Titaniq

There was screaming and shouting and people running scared. Shocking din rebounding along the corridors with no means of escape. Older and fatter people fell to the floor. There weren’t many children but those present were screeching. Their parents were wailing. Their grandparents were silent, afraid for all their generations – those present and to come.

The crew behaved dishonourably. They fought through the crowds, shouting. The only difference between passengers and crew was that the latter knew the points of egress, and made towards them quickly, rather than getting stuck amongst the rabble. They rapidly located food stocks, space suits, and emergency shuttles. It was as if they’d never heard of the Birkenhead Drill. Women and children first, my ass. They ran to abandon ship.

There was irony to this situation. The recent campaign by Inter-Planetary Adventures (IPA) was a Titanic spoof. Except this time things were different. The experienced Goan and Filipino crew roped up the iceberg and pulled it along behind the ship, using its ice to make cocktails, and offering mini-water/ski excursions. They pulled the iceberg into New York harbour, where cheering crowds lined the Hudson River. The world’s greatest steam ship plus all its passengers and crew had a safe, enjoyable arrival.

IPA cultivated this image for its greatest space ship: Titaniq. It was a clever ploy in many senses. The clue was in the name, they said: their path was inter-planetary rather than intra-planetary, and they remained in between heavenly bodies at all times, avoiding the dangers of planetary docking manoeuvres (and also associated charges). The journey was virtually riskless. Critics said they were being cheap – what kind of adventure was that, not landing on any planets at all? But customers loved their low prices and every flight was full.

Sandee had waited ten years for this trip. She first heard about Titaniq in science class in Lucerne. Mr. Ismay had shown them the designs. He said that this 12,000 passenger space ship would be the marvel of its age. She decided right then that she would board it one day. Her husband had not proved keen on space travel, or on much else, and last year she’d kicked him out. Now there was no reason for her to not go.

She had been having dunch – scientifically proven to be healthier than having both dinner and lunch – when the commotion began. The Goan waiter had spilled soup on her, and was apologetic beyond belief. She told him never mind and went back to her room to wash. Though Titaniq was half the price of other space cruises, it still wasn’t cheap. Her holiday fund had only just bought her a cabin in the bowels of the ship, with no views whatsoever. But the real-time digital projections were really-good. Jupiter’s red spot seemed so close that she felt able to pick it like a cherry and pop it in her mouth.

Sandee decided to shower quickly before changing her dress. The shower shook strangely. Then her lights went off and the bathroom door wouldn’t open. That’s the problem with electronic gizmos, she thought – when they fail, you fail. Not like mechanical things, which you can fiddle with and fix. Thanks to a childhood episode, Sandee never panicked. She accepted situations and took charge.

Her brother had been mean to her one day. He had offered to push her on the garden swing. At first it was great fun as he pushed her higher and higher. With the sun on her face, and wind in her hair, she felt like a bird flying. But then she felt sick and suddenly scared, and called for him to stop. He laughed and laughed, and pushed harder and harder, till she feared for her life. She couldn’t hold on, she thought, and would soon fall off. There was nothing she could do. But then she felt her heart jolt, its power filling her body. Rather than panic and grasp and try to slow down, she did the other thing, the harder thing, the better thing. She flicked her body forward, changing the balance of Centrifugal – outward – and Centripetal – inward – Forces by the addition of her Fictitious Force, a pseudo force, an apparent force that acts on all masses in a non-inertial frame of reference. She swung right around the metal frame, completing a revolution, a cosmic cycle, and came up behind her brother, giving him the biggest kicking of his lifetime, and sending him flying twenty feet. Sandee was always good in a situation.

In Titaniq’s bowels, she kicked the bathroom door open, slipped on her red dress, and went into the corridor. The ship lurched violently. The corridors were abandoned, the lifts were gone, alarms were ringing, and all locks were open. She decided to try the stairs, and being closer to the ship’s rim it made sense to walk downwards. But after forty flights she decided to exit, to see where she was and what was going on.

Sandee emerged near the engine room. All doors were open with no souls about. She walked right in there. There was the WARP drive, the huge spinning core. Its manual controls had been accessed but lay abandoned. She could handle this – how hard could it be? When she had bugged Mr Ismay for answers, he’d said that WARP stood for “We Are Reasonable People”. She was a reasonable person. Machines were just a matter of common sense. All reasonable too. What was that? It looked like a crank shaft. Sandee turned it gently, then forcefully, and felt her heart jolt. The Centrifugal and Centripetal Forces were stuck. She added her Fictitious Force to change the non-inertial frame of reference, and kicked Titaniq’s ass.

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