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It was moonless night and the cold ocean was as glass; all appeared calm but from the east ,through the haze caused by the cold air, the ship appeared. It cut through the still water, parting it with ease. At the bow the lookout peered ahead. With the sea so still and with only the light of the stars overhead it was difficult to make out anything. There was no tell tale foam and spray, the ocean seemed empty . All would be utter silence if not for the sound of the bow cutting the seas, the throb of the coal fired engines in the bowels of the ship, and the faint sounds of music carried in the air.
The lookout shivered, as he imagined the great and the good enjoying the luxury of fine food and wine, while he was out in the cold. His breath made a cloud of steam in the night air, he looked at his watch, squinting to make out the position of the hands. 9.42PM; he sighed bitterly, he had hours of his watch yet to serve. By the time it would have ended the party would be over and the remains of the festivities would have been cleared away by the galley and serving staff.
Four days out of port and they were already over half way to their destination. This vessel was indeed a marvel of modern technology and an example of opulence. However in the back of his mind he still considered jumping ship when they made port, while his pockets were full of coin. It was then, breaking his contemplation, he felt the static charge the air behind him. The hairs on the back of his neck stood up as he turned, looking to the point behind the anchor crane, between the capstans where the air throbbed green and golden lightning seemed to writhe around any object near to it. Was this St Elmo’s Fire? He had heard of the phenomenon from older sailors, but had discounted it as nonsense intended to impress the younger members of the crew. What had they said it was like? Like a green glow that clung to the masts and rigging. This was golden. He looked up at the forward mast and there was nothing. likewise nothing glowed around the four, tall tunnels which belched black smoke. Beyond the ball of static the electric lights from the inner decks shone. He wondered if anyone on the bridge was seeing what he was seeing. He reached for the telephone handset, but before he lifted it, with a hiss, the ball of static dissipated. He clenched his fists, to strengthen his resolve, and walked towards the capstans.
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The shadowed figure arose as if out of nowhere, tall and brooding. The figure seemed to be wearing a strange attire that was as shiny as a black mirror. The lookout could almost see himself in reflection; he gasped in horror and attempted to run past it the apparition. As he ran past, the black figure struck out its leg. The lookout tripped over it and fell towards the starboard side, tumbling over the edge into the dark. With a curse the black figure reached out its hands and tried to grab the lookout’s ankle, but the hem of the man’s trousers slid through grasping fingers The lookout’s head struck the side of the ship, rendering him unconscious as he tumbled into the cold black ocean with a splash to never be seen again, or so it appeared.
The black figure swore anew, there would be consequences to be borne, there always were. The figure looked down towards its forearm and tapped an invisible console. The figure looked up from the console in impatience; had the chameleon suit had enough exposure to create a disguise? The console answered with low beeps as the figure took on the appearance of the lookout.
Erasmus Pike breathed a sigh of relief. Time travelling manifestation was always a risky affair, even on land. Almost invisibly the ground level changes over the centuries. Tectonic events and landslides can change the geography instantly but the earth’s mass is always growing. It has been estimated that up to 300 metric tonnes of dust enters the atmosphere every day; spread globally of course this is as nothing but when backtracking hundreds, maybe thousands, of years its best to add this variation in the calculation. Cities are built on the remains of older cities or can just appear. Rome wasn’t built in a day of course, but it may as well have been. There were horror stories of time operatives manifesting half in, half out of building. Death wasn’t as instantaneous as would be expected. On the molecular level it is surprising about how much space can be found within a stone; certainly enough for a human body to materialise between the atomic bonds. The end can be quick as long as the cranium or vital organs are within the stone, otherwise….
Manifesting on a ship called for particular pinpoint accuracy, especially without drawing attention to the natives of the time zone; in this case the early Twentieth Century. He could quite easily have experienced the fate of the unfortunate lookout.
He wondered who the ill starred man had been. How would this play out in the future, now that it was denied the man’s descendants. Such were the hazards of time travel, he wondered why his supervisors took the risk, not that the future could get much worse of course since the collapse of human populations in the early 22nd Century. Perhaps their modus operandi was indeed to try and steer a different course for humanity as per what their synaptic propaganda instructed; however of late, Erasmus had developed doubts as to the legitimacy of this. Nothing seemed to improve, save for the power, prestige and position of the Red Shield organisation. He had been sent for direct cranial indoctrination prior to this mission, but doubts still clouded his subconscious. He should have reported the dreams, that he played out again and again in his sleep, to his supervisors but he had thought better of it. He activated his console on his forearm again, so far no warnings were flashing up about the future consequences. Poor man, he thought, a meaningless, inconsequent nobody that time forgot. Not even his accidental death at the hands of an invader from the future begat future ramifications, other than defining his all-to-brief existence. He had best continue with the mission, the assassination of the quarry. His target recognition inputs were active, he would instantly know the one he was after, just to find him; at least they were on a contained vessel in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean, there was nowhere to run.
Standing here, mourning the death of a nobody wouldn’t get the job done, he set off towards the lit decks where the target would be. He passed emergency lifeboats and in the gloom he registered the name written on them. An uncomfortable feeling settled on him. Where had he heard that name before; SS Titanic?
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