Author's Note: This is being written for the USxUK livejournal Secret Santa. My recipient is Kurusa7227, and I hope she enjoys this. The prompt was for a sci-fi AU, and I chose to do a story based on Disney's Atlantis. It is NOT necessary to have seen the movie to read this story. You should be able to understand it perfectly without any previous knowledge. In addition, the story is based on Atlantis, not an exact copy. So don't be alarmed when things are altered in places. This story will be done by the end of the month. I hope you all enjoy! This fic will have, in addition to USxUK, some mild SwedenxFinland.
Atlantis is Waiting
By Everything is Magic
"...in a single day and night of misfortune, the island of Atlantis disappeared into the depths of the sea." -Plato, 360 B.C
It always began with the water, the ocean that he barely remembered but knew he'd lived so close to as a child. And he often wondered if it was less that he had memories of the ocean, and more that he was told stories about it so often that he was imagining memories. There was a wave though, that much was clear. It was a wave so massive that Arthur wondered if the gods themselves had released it upon Atlantis, because surely something like that could not be natural.
And then there was screaming, so much screaming that whenever he dreamt of it, or had nightmares about it rather, it frightened him almost as much as the wave. The wave only terrified him more because he knew that it had swallowed up most of the screams, silencing them forever.
Finally there was a light, a light so bright that his mother, the queen, told him that he must absolutely not look at it no matter what. And he did not, for he was so young, and the only thing he had to cling on in this distressing moment were the demands of his mother.
He could remember even less of what happened after the light ebbed. There was water surrounding his home now, but it was no longer the ocean. His home, his kingdom, was sealed beneath the earth and the sea, safe but stagnant. His world was so much smaller now, and so many people he'd known before were never spoken of again. He didn't remember their names now. He didn't even remember what his own name had been back then.
And every single day, Arthur thought that he was remembering less and less from before, from before and soon after, and really it sometimes felt as if a huge chunk of his life was missing. And when he woke up from his dreams every night, soaked in sweat and clutching the glowing blue crystal that hung around his neck, that's what actually frightened him most.
Atlantis had fallen long ago, and he wondered how long it would be before he didn't remember even that.
For Alfred F. Jones, recent graduate of Columbia University and apprentice to the Smithsonian Institution's head of linguistics research, today was a big day. Pretty much the biggest day really since his graduation, and if you asked him, this might even be more amazing than that because if he got his way…
Well, the archaeological community, and the entire world, was about to discover something massive, inexplicably amazing, and all thanks to him.
That was what he was hoping for at least. He was confident in his research, and all he really needed to do was convince the Smithsonian committee that his assuredness was warranted, that he was really and honestly onto something.
It shouldn't be hard, he thought to himself as he sifted through his materials, humming under his breath and smiling. He was charismatic, and he always had been. Back in high school he'd made the speech at his graduation, and he was one of the runners up for the spot at his university commencement ceremony. So obviously, he had a voice that people were willing to listen to, right? And excitement was important as well! He was clearly enthralled with his research, and that would totally be contagious.
So what if his proposal was on something most normal people considered to be little more than a dusty old myth? These men were supposed to be scholars, and scholars had to be open to new ideas, or they wouldn't acknowledge their discoveries, right? Alfred bit his lip and pushed his glasses up, slouching back in the seat of his desk chair. "I mean," he murmured, "only like a hundred years ago people didn't even know dinosaurs existed! And a lost civilization? That's… not too crazy," he laughed nervously. "I mean Machu Picchu was just rediscovered a couple of years ago, and everyone thought Troy was just a legend until… like several decades ago."
Surely they'd be open to the idea of funding an Atlantis based expedition, right? Especially one with a presentation prepared as well as his. All he wanted them to do was fund a trip to find a journal, a little journal that had disappeared and reappeared throughout history. It was a curious object. No one knew who had written it, and no one had been able to decipher it, but it was, if he was correct, a field guide to Atlantis in a sense. He was sure that he could decipher the Shepherd's Journal, despite the fact that no one had been able to do it before. And when he had, the location to Atlantis would be revealed and-
Alfred sighed and glanced around his office. It was dusty and cramped (not because the room was small, but because there was so much random stuff stored in it), and it wasn't even… actually an office.
It was a boiler room. He cursed under his breath and rubbed his face. He was working at the greatest museum in the country, which was awesome, but he'd been relegated to the boiler room. Just a few minutes before, his phone had rung and he'd been told to actually fix the boiler. This happened often. Somewhere along the line, being a boiler technician had become part of his job description.
Okay, so what if he did have a lot of strange interests? What if he did spend more time trying to figure out what happened to Roanoke and reading articles about those weird Jersey Devil encounters back a few years ago than he did researching the history of French or something? All of this didn't mean that his work was frivolous, worthy of being shunted off into the… basement. After all, these were things that people didn't know about! He wanted to discover new things, not just rehash the old stuff over and over.
And Atlantis had been his dream since he was a child. An entire advanced civilization, lost to time and just waiting for him to find it. His grandfather had shared his interest in it, and he'd always encouraged him to reach for it, to try his damndest to find the place and prove the world wrong. He'd funded a few expeditions himself and was quite the explorer and adventurer, but he'd never turned anything up to Alfred's knowledge.
Alfred glanced to a framed photo that rested on his desk, running his fingers across it as he did so. It was his grandfather, the man who had practically raised him, posing with a much, much younger version of Alfred. An almost-too-big-for-his-head pith helmet rested over Alfred's ears. "This is real Grandpa. I'm totally going to convince those guys of how awesome my research is, and… everything will change."
"It could be the greatest discovery in the history of man," Alfred mumbled under his breath, reciting his speech as he walked briskly toward the conference room. "Imagine what would happen if we discovered the Library of Alexandria? This could give us even more knowledge. I mean many proponents of the Atlantis theory, like me, believe that Atlantis was a civilization far more advanced than any of the time, and that a huge number of other ancient civilizations were inspired by them. Basically, everything starts at Atlantis, so if you'd just be willing to sponsor this small trip to Scotland, I'm sure that I can bring back awesome resul-"
"Good afternoon Mr. Jones."
Alfred snapped out of his practice and jumped, nearly dropping his materials; maps, notebooks, and parchment. "Good afternoon Professor Harcourt," he responded, managing a bright smile. He stared at Mr. Harcourt, the head of the institute of linguistics as well as a member of the museum's archaeology committee. Alfred was Harcourt's apprentice, although he rarely actually saw the guy.
"If I remember correctly, your internship ends next week," he continued. He was much shorter than Alfred (who was quite tall), squat and plump with a bushy mustache, but he always managed to make Alfred feel… very small.
"It does," Alfred replied, rubbing the back of his head with his free hand, a nervous gesture of his. "That's why it's so important that I present this research today, you know? I do wanna get an actual job here you know, but I-I could end up somewhere else and…"
"Present your research, Alfred?" Professor Harcourt quirked an eyebrow, and Alfred's stomach dropped when he realized that… the man was already wearing his coat and hat and carrying his briefcase as if on the way out the door. "What ever do you mean? The meeting was canceled when you didn't show up at the appointed time. I was relieved, I admit. I thought perhaps you'd come to your senses about this whole Atlantis debacle and decided not to—"
"WHAT?" Alfred nearly screeched, his hand clenching around his materials until his fingers were white. "I-it was supposed to be at FOUR! I have it right here on the confirmation letter and-"
Professor Harcourt chuckled, and it resounded throughout the empty, sterile, marble tiled hall and left a sick feeling in Alfred's gut. "We changed the time to three. You were given a notice. Surely you read it?"
"I-I never got anything about that!" Alfred snapped. "Th-that's ridiculous. I saw you this morning, and you didn't say anything. Come on. Just hear me out, okay?"
"I shan't, Mr. Jones," Harcourt said firmly, shooting him an insidious look. "I'm very much done with all of this garbage from you anyway. I brought you on because you were bright and promising, and you had come highly recommended. But all you've done since you got here was devote your time to fairytales. You have a lot of potential, Alfred. Don't throw it all away chasing fairytales."
"They're not fairytales," Alfred said, over enunciating every word. "What I'm talking about here could easily be real, valid history H-how many things have we thought were legends, but they turned out to be true? How many- "
"It's 1914, Alfred. We don't believe in unicorns any longer, nor do we believe in magical lost cities. I understand your fascination with dead languages. It's an important field, and I commend that. But there is a difference between researching dead languages and languages that never existed in the first place. And as for your interest in cartography, there are plenty of real places that we need better maps of," Harcourt interrupted, as if he hadn't even heard Alfred's retort.
"None of that is true! There's lots of discoveries still to be made and-"
He stood to his full height, which barely came up to Alfred's neck. "I swear to all if I hear the word Atlantis from you ever again, I will make sure you don't get a position at this establishment."
Alfred could scarcely breathe, so thick was the lump in his throat and so rapid was his heartbeat as the irritation, frustration, and… devastation built up inside of him.
"Unless, perhaps, you're interested in a permanent position monitoring the boiler room," he snorted.
And he couldn't speak either, his mouth dry, parched and certainly his eyes were not beginning to well up. Dammit! He stood, frozen, as Harcourt made his way to the door. Alfred thought that he must have stood there unmoving for at least a minute, because by the time he snapped out of it Harcourt was already out the door.
You can't lose. You can't give up. You're going to be a hero and find this place, and it's going to be amazing and awesome and-
He shook his head, ignoring the tears that had gone from threatening to fall to falling, and ran after Harcourt.
Alfred's long legs carried him to the door swiftly, and he swung it open, running down the stairs and spotting Harcourt stepping into his automobile, his chauffer looking impatient.
"WAIT! JUST ONE SECOND!" Alfred shouted, his voice raspy but determined.
Harcourt merely quirked an eyebrow in response and paused his ascent into the car.
"I just need to take a ship to the Orkney Islands. Y-you know, above Scotland? There's a book there, I can find it! A-and it will give me the location of Atlantis and…"
"Save it, Jones, or you'll be fired before your apprenticeship is even over," the professor growled, stepping up into the car the rest of the way and slamming the door.
The car sped away, and Alfred's expression twisted into a furious one as it did so. He stomped out into the road and ran toward the car, ignoring the mud that splattered under him, nailing his pants and his research materials, as he did so.
"I'll just save you the trouble then. I QUIT!" he yelled at the departing automobile.
And when Professor Harcourt said nothing in return, it only made him feel worse.
Alfred's grandfather had often told him that he was too impulsive, and he had no doubt that as much as he supported Alfred's endeavors, he'd be getting on his case right now for quitting the internship.
He could have stayed with the internship. One more week. And then he'd get a job, and someday he'd have enough clout at the institution that they wouldn't turn him down. He'd have been able to find the journal and then Atlantis.
But he'd quit. He'd let his emotions get the best of him, and he'd shouted at Harcourt and quit.
He didn't know entirely why he'd gotten so torn up inside over the entire situation. He rarely got that emotional. Of course Atlantis was important to him, and this meeting was important.
Alfred hated having his pride insulted, he knew that. His friends had told him that he could be egotistical (to which he retorted that it doesn't count as egotistical if it's actually true). But… it was more than that. It was if Harcourt had taken his dream and spat on it, laughed at it and thrown it away as if it were meaningless tripe. And fuck if that didn't hurt. Because his dreams weren't just his dreams; they were his life, and they were his grandfather's dreams.
He'd picked up a hamburger from a diner on the way home, but even that hadn't made him feel better (it usually did just the trick). Alfred sighed and unlocked his apartment door, pushing it open.
The one room apartment was dark and dank, a little bit smelly and really just generally unpleasant, but at this point in time it was all Alfred could afford. He closed the door behind him and began to walk toward the stove, thinking that a cup of hot chocolate sounded good, but he stopped short when he noticed that his small desk lamp was already on.
And he gasped and nearly jumped when he saw that there was someone standing right next to said desk.
It was a woman, that much was very obvious, since she was dressed in a form-fitting black dress and her straight blonde, almost silver hair fell down her back and over her bare shoulders.
She was young and pretty, and that was fine and all, but she was also standing in his previously-locked apartment, and she'd just made eye contact with him (her eyes were a cold blue).
"Alfred F. Jones?" she spoke once he'd fully registered her presence.
Her voice was low and a bit curt, and her accent was thick and Eastern European.
"I'm Alfred, but uh…"
"Natalia," she interrupted. "Natalia Arlovskaya. I'm here on behalf of my employer."
"How did you get-"
She quirked a small smile. "Get in? Mr. Romulus, my employer, took care of that."
Alfred creased his eyebrows in confusion. "Romulus? You mean… Henry Jones's friend Romulus?"
"Your grandfather's friend, yes," she replied with a curt nod. "He has an expedition that he's planning, and he is very much interested in having you on the team." Natalia wrinkled her nose, just a bit. "Although I admit you are not quite what I was expecting…"
"What you were expecting?" Alfred took this chance to place his documents and materials on the kitchen counter. "Uh, if you were expecting my grandpa Henry, he died a couple of years ago."
"Nyet. I just thought you'd be older. To put so much trust in someone as young as you, not to mention what you just did at the institution."
"How did you know about that?"
"Word spreads fast. I read a lot about you today, and Ivan and I can't believe Mr. Romulus wants you."
Alfred grumbled, almost tripping on some pieces of paper from his research that had fallen from the counter to the floor. "W-wants me for what? And whoever this Ivan is, he's totally wrong." He picked up the paper and wiped a muddy footprint off of it.
"U tebya cho ruki iz jopi rastut?" Natalia murmured under her breath, shaking her head in disdain.
"Okay, first off, ya govoryu po russki. I'm a linguistics major," Alfred grinned, happy to get one up on this… strangely condescending woman. "Secondly, stop being vague and just tell me what the hell is going on."
Natalia crossed her arms over her chest. "That is not part of my job. Just pack some clothing and bring your research. I will take you to Romulus."
Alfred's eyes widened, and he felt something blossom within him, something like hope. Romulus was wealthy, and he was a good friend of his grandfather's. Maybe… "My research. You mean my Atlantis research?"
She merely nodded, and Alfred literally ran to his bedroom, throwing clothing haphazardly into his suitcase without a moment's hesitation.
When Alfred entered Romulus's house, a large opulent mansion furnished from head to toe with beautiful furniture and impressive historical artifacts, he immediately regretted that he hadn't been there before. It was the kind of mansion that Alfred thought when he became totally rich and famous (for discovering Atlantis, of course), that he'd like to own. He passed by a massive aquarium full of huge river fish from the Amazon, the kind of fish that stories were made from. An Arapaima flickered by, a fish even longer than Alfred was tall. He passed weapons of stone and iron and art of marble and wood, and even a longship, in the middle of a great hall that Natalia was currently leading him through. He paused to stare at in wonder, reading some of the engravings on the bow, before Natalia egged him forward.
"Hurry up," she demanded. "Romulus is not a patient man."
Alfred half wondered what kind of person Romulus was, to hire a stern woman like Natalia to come retrieve him. He gripped the handle of his suitcase tighter.
Then again, if he was his grandfather's friend, he had to be nice, right?
Natalia glanced back at him and frowned, leading him up a flight of well-polished stairs. She stopped in front of a door, cherry wood and massive, and covered in intricate carvings. Alfred immediately recognized Latin, a great deal of it, snaking around the edges of the door, and upon the door itself, a verifiable cavalcade of Roman inspired engravings.
Natalia pressed the door open, just a bit, and nodded. "This is Romulus's office. He will be inside waiting for you." And without waiting for a response, she walked away, leaving Alfred alone in front of the door.
He pushed it open.
"Alfred F. Jones," a voice came from the other side of the room, and Alfred's breath caught in surprise.
This room was as amazing as the rest of the house, if not more so. But the man in the chair across the room, who spoke with a thick Italian accent and was lounging in a huge, cushy chair, his sandaled feet haphazardly resting on a table, wasn't exactly what he was expecting.
He was young, for one. Well… not young, as he looked to be about forty, but he was far younger than he'd expected of a friend of his grandpa's. And he didn't really look intimidating at all, with his warm brown hair and his sunny smile. He looked kind of… huggable, if anything.
He was also wearing only a bathrobe.
Alfred stepped forward to cross the room, feeling more at ease now. "The one and only," he said.
"Sit down, all right?" Romulus asked, gesturing toward a large chair across from him. Alfred set down his suitcase and research and did so, falling into the warm leather of the seat.
"You're probably wondering why I brought you here," Romulus began, and Alfred merely nodded. "Well," he laughed, "I knew your grandpa for years. He and I used to work together. He used to live in Italy, you know? We did a lot of archaeology work in Pompeii together."
Alfred blinked. "My grandpa lived in Italy like fifty years ago though. I mean you must have been…"
"I'm older than I look." He grinned, and there was an edge of… something to it. "Love keeps you young."
"Italians aren't known as great lovers for no reason," Romulus replied with a wink, and Alfred suddenly felt sort of sick, because hearing his grandpa's friend talk about having sex was sort of like hearing his grandpa talk about having sex, and that was something that he just didn't really want to think about.
"Anyway. I've brought you here to show you something," he said. "Drumroll please."
And Alfred watched as the eccentric man started to make 'drumming noises' with his lips. He was beginning to think that this entire thing was really weird.
"The Shepherd's Journal," Romulus exclaimed, pulling a book out from under the table and sliding it across to Alfred. "In the Orkney Islands, just like you thought! Your grandfather sent an expedition after it not long before he died."
The book was large, thick bound with metal twisted across the front in the shape of a letter that could only be Atlantean. Alfred felt as if all the breath had been sucked from his body as he touched it, his eyes wide and unbelieving, because this was real and this was here and…
He flipped it open, careful not to damage the ancient parchment. Oh yes, it was definitely real. The runes it was written in were foreign, but Alfred thought, I can do this, I can read it if I just try. The base is probably Indo-European based on the make of the book… God I can't believe this is here. "I-I'm actually holding the Shepherd's Journal?"
"The one and only," Romulus said, repeating Alfred's earlier words. "Henry talked about that book all the time, and I was getting tired of hearing about it, so I finally made a bet with him. Jones, if you ever actually find that so-called journal, not only will I finance the expedition, but I'll kiss you full on the mouth!"
He turned around a small framed photo that was displayed on his desk. "It wasn't a very fair bet. I actually like kissing people." Indeed, Alfred noticed as he stared at the photo, his grandfather looked a lot more embarrassed by the kiss than Romulus did.
"This book is," Alfred said, "it could be the greatest discovery in the history of mankind if I can figure it out."
"Can you figure it out? I speak Latin, but that's the only dead language I know anything about. But I hear you're an expert in gibberish."
Alfred nodded and smiled. "Y-yeah, I think I can."
Romulus jumped up, and Alfred tried to convince himself that he had not seen his dress robe fly open when he'd done so. "Perfect! Then we'll leave for the expedition soon."
"To find Atlantis, of course," Romulus laughed. "Unless you'd rather not…"
Alfred bit his lip, staring around the room and then down at the journal, his fingers gracing carefully over the pages. "All my life it's what I've wanted to do. Become a hero; be known for discovering something so great and amazing that…" He shook his head. "But an expedition to the bottom of the ocean? It's going to cost so much, and… do you even have a crew?"
Romulus sat back down and reached under the table once more, retrieving a manila file folder. He flipped it open, revealing a spread of several photos, information clipped to each one.
"Lovino Vargas, demolitions expert." He pointed to the first one, a sour looking young man. "He's my cute little grandson."
"Evangeline Delorie, mechanic." The photo was of a pretty young woman, with dark skin and chocolate pigtails framing her face. "Don't let her age fool you."
The next photo, the woman he'd met earlier. "Natalia Arlovskaya. You've already been introduced. Second in command." Then a stern looking man with fair skin and hair and standing next to him, a kind looking blonde. "Berwald Oxenstierna, doctor. Tino Väinämöinen, geologist." Another blonde, this one with shoulder length hair. "Francis Bonnefoy, cook." A large man with almost white hair and a very distinguished nose. "Ivan Braginski, commander and… Katyusha Szewczenko, radio operator." The last was a sweet looking woman who appeared as if she could be related to Ivan. "This is the crew that brought back the Shepherd's Journal. They know what they're doing."
"All we need now is an expert in gibberish," Romulus finished.
Alfred closed his eyes for a moment, just… trying to take this all in. Earlier in the day, no one would even listen to him. Hell, they'd threatened to fire him for talking about it. Earlier in the day, he'd quit his internship, blowing his chances of getting a job at the most prestigious institution in the nation. He was really at an all-time low, and then suddenly, he had the Shepherd's Journal in his hands. He was touching it. They wanted him; twenty-four year old, fresh out of school, rejected intern, Alfred F. Jones, for what was arguably the most important job on the crew. They wouldn't be able to get anywhere if he couldn't read the journal.
He might really be able to accomplish his dreams.
"But why me?" the words were out before he'd even registered them. "I just mean that—yeah, I'm really good at this, but I figured you'd want some stuffy old linguist like Farcourt." He wrinkled his nose at that.
"Someone who refused to even give the idea a chance in the first place deserves to be there more than you?" Romulus almost laughed. "And besides, you've done a lot more research on the subject. You're pretty into this, which is perfect."
Alfred nodded, and his smile grew until he was beaming, wide and ecstatic and… he felt as if he might burst in anticipation. "I'm in then." He let out a short laugh. "But… I'll need to keep the book with me if you want me to try and figure out how to read it."
"The book is yours to keep, Alfred," Romulus said.
"Really?" His eyes went huge, and he stared at the book, as if still, even after touching it for several minutes, not believing it was there.
The older man smiled, gentle and warm, and he looked far more solemn and serious than he had before. "Your grandfather had a saying: 'Our lives are measured by the gifts we leave our children.' This journal is his gift to you." He stood up and walked to a nearby table. Alfred followed.
Romulus grinned, and with great fanfare, removed a silk cover from the table, revealing a model the likes of which Alfred had never seen before. It was a submarine so seemingly massive that it would have been better described as a great ship, and he reached out toward it, touching it just barely, as if it might break.
"This is a model of the Ulysses," Romulus explained, "first class submarine and your transportation. It's bigger in person I promise." Alfred managed a brief chuckle.
"When are we leaving?" he asked.
"As soon as you can figure out where we're going," he answered. "Which is to say, you have until next Friday, so a little less than a week."
Alfred leapt up, pumping his fist in exultation. "Yes! I'll have it figured out in less time than that."
And he would, even if it meant not sleeping. Because really, he didn't need to. The things he was going to be seeing were more amazing than anything he could have imagined in his dreams.
After all, Atlantis was waiting.
U tebya cho ruki iz jopi rastut?- Are your hands growing out of your ass? This is a Russian insult that basically means "how are you so clumsy?" or "can you do anything right?"
ya govoryu po russki- I can speak Russian.