August 4, 1914
I’d been wondering if history would unfold as it had before. Today I got my answer, because today Britain declared war on Germany. The First World War is starting.
Brynne was at the shipyard, on board the Britannic. It was the first time she’d been back onboard since she’d had her fainting spell a year ago. Tom didn’t know what was in store for the firm, but Brynne had an idea, at least as far as the Britannic was concerned. If history held true, the Britannic would never serve as a civilian passenger liner, the purpose for which she’d been dreamed up and built. She was supposed to have been the crowning glory of the Olympic-class liners. Instead, she was doomed.
For weeks, the public had been speculating about the possibility that Britain might join in the conflict brewing amongst the European powers. Yesterday, Parliament made that final leap from speculation to fact by declaring war against Germany. How this whole mess evolved is complicated, but did any of that really matter now? War had begun.
It was the reason Brynne felt the urge to be on board the Britannic. Change was coming. It was coming fast, and Brynne wanted to see this ship as it was meant to be seen before it was too late.
Britannic wasn’t completely finished. There were still things that needed to be installed, things that needed to be polished up. Despite the fact that Britain was now officially at war, carpenters, painters, plumbers, and others were still scurrying around at a brisk pace. The firm had received no messages from the Admiralty, so as far as everyone was concerned, they were going to continue working at the regular pace. The ship was due to be finished in December, and until they heard otherwise, that was what everyone at the firm was working toward.
“Like what you see?” Tom walked up behind Brynne, joining her at the top of the Grand Staircase on the boat deck.
“She’s really coming together,” Brynne said. “Until I stepped aboard, it hadn’t really sunk in how long I’ve been away.” She began to descend the staircase with Tom.
As she and Tom reached the landing, he looked at her and said, “It hasn’t been the same without you.” He kissed her waiting lips.
Before they could take more than two steps away from the landing to view more of the ship, a young man approached with a small folded piece of paper in hand. “Excuse me, sir – Mr. Wilding sent this message for you,” the boy said. He couldn’t have been more than 16. He was likely an apprentice, just beginning to work his way up through the ranks of the firm.
Tom accepted the message with a nod and a grin. “Thank you,” he said. The boy nodded in turn and disappeared down the stairs.
Tom opened the letter, and Brynne studied his face as he read it. The sigh that escaped his lips once he finished wasn’t a happy one. “What is it?” Brynne asked.
“So it begins,” Tom said. “The Admiralty has mandated that the preparation of military vessels for service take priority over all civilian contracts, Britannic included.” He looked down at Brynne. “It looks like the Britannic isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.”