Starfleet Command, Presidio, San Francisco
Lieutenant (Junior Grade) James T. Kirk pushed his way against the tide of people at the entrance to Starfleet Command’s ‘bridge’. Essentially it was the control room with large wall monitors displaying either maps of the area or live footage from around the Bay. He spied the man he was looking for standing at a centrally-based console. Clad in his grey landing party jacket over gold tunic, Kirk stood to one side.
“Power remains out in Alameda, Oakland, Richmond and Point Reyes,” said a commander, sweeping a hand over the console. “The storm is the worst we’ve had in some time, Admiral.”
“I gathered as much.” Green eyes twinkled with mirth and then found Kirk. “James, glad you could make it.”
Kirk moved over. “I only got your message a few minutes ago, sir.”
Admiral Robert April nodded curtly. “We’re experiencing communication problems. Late 23rd Century and we still are at Mother Nature’s beck and call. I’m afraid it wasn’t a social call.”
At April’s words, the commander who had spoken before pressed a button. A large area map of San Francisco and the Bay Area was replaced by a close-up of the Golden Gate with the bridge forming a right-hand bracket. A red dot was blinking in the middle of the Gate.
“James, the Queen Victoria was on her way out into the ocean for her celebratory jaunt when she was capsized. You know about this ship, I understand?”
Kirk swallowed hard and fought to keep his voice level. “She’s a 1930s liner that was restored for preservation by the Aquatic Park, sir. My friend Gary Mitchell and…my…my girlfriend Carol Marcus are on her.”
A separate screen came on next to the map showing initially darkness then lightning lit the scene. What it revealed was the foreboding: Marin Headlands in silhouette as well as a red-bottomed hull with large bronze propellers spinning.
“That’s the ship now. Looking at our logs it seems the ship was hit by a monster wave that went on to take out some of the waterfront. About an hour ago. We’re trying to get rescue craft out there but the storm has hindered operations. There is an additional problem – the ship is being brought in on the current and could hit the San Francisco Tower of the Golden Gate Bridge.”
Kirk nodded with understanding. The bridge had two towers – the Marin (North) Tower and the San Francisco (South) Tower. The North Tower was up against the shoreline more or less at the Marin end but the South Tower was more isolated, almost in the middle of the Gate. It certainly would get in the way of anything coming into or out of the Bay.
“The current is fast,” April continued, “but we should have time to get people out. If anyone made it.”
“Haven’t we scanned the hull?” Kirk asked.
“We can’t. The storm is affecting our scanners, there’s ionisation over the Bay and everything’s gone to pot.” The former commander of the Enterprise rubbed his chin thoughtfully. A flash of lightning lit up the already-bright room, casting everyone in stark relief before fading. Kirk saw that outside there were few lights on the Bay. He pictured that upturned antique liner and Carol inside.
“Sir, we can get in to find out and soon.”
“I know, James, that’s why you’re joining the search party. A team is assembling under Commander Mallory down at the dockside.”
Kirk frowned. “Dockside?”
April smiled a little. “Transporters are out so we need to get there the old fashioned way. Good luck, Mr. Kirk.”
Kirk made his way down to the Presidio dockside that was little more than a cement jetty that had extended out from the Presidio for a fair few decades albeit widened in recent times. The pontoon was lashed by rain and errant waves that crashed against it without mercy. On the pontoon Kirk joined a group of about a dozen men and women in Starfleet jackets, some carried backpacks, all carried wrist-lights and Type II phasers. Kirk found Mallory; it wasn’t too difficult for not only was Mallory about six foot five but he was one of Kirk’s tutors at the Academy. Seeing Kirk, Mallory’s handsome features creased into a smile.
“Lieutenant, glad you could come.”
There was no sarcasm there so he must have been genuinely pleased, Kirk thought. Mallory handed him a phaser. “You never know.” He cupped his hands shouting: “into the skiff!”
The skiff was a pleasure craft used to ferry tourists around the Bay or to Alcatraz and back. Big enough for three times the number it was to carry tonight; the craft had a sloped front with separate bridge on top of the passenger level. Once all the Starfleet personnel were aboard it pushed off and started to move against the waves into the Gate. Kirk stood by the rear of the boat holding onto its left railing. His face was wet with the rain and spray that continued unabated.
“Like a scene from Hell, isn’t it?”
Kirk forced himself to look to his right where a figure in blue stood legs apart braced against the swell. “Doctor McCoy?”
“The very same.” McCoy’s Southern accent came through strongly in spite of the thunder. He did not seem to mind the pitching of the boat which was increasing as it battered through the waves. It was at full speed as evidenced by the thick white wake behind it. Kirk had seen McCoy on and off over the years but this was his first proper meeting in a while.
The bridge passed overhead, a dark leviathan in the gloom that the storm had wrought. Kirk saw flickers of light from the pedestrian level which could have been anything. Then they were out in the Gate.
“This could be a real short trip,” McCoy shouted. “No telling how fast that boat will sink.”
“Ship,” corrected Kirk, wincing as water splashed up over the deck. A short while later Mallory had the crew assemble down by the rear where Kirk and McCoy were as the ferry approached the Queen Victoria.
“Look at that,” McCoy said to Kirk as the ferry manoeuvred into a position to try and moor. The Queen Victoria loomed alongside them by a hundred metres but close enough to appear as an iron beached whale. Strong beams of light started to probe her upturned hull from the Headlands to help the landing party. It was clear even from here that the liner was moving on the current. That she was not stationary, held in place perhaps by a masthead or stack.
“Listen up!” called Mallory, his group spread around him so they could hear, all somehow keeping their footing. “We’re going to try and get in close to the propellers. The hull is thinnest there. On your tricorders you all have a schematic and details on the ship. Near as we can tell, it’s gradually sinking but it’s hard to say what will happen first- the sinking or her being dashed against the bridge. Time is against us. No risks will be taken. As soon as I give the word make your way to the exit point as quickly as you can. Hopefully the transporters will be fixed soon. There’s no telling what we’ll find. Get ready.”
McCoy leaned close to Kirk so he didn’t have to shout. “This is a damned suicide mission. We could get trapped in there.”
“You’ve got a better idea, now’s the time.”
McCoy made a face. The ferry drifted close to the liner then Mallory and two others leapt across carrying ropes that trailed behind them as they climbed the slope of the keel. They tied the ropes through a kink left in the tail-end (now top) of the rudder before signalling the others to follow. Kirk was last and found the climb tricky. The ship was pitching, not as dramatically as the ferry, but noticeably. Also, the keel was slick with sea-water and bits of flotsam that had come over with the ship as it capsized. On top he balanced himself looking down the full length of the ship. Hard to imagine that a superstructure lay beneath them.
Mallory cupped his hands to his mouth as the deck moved under their feet. So damn slippery, Kirk thought, that it was a wonder the landing party had not been tipped into the Bay.
“In your teams, make incisions into the hull along the beam. Break up and move! Bring the survivors to the nearest blow-hole that has been made and we’ll save up some energy in the meantime,” after a pause he added, “break up I said, you look like a damn cadet review!”
So the landing party broke into their teams with Kirk and McCoy slipping down towards the rudder to where they drew phasers. Setting their weapons to the highest setting, Kirk and McCoy began to carve out a big enough manhole for the pair of them to get through. Along the upturned hull the night was interrupted by similar flickering of phaser beams. When the hole gave way with a clank of metal, Kirk peered in. Without hesitation he leapt in and landed on a deck. Or maybe it was the roof –this was going to take some getting used to. Kirk activated his wrist-light and turned his head upwards.
“Come on Doc, let’s go.”
McCoy looked down. “I’m a doctor, not a mountain climber damn-it.”
“You’ll be dead if you don’t get in, that hull’s slippery and the storm can cause another wave. Come on!”
At that the doctor leapt into the hole landing on Kirk who had tried to cushion his fall with arms outstretched. Grumbling the pair disentangled themselves. McCoy turned on his wrist-light and caught Kirk’s bemused expression.
“You owe me a new uniform.”
“When we get home.”
Carefully and with the deck creaking beneath their feet the pair moved off into the bowels of the doomed ocean liner.