A small jet roars across the sky. On board a middle aged man peruses the contents of a red folder marked with a curious logo like a stylized hourglass. The pilot speaks over the intercom, addressing the passenger as “Senator” and warning him to fasten his seatbelt because the plane will be landing soon. The senator shifts his gaze to the window but outside is nothing except unbroken badlands. The pilot apparently finds his landing spot and brings the plane in. As it taxis to a halt the passenger door opens. When the plane stops completely the senator disembarks with two cases. The plane immediately takes off leaving the senator alone. But only for a moment.
A dark sedan approaches the senator at high speed. It pulls to a stop and a man gets out. He introduces himself as Dr. Douglas Phillips and ushers the senator into the back seat beside him. The car begins crossing the desert at a high speed, chased by a plume of dust. Doug calls someone on a phone, identifying himself as “Tic Toc One” and requesting entry to “Tic Toc Base.” A voice on the other end grants entry; a panel on the hardpan slides back and he car angles down a revealed ramp. The panel closes and there is only a dissipating cloud of dust.
The pair drives down the long underground tunnel, stopping before an opening. They exit the car and climb a short flight of stairs to an area occupied by a number of soldiers, among them Master Sergeant Jiggs, the ramrod of the security force. Jiggs takes the senator’s case for security reasons and Doug escorts the senator through a doorway and onto a long and tall bridge. He shows the senator several immense constructions housing twelve thousand people. This is Project Tic Toc.
Doug escorts Senator Clark into an elevator room. The men stand on platforms and drop nearly eight hundred stories to the lowest levels of the complex. Because of the elevator’s speed the trip takes less than a minute. At the bottom of the complex they cross another bridge. From it can be seen an immense construction of glowing spheres – a power source for whatever it is they do here at the project.
As the senator watches the bustle of residents on lower levels a uniformed man approaches along the other side of the bridge. This is Lieutenant General Heywood Kirk. The senator calls him “Woodie” and it becomes clear they know each other well. At some point General Kirk suggested Roy get into politics “where he couldn’t hurt anybody” – a josh, not a dig. Now Clark is in politics and among his responsibilities is to find out what the United States government bought for seven billion dollars. Doug replies that the money has been well spent, that the control of time could be a resource of immense value to mankind.
They reach the other end of the bridge and perhaps some answers. A cavernous room is dominated by a very long structure of concentric rings. Banks of computer control consoles, tape machines and massive racks of electronic gear fill much of the rest of the room. Technicians and lab coated scientists scurry about tending this gear. Doug and Kirk explain that this is the Time Tunnel – a machine that can send objects into the past or future. Or it could, if it was working properly.
Senator Clark isn’t impressed. He thinks the project has cost too much for too little already. Doug summons a young colleague from within the tunnel. This is Tony Newman, Doug’s protégé. Between them, the pair is responsible for the design of the tunnel. Doug also introduces Dr. Raymond Swain, whose charge is balancing the energy requirements, and Dr. Ann McGregor, whose sphere of authority is energy balance in the time shifted objects.
Clark quizzes the team. He wants to know if they have sent a man back in time, but all they have done so far is sent back experimental animals. And they haven’t been able to return any of them yet. As far as Clark is concerned all they have created is an immensely expensive disappearing act. Tony volunteers to go back in time but Doug nixes the idea. At this stage, without more testing, it would be murder and he won’t allow it. Clark tells them if they can’t send a man by the time he leaves tomorrow he’ll cut off their funding for good. He asks if there is more to see and Doug tells him tersely that there is “plenty.”
Later, the control room is empty when Tony returns. Operating switches and closing contacts with a practice born of long experience he powers on the tunnel. Then he walks into the long array of coils. The machine begins to emit a kind of whine, louder and higher in pitch. Sparks fly and a blue glow envelops Tony. He reaches a certain point and a pale cloud explodes around him. His actions have drawn attention; Doug, General Kirk, the senator and others crowd into an observation gallery. But the smoke clears and Tony is gone...
Tony spins lazily through a maelstrom of colorful blobs. There is no gravity and no dimension here, just color and light. It clears quickly and Tony sprawls onto the deck of a ship at the base of some ladder-like stairs.
Back at Tic Toc Doug gives terse orders. McGregor is to start a location probe; Swain is to analyze the energy utilization. Other scientists and technicians are given orders. All of it attempts to learn whether Tony survived his transport and if so, where he is.
Althea Hall hears Tony sprawl on deck and sees him at the base of the stairs. She assumes he fell down the stairs and is concerned. She and Tony chat for a bit before Tony moves off and sees a life ring with “RMS Titanic
” written on it. Only then does he realize to where and when he has traveled. When the Titanic
sinks Tony will sink with her! Moments later Captain Smith and one of his officers stroll onto the First Class deck. Tony takes the opportunity to tell the captain to beware icebergs. Captain Smith does not believe him and regards him as a prankster, possibly sent by a competing liner company that does not want to see the Titanic
set a speed record. He has Tony taken belong and locked up so that he cannot panic other passengers. But he does have the officer confirm iceberg sightings.
At Project Tic Toc the location probe has found Tony and his immediate vicinity is displayed between two electrodes – a kind of viewing area. Doug proposes donning period clothes and taking proof of the ship’s fate back with him. If he can change history then he can rescue Tony. Then the team at Tic Toc can figure out how to bring the pair of them home. General Kirk argues briefly with Doug but is finally persuaded by the scientist’s logic. Doug dons a period suit and hat and finds a newspaper printed the day after the Titanic
disaster, then walks down the tunnel as its whine builds to a roar...
Tony has been confined to a small cabin well below decks. He realizes he had no chance to convince anyone of the truth. Worse, he’s now in the part of the ship that will hit the iceberg in a few short hours. If nothing changes he’ll be among the first to die! He makes a lot of noise and the irritated guard peers in long enough to threaten him with chains if he doesn’t quiet down. Althea visits and tries to convince Tony to recant but he won’t do it. She leaves, and as she begins walking away she has a moment of pain that almost brings her to her knees. She recovers and walks away.
A burly man shovels coal into the massive furnace whose boilers make steam to power the ship. Turning for a new shovelful of coal he sees something unusual: Doug, sprawled on the pile of fuel! He asks Doug where he came from and Doug concocts a weak lie about losing his way. Fortunately the stoker is incurious and simply tells the time traveler to get out before turning back to his task.
Doug finds his way up the stairs and out of the boiler room. He enters a nearby washroom to clean the coal dust from his hands. No sooner has he washed up than the door bursts open and a boy enters. Moments later a crewman pushes the door open and sees Doug washing up. He tells Doug a French boy has been stealing first class food and has given him the slip; Doug does not reveal the lad hiding behind the door. The man actually feels sorry for the French boy but realizes that if one of them did it they would all do it, and so must enforce the rules.
When the man leaves, Doug introduces himself to the boy, whose name is Marcel. Doug enlists the grateful Marcel to find Tony. The boy knows the third class cabin where Tony must be imprisoned as the only cabin that has a crewman on guard outside. He agrees to help Doug get in. They approach the cabin and Marcel walks by the guard. Then he grabs the fire hose and races away with the guard in hot pursuit! Doug slips in while the guard is gone. Tony is asleep on the upper bunk.
Doug wakes up Tony, who can’t believe Doug was foolish enough to follow him into certain death. Doug claims that with tomorrow’s paper he can convince the captain of the ship’s peril. But first they must escape. Tony starts making a ruckus and the guard pokes his head in. Then he comes all the way in and Doug jumps him from behind. Between them they knock the guard cold quickly and escape the cabin.
Upstairs the men enter the radio room and overpower the officer and crewman on duty there. They begin sending radio distress calls – CQD codes – to any listener. In short order more crewmen enter the radio room. There’s a pitched battle between Doug, Tony, and the men of the Titanic
; the scientists hold their own for a while but are eventually overpowered. Captain Smith enters and Doug offers him the paper. He accepts it but tells the pair their behavior has gone beyond a simple prank and that they are in real trouble. Then he orders them taken below and locked up, and tells his men to see that they stay locked up this time. Almost casually he tosses the paper out the porthole.
At dinner time the captain accepts a glass of wine from the steward. He listens to the piano player – Althea Hall – as she tickles the keys. Then a deep crash echoes and the ship shudders. Captain Smith collects his officer and they leave the dining room. The ship has hit an iceberg.
Soon Captain Smith visits the prisoners in the third class cabin. What they have predicted has come to pass. He doesn’t understand it but cannot deny their truths. He cannot embrace the concept of time travel but settles for the comforting notion they their presence has saved the lives of some – when they suggest he order abandon ship he does so immediately. The lifeboats can hold only seven hundred fifty people, far less than the total complement. But better than none. Doug and Tony suggest they may be of help on deck and the captain distractedly agrees. They leave. As they pass out the door it occurs to Smith that they might know whether he is destined to die this night. Doug almost reluctantly tells him yes.
Going up Tony encounters Althea in the dining room. He urges her to a lifeboat but she refuses. It seems she has a medical problem that will shortly claim her life. She spent everything on this cruise to travel to New York where a new form of surgery – neurosurgery – has been developed. Tony assures her that neurosurgery is no fad and that she might well be helped. She agrees to follow him and he gets her to the lifeboat deck where a crewman helps her board a life boat. Captain Smith walks back and forth, giving orders to keep the evacuation going smoothly.
Doug tells Tony there’s “trouble on A deck” and the pair race up a ladder. As they get to the top of the ship it pitches and groans; the men are hurled overboard! Fortunately the time tunnel has a fix and can freeze them in time. Unfortunately the time tunnel cannot bring them home but must direct them elsewhere... Share this article with your friends