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Maps

EXCERPT

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Chapter 1

A car drove quickly up the lane towards a stately estate, its buildings clustered one against another in an odd mingling of architectural styles. Bletchley Park, or ‘Station X’ as it was called, was one of ten special operations facilities set up by MI6, where ‘Captain Ridley’s Shooting Party’ was supposed to be enjoying afternoons on the adjoining sixty acre estate, with shotguns and hounds to hunt down quail. Yet its real purpose was derived from the feverish activity of the Government Code and Cypher School, England’s code breakers, a collection of brilliant and dedicated men and women who would generate the vital intelligence information needed to prosecute the war.

Here there were walls of colored code wheels, strange devices like the Enigma machines and odd looking equipment fed by long coiled paper tape, dimpled with a series of small black dots of varying sizes. The minds of Bletchley Park were already in the first stages of digitizing the analog world into forms their nascent computing machines could digest and ruminate upon. A year later the estate would see the installation of the first “Colossus” machine, a rudimentary computer housing all of 1500 vacuum tubes to power its mechanical brain.

The car stopped, its door opening quickly as Admiral Tovey stepped out, a thick parcel under his right arm. He did not approach the styled mansions up the main walkway, but veered left towards a green sided extension—Hut 4, the heart of naval intelligence. A year ago the men who worked there had been reveling in their first breakthrough, the deciphering of the German Enigma code. Then came the unaccountable appearance of a strange ship in the Norwegian Sea, and it set the whole community back on its heels.

Tovey walked past the row of white trimmed windows and entered through a plain unsigned door. He was immediately greeted by a Marine guard, who saluted crisply and led him down the narrow hall to the office of Alan Turing, who had been reading a volume of Byron’s poetry as he waited for the Admiral.

“Good day, Doctor,” said Tovey as he walked briskly in, his hand extended. Turing set his poetry down and rose to greet him, his dark eyes alight with a smile.

“Call me ‘Professor,’ Admiral. Everyone else does here, though I haven’t been given a formal chair as yet. The word doctor always seemed a tad sterile for me.”

“Very good, Professor. I’ve brought you a little something more for your file boxes,” said Tovey.

“Ah,” said Turing, “The photography!”

“Indeed. Two reels of film here with photos, and a full report. I’ve collected the logs of all ships involved, so you’ll have a good time sorting it all through before it gets filed away with everything else on this Geronimo business.”

“Very good, sir,” said Turing, his curiosity immediately aroused. “I wonder, Admiral. Might I persuade you to allow me to fly out to St. Helena one of these days and have a look for myself?”

Tovey raised an eyebrow, his face suddenly serious, and seated himself, his eye falling on the open volume of Byron’s poetry. He scanned the lines, reading inwardly:

“On the sea the boldest steer but where their ports invite;
But there are wanderers o’er Eternity
Whose bark drives on and on,
and anchor’d ne’er shall be.”


With a heavy sigh he looked at Turing, and all the unanswered questions in his mind took a seat there with him, waiting to have their say. “I’m afraid I have some rather interesting news for you, Professor,” he said quietly. “And I think it’s high time that you and I have a very frank chat.”

“News, sir?” Turing received most information that might be considered news well before anyone else, so it was unusual, and even interesting to hear something he might not know.

“This ship—Geronimo—well it’s vanished again.”

“Vanished?” The word got Turing’s attention immediately, and he leaned forward, waiting to hear more.

“Indeed, and just as the escort reached St. Helena.”

“Are you saying it sunk, sir?”

“No, Professor, I am saying it simply vanished—sailed into a bank of fog and disappeared. Oh, we put divers down and scoured the sea floor. There was not a trace. We had two cruisers and three search planes look in every direction, and there was no sign of this ship whatsoever. There was no visible or audible explosion, so we have ruled out accident or deliberate scuttling as well. By God, some magician pulled this rabbit out of his hat, and then just waved his hand and made it disappear again! It sounds impossible, but what else are we to conclude? The ship is gone, or at least that is what we thought….Until this came in today.”

Tovey handed him another plain Manila envelope, much smaller than the first, a raised eyebrow betraying his obvious excitement. “Sorry to tell you that any photographic evidence related to this Geronimo business has been re-routed to Admiralty first. Admiral Pound was none too happy with the decision I made to parley with the Admiral of this rogue ship, and even less amused when it pulled this incredible disappearing act. I daresay the Prime Minister was rather teed off as well. Neither man can accept the ship has vanished without a trace. That said, I managed to keep my head on my shoulders, though if Admiralty knew what I have for you in this second envelope it the gallows might be waiting for me soon.”

“I see,” said Turing, his own excitement rising as he opened the envelope and slipped out five badly exposed photos, clearly not proper gun camera shots, or even military formatted photos. “You must tell me about this man—the Admiral you parlayed with.”

“In due course, Turing. First have a look at those photos. No one else in the Kingdom has seen them outside of Admiralty Headquarters. They were taken by a pair of eagle eyed coastwatchers on Melville Island north of Darwin three days ago.” Tovey crossed his arms, watching Turing closely. He noted how he immediately took up a magnifying glass and stared intently at the images, moving from one to another, then back again. When he looked at Tovey it was evident that he was deeply concerned.

“It’s Geronimo,” he said quietly. “There’s no question about it. The silhouette is unmistakable. And those other ships are Japanese cruisers.”

“Indeed,” said Tovey. “Those photos were taken August 24th. Now Professor, might you tell me how this ship, which was a thousand yards off the Island of St. Helena on the morning of August 23rd, could suddenly vanish, and then reappear off Melville Island, a distance of 7,800 nautical miles away in a period of 24 hours? That is ten days sailing time at a high speed of thirty knots, and even if this ship could fly it would be hard pressed to cover that distance in the time allotted.”

Now it was Turing’s turn to raise eyebrows, both of them. He studied the photos, his eyes moving from the images to Tovey and back again. Then he took a deep breath, and blinked, shutting his eyes tightly for a moment. When he opened them there was a quiet determination in them, and a light of fire.

“Well, Admiral,” he began. “As you so ably point out, no ship would cover that distance in a single day. It’s quite impossible. Then again, no ship that I know of is like to up and vanish without a trace as you claim this one did. Oh, there have been hundreds of lost ships, sir, accidents, storms at sea, but as you describe it, Geronimo disappeared right under the noses of some very experienced naval personnel sent to St. Helena to keep watch on her. Yes, I heard something unusual had happened through channels…some rather dark channels, and I’ve been trying to come to grips with it for these last three days. Admiralty may sit on all the photography they want, but things have a way of getting round to the people who can do anything useful with them, as your presence here proves quite plainly.”

“Yes, well I went out on a limb to bring you this material, Turing, because I believe exactly that. Now what do you make of it all?”

Turing looked at the photos in his hand again. “Unless I am completely mistaken as to my interpretation of these photos, then we are faced with yet another profound mystery here, sir.”

“Could you be mistaken, Professor?”

Turing smiled. “Not today…”

“Of course. Then how does a ship move that distance in a single day? After I spoke with you at the Admiralty I gave considerable thought to what you were telling me about these wonder weapons used by this ship. Yes, they were at least graspable. We’ve known about rocketry and such for centuries. Yet both you and I know that the rockets we saw used in the North Atlantic and the Med were clearly a cut above anything we have in development now.”

“Clearly.”

“Yes…well the rockets I can live with, Professor. But a ship that can move about willy nilly and travel such distances is something else entirely—an impossibility I am not able to grasp in any wise.”

“I’ll agree with you on that, sir,” said Turing. “No ship could move that distance in space in a single day. No ship could vanish from the North Atlantic and appear in the Med a year later, only to vanish yet again. These things are all impossibilities, but if these photos are indeed Geronimo then it moved there some other way, sir, and there is only one explanation I can now offer you, strange as it may sound.”

“I’ve become more willing to entertain the impossible since all this business began, professor. Don’t keep me in suspense…”

“Well sir, the ship would have to move in time. It’s the only thing that might account for this sudden disappearance and reappearance half a world away.” He stared at Tovey, the two men locking eyes for some time until it was clear to them both that they had hold of the same elephant now.

“You’ve held this view earlier, but said nothing about it.”

“I had my suspicions, sir,” said Turing, “but it didn’t seem as though I might have any luck conveying an idea like this to Admiral Pound.”

“You were trying to put me on to it, weren’t you—in that last conversation we had after the meeting at the Admiralty.”

“I was, sir. Without coming right out with it. You see they pay us to reach for certainty here, not fanciful speculation. They listen to us because they want facts, not imagination. I had very grave doubts about this ship from the moment I first set eyes on it. We’ve gone round and round on it, eliminating it from one navy after another. The conclusion I was coming to was not likely to be well received, and I must say, Admiral Tovey, that I am already shunned in many circles as it is. Somewhat of a dreamer, they say of me. Somewhat of a peculiar odd fool is perhaps what they really mean. Well they can say what they will. When they can crack the Enigma code on their own let them play me for a fool. Our own Sherlock Holmes would give me some comfort when he said that once you have eliminated every other possible option, what you are left with must be the truth, as impossible as it may seem. Things move in two ways, Admiral. They move in space and they move in time. Now, while we’re accustomed to moving there and back again in space, travel in time has been stubbornly in one direction—forward—until this ship appeared in the Norwegian Sea a year ago. Not a German ship, as we now know. Not an Italian or French ship, and now it’s half a world away fighting with the Japanese!”

“Moving in time? Well I have to say that the notion did cross my mind—one for the likes of Jules Verne or H. G. Wells, eh? Yet how can I believe this, Turing? It’s astounding!”

“Can you explain it any other way, sir?”

At this Tovey frowned, clearly perplexed. “They hit us at Darwin,” he said, steering a new compass heading for the moment and hoping to find safer waters.

“Yes, sir. I did hear that as well.”

“Then let me share a little more, Professor,” Tovey smiled, hoping to give the young man the comfort of confederacy. “You see, I had the opportunity to have a little chat with the Admiral commanding this phantom ship, and it was most enlightening. First off, your suspicions expressed earlier were correct. The man was Russian. His crew was Russian, and I am led to believe that his ship was Russian built as well.”

“Another impossibility,” said Turing, “at least at present. The existing Soviet Union could not build anything like that ship.”

“Quite so, but no more confounding than what you have just suggested, Professor. A ship moving in time? Funny thing is this…The man disavowed any affiliation with Stalin and the Soviet Union. In fact he was quite pointed about it—claimed Stalin would not have the slightest inkling that his ship even existed. Yet he knew of Churchill’s meeting, at that very moment, in the Kremlin. That was most revealing. Very few people knew of that arrangement, even in the highest circles here, yet he spoke about it as if… well as if it were—”

“As if it were history,” Turing cut in, a gleam in his eye.

“Exactly!” Tovey had hold of the teacup now, and there was nothing more to do with it but drink. “In fact he spoke of the war, our ‘world war’ as he called it, as if it were history as well. When I pressed him with the fact that Russia was our ally and asked him to throw in with us, he said something very odd—that Russia was our ally for the moment. He told me things change, hinting that arrangement might not be stable. At first I took that as a warning that Stalin may be ready to switch sides and throw in with Hitler. Perhaps this man and his ship were the vanguard of that decision. But Churchill has come to some very different conclusions after his meeting in Moscow.”

“I think we can safely keep Russia on our side of the fence for the time being,” said Turing. “But who knows how this war ends, sir? Who knows what the world will look like ten years from now, twenty years, fifty?”

“This man seemed to think he knew,” said Tovey. “I pressed him on his port of origin, yet he would say nothing, even suggesting the question was dangerous to ask. At one point he gestured to the fortifications above us on the cliff and asked me how I might explain my battle fleet to the Moors that built them. Then he said he could no more explain his presence here in a way I could comprehend, and that he was just trying to get his ship home again, wherever that was. Believe me, all I could think of at that point was this Captain Nemo.”

Turing smiled. “There was more to that than you might think, sir. Nemo may be a good image for this man, though it doesn’t sound as though he was vengeful.”

“Quite the contrary,” said Tovey, scratching the back of his head. “He seemed most accommodating, very sincere. I wanted to believe everything he told me. Well, that bit about the Moors… I thought about it for some time. It was as if the man was suggesting he had come from some far future.”

Turing sighed, greatly relieved. “That is, in point of fact, what I am now suggesting,” he said with confidence. “Consider it, Admiral. His ship is a marvel of engineering, highly advanced, so powerful that it held the whole Royal Navy at bay in the Atlantic, not to mention the American fleet as well. It sees us before we know it is even there, and it flings weapons at us we won’t be able to manufacture or deploy for decades—yes, decades. It used a working atomic weapon of enormous power, something we all know is in development, but not nearly ready for deployment. Yes, that’s very hush, hush, but things do get around in the circles I frequent. The real point is this: something like that would take the resources of a major power to design and build, and yet if any nation tried it, we would surely know about it. I was very pointed in telling you that earlier, hoping to jog your thinking along these very lines. You see… none of this made sense when we assumed this ship came from our world, from the here and now reality of this war. Yet it paints an entirely different picture when we make a different assumption—that this ship was built in the future—yes, built by the Russians I suppose, but not by any Russian engineer alive in 1942, that I can assure you.”

“But why, Turing? What are they here for? Was this ship sent here deliberately? How could it possibly happen? Time travel is a thing for fanciful writers to bandy about.”

“We may probably never know the how or why of it all. But we do know the facts we have witnessed, Admiral. The ship was here, then it vanished and appeared in the Med a year later. That’s why we never saw it waving at us in the Straits of Gibraltar or Suez. It was somewhere else, moving in time, Admiral. Then it vanishes at St. Helena and re-appears 7,800 miles away overnight! Again, it could only do so by moving in time, or possibly through some higher dimension. We may never know this either.”

“Have they come here for a purpose? This is a warship. Were they sent here with some mission? After all, the history of this period is fairly critical, and as I think on it now, this ship was making a beeline right for the conference between Churchill and Roosevelt at Argentia Bay, and it bloody well blasted anything that tried to stop it, the American Task Force 16 getting the worst of it.”

“What you say makes a great deal of sense, Admiral,” said Turing. “Can you imagine that atomic weapon falling at Argentia Bay and killing both the Prime Minister and the American President in one fell swoop?”

“Believe me, I’ve had nightmares about it, Turing. The Government has had nightmares about it ever since, though now I think we can safely say that the Germans don’t have these weapons after all—not the naval rockets or the warhead that was so terrible to behold. You should have seen it, Professor. It was rather chilling.”

“And again, now this question of why we have seen no other deployment of these rockets by the Germans in a long year makes perfect sense. They never had them! Oh they’re working on designs of their own now, but not like the rockets that have been pounding the fleet, eh?”

Tovey sighed, his eyes searching, concerned. “I had a perfect opportunity to see just how many rockets this ship had left, Turing, and I let this devil go. Had it by the tail and let it slip away.”

“That may have been the wisest course, sir,” said Turing earnestly. “If you had fought your battle, and lived through it, then we might not have come to this conclusion here today.”

“It’s just that the man claimed to want nothing more to do with our war, as he put it—this Captain Nemo. He said he was only trying to get his ship and crew home. I wonder if this whole affair is some kind of macabre accident?”

“That may, in fact, be the simple truth of the matter,” Turing suggested. “Perhaps they are as bewildered about all this as we are. Perhaps the ship does find itself here by accident, and has not been sent here for some darker purpose. But one thing now looms as a most grave and dire threat either way. The presence of this ship has surely changed the course of events, sir. That engagement in the North Atlantic, the use of precision rocketry, atomic weapons…I’m afraid this ship has opened Pandora’s Box, Admiral Tovey. I am aware, as you may now be, that His Majesty’s government has undertaken to disperse its leadership assets all across the Kingdom, and has intensified several projects involving high level physics… It’s as if they were preparing for something they fear might come—something to do with these weapons this ship has so ably demonstrated.”

“I can’t say I find that prospect comforting,” said Tovey.

“Yes, and consider this…Surely these engagements would have never been fought in the Atlantic or the Med were it not for the strange presence of this ship. Why, we’ve canceled the planned air raid on Kirkenes and Petsamo, pulled Force Z off Operation Pedestal early, canceled Operation Jubilee, delayed the Torch landings. Those decisions must have had some impact on the course of the war. Beyond that, the Americans declared war because of the actions of this single ship and, were it not here, how long might it have been before that country really got involved in this conflict? Now the Japanese are in for it! This ship is a rock in the stew they have planned for the Americans.”

“Indeed,” said Tovey. “There’s a big operation underway in the Pacific. The Japanese  are definitely coming south. FRUMEL HQ is all up in arms about it in Melbourne. This Darwin business is perhaps only the tip of the  sword.”

“Think about it from another perspective, sir. We’ve fought with this ship. Men are dead now who might have lived out this war, and others may be alive that might have been killed. Surely you realize that could change everything from this day forward.”

“I see…” said Tovey, considering this for the first time.

“Well I can’t imagine the Americans would have come to the fight as soon as they did, in spite of Churchill’s hopes to the contrary. This ship made that certain when it attacked Task Force 16 and sunk the Wasp. It might have done that intentionally, as you proposed, though I can’t imagine why. Surely they must have realized that such an act would have dramatic consequences.”

“Perhaps, Turing, though this Captain Nemo did hint that there was some disagreement aboard Geronimo as to how they should act, and that he was indisposed when that action was fought. I came to the conclusion that there may have been a wolf in their fold, a hard liner in command at that time. This Admiral seems to be a good measure more sensible.”

“It’s chilling to think about in any wise, Admiral. Consider it…if this ship is from the future, then they have tremendous knowledge. They would know everything that happens from our day to theirs!”

“And where to stick a crowbar in the corners of history, if they ever had a mind to.”

“Precisely, sir.”

Tovey rubbed his forehead, still bewildered by it all, and half way shaking his head at the notions they had discussed here. “Well, Turing, those photos were taken three days ago. I’ve had my ear to the ground on these events ever since I received them. We’ve already sent word to FRUMEL to keep an eye out for this ship, and I suppose we’ll have to tell the Americans about this as well. Whether they’ll believe what we’ve just discussed here is another matter entirely, but we’ll have to tell them. I’ve got a man in mind for the job, but I’m afraid a great deal has happened in the Pacific since these photographs were taken. You may have heard about it through these dark channels you mentioned earlier, but it’s quite a story indeed.”

“I’m all ears, sir,” Turing smiled. “And I have all afternoon if you’d care to join me for lunch.”

 

... Kirov moved, the very fabric of her being becoming gossamer thin, a wisp of shadow on the sea, a vaporous menacing mist. It seemed only seconds to the crew, and no man could really say they noticed it, but the ship was indeed “pulsing” as Fedorov had come to describe it, fading in and out of the time period she had been trapped in, slipping into infinity and the limbo of uttermost nowhere. She loitered there but a few brief moments before falling back into the turbulent waters of the Coral Sea and her private war on war itself...

Kirov hovered like a single breath of God in time without end, then reappeared, gaining form and substance again in the real world of rock and sea and sky, and men in steel ships on the Coral Sea of 1942. Karpov suddenly saw what looked like a vast darkness looming off the starboard beam, a brooding, menacing thunderstorm, and then it seemed to sharpen to hard angles, as if a shadow had been frozen solid, resolving to the shape and form of a ship of war! ...

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