For two months after that meeting, the Eldridge searched the vast area of the ocean where Jennings and the original crew who had rescued the children from the island, believed it had been. And for two months they found nothing but the empty sea.
It was disappointing and frustrating to Jennings, and he began to worry that they might call off the search. Once they had, for two days, when a very bad storm had come up battering the ship with rough seas and high winds, making doing anything impossible.
Not more than a week after that, the search was called off again, this time because a Russian ship was trolling toward them. In order to remain undetected all searches had been called off, and the Eldridge left the area entirely, heading out into the vast ocean and spent the better part of a week, circling around, and slowly coming back up on their original heading.
It was during one of these afternoons, while waiting to get back on the search, that Jennings found himself wandering down one of the ships passage ways heading to the galley to get himself a coffee, when he had noticed a figure imprinted in the bulkhead beside the hatchway. Jennings had paused there studying the image, which looked a lot like the figure of a man, standing there with his left arm at his side, and his right held up, head turned to the left.
The image almost reminded him of one of those outlines of a body you always see at a crime scene, when the police would outline the victim’s body with chalk or tape, only this wasn’t on the floor, but the wall and seemed as if it had been etched into the steel wall some time ago, and then painted over.
It wasn’t just an outline of a human figure, it was actually raised up a little from surface of the bulkhead, and Jennings was about to trace it with his right index finger, when he heard a voice from behind him say, “don’t do that to him.”
He spun around to see Doctor Bartford standing in the hallway behind him, holding up an I-pad tablet in his hand as he frowned at Jennings.
“Him,” Jennings echoed, wondering what the other man was talking about?
“I believe that’s Hicks,” Bartford explained in his English accented speech. “He was one of the original crew of the Eldridge.”
“One of the original crew?”
Bartford nodded his head. “Back in the 1940s when they did the second test, they didn’t yet understand what it was they were doing. Well not like they do now. When the Eldridge teleported back to her original starting point, she had actually jumped backwards in time a few minutes, which meant she actually occupied the same exact place as she already was in, and would be in, if you get my meaning. Two objects occupying the same space at almost the same time. But they didn’t match up right away.”
“They didn’t match up,” Jennings echoed, still not fully believing what the other man was saying.
Bartford shook his head. “Everything in the ocean is constantly moving in one direction or another, so when the two ships merged the one that had jumped back in time and the one that already existed in time, they didn’t completely match up perfectly when they merged. That’s why some of the bulkheads look thicker in some places. And a few of the crew, like Hicks there, merged with the wall.”
Jennings made his eyes wide as he glanced from the Doctor to the human figure etched in the bulkhead behind him. “He’s . . . you mean he’s in the bulkhead?”
Bartford nodded his head. “He’s part of the ship now. He and the other two crewmembers like him.”
Jennings looked at the man for a long moment as he tilted his head down. “You’re serious?”
“I am,” Doctor Bartford said with a nod of his head. “They’ve perfected the jump since then, but a word to the wise, if we do do a jump while you’re onboard, don’t lean up against the bulkhead. Just to be on the safe side.”
Jennings didn’t know what to say to any of that; he just stood there looking at the other man for a long moment, considering what he had just been told.
This was when there was a tone from the overhead speakers, which was followed by a female voice saying, “Commander Jennings, please report to the bridge.”
Jennings glanced up at the ceiling as the request was repeated again.
“Looks like the boss wants a word with you,” Doctor Bartford remarked.
“I guess so.”