Authors: Tom West
Tags: #Fiction, #Thrillers, #Suspense, #General
Norfolk Naval Base, Virginia. 14 February 1937.
Albert Einstein pulled himself out of the mud-spattered black Oldsmobile. A young naval officer closed the door behind him as the scientist flipped up the collar of his
greatcoat to shield his face against the bitterly cold northerly wind and stepped around a frozen brown puddle.
The naval base was undergoing major renovations; there were signs of construction all around. Einstein was escorted along a series of wooden boards placed over the mud and pools of frozen water
towards a newly built headquarters, Building K-BB. It was four storeys high with a control tower on the north-west side.
He was met at the double doors to the building by Commander Flynn, a tall wiry man with a head of grey stubble, tired eyes and a cigarette between his narrow, pale lips.
‘Professor,’ Flynn said, extending a hand. ‘I think we need to get you inside, it’s like the Arctic out here.’
‘I shan’t argue with you there, Commander,’ Einstein replied. Flynn held the door open and they entered the building followed close behind by four naval officers.
They took the lift to the top floor and crossed a narrow bridge to the control tower. Half of the large circular room had vast windows that looked out onto a panoramic view of the base and
westward to the bay. In the foreground a road led to the water and a curved succession of piers, metal frames extending into the dark water. Docked at these piers were a range of naval vessels, two
frigates, a battlecruiser, a minesweeper, and to the south, the hulking form of two aircraft carriers,
The ships dominated the view and dwarfed the piers and buildings clustered around the road to the water; and on this grey dreary morning, the vessels seemed to merge with the dirty grey-brown
waters of the bay. Clouds hung low making the whole vista appear as a painting created by an artist using only the dark end of a monochrome palette.
Looking up towards the horizon, Einstein could see that all marine traffic around the bay had been rerouted for the experiment. Poised in the middle distance, perhaps half a mile offshore, stood
at anchor USS
, an old Wickes-class destroyer, designation DD74; a ship that had first seen service in 1918 and was soon to be decommissioned.
At one end of the room, following the curve of the windows, stretched a bank of control stations manned by five naval officers. The desks were covered with an array of dials, lights and sliders;
one of the stations included an oscilloscope screen, a white line stuttering across the glass. A constant babble of conversation passed between the operatives speaking into Bakelite mouthpieces to
their counterparts on the bridge of
Commander Flynn offered Einstein a pair of binoculars. Looking through them he could make out details of the ship, a half-dozen white-clad crewmen working on the main deck.
One of the operatives shifted in his chair to face Einstein and the admiral. ‘T minus five.’
‘Professor, let’s go through the protocol one last time, shall we?’ Flynn led the scientist to a table away from the control desks. Two men stood on the far side studying
something laid out in front of them.
Flynn saluted and turned to Einstein. ‘Professor, Admiral Stevens and Admiral Le Marc. They are here today as observers.’ The two men stepped forward and took turns to shake
On the table lay a large piece of paper covered with lines drawn in different colours connecting a series of boxes and triangles, each labelled in bold letters. At the head of the diagram was
written: ‘Project Cover Up. Top Secret’. At the foot of the paper was a rectangle marked ‘Control Room’. This was the room they were now standing in. Close to the top of the
diagram was a small box designated ‘USS
From the rectangle representing the control room, a thick red line ran vertically upwards before splitting into two fresh horizontal lines, left and right. These each arrived at boxes labelled
‘Conduction Station’. Connected to these and off to each side of the paper two triangles had been drawn. Under each was written ‘Particle Beam Emitter’. Two green lines
connected these to boxes carrying the legend: ‘Generators’. Bright yellow wavy lines came from the particle beam emitters to converge on
‘Could you talk us through it please, Professor?’
Commander Flynn handed Einstein a pointer and the scientist leaned in towards the diagram.
‘As you know, the object of this experiment, part of the larger project dubbed “Cover Up”, is to build a defensive shield about the warship
.’ He tapped
the diagram. ‘We hope to do this because of a consequence of a theory I have been working on with a close colleague, Johannes Kessler in Berlin. We call it the Unified Field
‘With respect, Professor, could we stick to the practicalities please,’ Flynn interrupted.
‘Very well. From here’ – and Einstein tapped the box representing the Control Room – ‘a pulse of electricity is fired to these two “Conduction
Stations”, here and here. This is then amplified and sent via a cable to each of the “Particle Beam Emitters”.’ He pointed to the triangles each side of the diagram.
‘These then fire a beam of particles called protons towards
When the two streams meet, they interact, and, according to theory at least, they will generate a sphere of
exotic particles called “neutrinos”.’
‘And these . . . neutrinos act as a kind of invisible shield against anything fired at the ship. Is that right, Professor?’ Admiral Stevens asked.
‘That is indeed the theory, Admiral. If the shield is produced properly in the demonstration today, we should see just a slight distortion of the air around the ship, a shimmering perhaps.
We then plan to use small arms fire from a launch close by, to test its effectiveness.’
‘And with the crew inside?’ Stevens queried.
‘That was a decision made by our people early on,’ Commander Flynn said. ‘We want to see what effect the beams have on humans, not just the ship. All the men aboard
‘T minus two minutes,’ the same operator at the control panels announced.
‘Gentlemen, shall we go over to the observation window?’
Commander Flynn led the way, and as Einstein and the two admirals reached the observation window he pointed to a line of four chairs and handed them each a pair of binoculars.
‘T minus sixty seconds. Conduction coils on.’
There was a hush of expectation in the room, a silence broken only by the whirr of machines, the hum of valves.
‘Thirty seconds to link up. Particle emitters on.’
Einstein and the naval men watched through their binoculars.
‘Five, four, three. Emitters set to full load. Two, one.’
For perhaps two seconds it seemed as though nothing was happening; but then, almost invisible at first, they could see a hazy light flickering around
It looked like distortion
produced by hot air. Four sailors were visible on the deck, each manning a station; two more men could be seen moving around on the bridge.
Then a low hum came from across the water. It was impossible to pinpoint the source. Quickly, it rose through the scale to a squeal that seemed to come from all around. As Einstein and the three
senior officers watched, the shimmering aura around the ship started to glow. It began as a mellow lemon altering to a pallid green that spread into a dome encompassing the whole ship. A halo of
sparkling light hung over it and around the perimeter where it touched the water.
‘Holy . . . !’ exclaimed Admiral Le Marc, ‘. . . that light!’
A ferocious blast of noise came from the ship. The sailors cowered. A shockwave skittered across the water. Travelling at the speed of sound, it took less than two seconds to cover the half mile
to the control room of the naval base. It hit the wall of windows, shattering the panes into countless shards that sprayed the room.
Einstein came to completely deaf, feeling the pounding of his own heart, his own heavy breathing reverberating through his head. He pulled himself up into a seated position and
looked around. Admiral Le Marc was dead, his head a mess of glass and brain, the horrible white of his broken skull just by Einstein’s feet. The other two officers were pulling themselves to
their feet, their faces covered with dust and blood. Einstein turned towards where the operators had been seated; the closest was rushing over to them, the others gazed around, shock imprinted on
Einstein let the young naval operator help him up. A horrible stab of pain shot up his right leg and he almost collapsed.
‘Easy, sir,’ the man said.
But Einstein was not paying attention. He could see through the dust and the shattered window that
Orkney Islands, north-east Scotland. Present day.
The chopper – an AgustaWestland AW101 – swung east, banking through the low grey clouds a hundred feet above the pristine dark waters of the North Sea. Glena
Buckingham, head of Eurenergy, one of the two largest energy resource conglomerates on the planet, drew on her favourite cigar – a fat Bolivar from a private supplier in Cuba – filling
the small cabin with smoke. Neither the other passenger, Buckingham’s right-hand man Hans Secker, nor the company pilot John MacBride, dared say a word. Secker just coughed quietly and looked
out at the violent, freezing water below the chopper.
‘Lord knows why we couldn’t have built this facility somewhere a little more civilized,’ Buckingham said and looked up at the steel roof of the aircraft, watching the swirls of
‘What? Somewhere inconspicuous like central London, Glena?’ Secker risked a little levity.
She gave him a withering look and exhaled thick grey smoke. The trip up from London had been turbulent and the news on her iPad had irritated her enormously. The world’s media had worked
itself into a frenzy over the Chinese government’s secret purchase of a tiny Pacific island called Dalton from under the very noses of the West. Glena would have found it all very amusing
except for the fact the new owners were already boasting about the massive oilfields under the island.
‘I do want to see what all the money has been spent on here though, Hans,’ Buckingham hissed. ‘And it had better be bloody worth it.’
‘State of the art, I’m assured.’
‘One would hope so for . . . what was it in the end?’
‘Eight hundred and twenty-five million.’