by: Simon Hartwell
The following is an excerpt from the Undercover Agent.
Alex has discovered the library has been protecting the house, his new home, by trapping would be Treasure, and Ghost Hunters within its books, their ghosts left behind to haunt the house for evermore.
Together with his friends, Katie, Lucy, Chuck & Chip, Alex sets about freeing the trapped souls by entering the books and bringing them out, placing themselves in great peril.
One such person is aboard THE TITANIC…
Chapter 18: APRIL 15th 1912
“It’s all here,” said Chip. “I pulled up the Wikipedia page on the sinking of the Titanic and depending on what time we arrive… land, materialise. What are we calling it?”
“Well we can’t use materialise as that’s Star Trek,” said Alex.
“Land doesn’t sound right to me,” said Lucy.
“So we’re going with arrive then?” asked Chip.
“Works for me,” said Chuck.
“Me too,” said Katie.
“Charlotte, Charles, how about you two, okay with arrive?” asked Alex.
The two ghosts looked startled to be included and nodded enthusiastically, their smiles tugging at Alex’s heart.
Blinking rapidly he said, “Okay, then arrive it is.”
“Ideally we are going to arrive and depart well ahead of the sinking of the ship but we need to be aware of the timing just in case,” said Chip. “We have the date; 14th April 1912 and the time 23:40 when the ship struck the iceberg, and it took two hours and forty minutes to sink, so 02:20. Now to be clear, these are ship times, so the first thing we need to do is set our watches to ship time.”
“We’re taking watches? Last time we left them behind,” said Lucy.
Chip nodded. “It’s worth the risk. We each need to keep an eye on the time as I suspect we’re going to have to split up once aboard.”
“You don’t think we are going to find our ghost waiting by the departure point, like we did with Alan Booth?”
Chip shrugged. “Truthfully, I don’t know. Maybe, if we’re lucky, but we should be prepared for the possibility we are going to have to find him or her.”
“Can you tell us if it is a man or woman?” asked Alex looking at the Ghosts.
The ghosts looked at each other and then shrugged. “We don’t know so best not to, otherwise the Library might prevent you from going.”
“Well that makes our task harder,” said Katie.
“I’d say. If the ship is sinking, our ghost is most likely to head to the lifeboats with the other passengers,” said Lucy. “It’s going to be chaos.”
Alex looked around the team.
“Perhaps we shouldn’t all go?” said Alex.
Katie shook her head.
“First, you’re not going alone, so forget it. Second, it will need all of us to search the ship. We just have to keep an eye on the time and agree, no matter what, to get back to the departure point on time.”
“Well, let’s go then,” said Chuck.
They gathered around the book, holding hands.
Alex flexed his fingers as Katie reached for the book.
Everything spun and Alex found himself standing in a corridor, Katie’s and Chuck’s hands still in his. There were stairs going up as well as down so he assumed he was below decks.
“Well our ghost is not here,” said Chip, looking about him.
“Oh no,” said Katie, “the time stamp, look.”
12 4 15 0140
“Am I reading that right? We leave at 01:40,” said Alex.
“Do we know what the time is now?” asked Lucy.
A shudder rippled though the ship.
“Did you feel that?” asked Chuck, looking around wide eyed.
“That must have been the iceberg. What time does that make it?”
“11:40pm, the night before,” said Chip. “We have two hours to find our ghost and get back here.”
“Everyone set your watch to 11:45, five minutes fast, that way we will be back here on time for sure,” said Katie.
“And everyone be back here by 01:30, agreed?” said Chip.
Alex nodded along with everyone else; fear was coursing through his body as the floor tilted.
“Whoa, are we sinking already?” asked Lucy.
Chip nodded. “Water is pouring into the hold. We have to move.”
“Alex, Chuck, you two stay together and go that way,” said Katie, pointing down the stairs.
“Chip, Lucy, and I will go that way,” she said, pointing upwards.
Alex looked at Chuck, nodded and made for the stairs.
He immediately saw two men making their way down ahead of them and decided to follow.
“Andrews, check the forward cargo holds; I’ll check the mail room and squash courts,” said one of the men.
Alex jerked his head at Chuck to follow the man called Andrews, as he followed the other man.
The angle of the ship was definitely tilting.
“Who are you?” the man asked.
“Powell, Sir,” said Alex.
“I’m Smith,” said the man. “Stay here.”
Alex watched as Smith ran up the passageway only to come back moments later.
“The mail room and squash court are both flooded.”
“Already?” asked Alex, shocked.
Smith nodded. “It’s bad, lad.”
Andrews came running towards them. “Forward cargo holds are underwater; No 6 Boiler room is flooded to fourteen feet and spilling over to No 5. I’ve got the men trying to pump it out now.”
“Did you see Morris, Sir?” asked Alex.
“Yes, I set him to the pumps with the other men, good man that one.”
Alex looked beyond Andrews to the room Chuck was in, battling the flooding waters. He could already see water coming out of the door.
“Come on, we have to inform the Captain. With five compartments under, the ship is going down.”
Smith and Andrews raced off and Alex hesitated for a split second before racing after the two men.
Time was ticking by and Alex kept a sharp eye out for anyone that looked out of place, more so, out of time, but the passageways were empty of all but crewmembers.
Up and up they raced until they burst onto the bridge.
“Captain, the ship is done for,” said Andrews. “We have about two hours no more to get everyone off.”
“Five past midnight, Captain.”
“Very well, we have no choice, uncover the lifeboats, and wake the passengers, get them up and on deck.”
“Radio officer; send out our distress if you would.”
Alex looked about the bridge and seeing that everyone there belonged, took off and scoured the foredeck below.
To his amazement, passengers were playing soccer with pieces of ice, laughing and joking, their breath steaming in the icy chill of the night. The noise was deafening and with his hands over his ears, he looked up at the steam thundering out of the funnels in a long continuous boooooom sound.
He moved as best he could along the deck as more passengers began to emerge, the crew using hand signals, as the sound of the steam venting drowned out their voices. He could see the crew looked bewildered, the passengers scared, as they milled about, unsure of what to do, so when he heard one man ordering the passengers to board the lifeboat, his voice so loud he heard it, even with the steam, he immediately moved towards it.
“Get aboard quickly now, keep calm keep calm.”
As Alex drew closer to the man, he paused as an officer yelled up to the bridge and he noticed the Captain, standing by the railing, looking out over the ocean.
“Hadn’t we better get the women and children into the boats, Sir?” the Officer yelled.
The Captain nodded.
“Murdoch, MURDOCH!” the Officer yelled. “Get them in the lifeboats, women, and children first.”
Alex looked beyond the two Officers at the man still loading one of the lifeboats, easily lifting the children into the boat, and helping the women.
“Ok this one is full,” the man bellowed. “Move to the next one.”
Alex was certain this was the man they had come for.
Rushing over, he helped lower the boat before turning to the man.
“Sir, Sir, my name is Alex. I have come to rescue you, to take you back to your own time.”
Alex could see the shock and hope on the man’s face, then the anguish as he looked about him.
“Sir, you can’t save them, you know this,” said Alex, his voice breaking.
They both turned as the Officer came over to the lifeboats.
“Women and children first, calmly does it,” said the Officer.
“But surely we’re safer if we stay on the ship than in some little boat,” said one old man.
“No, Sir, we are sinking, you must board a lifeboat. There are empty seats on this one and no women and children here to board, so in you get.”
“That’s Officer Murdoch,” said the man. “The other one, Lightoller, doesn’t fill the empty seats with men, he lowers them empty.”
“I understand, Sir, but there is nothing to be done. If we don’t get you back to the departure point, you will remain a ghost, stuck within the Black House forever.”
The man looked sharply at Alex.
“Alex? Oh thank God,” said Katie, running up.
“I found him,” said Alex.
“Let’s go then,” said Katie. “I lost Chip and Lucy somewhere below.”
Katie voice broke into a sob.
Alex placed her arm around her.
“They will be ok, I’m sure of it.”
Clearly torn, the man looked around him.
“Sir, we need you. Our friends are on this ship looking for you, and one is down in the boiler room helping to pump out the water as we speak.”
The man looked at Alex aghast. “There are more of you? Why, why did you come?”
“Duty,” said Alex. “The Library is mine, and your fate is my responsibility.”
Alex could feel Katie’s eyes boring into him as he spoke but he knew, within him, this was right, it was his responsibility, inherited along with the house.
“And the others are my friends,” he added.
“Come on,” said the man. “Let’s get you off this ship.”
Together with the man and Katie, Alex raced across the deck and down the stairs.
“This way,” shouted Alex, as he took the stairs two at a time and leaping the last three, sometimes four steps in his haste, before rushing to the next set of stairs leading down.
The tilt was making it harder to navigate the passageways the deeper they descended into the ship, and water was everywhere by the time they made it to the lowest decks.
The wave of relief at seeing Chuck wading through the water, a man leaning heavily on his shoulder, nearly had Alex in tears. Swallowing hard, he waded towards the pair, placed his own shoulder beneath the man’s, and helped Chuck carry him to the stairs.
“The bunker door in Boiler Room 5 collapsed, the water came in like a green wave,” said Chuck. “Herb and Jon didn’t make it.”
Tears were rolling down his cheeks but his voice was steady as he helped the man climb the first steps.
“You go on, Fred, I’ll be right behind,” Chuck said.
“We have to go up three levels for the departure point,” said Alex.
Chuck nodded and looked back the way he came.
“They’re staying, Bell and his team; they’re staying to keep the boilers and generators going.”
Chuck made a move to go back.
“No, young man, you will not sacrifice yourself, anymore than I will. Alex is right, this is not our time, and we can do nothing to change the outcome of this night.”
Together Alex and the man dragged Chuck with them, Katie following behind, all were crying, with frustration, with horror, with admiration at the sacrifice courageous men were making in an effort to save lives.
“Alex! Chuck!” Lucy cried.
Katie rushed past the boys and threw her arms around Lucy, both weeping openly. Chip stood silently trying to keep a brave face but his lip quivered.
Alex met his eyes, and they nodded to each other.
“A minute to go,” said Chip.
Suddenly a huge wave of water hurtled down the passageway, sweeping them off their feet, tumbling them over and over as they were washed along the corridor.
Coughing and spluttering they got to their feet, the water rising alarmingly quickly.
The ship had tipped upwards, and the water was swirling around them making standing difficult.
“The time, quick!” screamed Katie, as she struggled to stand.
Chuck waded through the water powerfully, grabbed Katie and Lucy, and helped them back towards the departure point. The man grabbed Alex and Chip, his legs driving through the water, pulling the boys with him.
“We’re going under,” said Chuck calmly. “Hold hands, no one lets go, you hear. Take a deep breath!”
Alex took a huge gulp of air as the water rose over his head, the cold squeezing his lungs, forcing the air out in bubbles that flew past his eyes. He could feel the hands tighten either side and he held on just as strongly and, by concentrating on not letting anyone go, kept his fear at bay. The need to breathe was mounting, and he wondered if they had missed the time slot when everything spun and he was back in the Library.
He drew in much needed air, then coughed, and breathed again before he realized he was lying on the floor. He pushed himself up on his hands and looked about him, and a wave of relief washed through him as he saw his friends were with him, lying on the floor, breathing deeply, crying softly. Above them floated the man, his face, drawn in sadness, though he was smiling softly.
“You are very brave young man,” he said when he noticed Alex, “you and your friends. You have taken on a responsibility that is dangerous and heroic and I wish you well. Goodbye my friends.”
Alex wanted to raise his arm in farewell but he didn’t have the energy, all he managed was a nod as the ghost dissipated.
Collapsing on his back, he said aloud, “This Library is going to be the death of me.”
1. The Library has been protecting the house by:
a) keeping Treasure and Ghost Hunters in cages
b) getting rid of all the ghosts
c) keeping Treasure and Ghost Hunters in the pages of the books
2. What are Alex and his friends trying to do?
a) escape the haunted house
b) to free the souls trapped in the books
c) make sure the ghosts trapped in the books can never escape
3. This excerpt tells about someone who is:
a) on The Titanic
b) on Treasure Island
c) trapped by an ogre in a castle
4. Why was it important for everyone to check their watches?
a) so they would all know the correct time
b) so that they could all meet up in time to leave
c) to make sure their watches were all working
5. What was the first thing they felt when they arrived at their destination?
a) the shudder of the ship
b) that the weather was unusually warm
c) that the pirates were not very friendly
6. What was happening in the cargo holds?
a) people were busy stoking the boilers
b) people were leaving to go eat dinner
c) that they were flooding
7. What was the crew trying to do up on deck?
a) get into lifeboats
b) get the women and children into lifeboats
c) keep the deck chairs from sliding around the deck
8. Were the friends able to save the soul they were looking for?
a) no, he stayed behind to help others
b) no, they could not figure out which of the passengers or crew he was
c) yes and they took him back to the library