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
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
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
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
“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
“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
“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…..