---This prompt will lead to my
first serious piece of writing: A short novel featuring the spy, Sean
Tanner; a man whose life is in tatters. I’m going to put it online
for sale. However, the twist is, if anyone buys it, they are free to
write their own adventures and novels using my characters.
With a heavy heart, Sean Tanner slowly walked to the reservoir. He was due to help Volgier look into accounts of minor contamination incidents to the town water supply. It was going to be the first time Sean had seen his version of Volgier for over thirty years; Sean had become very close with Volgier’s doppelgänger in the alternative dimension, and Tanner was missing him terribly. Tanner wasn’t as close with the Volgier he was about to meet; they were still on insulting banter terms, so he was going to find it awkward dealing with him.
-----“Tanner, you pig!” Volgier shouted from the walkway that spanned the reservoir dam.
-----“Good to see you too!” Sean shouted back.
-----“You can do better than that, my friend!”
-----“I’m trying to be nice!”
-----“You’ve never been nice. You insult me terribly!”
-----“I’ve changed, old boy!” Sean sighed as he got closer. He felt like hugging Volgier, but it wouldn’t be received well by this version. Tanner figured he would probably be able to within the next ten years if lucky.
-----“You English dog, how the hell are you?” Volgier said, slapping Tanner hard on the back.
-----“Better for seeing you. We must meet up socially sometime, maybe for cocktails; how about that?”
-----Volgier gave Tanner a quizzical look, then laughed out loud. “You joking with me, yes?”
-----“You know me, Volgier. I’m a barrel of laughs.”
-----“I know good English song – Barrel of Laughs; I like very much.”
-----“Me too, old friend,” Sean whispered. He swallowed down the lump in his throat and wiped the corner of his eye.
-----“Let’s get down to business. Follow me to the office.” Volgier led Sean to a small office situated at the end of a narrow lane. Inside they were met by the site manager Lorenzo.
-----Lorenzo explained that for months, the water quality had sporadically dropped below government standards. He and his team had investigated all common causes of water contamination and searched a twenty-five-mile radius surrounding the reservoir for possible causes of pollution. When he drew a blank, Lorenzo decided to contact his old friend Volgier. Volgier had ordered a Dry Combat Submersible, which could easily fit the three of them. It was due that afternoon and was to be delivered by helicopter. In the meantime, the men went to a local burger joint for lunch.
-----“You don’t seem yourself, Tanner. You look a bit peaky. I don’t want you puking in my sub!” Volgier and Lorenzo roared with laughter and clinked their beer tankards together.
-----“I think my stomach can just about cope with the fine cuisine served here.”
-----“What did I tell you, Lorenzo; he dines with the Queen!” The two friends continued with their jibes while Tanner looked around the diner. Sean was glad to see Volgier, even if he was much more obnoxious than the alternative Earth version. Sean felt comfortable now and would make every effort to speed up his bond with Volgier, even if it wasn’t going to be the same as the one he had with the other Volgier.
-----Volgier’s phone buzzed, and he downed his drink. “My sub’s arrived.”
-----They walked back to the reservoir, all the time Volgier and Lorenzo joking and play-fighting. Tanner was now back to his old self on the outside but was far from it on the inside. He was struggling to readjust to life as a forty-year-old. Sean had become used to being older, kicking back with Volgier of an afternoon: Watching sport on the veranda with a few drinks. The company of his friend had become something comforting and valued, and now he was mourning it. He was also finding it difficult to slot back into his relationship with Rebecca. She had noticed the difference in him and kept questioning him about it. He tried to sweep it under the carpet, but as he could barely remember what life was like with Rebecca thirty years ago, it was not easy.
-----“Come on, slow bus!” Volgier shouted as Sean trailed behind.
-----“It’s slow coach, not bus,” Tanner said, catching up with the men.
-----“Whatever. We don’t need diving equipment, but I have got some in the car just in case.” Volgier said as they approached the reservoir.
-----“Is it safe?” asked Lorenzo as they neared the submersible.
-----Volgier mocked indignity, “Of course it is, it’s brand new!” he spoke to the helicopter pilot awhile before helping Lorenzo and Tanner on board. Volgier opened the hatch, and they entered. The submersible was roomy and accommodated them easily. It was built for up to five crew members and was state-of-the-art in its design.
-----Sean looked around, scrutinising each instrument panel in turn. “Very nice!”
-----Volgier puffed out his chest, “Well, what else would you expect for the country’s finest Captain?”
-----“So why didn’t they send him?” Lorenzo joked.
-----Volgier pretended to be angry, “Very funny, I’ll kick your butt once we dive. No one will hear you scream, except the fishes!”
-----Tanner sat in one of the seats, “Now, now ladies, shall we focus on our mission?”
-----Volgier clapped Tanner on the back as he walked forwards, “We’re checking out the reservoir, not going into space!” Volgier sat in the pilot’s seat and began flipping switches and turning dials. “OK, girls, let’s dive!”
the next twenty minutes, Volgier surveyed the reservoir, looking for
signs of illegal dumping. When he found none, he set about checking
the walls for damage.
-----When Volgier found no obvious sign of damage to the reservoir walls, Tanner came up with an idea. “Is there any way we can check the thickness of the walls?”
-----“We have a prototype device which is still being beta tested,” said Volgier. He powered it up and calibrated it. “It shouldn’t take long to map.” Volgier piloted the submersible around the concrete edges of the reservoir. It wasn’t long before he pointed to the screen. “Look, this section has a void behind it. The whole area around the reservoir was surveyed before it was built, so this must be something new.”
-----“Could this account for the water contamination?” Tanner asked.
-----Lorenzo studied the image on the screen. “It’s hard to say, but if the concrete wall has been weakened in this section, then even a minor crack could allow pollutants to enter the reservoir.”
-----Volgier turned to Lorenzo. “We need to inspect that space behind the concrete. Can you organise a drilling team?”
-----“Not at short notice, it could take weeks.”
-----Volgier stood up, “I will handle it, a dodgy mining firm owes me big time. I’ll threaten to shut them down if they refuse to help.” He walked to the front of the submersible and readied himself for the short journey to the surface.
Later in the day, the three men met up with the drilling team Volgier had sent for. The team quickly set up a drilling rig and started drilling a bore hole big enough for a person to be lowered down. The contractors set up floodlights so they could work through the night and by the next morning they had broken into the void. Volgier and Tanner kitted themselves with drysuits and utility belts from the back of Volgier’s car. Volgier stowed a revolver in a holster and strapped it on. He offered Tanner a choice of guns, and Tanner took a 9mm. Lorenzo went back to his office with a radio so he could listen in on the proceedings, until they would lose radio contact further into the void.
-----Volgier and Tanner used potholing equipment to descend with head lamps illuminating the damp walls, they took it in turn to enter the void.
-----With a soft thud, Volgier touched the ground first. He checked the surrounding area was stable and radioed for Tanner to join him.
-----Sean Tanner, tried to keep his mind on the mission in hand, but his thoughts were straying. He couldn’t erase thirty years worth of memories and feelings and settle straight back into his old life or his old self. The descent seemed to take ages, Tanner felt alone, even though he knew Volgier was below him. When he eventually reached the bottom, he was overcome with relief.
-----“You OK, Tanner?” Volgier asked.
-----“Your foreign food might be getting to me after all.”
-----“You should be like me, guts like iron!”
-----Tanner laughed. The men surveyed the area with their headlamps and decided it was safe to proceed. They radioed Lorenzo to say they would probably lose radio contact once they moved away from the bore hole. Volgier led the way…
From a cave-like area beneath the bore hole, the two men gradually moved into a section that was obviously formed by machines.
-----“They were lucky not to have ploughed straight through into the reservoir!” said Tanner.
-----“Yes, it looks like they realised their mistake. It could be their drilling has caused hairline fractures in the reservoir wall.”
-----“That could account for the low level pollution,” Tanner figured.
-----“We need to find out what this place is…” Volgier stopped and turned off his headlamp. “I can see light ahead!”
-----Tanner turned his off and studied the dim light in the distance. “Tread carefully, we don’t know what we’re walking in to.”
men crept onwards towards the light. It soon became apparent they
were inside a laboratory complex. Suddenly, a muscle-bound man ran
towards them. He looked ferocious, but he stopped just short of
-----“Help me!” he cried.
-----Volgier and Tanner relaxed their stances and talked to the man. As he explained his situation, Tanner thought of Buster, from the domed London he’d recently left; a feeling of déjà vu washed over the spy.
-----It turned out the man was left trapped inside the complex along with other genetically engineered people. The scientists who had worked there had long gone but stocked the underground building with food to last years into the future. The power was still supplied to the complex, perhaps, giving them the option to return.
-----The man introduced himself as Jimmy and showed the two spies around the complex. When they reached a room that housed a man fused to a machine, Volgier took out his revolver and aimed it towards the figure.
-----“No!” Jimmy cried, jumping in front of the apparatus. “He’s my friend.”
-----Volgier lowered his gun. “What the hell have they been doing here! I’m ashamed to call this my country.”
-----Sean Tanner paused a while, “We need to call this in. I’ll contact London for advice once we find a way out.”
-----Volgier showed Tanner his bulging pockets. “I’ve brought plenty of ‘plastic’, so when we find some locked doors, leave it to me.”
-----With Jimmy in tow, the spies came upon more examples of genetic experimentation that left the two men shocked and exhausted.
-----Finally, they found a door that led up to the outside world. Volgier removed it with ease, with just the right amount of plastic explosive. Tanner, once outside, phoned London for assistance. However, it seemed London was well aware of the two men’s findings.
Later that evening, unmarked vans arrived to take the people from the underground complex to an unknown destination. Sean and Volgier were out of the loop, and it looked like the authorities were very angry with Volgier. Sarah Serking sent an encrypted message to Sean Tanner, requiring that he return to London on the next available flight. She also extended an invitation to Volgier, offering him a haven in London. Volgier took her up on her offer, and both men travelled to London the following morning.
After finding a small flat for Volgier, Tanner checked in with headquarters. Sarah Serking met Sean in the new reception area of HQ2. It seemed Tanner had caused diplomatic embarrassment when he and Volgier stumbled upon the hidden laboratory.
-----“Sean, you understand you’ll have to lay low for a while; a couple of months should suffice.” Sarah guided Sean back out of the building. “Why don’t you take a break in the country. You could go with Rebecca. We’ll arrange the leave for her.”
-----“Yes, that sounds nice. We haven’t spent much time together recently.”
-----Tanner said goodbye to Sarah and then sat in his car thinking. Half an hour passed before he messaged Rebecca. Sean asked if she would like to join him for a couple of weeks, a vacation in the countryside, to unwind. He received no reply that afternoon and figured she’d not checked her phone.
-----When he pulled up outside their home, he had no idea anything was wrong. He unlocked the door and went to push it open, but it would not budge. He looked through the letterbox and could see Rebecca’s legs sprawled awkwardly. He used all his strength to force the door and push Rebecca backwards. Once inside, he could see she was dead. Sean stared at her; it looked as though she had fallen down the stairs. She was wearing her coat and her shoes and was probably leaving for work. For a while, Sean Tanner was stunned and unable to act. Eventually, he phoned the emergency services to report the tragedy.
Tanner felt alone, more alone than he had ever felt in his whole life. He had spent the last thirty years pining for Rebecca, trying to make a life for himself in the parallel universe he found himself. Sean worked with scientists to build a spacecraft capable of reaching the space anomaly that would lead him back to his own Earth and Rebecca. Now he was bereft.
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