Downfall

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Downfall

Postby Miki Yamuri » Mon Dec 10, 2018 9:17 am

Downfall

by LilJennie & Miki Yamuri

Characters:

Sabiana: Second Patrol Officer, basically the first mate of the Atlantean patrol ship

Junius: First Patrol Officer, basically the captain of the Atlantean patrol ship

Rhodius, Psoro: Crewmen on the Atlantean patrol ship

Dr. Philo: Medic in Atlantean patrol ship infirmary

Dr. Jason Edbus: Chief Inventor of Kerne

Grand Military Commander Ephoros Xanosai: Officer in charge of Atlantean military forces

Dr. Shree Dixon : Time Ocular Operator, Atlantean weapon experimentation

Dr. Rhisia: Chief physicist in Dr. Dixon’s experiment

Dr. Iadrys: Chief engineer in Dr. Dixon’s experiment

“Lucas”: Atlantean military intelligence agent and Sabiana’s contact

---------------------------------------------------------------

“What in the name of the Gods is that?” Sabiana asked a nearby crewman, pointing to the sudden flash of light just over the horizon. “Give me your glass.” The event had been fleeting, but with the spyglass she could still see a dissipating column of light stretching up into the clouds in the distance.

First Patrol Officer Junius rushed over. “Did you see it more clearly? What was it?” he asked.

“Some kind of distant explosion off the starboard side, Sir,” Sabiana reported. “If I recall from the charts, there are some remote islands there -- Kernian territory, I believe, but we have no record of anything there but trees and goats.”

“What could they be doing?” Junius asked. “Let me contact the flagship on the telewriter. Keep an eye out for anything else unusual.” He left the ship’s bridge for the communications room.

Sabiana scanned the horizon with the spyglass. She saw nothing at first, but over time a gradual plume of smoke began to rise. “Something happened over there,” she said to the crewman. “I wonder if they’re working on some kind of weapon. Some sort of bomb, maybe. That could have been an explosion we saw.”

“That’s exactly what the brass think,” said Junius, returning. “They want us to get a closer look. Bring her about, heading 33 divisions.” He took the wheel, carefully rotating it to control the rudder.

“Belay the topsail!” Sabiana called out. “We’re coming about!” Crew members hustled to adjust the ropes. The patrol ship turned until its bow was pointed in the direction of the plume of smoke, which was starting to fade away, but Sabiana made a mark on the chart display. There was indeed an island in the exact location where she’d seen the smoke.

Over the next half hour, the island became visible over the horizon, and within the hour details were visible with the spyglass. “I make out buildings, Sir,” said Sabiana. “Things don’t look good. I see what looks like it might have been a tower, now collapsed. No buildings are marked on the chart, so they must be recent construction.”

“Destroyed buildings!” said Junius. “Looks like whatever they were doing there got out of hand. Any sign of survivors?”

“Not from this distance, Sir.”

“Well, steady as she goes, and keep checking.”

The ship continued, and finally, as the afternoon wore on, they were in close enough range of the island that they could make out its rocky shoreline.

“Detectors say there are shoals and rocks,” Sabiana said, checking the screens, “but no sign of any mines or enemy ships.”

“No ships -- no survivors?” asked Junius.

“I’m seeing no activity -- of any kind,” Sabiana reported. “This is … unusual. I’m not even seeing wildlife.” Indeed, seagulls were landing on rocks off the island’s shore, but they were staying away from the island itself. “The birds don’t even seem to want to go near it.”

“Peculiar,” Junius said. “Well, our orders are to investigate and bring back any information we can find about what Kerne was doing here. If they’re building some kind of new weapon to use against us in the war, the Atlantean Navy wants to know about it.”

“Reading some sort of unusual radiation,” said Sabiana. “Not at dangerous levels, and fading, but perhaps it’s related.”

“Let’s drop anchor and send out the launch,” Junius said. “We can use the motor if there’s no Kernian presence to detect us.”

“The crew will be happy to hear they won’t be rowing,” said Sabiana with a smile. “There’s a shore on the southeastern side where we can beach the launch.”

Twenty minutes later, they were on shore, and the crew were heaving the small launch craft onto the beach. “Well done, everyone,” said Sabiana. “Now, Rhodius, Psoro, come with me for some recon -- I’m not reading any life signs, which probably means we shouldn’t stay here for any longer than we have to. And we’ll be losing the daylight soon.”

The two crewmen went with her up a rocky path, then up a muddy incline to a vantage point where the wrecked buildings were visible.

“Something shook that building off its foundations and toppled its tower,” Sabiana said, looking through the spyglass. “Still not seeing a single living thing.”

“Gives me the creeps,” said Psoro.

“I can’t shake the thought that something killed every living thing on this island,” said Sabiana. “But the detector’s not picking up anything dangerous -- likely whatever happened is over. It might have destroyed all the evidence of what happened, but maybe not. Let’s find out.”

The building wasn’t quite a ruin -- it had been shifted off its foundations, but other than that its main level was intact -- its second story had not fared as well. They soon found a passageway into a basement, and that was where things got interesting.

“Look at this equipment,” said Sabiana. “The explosion definitely happened here -- or whatever it was. Why isn’t there a massive, burned-out crater where this building should be? But instead it just looks like everything was -- smashed.” The remains of glass and porcelain lay around, shattered almost to sand-sized bits. Metal objects had fared better, but were still dented and warped. But there was no trace of anything wooden.
“See if you can find any intact documents -- paper inside metal boxes or leather briefcases might still be intact, or if you can find any of those recording crystals the scientists use, they’re made of stuff that’s harder than glass.”

Sabiana started searching through the wreckage, and the two crewmen did likewise, spreading out into other rooms. After forcing open a metal file drawer and stuffing the paper she found there into her carryall, she found what looked like a bent metal cabinet door in a nearby wall and started toward it when she heard a sound from within.

She paused, taking out her sidearm. “Careful,” she said. “We have you outnumbered.”

“I … surrender,” said a voice from behind the door, speaking with a Kernian accent. “I’m trapped in here. I’m not armed.”

“Well first, let’s see if we can get you out,” said Sabiana. “You’re Kernian?”

“Yes. My name is Jason.” The voice sounded like that of a man. Sabiana worked at the cabinet door and found its latch twisted and jammed. “I assume you saw the explosion.”

“From about 30 miles out, yes,” she replied, finding a tool in her carryall that she could pry the door open with.

“Are you … military?” he asked as she worked. “I pray you, by all the Gods, if there is any of our research left, please do not take it. It was … a mistake. My calculations were off. Horribly, horribly off. And I am … was … the best inventor we had.”

Sabiana finally got the door open.

“Hello, Jason, I’m Second Patrol Officer Sabiana,” she said, helping the young man out of the cabinet or chamber or whatever it was. “Well, I’m under orders to bring back whatever we can find.”

“Pleased to meet you, Officer,” he said, “but you really must reconsider. You see, I am 87 years old.”

Sabiana said between attempts to keep from laughing, “Really? You could have fooled me. You look like you might be in your early twenties at best. Fresh out of the Kernian Academy, maybe.”

About that time, Rhodius came up to Sabiana with a large, although obviously battered, metal strongbox. Within it, were many personnel records on the research team. One of the members listed, complete with high security clearance fingerprints and photo, was of an elderly gentleman of about 87 years of age named Jason Edbus. Sabiana’s mouth fell
open. The man in the photo looked like a much older version of the young man standing just a few feet away.

Sabiana said slowly, “You, wouldn’t mind giving a sample of your fingerprints so we can compare them with … what?” She looked again at the paper documents and noticed that some of them had vanished. She could see their edges dissolving into the air, as if they were on fire without charring or flame. “Psoro!” she shouted. “Get in here and get some pictures of these with your ophthalmoscope before they’re gone!”

Dr. Edbus replied, “Not in the least, if it would lend more veracity to what I’m telling you. You mustn't recreate this experiment. Beyond being a total failure, it is extremely dangerous. You are seeing the residual effects firsthand.”

“Jason, I’m going to have to ask you to come with us,” Sabiana said.

Jason sighed. “I understand,” he said. “But … I doubt I have much time. The -- side effects, you see.”

With the two crewmen covering Jason with their sidearms, they climbed back up the stairs to the ground floor and worked their way outside again. When he saw the sun setting over the now barren island, Jason cried out, “No! Oh, may the Gods forgive me! Everything … and everyone on this entire island … gone? How could it have gone so wrong?”

“Please keep moving,” said Psoro, unsympathetically.

“You didn’t know?” asked Sabiana. “I thought this was a weapon test.”

“No -- well, why wouldn’t you think it was?” Jason replied. “It certainly looks like one. But no. I was old. I wanted -- another chance. But I didn’t want it -- like this.”

If Sabiana didn’t know better, she would have thought that Jason looked like a teenage boy now, but perhaps it was just the light.

“Like what, exactly?” Sabiana wondered as they climbed down the hill toward the shore.

“Time’s arrow,” he said. “I only wanted to reverse it for one small plant sample. Well, for myself eventually. I was old. But the calculations -- no one has ever done this before --”

“Please get in the boat, Sir,” said Rhodius.

As they motored the launch back to the ship, Jason continued. “When you reverse the arrow of time, you must be careful not to push too hard!” he said. “It has -- inertia. And -- we don’t usually think about it, but the very earth below us is all in motion -- rotating around its axis, of course -- and when you reverse the direction of the part closest to you -- it crashes quite badly into all the rest …” His voice was cracking now, like a teenager whose voice was changing.

Sabiana noticed that more of the remaining items were somehow disintegrating -- the paper documents were gone, but the metal and crystals were seemingly unaffected. What’s more, and she couldn’t believe her eyes, but it really did look as if Jason were seemingly regressing in age, although she hadn’t thought such a thing was possible. Fortunately Psoro had taken pictures of most of the documents.

By the time the landing party had arrived back on the ship, the lone survivor had more than obviously become a young boy. He had become small enough that another of the crewmen had to wrap him in his coat and carry him.

Sabiana told the crewman, “Here, let me take him to the infirmary. Let’s see if Dr. Philo can figure out what's going on with him.”

She took the boy, who looked to be perhaps five years old now, to the hatch amidships and carried him down into the corridors to the small room that served as an infirmary. Through the portholes she could see that the ship was again under way.

“What’s your name?” the little boy in her arms asked her.

“I’m Sabiana, Jason,” she said. And … this is Dr. Philo.” A man with a salt-and-pepper beard and a white sea coat looked up from his table, where he had been reading a book.

“Hello there, Second Patrol Officer,” Dr. Philo said, “and … who’s this?”

“I’m Jason,” said the boy, “and listen, I redid the calculations based on the evident amount of antientropic yield and the degree of shielding I believe I had around me at the moment of reversal, and I think I might just manage not to vanish into the unicellular event horizon.”

Sabiana blinked. “He’s the only survivor from the island we just investigated. I think he’s Dr. Jason Edbus.”

“Dr. Edbus? Of Kerne?” asked Dr. Philo. “But he’s over 80 years old! Surely you mean this is his … great-grandson or some such.”

“I’m sorry, it was an accident,” Jason said. At first Sabiana thought the boy meant the botched experiment, but then she realized that the clothes he was wrapped in were damp.

“Oops,” she said, “um, let’s get you into something dry.”

“We don’t have much in terms of child care supplies, not on this ship,” said Dr. Philo, “but here, let’s improvise …”

By the time they had gotten a makeshift diaper and some piecemeal clothing on the little boy, who appeared to be about toddler age now, Sabiana had explained everything she knew, with occasional interjections from Jason, which made less and less sense. Perhaps his mind was regressing along with his body.

“Extraordinary,” said Dr. Philo, “but the only thing I can think of that might help would be some extract of rosacea karlsbadensis rugo.”

“Karlsbadensis!” said Jason. “Maybe!”

Dr. Philo quickly mixed up a dilution and carefully gave it to the boy in a thin test tube, because he had trouble holding things now. He drank it down. “Blech,” he said. “It might be enough. I might live.”

“Any more could be toxic, especially given your small size now,” said Dr. Philo.

A message came down the air tube with the ring of a bell. “Oh, that’s probably the First Patrol Officer,” said Sabiana. She opened the tube to take out the message. “Yes, it’s for me. What? Transferred?”

“What is it?” asked Dr. Philo, who was helping the toddler Jason into a bunk to rest.

“Naval Command says Jason’s my duty now,” said Sabiana. “He’s got vital information, and I’m supposed to report to Naval HQ with him ASAP. It seems I’m his new guardian.”

The crew quickly transmitted copies of the many research notes and data to the Atlantean Navy’s science labs via the telewriter, including pictures of the paper documents before they had vanished. It quickly became clear that Jason had stumbled onto what could become a very destructive weapon.

Sabiana entered HQ with Jason in her arms. She patted his bottom softly to keep him calm as he sucked his thumb contentedly. Sabiana was truly amazed at the rapidity at which Jason had regressed into infancy, but he seemed to have stopped.

The guard at the door stopped them and saluted, “May I see your ID please?”

Sabiana handed the smartly dressed soldier the security pass.

The soldier smiled at Jason and said, “Is that your son? He’s very adorable.”

Sabiana smiled and replied, “Well … my ward. HQ has placed him in my care until further notice.”

Sabiana continued on down the busy corridor. She had many thoughts as to the explanation of what had happened to a scientist who was supposed to be over 80 but was now an infant in arms.

She came to the Grand Military Commander’s door. She had never met the most powerful military officer in Atlantis before, and she was very nervous, to say the least.
She shifted Jason in her arms and knocked smartly on the door once. A voice was heard, “Come.”

She entered. A middle-aged man with silver-gray hair fringes and many bright gold leaves on his shoulders looked up from his desk and smiled.

“Grand Commander Xanosai, Second Patrol Officer Sabiana reporting as ordered,” she said.

Standing up, the commander said, “At ease, Sabiana. You can dispense with the military salutes and that other rubbish. Here, we are all fighting personnel.” He rounded his large desk and tickled Jason under his chin, “My, you have a very cute son. I didn’t know you had children.”

Sabiana smiled as she replied, “I don’t, Sir. This is … Dr. Jason Edbus, Chief Inventor of Kerne. My orders were to be his guardian and escort, and I’ve been carrying them out to the best of my ability.”

The commander's eyes got large in surprise as he said, “You’ve … got to be joking. I met Dr. Edbus once at a formal diplomatic gathering before the war. He’s got to be at least eighty or so.” the commander pointed, “This child can’t be more than about 18 months old.”

Sabiana replied, “With all due respect, Sir, I do have comparisons of recorded genetic profiles and fingerprints. This is Dr. Edbus. I watched him regress from a young man of about twenty to this in the space of several hours.”

The commander replied in shock, “By the Goddess, you must be joking.”

Sabiana fumbled slightly with her infant burden, then laid a leather valise on the commander’s desk, “There are pictures. It’s all there, Sir. The Research and Development team that has been going over the recovered data feels Kerne has come
up with something that has the potential to be a truly devastating weapon.” In her arms, Jason suddenly became fussy, and Sabiana started to rock him to quiet him down.

“I’ve read the copies I’ve been sent -- what I can understand of them, of course,” said the commander, opening the case and thumbing through the documents. “These originals will be stored in a secure location.”

“Well, those are also copies, Sir,” said Sabiana. “With the exception of the crystal recordings, everything there is a copy hastily made from the papers we found -- they were no thicker than onion skin and quickly dissolved into nothingness shortly after the copies were made.”

“Side effect of the weapon?”

“With respect, Sir, I don’t believe that it was intended to be a weapon,” said Sabiana. “I wrote down everything Jason said to me -- while he could still speak -- and I got the impression that it was his personal project, not something assigned to him by Kerne itself.”

“Well, when you get right down to it, what does it matter?” asked the Commander. “If you’re looking for a better way to boil potatoes and accidentally invent a steam engine, you’ve still invented a steam engine.”

“That’s true, Sir, but he also said very specifically to beware what he had created,” said Sabiana. “In fact, he wanted us to destroy his documents -- for our own protection, he said.”

“That’s just because he didn’t want them to fall into Atlantean hands,” the Commander said dismissively. “It could mean the end of his nation if we can properly apply these ideas.”

“Well … you are the Commander,” said Sabiana. “I believe he meant that whatever he was working on -- playing around with time itself -- was so dangerous that even the slightest error in calculation could be disastrous. I saw nothing left alive on that island, Sir. Nothing. And he said he’d been experimenting on one single plant.”

“Hm. I will instruct the scientists to proceed with the utmost caution, then,” the Commander said. “Regardless, we must go ahead with this research. It could win us the war. And Kerne’s doubtless working on it too -- they may be ahead of us.”

“It’s … possible, Sir,” Sabiana said. “Sir, I’ve been in the Navy for three years, and I’ve seen combat, but frankly, this experiment is the most frightening thing I’ve ever seen. A massive flash of light, and everything living was just snuffed out, and more than that, we saw that the very rocks had been shattered. I mean, we know about the power of nuclear
reactions, but … shattering time?” Not that she could contradict the Grand Commander, but this was outside everyone’s experience.

“Time itself, eh?” the Commander asked. He looked again at the baby in Sabiana’s arms. “Made the clock run backwards, did he? Hmm. Think of it.” He didn’t seem to notice that he had taken off his hat and was scratching his bald head. “Well, thank you, Second Patrol Officer. Good work. Please continue to monitor … Jason there. You’ll have
anything you need, and a military intelligence agent will contact you. If you discover anything new, please report it to your contact immediately.”

“Yes, Sir,” Sabiana replied.

“Good. That’ll be all.” Sabiana quietly left. Jason seemed to have fallen asleep, and she didn’t want him waking up and crying again. She had not expected her position to turn into a babysitting job, but perhaps it would be temporary. At the very least, a lifetime of knowledge was locked up inside this baby’s brain, so maybe he would mature quickly as he grew.

“Officer Sabiana?” asked an adjutant as she passed by her desk on the way out.

She stopped. “Yes?”

“I have the paperwork for your new assignment -- quarters, stipend, allotments, all that.” The adjutant handed her a folder. “It’s all there. Unusual, but not unheard of. Once you’re settled, you should report to your new CO.”

“Oh, all right then, thank you,” she said, and the adjutant nodded and went back to work. Sabiana looked at the folder and knew where it was -- it was in a military family housing complex a few miles away. It was, she noticed, not far from the Atlantean Navy’s main scientific research facility. She started walking toward the rail station. The paperwork said her personal effects had already been forwarded there.

She entered the bullet shaped car, settled Jason into his place in the provided infant cubby, and strapped herself in. She ran her hand over the glowing sphere that indicated they were ready. A mechanical voice asked her destination. Once she told it where she wanted to go, a humming sound followed by a heavy inertia that pressed her into the seat for an instant or two, then a reverse of the effect in the opposite direction. The gull wing door opened, and she was at the transit station at the housing unit.

She gathered Jason into her arms and cooed softly, “There we are, Sweetheart. We’ll be home in no time. I’ll just flag down a hover taxi.”

Jason giggled and gurgled and drooled as any contented infant his age would. Sabiana put him to her breast and patted his thickly diapered bottom softly as she waved down one of the passing hover taxis. When they arrived, Sabiana showed her transfer orders and her ID to the guard at the entrance and was escorted to her new housing unit. When the door slid open, her mouth fell open in total shock. She had been assigned to a high-ranking officer’s quarters.

Sabiana turned and asked, “Are you sure this is the correct place? I mean, I’m nowhere near high enough rank to be berthed here.”

The guard smiled as he turned sharply, saying only, “I think you had best read the assignment orders through, Ma’am.” Then he saluted and left.

She entered the opulent quarters and looked around. She carried Jason into what was obviously the nursery … except there had been some sort of mistake, she was sure. It was decorated in the typical bright flowery colors that were in fashion for young Atlantean girls, and all the clothing in the closets and chest of drawers were for a baby girl, not a little boy.

“I think somebody is confused about you, Jason,” she said, “but why don’t you have a seat right down here while I read through this paperwork?”

She set him down in a playpen that was full of the usual development-encouraging toys for babies -- things that made lights and sounds in response to actions, things that consisted of pieces that could be put together and made sounds and flashed in colors when assembled correctly, and so forth. Much the same toys were sold to parents of both boys and girls.

In short order, Sabiana discovered that she had received a temporary promotion for the purposes of this assignment. She was an acting Forward Group Leader while this assignment lasted, with all the privileges that entailed, which explained the luxurious quarters. She had also been promoted to First Patrol Officer in real rank, though, so as long as she discharged this assignment honorably, she’d be in command of a patrol craft or the equivalent when it was over. And she would be contacted by someone from the Intelligence Service shortly, to whom she was to report any new developments.

But she didn’t find anything about why the nursery was outfitted for a girl. She’d have to ask her contact once they made an appearance. Perhaps the previous tenants had had a girl and had been transferred to another base. But wouldn’t they have taken the clothes with them? Or maybe it was just a mistake, or some malcontent’s idea of a joke. They were at war with Kerne, after all -- a joke at a Kernian baby’s expense seemed pretty low, but some people had a very immature sense of humor. Sabiana didn’t know what the Kernian fashion was for boys and girls -- for all she knew, this was what they dressed Kernian boys in, she thought as she held up a soft-textured but brightly-colored orange and teal skirt outfit, which was certainly something that anyone around here would say was made for a girl to wear. A more subdued orange would work for boys, maybe mixed with yellow and black.

Jason began to whimper and fuss as he kicked his feet. Sabiana checked Jason’s diaper; he was very messy and quite more than damp. The only clean plastic panties available, were the adorable red and yellow floral print ones for little girls. Sabiana shook her head and began changing Jason and dressing him in the cute clothing. When she was done, no
one would have ever known Jason was a boy until diaper change time. Not that Jason seemed to notice.

Dr. Shree Dixon sat and read over all the documentation that had been dumped on her. There were piles and piles of paper, not to mention the many memory crystals. It kind of irritated her that it was all written in Kernish, but she had learned it during her travels and studies in many parts of the world.

She had been given a large promotion with the accompanied pay increase. She certainly didn’t mind that, but what was making her have second thoughts was the new title she had been assigned: Time Ocular Operator. She hadn’t a clue what a time ocular was until she had started going over all the research papers that had been brought to her.

There was enough data available for her to basically reconstruct whatever the device was. Apparently, it opened some sort of window in time, or perhaps it caused some sort of reversal to happen when it opened; she wasn’t quite sure. Her newly assigned research team was sort of a surprise too. The very best Atlantean physics and corpuscle wave theorists were now under her. She had been informed by High Command, in no uncertain terms, that she and her team were not only to fill in the missing parts of the research, but were also to build a working device as quickly as possible for testing. She had been told it was a weapon of far more devastating yield than any Atlantean science had devised before.

Then, there had been the briefing by Grand Commander Xanosai. He had gravely reminded the entire team that the patrol ship responsible for discovering this research had found a devastated island with nothing left alive on it, not so much as an insect or weed. The result of a small miscalculation, apparently. “Clearly the slightest error can devastate a large area,” the commander had said. “Experiment with the utmost caution.”

“Ms. Dixon, you asked to see us?” said one of her two research leads, looking into Shree’s office.

“Oh -- yes, of course, please come in, Dr. Rhisia,” she said. “Is Dr. Iadrys with you? Oh yes, I see he is. Please, have a seat.”

The tall woman and the rather portly man sat at the workstations across from Shree’s desk. “You’ve had some time to look at the documents -- what do you think? Is this reconstruction -- a first approximation, I know -- anything like what’s described, in your opinion? And exactly how is this supposed to do anything?”

“Well, there’s only a partial description of the internal structure of this component,” Iadrys said, bringing up a holographic image of some of the plans with a spherical part highlighted. “Considering that the power flow impinges on it in several places, I’d say that its precise makeup is crucial.”

“Yes,” said Rhisia, “and the mathematical notation of the theoretical equations is … idiosyncratic, even by Kerne’s standards. Jason Edbus was a genius, but his mind worked in unusual ways. I’ve seen double Noros notation occasionally, but here we have not just triple but nth-degree. Normally that kind of thing is the province of abstruse
academic number theory, not hard physics.”

“Sounds like we’ve all got our work cut out for us,” said Shree. “The data we’re reverse-engineering suggests that this
device is meant to generate complex waveforms in the fourth dimension -- sonic, perhaps even musical, vibrations in time. I’ve never heard of such a thing ...”

After a month had passed, Dr. Iadrys was starting to become frustrated. They had meticulously fabricated each component by hand, yet the device didn’t seem to do anything when turned on. Some crucial piece of data had been overlooked, and he wasn’t sure exactly what it had been.

He had harassed Dr. Rhisia and her theoretical team to the point that tempers had begun to flare. There had even been several arguments over certain calculations that had become physical enough that they’d had to be broken up and the members separated until tempers cooled. High Command hadn’t helped in any way, with their constant harassment over completion time and inquiries about when the first test was to happen.

Dr. Iadrys stood, walked over to the shielded test chamber, and looked in. He knew something wasn’t exactly right, but he couldn’t quite put his finger on it. All the hydronic conduits were exactly the same length and maintained the stated temperatures to within a plus or minus of .00001. He was positive the proper amount of reaction fluid was passing through the lens as the beam activated. The only problem was that the tone was completely wrong.

Thus far, there had been nothing any of the team could discover to correct the flux. Dr. Iadrys opened the heavy shield door and entered the chamber where the device rested on its stand. While he was taking measurements of several of the key components, he noticed a speck on one of the ocular lensing surfaces. Closer inspection revealed an almost imperceptible bubble in one of the faces of the aquaus lens.

A light came on in his mind. This imperfection would be enough to change the frequency and render the beam inadequate. He pulled out his small comm unit and called to stores. Fortunately, they did have several replacement faces for the lenses. It was thought that the intensity of the beam may crack one if there were some stress factors within it.It took several hours of meticulous work to replace the lens face, but now they were ready for a low-power run up.

“Prepare for 10 micrograde interaction,” said Shree, and the team started programming the equipment as she went to her office for a bird’s-eye view of the process. She activated several holographic data displays and a full-wall camera view of the lab bay, making it look as if she were right next to the apparatus, though the office was a distance away and fully shielded.

“10 microgrades?” said Iadrys as soon as Shree was out of the room. “Is she taking this effort seriously? That’s not enough energy to light a match.”

“The Edbus experiment wiped out all life in a 100-stadia radius,” Rhisia reminded him, “and we’re not on a remote island. There are thousands of people in this complex. We can’t risk endangering lives.” She also left the room, going to the remote monitoring lab, as did most of the other scientists and engineers.

“Well, let’s see what we have here,” said Shree’s voice over the communication system. “Engage system on my mark. Data collection ready? Three … two … one … mark.”

Iadrys locked in the parameters and brought the power up. He could have done this remotely, but he’d always been a hands-on type of guy. Holographic charts displayed waveforms and phase differentials.

“It’s … it’s actually working,” said Shree from her office. “I’m actually seeing a response from the time ocular. Good job, people! Iadrys, well spotted. That lens imperfection must really have been the culprit.”

“Just as I suspected,” Iadrys said. “But I’m not seeing the modulation we expect. There might be too much damping at this low an energy level. What if we turned it up to 11?”

“Iadrys, no!” Shree said as he reached for the power controls. “Stop! Stop now! We haven’t analyzed --” But it was too late. He’d raised the power.

There was suddenly a crescendo of -- the only way to describe it was pure sound -- vibrating through the entire wing of the complex. Shree’s mind was hearing the color red, and it was the purest color she had ever experienced, almost blocking out all other thought -- until the entire building shook and all the power went out. Everything went dark, the only light coming from exterior windows and battery-powered emergency lights.

“What … what happened?” Shree said after manually unlocking her shielded office door, no small feat. “Is everyone all right?”

There was a general hubbub of confusion in the lab bay as she worked her way down the stairs in the dim light. “I have to disconnect the power from the apparatus in case they repair the power --”

Shree began before stumbling over what she discovered was Iadrys’ bloody corpse. The right-hand front side of his body had just been … torn away. She screamed in terror, at the implications as much as the sight.

“What?” “What happened now?” “What is it?” came the voices of the confused experimenters.

Shree managed to swallow her stark horror for long enough to shuffle over and physically disconnect the machine from its power feed. Whatever had happened would not be happening again.

“Iadrys -- is dead,” Shree said. “The yield is -- nonlinear -- far beyond exponential -- I disconnected the power --” There was more shouting and screaming as others saw the body in the dim light. In a few minutes the lights came back on, but Shree couldn’t look.

“I-I think the nth-degree Noros notation is n-not just some kind of Edbus idiosyncrasy,” said Rhisia unsteadily. Her speech became quicker, sounding as if she were trying to cope with the enormity of what had happened by hiding within her familiar world of mathematics. “The escalating recursive products are the only way to express the feedback. The output is so many degrees beyond … anything …” It wasn’t working. “Oh Gods. Gods help us.” She collapsed to the metal grating floor. “Part of him was caught in the field … part was not … and the shear just … ripped him in half. Gods
forgive him. Gods forgive us.”

“So, how is life with your little niece Jastha?” asked Sabiana’s military intelligence contact breezily at the outdoor cafe where they were having lunch. “She learning to talk yet?”

“Only a few words,” Sabiana said. “It’s so hard when her mother isn’t with us. She wants to say ‘mama,’ but I can’t really explain that I’m not her. No coherent sentences yet.”

“Ah, well, I’m sure it won’t be long before she’ll be talking up a storm,” said Lucas.

“I’m sure. Her favorite word seems to be ‘no’ at this point.” In “her” stroller, Jason was currently asleep after a big lunch.

“She says ‘no’ a lot? To what?”

“To everything, as far as I can tell. It started yesterday afternoon -- oddly, right after I had a strange attack of tinnitus. I haven’t had that since pilot training. Then, suddenly, that ringing in my ears, and Jastha’s going, ‘No, no.’”

“Huh,” said Lucas. “Kids, who can explain them?”

Sabiana remarked, “Not I,” before finishing her sandwich.

“I guess we’re both about done,” Lucas said. “Don’t worry about the check -- I’ve got it.”

“You are too kind! I have to wonder whether anyone’s caught your eye yet.” Sabiana smirked a bit at this. Portraying being casual acquaintances in public was a cute game, but she knew the agent was looking for any sign that Jason had started to remember anything about his experiment. And she knew that they couldn’t talk specifically about it in public, but she could give him general indications. After all, there might be Kernian spies or sympathizers anywhere -- one would hope not within a supposedly secure military complex, but you never could tell.

The Atlantean coroner looked over the corpse on his examination table. He was awed at how clean the shear marks were along the places the cadaver’s body had been damaged. Almost a complete half of the body had been removed as clean as if a hot knife had passed through hot cheese.

He adjusted his glasses to get a better look as he pulled the mag-lens down to enlarge the cuts. He was even more awed when he discovered even down to the molecular level, all the cells had been completely and neatly divided along a particular plane. He had never before encountered such a slice wound … and he had seen many during this war. One extremely peculiar item he noticed under 250x mag … were the cells near the separation appeared to resemble embryonic cells, almost to the point of being primary stem cells in nature. This was highly improbable due to the age of the victim, but he put it in his report anyway.

“There is no doubt it was due to his proximity to the interaction zone and his reckless energy increase,” said Dr. Rhisia after putting down her copy of the coroner’s report. “We’re still trying to mathematically model the yield function based on the data, but calculatory machinery just isn’t built to handle this type of math. I mean, imagine transcendental functions seen from the point of view of a child learning arithmetic. Now imagine something that far beyond transcendental functions, double that degree of complexity. Now imagine the variable Y in the place of ‘double,’ and imagine that variable is part of the equations.”

“So he should have increased the power by … what? A millionth of a micrograde?” asked Shree.

“That’s not what we’re getting from the data analysis. That could have had an even worse effect, actually. The yield function is so wildly variable that I’m not sure there’s a way to predict. We’re seeing that the fact that 10 microgrades didn’t wipe out the lab was an extremely lucky break. I have to recommend doing all further experimentation remotely.”

“Remotely?” asked Shree.

“Yes, for our own safety, and for the safety of everyone in this building -- perhaps everyone in this part of the continent,” said Rhisia.

“That’s going to be hugely inconvenient … but …”

“You were the first to see him.”

“Yes. I’ll apply for the funding.”

“So you see, there’s just no way we can guarantee the security of the experiment if we have it out on some island in the middle of nowhere,” said Grand Commander Xanosai.

“You’re going to risk thousands of lives out of fear that Kerne will find out what we’re doing?” asked Shree.

“No, you’re going to be careful. The loss of Dr. Iatrys is tragic, but I have faith that you can control the yield. Or else I’ll find someone who can.”

“You mean someone who’s lying to you and telling you they can,” Shree objected. “All the data is suggesting that there may be no way to control it,” Shree objected. “We’ve been lucky, that’s all.”

The commander frowned. “You can’t tell me that you’ve got a machine that can blow up the world if you give it barely enough energy to lift a flea,” he said.

“That’s exactly what I’m telling you,” said Shree. “It really is that unstable. We should not be doing this experiment within our borders.”

“And I’m saying we have no choice. Kerne may be ahead of us on this.”

“But --”

“You can do this, or you can resign,” said the commander. “Those are your options. Find out how to control the … reaction, or whatever it is, before Kerne sets off their own targeted device within our borders. Or let someone else take your place, someone who is concerned about this nation and its continued existence.”

He turned and left her office. Shree turned her wall screen to a map of Atlantis, the main continent and all its outlying islands. She contemplated it for some time after the commander had left.

Jason felt different this morning. That was all he could really say to describe it -- well, not really say, because he still couldn’t put his thoughts into words that made sense. But he felt more like he was actually thinking today, instead of just experiencing life as he had been for -- how long? He could tell that he was in a baby’s crib, and in fact in a baby’s body -- his own body, he knew, regressed in age to the point where he was unrecognizable to any without access to his baby pictures. He could tell that his diaper was wet and messy, and this discomfort urged him to cry and summon Sabiana’s assistance, but for the first time he was able to decide whether to do this.

He could also tell that the Atlantean military was trying to repeat his experiment. He had felt the vibrations within his addled brain the other day, and he had objected because he knew what had come after that sensation in his own personal story. But fortunately it had stopped. Now, though, he knew that it had been a sign. They were trying to build an
apparatus like his time reversal ocular. And they weren’t going to stop. The only thing he could think of to do was to tell them how not to destroy themselves and him with them. If only he could figure that out. His mind was still not exactly perfectly clear. But he knew what had gone wrong. He just had to think how to keep it from happening.

Shree was more than concerned over what she knew she had to do. If she didn’t, she knew someone else would and it would happen anyway. The last time they had applied barely enough energy to light a small flashlight bulb. The results were … devastating.

From within her shielded office she turned on the device and applied 10.5 microgrades. Immediately, an expanding wave swept through the large vault area the device rested in. All the organic items close to the ocular seemingly dissolved to dust as all the techs within the building heard the all-consuming color blue, before the emergency timer she’d built into the circuit this time cut the power.

There were multiple gasps from the triple-shielded room near the reactor as the techs there suddenly realized that something was happening to their bodies.

“My hair! It’s growing back!” said one.

“My … uh … bra is suddenly looser,” said another one.

“Where did my clothes go?” said another, as the organic materials from which they were made aged backwards in time past the point when their molecules were formed by the plants that had been harvested to make them. Others had clothes made of plastics whose petroleum origins were millions of years old, or of spun crystal fibers whose molecules were as old as the Earth. Those were unaffected.

“I don’t like thith,” said another one, an intern who had only been a teenager and who now looked like she was only six years old. She had gaps in her teeth, looking as if all her adult teeth hadn’t grown in yet -- despite the fact that they had all been there moments ago.

Shree herself was farther away and wasn’t noticing any effects on her own body, but her screens were showing her what had happened to the techs. “I’m sorry, everyone,” she said. “That room is supposed to be triple-shielded. I don’t know how any energy got through.”

Dr. Rhisia, who was with Shree in her office, said, “Unless it’s not energy at all. It’s some kind of alteration of space time itself. No shielding can keep that out.”

“Can we predict the radius?” Shree asked.

“I have no idea!” shouted Dr. Rhisia in frustration. “Every data point seems to be at a random position on the graph! We need more experiments at the nanograde scale. I hope those won’t destroy the experiment or the building or send more interns back to grade school.”

“For the record, I thtill remember my calculuth just fine,” said the intern. “Gueth I’ll jutht need a lower dethk for now.”

“Does any of this look familiar, Jason?” asked Sabiana, showing him the recording of the experiment, which Lucas had provided. “Do you have any advice for them?”

Jason looked like he was trying to say something. “Panth,” he said.

“You need me to change your pants?” asked Sabiana. “Is that what you’re saying?”

He sighed and waggled his head no. “Nooooo. Panth. Nannoo.”

“I hope this means something to the research team,” said Sabiana with a sigh.

Jason looked up at Sabiana. “Nannoo map.”

Sabiana looked at the video camera recording Jason’s utterances. She hoped this was helping.

“THAT is Jason Edbus?” asked Dr. Rhisia.

“Apparently,” Shree said. “Military intel is keeping him in an undisclosed location with a military caregiver. I wouldn’t have believed it was him, except we saw the results of the latest experiment. Julia isn’t getting any younger, but it looks like she stopped around age 4. Her mind seems mostly intact, though -- aside from needing a new wardrobe, she’ll be fine.”

“Sounds like we might be right about wanting to experiment on the nanograde scale. That’s probably what he means by ‘nannoo.’ But what’s ‘nannoo map,’ and what’s ‘panth?’”

Shree said, “Well … the documentation he said he was experimenting on plants. Maybe that’s ‘panth.’ Talking to Julia has made me better at understanding dentition-challenged speakers.”

“Wait,” said Dr. Rhisia, “what if ‘nannoo map’ means we should map out the results on the nanograde scale? Would it give us any insight?”

“A map is at least two-dimensional,” said Shree. “Maybe we should be modifying some other independent variables, not just the energy input? But what? The altitude? The room temperature?”

“Let’s try … everything we can think of,” Dr. Rhisia said.

Ephoros sat at his desk in total awed amazement as he watched the holo-recording of the last test of the ocular. If what he was witnessing was true, a simple fuel cell would provide more than enough energy to totally eradicate all of Kerne and most of those idiot sympathising areas sharing borders with it. This was something he knew he had to get into production and deployed as soon as possible. If Kerne were allowed to complete their experiments, they could mean the end of Atlantis.

Ephoros punched the send button on his comm unit, “I want this ocular weapon in production by the end of the month. Send my orders to the science lab and to production ASAP.” He sat back and smiled. This was just the break he had been hoping for. All that needed to happen now, was for Atlantis to produce the first weapon.

Shree was looking at the latest results. Using plants had proven that the time-reversal effect of the ocular was repeatable, but it seemed as if the more they tried to control the yield, the more erratic and unpredictable it got. They had carefully varied the input energy while keeping other variables constant. They had varied the altitude of the core and the room temperature of the lab, as Shree had suggested, only somewhat seriously. They had tried rotating the core and tilting it with respect to the magnetic field and the direction of gravity. And the results remained largely random. Fortunately they hadn’t produced a building-wrecking mishap, but Shree couldn’t help thinking that it was due to luck.

The child who had been Jason Edbus had said words like “panth,” “nannoo,” and “map,” and that was the only new information they had to go on. Shree just didn’t know what they meant -- Or … did she? She had a realization. “Dr. Rhisia, can you come to my office for a moment, please?” she said into the video chat system. “I’ve had a thought I
want to bounce off you.”

A moment later her door opened. “Yes, Shree, what is it?” said Dr. Rhisia.

“Why would Jason Edbus have spoken Atlantean as a child?” Shree asked.

“I … what?”

“We’ve been assuming that the words he said on the recording were in Atlantean. But he was born in Kerne, in the hills overlooking Ys. I read his autobiography,” said Shree.

“And … do you know Kernish?”

“It’s one of the reasons I got this job, I assume,” said Shree. “I know several languages from around the world, due to my travels. So here’s the thing. ‘Panth’ is Kernish for accuracy. ‘Nannoo’ I’m not sure of, but it does sound like ‘nunno,’ which means opposite or backwards.”

“And ‘map?’” asked Dr. Rhisia.

“It means result or outcome,” Shree said. “It’s almost as if he’s saying that there’s an inverse relationship between --”

“-- between the accuracy and the yield,” said Dr. Rhisia. She was already adjusting the graphs that were being displayed. “It’s not the input energy that determines the output intensity or radius,” she said. “The more careful and accurate we are, the smaller the radius is, and the weaker the effect.” The graph now showed a smooth curve instead of random fluctuations and noise.

“Great Gods,” said Shree. “The yield isn’t an accidental result of carelessness. It’s a direct result. How does that even work?”

“Well, wave-corpuscle quantities also vary in their uncertainties with an inverse relationship to the uncertainties in other quantities,” Dr. Rhisia said. “It’s not unprecedented at all. It’s an observer effect.”

Shree looked at Dr. Rhisia. “We have to go.”

“What?” Rhisia asked. “Go where? What do you mean?”

“I mean the Grand Commander’s already producing these devices and plans to initiate a first strike. We need to get as far away from that first strike as we can, and save as many as we can.”

There was a knock at the door. “Delivery,” said a voice.

“Not the best time,” said Shree. “Can you leave it in the mail bin?”

The door opened. “This is a … special delivery,” said the man they recognized as being from military intelligence. He was holding up a crystal, the sort that the video messages from Jason and his caregiver had been coming on.

Shree looked at Rhisia. “Perhaps … we should see this,” she said.

“Perhaps you should,” the man said. “By the way, we haven’t really been introduced properly. My name is Lucas. And pardon me for overhearing, but you’re right. We don’t have much time.”

He placed the crystal into the video player socket on Shree’s desk, and an image of the baby who was Jason Edbus appeared, on the lap of his caretaker.

“Her name is Sabiana,” Lucas said, “and she was the officer in charge of the land expedition that found Jason. It was decided to make her his caretaker because it meant not having to explain everything that had happened to a new person. She’s also an acting Forward Group Leader, and just after this was recorded, and after I told her what Jason had said, she ordered a transport flight as soon as possible.”

The video began. “He’s been saying a lot more words recently,” said Sabiana. “I think his mind may truly have come back. But I’m not sure he knows any Atlantean.” Jason was talking at the same time.

“I speak Kernish,” said Lucas, “as part of my intelligence work, but I know you do too. You can tell what he’s saying?”

Shree was transfixed, staring at the image and not believing what she was hearing. The baby was speaking quite clearly this time. “He says that there has to be someone at the controls or the effect spreads very far,” said Shree. “He said he thinks we’re going to make the device into some kind of unattended bomb. He says … he says he doesn’t know how large the resulting effect will be. He says … he’s afraid. For everyone, not just himself or for Sabiana, who’s been kind to him. For everyone in the world.”

The recording ended. Lucas said, “We need to go now. The transport will be ready within the hour. And I have information that an attack could happen at any time.”

“My … husband …” said Dr. Rhisia, turning pale.

“Tell him to meet you for an early lunch at the … let’s see, the Wings Cafe is near the airstrip. Tell him you have a surprise for him.”

“Why are you doing this?” asked Shree. “You’re military intelligence. What’s your angle?”

“Our nation could be doomed by one poor decision that I can’t stop,” Lucas said. “If what we’re afraid of happens, I don’t want it to destroy the only people in the world who have any idea what happened and stand any chance of undoing it. Now, let’s get moving. Rhisia, make your call.”

In another location in the Atlantean Navy Research and Development facility, a young man was looking over the controls for the ocular weapon. His instructions were to set the device to 12 microgrades and enable it. The man had no clue what this particular device did, but his orders were clear enough. He was very glad that the facilities personnel had gone somewhere and left the building. It meant he could carry out his orders without having to answer any questions or interference by the design researchers.

He turned the power dial to 12 microgrades, set the frequency to 30, and pushed the enable button. There was a sudden and enormous crash and a disorienting lurch as a tremendous force seemed to strike the building. At the same time, his thoughts changed drastically to those of a 3 month old immediately as his clothing and most of the other items he carried dissolved away completely. The external areas of the triple shielded test chamber were in total smoking ruin. Many of the people who were unfortunate enough to be in near proximity were either very young infants, or puddles of genetic goo on the ground.

Alarms were going off all over the military base containing the facility, and troops were mobilizing and heading for the smoking ruin of the building. But though it took them hours to fully search the complex, they never found any explanation for what had happened. There were a few screaming infants sitting cold and naked on the floor here and there, but their origins and identities were difficult to determine.

“Was it a Kernian agent?” Commander Xanosai asked angrily.

On the other end of the video link, the military police group leader said, “Sir, we have no information at all. There is no one in the building who is coherent enough to talk, and there is literally no evidence. Could this have been an experiment gone wrong? I’m no scientist.”

“The details of the experiments are top secret, as you know,” said Xanosai, “but keep searching for survivors.” He closed the call.

“Sir, there’s no answer from Shree Dixon or Dr. Rhisia,” said his adjutant.

“That’s what I was afraid of,” Xanosai said glumly. “It might have been Kernian spy activity, or it might have been the accident they’ve been warning me of all along. Is there any sign of anyone on the staff with Kernian ties?”

“Well, Shree Dixon isn’t Kernian; she’s Dravidian, but she’s never spent any significant amount of time in Kerne and has no ties there,” said the adjutant, looking through the files on his display.

“She’s been cleared,” said Xanosai. “But there are -- were -- hundreds of people working in that building.”

“And every one of them carefully vetted, Sir,” the adjutant said. “If there were a Kernian spy who didn’t show up during that process, we’re certainly not going to find them by skimming the files for a few minutes.”

Xanosai sat back in his chair and thumbed through the collection of vid crystals of what was left of the research facility. From what he saw, this was the most devastating weapon ever devised. According to the very last recorded action the weapon’s controls did, a very miniscule amount of energy created more damage than many thousands of pounds of Atlantis’ best explosives.

Xanosai said in a soft and menacing growl, “Whatever the reason for this, I want that weapon built and deployed as soon as we can build them. Get to it now! I don’t want some spy nosing around and doing any kind of damage.”

The man snapped a sharp salute, turned with a loud heel click, and quickly left. Xanosai smiled an evil smile. “Send a spy to destroy us, will they? Let’s see if they can handle a device 100 times that yield within their own borders.” He picked up the comm controls.

“Well, Jasthia,” Sabiana said to the adorably dressed bundle she was pushing in the stroller ahead of her, “are you ready to see an air transport? I’ll bet this will be exciting!” Inwardly she was worried sick. She was about to go AWOL in about the worst possible way.

“Jasthia” babbled meaninglessly. It didn’t even sound like Kernian, which Sabiana didn’t know anyway, but she guessed that Jason was aware that they were doing something sneaky and was pretending to be the baby girl that he looked like. Sabiana had taken the rails to the stop nearest to the low-security air base she’d ordered the transport be ready at. Now she was wheeling past the cluster of civilian businesses that had sprung up near the base.

“Ah, good to see you,” said a familiar voice. It was Lucas, sitting at a table at a sidewalk cafe. She’d almost walked right past him.

“Good afternoon,” Sabiana said. “We’ve already had lunch, or we’d join you for a sandwich. As it is, we’ve got a few minutes if you want to have a cold drink -- I brought some baby formula for Jasthia.”

“No need,” Lucas said. “I’ve paid my tab, and I was wondering if you wanted some more company for your tour today.”

“I’m … sure that would be fine,” Sabiana said.

Lucas nodded his head at some people who had been talking at a nearby table, two women and a man, and they turned their heads toward him, then got up to come toward Sabiana.

“It’s … so good to finally meet you,” said one of them, a woman with darker skin than hers; Sabiana would guess that she was perhaps a Dravidian. “I am Shree Dixon, and I have been watching your videos.”

“Then that would mean …” Sabiana began, but stopped herself. They were in public. “... you must be a fan of Jasthia here.”

Lucas smiled. “Let’s talk while we walk,” he said. “The tour probably won’t wait for us.”

“Very well,” said Shree, and the six of them started making their way down the sidewalk at a leisurely, unhurried pace. “Yes, I have been following Jasthia most ardently as she has been learning to talk, especially since she started forming complete sentences.”

They spoke casually until they reached the air base, and Sabiana used her military ID to get them inside. Once they were in a waiting room, she excused herself to visit the bathroom, asking the others if they would watch “Jasthia” for her. When she emerged, she was dressed in her full military uniform, complete with her Forward Group Leader insignia.

“Ah, thank you for agreeing to show us around, Forward Group Leader,” said Lucas smoothly just as a Second AirOfficer arrived in the room, saw Sabiana, and saluted smartly.

“Ma’am!” he said. “I take it that you are the officer who gave orders for an air transport to be present on the strip today.”

Sabiana saluted in return and said, “That is correct, Second Air Officer. I hope it’s not a great imposition, but my friends have been clamoring for a tour of some of the military facilities, so I chose one that was low-security, involved in only routine functions, so as not to jeopardize any operations.”

The production foreman was beginning to sweat bullets. This new device his team was required to build had to be crafted meticulously by hand. They were in the process of creating mechanized construction equipment, but the Grand Commander was insisting they have at least two devices ready for deployment in the next day. As the automation came on line, it did speed up the process more and more.

The foreman wandered around the central core of one of the devices. Just by sheer bad luck, this core was complete enough so that when the worker arced his seam device, it created a pink harmonic all could hear for an instant. Where the foreman and the worker had been, there now lay two naked squalling infants of a month or so old.

This didn’t deter the ramrod from taking over the foreman’s position and completing the required work. Attaching the fuel cell was quick and uneventful. He smiled as the two completed devices were packed in their steel delivery containers, and the treaded forklift trundled over and picked them up for delivery to the awaiting bomber.

He turned his attention to the two wayward infants that had mysteriously appeared, and to the ever widening search for the missing employees.

“Pleasure to have you aboard, Forward Group Leader,” said the pilot of the air transport, saluting as Sabiana and her “friends” entered via the loading ramp.

“Thank you for going out of your way, First Air Officer,” Sabiana replied with a salute. “I just wanted to show my friends that the Navy wasn’t only about ships. This is Ranee, and Thulia and her husband Philos, and Lucas, and of course my niece Jasthia.”

“Pleasure to meet you all,” the pilot said. “Should we start with where we are, the cargo bay?”

“That is most sensible,” said Sabiana. “Please proceed.”

“Very well. This is an R-13 air transport, able to carry …” He went on with his description of the aircraft’s capabilities.Sabiana whispered to Lucas, “What if he doesn’t agree to take us for a ride?”

Lucas replied, “I can be very persuasive. Can you fly this if it turns out you have to?” Sabiana nodded. She was trained in all Navy vehicles from sailing ships to ground transport to aircraft.

They saw the crew cabin and then the cockpit. “Normally there’s a pilot and a copilot for long journeys,” said the pilot, “but it was just a short jaunt here from Nathusia, and without any cargo, minimal crew is permissible.”

“I don’t suppose you could take her up for a few minutes?” asked Sabiana. “A circle around the field?”

“Well, that wasn’t authorized,” said the pilot, “but I don’t really see anything wrong with it. Everyone has to strap in, of course, for safety.”

“Naturally,” Sabiana said.

After takeoff, the pilot headed the aircraft towards the northern sea on the first leg of what he thought was a joy ride for a high-ranking officer and her friends. He heard a knock on the cockpit door, which sort of surprised him. He turned and opened the door to find Sabiana and the man who had been introduced to him as Lucas there.

“I’m afraid there has been a major change in flight plan and you are enlisted,” Lucas said softly, as he handed the pilot one of those dreaded yellow envelopes with the red band labeled “TOP Secret - Eyes Only - Need to Know.” With trepidation obvious in his demeanor, the pilot opened the envelope and removed several typed pages and three
glossy photos. His eyes grew large in total surprise as he began to read them.

While the pilot read the information, Lucas said, “You are to maintain radio silence for the duration and disregard any and all incoming comms as per those orders signed and sealed by Ephoros Xanosai, the Grand Military Commander of all the Atlantean Military. We are to proceed to those map coordinates with all possible speed using all evasive tactics at your disposal including radar avoidance. Detection would mean immediate destruction of this aircraft. Understood?”

Sabiana gave Lucas a sidelong glance. Obviously someone somewhere was taking this as seriously as she. She now understood about his … persuasiveness.

The pilot said nothing as he shredded the typed pages and added the glossy aerial map photos to those strapped in the binder on his left leg. He reached over to the control console and flipped several switches enabling stealth mode, and as an aside, turned off the comm unit.

“Sir, Ma’am,” said the pilot, “we have sufficient fuel for a one-way trip, but not for the way back.”

Sabiana looked at Lucas. “That shouldn’t be a problem,” she said. “Or … by the time we get there, it won’t be our biggest problem, anyway.”

“Sir, I have something to report,” the adjutant said to Grand Commander Xanosai. “The experts have just …”

“This about the research facility disaster?” asked Xanosai.

“Yes, Sir. They’ve been going over staff movements over the past few months.”

“And?”

“Sir, they think that one of the maintenance workers was replaced.”

“Replaced? You’re not talking about a new hire. You mean he was kidnapped and a lookalike sent back in his place?”

“That’s what they’re thinking, Sir. It was a good job. The replacement must have had plastic surgery to look just like the original.”

“Kernian agents?”

“That’s our only guess, Sir.”

“I’m assuming the High Council’s been informed,” the Commander said.

“The same time you were, Sir,” replied the adjutant.

The Commander scratched his head. “They knew about our project,” he said. “They must have one of their own. Or at the very least they wanted to scuttle ours. The High Council isn’t gonna let that stand.” The videocomm beeped.

“Sir, it’s the High Council.”

“Put them on immediately.”

The images of five Atlantean men and women, the highest elected representatives of the five regions of the nation whose decisions were final in all matters of government, appeared before him. “This is Xanosai.”

“You’ve heard the news, I assume,” said one of the Council.

“I have.”

“You are authorized to retaliate.”

“I understand.”

----------------------------------------------------------------------

No one who was close enough to see it survived to describe it. The technology of the day had envisioned nuclear fission and fusion reactions but had dismissed them because of their inherent risks, and because polyphasic microcrystalline interactions produced almost as much energy without radioactive waste.

But here Atlantis had deployed a weapon that could fracture time itself. Without anyone at the controls, its area and force were nearly unlimited. Deployment via missile was the only conceivable method of delivery, or it would have been a suicide mission for the bomber pilot.

As it was, though, it didn’t matter. The wave covered nearly a quarter of the Earth’s surface and went deep into its mantle. The planet’s magnetic field and axis of rotation were changed forever. The shapes of land and ocean were rewritten that day, altering the course of geological history.

The only Atlanteans who survived were the few aboard distant ships at sea and those who happened to be flying on a one-way trip to a point far away.

“Exterior monitoring cameras aren’t showing a lot,” said Sabiana, “but … I mean, look.” Behind them there was … a column of white. It looked like a cloud, but one that extended across about a quarter of the horizon and from the ocean below up far into the sky. It was as if a huge chunk of the world had been buried under one great cloud.

Jason said something that Sabiana didn’t understand, but Shree did. “He said there will be earthquakes and floods, and quite likely all of Atlantis and Kerne both will be gone.”

Lucas smiled as he said softly so all could hear, “In a single day and night of misadventure, the mighty continent of Atlantis sank into the sea.”

The pilot said, “I’ve lost complete contact with all navigational beacons. I’m not even receiving any signals from the weather buoys.”

By this time, the aircraft had dropped in altitude enough all could plainly see a massive tsunami moving across the ocean beneath them. Indication was it rose to a height of a thousand feet and was moving at over eight hundred miles an hour. The sky darkened as massive bolts of lightning flashed across it in tendrils of fire. The airspeed indicator began to rise as a mighty wind caught up with the aircraft and began to push it along.

The pilot said with obvious tension in his voice, “We must find a suitable place to land. Fuel is down to a meteron. Gives us maybe three hours more air time before engine stall if this tailwind keeps up.”

“Three hours should be more than enough time to reach the destination point,” said Lucas. “Far inland Dravidia should be safe, though no one on Earth will be able to escape the rains. Luckily Shree here knows the culture and speaks the language. We’ll survive, but what we’ll do afterward … we’ll have to decide.”

Jason said something, and Shree translated. “He said that he should never have done his experiment. He says that he has become time, the destroyer of worlds. The city of Ys will be swallowed by the ocean.”

“Tell him …” said Sabiana, “that he has a chance to live his life over again now, and maybe make different choices.”

As the pilot approached the location his instruments told him a landing spot was, he realized there were again no beacons or landing strobes. He did manage to find the paved strip, but even it didn’t seem right somehow -- rougher than usual, and as they slowed down they noticed that the structures alongside it were heavily damaged. The pavement was cracked and pockmarked.

Upon landing, they all disembarked the aircraft. They saw many people wandering around in a complete daze. Shree had realized where they were immediately, but this place she should remember had changed, and not for the better. There was a tremor in the earth as they stood upon the cracked concrete.

She went up to a survivor and asked in the local language, “The earthquakes … how bad were they?”

“So many dead … so many already buried, swallowed whole by the Earth,” said the man, who looked to be in a state of shock. “The city … has been turned over like the field behind the plow.”

“As I’m sure was the fate of many cities this day,” Shree said grimly. “We will have to help each other survive. These will not be easy years. But at least we are alive.”

Jason spoke in Kernish, and both Lucas and Shree responded. Lucas translated this time, saying, “He thinks the knowledge of what did this should die with us. This must never happen again.”

“Is it … my fault?” asked Sabiana, stunned at what she saw around her. “Jason told me not to bring the evidence back. He told me they would make it a weapon. But I didn’t believe him.”

“We all had a part in this,” said Lucas, “with the possible exceptions of our pilot and Rhisia’s husband. But in the end the blame must rest on the High Council and Commander Xanosai. His trigger finger was itchy, and the Ruling Council gave him permission to scratch it. But … none of them exist anymore, I’m certain.”

“I’m certain too,” said Rhisia. “We experimented. We saw the effects. Poor Dr. Iadrys. But this time the world was ripped in half like he was. Water, air, stone, metal … they would have been unchanged aside from being violently torn from their moorings. Alloys might be disassembled. But organic matter would have been torn atom from atom. The
molecules were assembled too recently. There is no way they could have survived.”

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All over the planet, a new reality began. Massive tidal waves of immense proportions battered the coasts and inundated many miles inland. This in turn created many world flood scenarios by those primitives lucky enough to survive.Earthquakes brought down the surviving buildings left in the world, and also spawned massive volcanoes with
tremendous outflows of lava and flying pyroclasts.

The torrential rains that caused floods in other parts of the world were soon overshadowed by the nuclear winter that settled around the globe. Massive ice sheets that were to be called glaciers formed and carved their trails into the already tortured surface of the planet. An ice age settled in to remain for many centuries until the biosphere stabilized and a new normal began.

What technology remained spawned many legends of magical artifacts, and the users of them became the mighty wizards of legends and mythology. Of course, since the infrastructure to create these items and the way to power them had been destroyed in the global cataclysm, the few remaining were damaged, ran out of fuel, or lost power over the ages and were lost to time.

Many legends were spawned of Atlantis that through retelling became something mythical and an awe inspiring tale told around the hearths and fires of winter for entertainment.

~~ They did this already once ~~
Miki Yamuri
 
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