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Story 1

Lou Antonelli
 

Lou Antonelli is an amazing Texas writer. He reminds me of those athletes who are so good at their sport they make it look easy. Well, what you see takes talent and lots and lots of practice.

Gifted with writing talent, Lou has put in lots of time practicing his craft so that now it reads easy.

4 Star Stories is excited to be able to offer, for your summer reading entertainment, Louís story Mak Siccar.

 

 

MAK SICCAR

By Lou Antonelli

"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 changed."

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 mystery."

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 condemn you."

"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 might, also."

"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 long ago."

#

"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 off-shore."

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?" Lightoller interrupted.

"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 troops."

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 tried?"

"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 Lightoller.

"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 California."

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 morning."

"That was the one you were supposed to hit," said the Texan.

"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 ship?"

"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 staggered.

"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 saucer.

"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 complex."

Lightoller shook his head. "I have no idea what youíre saying."

"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 Lightoller.

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 iceberg?"

The Texan muttered, almost to himself. "Something I heard."

"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 sink!"

"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 survivors."

"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 head, uncomprehending.

"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.

(the end)

 

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