The Philadelphia Experiment



Scene Title The Philadelphia Experiment
Synopsis A spy returns home in 1943 to witness the impossible.
Date October 28, 1943

Brick smokestacks rise up over newly minted neighborhoods in a bustling industrial district. The sky, filled with clouds, threatens rain.

The wet streets are choked with automobiles and the stink of exhaust mixes with a metallic tang in the air common around steelworks. The white-walled tires of a Lincoln Continental splash through shallow puddles tinged with rainbow hues of oil and gasoline. But once off the main thoroughfare the traffic thins out, then vanishes entirely at a gated entrance to the Navy Yard.

The Lincoln pulls up to the gatehouse, driver rolling down the window and taking out a leather folio showing his identification. A young, square-jawed man stares back in black and white. The guard at the gate looks at the ID, then looks at the driver who looks years older and whose left eye is now covered by a black eyepatch.


"Captain." The gate guard says, returning the identification. "Go on through."

Marcus Raith tucks his ID into his coat and rolls through the checkpoint once the wooden gate arm has risen. Beyond the iron fence there are rows of drab green Jeeps parked side-by-side outside of a brick building with a steel roof. Raith pulls up out front of the warehouse, then steps out of his car and turns to face the water.

There, berthed alongside the harbor, is the stark gray silhouette of a brand new Cannon-class destroyer escort, its designation marked in stark black across the hull in black paint: USS ELDRIDGE

Marcus stares at the ship for a moment, then exhales a sharp sigh and heads toward the entrance of the warehouse.

Philadelphia Naval Shipyard
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

October 28th

Deep inside a dimly-lit warehouse, rows of archival data are contained in reinforced cabinets. The concrete floor is freshly poured, armed guards stand on each door. Marcus Raith slips through like a knife between ribs, effortless and precise. He knows where he is going and no security prevents his access.

Through a reinforced steel door, Marcus emerges into a command room with a map table laid out under bright lights. Europe is detailed on the table, with colorful wooden blocks representing troop formations being moved around by young men in crisp uniforms. A map of the United States demands attention on the wall beside the table under those lights.

"Captain Raith what the hell are you doing here?" The pronounced Texan accent of Colonel Ernest Stanley is a familiar one for Raith. There is no humor in his tone, just firm accusation as he swiftly rounds the corner from a desk and comes down a few steps to meet Raith at the door.

"I thought you were supposed to be in the Reichland?" The Colonel asks, looking from Raith to the map of Europe and back again.

Raith looks Colonel Stanley up and down. "Officially I'm in Spain right now, investigating a rumor for Herr Volken. When I heard the project was going to be started, I chartered a flight back to the States to oversee."

"You have no right to be here," Stanley says with a step closer to Raith. "You're a damn fool if you think there won't be fallout from jeapordizing our intelligence on Project Icarus."

"If this works, Icarus won't matter." Raith opines, one brow raised over his eyepatch. "Is the Special ready?"

Colonel Stanley sucks in a breath through his nose, then steps away from Raith. "He's already on board. We'll be firing up once the generators are primed. Since you came all the way out here, I suppose it wouldn't hurt if you watched."

"If you suppose." Raith says with a poorly-feigned smile.

Colonel Stanley shakes his head and grabs his cap from a rack beside the door, then steps around Raith and leaves the war room. "Come on, we have an observation hall."

Not far from the war room, Colonel Stanley leads Raith into a concrete bunker attached to the warehouse where several scientists in white lab coats with goggles hanging around their necks are waiting. There's a narrow viewing slat in the concrete wall, one step up onto a wooden platform.

"Colonel," one of the scientists says, "we've brought Mr. Petrov aboard the Eldridge. He's secure in the cage and we have all but Generator Six online."

"Thank you Professor Tilton," the Colonel says, retrieving a pair of binoculars from a nearby table and stepping up to look out the narrow window. Raith steps up beside the Colonel, looking out at the nose of the Eldridge.

"Six generators." The Colonel says, "enough electricity to light an entire city." He takes a quick glimpse through the binoculars, checking out the soldiers on the deck of the Eldridge. "We tested the hull plating with a cobalt alloy after the copper plating melted on the last try."

Marcus looks over to the Colonel. "How many unsuccessful tries is that?" The Colonel lowers the binoculars and makes a frustrated face. But before he can say something a sharp whistle blast comes from the Eldridge.

"We're ready to begin!" One of the scientists says, pulling up his goggles over his eyes. Marcus looks at the scientists, uncertain of himself, and the scientist grimaces and says, "I only have the one pair." Followed by a whispered, "I'm sorry."

Marcus rolls his eye and looks back to the ship, soldiers running across the deck. There's two more whistle blasts. There is a palpable tension in the air, a sense of uncertainty and promise, but also a sense of wonder and discovery.

There is one final, long, whistle blast and workers in the harbor move clear of the Eldridge. Professor Tilton looks at Marcus and says in a confident aside, "When this is over? We'll have the first invisible ship in the world."

Marcus slowly looks back to the Eldridge, waiting for something to happen. But for several agonizing minutes, nothing does. The scientists get restless, Colonel Stanley gets anxious. Just as Marcus is losing his patience, sparks begin to glow around the hull of the Eldridge. First orange, accompanied by an electrical hum and crackle that builds in the air.

Marcus' mouth slowly opens as green sparks replaces the orange ones. Arcs of emerald-colored lightning dance along the hull of the USS Eldridge, then along the gun turrets, then snapping up the ship's antenna like a Jacob's Ladder.

"Jesus Christ," Marcus whispers as the hull of the ship starts to dither and blur as if it were a heat mirage. Colonel Stanley gives Marcus a shit-eating grin, but that expression is quick to fade.

Something explodes inside the Eldridge. Fire erupts from inside the main cabin along with smoke at the same time a whistle blast sounds from the ship. Professor Tilton curses under his breath, but the green light surrounding the Eldridge doesn't diminish, it intensifies.

"Shut it off," the Colonel demands and two scientists are trying to contact the crew on the radio.

"Dead air, sir!" One scientist says. The rest of his sentence is drowned out by the discordant hum coming from the Eldridge. Marcus winces at the noise, then watches as the ship flickers and gutters once more like a mirage wreathed in neon green lightning. Soon an emerald haze begins bellowing up from below decks, rolls like a heavy fog over the sides of the ship, and in a thunderclap the USS Eldridge disappears from the harbor.

"Holy shit!" Colonel Stanley shouts, jumping away from the window. Marcus is instead emboldened, rushing past a scientist and throwing the door to the port open. He hurried out of the bunker, up a flight of stairs and out to where the USS Eldridge was docked, only to find water rippling away from where it was.

Colonel Stanley is soon to follow Marcus out. "I can't believe you did it," Marcus says, picking up a stone and hurling it in the direction the Eldridge was. The stone passes through the air, dips, and plops into the water.

Marcus looks confused, taking a step forward again. "Shouldn't the ship… still be there?" He looks back at the Colonel. "You told me you were making it invisible, not— "

If the Colonel was speechless then, three minutes later when the USS Eldridge appears in an eruption of green light and smoke, he is utterly dumbstruck. Colonel Stanley collapses onto his knees, eyes wide in disbelief with the thundrous return of the warship. But the distant, agonized cries of the soldiers on board temper a hard edge of the Colonel's reaction.

"What… is that?" Marcus asks, slowly approaching the Eldridge. As he does, emerald snaps of electricity still leaping off the hull to the water, he finds the source of some of the screaming. Halfway down the hull, one of the ship's crew members is fused with the ship. A fire-blackened arm sticks out of the side of the ship and a muffled, pained cry reverberates through the hull.

Marcus takes a slow step back, shaking his head in disbelief. More cries are clearer now. Up on the deck he can see a midshipman fused from the waist up with the floor. Marcus' expression of horror slowly and gradually twists into something else as he scans the impossible wreckage.

A smile.

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