April 10th, 1912
X's breath was taken away. One moment she stood in the ruins of a grand vessel, the next she stood at the base of the Grand Staircase as new as it could be. She was surrounded not by water and rot, but by hubris and beauty unmatched in modern times. Everywhere was splendor, the decor of a different time. For a girl who had grown up surrounded by grey steel walls it was utterly alien. She reached out a trembling hand and touched the intricately carved wooden banister of the staircase. Wood--real wood.
The unique scents of dozens of men and women flooded into her olfactory senses and her mind's eye populated the room from scent alone. Old and young, the richest of the rich dressed in their finest clothes. They moved around her in resplendent crowds. Something came in from over head, a light she didn't recognize and she tore her attention away from the stairs and the people and cast her gaze upward. Her eye implants adjusted for the light streaming in from the great glass dome above.
She held out a hand, palm up to the light and gasped. There was warmth, physical warmth. This was no artificial light it was--the sun! She was feeling the actual light cast by the actual sun, filtered down through glass. Her bare skin responded to it, wanted more of its touch. Suddenly the light was gone, inky darkness billowed up around her like great clouds of smoke. She whirled around and came face to face with a creature in black robes, a long hood covering its face from sight so that she could only make out feminine mouth.
Wonder fled in terror, ice gripped her veins.
"You don't belong here." Obviously the creature had somehow taken them both out of human perception. The thing stunk of death. She felt a weird compulsion to explain herself, while also overwhelmed by fear.
"I wanted to experience..."
The creature put a finger to her lips and silenced her. "If you want to experience, you should do so properly." X blacked out.
"Ms?" It was a hopeful Miss, the kind spoken by a man who was deeply hoping the woman he spoke to wasn't spoken for.
Gale Xanders turned around to see an older first class man standing behind her. She realized she'd been staring up at the glass dome above the staircase and must have been in his way. She smiled and moved aside.
"Excuse me, it's just so much to take in."
"Quite the ship isn't she?"
He smiled. "I agree." He wasn't looking at the ship around them. "Can I help you find where you're going?" He offered his arm.
She looked at him. It was bold of him to assume--but he wasn't wrong. She was here on the ship alone, taking a once in a life time voyage. She took the proffered arm. "I'm sorry, I didn't catch your name."
"Alexander Bennet, at your service Miss..."
"Xanders, Gale Xanders. It is a pleasure to meet you Mr. Bennet. Here with family?"
"Ah--no I'm afraid not. My wife is back home. I'm traveling to New York for business."
A wife, that was unfortunate. She looked him over discretely. Really unfortunate.
"Well I hope she would be ok with you showing me around."
He smiled a little. "My dear Miss Xanders, a man must be a gentleman whenever he can, no wife would have problem with that. Shall I show you around?"
"Only if you are not too busy."
His smile grew. "Not at all. Have you had breakfast yet?"
She lost track of time. Gale couldn't remember the last time she had so much fun. They traveled the length and breadth of the ship, experiencing much of what it had to offer and at times simply walking the deck, gazing out at the sea and talking about irrelevant things that came to mind. The cold air seemed to bother her more than it did him and at some point she ended up with his suit coat around her shoulders.
As night replaced day she found herself staring up at the moon, it was a wondrous sight, like nothing she'd ever seen before. He stood beside her, following her gaze.
"I think perhaps I should take more time to look at the night sky. I find I am so often busy and I forget the things God has given us," he said.
"It's so pretty. Does it always look like that?"
He laughed a little. "I imagine it does."
She smiled, her eyes meeting his. "Sorry I must sound daft. It's like--taking this ship I'm seeing things I've never seen before or maybe, I guess, I was just too busy to notice them before."
"A beautiful woman like you must be invited to all the parties."
She shook her head. Something sad sank into her heart but she pushed it away. "No. My family lives pretty far away from any of the big cities." She thought about telling him where, but in the moment with everything going on and her heart racing at his proximity, she couldn't remember. How silly was that? Men did strange things to a woman's mind.
"Ah. I grew up in London, I suppose I don't visit the country enough."
She put her hands on the railing, looking down at the sea rushing by the hull. His warm hand covered one of hers. She looked at him.
"That, a wife might be jealous of."
"My apologies," he retracted his hand.
"It's the night, the romantic air of the ship and the Atlantic and moon does that to people." She looked at him and giggled. "I sound like one of those arm chair poets."
He laughed. "Never the less, I should be more aware."
She smiled and giggled again, returning her eyes to the sea. Something about it kept drawing her attention.
It was so cold out.
"At any rate Mr. Bennet, I should retire to my cabin."
"And I should escort you to your door."
She didn't remember the conversation on the way back, only that they were both laughing when they arrived at her door. She beamed and extracted her arm from his. "It has been a most wonderful night Mr. Bennet, thank you." She fished her key from her small bag.
"Perhaps I could meet you tomorrow, say, for lunch?"
She looked up at him. She should have said no. It was one thing to show her around the ship and let her have a good time. It was quite another to invite her to lunch. He had a wife back home. She unlocked her door and opened it, slipping inside. She paused and looked back at him. "Tomorrow then."
April 11th, 1912
Where had the time gone? Lunch became dinner, dinner became a ballroom. At some point in the process either one of them should have stopped it.They didn't. Everything felt wonderful and new to Gale. She never wanted it to end. He lifted her spirits, took away the weird, clinging, cloying loneliness that crept in whenever she spent even a few minutes without company.
They were at her door again. What time was it? Did it matter. They both looked at each other in silence.
"I don't have any plans yet for breakfast..."
"Mr Bennet, we shouldn't take things too far."
He looked sad. "It's just two friends spending time together."
She closed her eyes and tried not to think about how attached she was growing to his scent. When she opened them again she didn't know what to say.
"I should go." She turned but he stopped her with a gentle touch on her shoulder. She looked up at him.
"Your wife would be furious."
"My wife hasn't known a passion like fury in years."
She pulled away. "That kind of talk is exactly why I should go."
"Maybe and yet you don't. It's a few days. We can have a few days of joy together and return to whatever awaits us. We're here, now, this is our one opportunity to escape for just a few days."
Escape, a few days...go back. She looked down. "I don't want to be forgotten--I--I don't want to be alone." She looked up.
"Then for a few days, don't be."
Her heart raced, she didn't know what to do. Her body screamed one thing, her mind another and her heart--the thought of being alone made it sink. When he pulled her into his embrace and his lips touched hers, everything else went away. She'd never felt anything like it before, never thought she would. Eventually they parted.
She unlocked her door and they shared another gaze. In her life she'd never felt anything like what she'd just experienced. There were other things she'd not experienced before either. She walked inside and left the door open.
He followed and shut the door.
April 12th, 1912
Life was good. Alexander showed her a side to life she'd never dreamed of, took the inexplicable weight from her shoulders and made it go away. Was it wrong? Absolutely but maybe for just a few days it was ok to be wrong. They'd go their separate ways in New York and she could start feeling alone again, but she'd always have these few wonderful days to remember fondly.
Alexander was talking about life as they stood at the stern of the ship watching the wake go by. She was thinking about the night before and the experiences they would most certainly need to repeat when something caught her eye. She glanced to her right. A stunningly beautiful young woman in a beautiful violet dress stood watching her. There was something deeply unsettling about the woman though, something she couldn't place. She'd never seen her before, yet in more ways than one it felt as if she had.
The woman in the violet dress smiled, taking a long sip from a drink. She stirred the ice with her finger, turned and walked away.
What a strange woman. She turned her attention back to her lover. "Do you swim?"
He shook his head. "I never learned."
She smiled. "Would you like to watch me swim? They have that lovely heated swimming pool."
April 4th, 1912, 2:17 AM
It was all terror and confusion and the damned cold air. The unthinkable was really happening, water was rushing in everywhere. Gale stood trembling and rooted to the spot on the boat deck. The ship's dip into the water was increasingly so quickly now. Alexander struggled against a crowd of panicked people that separated them. He held a life vest in one hand, the one he'd gone to get because...
because he was a man and he wasn't allowed on the life boats. The one he'd gone to get because he couldn't swim.
Gale's lips parted, cold breath escaping. Their eyes met. He mouthed one word to her. Run.
She couldn't. She tried to move, tried to push forward and get to him. If she could find a way to get him on the last life boat he would survive to see his wife but she couldn't--move. Nothing, no amount of force of will would let her move forward. It was as if life itself was pushing against her drive to save him, as if the whole world refused her.
She saw the woman then, standing still among the panic and carnage, her violet dress not even a little bothered. Now their eyes met. Something like a series of gun shots and explosions pierced the panicked screams of thousands. She looked at Alexander.
He nodded, he understood. That word again. Run. Save yourself.
Why couldn't she push forward? She took an experimental step back and the world allowed it. She took another. Maybe if she got a running start. The sounds grew worse, followed by the awful sound of metal tearing somewhere down below. Someone grabbed her, she never saw who, and dragged her into the last life boat.
She never took her eyes off Alexander, or the woman. The woman took two steps to the left and with great upheaval and a final scream of tortured metal the whole ship snapped in half. Alexander plunged into the divide with a dozen others.
The woman in the violet dress stood undisturbed. Gale screamed. She was--alone. Again.
The woman vanished, replaced with a monster of shadows and blackness, a creature in a black robe, it's face concealed by the hood. The thing seemed to be feeding. Energy Gale hadn't seen before poured into the creature from the dead and dying. No one else seemed to notice it.
It came for her. It rushed forward, blitzing across the open water as if it were flying, dragging the soul energy of the damned along with it. It came up to her boat, rushing past people, through them. Gale stood, shaking in terror.
Death was here, the ultimate alone. "I don't want to be alone again..." Gale's voice was barely a whisper.
The creature reached out a skeletal hand. "You have what you came for."
X woke up on the Carpathia, cold and alone. Her period clothes were gone, replaced with her suit and the metal apparatus on her right hand. She pushed off the deck and turned to look out at where her joy had gone, at where the Titanic had swallowed it all. There was nothing to see but the dead. She lowered her head, all the loneliness swept into her body again.
At least--she had those few days.
"Temporal slide by one." Her voice was barely a whisper. It seemed especially cold that she couldn't cry...because that was all she wanted now. At least that would have been a release of sorts.
The ocean swept in and the darkness of the decaying liner's corpse. She crouched down under the sea and touched a boot. Alexander's. She would recognize it anywhere.
She tore the apparatus from her hand and crushed it. What use was time travel if you couldn't save even one person? What use was it, if all you could do was torture yourself with it.
She tossed the remains to the sea floor and cast a cold gaze at the wreck.
It didn't care.
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