Jackie and Sam sat beside the campfire in the cold desert just outside of town. They had little with them to survive. They were welcomed to stay at a campsite for local homeless with included her father and his best friend, Don.
It was an eye-opener for Jackie who no idea her father had so little. He had nothing to his name, his parents both gone, no siblings or relative to take care of him. He just turned eighteen and was no considered an adult and left on his own.
His only friend was Don who was also the closest thing to a brother the man ever had. They were inspirable and despite the lack of a real future they laughed and joked about daily life.
Fred still didn't know what to make of the two strangers. Both dressed in some bizarre green jumpsuit and they seemed to take great interest in him, which he found rather creepy. He pondered the pair, wondered why they were staring at him so much.
"You two joining up?" he finally asked.
"Um," Jackie looked at Sam.
Sam whispered in Jackie's ear, "I don't like that idea at all. But we need money to buy the materials I need to fix the Fledgling."
She asked, "What do we need to buy?"
"Platinum, a lot of it and some gold," answered Sam.
"Seriously?" asked she.
"Space vehicles aren't cheap," replied Sam.
Jackie grinned, "How much does the legion pay?"
"There's a hundred dollar sign up bonus plus base pay," replied Don who seemed eager to go.
Jackie whispered to Sam, "How much does gold and platinum cost?"
"How should I know?" her granddaughter replied. Jackie thought back, "In in 1933 gold was thirty-five dollars an ounce, must be cheaper today." She spoke to Don, "Hundred dollars just to sign up?"
He grinned, "Up!"
"We're in," stated Jackie.
Sam tugged at her, "You kidding? I'm not joining the French Foreign Legion."
"Just get the money then scram," suggested Jackie.
Sam whispered, "Gram? That's deceptive and illegal."
Jackie shrugged, "Yeah, but do you have a better idea on how to raise two hundred bucks quick? Two hundred bucks in 1916 is like ten thousand in our time."
Sam nervously grinned, "Guess we're in."
Jackie asked, "Where ya go to sign up?"
Don informed, "New York City! They book ya passage on a ship and when we get there we get our money."
Jackie huffed, "We have to go all the way to France to get the money?"
"Of course," he stated. "So, what your names?"
"I'm Jackie Roberts and this is Sam," she replied.
Fred wondered, "You two kin?"
"We're related," smiled Jackie. "Can't ya tell? We have the same cheek bones."
Don nodded, "Yeah, ya kind of do resemble one another."
Fred carefully pondered his next question, "You two brothers or…?"
Jackie grinned for this time her father had no chance of recognizing her for she had not been born yet, "We're brothers!"
Sam's eyes grew wide; she shot her grandmother a look, leaned close and whispered, "Brothers? What the hell?"
Jackie whispered back, "They won't let us join if they know we're not men. Don't worry, I know how to pass off as a man and sneak us in. I'll give ya some lessons."
"What?" she asked confused. "What do you mean you know how to pass off as a man?"
"I did it before," she informed. "That's how I met Grandpa Daniel. I dressed up like a boy and snuck into the Air Force. I was his navigator on his B-17...Until Dad found me. But I haven't been born yet. My father is eighteen years old and hasn't met my mother. He has no idea who I am and cannot possibly bust me."
Sam gapped, "You have serious issues, Gram."
"Jackie," she instructed, "Can't call me 'Gram' until we get home."
Sam whispered back, "You have any idea how difficult it will be for me to suddenly call you a different name?"
"Can't call me 'Gram,'" reminded Jackie.
Sam looked over at the pair who sat curiously watching Jackie and Sam whisper back and forth. Needless to say, they were drawing attention by the secrecy.
Sam grinned nervously, "We're brothers…Jackie is my older brother."
Jackie countered, "By just one year. We're late bloomers!"
"Ah," nodded Don.
Sam found herself crossing her arms before her breast in some effort to hide any hint of the lie. It was nerve racking for her. She had never lied, stolen, or committed any crime. She was the good solider, always doing what she was asked; always on time, standing at attention and showing the utmost respect for her superiors.
Now, suddenly she was thrusted into the past and found her grandmother, who was married to a cop, had little respect for the law and did what she pleased. She should have seen it coming for Jackie was such a thrill seeker but she never imagined she would stuck in this situation where she would have pass off as a man with her ninety-three year old grandmother, who looked thirty, just to hoodwink two hundred dollars out of the French.
Fred asked, "We leaving tomorrow?"
Jackie nodded, "Sounds good. You guys know where Sam and I can get some clothing? All we have is what we are wearing."
Fred and Don traded glances and shrugged, "I think we have some old stuff you two can borrow. Sam's closer to Don's height. You're closer to mine, Jack."
"Jackie," she corrected.
"Jackie," assured he.
My, how much bigger the whole world seemed to Jackie and Sam. No internet, no television, no radio even. The news was in the papers and usually reported weeks after the event. The telegraph was the newest innovation and reserved to a limited few.
No airplanes lines making trans-Atlantic trips. Instead of arriving to Europe in ten hours or less it took ten days onboard a boat. The sister ship to the Titanic, the Olympic was their main passage to their next adventure. They did not receive first class but rather third class passage and were frankly treated like common peasants. "Peon" was also a term commonly used to describe the working poor.
Both had donned baggy men's clothing and cut their hair and tried very hard to not act famine. Jackie had given Sam the very acting lessons she received from Percy over seventy years ago, which was a time yet to come. They commonly went by the title "The Roberts Brothers" and were considered nothing more than two young men trying to make their way the world like so many others.
They blended in rather well, could easily do mechanical work and had the advanced math skills and engineering associated with male jobs of the day. The hardest part was covering up their gender but as a backup plan Jackie decided that if they were to be discovered they would simply claim they needed the money and no one would hire them as women…Which was true anyways.
The whole ten days in transit was the vacation that Jackie dreamed about as a child. Just her and her father with Uncle Don and now Sam; playing cards, on a ship at sea, watching the sunset on the water at night and listening to the band play. The food wasn't great nor was the third class dining room but she didn't care. It was like a vacation for the ninety-three year old woman. The vacation she dreamed of for years and this time with Sam and her father together…Even if her father was only eighteen and had no idea who she was…Or was going to be.
For Sam it was a time to get to know her great grandfather. She spent a month on the Acme with him in command but as her commanding officer she was never very comfortable around him and she had trouble getting to know the others in her family as well. Though she got along well with her paternal grandfather, Daniel and liked him, she found she had mixed feelings for the man for he took up so much of Jackie's time.
She wasn't used to seeing her grandmother, the woman who raised her from six years old, being in the arms of a man. Her adopted grandfather died when she was a baby, she didn't remember him and never saw Jackie date or show any interest in finding love.
But Jackie was happy in Daniel's arms. She laughed as he held her close and stayed with her every night. They became inspirable and Sam felt a bit jealous for she was no longer the first priority in Jackie's life.
Sam also tried very hard to be friends with Sadie and Bambi considering how much they impacted her grandmother but she felt like the oddball for the events they would talk about happened long before Sam was born. Sam also tried to gain some sort of relationship with Bambi, her maternal grandmother but once again found herself feeling odd. Bambi and Sam shared similar features but their personalities were strikingly different.
Bambi was outgoing, bubbly and yet very intelligent while Sam was just the opposite in personality. She was more reserved, rather shy around men and not much into clothing a style. Sam had no idea why Bambi and Sadie would tell her that Jackie trained her "too well" and they needed to "fix her" and "bring her up to speed."
The private joke was in reference to Jackie's time in the ATA but Sam was oblivious to the remarks and had no idea why found her so funny nor why the pilot training her grandmother gave her was such a joke. She was never told about how Jackie's father dressed her in army surplus and raised her as a boy. She had no idea that it was Bambi and Sadie who taught Jackie to walk in high heels and how to apply makeup and style. For Sam there seemed to be a big joke and for some reason they found her comical.
Sam liked Don he best, he was laid back, had her sense of humor and she found him very intelligent. He was more mindful of the situation and understood that for Sam the whole idea of having a large family was going to take some time to get used too. He became the only person Sam comfortable enough around to actually consider an "uncle" and he pulled her aside and stated he was her uncle as well. Sam found she felt that Don was more like family than the rest.
Her maternal grandfather Frank was another story altogether for she found him annoying. He would constantly badger her grandmother and Jackie would badger him in return. They went at each other like two little kids. On more than one occasion Sam actually wanted to slap Frank and tell him to treat her grandmother with respect. She bit her tongue often around the man and clenched her fist, something Jackie was oblivious too. For Jackie assumed Sam would adore Frank for everyone liked him.
For Sam the trip to France on the Olympic was the much needed vacation as well but it was vacation away from those other people in her life that made her feel uncomfortable. Sam walked on the deck of the ship and came across Fred sitting in a deckchair looking out over the water. She stopped before him.
"May I sit next to you?" asked she.
Fred shrugged, "Have a seat."
She plopped down in the canvas chair and gazed out over the sea. The weather was nice and a slight breeze whipped at her hair. She pondered what to say to him.
"Nice day," she mentioned.
He gave a nod, "Yup." He glanced over at her, "You know anything about planes?"
She grinned, "I'm a pilot. I know lots about planes."
Fred folded his arms, "Good, can you teach me some? This is Don's idea and neither one of us have ever been on a plane before."
"I can teach you everything I know," she offered.
He gave a funny look, "Is that a lot?"
She nodded, "I got a perfect score on my IQ test."
He huffed, "How about teaching only what I need to know? I really don't care about your IQ test."
"Um," she blushed, "sure…I'll go over basics with you."
He agreed, "Better to keep it simple." He looked out over the water once more, "Just hope we don't hit an iceberg!"
She gave a funny look, "Um, it's summer and I think we're okay."
Fred retorted, "I'm sure that what they were thinking on the Titanic. It's spring and it's okay! The ship is unsinkable!"
Sam countered, "Actually, the White Star Line never the ship was unsinkable. The media made that claim."
He cocked an eyebrow, "Really? The papers said that?"
"After the ship went down," added Sam.
He pondered, "Guess them papers will say anything to sell a story."
She agreed, "Yeah."
He looked back out over the sea, "Still hope we don't hit an iceberg."
"Me too," she replied.
After a few moments of silence Fred stated, "You're okay, Roberts. I didn't really know what to make of you and your brother at first. But you two seem okay to me."
"Thank you," she stated. "You're okay too, Fred."
"Why do you sometimes call Jackie, 'Gram?'" asked he.
"It's a nick name," she informed.
"What's it short for?" he wondered.
Sam thought fast to cover the mistake, "Um…Graham cracker."
"Graham cracker?" asked he. "Why you call him that?"
Sam lied, "Loves graham crackers."
"Really? Never seen him eat any?"
Sam shrugged, "He's trying to cut back."
"On graham crackers?" asked Fred. "Must really like them, huh?"
"Oh yeah," covered Sam.
"I heard the pilots get nicknames. Think "Graham" will be Jackie's?"
"Why not?" asked Sam trying very hard to keep a straight face.
"You got a nickname?" asked he.
Sam replied, "Fledgling."
"Young bird with new feathers?" asked Fred. "I kind of like that name. I guess that would be good for a new pilot."
"Cadet," she told him. "New pilot is a cadet."
"Whatever," he replied. "Don's should be "The Professor."
"I think so," she agreed. "He's smart."
"Yup," he agreed, "freaky smart."
"That too," she agreed.
He gave her a look, "But you're smarter. You're like, "da Vinci" smart."
"Um," she pondered a reply. "Thank you."
"Beer?" asked he.
"Sure," she agreed.
Fred rose, "Let's go get a drink."
She got up, "Um, where?"
"First class bar," he told her. "We can get there. It's open to all passengers now."
Not thinking of it, "Okay, let's go get a beer." Sam saw it as an opportunity to get to know the man a little better. Never could she have imagined what the standards of the day would imply.
They walked into first class to the coldest stares, colder than that iceberg that sank the Olympics' sister ship. No women were in the area for it was considered a lounge for men only.
Wealthy men dressed in fancy attire, black suits and black ties, derby hats and high collars lined the inside of the lounge smoking cigars and sipping bourbon. They played cards, made bets as well as business deals. The atmosphere was rich in smoke as well as pompous attitudes.
Fred with Sam in tow walked up to the bar and waited for the bartender. Though the lounge was officially open to all passengers at that hour the only third class passengers were Sam and Fred who appeared to be two teenage boys. Fred waited for the tender to approach them.
"Two beers," he stated.
The bartender was a poor man himself as with most the crew of the Olympic. He tried to gently nudge Fred and Sam out of the area.
"Um, it would be better if you two lads stayed in the third class section," he told them under his breath.
Fred was tired of being treated like a third class citizen, "Yeah, well…The lounge is open to every passenger on this ship at this hour."
The bartender whispered, "I know it is but it's not really followed. You're swimming in shark infested waters, son."
Sam tugged his arm, "Maybe we should leave, Fred?"
He shook his head, "No, we have every right to be here for the next hour. I'm leaving till they close it."
A tall dark haired man with slick mustache tapped him on his shoulder, "Lads, I suggest you do what the bartender told you. It would be best to go back to your own class…Unless you wish to serve me my drinks?"
Fred looked the pompous man up and down. He was taller than Fred, about twice his size and dressed very fine. He wasn't about to be intimidated by this arrogant man.
"I'll leave soon as I get my beer," he told him. "You can serve yourself."
Sam recalled reading about class warfare in her textbooks but never imagined she would witness it nor she would be part of that equation. Her logic told her it would be better if they simply left the lounge and avoided the wealthy for the time. But Sam really didn't understand Fred or the stubborn streak he shared with Jackie. Sam was lucky, she was not graced with that stubborn streak but she witness it firsthand.
The man seemed amused, he tapped his cane against Fred's chest, "Do you know who I am, boy?"
Fred shrugged, "One really well dressed pig."
The man's eyes narrowed, "I'm Ely Rothschild and you are in my lounge uninvited, peon."
"Who knew?" asked Fred.
"You will leave now," he demanded. "Or I will have you escorted out."
Fred glanced back at Sam, gave a laugh and then turned swiftly taking a swing at the man's head. His fist made contact and hit the rich banker square in the jaw.
Rothschild held a handkerchief to his bleeding lip and ordered the staff to remove Fred and Sam, "Get them out of here!"
In class warfare the rich never actually fight but rather hire men to fight for them. The staff of the ship, which were also looked upon as nothing than peons by the banker were now ordered to remove one of their own from the lounge.
Two men descended on Fred who started throwing punches wildly. Fred didn't know how to fight, had no formal training and really very limited education. The staffers hit him square in the jaw and one man grabbed Sam from behind.
That was the mistake, for Sam was too busy watching her great-grandfather about to get beat up to think about the situation and she instinctively reacted with an elbow to the gut and a then flipped the man over her back. The staff all stood and watched as Sam took one of the men down with a few basic maneuvers.
Fred grinned at her, "Another coming behind you!"
She turned to find another man dressed in a uniform coming towards her, he pulled a gun to order them to stop. She kicked the gun from his hand, used the heel of her hand to strike another man in the face then grabbed Fred and ran for the door.
Fred started laughing as they went below level to avoid being caught by the staffers. They descended the staircases, ran through hallways and eventually found their way back to third class and once back in third class the staffers gave up the chase for they didn't wish to continue the insanity nor see them arrested for Fred and Sam were right to be in the lounge.
Fred leaned against the wall in the belly of the ship, he laughed at Sam, "Where did you learn to do that?"
Sam replied, "Basic training! I spent some time in the military."
He wrapped his arm over her shoulder and started deeper into the ship, "You have got to teach me some of that, Sammy."
For Sam it was the first time Fred every touched her. He only shook her hand when realizing she was related before and really had no idea how to treat her before. But being his friend and someone who just saved him from the brig, Sam was fast becoming his close friend. She placed her arm over shoulder in return grateful she finally got a chance to impress her grandfather…Even if he didn't know he was her grandfather.