The clashing of metals, the unearthly thrum and the constant hammering and pounding were driving the Harveys up the wall. In the beginning, they’d been thrilled about having a world famous scientist living next door. But the incessant clamor, which refused to be silenced even by soundproof walls, made them wish for a more normal and quiet neighbor who wouldn’t be up at odd hours tinkering with machines in search of some elusive invention which would yet again change the course of history.
The thoughts of Sam Cander ran along very different lines, compared to his weary next door dwellers, as he contemplated the final touches of his greatest creation ever. He had developed it after years of research in the virtual books, countless journeys into the past and limitless time spent in formulating the proper sequence for it. He didn’t do it for the money (he had enough of it) nor for fame (he hated those virtual messages the paparazzi kept sending, disguised as nutrient capsules which sparked when he opened one and began filming and transmitting until he shot it down with a ray gun!). No, he had designed it principally out of his wish to finally fulfill his dream, a secret he had closely guarded from the world.
It was indeed shameful to have so strange a passion which if exposed, would rob him of the respect he commanded in the scientific community and would make him the laughing stock of the entire Inventors Association. But it was beyond his control. He was and always had been compulsively, fanatically obsessed with pirates. His deepest desire was to finally be able to travel back to the Golden Age of Piracy and become the most famous pirate captain who ever lived. Unthinkable! Shocking! Such a primitive thought in the 2250’s and that too in a man of science!
A man who at the age of 10 had completed his PhD in physics and astronomy, at 15 had mastered the art of sparring, one-one-one combat and wresting by resurrecting the DNA of long dead warriors, at 17 had discovered life in a distant planet in Andromeda and by 20 had invented a formula which brought man closer to immortality. This unpredictable prodigy who wrought miracles was interested in bloodthirsty bandits who found pleasure in robbing ships in the high seas! The man of the future fascinated by barbarian sailors!
But he had never felt that his aspiration was peculiar. He had always been drawn towards the exhilarating life of sailing in the seas, encountering unforeseen dangers, emerging triumphant, defying all odds. Pirates were after all scientists. Didn’t they invent new methods of looting people? And weren’t they the first to use a skull as a danger sign? After all, running into a pirate galleon in the middle of the sea definitely qualified as dangerous and the flag certainly symbolized that. It was not a rational decision on Sam’s part. He had always loved the accounts of pirate exploits that had survived the purge of time. Very few stories of the pirates’ exploits still remained and most of them were based on fictional tales from movies or books.
At last, he had perfected the contraption that would take him to the very midst of the pirate captain’s crew. It is not a time machine, no indeed, not that wreck of an invention which just takes the time travelers a hundred years in the past and bungles the time code, he thought contemptuously. My gadget will allow me to travel centuries into the past, stay there as long as I like and return when I want to. The most important feature of all, it would enable me to assume the identity of the greatest pirate to ever set foot on Earth – Black Beard. I will become Black Beard and command his band of buccaneers! Ha! He laughed out loud, merrily.
“Arr, me hearties herr I come.” he rasped out.
Poor inventor! His notions of pirates were formed on false legends and descriptions of the feats of imaginary pirates which emerged through the portrayal of pirates in films. He had no idea about piracy at all. He was in for a rough surprise!
He switched on his Tempore Apparatus Transuerso or Time reversal machine (he always preferred the Latin version. It made everything so regal.) and took a single step which carried him centuries into the past. He blinked as he emerged into bright sunshine. The rocking of the floor under him and the briny smell informed him that his mission was a success.
He looked around and saw to his surprise that the ship was made of some foreign material, dark brown and smooth (They didn’t have trees in his time so he didn’t recognize the material as wood.). They always used light weight plasmeton in his time to make cruisers. He saw crude structures made of cloth which were slung across poles in which men were napping. He guessed they were makeshift beds. He couldn’t make head or tail of the bizarre metal objects strewn across the deck.
The man on his right stirred, looked up blearily and yelped when he saw Sam standing in the middle of the deck. Sam stiffened. It was the moment of truth. Would the man think of him as his captain or as an intruder who had foolishly walked into the vessel? The man leaped up and hurried towards him and murmured, “Sorry Captain. I must ’av dozed off during look out duty. Won ’appen again, sir. I swear. Please don kill me. I…I……”
Sam reeled from the stench of his breath. The man kept mumbling feverishly with increasing frenzy until Sam nodded his head. Relieved, he took off toward the main sail and began adjusting it. Sam smiled jubilantly. At long last, he was a pirate captain! He was Black Beard, the most feared Pirate Captain.
The rest of the crew started waking and sprung up to man their posts when they saw their Captain up and about. Sam stood for a while, watching the men swabbing the decks and handing the wheel, savoring the fresh air. The men all wore eye patches and a very unflattering stench filled the air as the men began to go about their jobs. Sam figured the men had not yet discovered the wonders of perfume. Or of brushing and bathing, he thought, gagging, as the stink grew worse.
He still felt quite overjoyed when the Jolly Roger was hoisted up, until the Galleon lurched and threw him off balance. The pirates rushed about with joyful cries, shouting for gunpowder and cannon balls. As Sam stood mystified, one man yelled, “Throw the harpoon! Its in striking distance! Quick, Joe, get us close to ′im!”
The old galleon sailed forward with a burst of speed as a man charged forward carrying a long, sharp metal attached to a rope. He flung the thing and cackled when it hit and got lodged in a huge, moving shape in the water. The men hauled it up with a collective groan and Sam saw the strangest creature he had ever seen. Joe whistled, “Blimey! Its gotta a bit of meat there, matey. It gonna last us a while.”
Sam stood there aghast. He wondered, “Meat?”
“Yea, Cap’n. This ol’ whale is our grub for several days.”
“You’re going to eat that?” Sam sounded revolted. People never ate other beings in his time. They just took capsules enriched with all the nutrients needed for survival. Nobody had any time to waste in eating.
The men were beginning to look suspicious, so he scowled and shouted, “Get on with the chores, me hearties, or … ” He left the threat hanging, unable to think of anything to say.
But it worked and the pirates shuffled off, dragging the whale carcass with them. San blew out a breath. He’d have to be careful or the ruthless pirates would make mincemeat out of him if they found out the truth. He snatched the eyeglass from No Beard, a clean shaven young lad so named for obvious reasons, and tried to discern something through it. He glimpsed something far off, blurred. Oh, how he hated their obsolete equipment! As he went to ask the man at the helm to set a course toward it, he found to, his horror, the man using some sort of primeval tool to ascertain the direction. They were in the middle of the sea with their lives depending on a piece of magnetized metal pointing north!
He recognized it as a primitive form of compass. He pulled out his own, much advanced version from his pocket and ignoring the look of bewildered astonishment from the man, he consulted the complex contraption made of 30 gears which could be used to determine the position of pretty much everything from distant stars to nearby landmasses. He got them going at a pace of 200 knots and saw the crew getting armed with guns and knives, evidently preparing for some sort of fight.
Soon a man yelled, “Land ahoy!”
The gangplank was lowered and the men jumped out of the majestic ship, pulling Sam along with them. They rushed about without waiting for directions, brandishing their weapons at hapless bystanders and robbing them. A few men charged into the houses, pillaging everything. It was utter chaos. Men and women were dashing in all directions, screaming in terror. Wherever Sam stared, mayhem ruled.
He caught hold of a running man and asked hoarsely, “What is this place?”
The man faltered but looking at the Pirate Captain, the feared Black Beard, he stuttered, “A…Antikythera, in G…Greece.”
“Who are you?” Sam barked, not wanting to blow his cover.
“Dmitri, sir, a poor farmer, sir. Mercy, oh mercy on a poor man…” he groveled.
Sam stared unseeing at the man and flinched in horror when he saw his entire band of swashbucklers tearing along at breakneck speed, closely followed by a mob of angry civilians, sorely outnumbered. They leaped onto the galleon and Sam followed, not at all liking the sight of the horde of enraged peasants with pickaxes and scythes. The brigantine shot out of the harbor swiftly and was out in the open sea in seconds. The pirates cheered loudly and exclaimed at the amount of treasure they had gathered when a deafening, crunching sound alarmed them into silence.
The galleon tipped, slowly taking in water due to a large hole in her hull. The treacherous rocks surrounding the island of Antikythera had ripped out a large chunk of the keel. One crazed man shrieked, “Shiver me timbers, we’re takin’ on water. We’re all goin’ to die!”
No Beard yelled, “Save us, Cap’n, save us.”
“We’re sinking, No Brain. Every man for himself!” Sam shouted.
But it was too late. The ship went down, taking her crew with her. It was perhaps a just ending, a last payback for all the misery and suffering the pirates had caused. Sam’s advanced compass lay along with the sunken galleon, deep under water, forgotten, until it was discovered by accident, decades later. It still guards Sam’s secret, for no one has been able to decipher its code and unravel its mystery. Its complicated mechanism still baffles scientists. It was named Antikythera, after the island.
As for Sam, he activated his Tempore Apparatus Transuerso at the last moment and so was able to escape safely into his own time. He was unscathed but the incident cured his craving of being a pirate. He was enthusiastic about his scientific work and delighted with his newest invention. He decided to fine tune it and take it to explore the unfathomable enigmas that the past had to offer.
Hmm, he thought, I think being an emperor might suit me fine. I can just imagine myself as Akbar… no, the Pharaoh Ramesess II…maybe Alexander the Great?
Be it past, present or future, some people never learn, do they?