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Fic: To Save a Queen Part 1 of 2

A sequel to "Smoke on Water"

Author: clonesgirl
Fandom: The Sinking of the Laconia
Rating: PG-13 for some violence
Pairing: hartenstein/mortimer
Timeline: 1943 A/U
Word count this section: 3,790
Warnings: Historic and fictional characters, some violence
Spoilers: None
Disclaimer: Characters borrowed from BBC strictly for playing with, not profit. No offence intended. This is purely a work of fiction.
Summary: A thunderstorm heralds a race against time to prevent a disaster.
Beta: None. If you find goofs please let me know.
A/N: This was originally supposed to be part of the previous fic "Smoke on Water" but became somewhat lengthy and ended up a fic in its own right. It follows on directly from that fic.



It was the middle of the night when when a very loud thunderclap rumbling on forever woke all in its path. Thomas Mortimer jerked awake to find himself still aboard Titanic at her berth in Homeport. Beside him, and making a sleepy sound of protest, was Captain Werner Hartenstein. Shortly after that a bright flash of lightning illuminated their suite followed rapidly by a second thunderclap equally long though not quite as loud. The wind, too, was rising, he noted, as it gusted noisily against the windows onto the Promenade Deck. Even as they watched more flashes lit up the sky, intermittently brightening the room to the near-constant rumbling of accompanying thunder.

"Noisy night," Hartenstein grumbled.

"Mmm," his sleepy companion muttered. "Thank god we're in bed on Titanic and not at sea."

"Mmm," was all the response Hartenstein managed as he snuggled closer.

Mortimer smiled, closing his eyes and remembering how they had made love a second time with the last of the strawberry ice-cream and how it had melted on their flesh to be licked off. God, how decadent - and delicious.

"The ice-cream was fun," he murmured.

Hartenstein grinned. "Ja. We will not forget this night."

"Hmm. Have I told you how I love to cuddle you?"

"Tell me now."

Their bodies slid even closer, legs entangled, hands stroking warm, sleepy flesh.

"I love to cuddle you especially when there's a storm outside and we're all cosy and warm in bed together."

"Ja, meine liebe," his lover whispered in his ear, "and I cannot think of a safer place to be in the midst of a storm than on Titanic."

"She's solid as a rock even on a rough sea. Somehow, I think she will always be here for us."

Another lurid flash of lightning illuminated the room and there was a pause of a few seconds before the accompanying thunder. A hard wind blew hail onto the Promenade Deck and the noise of it hitting the decks and the nearby dock structures was deafening as the two men lay in bed listening to it.

"Let it do its worst," Mortimer muttered. "I love to snuggle in bed with you."

"Snuggle?"

"Yes, snuggle. We hardly get a chance to on the boat. Come here." He drew Hartenstein closer until the latter's head rested on his chest and he pulled the covers up high as thunder continued to crash and rumble outside.

"Mmm..." his companion managed. "So good."

Mortimer stroked his lover's thick, auburn hair. "I'm glad the storm woke us."

A brilliant flash of lightning followed almost immediately by a particularly loud thunderclap jarred both men.

Mortimer chuckled and hugged his lover. "The sound and the fury."

"We had a storm of our own earlier, did we not," Hartenstein ventured after a while.

"Mmm..." his sleepy lover murmured.

The hail had passed now leaving in its wake drenching rain blown by the wind against the vessel's solid superstructure only to run in fast-flowing rivulets down her glistening, dark hull as she lay at her berth.

Another sound registered - a sound that definitely had no place on a ship lying dockside in the middle of the night. It was the sound of running feet along the Promenade Deck. The two men lying in bed only heard the noise faintly over the sounds of the storm but the ship's decks, solid as they were, were made of timber, not concrete, and they felt the faint vibration through the deck beneath them.

For a moment they froze before Hartenstein raised his head and stared at his companion in alarm.

"What's going on?" Mortimer muttered. "Why would the crew be running around at this hour?"

"Why indeed!"

Slipping out of bed, they ran to the window to pull back the drapes and gaze out onto the lighted deck. As luck would have it they were just in time to see two figures disappearing in the direction of the stern. Even as they looked two more were coming in their direction. All were wearing backpacks. Both men jerked back, allowing the drapes to fall shut again. Hartenstein checked that the door was locked.

"Get dressed," he ordered quietly as the other two figures ran past, "and don't turn the lights on."

Hartenstein grabbed the telephone. Made only for passengers to ring for a steward, he could not contact the bridge but someone finally answered and he gave instructions for them to contact the bridge and alert them that there were intruders aboard who may be armed and to contact Dockyard Security immediately.

"Y-y-yes, sir!" was the immediate answer.

Both men were grateful for the lightning flashes as they dressed hurriedly in the darkened suite. Opting not to use the Promenade Deck as they would easily be seen, they exited the suite by the inner door and as fast as possible made their way up to the bridge to find the Officer of the Watch and one junior officer on duty. At least the door was locked and they had to identify themselves before being admitted.

"I got your message, Captain Hartenstein. I've called Dockyard Security and they're on their way. I have also alerted the captain," the Officer of the Watch reported.

Just then there was another knock on the door and this time it was the captain.

"Hartenstein, Mortimer, thank god! What the hell's going on?" Andrews demanded.

"Intruders aboard, Captain," Hartenstein answered.

"Dockyard Security are on their way," the Officer of the Watch reported. "Williams is contacting all crew members to tell them to lock their doors as they may be armed."

"Captain, are there no weapons aboard?" Hartenstein inquired.

"Only a couple of rapiers for duelling and a pair of antique pistols in my quarters."

"Do you have any ammunition for the pistols?"

"Well, yes, but you have to load the things properly and they only carry a single shot. God knows if they even work. I've never used them."

"All that matters is that they appear menacing. Let us go."

The door of the bridge was securely locked behind them as the three men made their way to the captain's quarters. However, as they rounded a corner, Hartenstein in the lead, he stopped so suddenly that Andrews almost bumped into him and Mortimer into Andrews. Hartenstein turned, placing his finger to his lips in the universal gesture of silence. He beckoned silently to Mortimer. Together they peered around the corner and saw two men attempting to force the lock on the captain's quarters.

As Captain Andrews watched, the two U-boat officers tiptoed up behind them. The next thing he knew both men were lying on the deck being efficiently divested of their guns and ammunition. Andrews unlocked his quarters and the two men were roughly dragged in there where they were tied up.

"Now, who are you and what are you doing here?"

There was no answer so he repeated the question in German. Although they tried to hide it he saw the recognition in their eyes and continued speaking to them in German. He also introduced himself.

"Do you know who I am?"

One of them recognized his name. "Captain Hartenstein, forgive me but I... I thought you were dead a year ago."

"I was, but that's another story. What is your vessel and who is your captain?"

"U-423 commanded by Captain Franz Doppelmeier."

"Now tell me the truth. What are you are doing here?" No response. "And where are the others?" Again, no response. "Sheisse. Have you come to sabotage this ship?"

"Our orders were to kidnap the captain and sabotage the ship," the other crewman said.

"Sabotage how?" Mortimer demanded also in German.

"Bombs."

"Where?" Hartenstein demanded. "Tell me now!"

"Engine room and forward."

"When are the bombs set to go off?"

"About seven minutes."

Hartenstein turned to Andrews. "Captain, lock them in and fetch a guard to watch them. Mortimer and I will go to the engine room. In case the bombs go off before we can find them and disarm them you must order the watertight doors closed. I assume we can still get down to the engine room with them closed?"

"Yes, I'll show you the way."

"Captain Andrews, please. It is my duty to keep you safe. You must stay on the bridge."

However, Andrews was outraged that anyone had wished to damage his ship. He shook his head. "No, I'm the captain. I cannot be a coward and hide in my quarters and you need me to show you the way," he announced determinedly.

"Stubborn Britischers!" Hartenstein muttered. "Come then!"

Andrews picked up the telephone to order a guard for his quarters. The next order he had to give was one that he had fervently hoped never to have to give. He swallowed, mustering his courage. His resolve firm, he gave the order to close the watertight doors immediately.

At that moment six armed members of Dockside Security ran up one of the gangways. On meeting them Hartenstein was informed that they had observed the passage of an unknown U-boat up the harbour and it was about to be apprehended. However, they were not aware that anyone had already left the vessel let alone boarded Titanic. Hartenstein sent them to search the bow and the forward hold as he, Mortimer and Andrews began to make their way down through the decks towards the engine room. The U-boat officers had only been down there once before when Andrews had let his proud chief engineer show them around the huge engine room. Not knowing the way now that the watertight doors were shut, Hartenstein was obliged to let Andrews lead.

"With the sections sealed off there's only one way down," Andrews explained as they ran down a utility corridor.

Of a sudden, two more men stepped into the corridor in front of them, the leading one immediately grabbing Andrews and putting a gun to his neck.

"Surrender or I kill him!" the man shouted.

"You won't get away," Hartenstein warned. "Security is all over the vessel."

"That's all right. We don't need to," the other one answered.

"You will not take this vessel!" Hartenstein warned in German.

"We already have," the first one said, "and there's nothing you can do about it. Now drop your guns," he demanded.

At that moment Andrews kicked him and ducked, a struggle ensuing for the gun which went off twice as Mortimer struggled for it, eventually winning as the man hit his head on the bulkhead. Hartenstein knocked the gun from the other man's hand and cuffed him hard before picking up the gun and aiming it at the stunned man. Both intruders lay groaning in pain.

"Where is the bomb?" Hartenstein demanded.

"Wouldn't you like to know," one gasped.

"Tell us!" Mortimer demanded of the other one. "Tell us where it is! How many are there?"

"You'll never find them in time," the man gasped.

"Them? Sheisse! We need to lock them up. Captain, where can we lock them up?"

Andrews, shocked at the violence he had witnessed, found himself taking deep breaths as he held onto a railing. With an effort he pulled himself together.

"This way," he panted, leading them to a small room. Upon entering it, his companions checked it and there was nothing in it that could be used as a weapon. They locked the two men in there and Andrews found a nearby crew telephone to let the bridge know where two more of the intruders could be found.

As he led the way to the engine room Andrews had to remind himself that his friends were not fully healed, their opposition had had no healing at all, so that this violence was sometimes necessary in the type of work they did in order to protect the rescue vessels. His respect for them grew.

"This way, quickly," he urged, leading them to a sealed hatchway. "With the watertight doors shut this is the only way in and out of the engine room."

He unsealed the door and all three stepped through to descend a steep set of stairs that took them all the way down into the huge engine room, its lights low, and enormous turbines dormant.

All three men split up to search for bombs.

It was Mortimer who found one in a crawlspace under one of the turbines. Fortunately, the bomb was primitive and all he had to do was cut the wires to the timer device.

"Keep searching," Hartenstein ordered. "They've planted more than one."

It was he, himself, who found a second one stuck to the central drive shaft and which he, too, promptly disabled. They continued to search.

"There!" Andrews shouted. "Up there on the plates!"

"Sheisse! Mortimer, get the the ladder, schnell!" Hartenstein shouted.

However, as Mortimer ran to grab a ladder there was a huge explosion from the hull above them, the concussion knocking all three men off their feet. Before they could even catch their breath they were drenched with a torrent of icy cold sea water which was now pouring in from a gaping hole in the plates above.

An alarm was sounding and red lights flashing as they scrambled to their feet and ran for the staircase as the water around them began to rise rapidly. The black, swirling water was already up to their knees as Hartenstein realized that Mortimer, who had been closest to the blast, had been swept away. Searching frantically, he spotted him to one side, his face barely above water.

"Get up the ladder!" he ordered Andrews, the noise of the rushing water and the alarm drowning out his voice as he turned to make his way to Mortimer who was now clinging to a piece of machinery. However, the fast-flowing water had him in its clutches as he battled against it. As he grabbed him he discovered that Andrews was by his side and, together, all three men managed to push against the near-overwhelming force of the water and with great effort, one step at a time, make their way to the staircase. By the time they reached it the water was up to their necks and all three breathed a sigh of relief as their feet made the lower steps. Holding on tightly to the bannister, they hauled themselves out of the water to begin the long climb up and out of the cavernous engine room.

"Quickly!" Andrews shouted over the surrounding noise as they ran up the stairs. Once more he opened the sealed hatch to allow all three to pass through before sealing it behind them.

All three men paused to catch their breath.

Hartenstein turned to Mortimer. "Are you all right?"

Mortimer merely nodded, panting.

"That whole section is now sealed off," Andrews gasped. "She'll have a bit of list but she won't sink or capsize."

"There are still other bombs," Hartenstein reminded ominously. "They said more were planted forward."

"Let's hope Dockside Security have found them in time," Mortimer panted.

"This way," Andrews urged as all three turned down a corridor and began to climb more sets of stairs. However, even as they did so there was the muffled roar of an explosion in another part of the ship.

"My God, they're trying to destroy her!" Andrews cried.

"Thank God for your watertight doors," Mortimer panted, bringing up the rear.

"This way!" Andrews shouted as they found yet another stairwell and began to climb it.

When all three men finally emerged into the night air they gave a collective sigh of relief.

"Who has done this?" Andrews moaned as they made their way to the bridge. "Who could have done this terrible thing?"

"Those men were German," Hartenstein answered grimly. "They were U-boat men, newly arrived I'll wager, and they don't realize that they are in the Fourth Realm and there is no war here. They thought simply to sabotage a British vessel."

At the thought of the war in the Third Realm Andrews appeared stricken, his gentle soul appalled at the thought of the death and destruction taking place there.

"Captain?" Hartenstein inquired. "Captain, are you all right?"

"Yes, I... Forgive me, but I... I never imagined..." he trailed off.

"Sometimes we must be ruthless," Hartenstein explained gently.

"In order to protect this realm," Mortimer added.

Andrews shook his head. "Now where is Dockyard Security?" He called for a report of how many sections were flooded. The first officer reported that the ship already had a good four degree list to starboard. He had earlier informed Dockyard Security of the whereabouts of the men taken prisoner so that the culprits had already been arrested and taken away. Also that the pumps were working well but two main sections were flooded including the whole engine room and rising into the upper decks forward. However, there was no danger of the ship sinking or breaking apart.

"Sir, I took the liberty of contacting the Dockyard Chief with a view to getting her into dry-dock as soon as possible."

"Very good, though I'm sure he wasn't best pleased at being woken at - what is the time anyway?" He checked the ship's chronometer. "0315 in the morning," he muttered. "Well, what did he have to say?"

"He said that Drydock No. 1 was free and he would order tugs and see to it that Titanic was towed first thing."

Andrews let out a deep breath. "Excellent. That is excellent."

Hartenstein turned to Andrews. "Captain, I would strongly suggest that all decks free of water be searched. We must be absolutely certain that there are no more intruders."

"Quite right."

The head of Dockyard Security spoke up. "Captain, with your permission, my men can conduct the search if your men would guide them."

Andrews ordered his first to see to it after which he walked out on deck with the two U-boat officers. In the distance the sky was intermittently lit by lightning, the earlier storm now far out to sea.

"Gentlemen, I'm going to my quarters to get changed into dry clothes. If you would return to your suite I'll see to it that your uniforms are laundered and returned to you."

The two shivering wet men were only too happy to comply. As soon as they returned to their suite they donned warm robes and turned up the heat. Shortly thereafter a steward came for their wet uniforms and informed them that they would be returned as soon as possible.

Wearing a clean, dry uniform Andrews arrived and Hartenstein poured them all a scotch. How strange, he thought, that it was less than an hour earlier they had been woken up by a thunderstorm, and yet it felt like a lifetime.

Andrews raised his glass. "I drink to your health, my friends, and I can only thank god you were aboard or the damage would have been far, far worse. As it is the old girl will be out of action for maybe six to eight weeks. If the turbines had been blown up, she'd be out of action for the next six months. Turbines that size are hard to come by and would have to be specially manufactured. I owe you a debt of gratitude that I can never repay for the work you've done tonight to save her. Thanks to you both, my brave friends, she'll survive to sail the oceans once more."

They raised their glasses and drank.

"And to Titanic and her master and designer whose excellent design saved all of us tonight," Mortimer proposed.

Andrews suddenly appeared faint.

"Captain! Captain, are you all right?" Mortimer inquired, noting that the man had suddenly gone pale.

The two men grabbed him as he collapsed. Supporting him on either side, they took him over to the bed and laid him down.

"Oh, dear," he moaned. "I think this has all been a bit much for me. Sorry but..."

"Shhh," Mortimer murmured. "You're not used to these types of shenanigans."

Hartenstein poured him a brandy.

"Captain, are you hungry?" Hartenstein inquired.

"I... I can't remember when I ate. Must have been yesterday evening."

"You need to eat," Mortimer said. "I'll order breakfast."

"Make it breakfast for three," Andrews responded weakly as Mortimer went to the telephone.

When a trolley arrived bearing a hearty, hot breakfast the three men sat down to enjoy it, Hartenstein pouring strong coffee. By the time they had devoured eggs, rashers, tomatoes, sausages and a mountain of toast all three were feeling better, especially Andrews.

"Can't remember when I last ate so much," he observed, patting his stomach.

"Nearly drowning gives you an appetite," Hartenstein observed wryly.

"Not to mention all the stairs," Mortimer added. "But you look much better, Captain," he observed, sipping the last of his second cup of coffee.

"Mortimer is right," Hartenstein agreed. "There's colour in your cheeks now."

"I feel much better thanks to you two. Don't know what I'd do without you. You save my ship from the most nefarious scheme and you saved me too."

"Captain, you were very brave and we couldn't have done it without you."

"And you both rescued me down there," Mortimer added.

"I only wish we could have found the third bomb in time," Hartenstein said.

"Now, none of that," Andrews admonished. "The old girl is wounded but she'll survive. She's a right old war-horse. I'm just sorry your pleasant night aboard was ruined. I'll make up for it next time."

His companions shushed him.

"It's always an honour to be of service to Titanic," Hartenstein murmured.

Their freshly laundered and pressed uniforms arrived and they bade their host farewell, Andrews embracing both of them.

"You know the old girl appreciates all your efforts on her behalf, especially last night, and so do I. It's been..." he swallowed, "...quite an adventure."


In their fresh uniforms the two men made their way back along the empty docks to their U-boat. It was still some three hours until they had to be up so they ended up going to bed, lying side by side quite contentedly.

"What a night," Mortimer sighed. "We did well to find two of the bombs and disarm them. Wish we could have found the third one in time."

"We were lucky not to have been blown to bits by it," Hartenstein muttered.

"I was so cold I was numb." Mortimer shuddered at the memory.

"As long as you're warm now," Hartenstein murmured, turning towards him and taking him in his arms.

"Mmm... lovely and warm."

"I've set the alarm so we can sleep for a bit."

"Good." Mortimer smiled. "I'm so proud of you, meine feinen Deutschen Kapitän."

Smiling, Hartenstein hugged his companion. "Shh. Sleep, meine feinen Britischer."

*