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Fic: Deadly Cargo Part 2 of 2

Author: clonesgirl
Fandom: The Sinking of the Laconia
Rating: PG-13 for suggestiveness, violence and death of OC
Pairing: hartenstein/mortimer
Timeline: 1943 A/U
Word count this section: 1,670
Total word count: 4,130
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: And old sailing vessel off the coast of Newfoundland is not all she seems. The events in this story were inspired by the movie Sealed Cargo (1951) and the character of Captain Quint is based on the character of Captain Skalder as played by the wonderful Claude Rains.
Beta: None. If you find goofs please let me know.
A/N: This is a sequel to "One of Our U-boats is Missing".

"Captain!" Hartenstein shouted, running around the desk to where Captain Quint had slumped back into his chair.

"Is he alive?" Mortimer asked, also rounding the desk as Hartenstein removed the gun from the wounded man.

Hartenstein was feeling for a pulse.  "Only just.  Sheisse!  We must get him aboard if we are to save him."  He shouted for crew members who duly took Captain Quint aboard U-156, her officers following.

Once aboard, Hartenstein contacted headquarters to await instructions.  In his quarters he shared a scotch with Mortimer.

Mortimer took a swig of his drink.  "You know what they'll say."

"Of course.  Even if we had room for them we could not take the torpedoes aboard.  Such weapons can become unstable when making the transition to this realm.  Equally impossible for Titanic and anyway she has a strict no weapons policy.  It's going to be dangerous.  We are limited not by the range of our guns but by visibility.  Once she is hit we must depart as fast as possible."

"Can we not torpedo her?"

Hartenstein shook his head.  "Too risky.  If we miss we could potentially hit one of our own vessels which just happened to be in the vicinity and we can't tell if vessels other than Titanic might be close by because of the damned radar."

Mortimer reluctantly nodded.  "The explosion of one hundred and twenty torpedoes will create quite a wave."

"Indeed.  Titanic will be safe but she must get away too.  I would order her to depart now but she will be on her own with no protection.  There is also the danger that any U-boats sunk in the vicinity in the Third may find the square rigger here and demand a new supply of torpedoes, therefore she must be destroyed before that happens."

"The sooner the better," Mortimer agreed.

Fiedler put his head in.  "Headquarters on the radio, sir," he announced as Hartenstein rose to answer it, Mortimer following.

When Hartenstein put down the receiver he nodded to Mortimer.  "It is as we thought."  He then contacted Titanic, ordering her to depart at full speed.

"You must warn your passengers to expect a very loud explosion shortly followed by a large wave and turbulence.”

"What's all this about, old boy?" Andrews demanded.  "What's this big bang?"

"We have to blow up a vessel containing over one hundred torpedoes."

There was a pause while Andrews digested that.  "Good god!" he exclaimed quietly.

"Full speed ahead, Andrews.  Make sure you are not hit beam on.  God willing we will rejoin you shortly."

On Titanic, Andrews ordered full speed, knowing the giant liner would take some fifteen minutes to arrive at her optimum speed.  Meanwhile he would warn the passengers so they would not be alarmed.

As U-156 proceeded to depart the vicinity of the old square rigger, the men on deck watched as her tall masts rapidly disappeared in the all-enveloping mist.  Hartenstein ordered her gun crew on deck.

"Sheisse!" Hartenstein exclaimed.  "She's disappearing even faster than I had anticipated.  How is the radar?"

"Not reliable, sir."

"Then our aim will be visual only.  All stop," he ordered.

"Captain, we're much too close," Mortimer warned.

"I am well aware of that, Mr Mortimer, but the ship is drifting with the current.  Prepare for an emergency dive the moment she blows.  If we can dive deep enough before the wave hits we should be safe."

"Aye, sir."  Mortimer proceeded to give the order to all crew.

The gun crew prepared the gun and Hartenstein ordered them to take aim at the old sailing vessel, its masts now barely visible.  Directing their aim, he ordered them to fire as the men in the conning tower covered their ears.

The roar of the gun firing, even though somewhat muffled by the surrounding fog, shattered the stillness for miles around.  In the conning tower, captain and first officer trained their binoculars on the square rigger.  It appeared that the shell had hit one of her masts, snapping it off, but that was all.

"Sheisse," Hartenstein muttered.  "Down one degree," he ordered.  "Fire!"

Again, they covered their ears from the deafening sound of their own gun.  Again, they watched keenly.  This time they counted no more than four seconds between the roar of the gun and an accompanying explosion on the deck of the square rigger.

"Got her!" Mortimer shouted.

"Cork the gun," Hartenstein shouted.  "All crew below!  Full speed ahead.  Dive, dive!"

As the gun crew followed orders and scrambled for the conning tower the U-boat came up to full speed, its bow quickly disappearing beneath the waves.  Even as the men jumped down the hatch and closed it behind them the sea was already halfway up the conning tower.  Some two hundred metres to the U-boat's stern there was now a massive explosion that only seemed to grow bigger, secondary explosions now lighting up the dark mist in brilliant white flashes.

U-156, performing an emergency dive, descended rapidly towards the twenty metre mark.  Even as she did so the shock-wave hit, propelling them violently forward, the bow tilted down until the vessel was at a near forty degree angle in the water.

With its bow now aimed at the distant bottom more than a mile below the men desperately held on to anything they could find.

"All stop!" Hartenstein shouted, as the boat was now rocked violently.  "To stern!  All crew to stern!" he now shouted over the intercom as the men desperately scrambled to follow their commanding officer's order, holding on to anything they could find in their efforts to get to the stern and balance the boat.

Some had made it, some were still trying to get to the stern when the rocking motion finally lessened. Hartenstein ordered ahead slow and the boat began to gradually level out.  When the list was manageable Mortimer found himself smiling at his captain as they held on to anything that was fixed to the deck.

"That was a close one," he observed.

Hartenstein returned his first officer's relieved smile before ordering a complete check of the boat's condition as she surfaced once more, all aboard aware that she was so much stronger now and that this was what had enabled her to survive the huge explosion.

Back in the conning tower once more they trained their binoculars in the direction of the old square rigger, however, nothing was to be seen but for a thick pall of black smoke mingling with the surrounding mist.

"A job well done, sir," Mortimer ventured.

"I would agree, Mr Mortimer," Hartenstein replied, his lips unable to hide his smile.  "Now let us rejoin our charge and transfer Captain Quint as quickly as possible."

In spite of the captain's warning many of Titanic's passengers were out on deck waiting for the explosion, however, they were startled by the sheer magnitude of it.  They then waited for the big wave.  When it came it hit the huge liner as she was still coming up to full speed, lifting her stern some fifteen feet into the air, momentarily exposing her enormous, churning triple screws.  It then travelled the length of her until her bow was surfing the wave before its sheer speed left her chasing it.  Her passengers were all thrilled by the spectacle and, other than being gently rocked by the churning ocean, she was quite undamaged.  On the bridge, her worried master was most relieved to hear that their escort had survived in one piece.

It was after dawn now, Titanic had slowed in order for U-156 to catch up.  The fog was finally dissipating and the radar was now working perfectly once more.  However, they did not need it to find Titanic as they had discovered her long wake and had only to follow it.  They could even spot her now on the horizon through binoculars.

In due course Captain Quint was transferred into the expert hands of the liner's medical staff.  Captain Werner Hartenstein fully expected that the man would recover.  He was therefore dismayed when Andrews contacted him some two hours later to say that Quint had not survived, all efforts to revive him having failed.

That evening, with both vessels now heading towards the mid Atlantic and the sunset at their backs, Captain and First Officer were in the conning tower, a cold, stiff breeze whipping at them, while the rest of the crew dined below.

Mortimer, who was steering, kept his eyes before them, knowing what he would see if he turned to stern - Titanic, her enormous bow ploughing through the water, and beyond her the scant remains of an orange sunset.

"One of our more eventful voyages," he ventured after a while.

"Indeed, meine liebe.  I would say that we acquitted ourselves well but for the death of Captain Quint."

Mortimer sighed.  "I guess we'll never know if he could have been rehabilitated.  With healing he might have turned into a decent person.  As he was..." he shrugged.  "I suppose he found a way to survive and profit in a war-ravaged world."

"In the end I think he understood that his life of profiteering was over and without the prospect of lining his pockets he saw no future."  Hartenstein turned to his companion.  "Unlike us."

Mortimer turned his head to smile at his captain.  "We're the fortunate ones."

Hartenstein slid an arm over his shoulders.

"Yes, meine liebe, for our collaboration is safe.  Nothing and no one will separate us."

"Together," Mortimer murmured, his gloved hand covering that of his lover's.  Later, when they were alone in the captain's quarters, he fully intended to make love to his commanding officer.

He leaned closer to kiss a wind-chilled, bearded cheek.  In the dimness their eyes met, a silent promise made.

The word 'tonight' was in their minds as the U-boat and the giant liner sailed east into the encroaching darkness, the forthcoming night warm with promise.

*  *  *