The Time Travel Journals: Shipbuilder, Chapter 15

Thomas Andrews, Managing Director, Harland & Wolff Shipyards
Thomas Andrews, Managing Director, Harland & Wolff Shipyards

Chapter 15

February 1907

“Manager’s meeting scheduled for 9:00 a.m.,” Ham informed Tom first thing on a bright day in early February. “Lord Pirrie wants to see you at 8:45 sharp. I’ve already moved the schedule around to free up the time.”

Tom nodded, but glanced quizzically at the calendar. “I thought he wasn’t due in from London until Wednesday. Any idea what’s up?”

Ham’s raised eyebrows answered, Now why the heck would I know? as he handed Tom the morning’s reports, and went back to his letters. Tom sighed. These meetings could go on and on, and he had so much to do…

Still, 8:44 found him climbing the stairs in the “corridor of power” to his uncle’s panel-lined office. Lord Pirrie was positively jovial as he waved Tom into the leather visitor’s chair, finished signing a few papers for Saxon to mail, and then turned to look his nephew up and down appraisingly. Tom returned the look, one corner of his mouth turned up in a quizzical smile. No doubt about it, the old man was up to something.

“Well, Tom,” Pirrie began, “you’re wrapping up the work on Adriatic. She’s the last of the Big Four, and I have to tell you, I’m very pleased. Very pleased, indeed! We’re still on line for the maiden voyage on the eighth of May, yes?”

Tom nodded. “All set. We’re on the last bit of work for it. Painting is starting next week, cabinets and furnishings are due in after that. She’s in good shape.”

Pirrie leaned back in his padded chair, still with that appraising look, only now he looked like he’d swallowed the proverbial canary. What was he up to?

“Tom, we’re due for some changes around here. I’m setting up a board of Managing Directors to run the day-to-day operations. I’ll explain more about it in the meeting, but I want you to take one of those positions, in addition to your duties as Chief Designer.”

“You’ll be Managing Director, someday.” Tom swallowed against the voice in his head, trying desperately not to think about that now. How could Casey know about a position that had never existed before? Had she mentioned something to Aunt Marge during that tea, who then gave the idea to Uncle Will? Who was sitting across from him and waiting for a response. Tom hurried to answer.

“Wonderful! You know I’m honored and delighted to take it. There is so much we can do.”

“Ah, and we’ll do it all, Tommy. We had a rough year in 1906, but the economy’s improving, and I think we have a good chance of getting the place on solid footing. This will be a busy year, but I will also continue to need your help in many delicate matters as time goes by. Be prepared for me to call on you from time to time, as I have in the past, but keep in mind these tasks may need discretion. Can you do that?”

“Certainly, sir.” Tom had no problem with this. Lord Pirrie’s requests had sometimes required a bit of traveling, but this gave him the opportunity to develop contacts around the world, and he enjoyed the trips. He looked forward to this work.

***

Lord Pirrie had called in everyone he wanted to assign as a managing director. As Tom followed his uncle into the chairman’s conference room, he took the time to look them over. Nine men sat around the polished wood table, a few with cigars already lit. Most of them were old timers, like his cousin and boss, Alexander Carlisle. Mr. Kempster was there, of course, an outsider, but placed in a board position by Lord Pirrie to consolidate certain business deals. That still stung. Tom had felt he had a chance for that position, but his uncle had been extremely displeased over Tom’s stand on the Home Rule issue, feeling he didn’t quite have Tom’s full support for his run at parliament. The promotion had been the price. Still, Kempster had proven to be an astute accountant and businessman, and if the firm had not flourished greatly under his tenure, neither had it suffered.

Tom felt good about most of the other men and was especially pleased that his good friend, George Cummings, had been selected. He acknowledged George’s raised eyebrow with a small smile as he took his seat. They’d been friends since boyhood, and apprentices together as young men, and he liked to think they had what the company needed to carry on in the future.

It’s a good group. They’re all devoted to the firm. Even Kempster has a stake in our success. Cousin Alex is the only one who ever gives Uncle Will a hard time and I have to admit, he always knows what he’s talking about.

Tom had heard enough gossip to know the workers thought his uncle surrounded himself with men beholden to him, and that only Alexander Carlisle, who had come up in the firm from the beginning, alongside Lord Pirrie, had the freedom and gumption to choose his own way.

The light from the chandelier glittered off the brass handle of the cigar box making its way around the table, as Lord Pirrie laid out his new plan. They spent a few hours organizing the new structure and familiarizing themselves with new duties and reporting deadlines. Lord Pirrie, as usual, wanted to keep a tight rein on each department, and demanded frequent and detailed reports.

They had their usual work to do, as well, and Tom had little time to spare for the nagging worry that had tickled his mind in his uncle’s office that morning. So it was that he finished a long and exciting day, and as he settled his office preparatory to leaving for home, Casey’s voice suddenly came back to him. It was faint, just a whisper in his ear, but he pulled up short and stared at the papers in his hand. Managing Director… a ship called Titanic… he walked to the wall shelves and pulled out the drawing exercises his team had prepared after Casey left. He stood there holding the rolls for a while, then put them back without opening them. He didn’t need to see them. He remembered every detail; indeed, he’d drawn a lot of them himself.

He knew his uncle. This reorganization was preparatory to something else. Something big, that Lord Pirrie would announce when he was ready.

Tom knew what he had to do.

He had to know.

Moving to his desk, he called Sam Altair to arrange a meeting. He was only a little surprised when the physicist invited him over for dinner that evening. Tom assured Sam that he had no problem with Casey being present. In fact, since the warning had originally come from her, he insisted on it. He looked forward to meeting her as she really was.

He found himself wondering what she looked like. He could still picture Casey the boy, small and thin, agile, close-cropped red hair under a cap, inquisitive green eyes, with small hands quickly bringing order to any system they encountered. Had she given up the boys’ clothes and let her hair grow? It had been less than two months; surely it would not be very long, yet. Would she be wearing a dress? Would he recognize her?

He realized again that he had to know.

Perhaps about more than just Titanic.

The house was in a middle-class part of town, surrounded by a small, fenced yard. The grounds were tidy, with rows of hedges and winter vegetables growing along the side. The house was freshly painted and two chairs graced the porch next to a small table. He raised the knocker, letting it fall once.

Dr. Altair seemed pleased to see him, inviting him in with a delighted smile, and hanging his coat and hat on a rack. A delicious smell of bread accompanied the door opening, and Tom wondered if Casey were in the kitchen.

“Thank you for coming, Mr. Andrews.” Sam was expansive. “I hope we are able to clear up many of your questions. Please, have a seat. I’ll get Casey.”

Tom remained standing as Dr. Altair left the room, unwilling yet to sit. He looked over the room. It was neat, and sparsely furnished: the divan, a couple of chairs, a small desk and telephone, a window seat with cushions and pillows that matched the lace curtains. One wall was covered with shelves and books. He smiled, remembering Casey once talking about how she liked to read.

Suddenly she was there, standing in the doorway. And wearing a dress. Tom stared. I should have come sooner, he realized. Casey had been a “pretty boy,” as was often stated around the yard, but Casey the woman­—for it was a young woman who stood before him and not the girl he had been envisioning—was more than pretty.

Her red hair had grown much longer than he would have thought, falling in curls to the middle of her ears. It was too short to wear up in the style preferred by young women, so she wore it loose, and it framed her face. Her cheeks were rosy from cooking, her green eyes wide and a bit wary. A hint of rouge touched her lips. The dress was blue, and its folds made him long to touch her. How could he ever have mistaken her for a boy? She stood with feminine grace, her dress curved over narrow hips, and a small bosom that was more substantial than he would have thought possible. How had he missed that all those months?

She was altogether enchanting, and as he stared at her, she moved a hand in front of her, as if self-conscious. Then she seemed to recover, and moved toward him, holding out her hand to shake his. “Mr. Andrews! It is so good to see you!”

She spoke with complete sincerity and he smiled as he took the hand, which was softer than he could have imagined.

“Casey,” he murmured, looking into her eyes, and then deliberately bending to kiss the back of the hand. She flushed to her roots, but made no move to reclaim her hand. “You’re wearing a dress.”

She tilted her head in acknowledgment. He continued, “It’s a very lovely dress.”

She laughed then and took back her hand, looking pleased and embarrassed. “Thank you,” she said. “I hope you are well?”

“I am. But something…” his lips quirked as he remembered his errand, “there have been changes at work and I wanted to talk to you, about what you said before you left.”

She nodded. “I’m glad you’ve asked. I know this is all very strange, but we really do want to help you.”

He nodded as he answered, his voice shaking a bit, “Thank you. I know this is sudden, but I didn’t want to put it off.”

She smiled, moving aside as Sam came in with a tea service. “Just let me get things on the table. I’ll only be a minute. Please sit down.”

She left the room as Sam poured tea. “We have an occasional cook, but we sent her on home,” he explained, handing Tom a cup as Tom sank into a chair. “No interruptions that way. Anyway, Casey is an excellent cook.”

Tom found his eyes returning to the doorway after the missing girl. “I am astonished at the difference.”

Sam laughed. “I guess it is amazing when you’re not used it. Should she put on the costume and hat to show you how it’s done?”

“No!” Tom shook his head vehemently and said again, more quietly, “No, not at all. I want to talk to her as she really is.”

Sam looked more serious. “She’s from the American West, Mr. Andrews. I believe in some ways, she was allowed to conduct herself in a more casual fashion than European society approves. The adjustment has been difficult for her.”

“I see,” Tom murmured. He actually did, having met many American girls on his voyages for Pirrie.

Casey returned with a tray of crackers and cheese that she placed on the small table near Tom. She accepted a cup from Sam, sitting in a chair across from Tom, who found he was taking every opportunity to examine her closely, especially the way the dress fit her.

“How is Ham?” she asked quietly. “Have you found someone to help him?”

Tom laughed a little. “He’s fine and we have, although Ham is not very pleased with the caliber of your replacement. The young man does not catch on quite as quickly as you did.”

“I’m sure he’ll improve.” She sipped her tea. “You said something had happened at the yard?”

Tom nodded, then told them about the restructure and his suspicions about his uncle’s plans. “You previously mentioned the Managing Director position when no such position existed,” he told Casey. “I believe you owe me an explanation. What is this all about?” He placed his cup on the tray. “I’d like to ignore all of this and just forget about it. I’m hoping that more explanation from you will help me do that.”

“Hmmm,” was all Sam said. Casey glanced at her guardian as she stood. “Forgetting may not be possible, but it is, of course, up to you,” she said to Tom. “Dinner is ready. Why don’t we go to the table and Sam and I will tell you whatever you need to know.”

The dining room was small, but a lace tablecloth covered the table and there was room for four to sit, even with the old sideboard against the far wall. For a few minutes, talk of warnings was superseded by dishing out food, pouring drinks, and buttering bread. Tom admired the food out loud and then silently admired the embarrassed smile this brought to Casey’s face. He really should have come sooner, for no other reason than to see how she was doing. But he returned to the purpose of his visit. “Casey, while you were at the firm, we talked about building safer ships. You were quite interested in the subject, but why that particular scenario? Why a specific ship, which, by the way, does not exist?”

She blushed, but looked at him squarely. “It doesn’t exist yet, Mr. Andrews.”

He felt a twinge of impatience. “Are we speaking metaphorically? As in, shipping rules are an accident waiting to happen? Or are you going to tell me you know the future, that you can read the stars or wind currents and tell me my fortune?” His sarcasm bordered on rudeness, but he didn’t care. If they turned out to be a couple of charlatans, he just might tell Mike Sloan to do whatever he wanted. “Who are you? What makes you think that you can help me?”

Casey placed both hands on the table, as if for support, her lips tight with determination. “All right. I’m going to tell you the bottom line, then we can go back and fill in the details. I don’t know how else to tell you. So, bottom line: Sam and I come from the future. We traveled backward through time from the year 2006, quite by accident. Nevertheless, we are here, and there are things in your future that happened in our past. The Titanic is one of those things. And so is that iceberg.”

Tom stared at her, disappointment warring with fury in his gut. He had so much wanted her explanation to make sense, to be something he could believe and understand, something honest and plausible. But this: they’re looking for a gullible fool to rob and they think they’ve found him. Flushing with humiliation, he stood, wanting only to leave, to forget, but Casey was up and standing in front of him before he could take a step or say a word. She stood an inch from him, her hands on his arms, and looked right up into his eyes, her face serious and intense.

“Mr. Andrews. You asked. I would have tried to work up to it, but you know, there really is no way to easily say something like that. You don’t believe me. Of course you don’t believe me, that’s only sensible. But it is the truth, and I’m begging you, give us a chance to prove it. Even if you never believe us, at least listen to what we know about the Titanic. It will never hurt you to make any ship safer.”

He stared down at her, thinking hard. This woman was not someone he knew. Perhaps there was something of Casey the boy in her, he didn’t think all of that had been an act. But this woman was more adult, more confident than the person he remembered. Beautiful, desirable, infuriating–all of that in a package standing determinedly in front of him, blocking his exit.

And making a not unreasonable request. He nodded once and sat back down, still angry but willing to listen.

“You didn’t ask me to come here,” he said, thinking out loud. “You gave me one warning and left me alone. I suppose I should at least listen to you. But I don’t understand. Assuming you’re telling the truth: why me? If you’re really from the future, which is ridiculous, there must be a million important things you can change. Why bother me?”

Sam answered with a shrug. “Casey met you, and I knew who you were. She liked you and wanted to warn you. She often lets her feelings overcome her logic.”

“Sam.” Casey’s voice carried just a hint of a child begging a parent not to embarrass her in front of someone she liked. Sam smiled slightly at Tom and tilted his head toward Casey, tacitly informing him that there were serious feelings there. Tom might have been pleased about that, earlier.

Sam held out a hand. “You don’t believe us, Mr. Andrews, and as Casey said, that’s all right. Forgive me, but in this case, time really is on our side. Sometime this year, this summer I think, Pirrie and Ismay will hatch a plan to build a new line of ships, the largest, most luxurious ships in the world. There will be three of them, Olympic, Titanic and Britannic. In our time, the Titanic is known as the most famous ship since Noah’s Ark. You’re free to go your way and forget about us, Mr. Andrews. But I expect we’ll see you again after Pirrie’s announcement.”

Tom reached for his spoon and began eating, determined to treat this as a normal conversation. “You’re telling me we build a ship called Titanic that hits an iceberg and suffers damage. Does she sink?”

Sam was eating, but Casey was staring at her bowl. She nodded.

“When? When does this happen?”

Casey answered, “April 14, 1912.”

Tom stopped eating and stared at her. “My God. We’d be starting on it in the next year or so and even then, she’d just be out of the slip. It happens in her first year?”

Casey glanced at Sam. He shook his head. “That’s her maiden voyage, Mr. Andrews.”

He couldn’t speak. For a moment, he couldn’t even breathe. Losing a ship on its maiden voyage! What an awful disaster. He shook his head. These people were crazy. Remember that, Tom. They’re crazy! Or this was some kind of act or trick to accomplish some act of espionage.

He rubbed his forehead, weary and confused. “What am I supposed to do? What is it that goes so wrong, but that I can fix to keep this from happening?” He gestured to Casey. “When you told me about the iceberg, I thought about it. I even talked to Mr. Carlisle and to the design team. We all agreed the best thing is a double hull and watertight compartments. But we also have to live with economic realities. A double hull’s expensive and it takes up space that could be used for accommodations. I don’t know if we’ll ever get that. Watertight compartments, yes. Those are standard.”

Sam stood and pulled paper and pencil from a sideboard drawer. He quickly sketched, unaware of the effect his drawing was having on Tom, who stared astonished, as an elegant ocean liner took shape on the page. Sam roughed in compartments and turned an intense gaze on Tom, tapping the paper with his pencil. “Let me tell you first, that I grew up in Belfast, and I learned all about this in school. I know what I’m talking about. The compartments on Titanic only went up to E deck. To be effective in this accident, they need to go all the way to the main deck and need watertight tops. During the accident, the first six compartments are punctured and fill with water. As the bow sinks, the water spills over into the next compartment, on and on down the ship. So you need to fight for higher bulkheads. You need to fight for that double hull. You need to keep that ship afloat for at least five hours, Mr. Andrews. It’s four hours before the first rescue ship arrives.”

Tom stared at Sam. “How many…” his voice rasped. He cleared his throat and started over. “How many die?”

Sam sat down. “Over fifteen hundred. Including your guarantee group. And you, Mr. Andrews.”

Tom blinked. On some level, he’d known that, of course. He would be on that ship on its maiden voyage. And the guarantee group…. He thought of the men he worked with, his pals. And fifteen hundred others, all of whom counted on him to build them a safe ship.

“Casey,” Sam said, “why don’t you show him our things?”

She left the table without looking at either of them. Sam went back to eating while Tom sat, staring at Sam’s drawing. In a moment, Casey was back with a small bag in her hands. She took several objects from the bag and placed them on the table. Tom was suddenly more afraid than he had ever been in his life.

Casey sat, and smiled a little at his expression. “Go ahead. Look them over.”

He shook his head. “What are they?”

Sam laughed a little. Casey shrugged and pointed at two of the objects, both small, hard, and rectangular, one black, one pink. “These are telephones, basically. They each have a camera, a calendar, message center, and internet connection. Of course, most of that stuff needs a service network to function, and anyway, the batteries have been dead for more than a year.”

She picked up a small silver stick and a strange cord split into a ‘Y’ with something round attached to each end. She waved the stick at him and showed him buttons on one side. “This is a music player. It contains over three hundred songs that can be played back, sort of like a gramophone. But believe me, the sound quality is much better. You listen to them by plugging this into the player,” she demonstrated, “and putting the ear buds in your ears. Of course,” and she set everything down with a sad expression, “the batteries for this are also dead.” There was real regret in her voice and Sam spoke up.

“I’ve been working on a way to recharge the batteries, but I just don’t have the materials I need.” He sounded apologetic.

Nothing they said made sense. Uncertain, Tom picked up the pink rectangle and examined it. It fit in the palm of his hand. There was a small blank square on the front and the words “Verizon” and “Samsung” were embossed on the cover. There was a hinge at the top, so it was obvious it opened up. He lifted the cover and stared at the inside of it, a bigger blank square on top and buttons everywhere, buttons with tiny little arrows or pictures, or numbers or letters. The word “Samsung” was embossed again along the top.

His heart was pounding, and once again he found it difficult to breathe. His mind was whirling so much, he felt as if he had stepped outside his body. This… thing… could not be made up. He was an engineer. He knew a technological machine when he saw one. This… was real, whatever it was.

Casey smiled sadly. “The battery worked for about two weeks after we got here. There was no service, of course, but when I opened it, it would still light up and play sounds, and I could still look at pictures and read all the old messages from my friends.” Tears coursed down her cheeks. “My schedule said I had a test coming up and a doctor’s appointment in a week. I used to drive Sam crazy, because I would just open it up and look at it all the time. It was home. It had my life in it.”

A completely crazy story, but Tom could not say she wasn’t telling the truth. He did not have it in him to turn away from someone in pain. He closed the thing and put it back into Casey’s hands, watching as she held it like the precious thing it was. Sam cleared his throat and pushed the last object toward Tom. A black rectangle, again with a small blank space and covered with buttons. But these buttons made some sense. Numbers: 0–9. A plus sign. A minus sign, an asterisk (multiplication?), a slash (division?). An equal sign. Buttons that proclaimed cos, tan, %, sqrt (square root?), 1/x, many others. Texas Instruments. Scientific Calculator. He looked at Sam, who smiled slightly.

“Made the slide rule obsolete,” he said. “And unlike the other things, this runs on solar power. It still works.”

Tom could feel himself begin to sweat. It worked? Sam reached over and pressed a button labeled with the word ‘On’. There was no sound or movement, but a ‘0’ appeared in the blank space. “Do something simple,” Sam suggested. “Make it add two and two, just like you’re writing it on paper.”

Tom’s hand shook, but he slowly pressed the ‘2’ button. The zero went away and was replaced by a 2. His hand shook a little harder. He pressed the plus sign and nothing happened, making him glance at Sam quizzically. He heard Casey breathe out a giggle. Sam indicated the calculator. “Keep going.”

He pressed the ‘2’ button again, and again, nothing happened. But he dogged ahead and pressed the equal sign. A ‘4’ appeared in the screen, silent, irrevocable. Tom felt the world spinning around him, as everything in his existence spun inward to that number ‘4’. He was sure he’d fallen out of his chair, but a grip on his hand anchored him, and he looked up at Casey, the world straight again, her hand covering his, her eyes concerned, but calm. “Breathe,” she instructed softly, and he did, letting his breath out in a gasp.

Sam was relentless. “Try another one. You choose the equation.”

“No.” Tom took another breath, waited for his heart to stop racing. His lips twitched slightly. “Maybe another time.” He turned his hand, gripping Casey’s hand firmly in his. Hers was small and soft, but he could feel the strength in it. That strength helped him calm down, but when he looked at her again, he decided he wanted to continue holding it for a lot of other reasons, too.

“Is it true?” he asked her. “Everything you told me?”

She nodded.

“The future? 2006?”

She nodded again.

“How?”

Sam explained, as best he could, about his time travel experiment, and the accident that brought him and Casey to this time. His story made little sense, and Tom kept interrupting, needing explanations about nearly everything. They seemed unaware of what would confuse him, and it was this, as much as anything, that further convinced him they were telling the truth. He was shocked when he realized Casey had been walking alone in the garden in the middle of the night, and this brought the explanation to a halt for a moment.

“You were alone? Your friend didn’t walk you home? This is normal for girls in the future?”

She looked abashed. “It’s not unusual,” she started to say, but hesitated at Sam’s expression. “Well, it probably wasn’t the wisest thing to do. But I’d done it several times before and never had a problem.”

“But Casey.” Tom couldn’t hide his horror. “Anyone could have been in the garden. What happened was bad enough, but what if Sam had been a criminal? Violent or drunk? Is it so different in the future that there are no people like that out at night?”

She shook her head, shame in her eyes, but she lifted her chin defiantly. “The thing is, women have worked hard to ensure we’re safe on the streets at night. We don’t think it’s right that we have to restrict our movements so that violent men can wander the streets. We’re taught to be careful and I’ve had self-defense training, so I wasn’t completely helpless.” She glared for a moment before relenting a bit at the worry on his face. “Yes, it would have been safer to stay at the dorm when we had finished studying. My friend had offered to let me stay, but I just wanted to go home. There shouldn’t have been a problem.”

“I can testify to the self-defense training,” Sam offered. “She darn near took me out before I could explain what happened to us. And more than one ruffian around here has been put in his place, believe me.”

Tom blinked at this. Was she still going out alone? Then he remembered her months masquerading as a boy. She’d been on the streets of Belfast for a long time. A small smile twitched his lips. “That is somewhat comforting to know.” He touched her hand in apology. “You must think I’m treating you like a child, but I’m not, truly. It’s just that in this time, there are certain rules that women follow. That’s what I’m used to.”

She tilted a shoulder in a small shrug. “I’m afraid I hate to be told what to do. I always have to know the reason, and even then, if I don’t agree with it, I don’t always do it.” Her eyes flicked to Sam for a moment. “This time I paid a steep price. I try to be more cautious, now.”

“An odd definition of ‘cautious,’“ Tom murmured, but he patted her hand and turned back to Sam as they both laughed. “Please continue. You saw Casey next to the tree and then what happened?”

The technical explanation went on for a while. “Look,” Sam told him finally, “you really need to have a degree in quantum physics to understand this. Not even Casey gets it and she has a lot more scientific knowledge than you do.”

Tom and Casey moved to the parlor while Sam made tea, Tom still struggling to accept the idea of a future world interacting with his. “Tell me about your life,” he asked Casey as they entered the parlor.

“My life?” She looked uncertain.

“In the future. Before you came here. What did you do? Who were your friends? How did you spend your time? What was the world like?”

“I was a student at Queens,” she started explaining. “I went to classes, I studied, I took karate lessons. I shared an apartment with three other people who were also students. My friend, Colleen, was my roommate. We’d been roomies since freshman year; that’s how we met.” Casey smiled sadly. “She was so great. We laughed all the time. When I first moved to Belfast, I was so afraid I wouldn’t make friends, but she was right there. She was… “ She stopped and turned her head away, blinking back tears. “I keep wondering about her. What happened when I didn’t come home that night? Do they have any idea where I am, what happened to me? She… she would have had to call my parents and tell them…”

Casey stopped talking altogether and Tom moved to her side, taking her hand, horrified at the scenario she described. “Stop. Casey, stop. I’m sorry.” He rubbed her shoulder; somehow it felt natural to touch her. “I didn’t mean to upset you.”

She shook her head in frustration. “I’ve just never really talked about it, Mr. Andrews. We haven’t told anyone except Dr. Riley, and he didn’t want to know anything.” She looked at him, her expression haunted. “I try to forget that I’ll never get back. I try to just live in this new life, but sometimes, it hits me. I really will never see any of them again. They’ll never know what happened to me. That’s…” she took a deep breath. “That’s the hardest part.”

He slipped his arm around her and pulled her to him, driven by a need to comfort her. He should not give in to it, he knew. With no chaperone, he shouldn’t even be alone with her, but he wanted to hold her. He also wanted to know more, but that could wait for another time. “When you’re ready to talk about it, you can always talk to me, Casey. But I don’t want to upset you. I want to know all about it, but only when you feel up to it.”

She nodded into his shoulder and stepped back, giving him a tentative smile. “You may find you regret that once I get started, but thank you.”

Sam came in with the tea and Tom moved away from Casey, to sit in a safe chair. The conversation moved to more general topics. The question came up about “changing the past,” but this was beyond Tom’s patience. “You may think you are changing your past, but I don’t see it that way. This is the future. That’s all it is for me, for the other people who die, for this city. What happens in 1912 is wide open.”

Sam wasn’t sure. “Then did it happen at all? Has there been a 2006 yet, where the Titanic sinking is history? If it happened once, how do we know we can stop it? What if, in spite of all we do, the ship still sinks? What if we avoid one iceberg, just to hit another?”

Tom felt a headache coming on, as he tried to think it through. Casey threw up her hands. “I refuse to accept determinism, Sam. The universe does not “have it in” for the Titanic or for Mr. Andrews or anybody else. There’s no point getting up in the morning if that’s true.”

Tom agreed, but with a caveat. “I do believe in determinism, Casey, but not in the way you and Sam mean.” He watched her carefully, wondering how important her atheism was to her. “I believe that God has our lives planned and we can’t change his plan. He may have it written that I die on Titanic, but I don’t know that for certain. I must live as if I’ve been given a full measure of years. If I’m to die, then nothing I do will make a difference. But I still must try to make that difference.”

She looked unhappy but said only, “As long as you try. That’s all I’m asking.”

Casey walked him to the door while Sam took cups to the kitchen. He paused, needing to say one more thing. “Casey, you’ve had to make an incredible adjustment. I can’t even comprehend what it must have been like for you.” He took her hand in both of his. “You need friends, Casey. You can’t spend your life working, or sitting in this house. There’s a whole world out there. I know it’s not your world, but you need to let it become yours. May I help you do that?”

She blinked back tears. Her voice was small. “That’s very kind of you, Mr. Andrews.”

He squeezed her hand gently then put both hands on her shoulders, looking teasingly into her face. “Now, that won’t do at all,” he told her. “I’m still calling you Casey. You must call me Tom. Please?”

She took a deep breath, nodding. He nodded back, pleased, then kissed her hand and left.

Chapter 16

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