Book One of the Harry and Meg Series
A corporate cruise ship, The Maltese, sets sail from Manhattan for the beautiful Azores on a charity fundraising cruise. The ship encounters a strange event in the ocean, and, after two minutes of turbulence, finds itself in a different time. The ship is surrounded by gigantic sharks. They’ve traveled back in time two million years.
The captain, Harry Fenton, a highly decorated naval war hero, falls in love with a beautiful passenger, Meg Johnson, a vice president of the Malta Investments, the company that owns the ship. After a whirlwind romance, they marry—in the ship’s ballroom. Captain Fenton convinces the passengers and crew that they must move ashore to a tropical island because the ship is running out of fuel and supplies.
An ancient forest inhabited by dinosaurs awaits them.
Captain Harry organizes a group to go ashore and inspect the island. Meg wants to go with them. Harry, fearing for her safety, tries to convince her to stay on the ship. Meg demonstrates that she is proficient with a gun by taking apart a rifle and reassembling it—in 15 seconds. Harry marvels that he’s never seen such an expert gun handler— or accurate shooter. So, AR-15 in hand, Meg joins the inspection party. Attacking dinosaurs are no match for Meg Fenton’s firepower.
Will the 1,000 souls ever make it back to the time they came from, or will they remain stranded in the distant past?
A scientist aboard theorizes that, to return to their present time, they need to go back to the time portal, or wormhole, that brought them to the past. But the ship doesn’t have enough fuel for the journey.
Realizing that their lives have hit the reset button, the crew and passengers construct a community in the forest—Malta Town. Under Harry and Meg’s leadership, they create a court system, a legislature, and all the elements of a small budding democracy. Meg figures out a way to harness hydroelectric power from a nearby waterfall. Everybody thinks of Harry and Meg as the heart and soul of Malta Town. They begin their new lives—among the dinosaurs.
The Maltese Incident is a tale of time travel, love, courage, and horror
Targeted Age Group:: Eighteen and over
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I enjoy writing time travel novels, and I also enjoy cruising. On a recent cruise, the IDEA How about a time travel novel, where a cruise shipgoes back in time.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
Once I had the story idea, a cruise ship that time travelled to the past, I knew i needed a captain. Captain Harry meets Meg, a beautiful passenger. They fall in love and marry—on the ship—and the also share the spotlight as the two major protagonists of my book
The Maltese Incident
“What the hell was that?” I yelled to First Officer Jim Valente.
“Beats me, captain. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
I’d never seen anything like it either. My gut told me that I was about to start a weird journey. My gut was right.
A few minutes ago, we were steaming through the beautiful Azores when the world turned upside down, for me and everyone else aboard. It was a beautiful April evening with a sky full of stars and a half-moon. I had just chatted with the captain of a yacht off my starboard side about 300 feet away. Based on what the captain of the yacht said, we were both headed for Lisbon, Portugal. At 9:13 p.m., the Maltese was suddenly bathed in bright sunlight—at night. We felt a strange rumbling sensation along the hull below the waterline, as if we steamed over submerged logs. After two minutes, nighttime returned, and the rumbling stopped. My weird journey had begun.
I grabbed the microphone for the PA system and announced, “General quarters, general quarters, all hands man your battle stations.”
“Captain Harry,” First Officer Valente said, tapping me on the shoulder. “This isn’t a warship. I suggest you make another announcement.”
“Oh, right,” I said. My Navy years just came back to me. I pressed down the speaker key and made a new announcement.
“Good evening everyone, this is Captain Harry again. I just realized that I’m not running a warship, so please ignore my command to man your battle station, unless your battle station is a barstool. The reason for my sudden burst of nonsense is obvious—we just experienced something weird, insanely weird. First Officer Valente and I are checking all our systems to see if we can figure out what happened. I’ll keep you informed.”
Jim Valente and I put every system on the ship through a series of tests. What else was there to do? We were trying to figure out what just happened and also checking to see if anything on the ship had changed. I wasn’t happy with what we discovered. The starlit sky was now pitch black, and the half-moon was nowhere to be seen. The yacht off to starboard was no longer there. At the moment of our bizarre incident I told Valente to take a fix, an automatic thing for me to say. As I learned in the Navy, anytime something out of the ordinary happens, you take a navigational fix. You don’t think about it, you just do it, like saying “God bless you” when somebody sneezes.
“We lost GPS, captain,” Valente said after he tried to take a fix. “I can’t locate one satellite.”
“Radio that yacht to see if we can get a fix from him.”
“He doesn’t answer, captain. He’s not there anymore.”
I grabbed the radio microphone. This time I didn’t order my passengers to man their battle stations.
“Mayday, mayday, mayday. Any vessel, any vessel, this is the American ship Maltese. Come in please.”
Mayday is the internationally recognized code for an emergency, and I figured we sure as hell had one.
“Mayday, mayday, mayday. Any vessel, any vessel, this is the American ship Maltese. Come in please.” I repeated it five times.
No response. We were alone. God knows where, but it was only us.
The Maltese is a 920-foot ship owned by Malta Investments and which serves the company as its corporate cruise ship. Everybody calls me Captain Harry, including my crew. The Maltese can carry 2,900 passengers, but this cruise was a VIP event and only 950 passengers were aboard. The passengers were mainly executives and a few wealthy clients of Malta Investments. I was impressed by the people from Malta ever since I first joined the company. A cruise ship may sound like an extravagant investment, even for a successful company like Malta, but the ship wasn’t just for fun and entertainment. Malta donates 100 percent of the net proceeds to a preselected charity for each cruise. This cruise supported children’s cancer research. In a world of selfishness, it’s a pleasure to work for people who care about something other than themselves. Along with a crew of 35, I run the ship, or I thought I did. I retired from the Navy last year at age 40, young for a retiree, but I started my naval career at age 18 when I went to Annapolis, so I got in 22 years. I liked the Navy, actually I loved it, but after almost getting killed I decided to give civilian life a try. My wife’s death from cancer also told me I needed a change in my life, a life in which Nancy played a big part. We had no kids, so I was alone.
In the Navy I was a destroyer captain and I got a reputation among Navy brass that I liked going into combat. That, of course, was bullshit. I never enjoyed combat, but I never avoided it either. So, I was constantly deployed to hot spots around the world. After what just happened to the Maltese, I miss the relative safety of naval combat. At least I knew what was coming at me. I went to flight school three years ago, figuring I’d get a carrier command, and who knows, maybe make admiral. That all changed, of course, when I retired.
“Is everything okay, Harry?” Randy Borg asked as he stepped onto the bridge. Randy, or Randolph, is the CEO of the Malta Investments, the company that owns the Maltese. He’s the guy who hired me and he’s my boss, as well as a good friend. I like Randy and I appreciate his attention to detail. You can’t run a company as successful as Malta without focusing on details. But he leaves running the ship to me.
“Sure, Randy, everything is just great. I haven’t the foggiest fucking idea where we are, how we got here, or where we’re going. The only way I’m able to communicate is like we’re doing now—talking face to face. We’ve got a problem, Randy, a big one. All stations have reported, and we sustained no damage, thank God, but we seem to be in the middle of nowhere. I know you don’t expect to hear that from the ship’s captain, but it’s the truth. We’re alone in the ocean.”
Randy peppered me with a list of questions, the answers to which didn’t make him happy. My answers didn’t make me happy either.
“Harry, we need to have a meeting of everyone on the ship. Our passengers and crew are entitled to know what’s going on. Let’s make it for 9 a.m. tomorrow. I want you to conduct the meeting.”
The following morning Randy and I stood at the entrance to the dining room to greet each of the guests. The list included not only executives and board members of Malta Investments, but also rich clients who invested heavily with Malta. They paid through the nose for this cruise, and even though it was for charity, they were entitled to know what happened. Any of the crew who weren’t on watch were also at the meeting. Randy and I figured that it was best to be straight with the audience and talk about our strange circumstance without holding anything back. After breakfast, I stood before the group. I figured the occasion called for it so I wore my full dress white uniform. I wanted everybody to know that I was in charge and on top of the situation. Little did they know that I was as clueless as them.
After everyone was seated I called the meeting to order. We gathered in the main dining room overlooking the sea, which normally provided a beautiful view, but something was wrong. It was daylight, but the atmosphere had a murky quality to it, reminding me of skim milk. At least the sea was calm, without a ripple. Weather reports the night before called for a sunny and cloudless sky, with a brisk wind and choppy seas. But the sky was overcast, the sea was flat as a lake, and there was no wind. Just a few more things about our circumstance that weren’t adding up.
“Good morning everybody,” I said. “Well, we’re here to celebrate having an ocean all to ourselves.”
I figured that would get a few laughs.
“Randy Borg asked me to be totally frank with you folks, and that’s exactly what I will be. But please don’t call me Frank; the name’s still Harry.”
Again, no laughs.
“We’re lost. There’s no other way to put it. But hey, I’ve been in worse circumstances at sea. At least nobody’s shooting at us.”
That brought a couple of chuckles, but I think those people were trying to be polite. I could see why standup comedians spend so much money on psychotherapy.
“I’m going to review our situation, our bizarre situation. I’ll be calling on people who wish to comment or share an idea. And I want you to weigh in. You people are smart, so I expect that some good ideas are floating around out there. I have one request—no bullshit please. Tell it like it is or how you perceive it. Okay, let me review our weird circumstance.
“Last night, on April 17, we encountered a situation best described as strange. At 9:13 p.m., right after dinner, the dark sky turned to daylight, which lasted for two minutes. During that time the ship rumbled like it was going aground. When the darkness returned, everybody, myself included, ran for a rail to see what was going on. Because it was night, there wasn’t much to see. A yacht was on our starboard side, maybe 300 feet from us. After the incident, however, there was only darkness—the yacht simply wasn’t there. We sent messages to the boat, but we got no response. I also sent a message to our radio contact in Portugal, about 1,200 nautical miles away. Lisbon, Portugal, was our destination as you know, and I was in continuous radio contact with them, most recently five minutes before the strange event. Lisbon was silent. I then tried to contact New York. No response. Miami—ditto; Washington D.C.—the same. Again, I apologize for ordering you all to your battle stations. After I came to my senses, I figured it was time to declare an emergency to anybody with a radio receiver. I grabbed the radio microphone and yelled the international distress signal, ‘Mayday, mayday, mayday. This is the American ship Maltese, come in please.’
“I tried that five times. Bottom line, folks, is that I had no way to communicate with any vessel or land location. We tested our radio and it works, both for sending and receiving. At least it works for sending messages from one part of the ship to another. We tried to establish a GPS navigational fix, but after 40 minutes of trying we couldn’t locate one satellite. So here we are. I know that you people expect the captain to supply answers, and you have every right to. But I began this talk by telling you that I would be straight with you, and the straight truth is that I don’t know what happened.
Meghan Johnson, vice president of operations, raised her hand. I grabbed for my glass of water. Ever since Nancy died four years ago, I hadn’t thought much about the opposite sex. Maybe the pain of losing her made me scared to fall for another woman. But any time I looked at Meghan Johnson, my heart started pounding. We first met a few days ago when I stood at the bottom of the stairway to welcome passengers aboard. After that, any time I saw her I couldn’t help but stare. I estimate that she’s about 5’10,” with medium length blond hair and the most beautiful blue eyes I’ve ever seen. She had an athletic body, almost like a gymnast, especially her shapely legs and firm butt. She was striking, and she struck me—hard.
“Wadda you got, beautiful?” I said.
I figured if I dropped into wiseass mode it would relax me and stop me from sweating so much. I drew a deep breath and took a sip of water. I couldn’t believe I just called a senior executive “beautiful,” true as it may be.
“I’ve got a question, handsome,” Meghan Johnson said, chuckling.
Holy shit, she called me handsome. Suddenly I didn’t feel like a 40-year-old sea captain. I felt like a 12-year-old boy who just got his first hard-on. I took another sip of cold water.
“When did you realize that the sky had changed?” Meghan asked.
“Here’s where things got totally weird, Ms. Johnson (I switched out of wise-ass mode and decided to be polite). When the sun came up this morning it wasn’t normal daylight, if you define daylight as the light cast by a risen sun. The sky was light, but a gloomy kind of light. We found ourselves and our ship inside what looks like a gigantic cave, almost too gigantic to describe. And that’s where we’ve been since ‘the incident.’ We’re in a location that doesn’t appear on any chart. If we look up, we can see a cloud cover that almost looks like a roof. The sun isn’t visible, but it rises and sets—as if it’s behind a screen. We know it rose this morning, but we didn’t see the sun itself. I steamed around for a while trying to get a bearing, but I couldn’t find out where the hell we were without any normal navigational aids including our electronics. We have an inertial navigation system, but our charts aren’t right. There should be land off to starboard, but there’s only open ocean.”
“Harry, please review for us what you found on sonar,” Randy Borg said.
“Our sonar can detect the sea bottom to a depth of about 1,000 meters, or 3,280 feet. We can’t detect a bottom, so we know we’re in deep water, beyond 3,280 feet. According to our sonar readings before the incident as well as our chart, we had 1,800 feet under us.”
“Captain Harry, how much fuel do we have and how far can it get us?” Meghan Johnson asked.
Her blouse was slightly open at the neck, showing a breathtaking view of sun-tanned cleavage. I wiped some sweat off my brow.
“It’s comforting to have an operations VP aboard to keep me honest,” I said. “The answer won’t make anybody happy. With the amount of fuel aboard, we can cruise for no more than 600 nautical miles. I had planned to top off our tanks in Lisbon, but that never happened as we all know. Right now, we’re slowly steaming to see if we can find land.”
“What about food, Harry? Can you update us?” asked Randy Borg.
“The breakfast we just ate was pleasant, but we’re running low on food,” I said. “Carlos, our chef, told me that we’ll need to invade our flash frozen stores within a few days. We intended to replenish our stock when we got to Lisbon, but of course that didn’t happen. We hope that we’ll find a source of food on that land we’re heading for.”
“Okay, the meeting’s over, folks,” Randy Borg said. “We’ll assemble again as a group when we have more information for you. If you have any questions or concerns, please call me or Captain Harry.”
A day went by and nothing had changed. The same milky sunlight, the same calm ocean, and the same ignorance of where we were. I ordered the engine room to give us eight knots, a fuel-conserving speed. We steamed slowly, looking for land.
“Captain Harry, may I see you for a moment?” Meghan Johnson asked, knocking on the door to the bridge.
“Sorry, I’m busy. You’ll have to come back later.” Of course, I didn’t say that. What I meant to say was, “Oh my God, you look gorgeous.” Instead I said, “Sure,” after I cleared my throat, “step into my office.”
“You can take a break, Jim,” I said to the officer on deck. “I’ll take the watch from here, not that I have any idea what I’m watching.” I did know what I was watching, and it was Meghan Johnson.
“So, what’s up, Ms. Johnson?” I said, after taking a swig of cold water. “I hope I didn’t embarrass you the other day by calling you beautiful. It just slipped out because you are, well, beautiful.”
“I just wanted to say that I found your comment touching,” Meghan said. “You took my breath away. You’re quite good-looking yourself, captain. Ever since I came aboard I can’t help staring at you.”
“Are you flirting with me, Ms. Johnson?”
“Yes, I thought you’d never notice. Please call me Meg.”
Oh my God. She admitted that she was flirting with me. I glanced at a bulkhead where a defibrillator hung, figuring my heart might need it.
“I hope I didn’t upset your husband or boyfriend or whoever that guy is who’s constantly at your side.”
“He’s Phil Jackson, my aide. He looks older, but he just graduated from college. Oh, and I’m not married. You picked a cute way to coax that information out of me.”
I said nothing; I just stared into her eyes.
“I’m sorry, Harry, I don’t know why I had to share that information. I’m embarrassed.”
“Don’t be embarrassed, Meg. Maybe you shared that information because you didn’t want me to feel uncomfortable talking to you.”
“Why would you feel uncomfortable talking to me, Harry?”
“Can I tell you a secret?”
“Sure, Harry. What’s your secret?”
“Well, with my loud mouth and my Navy-trained ‘command presence,’ few people ever spot my little secret—I’m shy as hell.” I felt like a little boy kneeling in the booth for my first confession. “Bless me father for I have sinned…”
“I actually spotted that in you, Harry. I even noticed you blush, which I find charming. Now that you’ve told me your secret, do you still feel shy?”
I took a sip of water and mumbled something inane which I really can’t recall. All I noticed was the scent of her perfume.
She moved closer to me to pick some lint off my shirt. I think she just used that as an excuse to come closer. The perfume and the warmth of her body almost made me pass out.
“Now, what was it you wanted to see me about?” I stammered, barely able to catch my breath.
“I forget,” Meg said as she took a deep breath. “Oh, yeah. I want to talk to you about breaking our group down into committees.”
“I was really hoping that you wanted a business meeting.”
“Wise guy,” Meg said with a laugh. “Let’s take care of business.”
I just smiled, reached over, and whisked some hair from her forehead. She grabbed my hand in both of hers and held it against her face, never once taking her eyes off mine. I was no longer feeling shy. Meg cleared her throat, as if to announce that she was changing the subject. As she spoke she continued to hold my hand.
“Here’s what I recommend,” Meg said. “Randy is definitely the boss, but I can tell that he looks to you for leadership. He’s a great guy, but he’d be the first to tell you that he’s not a hands-on manager. Back at the office, he relied on me and a few other key executives. So, it’s obvious that you’re the boss, and the big boss thinks so too. I suggest that you appoint four committees. It will be Randy’s decision, of course, but he’ll do just about anything that you recommend. I think that the committees should include: First, a lookout committee. We should have recorded notes and photos of anything that a lookout sees; second, a physical plant committee, which means anything involving the ship. You will head that committee, of course; third, a good and welfare committee, which will tend to the various needs of those aboard; and last but not least, a food committee. It’s important that we should have a separate committee addressed to each issue. You will serve as member ex officio of each committee, and you’ll combine or create new committees as needed. So, what do you think? Hey, Harry, did you hear anything I said?”
“Yeah, something about committees—I think.”
I was beginning to feel like I was in the fourth grade when a pretty girl sat at the desk next to me.
Meg laughed. “Yes, it was about committees. We can go over it later.”
“I wasn’t paying attention because I can’t take my eyes off you,” I said.
“I think that you’re beautiful, and I also think that your perfume is driving me insane.” Forget what I said about my shyness.
“You really are a charming guy, Harry. I had heard that about you, but now that I’m talking to you in person I can see how that’s an accurate description—charming.”
I glanced over at the bulkhead to make sure the defibrillator was still there.
“How’s this for an idea, Meg? Randy and I dropped that ‘dinner with the captain’ tradition because of the incident, so how about we replace it this evening with Meg and Harry have dinner? We can talk about committees and stuff.”
“Don’t I get a formal invitation?” Meg teased.
“Here’s your formal invitation.” I leaned forward and kissed her.
“In that case, I graciously accept,” Meg said, letting out a deep breath.
My secret—that I’m shy—was becoming a secret even to me. For some reason I don’t feel shy around Meg Johnson.
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