By Andre Norton
“ATLANTIS? A fairy tale!” The man by the window half turned.” You can't be serious” He began that protest confidently, but that confidence ebbed when there was no change in the expression on his companion's face.
“You saw the films of the first three runs. Did those look like the product of someone's imagination? You have inspected all the securitymeasures devised to make sure they were not. A fairy tale, you say.” The quiet gray haired man leaned a little farther back in his seat.” I wonder what does lie buried at the roots of some of our traditional tales. Norse sagas, once dismissed as fiction, have long since been proven to be chronicles of historic voyages. Much of our folklore is distorted clan, tribal, or national record. Dragons now,Our planet did have an age in which armored dragons marched the earth”
“But not in the memory of mankind!” Hargreaves came away from the window, his hands resting on his hips, his chin outthrust as if he welcomed battle, verbal at least.
“Don't you ever wonder why certain tales have persisted, why they continue to linger over centuries, told again and again? The man devouring dragon”Hargreaves smiled.” I always heard it that the proper dragon preferred a diet of tender young maidens until some doughty knight changed his mind for him with sword or lance.”
Fordham laughed.” But dragons, in spite of their dietary habits, are firmly fixed in folklore around the world. And their like did once roam the earth”
“At a time, I repeat, which far antedated the arrival of our most primitiveancestor.”
“As far as we know,” Fordham corrected.” What I say is that there is a persistence of certain types of fairy stories. When we set up this project and you know the reason for it we had to have a starting point. Atlantis is one of the most lasting of our legends. It has become so much a part of our heritage that I think it is generally accepted as fact”.” And all founded on a fewsentences that were used by Plato to hang some of his arguments on”
“But suppose that Atlantis did once exist.” Fordham picked up a pencil, turned it end to end on the pad before him, but made no markings.” Not in this world”
“Where then? On Mars? They blew themselves up, I suppose, and left that pocking of desert craters”
“Oddly enough, according to legend the Atlanteans did eventually blowthemselves up, or the equivalent. No, right here on this planet. You have heard of the alternate history theory that from each major historical decision two alternate worlds come into being.”
“Fantastic” Hargreaves interrupted.” Is it? Suppose that it is fact; that on one of those alternate time lines Atlantis did exist, just as on another dragons overlapped mankind.”
“Even if that were so, how wouldwe know about it?”
“True. We could be separated from those lines by whole networks of major choices and decisions. Yet, suppose when we were close together, there was a kind of seepage perhaps individuals even crossed. We have well authenticated stories of strange and unexplainable disappearances from our own world, and one or two odd people have turned up here under very peculiarcircumstances. And Atlantis is so vivid a story, has so seized upon the imagination of generations, that we used it for our checkpoint.”
“We fed into the Ibby every known scrap of material on the subject that is known by the modern world from the reports of geologists sounding the sea bottoms for possible ridges of a sunken continent to `revelations' of cultists. And Ibby gave us an equation inreturn.”
“You mean you set up the probe beam on that?”
“Exactly. And you have seen the resulting test films. Those came from Ibby's calculations. And you'll admit they bear no resemblance to the here and now.”
“Yes, I'll say that much. And they were taken?”
“Right out there, over the landscape you've been viewing. We're set today for a ten minute run, the longest we have dared to try....