On the bridge of the Pinguin Otto von Luckner turned to his Signalsmaat, “Are you certain you sent Follow us… in English? Ficken!” He rang down to the engine room and the mighty diesels thumped into action. He sprinted to the wing of the bridge and shouted, “Abwerfen der Liegeplatz-Seile. Cast off fore and aft.” Back in the wheelhouse he addressed his helmsman, “Follow that boat.”
With her thundering pistons producing nearly eight thousand horse power and her twin screws rapidly accelerating her up to seventeen knots it did not take the Pinguin long to outstrip Ancaster. Von Luckner was on the VHF radio to Harold.
“Follow us, captain. Best speed. We want as much open water as possible between us and Antarctica when whatever it is happens.”
Easter had been looking astern, “I think it’s happening now, skipper. You’ll want to see this.”
Even at the distance of two miles they could see the ice plateau on the continent behind them begin to dome. The hump rose slowly at first and then burst in an explosion of rock and ice fragments. There was an incandescent flash. As their vision slowly returned to the momentarily blinded observers a hemisphere of boiling, glowing atmosphere was visible, expanding at an incredible rate. A rumble grew to a roar and to a screaming shriek that paralysed the onlookers. The pressure wave tore fittings from the deck and cracked window glass. The accompanying tsunami, however, passed them unnoticed. In the open sea, travelling at 500 miles per hour it barely raised the fleeing vessels a foot or two. As it approached the shoaling seabed around the southern tip of America it would pile up into a destructive wall of vindictive ocean, but out here it was benign. Back on the Antarctic mainland snow clouds gathered above ground zero and lightening bolts flashed across the sky. The trawlermen watched as powdered snow billowed and swirled; and out of the turmoil rose a vast, polished metal cylinder, its mirror surface reflecting the chaos that surrounded it. The Andromeda Machine climbed serenely through the storm into the quiet sky above, performed a leisurely pirouette and accelerated away. Within moments all was calm.
“Well, that was different,” said Easter to no one in particular.
A tinny voice crackled from the bridge loud speaker, Kapitänleutnant Otto Graf von Luckner was back on the VHF.
“We will be heading for the Rio de la Plata in the Pinguin, but are more than willing to escort you across the South Atlantic, captain. It will give us chance to compare notes and discuss the recent events. I expect you will be wanting to proceed to the Ärmelkanal, your English Channel. We may well catch you up on our way to the Baltic. It rather depends on how long we loiter in Montevideo.”
A wandering albatross tucked in behind the stern of the Lord Ancaster, skimming low over the restless swell of the Southern Ocean. Sunlight glistened off the heaving rollers and dolphins played in the bow-waves of the two vessels as they pointed their prows towards the New World.