Authors: Philip Bosshardt
Tags: #ocean, #scuba, #marine, #whales, #cetaceans, #whirlpool, #dolphins porpoises, #time travel wormhole underwater interstellar diving, #water spout vortex
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It is better to conquer yourself than to win
a thousand battles. Then the victory is yours. It cannot be taken
from you, not by angels or by demons, heaven or hell.
Scotland Beach, Florida
June 5, 2121
Angie Gilliam squirmed a bit more but it was
no use. Something sharp was pinching her butt. The weight of Chase
Meyer on top of her made it hurt like crazy.
hurts like hell…what the hell are you doing?”
“Sorry…just trying to…it’s the Cove. Water’s
Angie twisted and contorted herself to
ease the pressure.
“Maybe this wasn’t such a great idea,
They had packed a meal and grabbed a boat
from Turtle Key Surf and Board—that was Mack Meyer’s shop, Chase’s
Dad. They had puttered along the coast off Shelley Beach until they
came to Half Moon Cove—they always did it in Half Moon Cove—and
found a secluded spot a few dozen meters off shore…right under some
cypress trees. Always smelled great there.
Then Chase and Angie wolfed down their
sandwiches, dialed up the right music on Chase’s wristpad so they
could slam some jam properly and settled down to business.
That’s when the wind fetched up and the Cove
got way choppier than it usually did. Most of the time, you could
lay a place setting on top of the water and have dinner like home,
it was so placid. But not today.
“Ouch…look…let’s give it a rest,
okay…something’s not quite right…”
Chase groaned and pulled out of her, cinching
up his shorts as he did so. He lay back against the side of the
boat, and turned the volume down on his pad…whoever it was
screeching on that go-tone needed a few more lessons. He checked
the growing waves beyond the Cove and that’s when he spied the
“Jeez…look at that!”
Angie pulled up her own shorts, ran fingers
through her dark brown page-boy hair and sucked in a breath.
“Wow---that’s so wicked--“
There was a strange, wave-like agitation on
the horizon just beyond the Cove, maybe a few kilometers out to
sea, past Shell Key, easily. For a few moments, a slender
multi-hued waterspout danced just above the waves, like a
gray-green rope writhing and hissing on the horizon. It only lasted
a few moments, then it collapsed. There was a calm period, then the
ocean began seething again and became more agitated than before.
Waves piled into the Cove, nearly upending the little boat. Before
long, another spout had formed, all in an odd sort of rhythm.
Angie shuddered, wrapping her arms around her
shoulders. The air had become noticeably colder and a breeze had
picked up, blowing onshore. “Maybe we should get out of here…you
know, like head back—“
Chase shook his head. “This is weird…I never
saw anything like that. Could be a storm or something. Let’s go
check it out.”
“Don’t be an ass—just let’s go back to
the pier, before that
starts up again.”
But Chase was already firing up the outboard.
He untied the boat from the cypress knee they always used as an
anchorage and steered her out of the Cove, heading for open
“Chase—what the hell are you doing…you can’t
get near that thing…it’s a tornado, for Chrissakes! Go back to the
“I just want to see what’s causing all those
waves…that’s not normal…just a little further out…I’m not going to
do anything stupid.”
Yeah, like I never heard
, Angie told herself. She knew better than
to argue. They’d already argued that afternoon anyway, mostly over
little things. Angie told him she wanted to go full time with Dr.
Wright’s clinic when she graduated from Apalachee. Chase just
I want to make something of
she told him. What she didn’t say, because she
didn’t have to was:
you should too.
But that was a lost cause.
Chase steered them further out to sea,
through heavier chop, and Angie got more and more nervous.
“Chase, I’m sorry I said what I did…if you
want to work at the shop—“
But his eyes were on something else.
“Hey...what the hell is that?”
A pair of silvery shapes nosed out of the
water just a few meters off their starboard bow. Rounded humps,
slightly scaly, even plated like some kind of suit.
“Dolphins?” she offered. “At
sense to leave the area.”
“Those aren’t dolphins…too big. Maybe some
kind of whale—there they are again—“ He stood up, letting the
tiller go for a moment and pointed. Waves nearly knocked him
overboard and he fell heavily right into Angie’s lap. They both
rolled and scrambled to get back up.
Two glistening humps were less than ten
meters away, riding along the surface. They were easily twelve to
fifteen meters long, multiple dorsal fins, but the skin was all
wrong. It wasn’t like anything Chase or Angie had ever seen. The
skin wasn’t smooth, but textured, almost plated, as if the
creatures were encased in some kind of armor. Spouts of air blasted
into the sky as they glided along.
“What’s that…some kind of cage--?” Angie
spotted something following the creatures. She realized it was
attached; they were towing some kind of enclosure.
Chase saw it too. “I don’t
dolphin…look inside the cage.” He steered the boat alongside the
convoy, holding off about five meters. Thrashing about inside an
open-grill enclosure was a bottle-nose dolphin, maybe a calf,
perhaps two meters in length. It banged and crashed inside, trying
to get out. The other creatures in the armored suits were towing
it, toward some kind of seething vortex that was churning up the
surface of the Gulf, less than fifty meters away.
“Chase, maybe we ought to—“ But before Angie
could complete her sentence, the convoy stopped dead in the water.
One creature circled back, managing the cage with its beak and
forepaddles. The other creature nosed further up out of the water,
showing its entire forebody. It had forepaddles like a dolphin but
the paddles had fingers, and grasped in the fingers was some kind
of barbell-shaped device. The creature slapped back down in the
water and began circling their small boat, now rising and crashing
down on waves spiraling off the vortex nearby.
“Chase…Chase, what’s happening—“
Chase Meyer stood up and struck out at the
creature with the end of his paddle. He missed and nearly went
overboard. The paddle slipped out of his hand and went into the
sea. “I don’t know…maybe they’re some kind of shark—I never saw
That’s when the circling creature reared up
again and aimed the barbell at their boat. There was a bright
flash. Angie fell backward into the boat, landing on the picnic
hamper, which crumpled.
Chase staggered, then was blinded again by
another bright flash. Everything went dark. He pitched forward,
clipping his chin on a bench and fell awkwardly into the bow. A
dark tunnel opened up and he quickly lost consciousness.
A loud horn kept blaring and bleating and
Chase fought his way back to something like a dull stupor. His chin
hurt, and there was dried blood—he could taste it and feel it as he
wiped his face. He sat up, wobbling around as the waves bounced the
little boat back and forth. A big wall blocked out the early
evening sun, now setting to the west. The wall had a big red stripe
With a start, he realized he was
staring at the gunwales of a Coast Guard cutter. He could dimly
make out the words
Moments later, Angie came to. She sat up with
a jolt, wide-eyed at the ship hove to less than twenty meters
“Jeez…what happened…where are we?”
That’s when they saw the raftbots circling
their small boat. The drones circled them for a few minutes,
gauging distance, then closed in and looped towline over the bow
end of their boat and took them in tow.
Five minutes later, the raftbots had towed
them into the cutter’s well deck. Crewmen secured their boat and
helped Chase and Angie out. They were whisked above decks to a sick
bay crammed with beds and equipment. Corpsmen checked them out,
head to toe.
After the examinations, Chase and Angie
were escorted by two bearded yeoman to a room along a narrow
passageway on the
main deck. It turned out to the captain’s
“Stay here and don’t try to leave,” one
yeoman told them. “Cap’n will be by in a few minutes.” They shut
the door. Chase tried the lock—it was unlocked—but he could hear
movement just outside. They were under guard.
“Guess we’re stuck,” he muttered. Angie was
pale, still groggy from passing out. They sat down in adjoining
chairs. She leaned her head on his shoulders.
“I don’t feel so good,” she admitted.
“Everything’s swimming…just kind of dizzy.”
“I wonder—“ Chase stopped in
mid-sentence. The door opened. It was Captain Rainey. The
commander came in,
shutting the door behind him. He was tall, with a buzzcut and gray
temples. A faint line of moustache arced over his lips. The
moustache twitched like a mouse.
“Corpsman said you two will be okay…mind
telling me what you were doing out in such rough seas? There were
all kinds of weather warnings this afternoon.”
Chase started to tell them about the
whirlpool and waterspout they had spotted, and the two armored fish
with their cage and their—
, whatever it was—but something made him
“Must have been the current, sir. We were
“In the Cove,” Angie added. “We were heading
“Yeah, it was that current—“ Chase
looked over at his girl friend. His eyes said:
Captain Rainey took a peek out a nearby
porthole. “We’ll be docking in a few minutes. Both your parents
have been notified. I want you to make a statement when we get to
shore. My exec will take you to Security—you can have something to
eat and drink there--“ With that, Rainey left the stateroom,
shaking his head. “Teenagers….”
put in at her dock at Apalachee Point
Coast Guard Station ten minutes later. The ship’s executive officer
was a jolly, barrel-chested nearly bald officer whose name plate
Dennison was mainly interested in food, from his description of
what awaited them.
“Oh, you’ll love it,” he told them, as
they headed down the gangway to the pier. “This time of
sandwiches, Coast Guard coffee, that’ll grow hair on your
chest…excuse me, ma’am…just follow me—“
They wound up at the Security shack, a small
cabin just inside the main gate off Spencer Road. Lieutenant Melvin
Betters was the base Security Officer. Just as Dennison had said, a
table full of sodas, coffee and cookies and sandwiches occupied one
corner of the conference room. Chase wondered if everybody rescued
got the same treatment.
Chase and Angie’s parents occupied the other
Maggie Gilliam was a chestnut-haired woman
with too much makeup. She melted when she saw Angie and ran over,
crushing the daylights out of her daughter.
“Oh, honey…honey…are you all right? Are you
hurt?” She looked over at Betters. “She’s gonna be okay? My
Betters nodded. “They both checked out fine
Chase smiled sheepishly at his Dad and Mom.
Mack Meyer had a full black beard-it was something Chase was still
working on, unsuccessfully—and tattoos up and down his arms. Mom
Cynthia was tall and wiry, short blond hair, almost ascetic—she did
marathons and triathlons almost every weekend, it seemed to Chase.
Mack frowned, his arms crossed.