Chapter 23: Out of Touch, Out of Time

Nearly half an hour later, Brynne was nowhere near the boat deck. She was down in third-class trying to help those whom everyone else seemed to have forgotten. The route from most third-class areas to the upper decks was not a direct one, especially for the passengers who couldn’t read or speak English. Brynne had already successfully led one group to the boat deck, and now she was returning for her second group.

Andrews scanned the boat deck, fore and aft, for Brynne, but he couldn’t spot her. In fact, he saw no one out on deck except for the crew fumbling with the davits. The crew didn’t know what they were doing, as they were unfamiliar with the Welin davits and hadn’t had a boat drill; the monstrous din resulting from the steam venting from the funnel pipes surely didn’t help matters.

Andrews hurried over to Chief Officer Wilde who supervised the deck crew as they prepared the lifeboats for launch.

“Mr. Wilde,” Andrews yelled over the roar of the steam, “where are all the passengers?”

“They’ve all gone back inside,” Wilde yelled back. “Too damn cold and noisy for them.”

Andrews pulled out his pocket watch and checked the time. Over half an hour had passed since he’d called Brynne. She should’ve been out on deck, along with the other passengers. There wasn’t a moment to spare.

Andrews stepped inside the first-class foyer entrance. The atmosphere was a cocktail party with topcoats, hats, and lifebelts. He hadn’t wanted to cause a panic, but he’d certainly expected there to be more urgency than this. A waiter appeared at his side, offering him a drink from the tray expertly balanced on his hand, but Andrews moved away from him without a word. A stiff drink wasn’t a bad idea, he thought. Maybe it would keep him calm and help him make sense of this disaster. But he decided that the best thing he could do, at least for now, was to keep a clear head.

He moved to the Grand Staircase and peered over the banister. Mary Sloan was near the bottom of the stairs one deck below on A-deck. Andrews trotted down the steps to meet her.

“Mary,” he called out to her as he cleared the last steps. “Have you seen my wife?”

Mary regarded him somewhat guiltily for a moment before answering. “She went down to third class.”

“Third Class? What is she doing down there?” Andrews asked, his eyes going wide with surprise and worry.

“She went down to help the third-class passengers,” Mary replied. “She’s leading them up to the boat deck. She’s already brought one group up, and she went down for another.”

Andrews was silent. His instinct was to dash down to third class to immediately retrieve her, but he knew that probably wouldn’t help the situation. He didn’t know where she was down there. She could’ve gone any number of places. He’d have a better chance of catching her when she surfaced again on the upper decks.

Interpreting Andrews’s silence as anger, Mary spoke up in Brynne’s defense. “She said there was no one down there to help them. She wanted to give them a chance.”

Andrews relaxed his tensed features and even offered a small grin to Mary. He patted her on the shoulder. “Thank you, Mary,” he said. Mary began to move away. “Mary?”

The young woman stopped and turned back to Andrews. “Sir?”

“Put on a lifebelt,” he said. “Set an example.”

“Oh, but sir, they do look quite mean,” Mary responded.

Andrews quickly crossed the small gap between them. “Go and put one on, if you value your life,” he said. His voice was quiet but urgent. “And tell everyone you see to do so, as well.”

The urgency in his voice surprised Mary, but it wasn’t lost on her. She nodded. “Yes, sir,” she said.

“We’ve been able to contact a nearby ship with the wireless,” Andrews said, his voice still low. “She’s only a few miles from us, and she’ll be here shortly. We’re going to transport the Titanic’s passengers using the lifeboats, but there’s still a great potential for a significant loss of life if we’re not careful. I want you to calmly direct passengers to the boat deck. I know you have your duties here, but you’d do well to get away in one of the early boats. Whatever you do, it’s very important that you remain calm. We can’t have a panic.”

“Yes, Mr. Andrews,” Mary said, the seriousness of the situation settling in on her. She immediately moved off to comply with his instructions.

Andrews turned and climbed back up the Grand Staircase to the boat deck. He stepped out on the starboard side.

And there he saw her, helping First Officer Murdoch load passengers into a lifeboat. He quickly crossed the deck to her. “Brynne,” he said, relieved.

She turned to him. “Sorry, I’m late,” she said. “I had to pick up a few friends on the way.”

“All that matters now is that you’re here,” Andrews said.

Brynne led Andrews away from the boat and the small crowd that had assembled. “I know you want me to get into the boat,” she said, “but I’m not finished, yet.”

“Brynne, you have to go now,” Andrews insisted. “Please don’t argue with me about this.”

“But there are still hundreds of people down in third class,” Brynne said. “Many of them don’t even speak English. And the crew certainly hasn’t been making it any easier for them. Some of the gates are locked with no one to unlock them.”

“I can get someone else to help them. Right now, I’m trying to help you.”

Brynne knew that she had to remain on this ship. It was her best chance for reopening the link. If she were to get on a lifeboat, there was no guarantee that she’d be able to open the link. Even if she could, the prospect of opening a link in a crowded lifeboat was not an attractive option. A rescue ship, be it the Carpathia or some other ship, wasn’t much better. Her best bet was to stay on the Titanic as long as possible and link before the ship sank.

Brynne took Andrews’s hands into her own. She was going to have to be manipulative again. “The truth of it is that I don’t want to leave without you,” she said, looking down at their clasped hands. “I can’t make myself do it. I can’t even bear the thought of it.” She looked up at him, projecting the sincerest gaze she could conjure into his dark eyes. She whipped up some tears so that her eyes welled and watered over just so. Some of them were real, as she thought about Andrews’s ultimate fate.

“If you make me go, I’ll die anyway,” she continued. “Don’t make me do it.”

“Oh, Brynne, don’t cry, there’s no reason to fret. Everything will work out for the best, you’ll see,” Andrews said. “My sweet Brynne.” He pulled her into a tight embrace. “This is my fault. I should’ve – ”

“There was nothing you could have done,” Brynne said, pulling back slightly and looking up at him again. “What else could you have done? You were limited by the desires and needs of the men in charge. This mess is their fault, not yours. You built the ship to their specifications. We wouldn’t be in this situation had they not ordered changes to your design. That much is certain.”

Andrews kissed her forehead. “Perhaps. But we’ve far too much ahead of us to dwell on the particulars of what might’ve been.”

Andrews twisted the doorknob of the next stateroom in his door-to-door search for stragglers. It was locked, just like scores of others before. So, as he’d done to those scores of other doors, Andrews kicked this one in and quickly stuck his head inside the cabin. Taking a quick survey, he found no one. He abandoned the room and moved on to the next one, where he repeated the process.

The evacuation had begun an hour ago. Two ships had arrived to assist with the efforts, and a third was on the way. It was good news. Most of Titanic’s passengers and crew were out on the boat deck or promenade deck. But they were all still in danger. Would there be time enough to complete the evacuation? That was the critical factor.

Brynne didn’t know the exact time, but she knew the Titanic wouldn’t be afloat much longer. The ship was listing so severely now that it was difficult to walk the decks. Walking aft was like walking up a big hill; walking toward the bow was just as challenging.

Once again, history was determined not to repeat itself. Curiously, two rescue ships had come to Titanic’s aid, and Brynne and learned that a third was on its way. She was glad that the loss of life would be less than in the original timeline, but that fact didn’t help her any. She still needed a way off this ship and back to her own time. Furthermore, what were the implications of this new development? Would the Gigantic still sink with 3,000 fatalities?

Most of Titanic’s passengers had either left in lifeboats, were out on deck, or were in the frigid waters of the Atlantic. Now was the time for Brynne to make her move to re-open the link. She didn’t think there was enough time to hunt for a new location, so she returned to the stateroom. The Smoking Room was deserted, and she could just as easily have set up shop there, but why risk it when the privacy of her stateroom was only a few feet away?

She had already activated her wrist unit before she even reached the door to the cabin. She pushed the door open and immediately aimed her unit-adorned wrist at the wall beside the sink, the same large, relatively flat and unbroken surface she’d used earlier. The little watch-like device beeped tirelessly as it worked to establish a link.

“Come on, come on,” Brynne urged under her breath. The link began to form on the wall, but it was taking an uncomfortably long time to do so. The same cracks of light she’d seen that morning on poop deck formed, and this time, they opened, releasing more of the familiar link light, little by little. “Come on,” she coached. “Link, damnit. Link!” She removed the unit from her wrist. Holding it in her fingers, she pointed it directly at the wall.

Finally, the elements began to cooperate, and the link seemed fully formed, though it cycled through multiple glowing colors. That didn’t matter to Brynne – she had to go through now; the risk of the link becoming unstable and collapsing was too high. She sprinted toward the light …

… And was immediately hit by a force so powerful that it seemed to crush her. She fought it, determined to make it through to the other end of the link. She fought it until she couldn’t fight anymore, until she was sure she felt her ears explode and her head cave in on itself.

Andrews emerged onto the boat deck just before 1:00 a.m. The ship wouldn’t be afloat much longer, and the masses of people still onboard knew that. Passengers scrambled toward the elevated stern of the ship. The ship was now at a severe list, at such an angle that the propellers were nearly out of the water. The two rescue ships had launched their lifeboats, and there were dozens of them in the water. Some daring passengers were leaping from the sides of the ship, taking their chances that a lifeboat would come by and scoop them up, which many boats were. Some boats rowed toward the sunken bow of the Titanic after they realized that many passengers were leaving the ship from that point and swimming for the empty boats.

The situation was critical, and Andrews couldn’t see his wife anywhere. He wanted to leave and go search for her, but at the same time, he didn’t want to miss her if she showed up on the boat deck. She’d said she needed to return to their stateroom and that she would meet him on the boat deck, port side. It was only supposed to take a few minutes.

Now, 15 minutes had passed since Andrews had last seen her, and he was concern was beginning to grow into worry. He started to make his way quickly through the crowd toward the Aft Grand Staircase foyer. He sprinted inside, down the staircase to A-deck. It only took him seconds to reach their stateroom from the staircase landing. The door was closed but not locked, and he burst in. His heart caught in his throat.

Brynne, unconscious, lay sprawled on the floor a few feet in front of him. “Brynne?” he called, immediately dropping to her side. “Brynne?” He picked up her hand and shook her gently, trying to rouse her. She was still breathing, and he was grateful for that. She seemed only to be out cold. Something – or someone – had knocked her out, he surmised. He didn’t have time to investigate at the moment, as the ship had very little time before she would sink. He scooped her up into his arms and abandoned the room. As quickly as he could, carrying 120 extra pounds, he made his way back up the Aft Grand Staircase to the boat deck.

A crowd had gathered around Collapsible D, which had been swung out and prepared for launch. Andrews pushed his way through the crowd, still carrying Brynne.

“I have an injured woman here!” Andrews shouted above the noise of panicking crowd.

Lightoller, in charge of loading the boat, scanned the crowd, trying to discern where the injured party was, but he could see nothing, yet. “Make way, make way!” he ordered. The crowd parted slightly, and Andrews had a slightly easier time pushing through to the boat.

“Mr. Andrews,” Lightoller said. His eyes fell to Brynne, and no explanation was necessary. He immediately granted them access to the boat. Both of them.

Andrews didn’t want to leave the ship with all those people still onboard, but he found himself unable to abandon Brynne. He remembered his proclamation to her during breakfast Thursday that he would not allow his work to take priority over her. That vow was especially relevant tonight, when she was especially vulnerable, and her life was in danger. He carefully, slowly, climbed into the boat with Brynne.

Andrews and and a still unconscious Brynne were the last into the boat. As soon as they were safely aboard, the boat began to descend toward the water. Andrews sat with Brynne on his lap, his arms wrapped around her. Someone handed him a blanket, which he wrapped around her limp body.

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