Through the Looking Glass: Visions of Atlantis
Chip Morton stood at the doorway to the room where Admiral Nelson was working on the dimensional portal with his arms folded and a scowl on his face. He had hoped after the failure to get the portal to access any other universe than the one it had originally connected with that the Admiral would have by now given up on it and moved on to other things. Most sensible people would have at any rate - but then most sensible people would have been more wary of the danger the machine represented.
Not Admiral Harriman Nelson. There were times when Chip would have liked to take his superior by the ears and give him a good shake to see if he couldn‘t knock some sense into the man; this was definitely one of those times. When Nelson’s curiosity overrode his common sense, he was like a runaway horse with the bit in it’s teeth and nothing short of disaster could turn him from his path.
At least the blighted thing wasn’t unstable any more, he thought with a mental sigh. Reflexively he rubbed a shoulder in remembered agony. Passage through into an alternate universe in the portal’s previous state had been a painful process, something he was far too familiar with. Maybe if the Admiral had been the one tossed through on his ear into another world, he’d be less enthusiastic about pursuing the project. One thing was for sure, though - he wasn’t volunteering for any more trips, even if the machine was working smoothly.
A noise behind him caught his attention. Chip turned his head to find that Seaview’s captain, Lee Crane, had come up to stand behind him, peering over his shoulder at the machine that their admiral was tinkering with. His CO gave him a tight smile; the captain hated the damned thing almost as much as he did and preferred not to get any closer to it than he had to.
A sudden loud crackling pop filled the room, followed by a muffled curse from the direction of the machine. Chip’s head snapped back to face forward even as he stepped back in alarm, almost colliding with Crane. An all too familiar hum filled the officers’ ears as bright green energy flared, careening around the room, rapidly building into a tornado of energy that began to list in their direction. Thoroughly alarmed, Chip whirled and grabbed his captain by the arm, pushing him back out into the corridor behind them.
Or rather tried to.
Crane was fighting to get into the room. As he looked over his shoulder to see why, Chip could dimly see Nelson, arm raised over his face for protection, backed up against the far wall. So far the swirling helix of energy had left the admiral untouched, but the burning sensation on Morton’s skin told him that he and Crane weren’t going to be so lucky - especially if the captain continued his unwise attempt to reach Nelson.
The captain jerked out of his grip. Caught off balance, Chip sprawled into the hallway. Equally off balance, Crane staggered forward - right into the building vortex. There was the familiar bright flash….
When Chip’s vision returned, Nelson was picking himself up off the floor, but of Captain Crane there was no sign.
“Well, shit,” Morton said out loud, not caring if Nelson or anybody else overheard.
Lee Crane landed flat on his stomach with a thud and an oomph of expelled air. Bright afterimages danced in his eyes; his skin felt flayed and his mind struggled to recover from the sensory overload it had just been dealt. Somewhere off to one side he heard gasps of surprise and unfamiliar voices raised in alarm. The realization that he’d just fallen through the portal flashed through his mind. As the worst of the after effects began to fade, he managed to roll over on his side, trying to see just where he’d landed. He fervently hoped it wasn’t in the middle of one of those damned conventions.
It was one of those ‘oh, shit’ moments as he registered the fact that he was on a ship, having materialized from thin air in front of what was obviously a civilian crew - and the captain’s chair was occupied by a middle aged woman with grayish-brown hair and an almost elfin shaped face. She and the rest of the bridge crew were looking at him in what could only be described as astonishment mixed with trepidation, if not horror.
“Oh, crap,” he couldn’t help muttering under his breath. Chip had warned him about that other universe’s tendency to have females in occupations that in his own world would have been filled by men; he had a sinking feeling the woman might well be this vessel’s captain.
He needed to defuse the situation before their surprise translated into action and they heaved him over the side as a threat.
He managed to lever himself into a sitting position and said into the hushed silence, “Permission to come aboard?”
The woman started in surprise at the seeming non sequitur, but the apprehension in her eyes began to be replaced by mere puzzlement - and a trace of humor. “Aren’t you supposed to ask that before you drop in a heap on the middle of my bridge?” she asked him dryly.
He gave her a small grin back. “If I’d know I was coming, I would have, Captain.”
She snorted in what might have been amusement and the rest of the crew around her began to slightly relax.
“So was this trip unplanned - or just the destination?”
“Both of the above,” Lee responded in equally dry tones. “I think the Admiral must have accidentally shorted something out - this wasn’t supposed to happen at all.”
She took in his khakis and silver oak leaf collar pin. “Navy, huh. I won’t even ask,” she replied, throwing up her hands.
He laughed at that. “It’d help if I knew where I was, though.”
“Welcome aboard the RV Atlantis from Woods Hole, Commander. We’re just off of Vancouver Island, headed for the Gulf of Alaska. I’m Captain Mitzi Crane.”
Lee’s mouth dropped open in astonishment. Crane? Her last name was Crane?
Captain Crane gave him a perplexed look at his obviously stunned reaction, but she wasn’t quite sure what he was reacting to.
“Er..” He closed his mouth with a snap and managed to look embarrassed. “Commander Lee,” he paused wondering how she would react, then finished, “Crane.”
Mitzi Crane blinked in surprise; someone else on the bridge snorted, but Lee wasn’t sure if it was because they didn’t believe him or if it was because they found it as bizarre as he did. He just needed to confirm one final detail though.
“Er, would it sound crazy if I asked you what today’s date is?”
He suddenly found himself once more being regarded with a wary look by Atlantis’ crew and captain. The scrutiny of the latter was particularly intense.
“Is there some particular reason you think it might not be the day you… left?” she asked.
Lee hitched his shoulders uncomfortably as he considered whether or not to tell her that he knew this wasn’t his own universe. “Well,” he finally admitted, “the last time something like this happened, no, it wasn’t the same day at the other end.”
“Humph.” That sounded so much like Nelson it was almost funny. “I suppose… it’s August 1, 2004.”
Lee grimaced. Not the same year as Storm’s world was now, but about two years behind. That meant the Admiral had finally succeeded in getting the portal to access a different universe. He wasn’t sure if he should laugh or cry; Nelson wouldn’t give up on the stupid machine if Lee got back with this news. It left him wondering if Seaview had ever existed here, or if this was another world where they’d only been fiction.
“I take it from your reaction it’s not the day you left.” Mitzi Crane gave him a look that was almost sympathetic. “If you don’t mind my asking, how much time did you lose?”
Lee sighed and thought about the answer. Finally he shook his head and told her ruefully, “About thirty years, give or take.”
There was a shocked intake of breath from those around him. “Good Heavens,” exclaimed Mitzi. “You mean - it was in the 1970s when this happened?” Her eyes narrowed as a thought struck her. “Or was it 2034?”
“I’m not from the future - if I had been, I’d have known this was coming,” he pointed out. That seemed to somewhat reassure Captain Crane and her bridge crew.
“So you’ve been missing for thirty years?”
“Er..” Was now the time to mention something about alternate timelines? Or ask about Seaview? “Actually, I probably haven’t.” God, he hated it when other people beat around the bush giving him information - he could just imagine what wild theories these people were coming up with. “Not to avoid the subject, but have any of you ever heard of a submarine named Seaview?”
The helmsman looked over his shoulder in surprise. “After the one in that old movie?”
“Movie?” Fictional then - dammit.
“Yeah, back in the early sixties. Walter Pidgeon, Robert Sterling. That the one you mean?”
“No TV series?” The question seemed to surprise the others; they all looked at the helmsman as he shook his head.
Lee sighed. Well, that eliminated a problem, but at the same time might well be one. He thought he remembered the Voyage fans referring to the aforementioned names in connection with the movie in their universe, but apparently for some reason the series never happened here.
It finally connected for the helmsman. “Wait a minute,” he blurted out, “the captain of the sub in the movie was named Lee Crane!”
Mitzi Crane had turned back to him, suspicion once more in her expression. “What is this really all about,” she asked, “and who are you really?”
“Captain Lee Crane,” he said with a rueful smile, “of the SSRN Seaview. Just not this universe.” He could see their suspicious looks turning baffled - and then the green energy flared up out of the deck , sending him whirling into nothingness.
His last coherent thought was that he hoped the damn thing was taking him back where he belonged - and to wonder what the crew of the Atlantis would think about the whole affair.
Chip had no more than reached Nelson when the portal machine hummed back to life. He threw up his arm to shield his eyes, but after only a brief spasm, the energy died away again. When he lowered his arm, the first thing he saw was the prostrate body of Lee Crane lying in front of the doorway.
The two of them rushed to Lee’s side. Nelson sank to his knees, feeling for a pulse in Crane’s neck. Chip could see the relief on the admiral’s face as he found it. The captain twitched at being touched, then groaned as he started to regain consciousness. Hazel eyes fluttered open, blurrily focusing on the faces above.
“Am I back?” he asked, slurring slightly.
“Yeah, buddy,” Chip told him, relieved. “You weren’t gone but a few minutes. Where’d you wind up?”
“On a research ship off the Canadian Pacific coast.” Lee struggled to sit up, but was still clearly somewhat frayed around the edges. “The RV Atlantis. Captain Mitzi Crane commanding.”
“Mitzi?” Chip couldn’t help a laugh. “What kind of a name is Mitzi?
“She didn’t say.”
“She?” Chip rolled his eyes. “You wound up in Storm’s universe didn’t you?”
To their utter astonishment Lee shook his head. “This one was two years behind the other one and Seaview was only in the movie. No TV series.”
Chip couldn’t help a grimace and heartfelt ‘damn’ under his breath, especially when he saw Nelson’s eyes light up in triumph in at having finally succeeded, even if only partially. They’d never get him to give up now.
He looked down to see his own rueful expression mirrored in Lee Crane’s eyes and couldn’t help the thought that times were about to get very interesting. He’s just bet on it.
Epilogue - RV Atlantis, Somewhere in Another Universe
“Skipper,” asked the first mate, “How the hell are you going to log what happened?”
Captain Mitzi Crane turned to regard him thoughtfully. “I’m not at all sure we should.”
“There’s no proof the man was ever aboard. The only people who saw him were those of us on the bridge at the time. He wasn’t here more than a few minutes. He said he wasn’t from this universe - whatever that meant. If the name he gave was real - and the sub really existed where he was from - I don’t think I want to know. And it might be our careers to even mention what happened, even if we were believed.” She paused, then added. “Maybe especially if we were believed…”
The first mate reflected on her words for a moment, then shivered in apprehension. “For what it’s worth, Skipper, when you put it that way - well - I’m gonna be like Schultz. I see nothing, I know nothing.”
Mitzi Crane dryly laughed, even as she wondered if the man who’d told her his name was Lee Crane had made it home - and if she’d ever see him again.