Shrouds of Grey

It was 1915, and though we weren't in the war yet, the United States and United Kingdom were secretly sending envoys back and forth as we discussed buisness pertaining to the Great War. That's what I was then, in fact it was my first assignment, and to this day those screams haunt my memory, urging me to tell the tale of what happened that day in May all those years ago.

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6. The Last Day of Peace

   ~May 8th, 1987; 13:41 hours

   The lab was quiet and empty as very few things had actually been brought up from the wreck site aside from discarded nets which were removed as they were deemed a hazard to the expedition which lay a tangled mass in the corner of the otherwise sterile environment. The cart had already been set up with feed direct from the control room already hooked in and tuned into the cameras aboard the Sea Robin. Bret pushed the wheelchair cautiously around the various examination tables as they meandered to the center of the abandoned hive where a small table, chair and the AV cart was set ready for the two expected guests.

   "Here we are Mr. Calla -I mean, George," the younger of the two men murmured as he positioned the man in a prime spot between the table and television. Taking his place at the small table Bret withdrew the laptop from where he had left it the day prior and immediately began to input the notes he had collected into seamless sentences and paragraphs which began to tell a story of a time lost to history.

   "It's sad to see the lady this way," the elder gentleman sighed almost apethetically, "she was a good ship, filled with good people." The screen was feeding images of the ship's shattered hull as the Sea Robin proceeded down what was her port side which was the exposed side of the ship as the submersible meandered down her, its destination was the enormous tear where the ship was bent backwards in between where the third and fourth smokestacks would've been.

   "Indeed," Bret responded as he punched in the last of the notes, "I wish I could've seen her in her prime, the images I have a feeling don't do her any justice to her true majesty and grace of long ago." At that comment Mr. Callahan let out a strange little chuckle of amusement.

   "Oh she was, Old Lucy was indeed a fair lady," he turned to face Bret and a small smile had grown onto his wrinkled old skin which seemed to glow now in the din of the lab. "All seven hundred some odd feet of her was absolutely marvelous to see, such wonder, such prestige all rolled into one being of hard and unbending steel. That was the essence of the Lusitania."

   "I can only imagine," he trailed off for a moment before his thoughts slapped his mind to reality. With a cough of his throat he returned eye contact onto the elder gentleman and with a minor grin started up again, "Shall we continue where we left off then?"

   "Indeed, hmm let's see... where to begin" Mr. Callahan pondered as he thought about the few things that occurred to him over the almost tedious days aboard ship; with a sudden explosion of thought however, he knew exactly where to start. "May 6th should be a good starting point I believe. Let's see, ah yes it was the last day of both the voyage at sea and, the last day of peace I would have for a while..."

*********************

   ~May 6th, 1915

   Striding along the upper boat deck George was aflutter in thought as his mind began to concede to the notion that soon he'd be in a warzone where nothing was assured to him or anyone else for the matter; the excitement and fear raced through his young body as adrenaline began to dissolve into his veins. As he paced around the promenade he didn't notice the couple which had by his unnoticed ignorance placed themselves on a collision course with him.

   "Umph, hey would ya watch where you're going?" came the semi gruff and smooth voice of an elder gentleman as the three beings collided. "Come now young man, you could've hurt my wife or I with your careless wandering. What do you have to say for yourself?"

   "Oh I beg your pardon," George blushed minorly out of embarrassment at his careless wandering, "I must apologize for that, I was pondering some scattered thoughts. I must admit to the fact that I wasn't aware I had wandered about so badly, perhaps there may some course of action we could take so that any negative feelings towards this stranger that I am can wholefully disperse from the air." 

   "Such strong words from such a young man," the elder gentleman replied with a stoic expression which slowly gave way to the slightest grin. "Perhaps if you wouldn't mind, a small trip to the cafe for some tea or coffee perhaps where we may formally clear the air as you so said." And so the trio moved off the windy boat deck and down below into one of the ship's grand cafes where George paid up for three coffees and two sandwiches.

   "Again, I must apologize for my ignorance out on the boat deck, I've a bit on my mind," George casually spoke as he sat down with the coffees. "My name is George Callahan by the way, may I ask yours?"

   "I am Elbert Hubbard," the elder gentleman introduced himself "And this is my wife, Alice."

   "Pleasure to meet your acquaintance," Mrs. Hubbard smiled gently to George. It was then that the thought clicked in George's head and before he could catch himself he called up the question.

   "Pardon my curiosity but by Hubbard, do you mean the American author Elbert Hubbard?" George tried to speak with casual tact and respect so as not to potentially draw up a crowd upon them.

   "The very same," the elder man replied with humble and discreet discord. "How is it you know of me young man?" 

   "I've read a few of your pieces," George replied quietly, "I must say, you raise some very valid points about life in the given fields you examine within your pieces." In truth George had been fascinated with the views Mr. Hubbard discussed in his essays and short texts however he had to be professional on the whole ordeal so he decided instead to pass the event off as a simple chance meeting with little meaning.

   "Ah, so you're a fellow compatriot of what is wrong with our country and the world, always a pleasure," he gave a small grin as he finished up his small sandwich to which he stood up and pulled out his wife's chair allowing her to stand to which he then replaced the chair to it's original position and took his wife in hand and headed for the door. "I thank you for the mid afternoon meal, consider our affair all squared away young man."

   George sat there for a while just taking in the moment that had just occurred, meeting a respected author of accomplishment such as Mr. Hubbard was quite an honor though albeit not occurring for the most positive reason. Finally though he cleared away from the table and paid off the collected tab before returning to his cabin where to his surprise he found Joe at the writing desk, scribbling out a quick note with ferocity as a telegram lay beside him.

   "What's got you all bothered, run out of cigarettes?" the sound of George's voice suddenly breaking the silence startled Joe as he abruptly jumped up, slamming his knee on the underside of the desk with a loud thud and a slew of cussing as he came down into the chair.

   "God dammit, George!" he bellowed all red in the face, "Don't sneak up on me like that!" he sat back in the chair a bit and wiped the sweat from his forehead as he let out a heavy sigh. "Jesus Christ, I'm getting far too old for this kind of stress and scare."

   "What's with the telegram, came over the wireless?"

   "Yeah, and what bloody mess from home this is," George grumbled as he gingerly stood up and opened the porthole in their room as he took out a cigarette and lit it. "Apparently our friend in England well... he didn't survive the last bombing so they sent out a new guy and wouldn't you know it, the damn fool got lost on his way to Liverpool."

   "Considering what we're heading into I'd have to say that is a great set back for us then," George examined the telegram carefully. "How'd this get by the wireless officers without question?" Joe gave a huff and a sigh as he exhaled the smoke out of the porthole.

   "I paid 'em to keep quiet," Joe muttered, "No one need know why we are truly here aboard ship. It would cause great upheaval if it got around to certain people, bad enough the cargo this ship's carrying, both official and unofficial."

   "That's right, the ship's carrying small ammunition for handguns and such but that's allowed for the given conditions of the war, isn't it?"

   "Yes, so is the unarmed mortar shells and the aluminum powder that's she's carrying for weapons production, however..." Joe went grim faced as he left off the thought. The ship is also carrying some-" 

   A sudden knock at the cabin's door threw both gentlemen into alert as both subconsciously withdrew their M1911s from their holsters. A moment passed before the voice of a male steward broke the tension by simply informing the pair that they had been invited to the captain's table that evening. Putting away their guns, Joe opened the cabin door and peered into the face of a younger man with pale grey eyes and short brown hair.

   "Care to repeat you erm, your message?" Joe tried to coherently think while still simmering over the whole situation with the telegram. The steward stood there in silence for a minute before clearing his throat to clear the hostility from the air as he spoke.

   "Captain Turner requests the presence of you two gentlemen tonight in the 1st class dining saloon. Dinner will be at six thirty at table three in the grand saloon." With that the steward left in a hurry as he had other business to attend to leaving George and Joe in the doorway pondering their thoughts.

   "Well waddaya say George," Joe asked as he closed the door and returned to the porthole. "We gonna go grace this important man with our presences?" On the inside George was disgruntled as the captain normally wouldn't bother with run of the mill passengers, especially ind 2nd class unless he knew something but then where from?

   "Well it was a fairly peaceful while it lasted but sure, why not?" George smiled as he went into his room to find more suitable clothing. What an interesting day it had been and the night as he saw it, was still quite young.

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