“Excuse me, sir.” said Cory crisply. The captain ignored him.
“Excuse me, Captain Angelo. I need just a minute of your time. It’s extremely urgent.”
Captain Angelo held up a finger to his comrade before turning to Cory. “What? No. You may not have a minute of my time. I am having an extremely important conversation. And in case you haven’t noticed, the ship is sinking. Now, go away.”
“That’s what this is about, sir. I think I’ve found a way to stop the ship from sinking.”
Captain Angelo lowered his voice and used his eyes to drill deep into Cory’s soul. “What does this say, son?” asked Captain Angelo without breaking eye contact.
“It says Captain Frank G. Angelo, sir.” said Cory gritting his teeth against the fury bubbling up.
“That’s right. I’m the Captain. I have reports that the hole in the ship is too big to fix. Now if you’ll excuse me-”
“I heard the report too sir. I was in the room it was given. It’s not right though-”
“Are you saying the Chief Engineer lied to me? I’ve been sailing with Martha on this ship for over 10 years. I don’t think she lied.” said the captain.
“I’m saying she’s mistaken. The 1st Engineer was supposed to check out the damage, but after the report he disappeared, and now life boat #16 is missing.”
“No. I know Martha, she would never allow that to happen in this kind of situation. I don’t have time for this. I gave you a minute and now you’ve wasted both my time and yours. Leave now, and if I ever see you in this room again, I’ll have you brought to the brig.”
Cory was speechless. He was dumbfounded. But he wasn’t defeated.
He let himself be pushed out the door by the stream of bodies. He was ejected into the hallway. He thought of the water currently rushing in, all of the people blissfully grazing on the extravagant but hastily assembled buffet in the Main Dining Room, but most of all he thought of Gina. Gina was in room 1028. If she didn’t know their fate yet, she still had time to enjoy the sight of the ocean. She always did love the ocean…
No, it’s not too late, not yet.
Cory took off running for the staircase and flew down the stairs two at a time until he reached the office of the Chief Engineer, his boss’s boss’s boss. There was Martha, sitting at her desk. Her feet were resting on the desk. A delicate trail of smoke emanated from her cigarette on the end of her elegant cigarette holder. She was reading 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, by Jules Verne.
“Martha, ma’am, I need to talk to you, please!”
“I’m listening.” she said without looking up from her book.
“I think we can save the ship.”
“Hmm. Ok. Thanks for sharing.”
“It’s our job to save the ship.” said Cory.
“Excuse me?” she said. Martha dropped the book to her lap, her thumb saving the page. “If I remember correctly, you’re an Engine Wiper. Your job is to wipe clean the engine of the numerous oil leaks and grime that builds up. My job is to direct the actual engineers. I don’t remember where it says it’s your job to tell me what my job is. Right now, I have all of my men trying to patch the hole. There’s nothing else that can be done. Now if you’ll excuse me, I really want to finish this book before I die. I recommend you find a similar goal.”
“I do have a goal! I want to save this ship! Listen, ma’am, I know we’ve already purged the ballast tanks, but if we dump all of our cargo, the passenger luggage, dry stores, anything not bolted down and even things that are bolted down. I’ve done some calculations. We can make this happen.”
Martha put her book down without her thumb saving the page and looked right at him. “There’s only two hatches on this ship, one on the port side, one on the starboard side, both on the 3rd deck. We don’t have the time or the man power to bring everything to that deck.”
“Are there any extra acetylene welders?…” asked Cory.
“Make our own hatches? Are you serious?” Martha paused to think. “That might actually work. She stood up, extinguished her cigarette on the cover of her book, and opened up a locker in her room. It contained two acetylene welders, acetylene tanks, goggles, gloves, the whole works. She put on hers and handed the other to Cory.
“Let’s split up. I’ll work on the lower decks, you work on the upper decks. If you find any other engineers, tell them to drop what ever they’re doing and go to the emergency locker on Deck 6. There’s another pair of full welding gear there. And Cory, thank you for getting me.”
They split off. Cory made for the heaviest equipment first. He worked his way up, one deck at a time. One giant hole in the side of the ship, one giant piece of machinery or crate of supplies missing. By deck 9, he was drenched with sweat and exhausted, but determined. On the stairs going up, he ran into someone, a guest, but didn’t pay much thought to it. He apologized as he trudged past, up the stairs.
“Cory? Is that you?” ask the lady.
Cory instantly recognized her voice. “Gina!” He yelled. He grabbed her and kissed her deeply. “Gina, listen. I’m not sure how much you know, but there’s not much time. this might be the last time you see me.”
“I know, I know, the ship’s sinking. I was running all over looking for you. I want you to know. I love you.”
Gina walked into the Main Dining Room first. She stood on the nearest table and began her speech, “Attention everyone! I need your attention please!…”
Meanwhile, Cory went to the back of the room and went to work opening up a hole in the wall. It alarmed some passengers to see the open flame and eventually the cool draft from outside. It wasn’t long before he had the first table upside down on top of its tablecloth, ready to be tossed out.Just then, Captain Angelo with an escort of 10 of his top brass marched in. “What do you think you’re doing?” He bellowed across the room. “What part of, I have this under control, did you not understand?”
“Now! Now! Now!” shouted Cory. Of the 500 or so people in the room, not all of them got on board with Cory’s plan, but plenty of them did. They each followed Cory’s example and put their table on top of the tablecloth and lined it up to easily pull it out the door. The cloth made it possible for the guests to drag the heavy tables. While no individual table was enough to make a difference, a room full of tables would be. Cory knew he didn’t have to convince everyone for his plan to work, only a sizable minority. When the people on the fence saw that other people were doing it, they joined. When people who didn’t think it would work saw what everyone else was doing, they joined too. It snowballed until nearly everyone was dragging their tables and anything else with weight to the hole and out into the darkness.
The captain was furious. “Get that boy!” he shouted to his men.
But several passengers stepped between Cory and the Captain. They heavily outnumbered the Captain and his men.
Martha walked in next, passed the captain, and easily found Cory next to enormous hole in the wall. Before he could say anything, she held up a finger. “Wait for it…” she said.
The ship lurched. “What was that?” asked Cory.
“We got rid of the first of six of our engines. We’re not going anywhere any way. We only need one to keep the lights on.” said Martha proudly. “Plus we just got signal from a rescue ship 5 hours away. We’re going to make it.”
Cory shook Martha’s hand. “Thank you, Martha. Thank you for believing me.”
“Thank you Cory, for believing in yourself. I’ll see you on shore.”
Cory swaggered past the stone faced captain and up to Gina. “Gina, let’s go celebrate.”