"It looks like it is going to be a fine morning." The
Second Mate looked sideways at his companion. "I hope
you enjoy this little liberty. Ten minutes, and itís
back in cuffs and down below for you."
"Iím freezing," said his companion. "But tell Captain
Smith Iím grateful. StillÖ" his voice dropped as he
looked across the still-dark ocean.
Lightoller knitted his brow. "Youíre worried about
that big, bad iceberg?"
"You mock me," the Texan growled.
"Iím a good judge of character. I doubt I will need
this," he said, patting his sidearm. "Youíre an obvious
lunatic, but harmless."
He gestured towards the other manís hands. "Youíve
the softest hands of any man Iíve seen. Itís obvious
youíve never done a hard dayís work in your life. You
are probably the mad offspring of some wealthy family.
Weíll let the Americans deal with you. Why the grimace?"
The deposed Republic of Texas President wrung the
railing. "They mock me, too. History canít be
He glowered at some society ladies passing by, who
picked up the pace of their promenade at the sight of
his scowl. "Theyíre staring at me."
"Word has spread since evening of our stowaway," said
Lightoller. "The remains of your uniform only add to the
The Texan tugged self-consciously at his collar. "I
forgot. They made me put back on the uniform I had when
I was arrested." He rubbed his hand across the front of
his shirt. "But they tore the identifying insignia off."
He drew his hands in front of himself and rubbed them
for the warmth. "Fuckiní heathen. I should have nuked
them when I had the chance."
"I donít know what that means, but it sounds evil,"
said Lightoller. "Iím sure the Americans had a reason to
"You believe my story then, about what happened,"
said the Texan. "That I have been exiled in time?"
"In 1898, I was in hospital for weeks with malaria,
and I read some books by Mr. Wells, including ĎThe Time
Machineí," he said. "If the inventions of Jules Verne
have come to pass, then perhaps those of Mr. Wells
"In any case," he continued. "I donít dismiss it out
of hand. If your story is true, though--then you are not
just a harmless lunatic, but a very dangerous man."
"Thatís what they thought," said the Texan,
"which is why they wanted me dead, although the
goody-goodies abolished the death penalty."
Lightoller began to rub his own hands. "The sun has
cleared the horizon; it should begin to warm soon. In
the meanwhile," he said, turning to his companion. "Why
donít you tell me that Ďlong storyí you didnít want to
burden the Captain with? How did you get condemned as a
Ďwar criminalí, as you call it?"
The Texan muttered to himself. "I did what I had to
do in Austin, I had to have the capital secured." He
looked at the blood red sun as it rose above the line of
the ocean. "Why not? Whatís the date? April 15. Yes, it
began on this day, April 15." He sighed. "It seems so
"The United States had a socialist government for
years, ever since that mutt President was elected. It
just kept getting worse and worse, one leftist after
another. Meanwhile, Texas went its own way," he said.
"The divide became unbridgeable."
"Dickson was elected president in 2020, and then my
group, the Texas Nationalist Movement, took control of
the legislature in 2022. I was elected governor. I told
Dickson in no uncertain terms to take a hands-off
approach towards Texas, or weíd split once and for all.
But the prick wouldnít listen."
The Texan looked at Lightoller. "I know this means
nothing to you, but the people we called the Baby
Boomers had all retired, and the federal government was
deep in the hole paying for their Social Security
benefits. The Democrats had raised taxes on gasoline to
the point where they hurt the state badly, and they were
also irate we had become the leader in wind power
generation. So Dickson and his trained seals in Congress
passed a tax on wind power generating facilities. A
federal property tax. Not a tax on the power itself, but
on the generators--and it exempted any that were located
He rubbed his hands for warmth. "It was fashioned to
hit us in Texas the hardest. All our wind
generators were on land. We didnít have any in the
Gulf--thatís where we had the few oil rigs that were
left. It was an obvious attempt to screw us; everything
was in an uproar."
"It sounds like you were quite willing to rouse the
masses yourself," said Lightoller. "Very much like the
Socialists you claim to despise."
"I know you wonít believe me, but the uprising was
spontaneous," he continued. "The Libertarians had been
having Tea Parties for yearsÖ"
"Hearkening back to the American Revolution, then?"
"Yes, every April 15--the day the government required
payment for its income taxes."
"I must concede, that is a very socialistic
program," said Lightoller.
"That spring, the Tea Parties broke out into
spontaneous riots. Federal courthouses were burned, tax
offices looted. The police and National Guard refused to
fire on their own people. The Second War of Texas
Independence was on. The Libertarians provided the arms
and the Christians provided the foot soldiers. I had no
choice, it was either repudiate the uprising, or lead
it. I led it."
"But the very nature of your party was to lay the
foundation for this revolt, wasnít it?" asked Lightoller.
"Not really, I had hoped we would have a peaceful
parting of the ways, or at the very least, gain leverage
with the federal government, like the Parti Quebecois
did in Canada," said the Texan. "But Dickson sent in the
Bystanders on the deck saw the Second Mate with the
prisoner and continued to whisper among themselves. "I
donít look that strange, do I?" asked the Texan.
"Youíre shivering violently," said Lightoller.
"You could have gotten me a coat."
"We donít provide apparel for stowaways."
"Iím not a stowaway. Iím here against my will."
"Vae victis,ī said Lightoller. "Woe to the
vanquished. So you were defeated and subsequently
"We were winning until that bastard in Washington
called in U.N. troops from overseas--then we were
outnumbered and overpowered," said the Texan. "The fact
he needed foreigners to defeat us just showed I was
right, but by then it didnít matter. We were beat."
"You said you spent years in prison?" asked
"Twelve. They wanted to execute me, but under the
Kucinich Bill, the death penalty had been abolished.
They wanted me gone for good, though."
"So they put you in a place where you were assured to
be killed, eh?" asked Lightoller. "Sounds rather
far-fetched, donít you think? And why send you to this
ship? Why not put you at your own Alamo, or some other
venue where there was a general massacre?"
The Texan made a gesture of helplessness. "No escape,
of course." He folded his arms. "Time travel technology
had only been recently developed; there was already a
wormhole open to this disaster, created for scientific
study." He raised his cupped hands and blew on them.
"They had done the same with the other great disasters
of the past century and a half--Hiroshima, Nagasaki,
Dresden, the Somme, the World Trade Center, Southern
Lightoller shook his head. "Gibberish, just
gibberish. Your mind is obviously unhinged." He grasped
the guardrail and looked across the brightening sea.
"Besides, you said yourself--and it seems quite
logical--if events in the past change, then the
circumstances in the future that require the
intervention cease to exist."
"Thatís the bizarre thing, we shouldnít be here this
morning," said the Texan. "Then again, Iím amazed
Captain Smith believed me."
"On the contrary, he didnít believe a word you said,
but he thought the raving of a madman might be an omen
to heed," said Lightoller. "The prevalence of the pack
ice had been weighing on his thoughts last evening. He
later told me that every time he thought to analyze the
situation, some parvenu intent on being seen with him
would distract him. Calling him to the bridge to deal
with our unexpected stowaway was in actuality a welcome
relief. His decision to slow to 18 knots gave us time to
steer clear of that enormous berg we saw earlier this
"That was the one you were supposed to hit," said the
"Thereís no way to prove your story, to prove that
something that was supposed to happen, didnít happen,"
said Lightoller. "Why donít you make a clean break of it
and tell us how you really came to be on board this
"I was shot through the wormhole and left on the deck
shivering in the cold," said the Texan.
"Very well, adhere to your lunacy. We are going back
below deck, and Iím putting your handcuffs back on,"
said Lightoller, as he took them out of his coat pocket.
The Texan held out his hands, but as Lightoller
snapped the handcuffs on, the ship lurched. The men
"What the fuck is that?" snapped the Texan.
"It seems we are changing course," said Lightoller,
who walked across the deck to a speaking tube. After a
moment, he returned to his prisoner.
"The bridge says the Captain has ordered us to
reverse course," said Lightoller. "The wireless picked
up a distress call. Just before sunrise, while it was
still dark, Cunardís Carpathia struck a berg, and
they are going down. We are rushing to their rescue."
"The Carpathia!" The Texanís eyes widened.
"That is the ship that picked up the survivors of the
sinking. The ones who made it to the lifeboats."
"Well, in your madness, you seem to have traded one
sinking for another," said Lightoller. "Iím going to
secure you below deck."
The Second Mate opened the cabin door and closed it
behind him. The prisoner was holding a teacup and
"Thanks for not keeping me cuffed below deck," he
said. "I tried to make tea, but thereís no hot water."
"The Captain has turned off the hot water to save
steam for the boilers," said Lightoller.
"Youíre certainly speeding along; the whole ship is
vibrating," said the Texan.
"Weíre up to 24 knots now," said Lightoller, "which
is faster than our rated top speed."
"What gives? Sounds like the Captain has a guilt
Lightoller shook his head. "I have no idea what
"Guilty feelings, because the Carpathia has
sunk instead of his ship."
"You assume he believes your palaver."
"He acts like it."
"Youíre very self-centered."
"It provides the self-confidence to be a leader."
"And the pride to cause a great fall," said
The Texan sat down on a bunk. "Yeah, Iíve certainly
had a great fall. How long have we been on this course?"
"Two hours. We should be at the last reported
position of the Carpathia in an hour."
The Texan frowned. "We couldnít hit the iceberg in
broad daylight, could we?"
"Youíre still convinced this ship will be sunk by an
The Texan muttered, almost to himself. "Something I
"About what?" asked Lightoller.
"That the time travel techs couldnít really change
history--I heard that from a sympathetic guard--such as
change the outcome of the Alamo. Thatís why I didnít
expect they could stick me someplace where my
death would be assured," said the Texan. "But they had a
way to check the outcomes of their potential actions, to
view across alternate quantum timelines."
"Youíre worse than babbling, youíre not speaking
English now," said Lightoller.
The Texan looked up at him. "They wouldnít have put
me here unless my death was assured."
"We eluded your hound of an iceberg," said Lightoller.
They both jumped at the very muffled--but still very
loud--"boom" that rocked the ship.
"Damn!" Lightoller threw open the door and rushed
out. The Texan followed.
By the time they reached the top of the flight of
stairs the ship was already listing. They both saw an
enormous cloud of steam rise from the stern of the ship.
"The boilers! Swim for it!" Lightoller barely had
time to blurt out as the ship shuddered violently and
rolled over. They were both thrown clear of the ship by
its motion, and quickly began to swim away. They were
both over 200 feet away as the ship turned turtle and
began to slip under the waves.
They swam towards each other and treaded water as the
ship quickly sank from view. There were a handful of
people who had also been thrown off the deck, but they
were closer to the ship and disappeared into the suction
as the ship went under.
The surreal spectacle took less than a minute.
The men floated and looked at the churning froth.
There were no signs of any other people amidst the small
amount of wreckage that bobbed on the water. Lightoller
looked at the Texan. "Damn you! Why do you look
surprised? You bloody well said the ship was doomed to
"When the Titanic struck the iceberg and sank,
it took three hours to go down," the Texan gasped. "Over
1,500 people died, but the Carpathia picked up over 700
"A boiler exploded and blew a hole in the ship,"
Lightoller sputtered. "It sank in less than a minute!"
"Everyone dies," the Texan said quietly. "My god, so
much worseÖ" He stared as the froth began to dissipate
where the ship had been. "Weíll die just like we were
supposed to," said the Texan. "In this ice water."
He heard a loud click. He saw Lightoller had pushed
away in the water and had pulled out his sidearm
revolver, treading water with his free arm. The Second
Mate leveled the gun at the Texan
"I mak siccar," he said. The Texan shook his
"Itís a Scots expression my Scottish gram would use.
It means ĎIíll make certainí."
The Texan slowly closed his eyes. There was a loud
crack that reverberated across the empty water.
Not very many minutes later, there was no sign at all
of that great, mysterious, lost ship the Titanic
upon the waves.