10 Past 4 by Ben Waterford - Read Online
10 Past 4
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Summary

10 Past 4 is the first novel in ‘The Time Followers’ theme. Join four teenagers from various backgrounds who come together in their first exciting adventure. Set in the beautiful Wales county of Pembrokeshire they stumble across an old WW2 bunker where they are confronted by a rudimentary and unstable time machine that sets them off on an incredible journey to save a war-torn London from certain destruction by a German-developed atomic bomb, battling many foes along the way. An entertaining novel that is suitable for all ages from teen upwards.

Published: Ben Waterford on
ISBN: 9781533719614
List price: $4.99
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10 Past 4 - Ben Waterford

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Chapter 1: Odd Activity

There’s definitely something unusual going on there, sir. The newly appointed recruit stepped forward and handed his first report to the senior officer, then took a careful step back so he did not lose eye contact.

And you say you have double-checked your results against the stats from Cardiff HQ?

Yes sir, he answered with confidence. "There is mounting evidence of an increasing problem with radio and radar interference in the South Pembroke area. Our first readings around mid-2010 were very faint so they did not trigger any alarms, but the sergeant-in-charge at the Castlemartin training range has advised the interference is very real and he would like it investigated further. In fact it was the recently received data from the British Geographical Society that has added to the mystery. They report regular sub-sonic wave tremors, consistent with an unstable source of energy within a similar zone as the reported radio interference."

The Senior Intelligence Officer leaned slowly back into his black, imitation leather chair. He rhythmically tapped the fingers of both hands on the edge of his large Beechwood table. A pair of linked computer screens sat facing him. His fingers edged closer to the keyboard. After an intense few moments churning over the latest information he directed his stare directly at the young lad, "So, what action do you suggest?" he asked, giving the recruit a chance to prove himself.

The boyish faced, eighteen-year-old was startled and quite taken back by the Officer’s question. He wondered whether he seriously wanted an answer or was just toying with him. The Officer sat forward and rested his chin on his clasped hands, with his elbows now resting on the table and with eyes closely focussed on his.

Well?

I think … I think I should investigate the phenomena first hand. It may be nothing more than a ‘fart in a bottle’, so until it is established that it is a serious threat to our national security, then there is no reason to press the panic button … yet. He looked down and away from the officer’s stare. Did I really say ‘fart in a bottle’, he thought to himself.

Great! That’s a good idea. See Monique at the Service Desk on level two and she will equip you for your assignment. This will be a good test of your diligence, son. The Intelligence Officer looked at his computer screen and then began typing away at the keyboard.

Thank you sir, said the recruit as he began to walk toward the closed office door.

Oh, by the way son, what’s your first name?

Andrew, sir.

Jolly good.

Andrew opened the door and as he did so he glanced back to the Officer. He was again busily typing away and had that ‘not to be disturbed’ look. He quietly closed the door behind him and then rushed down the stairs to the second level as instructed, eager to start his very first official assignment. It didn’t take long for Monique to make the initial arrangements. He was to train it up to Pembroke the next day, departing from Bristol’s Temple Meads station at 08.45am, with a change of trains at Swansea. He cheekily arranged to have few hours to spare in Swansea before catching a connecting train up to Pembroke.

#

John Ashcombe had never travelled on a train before, even though he was born and bred in London, where underground trains snake their way under the city mobilising thousands every day. This was going to be a new experience. He was nervously apprehensive about leaving his home and he had every reason to be, having never travelled more than a few miles from his flat in Hackney. But none the less, as the day grew closer, there was more than a little excitement brewing inside him about the journey that lay ahead. A journey that was to take him from the back streets of East London with all its petty crime, poverty and pollution, to a far off distant place that no one he knew had even heard of, let alone been to. But the hardest thing was leaving his mum and step-brothers for the first time in his short, thirteen year life.

His family resided in a 1960’s run-down council flat where he was pretty much left to his own devices. His father apparently never hung around long enough to know he had a son and John often wondered what he was like or where he lived. His mother was usually preoccupied with her own life to worry too much about him. Most evenings she worked down at the local pub as a barmaid, her ideal place to pick up male acquaintances. This was not something John was cool about. He hated it even more when she brought them home, because he knew he would be pushed aside and virtually ignored until the intruder had left.

John was the youngest of the boys, and even though his mother had little time for any of her three boys from various fathers, he always felt he was the closest, so he tried to make every moment count. He was proud when she stuck up for him after he was expelled for the final time from his local school. His antagonistic attitude towards his peers always seemed to end in fights. He proudly boasted that he won most of them, but that wasn’t quite the truth. His small stature at age eleven was not really an excuse as most of his peers were of similar height at the time. The education department in their wisdom sent John to a special school but he continually ran away or just failed to turn up. He was eventually given a last option of home schooling or end up in a youth rehabilitation centre indefinitely. So for the last year he had struggled with home education coordinated by a local government-funded institution. His tutor was a Mr Grainger, who although seemed to be pushing seventy, was very tolerant, and slowly improved John’s reading and writing skills. It was Mr Grainger that encouraged him to take up drawing or sketching in which John showed some aptitude. John was going through some of his best drawings in his mind when he was awoken from his thoughts by his mum shaking his shoulder quite vigorously. The bus had stopped and he quickly took stock of the unfamiliar surroundings.

After a slow crawl across the city through busy traffic, the bus had finally arrived at Praed Street, just across the road from Paddington railway station, a major train terminus for travellers to the west of England. After being roughly grabbed by the arm, John was hauled to the exit door. They clambered out of the bus with a number of other passengers, many of which had backpacks and suitcases. John hung on tightly to his backpack as he had heard that you could not trust this side of town, the ‘Worst End’ he believed it was called, misinterpreting it for the West End as it was commonly known. Entering the station, John immediately gasped in awe at the mind-boggling size of the station. He stared with amazement at the height and length of the glass canopies that towered high above him and the rows of platforms, many filled by sleek, uniformly-coloured trains. He noted some people chatted in small groups whilst others singularly rushed this way and that. The tantalising smell of cooked foods drifted from the fast food outlets. At the base of the escalators was a small group of young schoolgirls about his same age that caught his attention. The girls were huddled around a bronze figure and giggling as they patted its head. It only took one quick word of address from their teacher before they quickly regrouped and headed away up the escalators, leaving behind a lone bronze statue of the children’s storybook character, Paddington Bear, sitting on a suitcase. Reaching into a side pocket of his backpack John retrieved a small notebook. He slid out a pencil that fitted into the spine of the notebook. Turning to the first clean page he quickly sketched a rough outline image of Paddington and his suitcase before he was interrupted.

Come along John, don’t dilly-dally, instructed his mother. Look there’s the Reverend. John slipped the notebook back into his bag and followed behind his mother. She pushed her way rudely through a small group of people and headed directly towards the ticket gate at platform five. They passed a huge electronic sign board that displayed the train departures to places that John had never even heard of. A loud, digitally recorded female voice suddenly erupted and echoed from every wall of the concourse.

The next train for South Wales and the West of England will depart from platform five at ten-thirty, first stop Reading.

Hello Cynthia, said Reverend Jones as he greeted John’s mother.

Fanks for taking John as far as Swansea as there’s no way I could afford to go wiff him, so I’m really in yer debt, said John’s mum in her usual colloquial cockney accent. Ee’s not a bad lad really, just got caught up with his stupid drug-dealing bruvver and his mates.

That is no problem I can assure, replied the Reverend politely. As we discussed at the family magistrate’s office last week, I am only too happy to assist. As I will be staying at Swansea as the locum vicar for St James church for the next few months, it is really no imposition. I’m sure a break from London will do the lad a world of good, and probably me too." He chuckled.

Fanks Reverend, said Cynthia unsympathetic. Must tell ya that John’s aunty, Ruby Spencer, will meet ya at Swansea station and she’ll take ‘im from there. I believe she and her daughter ‘ave’s a nice place in Pembroke.

Ah, it’s been a while since I visited that corner of Wales … such a lovely spot … always so green and serene, said the Reverend with an air of calmness, his head tilted slightly and eyes full of distant memories. He suddenly snapped out of his daydream and for the first time looked at John, and said stiffly, Alright John, it is nearly the time for us to make a move. We don’t want to miss the train now, do we?

John’s mum gave John a quick hug and handed him a bag of sweets for the journey. John hadn’t seen such a big bag before and was still marvelling at it as he was led by the firm hand of the Reverend through the platform ticket gate. John turned to wave to his mum, but she was already leaving the station and had her back to him. He valiantly watched for her to turn as he passed by the ticket gate, but then she was gone, lost in the distant crowds. For the first time in his life he felt alone and a little scared, but outwardly he refused to show it. For John, this was the end of one life as he had known it, and the beginning of a very different one, but he never knew that yet.

Chapter 2: Rendezvous

We are making good time Captain, whispered the youthful, twenty-two year old SS Corporal Fritz Schreiner as he checked his wristwatch for the umpteenth time in the last thirty minutes or so. We should be at the rendezvous point as planned, so I will go prepare the others. The SS Captain nodded without any change in his facial expression. Schreiner left the control room and headed aft to make the final preparations for disembarking.

The SS Captain kept his stare fixed on the ‘state of the art’ radar equipment, watching and listening for any unwanted intrusion from enemy vessels. A thick blanket of fog was aiding them in their journey as they approached the imaginary beginning of the narrow channel between England and Wales. He was impressed with this recently commissioned Unterseeboot. The XXI Electroboat class was the epitome of the German fleet, with the ability to travel stealthily underwater for much longer distances than any previous model. U-3014 had secretly left its base in Norway a few weeks earlier whilst supposedly undergoing deep water trials. They were instructed not to engage in any military action unless it was an absolute necessity to ensure the survival of their precious cargo. However, the officers were sworn to destroy the U-boat with strategically placed explosive devices if they were inadvertently cornered by the enemy.

Fifty-five year old SS Captain Erhard Krause was a stern, no-nonsense veteran of Hitler’s SS, having been an honoured corporal during WW1. He helped in furthering the development of the Hitler Youth movement in 1933. It was as an appointed Youth Leader that he first befriended Adolf Hitler, who as it happened, was only a few months older than himself. Krause had always admired Hitler for his later achievements as leader of the Reich and the fearless way he had almost single-handedly transformed Germany into a country with a renewed pride and power after years of depression. But as the war moved into its sixth year it was plainly clear that Germany was struggling to protect the motherland. Krause saw weaknesses emerging in the deployment of offences against the enemy. Even his beloved Führer was losing the battle against the onslaught of Soviet forces from the east. Strategic objectives had been badly managed or completely missed, and opportunities that should have placed Germany in a commanding winning position once and for all, had fallen by the wayside. Factional conflicts were splitting the regime to the point where some commanders would no longer report to Hitler. Krause therefore jumped at the chance to command a secret mission into war-ravaged Britain, where he believed he could turn the tide in Germanys favour forever. He promised his Führer that he would honour him and their country and would not give up until he did.

Fritz Schreiner was new to Captain Krause’s command but had been very aware of his history and fierce leadership skills. He respected his position, but already he had a gut-feeling that there was something sinister about the Captain. He just couldn’t put his finger on it at the moment.  From his observations, he found the Captain to be both arrogant and a bully – obviously the reasons he got where he is today. Fritz was fully aware they had an important mission to complete for the Führer and that there was a strong chance they may never return to the homeland. His orders were to assist the Captain in the deployment of highly advanced radar detection and radio jamming devices on the British mainland. The plan was to disrupt some of the major defence capabilities - thus giving a window of opportunity to advance on Britain while they were currently weak on their home ground. The first objective, Fritz had been informed, was to free a dozen or so German prisoners from a prison camp in Pembrokeshire. The freed men would assist in the deployment of the anti-radar equipment at bases over the south-west corner of Wales. A new fleet of ‘Unterseeboots’ were already being commissioned and launched with the intention of being ready to invade the south coastal strip at a moment’s notice. Two scientists were accompanying them to ensure the correct assembly of parts and then activate the devices. Further supplies and more scientific equipment had recently been picked up during essential refuelling at Alderney in the Channel Islands.

Fritz hurried the two scientists in readiness for disembarking. The final crates of supplies and equipment were positioned under the main hatch. As the scientists put on their heavy raincoats, they noticed the sound of the engines being throttled back, and the unsettling sensation as the boat began to rise to the surface.

The high ranking and highly decorated Kapitänleutnant of the U-boat approached Krause to inform him that they were minutes away from their rendezvous and that he was preparing to turn and raise the boat. Krause acknowledged with a typical nonchalant nod of his head. As the boat levelled in the relatively calm waters near St. Govan’s Head, off the southwest coast of Wales, two members of the crew were already waiting in the conning tower to open the main hatch.

The air was thick with dense fog as Fritz made his way up the steel ladder to the open hatch of the tower. The water splashed up the sides of the slightly submerged deck. It was pitch-black and most uninviting. There was a slight swell and a faint cold breeze blew against his warm face. For a moment he paused, and wondered if they were at the correct position. If they were too close to the coast they risked being spotted by the coast patrols. It was now 0300 hours on the morning of Thursday, 15th of February, 1945. This was the precise planned rendezvous time.

Is there contact yet? asked an impatient Krause from the base of the ladder. Our agents should be here any minute. Can you see them?

No, I can see nothing. This fog is absolutely impenetrable, replied Fritz peering down at the gravel-faced SS Captain.

I will not hesitate to shoot whoever is responsible if this mission is jeopardised, Krause responded. We must have this boat off the surface as soon as possible or we risk detection.

Fritz felt his teeth start to chatter as the cold air took the warmth away from his unprotected face. He strained his ears listening for any sounds from the surrounding waters, but could only hear the raised voices from the submarine below him. He came down a couple of rungs and looked down to the gathering below. Will you all shut up – I am trying to listen! Fritz boldly commanded in a raised whisper. Immediately there was silence. Even the SS Captain had a guilty look as he moved his head to look at Fritz. Fritz repositioned himself at the top of the ladder to continue his surveillance.

Minutes passed, when suddenly his ears picked up some unusual splashing sounds. He focused his eyes towards the sounds and slowly but surely a large wooden boat appeared out of the fog, being rowed by two dark figures. Fritz felt for his pistol for reassurance as the side of their boat bounced against the side of the submarine just below the conning tower. Fritz held his position and following his orders to the letter, spoke to the men in almost perfect English. We are lost. Can you tell me if this is Dover?

Yes, there is free Ice Cream, was the instant reply.

Fritz spoke down to Krause who was impatiently waiting in silence, They are here and have correctly acknowledged me. The main hatch was quickly opened and soon a number of crew were on deck securing the wooden boat and transferring the crates of equipment to the deck. Krause thanked the boat captain who in turn confirmed that he will again rendezvous at this point when the mission was complete, and they would return the Captain and his gallant team back to a victorious Germany. They briefly shook hands.

Within minutes Krause, Schreiner, the two scientists and numerous crates and boxes were squeezed in with the two agents aboard the large wooden boat. Captain Krause stood and addressed all aboard, From this moment you are to speak in English at all times, with no exception. You should all be very honoured to have been specially selected to take part in this important mission for your country and our Führer. Krause stiffly held out his right arm and commanded, Heil Hitler! The others responded with a resounding Heil Hitler and salute in return.

The tie ropes were released and the older and obviously senior agent passed the oars to Fritz. Fritz immediately glanced at Captain Krause as if seeking a pardon from rowing duties, but the Captain just nodded in the affirmative and pointed to the oars. The younger agent took up the oars at the helm. No names were exchanged or offered between the Captain and the agents. The senior agent produced a compass and then raised an arm and pointed in the direction to row. Fritz hesitantly placed an oar in the water and put all his effort into moving the boat. Facing the rear of the boat he watched the submarine slip under the water till all he could see were silent scuds of fog which completely engulfed them.

Chapter 3: Are We There Yet?

The train journey for John had been a lot longer that he had ever imagined. It had been exciting and wondrous at first, but as the distance increased from home, he was becoming more and more apprehensive. The Reverend Jones was a very pleasant and decent sort, but his life interests seemed to only centre around church life and John found this rather boring, especially after hearing about the changes in last year’s ecumenical system for the umpteenth time. He didn’t have a clue what ‘ecumenical’ even meant, but didn’t wish to show the Reverend his ignorance.

As John watched the welsh countryside flashing past the window, his mind was now focused on meeting his Aunty Ruby at Swansea station. She was going to look after him till he was at least sixteen. According to what he overheard his mother say to a neighbour last week, Aunty Ruby was his mum’s half-sister. She was now a widow and lived in Pembroke with her daughter Morgan, who was fifteen, a couple of years older than him.

Okay John, get your things together, we are only about five minutes away from Swansea, instructed the Reverend firmly.

John reached down and picked up his grubby pass-me-down backpack, with its worn red and blue stitched-on patch of Spiderman on the back panel. He put away his bag of sweets which he had hardly touched; a well-read Beano comic, and lastly his notepad and pen. The notepad was a favourite item of John’s as he jotted down all manner of things that interested him. He also sketched pictures of anything he thought was unusual. His tutor, Mr Grainger said he could be an artist or illustrator one day as he had an imaginative gift. Changing his mind at the last minute, John retrieved the notebook from his bag and placed it into his shirt pocket.

John stared silently out the window as houses, shops and factories once again replaced the repetitive open fields and trees. Then with a slight jolt and the distant sound of a horn, the train began to slow. The Reverend glanced at his fancy gold-coloured wrist watch, and commented, Three hours and two minutes from Paddington … these modern trains sure beat those old steam engines. Now, the local train to Pembroke should depart in about twenty minutes, so you’ll soon be on your way again, he said, followed by a