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TWO

RMS Queen Victoria, the Golden Gate

 

“Gary!”

“Hold on!” Mitchell shouted as the deck started to roll to the left away from them. Everyone in the dining room began to shout, scream or show various signs of panic. Not quite everyone, Starfleet seemed on their feet. Mitchell stood as his chair rolled from under him and hooked an arm around Carol’s waist whilst trying to hold onto the table’s edge with his left hand. He pushed into the deck, his knees pointing as if he was trying to both climb but also hold the deck down. It was a fantastical sensation to feel the deck go from beneath and run perpendicular to one. Chairs, crockery and other loose fitting items crashed down the length of the dining room. People too started to fly as the deck went perpendicular. Carol wrapped her arms around Gary as he lunged for the base of the table. Getting his arms around it he held on for dear life and willed Carol to hold onto him.

“What’s happening?!” she shouted.

“We’re going over! I would’ve thought that was obvious.”

“But why?!”

“Damned if I know.” He winced as he saw someone somersault down the hall. He gritted his teeth as the roll continued unabated, as the ship screamed in protest at this assault upon its hull.

The deck continued its hellish journey over, enabling Gary to swing Carol onto the bottom of the table where he joined her. The two of them on their hands and knees like children at a party. He watched as a woman fell from a table to what was now the floor shattering a light fixture. He hid Carol’s face against him as more people fell. My God, what the Hell’s going on?

Silence descended after the rolling stopped or at least everyone assumed it had stopped. The ship continued to rock from side to side in great slow movements like a dinghy in a slight swell. The lights went off then came on, dimmer and sparse enough to leave shadows. He looked down and glanced at Carol as she lifted her head.

“Carol? Okay?”

“Yeah, are we over?”

“Right over,” he said grimly and peered over the side. “Anyone down there?”

There was silence but for moans. He could see people moving but also a fair amount were eerily still. A fire had started in one corner, puffing and flickering minutely. The ship gave a groan as far off a muffled boom sounded.

“Engines going,” he said to himself. “Look, I’m going to try and get us down.”

How was the question. Thank God the tables were bolted to the deck. Gary shifted forward an inch on his knees and looked down. “Hey!”

“Who’s up there?” a voice floated from the semi-darkness.

Mitchell grunted: “Gary Mitchell, I’m with Doctor Carol Marcus.”

“We’ll try to get you down Mitchell. Wait a minute.”

“We’re not going anywhere.” Mitchell looked at Carol who managed a smile. “Sure you’re alright?”

“Little bruised but I’m fine,” she replied.

“Mitchell!” the voice from below returned. “We have a tablecloth. If you jump we’ll get you.”

Gary looked over the edge, seeing a dozen people holding a large cloth between them. “You go first, Carol.”

“Now is not the time for chivalry.”

He gave her a nudge and pointed. “I’ll be right behind you.”

Carol sighed. Crawling to the very edge she gathered the hem of her dress in her hands and then simply rolled forward. The drop was short and she was caught on the cloth with no problem. After she got off Gary followed. Slightly heavier, he hit the deck with his right foot as the cloth almost broke. As he straightened he quickly took Carol to him, shielding her from the sight that he had just seen. Away to their left was a field of debris amongst which lay some of the passengers. None of them were moving and none of them were likely to move again. She forced herself from him.

“I saw them, Gary.”

Mitchell glanced around at the men who had held the cloth. They were now standing in a loose clump. All Starfleet. Mitchell’s eyes zeroed in on one with commander braids. “Well, chief, I guess you’re in charge.”

“How do you make that out?” the man’s voice was hard and unflinching. He wore the gold of command.

“Just a hunch.” Mitchell kept looking around seeing that there were maybe a hundred of them down here with many sat at the rear of the upturned dining room in huddled crowds. There were a few dead though and it was making Mitchell angry. I hate death, I hate the idea of death and I hate the fact I can’t stop it, he thought. “Commander, I’m Gary Mitchell this is Doctor Carol Marcus…”

“A doctor? You can help some of our wounded…”

“Not so fast,” Carol said with a faint smile, “I’m a marine biologist.”

“Oh.” The commander seemed at a loss before regaining his composure. He looked about and drew himself up. “I guess I’m in charge…”

Mitchell snorted but kept silent. It struck him as amusing that this Starfleet man would place himself in charge. Of what? A group of people that were shellshocked and some dead.

“…and the obvious answer is to get out of here. The way is up. We’ve capsized.”

“What if the boat is sinking?” a woman who was wearing a cocktail dress similar to Carol’s asked. People were starting to gather around them now. “We did go over, sir.”

“And this tub has three funnels,” Gary pointed out. “We’re underwater where we are now and need to aim for the keel if we’re to make it. There are air pockets otherwise we’d be dead but these pockets…”

“You sound like an expert,” the commander said almost accusingly.

“I work with water and I know what I’m talking about,” Mitchell said hotly and definitely accusatory to the commander. “Time’s against us. Fair to assume the captain’s dead…”

“We don’t know that!” someone else said.

“We’re over on our top,” Carol said firmly. “The bridge is under with us.”

Mitchell took a look about, noting that the exits to the dining room now sat about twenty feet up on the walls. “We need to get to one of these exits. Any of the crew here?”

No one ventured forth, leading him to assume that the waiters and so forth had made it out when the call came to prepare for collision. His cry though found someone from above.

“Sir, sir!” All eyes swept to the rightmost exit where a young man in an old-fashioned waiter uniform stood pale-faced. “I’m crew, I was bracing for impact…”

“What’s your name?” Gary called.

“Miles, sir. Michael Miles. Wouldn’t believe that I was working part-time during the holidays would you?”

Mitchell grinned and gestured. “We get up to him. Miles, we need some help. Can you find a fire hose or something that we can use to lever people up to you?”

“Now hold on a minute,” the commander said hotly. He got up close to Mitchell. Slightly taller and wider he was quite imposing, even to Mitchell. “Who put you in charge?”

“Sorry, chief, but I’m not waiting for your pinstripes to do the talking. We need to get out, so let’s get out.”

The commander’s reply was cut off by Miles swiftly returning with a fire hose that he threw down. The beige line extended all the way down until it thudded where Miles called: “Sorry, sir, the line is as far as it would go.”

“Hold onto it where you are,” Mitchell turned to the commander. “What’s your name, so I know?”

“Nielsen.”

“Well, Nielsen, let’s get going.”

As they walked over marshalling people along the way there came a loud rumbling sound. It built from below before coming close by, shaking the room violently. There were shrieks and screams, people scattered as plaster fell from the floor/ceiling like snow. Mitchell grabbed Carol and held her close, covering her head. This all lasted a few seconds but felt like an eternity. When it was over there was dead silence, replaced by sobbing. Mitchell let Carol go.

“Okay?”

“Yeah, what was that?”

“Boilers,” he said. Remembering his time on the Queen Victoria project he added. “They must have gotten loose when she went over. That and we had fuel in the funnels still.” Mitchell cast a look up and saw Miles sticking his head out of the doors. “Still there Miles?”

“Aye, sir.”

The boy’s friendly voice made Mitchell grin again. It sounded like Miles was one of these from Berkeley or San Francisco’s Jonathan Archer Galactic University, who worked part-time whilst studying. The Aquatic Park employed a fair few and all were quite passionate people.

“Let’s go,” repeated Mitchell from earlier and wrapped the end of the hose around Carol’s waist, employing the nozzle as a fastener. “Close your eyes and think of England.”

She laughed, more from nerves than humour. Putting her feet on the wall and with Miles’ help from above, she began to abseil up. Nielsen stood by Mitchell. “This’ll take forever and I don’t think we have forever.”

“What do you mean?”

“I think we’re going to get flooded soon. Feel the deck.”

Mitchell felt the deck below his feet; it was feeling more loose than before. As if the ship was swaying on the current. Also he could hear the deck creaking.

“It won’t take long.” Mitchell felt worried for the first time since this had happened. This was a man who had faced down sharks, suicides and the rest. Somehow a capsizing antique hadn’t fazed him much.

Between the pair and with Carol’s help, they got more survivors up top in a few minutes. With a handful to go the far side of the dining room gave in. The 1930s décor caved in under the weight of gallons of sea-water that poured in unbidden and uncontrolled. Mitchell put a hand out as people panicked.

“Hold on! Hold on!”

The water hit them hard, it was also cold and Gary felt his breath go from him as he fell over. Above he heard Carol shouting his name. Nielsen helped him up. People were fighting over the fire hose as the water piled higher and higher.

“Go!” Mitchell shouted up to the survivors. “Go!”

Mitchell went to the wall a few feet away and climbed atop one of the light fixtures. The bulb shattered under his shoes but he was able to lever himself to grab at a wooden shelf. He did not see Nielsen shimmy up the fire hose or some of the people below vanish under the cold water. Grasping the shelf Mitchell hauled himself up where he was now parallel to the door. He felt a hand grasp his arm and he swung himself over to where he landed in a heap. As he did this Nielsen tumbled through. Mitchell got up, shivering, and went to the door.

“We need to get the others.”

“There’s no chance,” Nielsen said. “The water’s rising. We need to get out of here.”

Mitchell went to the door in spite of the Starfleet man and saw a few people still trying to scramble up the rope but the force of the water was too much. He heard their screams as they fell back and then the rope followed. He saw the bodies of those who had died earlier bob around like macabre corks.

“Come on, Gary,” Carol’s voice was soft and gentle in spite of the impending doom. He stared down at the water feeling sick.

He closed the doors on the scene and turned to look at Nielsen. Without saying anything he walked past the Starfleet man and went up to Miles. He counted on his way about forty others. In all, at least sixty had died.

“Miles, do you know the way around this ship?”

“To a point, sir.”

“Well, I know some of it but upside down my head’s a bit messed.” Mitchell forced a smile to make the steward at ease.

“We can head this way.” Miles pointed down the upturned corridor. “Down…I mean, up some stairs to the galley and through there. As long as we head up we should be alright.”

“Should.” Behind them water started seeping through the doors. “Let’s get the Hell out of here.”

 



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