Land Before Time - Voyage through time

Chapter One

North Atlantic, 1983 A.D.

Soviet Navy Submarine TK-95, Typhoon class SSBN

The massive ballistic missile submarine moved effortlessly through the dark ocean, pushed along by its double shafted nuclear engine. Bigger than a Second world war aircraft carrier, she could be mistaken for some unknown monster of the deep by anyone who glimpsed her underwater. In a way, she fitted that description.

And 1st class Captain Roman Vladimirovich Pudovkin was proud to command her. He gave necessary commands calmly and steadily, directing the 24,500 tonne SSBN (known to the Soviet Union's NATO foes as Typhoon) carefully through the North Atlantic, towards her destination just off the tip of Greenland. From here he would enter the assigned patrol area, where in the event of nuclear war he would launch his missiles. But not only did he have to be wary of sea ice or possible reactor failiure, but detection by prowling western subamrines.

Fortunately, he was close to his destination. Still, caution was necessary.

"Put her into silent running" he ordered. "We don't want anyone to find out where we patrol."

The huge stern props slowed, and ran at an almost undetectable speed. The TK-95 was cruising smoothly through the icy waters, the only audible sound being the rush of water along her hull.

"Captain, we have a contact 10 miles to our rear, starboard!"

It was the sonar officer who had spoke. Through use of passive sonar, the hydrophones identified the contact.

"American. Los Angeles class SSN."

The crew fell silent. Any audible sound could give them away. The Captain whispered first.

"Sonar, is he following us?"

"Yes sir. He is keeping parallel with our course."

"Give me a read of the terrain."

The sonar officer took a scan of the sea bed.

"There is an underwater canyon sir. We should fit in. But we cannot proceed all the way along. It ends in a submarine tunnel. There's no way out of that."

"Very well. Bring us into that canyon, just outside the tunnel entrance. Then we go to all-stop. Hopefully he won't find us. And keep those engines quiet!"

Orders were conveyed to the planes-man, and the Typhoon sank into the canyon, going as deep as possible without striking the seabed. Quietly as she could, the sub then proceeded along the length of the trench, finally coming to what seemed like an immense submarine archway - the tunnel entrance. Even the mighty TK-95 was dwarfed.

"My God sir, its huge!" said the sonar officer. "I've never seen anything like it!"

"The ocean can surprise you, Comrade Lieutenant. Just try not to get carried way." Captain Pudovkin then gave another order. "Helm, keep her steady and level. Engines all stop. Sensors, withdraw the towed aerial."

The giant boat hung in the water, its propellers dormant. It was almost silent now. The towed array used for sending and receiving low-frequency radio signals was withdrawn, ending the last signal.

"Sonar, is he still following us?"

"Contact is four miles off our starboard. He's headed directly for us."

The silence prevailed. Then louder engine sounds from above were heard on the hydrophone.

"Contact is one mile off our starboard, headed directly over us."

"Contact is exactly 200 metres above us, heading directly ahead."

A long silence ensued.

"Contact is now two miles off our port, heading straight ahead."

"Has he tried to ping us?"

"No sir."

A huge sigh of relief. The American was clearly heading away from them, and had not noticed their presence. TK-95 had escaped detection, and that made Pudovkin proud.

"Well done men. We'll wait a little longer until he's far way from us. Then we'll get out of this trench. We don't want to keep our escort waiting at the RV point."

He had been ordered to rendezvous with a standard attack submarine - known in the West as a Victor III - which would provide escort in the patrol area. Unfortunately it would be kept waiting much longer.

The suddenly lurched, knocking the captain off his feet. He staggered back up.

"Helm, what the hell was that!"

"Abnormal currents detected sir! It looks like a maelstroms!"

"That's impossible! Maelstroms don't spring up from nowhere!"

"It's there sir; and it's pulling us into that tunnel!"

Pudovkin had no inkling of what was happening, but what he did know was that his boat was out of control, caught in strong currents, and listing badly. Immediate action was necessary.

"Blow all main ballast tanks! All back full!"

"Yes sir!"

But the currents were to strong. In addition, the boat had been whirled around, so putting the engine in reverse only drove them deeper into the tunnel and the powerful current. The navigator had time to bark this out. The captain barked back.

"Then turn us around!"

This proved catastrophic. As the boat spun round, it smashed into the walls of the tunnel, sharp rocks piercing its hull, tearing away at the structure.

"Hull breach!"

Efforts were made to close the watertight doors, but it was too late. Thousands of tonnes of seawater flooded into the Typhoon's two pressure hulls, swamping everything and everyone, including the control room, where Captain Pudovkin barked the last desperate orders to save his command. But the boat was now doomed. Realising this, he gave a final order to his number one.

"Release the buoy."

A switch was pressed, and the small buoy carrying a radio beacon transmitting a distress signal was launched, with a hiss of compressed air. But it did not reach the surface. The current was so powerful it was carried along the tunnel with the doomed TK-95.

The current dragged the boat further down the tunnel, which swiftly dipped deeper, until the hull imploded. Bubbles of air rushed out of the tunnel entrance. Yet the sub continued down the tunnel until it finally emerged out of another great archway, in completely different surroundings.

Yet no one could know just by looking at the new landscape, in which the wrecked SSBN began to settle, where she had actually emerged. Until a small swimming animal appeared.

Looking at it from a distance, one may have mistaken the creature for a dolphin. But as it came closer, one could see that where a dolphin's tail would have been horizontal, the tail was vertical, like a fish. In addition, its beak was thinner and more triangular than dolphins. And it was not a mammal. However, nobody was alive aboard the TK-95 to observe it. But the creature observed the wreck with its mouth agape, stunned by this new wonder. It swam off rapidly to tell its comrades in shallower water, having left them to explore the deep. It did not notice a smaller object rise to the surface.

The buoy faithfully followed its pre-planned mission, rising to the surface, the only survivor of the disaster that had occurred far below the waves. It finally reached the surface, and though its signal of distress chirped away, and its light flashed visibly in the waves, no-one would respond to its cries for help in this ocean.

Planet Earth, over 65 millon years B.C.

Great Valley, Longneck nest

Littlefoot woke up with a fearful cry. His body was sweating and frozen, like it usually was from a nightmare. But somehow this nightmare had seemed more real than any other he'd had before. It was as if he had seen a current event played in front of his very eyes.

"Littlefoot, what is the matter?"

He looked up to see his grandfather and grandmother towering above him.

"How did you hear me?"

"We heard you crying out in your sleep. Loudly, I might add." His grandfather said this with a yawn.

"Just a bad dream. It was underwater. There was some giant black monster in deep water. It crashed into some rocks and died. But I swear I heard people screaming inside it."

He was evidently very disturbed, and his grandparents noticed that. His grandma soothed him.

"We all have nightmares Littlefoot. But they never last forever."

"But it seemed so real!"

"Some dreams can" said his grandfather. "especially frightening ones. But is gone now. Fall asleep again and you'll be certain to have a good dream."

So Littlefoot went back to sleep. But he did not know at the time how real his dream had been.