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ONE

National Aquatic Park, San Francisco

 

For the thousandth time Gary Mitchell wondered why he had allowed himself to be invited onto a twentieth century ocean liner for some night-time shindig.

Then he reminded himself it was because he told James Kirk that he would keep an eye on Carol Marcus whilst Kirk prepared for his first shipboard assignment aboard the USS Constitution. As Kirk was like a brother, Gary would do this and more for his friend. This is why he had turned up a little after nine o’clock at the Aquatic Park. The park was nestled amongst the waterfront at Fisherman’s Wharf (still a tourist area) bracketed by two piers that extended out to form a sort of pincer into what was known as Aquatic Park Lagoon. At the base of the lagoon was the long standing National Maritime Museum which he was familiar with over the years in his capacity as a lifeguard. The park had been home to historic ships for centuries but some of these had moved north to Richmond. It did retain the 1940s ship Jeremiah O’Brien, a few yachts and this, the RMS Queen Victoria.

“You look something else tonight,” Gary said as he saw Carol Marcus on the starboard promenade deck. She wore a black cocktail dress with her long blonde hair over her shoulders. She hugged Mitchell and looked at him.

“I had no idea you owned a suit.”

“Funny girl. Motherhood agrees with you.”

They had long since been like this from when they first met four years ago. What had helped Mitchell was that he had gradually changed. They both turned to look from the deck back to San Francisco. There were a few others about with more arriving –as the two here had- by boat from Hyde Pier.

“You must be proud,” she said.

“What do you mean?”

“Well, you did help get this ship to where she is today.”

“Not really. Considering this tub was launched in 1935 I had nothing much to do with it.”

The Queen Victoria was the lesser known sister of the Queen Mary and like that ship had run the Atlantic route in the 1930s to 50s with a period in between as a troopship in World War II. Spending much of the time from the 1990s as a rusting hulk in backwaters in Bremerton near the US Navy’s Reserve Fleet she was eventually rescued and preserved. The preservation was hindered by World War III and eventual lack of interest but by 2250 she was here in San Francisco (specifically Fort Mason at Fisherman’s Wharf) and back to her ancient glory. Possessing three stacks she was still a beautiful vessel. Gary had merely promoted her, helped get funding from off planet and keep her going. Tonight was the culmination of that, a little jaunt out into the Pacific near the coast.

“I wish Jim was here,” Carol said quietly.

“I know.” Mitchell didn’t know what he could say on the matter. Carol had made her peace with Kirk joining Starfleet and eventually leaving Earth for a posting but Mitchell knew she was sad as well. Little David wouldn’t quite know his father as closely as Carol liked. He took her by the elbow. “Come on, we should see the skipper before she takes this tub out.”

Captain Rebecca Albright was a flame-haired woman of forty-four who used to be in the United Earth Navy until retiring to focus more on her work with the National Marine Agency which included the refit of the Queen. With a slight drawl she greeted Gary in the promenade gymnasium which was doubling as a reception area for the guests.

“Gary, great to see you!”

He blushed as she kissed him then tried introducing Carol but Albright was ahead of him, taking a surprised Carol’s hand: “Doctor Marcus, a real honour to meet you. Big fan of your work.”

“Really?”

“Your piece on the porpoises that come into the Bay was remarkable.”

Carol took her turn to blush. “Well, it was nothing. Ever since the last big quake we’ve had more than we should…”

Mitchell tuned out. The foghorn sounded on the old liner, her decks began to reverberate to the power of her engines. The Aquatic Park began to move away as the ship motored to port. There was a shout as lightning flickered across the sky, forking in two directions.

“They said there’d be a storm, bit rough at first but we’ll be fine,” Albright assured Carol then nodded at Mitchell. “I best be on the bridge.”

After she left Gary and Carol made their way down to the dining room. A spacious affair as befitting a Cunard liner there were tables for the hundred or so guests that filed in, some wearing Starfleet uniforms. A band played classic tunes from the 1930s which sounded strange to many though Mitchell preferred it to some of the dross that came out of Alpha Centauri right now.

“Such work for such a thing,” Carol remarked as they took a seat at a table near a bronze statue of Queen Victoria herself. “Four hundred years old and we feel the need to preserve it.”

“We still have the Constitution in Boston, that’s six hundred years and there’s the Victory in England –that’s about the same…we preserve to remember. We still have Archer’s Enterprise. One day we’ll have Jim’s Constitution.”

“Floating in San Francisco Bay?” she said with a grin.

“You never know. Budget cuts and all.” Gary caught the eye of an attending waiter. “Two Andorian spring waters, please.”

The waiter moved off as the ship started to rock.

 

**

 

Albright stood with legs slightly apart behind the helmsman at the old fashioned wooden wheel. The Queen Victoria had shrugged off her escorting skiff to proceed on her own. Away from the Aquatic Park she encountered noticeable swells in the Bay on a direct line between Alcatraz and the bridge. Even in the darkness the waves could be seen with their frothing white crests that rolled in under the Golden Gate Bridge and into the Bay.

“Report from Point Reyes says there’s mounting swells of at least ten feet,” the first mate said, handing over a printout. She took it with surprise.

“This storm is bigger than we thought,” she said just as thunder boomed across the heavens. It sounded so loudly that many in the city thought it was a starship crashing to Earth. Albright looked up as lightning struck, casting the Headlands in stark relief. “Make your speed twenty knots.”

“In the Bay, sir?” said the first mate, eyebrows lifted.

“We need to get through this swell. Out in the ocean we’ll be fine.”

There was a slight pause before the Queen’s engines increased and she pushed against the increasing swell. Reports from Seattle’s meteorological centre showed that the storm was massive, being formed from two small stormfronts that had moved in on the Golden Gate from out at Point Reyes. This was what some would have called a superstorm. Passing under the Golden Gate Bridge with room to spare the old liner began to roll. Not too much at first but then ten degree tilts to either side swaying in the swells like a drunken boxer.

“Slow to fifteen. Have we enough ballast?”

“Ballast was full when we left the park,” the first officer replied holding on with one hand to a stanchion pole, his eyes on the sea ahead of them. There was a blinking light off to starboard by a few miles –Point Bonita’s lighthouse.

“We’re almost out of the Gate.” Albright pushed her way across the deck and accessed the intraship system: “Attention ladies and gentlemen: we are encountering a strong storm system at present, hence the rolling. Half an hour and we should be out of it as I steer the liner into the Pacific. Try not to move around if you can and if you do make sure you’re holding onto something.” She flicked the switch off and looked to her first officer: “Uncover the lifeboats and close all watertight doors.”

It was such a random order in this day and age of automation and so he looked at her a moment then nodded, it was only a precaution. “Yes sir.”

As he left Albright called out: “Port ten!”

A wave of some size, perhaps about twenty feet, crashed across the raised bow washing over the fo’csle, followed by the Queen dipping her bow into another. It was fairly unusual in the shallow Bay to get such waves but it wasn’t unheard of, particularly around the Golden Gate Bridge where the sea effectively met the Bay.

“God it’s getting worse,” muttered Albright as she watched the mounting waves. Now she started to question her decision to proceed. 

 

**

 

The Point Reyes station was not left alone long after Adair had left for the night. A long-legged Martian named Kiefer R’gal arrived a little while after that. Tired from his anthropology studies at the Science Academy’s Washington State campus he slumped into his seat before the bank of monitors and went about pouring coffee from his flask. He moonlighted here whilst studying and one day hoped to join a science vessel. He started when the monitor showing the digital map of the Bay Area suddenly was framed by red accompanied by a klaxon wailing. Coffee still pouring into the flask lid, R’gal stared open mouthed as the words ‘STORM FORCE’ flashed up repeatedly on all monitors followed by the computer’s mechanical drone of a voice:

Warning: Tsunami alert San Francisco. Warning: Tsunami alert San Francisco. Alerting relevant authorities…

The coffee splashed ver the cup onto the floor. R’gal dropped the flask and lunged for an intercom switch. He had to warn people.

Unfortunately Kiefer R’gal had been oblivious to the Queen Victoria’s maiden voyage or indeed the dot signifying her presence in the Golden Gate and thus, for some, the warning would come too late.

 

**

 

Carol shook her head as Mitchell shovelled some ice cream into his mouth. “How can you eat when the deck is pitching?”

“I am an animal of the seas.”

“You certainly eat like one.”

“What about you? You’re a marine biologist?”

She looked down at her plate of spiced eel. “Somehow I’m not hungry.”

There was another boom as a wave crashing down the side combined with thunder overhead. “Quite the party,” Mitchell said, wiping his lips with a napkin. There were a few pale faces about. His chair began to inch its way to the left of the table as the deck tilted once more to port. He reached out to grip the table’s edge.

“Swell party.”

“That’s not funny!” Carol grabbed her glass of water before it went over the edge. As the deck levelled she took a healthy gulp of the drink. “Somehow I don’t think this is going to be a good party.”

“You’re in quite the mood tonight.”

“I miss Jim,” she said sharply, giving him a look. “He’s going to be off-planet in a few days and I’m here with you!”

“Hey, I thought you’d want cheering up and I had no one to go with!” shouted Gary. He lowered his voice as he saw people looking. “Are you upset about him being in Starfleet…?”

“You’re an idiot,” she snapped. “Yes, I’m upset but we made our peace about that years ago. I can’t stop it but I can’t stop the idea of missing him. He won’t be there for David. Not for a while. David needs a father.”

When David was born Jim asked Gary to be the boy’s godfather. Some might consider it an archaic title or even duty but Mitchell took it quite to heart. David might be four but he had in Mitchell a father-like figure – someone to whom he could go if he needed advice or help or anything.

“He has one and he’ll have one for a while yet.” Mitchell managed a smile as the deck went the other way. “He’ll have the best parents a boy could wish for.”

“Thank you, Gary.” Carol pushed her plate to one side. “I’m still not hungry though.”

As the deck took another dip, Gary felt he wasn’t hungry either.

 

**

 

The Queen Victoria was still edging her way out into the ocean. She remained within the reaches of the Golden Gate assailed by a near constant stream of storm waves. Brilliantly lit, the liner cut an impressive sight.

“We’re feeling the depth now,” said Albright, referring to the three-hundred and sixty feet below the keel that the liner now enjoyed. She was at the rear of the bridge watching the monitor on the wall with her first officer who had made quick work of his task. The Queen possessed a great deal of 23rd Century technology including this monitor screen that showed weather/tide/sonar etc. details. The Bay in its north and south was between 13 and 15 feet deep with 43 in the centre (around Alcatraz area). “Keep the bow straight. We need to get out of the Gate.”

“It’s tough, sir,” said the second officer who was wearing an old engineer’s overall. “The engines are finding it stressful. Like we’re butting our noses against glass.”

The engines in question were not the ship’s original four Parsons steam turbines but two fully functioning replicas of Rolls Royce azimuth thruster pods as the kind that powered the successor to the Victoria, the Queen Mary 2 and her own sisters in the 21st Century. As such the ship had a different method of propulsion and steering than she had when launched in 1935.

“We just keep going. Some way to start the party.”

The idea of the night of celebration was to steam out into the Pacific and proceed – north up to Bodega Bay, maybe a little further north and then return in a leisurely circular route, the jaunt meant to showcase the culmination of a long project.

Albright went back to the front of the bridge adjusting her footing for every tilt, for every wave that came in. Soon the waves started to grow in size, upwards of thirty feet slapping upon the liner. Alarms were sounding on the bridge for every wave that came in over thirty feet and there was a lot now. The Queen was like a toy boat in a bath with someone slapping the other end. Her four propellers drove her on but with little headway. The waves got bigger in a matter of minutes. It had now been half an hour since the Queen had passed under the bridge.

“I think we need to get in touch with the monitoring station at Point Reyes,” she said loudly to be heard over the tumultuous sounds. She cursed herself for not doing it sooner.

Albright staggered to the port bridge wing and was soon lashed by the spray and rain. Thunder sounded with a terrific roar followed by lightning that lit up the heavens. Like the flash of a camera it stayed vivid in the eye for a while longer.

Long enough for her to see a monumental wave sweeping up the channel. It filled the channel from side to side and seemed, to Albright’s stunned mind, make a roaring sound. She ran into the bridge to the monitor. The radar swept forwards and showed a blurred green shape denoting something big. Big enough to fill the Gate’s width and fast enough to prompt concern. My God, the speed, Albright thought.

“Sound collision!”

There was no questioning her orders as she turned back to the bridge wing. Within seconds a fresh alarm began to whoop. Below decks crew, wherever they were, either braced for impact or went to assist passengers. In the dining room the Starfleet personnel amongst the guests went into automatic and started shouting for people to find something to hold onto.

She saw the wave now even in the darkness fringed by lightning that seemed almost constant now as if it was helping the wave on. The Golden Gate was wide but not wide enough. The wave drew on closer to the plunging bow of the liner. At its edges the wave was tearing up along the shoreline of the Gate. It filled the Gate appearing straight as a tower block and soon would start to crest and descend. The wave was filled with frothing whiteness that seemed as fierce as the lightning above.

“Port twenty!” she called into the bridge, hands cupped to her mouth. Try to broach the wave but if she could, beach the liner on San Francisco. The liner started to drag her bow to the left with her foghorn sounding balefully in the darkness. “Come on, come on!” she willed the ancient liner. No one’s ever going to believe this, she thought. The deck dipped now to starboard as the liner turned to port.

The wave towered over them, coming in on the bow and starting to plunge down towards the ship. It seemed to groan and wail with the sound of an ancient mystical beast. It must be well over ninety feet, the captain considered. She knew then they were doomed. They had to be with something…

“Oh my God,” she whispered then threw an arm up as if that would be enough to stop this.

The wave surged into the Queen Victoria driving down her entire beam from bow to stern. The foremast snapped like a twig, lifeboats were smashed to matchwood and knocked from the davits; the first funnel broke clear as its supporting wires snapped as the wave came in over the liner. Bravely the Queen tried to hold on. The wave surged over the turning hull. She just could not handle Mother Nature’s awesome slap. The wave pummelled the exposed starboard side, shattering some portholes as well as finishing off what lifeboats hadn’t been destroyed or torn loose in the initial impact. The liner held on for a moment with its port side touching, trying to stay upright for all of its worth, then it went under. The port side kept going until the liner was totally upside down. The main lights flickered and went out; internal explosions from inside the engine room shook her.

Above, the wave pushed on under the Golden Gate Bridge with such turbulence it made the roadway swing slightly before spending itself upon the shorelines at Sausalito, Tiburon, Alcatraz, Presidio and Alameda Island. Combined casualties were fifty killed, ten lost (believed drowned) and hundreds injured. It could’ve been much worse. The wave could have spent itself across the peninsula filling some of the streets in the north or it could’ve vanquished against Starfleet Academy at Sausalito but it had not.

Meanwhile, the Queen Victoria lay beam-on to the Golden Gate, her propellers still spinning surrounded by a debris field amidst diminishing waves.

 



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