Cataclysm

cataclysm

The following is the opening scene in another scifi novella of mine, born out of one of my short stories. Imagine if you will, meeting someone who to all intent and purpose, looks and acts like a woman, but isn’t. Imagine falling in love with her, or should that read in lust? Put yourself in the shoes of the story’s extremely naive hero. How would you react to her, let alone what is happening across the world?

~~~

When the breakthrough finally happened in September 2097, Dr Gilbert Briggs, the new head of the UK Advanced Science Institute, based in the English city of Norwich, volunteered to be the first human guinea pig. No one knew if he would survive. The Institute’s more senior academics instantly took a dislike to him, mainly because of his youth and fresh approach to experimental science. Since becoming his subordinates, they all secretly hoped he would be disassembled on a molecular level forever. As the boss, he was adamant that no one but him would be the first to travel back in time.

Three years earlier he had been employed as a very junior postdoctoral researcher at the Institute when the rudiments of time travel shifted from pure theory to a practical attempt at building a working device. There was one thing none of his detractors could deny, no matter how much they may loath him – he was a gifted academic with a superb analytical mind. He had achieved two first class doctorates at the University of East Anglia, one in theoretical physics, and the other in experimental electrical engineering.

For years the only attempt at time travel in its other guise, teleportation, barely succeeded when a few particles were moved from one teleporter to another. Whether or not they had altered irrevocably was the subject of much debate within the academic world back in the first decade of this the twenty-first century. Up until that moment teleportation was only possible within the realms of science fiction. But like all the fantastic, seemingly impossible things dreamt up by imaginative writers, time travel was about to become a reality.

The successful breakthrough was finally achieved when a laboratory rat was sent from one teleportation unit, lost for a few brief seconds, before reappearing at the other unit, seemingly unharmed by the experience. That was five years ago. Now the long awaited next step could be taken thanks to Briggs’ brilliant breakthrough – the Teleportation Gate.

The time had come to send a human test subject to a place and time in the past and return them intact to the present. The notion of travelling forward in time was ruled out simply because without a reference point in the future, there was no guaranteeing that it would be successful. Common sense dictated that at least by choosing a known place and time in the past, the chances of success were almost assured.

The Institute’s most senior academic, Professor Malcolm, exhibited his academic jealousy by sharing his grave misgivings over his former juniors’ momentous breakthrough with anyone who would listen, largely without success. Since the movers and shakers in the academic world had shifted their gaze away from him towards young Briggs, Malcolm did his level best through his dwindling contacts in the academic old boy’s network to expose him as nothing more than a charlatan and an upstart. While publically backing his young boss; privately, like his colleagues, he hoped Briggs would die during the inaugural attempt.

~~~

Briggs was suitably attired for the occasion in clothes of the period he was about to go to. All evidence of anything twenty-first century was removed from him. The only item he would take from the present was the minute electronic device, another of his innovative designs, which in effect was a miniaturised homing beacon that sat hidden beneath the skin at the nape of his neck, enabling the Institute technicians to lock on, and hopefully return him.

Briggs was being sent back to eleventh century England. His mission was to observe all that unfolded on the momentous day at Hastings when the decisive battle of the Norman invasion took place. Even though the battle is well documented, how true the reports actually were was anyone’s guess. If nothing else, at least he would separate fact from poetic license. It was heavily emphasised by the Institute’s historical research department that under no circumstances was he to participate in any way shape or form other than mere observation. Should he do so, he may inadvertently change history.

Briggs was about to step into the unknown. Gathering up his leather shoulder bag and wooden staff, with trepidation he strode towards the Teleportation Gate. The operators checked that his chip’s homing signal was being received, before pre-setting the destination date and place. Nodding that he was ready, he stood patiently waiting for the process to begin. The technicians checked over all of the Gate’s failsafe systems one last time. Then at his command, the teleporter’s power slowly began to build.

His body began to tingle, not in an unpleasant way. Every atom of his very being was excited by the process as the Gate slowly disassembled him before sending him back in time.

~~~

Before he realized it he found himself standing on a small mound at the edge of the Great Weald – the massive forest that still covered the English countryside back then, behind Senlac ridge where the Anglo-Saxon army’s vast shield wall stood. The date was October 14th 1066.

His mind drew comparisons between the empty eleventh century countryside he was now observing and the heavily populated East Sussex of the late twenty-first century that he knew. Taking a deep breath of sweet unpolluted fresh air, he lifted his hand to shield his eyes while taking in the scene before him.

In the far distance immediately below where the Anglo-Saxon army stood defiant, Briggs could see Norman cavalrymen on their horses. Behind them were the foot soldiers and archers of the invading army from across the Channel.

By landing his invasion force at Pevensey, Duke William of Normandy had forced England’s King Harold into a bloody showdown. His Norman army marched the relatively few kilometres up from the beach after hearing that Harold had just arrived and was assembling his army in readiness for battle.

Briggs stared in utter amazement at the very real, and tall figure, out of England’s historical past – the Anglo-Saxon king Harold, seated on his horse a little way behind his shield wall.

A body of heavily armed bearded fyrdmen walked out of the forest behind Briggs bringing him back to reality. “What are you doing here lad? You should be down there with our brothers, not skulking up here on the hill like a coward!”

Briggs felt rough hands haul him to his feet. A spear point dug into his back as he was prodded down the hill towards the shield wall. Despite the passage of time, Briggs could understand the old English that his accuser spoke, or at least enough of the words to get the sense of what he was saying.

“Here’s another volunteer my lord,” his accuser informed Earl Gyrth, brother of King Harold, and the Housecarl in charge of the shield wall. A sword and shield were thrust into Brigg’s unwilling hands…

~~~

If you want to know what happens next, you know what to do. Buy your copy from your nearest Amazon outlet. One other thing, don’t forget that if you do enjoy it – review it! The following links are the two main ones:

Amazon.com

and

Amazon.co.uk

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