,” he said as he handed the bottle to Dina.
Dina used a huge natural sponge and warm water to lather up the burly aviator – who seemed to enjoy the whole thing a little too much –
“You’ll need to toss the clothes,” Henry added. “That stuff will ruin marine washing machines without special detergents. Breaks down the seals, and the discharge is illegal.”
“So – what? You want I should take off clothes here?”
Dina turned away, trying to hide her grin; Rolf held open a large trash bag and waited for Anton to dump the clothes before carrying it to a nearby dumpster. Dina handed the bottle of soap to Anton and smiled: “Here you go. I ain’t gonna wash your pecker for you, ya know?”
Anton smiled then got to work on his own equipment while everyone else got to work reeling in dock lines. A half hour later Time Bandits began inching her way back towards the ruins of Zeebrugge, the water in the canal an oily mix of fuel residue and fire retardants – and scattered hunks of scorched debris clogged to waterway, making it quite possible the engine’s cooling water inlet could be fouled in an instant. Oddly enough, the closer they came to the port the less occluded the water became, until with about a mile to go to the open sea the canal cleared completely.
Fire services were still hard at work putting out fires near the few remaining fuel storage tanks lining the canal and, eerily enough, they were the only structures still standing. What Epsilon’s winds had spared the fires had taken, and the landscape here felt little different than what they’d so recently witnessed around Rotterdam. Henry was heartened to find the entry locks manned, and they locked through with almost no delay and were back in the English Channel.
“I didn’t mean to ignore you,” he at last said to Dina, “but where did you two go?”
“Go? What do you mean?”
“You and Rolf were gone for quite a while.”
“I do not know what you are talking about. We went nowhere.”
“So, on to France?” she asked.
He looked at her then slowly nodded. “Yes, I think so. We have a clear weather window right now, and it looks like rough weather might follow Epsilon, only coming from the north this time.”
“Looks like a real possibility.”
“What is happening, Henry?”
“The planet has been in a state of equilibrium for thousands of years, but for some reason that’s changing now. My guess is it will take a while for a new equilibrium to take hold.”
“A while? What does that mean?”
“Your guess is as good as mine, but I’d assume there’s evidence in the geologic record for similar events.” Henry absentmindedly looked at the compass then did a double take; the NAV page on the chartplotter showed their current heading was 320 degrees magnetic, but the ship’s compass was showing something completely unexpected. Magnetic north was now almost due south, and their current compass heading was 140 degrees – which led to a nauseating series of conclusions. Either the earth’s magnetic poles had flipped or the Mother of all coronal mass ejections was slamming into the atmosphere. He glanced upwards and his stomach lurched.
“What’s wrong?” Dina asked.
“Look at the compass,” he replied, keeping his voice down.
She leaned over and looked, then shook her head: “That can’t be correct.”
“Assume it is. Where does that lead you?”
“If polarity flipped, wouldn’t that effect the normal operation of electricity? Even our electronics?”
He nodded. “Yup. So, what else could do it?”
“I don’t know, Henry, but you’re beginning to scare me.”
“Don’t make a big deal about it, but look up…”
She looked up through the scudding clouds and her eyes went wide. “Oh no…” she managed to say – before all sound was pushed aside by a deep pulsing vibration…a strange, foreign sound, almost like a giant electrical transformer was up there on the far side of the sky. And it was coming closer now.
© 2020 adrian leverkühn | abw | this is a work of fiction, pure and simple; the next element will drop soon.