Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Flash Fiction Friday (Cycle 33) The Unseen Frontier


Flash Fiction Friday Prompt: Write a story based on a common conspiracy theory
Genre: Any
Word Count: 1000 words
Deadline: Thursday, June 2nd, 2011, 4:30 pm EST

(Author's note: Excuse the typos, I couldn't sleep this morning and did this after working all night.) 




The minute I saw Admiral Hank Wallace, the US military’s 21st century version of General Leslie Groves of Manhattan Project fame, step onto the stage with three other major league theoretical physicists I should have immediately walked out the auditorium. That the Secretaries of the Navy and Defense were present and already seated only added to the seriousness of the classified briefing about to begin and whatever dangers were associated with Wallace’s latest classified high tech adventure.

My major during my Naval Academy days was physics with an emphasis in quantum mechanics but there was little use for it after graduation. The fickle lady called Fate pushed me into guided missile destroyers as a career path and as the years passed, I worked my way up to the ranks to navy captain commanding several of the most advanced ships in the fleet. Still, my curiosity never strayed far from my original studies and I did my best to keep up with the latest research, just the idea of working with those physicists on stage was the main reason I did not leave.

“Welcome everyone,” the admiral said after nodding to the Secretary of Defense, “you may be wondering why you were personally selected for this briefing. Each of you have talents that will be very useful should you choose to participate in an upcoming experiment that will shake the foundations of science and reality itself.”

While grander words have been said about far lesser plans, watching Wallace on stage there was a look in his eyes suggesting to me that he was not overstating the matter. Nevertheless, an unbelieving murmur rippled through the room, enough that I began to look around at the others in the audience. I noticed immediately I was the senior officer with the highest ranking after that being a female Commander who I knew designed nuclear reactors but whose degree was in high-energy physics. I also recognized several others as being the best in their navy professions covering all aspects of running a ship.

Admiral Wallace was clearly enjoying the stir he created but eventually raising his right hand, signaling everyone to quiet down. “Simply put, he began again, “the best way to introduce the subject is to ask how many of you have ever heard of something called the ‘The Philadelphia experiment’?” My jaw nearly fell to the floor but over the course of several hours we were briefed that long laughed at conspiratorial myth, spoken of these days on insane late night radio talk shows actually happened and that while the results were disastrous navy scientists had spent decades trying to figure out what happened.

During the Second World War a collection of Allied scientists were playing around with various theories trying to make a test vessel, the USS Eldridge, invisible both on radar and visually. While a very long shot, the War Department back then liked the idea of cloaked warships and freighters on the high seas invisible to German and Japanese submarines.

As the briefing continued, with Wallace giving up the stage to the civilian scientists, we all learned that while the crew of the Eldridge suffered greatly with many horrible causalities the ship did in fact disappear, only to reappear hundreds of miles away. After decades of research into what happened, the consensus was now that the Eldridge slipped into another Earth in a parallel universe and its uncontrolled return was the actual cause of the horrendous effects on the crew.  Making matters more interesting, the chief scientists told us the experiment had recently been repeated with no ill effects on the small patrol craft and crew sent across.

Wallace returned to the stage saying that he had won approval to send a larger ship across with far greater range to begin exploration of whatever Earth lay on the other side. Wallace’s reputation was only whispered about and none of it was good, but my initial reservations be damned, this was an unbelievable dream come true for me and I was ready to do anything it took to command that ship going into the unknown.

***

A year later I am sitting in the captain’s chair on the bridge of the USS Pathfinder, a guided missile destroyer armed with the latest weapons, looking out the windows watching the very fabric of reality twist. The Pathfinder sat in the middle of a circle of fifty buoys each with a powerful electromagnetic generator pulsing in a complex rhythm that would drop us into the parallel Earth it was our mission to explore. For a while, I did not believe the experiment was working until I noticed the buoys and support ships that surrounded us had disappeared leaving us alone in open ocean.

“Transition complete Captain Matthews,” my executive officer Commander Maggie Oliver said after reviewing the data on a computer, “we have reached normalcy.”

It was the understatement of all of human history but I let it go and began ordering all hands to inspect the ship and equipment. Most importantly, we dropped the locator buoy, which would mark the exact spot we would need to be when the Wallace reversed the pulses to bring us back home in thirty days. Until then we were completely on our own.

We were soon underway after using the stars to fix our position heading towards whatever existed on this Earth’s North American continent. My hope was a healthy and welcoming version of the United States for which we had elaborate documents from our president hoping for good relations. However, scanning the radio frequencies we heard only distorted voices, mostly in Russian, that raised the hairs on the back of my neck.

Two days later our worst fears were conformed as we sailed into what remained of New York harbor, the city was blasted with Lady Liberty a melted pile of slag. Instead of being totally boxed in I launched the helicopter for a more detailed reconnaissance, of immediate concern were the radiation levels, which were slightly elevated suggesting whatever war had been fought was long over.

“Captain,” the radar officer screamed suddenly, “I have two targets just coming into view near Montauk. Sorry sir, it must be the radiation playing hell with the radar.”

“This is new to all of us,” I said growing more concerned by the second, “helmsman lay in an intercept course, full speed.”

An hour later, the two ships came into view, both were designs unknown to us but the red flag bearing the hammer and sickle was easily recognized. “General quarters,” I yelled, “all hands battle stations.” We had twenty-eight days left before Wallace called us back; I prayed my ship and crew survived that long.


26 comments:

Pixel Peeper said...

This needs to become a book! Have you looked into self-publishing e-books? I just read an article a few weeks ago about it (http://www.buffalonews.com/incoming/article422442.ece) - I thought of you when I read about the former CIA agent and thriller author. Hope the link works.

Tag said...

Oh yeah, Good topic and a nice beginning to go with it. Alternate universe or time travel. I like it.

John McElveen said...

WOW!!!!!

Next!!!!!!!!!!!!!! and hurry!

J

Windsmoke. said...

A time traveling battleship ending up in a alternative earth where the russians rule the earth. Fantastic sci-fi story it had me hooked from start to finish, very enjoyable :-).

Beach Bum said...

Pixel: Self publishing? No, my writing needs to improve a good bit more before I start anything like that. But thanks since I started doing this stuff for fun I do think I have improved.

Tag: Welcome! Already got you on my blogroll.

I view this as an alternate universe story, I'm sort of have an idea on how to push it further but it depends on how long my kids and wife leave me alone to write.

John: Thanks John!

Windsmoke: Almost went with Nazis or a fascist America but I wasn't sure I was going to do a story at all this week.

Ranch Chimp said...

Thanx for the morning read Bum!

Akelamalu said...

WOW! I say this every time I read one of you stories - YOU NEED TO GET PUBLISHED!!!

Randal Graves said...

Hold on, why fight the Russians? Just think of all the vodka you'd get to drink!

Hope you're planning a sequel, I gotta know what happens, even if it's not hanging out in some crime lord's bar with a bevy of Muscovite babes.

RegCPA5963 said...

Nice! I loved the sci-fi spin, left me wanting to know what was going to happen next, who's weapons are better are there different things their ships can do, so many possibilities. I thought the story had great flow as well.

L Turner

Sue H said...

Boy - this screams for continuation! I got to the end and then..... dammit, what happened next???

I've long been fascinated by this topic, since I watched The Philadelphia Experiment and this story of yours has reignited my interest.

You have to go back to this and pen further chapters.....'pretty'-please? Hmm?

Glen said...

An alternate Earth explored by the US Navy - now that is scary! Like the story.

Beach Bum said...

Ranch: You welcome!

Akelamalu: Me published? Maybe one day.

Randal: Given that several members of my family are convinced I am a commie. I have half a mind for the captain join up with the Soviets.

Reg: Working on a sequel just for fun. It will be nice to push the word count as far as I want.

Sue: Thanks! I hear what really happen was that the crew of Elridge went AWOL and sailed down to the Caribbean and when the returned had to make up a story to get off the hook.

Glen: Careful, I have friends who are navy SEALs.

Glen said...

I met a few of those guys in my time and they can't drink, always lose at Quarters as I recall and can't hold their Sambucas.

Infidel753 said...

Интересный! Can't wait to see the sequel -- there are all kinds of ways you could go with this, especially since the USSR in a parallel world wouldn't necessarily have the same history or character as its counterpart in ours.

Were the "horrible casualties" on the Eldridge really the result of its "uncontrolled return" or did someone in the other world inflict them? Clearly your protagonists have good reason to be cautious.

Bella said...

okay ... you've talked me into being friendly and saying hi!

rainboy said...

I second Pixel Peeper.You always write so well You got to use this talent Sir :)

Take care
The smell awaits you :D

Will "take no prisoners" Hart said...

This parallel universe stuff is bangin'. I remember listening to Michio Kaku do an interview on CSpan and he actually said that Elvis in fact really may be alive.....IN ONE OF THOSE ALTERNATIVE UNIVERSES. Whoa, huh? Combine that with your hoppin' scenario and heads will be exploding basically everywhere!!!!!

Cloudia said...

spooky!




Aloha from Honolulu

Comfort Spiral

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Beach Bum said...

Glen: LOL!!!!

I've heard the usual urban legends about SEALs that they are barely civilized brutes that the regular Navy keeps locked up the lower recesses of any ship or sub they happen to be on. The two I met at Fort Carson back in the late 80's while they were taking mountain training were cool as guys who answered every stupid question asked by my friends and me.

Infidel: I almost went Nazi with the bad guys but I did this story on a sudden whim. The Soviets in this story I envisage will be the standard type but WW3 would have started not exactly by accident but by events getting out of hand.

Bella: Welcome and come again, got you on my blogroll.

Rainboy: Dude! Was wondering what happen to you, will stop by your place soon.

Will: Yeah, the alternate universe thing is getting freaky since the CERN accelerator is looking for evidence that they are real, plus the new theories that Dark Energy could be some form of gravity in another universe leaking over on this side.

I like Michio Kaku but he seems a little too "Entertainment Tonight" and hip-hop for me. I still miss the cool and calm Carl Sagan.

Cloudia: Hey!!!

Will "take no prisoners" Hart said...

Sagan was a cosmic rock-star, definitely. Taught at Cornell, too, I believe.

David Barber said...

Beach, apologies for my lateness to the party! This is a fine piece of writing. Your writing HAS improved and seems to get better with every piece I read.

Great story and I hope there is a sequel! Well done, my friend!

Evan Henry said...

Oh, I like! Like people have said, this is definitely something that could be expanded. :)

Veronica Marie Lewis-Shaw said...

SMASHING READ, Beach!! Awesome!!

I am with Sue and others... you must write more... please... please... please... :)

I'm not big on time travel, the Vulcans say it can't be done... no such thing... good enough for me.

But, alternate universes intrigue me greatly. Time travel via alternate universe is completely plausible as nothing you did in the alternate - or parallel- universe would change the course of history in your universe. Now, what you did when you came back...

Great read, Beach... LOVED every word!

Veronica Marie Lewis-Shaw said...

Glad you went with the Russians... I would have really missed my vodka if you had gone with Nazis!

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Great story! I would love to read more about what transpires during those 28 days. You've created an intriguing world.

Joyce said...

This was absolutely amazing. I believe the chills I'm feeling will remain for some time. A parallel universe? The future in that universe? A peek into our future? So many possibilities, and all terrifying. I pray they survive those 28 days and are able to find their way back. Excellent!