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Rated: 13+ · Chapter · Sci-fi · #2294242
Icebound, from Meco's Encounters of Every Kind

Nick stared up at the pistols just inches from his face, speechless. His mind scrambled to take in their situation.

“Who the hell are you?” a deep, gruff voice demanded.

“I…uh…” Nick couldn’t form words, still trying to get a grip on where they were.

“I asked who the hell you are,” the voice repeated, more forcefully.

Nick began to make out a group of men in uniform surrounding them. They appeared to be in a cramped room with dials, switches, and other contraptions completely covering every surface.

“My name is Blake, and this is my friend Nick.” Blake answered in a trembling voice.

Nick appreciated Blake being able to answer the man, because he didn’t want to find out what their interrogator might do if he had to ask a third time.

“How the hell did you get aboard my sub?”

Nick noted that the man seemed to be the one in charge. The guns never wavered during their grilling.

Nick cleared his throat. “I’m a scientist and I’ve developed this time-machine which appears to have the capability to take us to different points in time and space.” He expected raucous laughter from the crew but none of them reacted. They remained stone-faced.

“I’d like to say that’s a load of crap, but if I hadn’t seen it happen before my eyes, I’d shoot you both between the eyes.”

“Think they’re Russkies, Cap?” one of the men holding a gun to Nick’s temple asked.

“If they are, they’re pretty stupid Russkies.” The captain shook his head. “They wouldn’t have chosen to come here on this sub. Stand down. Return to your stations.” The men lowered their weapons and turned away. Several of them moved back but did not take their eyes off of Nick and Blake.

Nick relaxed and he heard a sigh of relief from Blake. The captain did not move and kept his pistol aimed in their direction. Nick took the opportunity to explain his invention.

“I designed it based on the concepts of the Philadelphia Experiment in 19--”

“How do you know about that?” the captain snapped. “Nobody is supposed to know about that. You are spies!” He raised the gun.

“No, sir!” Nick pleaded. “We come from the future where that experiment is now common knowledge. I used the principles the Navy tried back then and improved them. I added some safety features as well so we wouldn’t materialize in solid objects.”

The captain appeared to be pondering Nick’s words. “Is that thing dangerous? Is it a nuke?”

“It doesn’t use a nuclear source for its power, sir.” Nick felt more at ease talking about something he did know. “It has a matter/anti-matter generator which is how it opens up portals to different times and places.” He looked at the indicators. “This says we’re in 1968?”

“Sounds a bit like that Star Trek show on television,” the captain said with a suspicious tone. “You saying it isn’t science fiction?”

“Captain Donahue!” a voice from the din called out. “The Soviets are returning!”

“Take her down another hundred feet.” The captain ended his interrogation, turning to shout orders. “Let’s hope that damn time-machine didn’t alert them to our position.” He gave Nick a stern look.

“It doesn’t emit any radiation or electromagnetic energy that could be detected,” Nick said quickly.

A soft ping, barely audible, echoed through the submarine.

“Sonar,” someone nearby whispered.

“Soviet vessel approaching, sir,” another said.

“Is this submarine the USS Miami?” Blake whispered to a sailor next to him.

The sailor nodded without speaking and never taking his eyes off of controls in front of him.

“Look at you with all your military history knowledge--” Nick began to say, but Blake cut him off.

“We have to get off this submarine now!” Blake whispered into his ear.

“Why? You know this thing takes some time to recharge.”

“I remember reading about the USS Miami. It disappeared without a trace in the Antarctic Ocean in 1968. Her captain was Donahue at the time she vanished. The crew was never heard from again.”

Nick paled as Blake recounted the story of how the Soviets were suspected of destroying the USS Miami, but nothing could ever be proven. The Soviets, of course, denied having to do anything with the American submarine.

“Are you sure?” Nick hoped his friend was mistaken.

“I’ve read a lot of books and articles about the Cold War,” Blake said. “This is one of the biggest mysteries of that time. Conspiracy theorists are having a heyday with it. Do you think we should warn the captain?”

“I don’t know. What happens if we change history? If the Miami doesn’t disappear, how does that change the Cold War and the present? Did the USS Miami play a critical role in the Cold War before she vanished, or is she just a footnote in history? Just another Antarctic mystery?”

“Good points,” Blake said. “But I can’t see how saving the lives of dozens of sailors could be a bad thing.”

“Shh!” Captain Donahue hissed in their direction. Nick and Blake went silent. The pinging grew louder, and the crew communicated in hand gestures and sign language.

Nick then realized that he had been holding his breath. He let it out as quietly as he could and turned his attention back to the time-machine. He recognized that he had to get it working even if the Soviet ship detected them.

His mind swirled with thoughts and ideas, trying to figure out how, if possible, he could speed up the recharging process. He tinkered with the few controls, and a 3-D image appeared above the machine.

“Whoa!” Blake gasped. “I didn’t know it could do that.”

“I said shut---!” Captain Donahue growled, then his eyes grew wide. “What the hell is that?”

Everyone in the control room spun around and gaped at the spectacle above Nick’s time-machine. Blood rushed to Nick’s face as he unwittingly became the center of unwanted attention again.

“It’s how I can make repairs and adjustments to the matter/antimatter source,” he replied. “I’ve got to see if I can speed up the recharging process and see if I can get it to stop making random jumps in time.”

“As you were,” Donahue snapped to his crew.

“Sir, the Soviet ship is still approaching but not on an intercept course,” a sailor said. “She might not have seen us.”

“Good,” Donahue replied. “Keep an eye on her though. Let me know if she changes course.”

“Aye, sir.”

The pings from the sonar grew louder, but then began to soften. Nick noticed that the crew members seemed to relax a little. Still on edge, but not as uptight.

“Hurry,” Blake mouthed instead of speaking.

“I am,” Nick responded in the same manner. He scoured his memories, going back to the theory, the tests, the design, and finally, the manufacture of the machine. Why had it become so erratic? He started tinkering with it, making adjustments to optimize its performance, and maybe get them back home. Nearly getting eaten by dinosaurs or being scorched to death by a volcano were not what he expected.

“Sir, the Soviet ship is changing course.”

Nick did not look up from his task but could sense a shift in the men.

“She’s coming about.”

The pinging which had almost faded away began to grow louder.

“She’s heading straight for us, sir!” The crewman’s voice rose to a shout.

“Hard to port!” Donahue called out. “Dive! Take her down 10 degrees, to 400 meters!”

The sudden dip in the submarine nearly caused Nick to tumble over but Blake held on to him and kept him from rolling away.

“C’mon, Nick. What’s happening with that damn thing?”

“I’m working on it,” Nick responded, irritated. “I’m trying to get us back to our time, but--”

A deafening explosion outside knocked the submarine into a serious tilt. The lights flickered and went out.

“Depth charges, sir!”

“Thanks for that information, Pendergast. I had no idea!” Donahue snapped. “Maintain your positions!”

The lights came back on and the sub righted.

“Nick, we are about to get blown up along with the Miami,” Blake spoke in a calm voice, but it was tinged with fear.

“I know. I’m working as fast as I can.”

Another explosion sounded closer and had the same effect, but this time, pipes sprang leaks, sending water and other fluids spraying into the faces of the men. They sputtered and shouted for assistance. When the lights came on again, sailors appeared from nowhere and began working to stop the leaks.

“Just push the damn button, please!” Blake pleaded.

“I can’t. My calculations aren’t finished.”

“We’re finished if you don’t get us out of here.”

A third depth charge exploded and the walls of the submarine caved in. Sea water gushed through the opening. Men shouted in horror.

With Blake’s arms draped over his shoulder, Nick closed his eyes and hit the button on the time-machine, just as ice cold water washed over him.

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