Follows Double Vision ….
Refraction in the Looking Glass
Admiral Harriman Nelson stood on the concrete combination pier and seawall that made up one side of Seaview’s underground berth and glared at his two senior command officers, trying to intimidate them into submission, uncomfortably aware that much of the crew was covertly watching - and rooting for the captain and XO. The two officers in question were glaring back at him, faces stubbornly set. He couldn’t help a mental cringe at the identical expression in those two very different sets of eyes, because that little nagging voice in the back of his mind told him that this time they were both very right - which meant that he was very wrong.
They’d just made it back from another test of the ‘Looking Glass’, a portal device that enabled passage into alternate universes. Unfortunately, this time he’d chosen to take the device aboard Seaview and the result had been near disaster. As they’d bounced uncontrollably through several universes, it began to look like they might not ever find their way back to their own. Finally, at least as much as anyone could tell, they’d returned to their proper place. The two senior officers had been adamant that once back, the device be removed from Seaview and destroyed.
He’d agreed to remove it from the boat, and had, for it now sat in several boxes on the pier waiting to be transported back to his lab. He had not however, agreed to destroy the machine and that was the source of the current conflict with his officers.
He opened his mouth to tell them that they would continue this conversation in his office, in private, when something started to hum in the air and ground around them. As Crane and Morton’s eyes widened in alarm and the rest of the crew could be seen scattering for cover, a familiar green glow began flickering through Seaview’s subpen. Nelson cringed and braced himself for the unpleasant effects of passage into another universe.
The loud splash from Seaview’s far side combined with the abrupt cessation of the humming noise caught everyone off guard. It appeared that no one had gone anywhere - so what had just happened? All eyes, including the Admiral’s, turned to see what the splash had been just in time to observe Seaview heave in the water and surge sideways on a wave, crashing into her fenders and grinding ominously against the concrete of the seawall before bouncing back and straining at her mooring lines. The wave itself splashed up onto the pier and seawall, sweeping men and equipment towards the outer walls of the subpen.
Crane and Morton had both bolted for the boat before she’d even hit and somehow made it through the surging water and across the gangplank before her roll away had pulled one end free, dropping it between sub and pier. A second roll back towards the pier and the screech of compressing metal ricocheted off the stone walls. Nelson grimaced; at least no one had been on the walkway when it fell to be crushed between ship and concrete. He’d managed to stay on his feet, since Seaview had partially blocked the wave where he had been standing, but his uniform trousers were soaked to the knees.
But what the heck had fallen to cause the wave in the first place?
Nelson craned his neck to see what lay beyond Seaview and abruptly realized that another submarine was bobbing in the turbulent water.
He couldn’t help but stare as the hairs on the back of his neck prickled.
The boat that lay beyond was less than a third of the length of his Grey Lady and had a hull that was a sooty black color so dark that seemed to almost absorb light. But the slant of the sail with its half-moon sailplanes and the sweep of the forward hull were far too familiar to be mere coincidence. His eyes looked to the stern and found a configuration radically different from his own boat - or any other he‘d ever seen - immediately leading him to wonder just what the main propulsion system was. The boat looked far too small to be nuclear powered, but the pod shaped ducted impellors - there appeared to be four in total - were each perched on the end of a stubby ‘wing’ placed where the stern planes and rudders on an ordinary nuclear sub would be. From their position they had to be electrically powered rather than on drive shafts, which suggested either a reactor far more compact than anything from his own world - or something far more exotic. The boat even possessed four windows in the bow, though they were small and round like portholes, spaced widely apart, rather than stretching all the way across. Where Seaview was a lean, graceful Borzoi, this boat was a stocky bulldog, wider in proportion to its length than any sub he’d ever seen.
In spite of all the differences he had the sinking feeling that he was looking at an alternate version of Seaview. But who did she belong too? An alternate of himself?
The black submarine seemed to shake herself out of stunned immobilization. She pivoted in place to bring her bow around towards Seaview and the pier. Nelson knew a brief spurt of envy, for that one maneuver revealed a dexterity in confined spaces that was unheard of in any type of vessel he was familiar with, save perhaps a tugboat with swivel screws. But the action also made the hair on the back of his neck do more than prickle. It had been performed with a naturalness and ease that no machine he was familiar with could possibly match. His own Seaview certainly couldn’t.
A face appeared in one of the sub’s portholes - a familiar and entirely unexpected face.
Nelson felt his jaw drop, even as the other looked back at him, her face registering surprise and recognition. He lifted a hand and paused, unsure what to do. The woman clearly wasn’t the Voyage fan she resembled, whom he’d met before, but….
The green energy blossomed again as suddenly as it had just a moment before and enveloped the strange boat. With a loud SNAP, she vanished as swiftly as she had appeared, leaving Nelson standing frozen for a few seconds in shock and disbelief. Finally he gave himself a shake and turned to look for Crane and Morton. They were standing on Seaview’s deck forward of the sail, still staring at where the other sub had been. He suppressed a faint smile; it was clear from their postures they’d seen the same thing he had. Probably even better than he had, since they’d been closer.
Almost as one the pair turned to stare accusingly at him, then cut their eyes towards the stack of boxes now strewn haphazardly across the pier. Nelson harrumphed at the unspoken accusation and crossed his arms. This hadn’t been his doing - at least he didn’t think it had.
So how had the other boat wound up here?
It was imperative he find out.
“Well,” said a deep male voice that seemed to emanate from the very air in the small cockpit-like control room, “that was certainly unexpected. But what just happened, Captain?”
“Damned if I know, Tinman,” responded the woman as she settled back into the captain’s seat. “It sure looked like we met a version of IA’s Seaview.”
There was a moment of silence. “I suppose it did,” said the voice dubiously, “but how could something like that even exist?”
The woman rubbed her chin thoughtfully for a moment. “Were you able to record the event? Can you play it back?”
“Certainly.” A screen on one wall blinked to life and replayed their brief crossing to … somewhere else. At the point where the cameras had gotten the best view of the other submarine, the picture froze. The Captain leaned forward and closely studied the picture, noting the differences between the image of the apparently real boat that floated in the water of that enclosed subpen and the fictional Seaview from television and cinema.
“Not quite the same,” she commented after a moment. “I think that might actually be a functional design.”
“Indeed,” agreed Tinman, “though certainly not to my standard.”
The Captain laughed. “Tinman Seaview, no one else is to your standard.”
A chuckle filled the air briefly before the boat added, “By the way, Captain, does it seem like the Admiral - I suppose that must be Nelson since he looks like the actor in the role - recognized you?”
“Yeah,” she admitted somewhat ruefully, “and so did the captain and XO from what I saw. And they didn’t look too happy about it.” She shrugged, then added, “They also didn’t act quite like you’d expect at the way we appeared either. Makes a body wonder if Nelson has been experimenting with portals as well.”
There was a thoughtful silence in the control room.
“It might be interesting if we knew just what he might know. So far we haven’t been able to make the passage permanent - and we’re going to have to if we want to survive.”
The adventure continues…..