Chrístõ strolled up onto the fore deck of the RSV Marine Wanderer as the sun was just touching the horizon to the west and the sky was a paintbox full of orange and brown hues. He stood by the rail of the marine archaeological vessel and watched, his alien eyes allowing him to filter the more painful part of looking directly at a sun. He was waiting for the magic moment that happened on any planet where the sun set over a body of water when the last sliver of the disc disappeared over the horizon and it was as if a light had been turned off on the world.

He wasn’t alone on the deck. Riley Davenport and Colm O’Sullivan were enjoying some quiet time together, and he could smell a cigarette being smoked somewhere else nearby. But he really wasn’t paying much attention until just after the ‘light switch’ moment, when he heard a deep but not unhappy sigh nearby. He turned to see one of the Wanderer’s research crew, Mairead Deasy, marine biologist, standing at the rail for the very same purpose as his own.

“It’s… not quite the same without somebody special to share it with,” she remarked as Chrístõ turned towards her and remarked on the pleasant evening.

“Very true.” He glanced at Riley and Colm and laughed. “Though I don’t think those two have even noticed it getting dark. I would probably be the same if my fiancée was here. You’re the same, are you?”

“My girlfriend is a maths professor at the University of Cork,” Mairead answered. “Long distance romances are… well, I don’t mind so much when we’re busy. I love my work. But now and again….”

“At sunset...”

“Yes.”

“Is that why you stayed aboard? Nobody to enjoy shore leave with?”

There were only six people aboard the yacht that usually had a captain and a crew of fifteen to sail it as well as the scientists and their graduate researchers. Those who hadn’t headed home for a few days had gone ashore in the launch for the evening.

“They’ve all gone to a caelidh,” Mairead confessed. “Don’t tell anyone, it’s practically treason, but I’m not that fond of traditional Irish music… not even Riverdance.”

Chrístõ laughed. He glanced at the dark outline of the Galway coastline a few hundred metres from their anchorage. There was a ribbon of lights marking out the coast road and a brighter huddle that was the village of An Spideal. The music from the caelidh was just audible to his Time Lord hearing. He didn’t dislike the genre, but he didn’t feel like going to the dance on his own.

“You know, of course, this is the only part of the coast where you really can ‘watch the sun go down on Galway Bay’,” said a third voice that turned out to be Patrick Hanratty, the galley chef, still in his whites after cooking dinner. He was the source of the cigarette smell. “There is no actual Galway Bay. The whole coast is inlets and coves, headlands and peninsulas. This is the only bit that fits the song.”

“Written by an Englishman and made famous by an American,” Chrístõ noted.

“See what I mean about traditional music!” Mairead commented. She laughed softly and looked out to sea again. “But it IS a great sunset. Even some of the exotic places we’ve been can’t beat it. Next week, when we get the full crew back, it’s the Adriatic, looking at yet another possible site of Atlantis, but the sunsets won’t beat this.”

“Don’t ask those two for a comparison,” Patrick commented about the lead research archaeologist and the newly assigned photographic archivist. They were still lost in their own two-man universe. “Colm is a sly one, though, getting his boyfriend signed on as archaeological photographer.”

“He IS very well qualified,” Chrístõ assured him. “I know… I gave him the academic references.”

“That’s another thing that puzzled all of us,” Mairead admitted. “We thought he was WITH you.”

“No, we’re just friends,” Chrístõ assured her. “Riley was at a loose end so he came along with me for the experience.”

Experience of what he didn’t say. He had never explained why he was free to roam the world with a friend along with him and no obvious connection to any university or research organisation. Mairead had thought about asking. She had even started to form a question many times, then found she couldn’t express it. Besides, what was there to worry about? Chrístõ was completely above reproach and Riley a perfectly well qualified addition to the Marine Wanderer’s crew.

Just as the question escaped her mind again, something else commanded her attention. It commanded everyone’s attention.

The quiet, calm night was suddenly transformed. The sky above the ship was split by what everyone except Chrístõ thought was lightning. He was the only one who saw it radiate out like spokes of a wheel in a way that lightning never did, then striking down to form a sort of cage of light around the ship. He also saw the sea water roil and swirl then begin to rise up like rain going the wrong way.

He was the only one who noticed that detail. A white noise that made the head spin accompanied the phenomena and quickly rendered everyone unconscious, including the first officer and two of his crew who had run up onto the deck to find out what was happening. Chrístõ fought the vertigo-like symptoms a few seconds longer than his human companions before he, too, blacked out.

When he woke his eyes were blinded by the sun. He turned his face away and opened them slowly. He was lying on the foredeck. Mairead was slumped next to him. Patrick was lying with his head and shoulders under the railing, in imminent danger of slipping into the sea.

He pulled the chef to safety and set about reviving him and Mairead. He saw Riley begin to stir and then cry out in alarm. Colm was bleeding from a head wound having fallen against the forecastle steps when he succumbed to the strange phenomena.

Chrístõ was reaching for his sonic screwdriver in tissue repair mode when he realised there were far too many human witnesses around. Instead he sent Patrick into the forecastle for a first aid kit while he examined Colm in the old-fashioned way he learnt while a student in the Society of Apothecaries.

“It’s ok. The cut isn’t deep,” he assured Riley as he opened a sterile pack and cleaned and dressed the wound. “It looks worse than it does. When he comes around he’s going to have a monumental headache, that’s all.”

He stood from attending to the slowly recovering man and saw the crowd staring around. Among them was the First Officer, Gerard Leeson, who didn’t seem to have realised that he was in charge in the absence of the Captain.

“Is everyone accounted for?” Chrístõ called out, jolting them from their various levels of confusion. Everyone looked at each other. The Wanderer had actually been well below the legal minimum of crew aboard. They had reasoned that piracy hadn’t been a ‘thing’ off the Galway coast since the days of Grace O’Malley and hurricanes almost as rare. What could happen at anchor for one night?

“Everyone is here,” Leeson confirmed. “But I’m the only actual sailor here. Patrick is galley chef and Michael Annis is radio operator. Everyone else here is in research. We CAN’T sail anywhere even if we knew where we were.”

That much everyone had grasped. They were no longer off the Galway coast. There was no sign of land of any sort. Every horizon was pale blue sky meeting green-blue sea.

“Are we still anchored?” Chrístõ asked, wondering why he thought of it.

“No,” Leeson replied. I don’t know where our main anchor is. It… seems as if it was left behind when… when we were moved. We’ve just got a length of chain chopped off halfway.”

“So we’re drifting?” Riley asked.

“If a couple of people can help we can run out the kedge anchor. There’s no swell at the moment. It should keep us safe.”

“How DID we get here?” Michael Annis asked. “And… where is here….”

“And how long have we been here?” asked Sean O’Briain who was the second most experienced diver on the marine archaeology team after Colm. “It was just after sunset when this started. Now it looks like near midday by the position of the sun. Does that mean we’ve been unconscious for more than twelve hours?”

“No,” Chrístõ answered. “There are some clues around us. Those of us who were on deck would be sunburnt in all that time. Colm would have bled a whole lot more if he was unattended for that long. Patrick’s discarded cigarette over there by the lifeboat stanchion is still smouldering… and check your watches. No more than twenty minutes have passed since we were disparaging Irish traditional music.”

“Then what the hell has happened?” Leeson asked.

“Without any further evidence, I would say we’ve been pulled through some kind of temporal and spatial anomaly… a ‘door’ in the fabric of reality that led to this place and time.”

“Is that possible?” Everyone looked at everyone else for reassurance and found none.

“It’s possible,” Colm said, raising his wounded head carefully. “That’s one of the theories of the Bermuda Triangle – a time anomaly that ships and planes fall into.”

“But we were at anchor off Connemara, not Bermuda,” Leeson protested. “How could that happen?”

“I don’t know,” Chrístõ answered him. “But I doubt if Bermuda is the only anomalous place on this planet.”

“Where are we now?” Annis asked. “It looks… warm, Mediterranean or something….”

It did, in fact, but there was no landmark of any sort to confirm it.

“I don’t know….” Chrístõ admitted after scanning the flat, featureless horizon.

“Can we get back?” Mairead asked with a fearful tone in her voice.

“Please don’t make me say ‘I don’t know’ again,” Chrístõ begged. “I DO know more about supernatural phenomena than anyone else here. It’s… my speciality. But this is different to anything I’ve seen before. I can’t give anyone the answers they need about anything… least of all getting back… until I have them myself. So, let’s start finding out. Has anyone been to the Bridge since this started? Have we got any GPS information, for example?”

Leeson was forced to admit that he had not been to the Bridge. He turned to do so, but was stayed by a shout of disbelief from Patrick.

“There’s a ship approaching,” he said, pointing towards what he guessed was the western horizon from the position of the sun, though that was as much on doubt as anything else.

“Two ships,” Chrístõ said, his alien eyes picking out more detail. Beside him, Riley raised his digital camera with enhanced zoom and took a photograph of the approaching boats.

“If I didn’t know better,” he said looking at the image on the preview screen. “I would say that’s HMS Victory being towed back from Trafalgar by HMS Neptune. The body of Admiral Nelson is on board.”

As the only Englishman aboard an Irish ship, Riley was possibly the only one who was emotionally affected by that, but the implications sank in very quickly among the others. Annis turned and ran below deck. He returned a few minutes later with a union jack flag tucked under his arm and proceeded to swap it for the Irish tricolour that ordinarily flew so proudly.

“We’re a funny looking ship to them,” he explained when it was done. “But basically a ship. Except, they’re on their way back from a war and our flag… it wasn’t even invented in 1805, let alone adopted as a national flag. They’ll see us as foreigners, maybe even pirates, and both ships could fire their cannons at us.”

Yes, that made perfect sense. In 1805, four years after the Act of Union, the ‘Jack’ was the correct flag for an Irish ship.

Chrístõ had one question.

“Why does a ship full of Irishmen and women have a British flag aboard?”

There was a ripple of laughter among the otherwise anxious crowd.

Patrick explained.

“Last year in the Aegean we had drinks with a British crew. Too many drinks, as it turned out, and the ‘Paddy’ jokes started to rub some of us up the wrong way. So, after a few drinks more some of us raided the Brit ship. We took their flag and replaced it with a really disreputable pair of khaki shorts.”

The laughter rippled a little louder. Chrístõ joined in. He recalled doing something similar to the Arcalian lacrosse team in his senior decade at the Prydonian Academy.

They were Irish, and Admiral Nelson represented the ‘enemy’ of Irish national pride, but they were also sea going people. As the two great sailing ships passed close by they stood on the foredeck respectfully.

“The body is actually there, aboard the Victory,” Riley noted when the moment had passed. “Nelson being taken home after the battle.”

“Pickled in a brandy barrel,” Patrick reminded him. That detail of how a body could be preserved aboard a ship in hot weather spoilt the dignity of the event somewhat. There were some sniggers around that reminded Riley of his minority status.

“I’m not drinking brandy for a while,” Leeson remarked. “Michael, get that flag changed back as soon as you can. Flying false colours at sea is an act of piracy, after all.”

“So….” Mairead asked as Michael and Patrick pulled down the British flag and raised their tricolour again. “Were we transported to 1805 or have the Victory and Neptune been brought to our time?”

“Another ‘I don’t know’,” Chrístõ was forced to admit. The question was an interesting one, though, and had a bearing on their immediate future.

“That’s why we need to get to the Bridge and check the modern instruments,” Leeson reminded him. “If we can talk to anyone else with radio communications, even if a Spanish trawler, we’ll know what year it is at least.”

He turned towards the steps. Chrístõ followed. Annis also followed since the radio was his domain. The others looked at each other and, despite having no particular role to play, they trailed after them into the Marine Wanderer’s modern, electronic heart.

Chrístõ felt a tug of pain in his own hearts as he looked around at the various arrays of electronic equipment that allowed the Marine Wanderer to be safely navigated through all kinds of weather and other hazards. It reminded him of his TARDIS. His time machine would have provided all the answers he needed, or if all else failed, a rescue from their predicament, but it was disguised as a motor launch moored by the pier at An Spideal. He had not planned to use it in these few rest days.

Annis sat at the communications desk and began sending out the Wanderer’s call sign to any shipping in the vicinity. Meanwhile, Leeson checked their position on the GPS system.

“That’s… insane,” he concluded after a few minutes. “It’s as if the satellites aren’t there.”

“They might not be… if we’ve gone back in time to before satellites existed,” Chrístõ pointed out.

“Like the middle of the Napoleonic Wars?” Patrick asked.

“It’s looking that way. But….”

Annis cried out suddenly. He was picking up a radio signal that contradicted the idea that they might be in the year 1805.

“This is the USS Missouri, calling anyone else who can hear us,” said the anxious voice with an American accent. Annis responded giving the name of the Marine Wanderer, its civilian designation and port of registration – Dublin. The Missouri radio operator sounded infinitely relieved to make any contact at all.

“I’ve heard of the USS Missouri,” Patrick said. “It was in a film with Steven Segal….”

Everyone looked at him scathingly, including Riley who had never heard of Steven Segal.

“Ok… not helpful. But there was something in the film about it being in a couple of wars.”

“Built after Pearl Harbour,” Leeson said in more authoritative tones. “The surrender of the Japanese took place on its deck in 1945, ending World War II. It fired on Baghdad in 1991, starting the first Gulf War. The ship was decommissioned a little while after that. The exact dates are on Jane’s Fighting Ships Online, but the internet isn’t working...”

“So, this could be the Missouri at any time in nearly seventy years of service?” Chrístõ noted.

“It’s an analogue signal,” Annis told him. “Listen to the crackle. I’ve not heard anything like that since I was a kid with my first amateur radio kit.”

“So, we’re hearing from the Missouri before digital radio?” Leeson guessed. He had accepted, in the face of all the evidence of his eyes and ears, that they were in some kind of impossible time shift situation and, like Chrístõ, now wanted to find out as much as possible about their predicament.

“Without scaring the guy, can you try to narrow it down a bit more?” Christo asked. Annis nodded and spoke into the radio microphone again.

“What year is it, there, sailor?” he asked. Chrístõ rolled his eyes. That was a bit less subtle than he had hoped.

“Year… are you kidding?” came the reply.

“Not kidding. It’s… a security thing… in case you’re not who you say you are.”

“It’s April fifteenth, 1953,” the Missouri radio operator answered. “We were heading back from Yokosuka to Norfolk when navigation went all to hell. We couldn’t contact anyone. Even sonar is acting like….”

The operator stopped suddenly as if he had realised that was a little too much information on an open radio channel to an unknown receiver. When he spoke again his voice was distinctly panicked.

“Oh God... are you Ruskies? Has it happened? Was the bomb dropped? Is that why we can’t contact anyone… Oh my….”

The voice faded away as if it had gone out of range. Annis turned to look at the others.

“I don’t think the Missouri was in its proper time, either,” Chrístõ guessed. “The fact that they were out of radio contact is significant.”

“So, are we and the Missouri in 1805?” Colm asked. The same question had passed through everyone’s thoughts.

“The Victory and Neptune could be out of time, too,” Mairead suggested. “And how do we know WHERE we are? The Atlantic where we started, the Mediterranean, the Pacific where the Missouri ought to be?”

“Can you get a water sample and see if it answers that question?” Chrístõ asked her. Mairead nodded and smiled. That was something within her skills set. Yes, she could do that.

“Wait, I’m getting some more analogue signals,” Annis said. He tweaked the ‘boost’ on one very crackly voice speaking in German.

“That’s the SS Scharnhorst,” he said. He wasn’t as familiar with Jane’s Fighting Ships as the First Officer, but he knew some history. “German warship that attacked Allied convoys in the Atlantic. Same vintage as the Missouri, but it was sunk before the end of the war. THEY must think it’s around nineteen-forty-two.”

Overlapping with that was a pattern of beeping noises. Chrístõ leaned forward to listen.

“THAT is the telegraph system on board the passenger liner MV Britannic trying to send an inquiry about the New York Stock Exchange for a passenger,” he said.

“You can translate morse code in your head?” Sean O’Briain asked the question everyone else was thinking.

“Yes, I can. There’s a date and time. It is October 30, 1929. The Wall Street Crash happened the day before. The passenger is a worried man.”

“Could we be passing from one time zone to another?” Colm asked.

“No,” Chrístõ answered him. “They’re all having communications problems. I’d say we’re ALL somewhere else in both time and space.”

“But where?” That was one of the questions he couldn’t answer.

And why? That question was equally important. One ship might have been caught in a time anomaly, but ALL of those different vessels from different times, different voyages, different seas and oceans? It hardly seemed possible.

And one thing puzzled him above all. He really hoped nobody else thought of it, because he didn’t want to have to explain about the concept of time being in flux and history changing due to ripples in causality. Some of the words he would have to use bewildered him, let alone anyone trying to listen to him.

But in the reality they had been in before this began, none of the ships they had encountered so far were lost. True, the Scharnhorst was sunk in nineteen-forty-three, but historians knew exactly where the wreck was. HMS Victory was a floating museum in Portsmouth. The Britannic was broken up at the end of a long service as a luxury liner. The Missouri was decommissioned, its massive arsenal redeployed and the ship itself ‘mothballed’ in case of future need.

There were no missing ships consigned to the pages of conspiracy theory websites along with the Bermuda Triangle.

He was hoping quite desperately that he was going to do something to send everyone back where they belonged. That would be the optimistic view. But it was also possible that history was being changed even as he tried to puzzle it out. Maybe history now recorded the Victory with the body of Nelson aboard as lost. Perhaps the Missouri and the Britannic were listed as tragic losses at sea, the Scharnhorst a footnote in history.

Let it be the first scenario, he thought. Let me find some clever solution to the puzzle and get everyone home.

Annis heard more messages - from a Russian submarine that ought to have been in the Black Sea in the nineteen-seventies, a Mexican coast guard ship that had lost track of a drug running boat and, even rarer, a boat from the nineteen eighties that answered his own call clearly.

“This is the Rainbow Warrior,” said the radio operator. “We’re wondering what the heck happened. We were in the South China Sea getting in the way of a Japanese whaling ship trying to harpoon a school of whales. Then there was a weird light in the sky and we all blacked out. When we woke up… no whaling ship, no whales. No fish.”

‘No fish?”

“No fish. Seriously, not a sardine. The sea is empty. And another thing…. Have you looked at your sonar lately?”

“Sonar?”

“Try it… then you’ll see what I mean. This is…”

The Rainbow Warrior faded away. Annis tried to raise them again, but there was nothing but static.

“No fish?” Above all that idea gave everyone food for thought.

“Are we in the far future, when mankind has rendered the seas infertile?” Colm asked. “Is that possible?”

“Or are we at the start of time… of life on Earth… before fish evolved.” Sean Ó Briain put that possibility forward.

“Either way, am I ever going to cook a fish goujon or my famous mussel and white wine starter?” Patrick lamented.

“Sonar,” Chrístõ said, moving on from seafood quickly. “The Missouri operator mentioned sonar as well. Have we tried the sonar?”

“No,” Leeson admitted. “We’ve been distracted by all these other ships.”

He turned to the electronic method of reading the sea around a ship that was invented just before the Missouri was launched. It had been refined and improved over the years, but the principle was the same. A sound signal was ‘pinged’ out and the echo when it rebounded off the sea bed, the hull of a wreck, a pod of whales or an enemy submarine could be translated into vital data.

Well, usually it could. Everyone who understood the principle stared at the data – or lack of it.

“But that’s impossible,” Leeson said, speaking for everyone. “Absolutely impossible. I can believe in time shifts, portals, whatever you want to call them. But I can’t believe what the sonar is telling me right now. I can’t believe that we’re only in about seventy feet of water and that the sea bed is flatter than the linoleum on my kitchen floor.”

“Here’s another thing not to believe,” said Mairead, coming back to the Bridge with a vial of clear liquid clutched in her hand. “The sea water… isn’t sea water. It is salted water, but it looks as if salt has been dissolved in otherwise sterilised water. There are no traces of life, no plankton, microbes, not even the amino acids that began primordial life. It’s… cleaner than a fish tank.”

Chrístõ closed his eyes so that he didn’t have to see the questions forming on everyone’s lips. He had no answers to any of them.

“Let’s go and look at it,” he said. “The sea bed, I mean. Sean, you’re the best diver after Colm. Riley, you’re pretty good. Not as good as me, but nobody’s perfect. Let’s get into scuba gear.”

Michael Annis stayed at his radio station listening for any more ships taken out of their proper time and place. Leeson stayed with him on the Bridge because he felt he ought to be there even if he had nothing to actually do.

The others made themselves useful helping the three men into the scuba gear, checking valves on the air tanks, tightening straps. They all watched as the three divers climbed down into the dive boat along with Patrick who was going to be their lookout. They rowed away from the side of the ship before tipping overboard into the water.

Once under water it was immediately obvious that this ‘sea’ wasn’t like anything they had been in before. It was too clean, too sterile. There were no fish, no floating algae, absolutely nothing.

And within a very short time they reached the sea bed. If Leeson had been able to access his ‘Jane’s Fighting Ships’ he would have been able to confirm that HMS Victory and USS Missouri both had draughts of a little less than thirty feet. In the oceans of Earth that was merely skimming the surface, but in this strange place, there was only another forty feet beneath the hulls of those great ships.

And the sea bed was not what anyone expected.

It was flat, featureless, the colour of light sand, but no texture of any kind.

It was what Chrístõ would identify as a bonded polymer and everyone else would just call ‘plastic’.

The only thing they found on that artificial sea bed was the kedge anchor from the Wanderer, its flukes not even scratching the surface. With nothing to hold it down, the anchor was being dragged in the current. The ship was slowly drifting.

Chrístõ used his sonic screwdriver to take some readings that were beyond the capabilities of the onboard sonar then signalled to the other two. They swam back up and clambered into the dive boats.

“What the hell is going on?” Sean Ó Briain demanded when he was able to pull off his rebreather and speak clearly. “Are we in an ocean or the biggest fish tank in Creation?”

“Something closer to the latter,” Chrístõ answered. “Come on, let’s get back aboard the Wanderer. I have a kind of an idea about all this.”

He changed out of his wet suit, first. Nobody, even in a crisis, wanted to spend any longer than necessary in such an outfit. When he was ready he went straight to the Bridge.

There was pop music playing over the radio. He gave Michael Annis a quizzical look.

“We’re picking up Radio Caroline,” he said in answer to the unspoken question. “I also had a conversation with the radio operator on the MSC Oscar – the mega container ship launched in 2015.”

“It has a draught of over fifty feet,” Leeson added. “It’s almost too big for… whatever this is.”

“And I put Patrick and Mairead on lookout,” Annis added. “For anything that predates radio. They spotted two Viking longboats, a Roman trireme and what they’re almost certain was the Mayflower heading off to the New World. None of them came in our direction, fortunately.”

“It’s getting crowded out there. Have you come across anything that is LATER than your time – ships taken from your future?”

“No, but I suppose that wouldn’t be stranger than anything we’ve seen so far.”

“Does it matter?” Leeson asked.

“This isn’t accidental. Someone is snatching ships out of their proper time and place… perhaps it’s some sort of experiment… I don’t know. But I’m wondering if more advanced ships, with better navigation aids, might be able to evade whatever trap we all fell into. That, or they haven’t gone that far, yet. Either way… please pass me that operating manual for this ship that I see on the shelf over the sonar panel.”

Annis passed it to him. It was a good two inches thick. He opened it and read at a speed something like four pages per second. Annis and Leeson stared at him at first, then turned away because the way his eyes flickered and the pages blurred as he turned them over at speed was too distracting.

“Ok,” he said as he closed the manual. “I’m up to speed on operating this ship. We ARE terribly undermanned, but we can manage. Get the kedge anchor up. It’s not doing any good in any case, and let’s get underway.”

Leeson started to say something and found he couldn’t put it into words.

“Yes, I’m an alien who can read super-fast. Yes, I’m a time traveller, though without my time machine just now. Yes, before you ask, Riley is human. I picked him up in the Negev desert in the nineteen-twenties. And, yes, I think I know how to get all of us back where we belong… as long as you’re willing to overlook the scary things about me being alien and just trust me.”

He didn’t use any Power of Suggestion. It would have cut corners, but it was better that they accepted him at face value.

“Riley is from the nineteen-twenties?” Annis asked. “That explains why he’s so old fashioned in his musical tastes. He was listening to Cole Porter yesterday. Or was that just because he’s….”

“You have all the time in the world to figure Riley out on your trip to Atlantis,” Chrístõ promised. “But first things first.”

Leeson nodded and gave the command to raise the ineffectual anchor before starting the procedures for getting the Wanderer moving. Chrístõ gave him a heading he had noted while he was under water.

“Patrick, Mairead,” he said through the ship’s intercom. “Keep watching the horizon and report what you see. I think it could get interesting.”

“What are you expecting them to see?” Leeson asked.

“I’m not quite sure. But we’ll know in about half an hour. Keep us steady as she goes, but not too fast. We might have to stop quite suddenly.”

Leeson wondered why a ship in a mostly empty body of water might have to stop suddenly, but he did as Chrístõ suggested. Alien or not, he clearly was the man to listen to in these circumstances.

It was a little less than the half an hour that Chrístõ had predicted before Patrick called down to them.

“The horizon… it’s weird.”

“Weird, how?”

“Well… I don’t know… it’s… as if there is less of it. As if we’re coming to the edge, where the sea meets the sky. You know… like people thought before Christopher Columbus proved the Earth wasn’t flat.”

“Actually, people knew that before Columbus,” Leeson remarked. “But… are you serious?”

“He is,” Chrístõ told him. Look at the sonar.”

Leeson looked, then he reached his hand out towards the switches that would start to slow the ship down.

The sonar was echoing off what appeared to be an impenetrable wall right across the sea bed, and they were approaching it rapidly.

“Get as close as you can without crashing,” Chrístõ told him. Regardless of how well he had assimilated the manual he recognised Leeson’s superior experience at the helm and let him judge the speed reduction as the strange horizon drew nearer.

They all ignored the shouts of alarm coming from the foredeck where everyone not involved with piloting the ship had gathered. The shouts were a mixture of ‘this can’t be real’ and ‘I don’t believe it’ along with ‘slow down, we’re going to crash.’

They didn’t crash. When Leeson brought the ship to a halt the sonar showed the wall within inches of the prow. The noises from the deck, though, were far more interesting. Chrístõ turned and ran, quickly followed by the rest of the crew.

What he saw on the deck would have been beyond imagining if he hadn’t already strongly suspected what it would be.

They had reached the horizon and found that it was a wall of pale blue that might have looked like sky from a distance. Chrístõ did what everyone else was already doing. He reached out and touched the wall. Then he analysed it with his sonic screwdriver.

“The same polymer as the sea bed,” he confirmed. “Leeson, you were right all along. We ARE in a big fish tank – without fish.”

“How big?” The question was mind boggling to people who usually thought only in the first three dimensions.

“And how big is whatever the tank is in?” It was Colm who asked the most mind boggling question of all. Perhaps it took a bang on the head to really grasp the problem.

“Let’s find out,” Chrístõ said. He adjusted his sonic screwdriver to laser mode. Now they all knew he was an alien there was no need to hide his technology. He aimed at the polymer wall just above the foredeck and carved out a door shaped hole.

“All ashore who’s going ashore?” he announced. His human friends looked at the hole, then looked at each other.

Then, without exception they all decided they were coming with him through the hole. They all wanted to know what was going on and the answers were obviously through there.

Chrístõ went first. Patrick, in a spirit of chivalry that predated women with science degrees, helped Mairead over the gap between the deck and the hole then followed her. Colm climbed gingerly, making sure he didn’t bang his already sore head passing through the gap. Riley was right behind him.

Leeson was the last to leave the ship, torn between his duty as the senior officer and his curiosity about their strange situation.

The polymer wall was about two feet thick. On the other side was a short drop down to a metal floor.

“Why did I feel dizzy coming through there?” he asked.

“We all did,” Chrístõ answered. “We passed through a dimensional field. Everyone stand still for a moment. Something that will look and feel very freaky is about to happen.”

Even forewarned as they were the ‘something freaky’ was disconcerting. It took about thirty seconds for the effect of the dimensional field inside the tank to wear off and restore them to their proper size.

“Alice in Wonderland,” Riley commented. Everyone had been thinking on the same lines. It helped understand what had happened.

“Look….” Patrick was the first to turn and notice the ‘fish tank’ from the outside. It was at least fifty metres across, enclosed in a dome that was obviously transparent from the outside but resembling a sky from within the tank.

The Marine Wanderer looked like a scale model less than six inches long. Elsewhere they recognised several of the ships they had encountered already and dozens more, still. They were all sailing in an elliptic pattern so that they never came near the edge.

“So… WHAT is this all about?” Leeson demanded. “Bath night with toy boats? Some kind of collection?”

“I think that’s exactly it,” Chrístõ answered. “The question is… whose collection. Let’s go and find out.”

The ‘tank room’ for want of a better word, was round, with metal walls and a ceiling a bit higher than the top of the dome. There was a door of the sort found on ships and submarines that was often referred to as a ‘bulkhead door’.

Chrístõ opened it and established that there was nobody in the corridor outside. He led the way to a metal stairway that brought them up to a Bridge only slightly more sophisticated than the Wanderer’s. On two big screens were a view of Earth from orbit and a closer view of the Antarctic ocean where the brand new research ship that was going to be called RSV Boaty McBoatface until its owners ruled against it was being targeted for addition to the tank.

The two people involved in the procedure were blue skinned but otherwise humanoid.

They had not yet noticed that they were being observed.

“The Emperor Veztigine will be pleased with his birthday gift, Anzone,” said one. “He will be amused for a long time by these toys.”

“How many more will we collect, Davomi?” asked Anzone.

“Only a few more. I still want a steam yacht from the late nineteenth century Earth. The mistake you made was unfortunate. It wasted transmat power.”

“I don’t know what happened,” Davomi lamented. “The scoop malfunctioned. The humans drowned in the tank… and the ship called the Marie Celeste was left behind.”

“The scoop did not malfunction. You malfunctioned. You made a mistake. Do not do it again.”

Chrístõ watched them as he slowly moved around to the unmanned communications array. He opened the interstellar equivalent of an email app and wrote a quick message. He pressed ‘Send’ before turning and signalling to the others.

Taken by surprise, the two-man crew of the space ship were easily subdued. Chrístõ confirmed that it WAS a two-man crew before the fight was done.

“Big ship, low maintenance,” he said. “One of these days it will be like that on Earth. Big freighters with minimum crew.”

He turned to Anzone and Davomi with a glare that would have cowed greater species’ than them. They were both sitting in their seats in front of the screen, but fastened hand and foot with belts, scarves and anything else the Wanderer’s crew had on them. They couldn’t reach any of the controls.

“I’ve contacted the Shaddow Proclamation,” he said. “They will be here in a few hours to take you and your ship into custody. As you almost certainly know, capturing live specimens from a level two or higher planet is against the law, even for birthday presents. You will probably also be charged with the manslaughter of the Marie Celeste crew. You are, in short, in big trouble. You can, at least, get a fair report from me if you tell First Officer Leeson here how to send all the ships back where they belong. It might help reduce your prison sentences.”

They told him. Leeson began the process of reversing the damage, sending the Victory and Neptune back, then the Missouri and the rest in turn.

“Will they know anything about it?” Annis asked.

“Not much… perhaps a note in the log about navigation and communications going awry for a few minutes. The Rainbow Warrior probably won’t want to mention losing the fish at all. It would be a bit too embarrassing to them. And it doesn’t look as if Radio Caroline noticed anything except that they accidentally played two Beatles songs back to back.”

“Would they have noticed if we hadn’t sent them back?” Annie added.

“I think there might be some kind of hypnotic thing that would stop them from realising they were sailing on the same stretch of water on the same day over and over. That sort of shenanigans with category five or lower species is also banned by the Shaddow Proclamation. These boys are in a lot of trouble. Their Emperor might get a ticking off for encouraging them, too.”

“Just don’t let them put him in the same prison as us,” Anzone begged. “He will be very cross.”

“Not my problem,” Chrístõ answered. “How are we doing, there, Leeson?”

“Everyone home except us.”

“All right, I’ll take over. You get everyone back aboard the Wanderer.”

“Aren’t we a bit big?” Mairead pointed out.

“I’m adjusting the dimensional field. When you get back down to the place where I made the hole you’ll go Alice in Wonderland again.”

“Wait a minute. You said….”

“You are staying behind to send us back to Galway?”

The Wanderer’s crew looked concerned. Chrístõ had led them through this adventure. Leaving him was not something they could contemplate.

“Don’t worry, I’ve got a plan. Riley…”

Riley stepped forward. Chrístõ gave him the sonic screwdriver.

“Plug this into the TARDIS drive control, then press the purple button. She’ll come and get me.”

“One last TARDIS trip,” Riley noted. “Solo. It… will be my honour.”

Riley took the sonic and followed the others. Chrístõ flicked the screen and watched as the crew boarded the Marine Wanderer again. He waited until they were all below deck, then he engaged the transmat. The ship vanished.

He spent the few minutes that he was on his own deconstructing the transmat, removing several important and expensive parts in case anyone thought of trying this trick again.

He was just finished when he heard a familiar sound. His TARDIS materialised as an airlock in the back wall of the Bridge. He nodded to the two prisoners and wished them luck in a sardonic tone before striding towards the door.

Inside, Riley was standing proudly at the console. Beside him was Colm, rapidly coming to terms with his new lover’s former life.

“I can’t believe he wants to give up this to be with me,” he said.

“I can, so don’t worry about it.” Chrístõ grabbed his sonic out of the drive control receptacle and adjusted it again. “Now that my secret is out, let me fix that head of yours properly. Then we’ll get back to the Wanderer. Everyone is ok, I suppose?”

“Drinking coffee in the mess and wondering what they’re going to tell the rest of the crew when they join us.”

“I suggest as little as possible,” Chrístõ told him.

“I think you’re right,” Colm agreed. “Tell you what, searching for Atlantis is going to be dull after tonight’s adventure.”

“One of these days I should use the TARDIS to go back and find it before it was lost,” Chrístõ mused. “But your way is just as good.”