Able Seaman John Tavers, SSM was pleased with everything about his transfer to the Naval Air Fleet. In the first place, there was his room. He no longer slept in a hammock in a large open space on the mess deck with the rest of his watch. Now he had a room, which he thought of as a cabin, in a large new barracks. A cabin he shared with one other Able Seaman, a boatswain striker with a riggers assignment on their new ship. They had actual beds and spacious lockers for their personal effects. There was a large common room that they shared with other residents where there were game tables, comfortable furnishings, and a lovely wood burning stove for winter use. Chipper had never lived so well. When he visited with Stoney or Ted, it was more luxurious of course; but he had more space and more comfort in his barracks than he’d ever enjoyed at home. Then there was the food. No more ships biscuit and jam for breakfast, now he could have eggs to order and all the bacon or sausage, or bacon and sausage, that he might want. There was chota hazri, a hot lunch with several desserts, and for dinner there were steaks, or roasts, or chops and all the spuds or veggies he might want with another real dessert. It was glorious.
There had been a series of tests, written and practical, when he had reported to the base. He had excelled in the boat handling and mathematical aspects of the tests; he had repeatedly demonstrated a ‘feel’ for any boat he was handling, under steam or sail. As a result of his tests and demonstrations of his ability he was now a quartermaster1 striker and was assigned to the elevator wheel of the ship.
The night before their first flight, Chipper had turned in at 2200 hours with the regulation “Lights Out” call. He had wakened at 2400 hours. He was too excited for further sleep, so he dressed in the prescribed flight uniform, and went to his duty station on the Eckener two hours before reveille would sound. He carefully checked everything at his station, and then he walked the entire length of the cables from the control gondola to the elevators at the stern planes; walked carefully along the cat walk, to ensure that the cables were intact, unfrayed at splices and couplings, and moving smoothly the entire length of the ship. He was very concerned to insure that the pulley system that increased the power of his wheel was lubricated and silkily functional. He was satisfied. His station was ready.
The elevator position was a critical one. One where the ability to ‘feel’ the ship was vital. At the rudder, one could go a degree or ten, off course and it was not much; probably worthy only of a snappish ‘Mind the helm!’ from the Officer of the Deck. But the elevator was vital. Up and down drafts of various strengths would strike the hull of the Eckener at different spots and with varying force at different times. The Eckener was 650 feet long, and would usually cruise at 1500 to 5000 feet of elevation. Too much down elevator, for even slightly too long, could easily be disastrous. The Elevatorman was the prince of the bridge crew and was expected to keep the ship on an even keel, or on the assigned elevator angle. Great attention to the ‘feel’ of the ship was expected of him.
“So,” Lieutenant Cascone hesitated for a moment while he took in the name tag and the medal ribbons, “Seaman Tavers, are we all ship shape do you think?”
‘Sir. Checked all the cables, pulleys and gears from stem to stern. Pulled three inspection panels, too. Elevators is all in order, sir.”
Lieutenant Cascone smiled. He was an extraordinarily handsome young elve with flashing brown eyes, brown hair in a full cut that stretched the haircut regulation beyond the maximum; he had a lovely tan, yet he possessed the most beautiful apple cheeks that Chipper had ever seen. He obviously smiled often and well; he was a delight of youthful health and beauty. He wore the two stripes and crown of a lieutenant.
“So who told you to do all that,” the vision of beauty asked with a smile.
Chipper was momentarily nonplussed. Had he violated some unknown rule or protocol? He thought he’d better just answer in a seamanlike way. “No one, sir. Thought the ship might expect it.”
Lieutenant Cascone smiled beautifully. He placed a hand on Chipper’s shoulder and gave him a gentle squeeze. “Good for you.”
Chipper smiled back. They looked a long look.
Slowly the Eckener and the hangar came to life. The sky to the east began to lighten and the birds began to discuss the morning’s business. The air was still without a whisper of breeze. The giant hangar doors swung open and the line handlers began to lay out the lines preparatory to walking the Eckener out of the hangar. The line handlers were drawn from the 2nd battalion (reserve) of the 92nd Highlanders who were doing their annual two week training period with the Military Academy. Chipper admired the Highlanders in their kilts; however, he had never even considered joining the army. Just one of those things that happen, you never think about them, but they determine your direction in life.
The rudder man, another Able Seaman quartermaster striker and the Chief Quartermaster came onto the bridge. The seaman quickly took station at his wheel; the chief, who seemed somewhat distracted, gestured at Chipper. “Come along, then. Let’s check everything.” And off they went to check the cables, pulleys and gears that Chipper had already checked. Chipper did not tell the chief that he’d already done this; but he pointed out lubrication points, critical pulleys, and inspection panels that clearly demonstrated to the chief that this sailor was familiar with his station.
“Very good,” the Chief observed when they returned to the bridge.
Two more officers now climbed the boarding ladder onto the gondola and moved up to the bridge. One wore the three stripes of a captain lieutenant while the other wore the four stripes of a full captain. White showed between the stripes of the captain’s rank signifying that he was a staff officer and not a line, or command eligible, officer. Both wore flight uniform.
Lieutenant Cascone saluted them snappily and reported that the ship was ready for flight. The engines had been tested and warmed; all flight control surfaces and controls had been checked; fuel and water ballast were aboard in the quantities specified and the crew was all present. The ship was at 0.03 of positive buoyancy.
“Excellent,” Captain Lieutenant Mathy stated matter of factly. “One more passenger and we’ll be ready.”
Chipper wondered idly who that might be while he checked again to insure that all of his controls were set properly.
There was some clumping overhead, and the hatch that led to the interior of the ship opened and two men descended the ladder into the bridge.
“Attention on deck!” Captain Lieutenant Mathy ordered. It was the King and the Earl Martial. Both wearing flight uniform, the King wore the insignia of an Admiral of the Fleet and the Earl Martial that of a Commodore of the Naval Air Fleet.
“Please, at ease,” the Earl Martial responded, returning Mathy’s salute.
“Here we are in the forward gondola, the bridge of the air ship.” The Earl Martial began to lecture his other half, the King.
“Why Chipper,” the King exclaimed going to the elevator station. “It’s really good to see you again, moving up in the world, I see.” He smiled. The Earl Martial rolled his eyes.
Chipper, was taken aback. He didn’t think he should have his back to the King, so he spun around quickly and saluted, then dropped the salute instantly as the King was holding his hand out to shake. Chipper shook hands with the King. Right there on the bridge of the Eckener, in the presence of captains and lieutenants, chiefs and commodores, seamen and the ships cat, as if it were the most natural thing in the world. Chipper shook hands with the King.
“How are you liking this posting,” the King asked.
“Oh Your Majesty, it’s the greatest, sir; its super!”
“Please Justin,” the Earl Martial interceded. “Why don’t you have him over for a beer, or something. We have a flight to make.”
“Of course,” the King replied and then smiled again at Chipper. “We’ll have a beer this Saturday, and you can stay for dinner, I’ll send the car.”
Whereupon, Captain Lieutenant Mathy, using the megaphone, ordered the line handlers to work and they began walking the Eckener out of the hangar into the glory of the morning. Surus was one line handling crew all by himself. Surus was an elephant. As an apprentice familiar, Surus had carried Hannibal to war; now, Surus was Colin’s familiar and had been so since the Trollian War. Several boys were admiring him.
Well clear of the hangar, the line handlers were ordered to halt. Captain-Lieutenant Mathy looked at Colin; Colin then did a quick check of the trim and the control stations. He embraced the King and whispered, “We can’t go together until we’ve heirs.” There was a serious kiss, and then the King descended the boarding ladder to the ground. The ladder was taken-up while the King walked to where he was well out of the way of the line handlers and then turned to watch the take off. He was quickly attended by equerries and aides.
“Drop 25 gallons of ballast fore and aft,” the Earl Martial ordered. The Eckener already was trimmed with a slight positive buoyancy and was straining gently at the leash. The release of five hundred pounds of additional ballast had a very positive effect. He then paused for a long moment while he savored the feeling and the event.
Inspector Wolfram Hollweg looked up and down the highly polished conference room table. There were eight other senior police officers from major jurisdictions present. Several generations of senior police officers, in photograph and paint, looked down upon the proceedings in the conference room with the standard issue degree of dour police disapproval.
“Gentlemen,” Inspector Hollweg began. “There have been a number of unusual events that have occurred in several different cities here and abroad. There are a few commonalities. The first and foremost of these commonalities is that none of these events should have taken place. We had a major event of that type in Berlin, I’m sure you may have heard of it, but it was not the only one.
“Recently, in New York City, unknown persons gained entrance to a luxury apartment and placed a painting on an easel in the sitting room. These unknown persons passed effortlessly through several layers of building security, as well as the security of the apartment, without damage, clue, or alarm. This painting was said to have been extorted from the original owners in Vienna before the war began, the apartment belonged to the descendants of those original owners.
“In Warsaw, unknown persons entered the Castle, again passing through multiple security nets, and left a painting that was thought to have been lost in the war on an easel near the entrance.
“In Magdeburg, another painting that was thought to have been lost in the war was returned to the museum from which it had been confiscated; again, without any sign of entrance, or exit for that matter, having been made.
“Here in Berlin, we had an event which, unlike the others, was witnessed. A party of men entered the new synagogue here; they were carrying a solid gold menorah which was quite large. They alarmed, and subdued, the night watchman whom they then carried into the main room where they removed a cloth cover from the menorah and set it on a table. The night watchman heard them speaking in a strange foreign language amongst themselves. They spoke to him in English several times, and he has the barest smattering of that language. They then made a call to the local police precinct reporting their presence, and then they disappeared, according to the watchman, in a flash of light. The watchman has not been particularly helpful, but he did recall that the one who spoke to him told him they were going to call ‘the Bobbies’ by which he apparently meant the police. That’s interesting, but proves nothing.
“There have been other incidents, but it seems clear that something strange is going on and we should attempt to discover as much as we can about these circumstances.
“Something will alarm our bosses one day, and it would be best if we have as much information as possible when that happens and they ask us for answers all in a panic.”
“So,” a Bavarian Chief Inspector wondered smiling. “Have you called ‘the Bobbies’ to find out if they know anything about this.” He chuckled politely.
A Detective Lieutenant from Hannover wondered if it could really have been the “Seraphim” that the night watchman reported and, if so, what could mere humans do about it. He smiled winningly.
There were several other amused comments on the subject, but it was agreed that they would begin to forward all unusual cases of this sort to Berlin where they could all be collated and studied. Inspector Hollweg would contact the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the US, and the Gendarmerie royale du Canada to see if there were any comparable cases in North America.
Of course, he did not tell them about the series of financially embarrassing incidents that had plagued him following his investigation into the return of the menorah. He had trouble accepting the watchman’s insistence of innocence and had pressed hard for further information, but that led nowhere. Then his problems started, he had inquiries from the tax man, a glitch in the payroll department caused him to receive no pay for two months and then, when that was fixed, it did not include his back pay and that required another two months to fix and he had calls from bill collectors regularly. Then, he was made aware that Aaron, the night watchman, had won €500,000 in the lottery. Finally, he received a card in the mail commending him for his zeal investigating the return of the menorah but suggesting that Aaron could have had nothing to do with it. Inspector Hollweg knew that the “game,” as the great English detective, whose adventures he loved to read and re-read was “afoot”.
Lady Cecilie Albemarle, younger daughter of the Earl de St Marcouf, was relaxing in the garden, chatting with her brother Georges who was taking a break from walking. She was seventeen; he was twenty-one. He had been a lieutenant of the Guards Lancers during the Trollian War. He had been seriously injured, indeed he almost died, and had lost his left leg, amputated above the knee. This had meant the end of his career in the cavalry. He had been morose in his recovery and had drank far too much for a period of time; but he’d bounced back finally, and was now getting around on a prosthetic leg, or “my wooden peg” as he liked to describe it.
“So the ‘rents are trying to marry you off. To the King no less. What do you think a that?” Georges commented mentioning the dinner they had recently put on for the King and the Earl Martial. He smiled. She did too. They were very close.
“Could it have been the Earl they’ve set their sights on, do you think?” She smiled infectiously, “Could be, I’d imagine.”
“Could a been. But I don’t think so. There’s only one bachelor out there more eligible than him, though, so I can’t really see mum aiming for number two.”
“Georges, dear, there’s no need for me to marry. You’re the heir, you’ll marry soon and the family name and title will be safe. And as you well know, I’m not in the least interested in any man.”
“But that’s what makes it so perfect. He’s not interested in any girl. So it would be perfect. Course, you’d have to get preggers a time or two, but that’s a piece of cake and you’d be Queen. Besides, as you well know, my heir is not the heir they’re really interested in.”
Cecilie grimaced at him, and then burst into laughter. “How’s your peg leg coming?” An abrupt change of topic.
“Well, my wooden peg is just fine, thank you very much; but my stump can begin to ache if I’m up and about too long. So I just have to take it easy and try for longer periods on it. And there’s not been much for my other peg for a while now.
“My pal, Leftenant Higginbotham, was by the other day and said I might could get a slot in the armored car squadron of the Hussars if I applied. Noble wounded hero that I am and all.”
“Noble, modest, retiring, recovering wounded hero that you are!” She smiled with genuine affection.
“But you could make a regiment Queen Cecilie’s Own. Then I could be Colonel and maybe finagle a nice staff job and have something fun to do. I can still ride ceremonial sorts of things, it’s just polo and hunting and cavalry riding that’s out.” He looked sad.
“Well when you figure out how to do the pregnant bit for me, maybe we’ll see about it, but in the meantime. Well, I just think not.”
“Oh come on. You marry the King and get Nancy to marry the Earl Martial. You guys can live together except when it’s time to make babies. It’s perfect.
“Well, I’d better do some more walking. The stump’s feeling good today.” They pecked each other on the cheek and then Georges started off twirling his walking stick just as a lancer should.
Cecilie sat back on the garden bench and considered her world. Nancy was travelling with her parents and she’d not be able to see her for a week. It would be rather nice to share a palace and a royal office with her. But how could that possibly work? It seemed to work with Justin and Colin, but then their positions were set in stone and it was normal for the King and the Earl Martial to be lovers. Things were rather looser for the wives. Some had lived in one of the royal palaces, and others, such as the King’s mother, had not. ‘I wonder if this arrangement might even be possible?’ She asked herself. And there was the issue of the children. ‘Well’, she thought, ‘what about ‘em. It’s not like she’d be a single working mom or anything like.’ It was at this moment, that a large grey owl landed whisper quiet on the adjacent garden bench.
Good morning. I’m Cameron. The King’s Own familiar.
It was quite the most exclusive gentlemen’s club in Kingstown. Quite snobbish too, only aristocratic elves need apply; or possibly extremely wealthy elves who possessed an estate but no title. But there was no guarantee that such an untitled application would be accepted, or if accepted, approved.
The members who would be dining there, or who would soon be going out to dine, were dressed for dinner. There was a scattering of other members that were dressed casually and Reevers Flushing Earl of Felixstowne was among the latter. He had just arrived in town and had cabbed to the club from the train station. He was looking for an old chum who had a civil service position in the War Ministry. And there, across the room, was his target: Sir Pomeroy Castelnay, OGD, the Baron Silleston, Permanent Under Secretary for the Army; he was seated close to the fire in a wing back leather chair, communing with a decanter of single malt whisky. The Earl of Felixstowne had a serious bone to pick with the War Ministry and he moved with determined malice toward the unfortunate Pomeroy whose communion with the Highland spirits was about to be sundered.
“Pommy old boy. Something must be done! I say, something must be done and it must be done this instant, I say!”
The Baron Silleston looked up sadly. “Flusher. It’s been years. How are you old chum?”
“Well it’s about this army. I say, it seems to have no manners. I say, nor respect for their betters. Something must be done, I say!” His lordship wasn’t much for the polite forms of address, or even small talk for that matter.
The Baron gestured to an attendant and a chair and a glass was brought for the Earl of Felixstowne. The Baron was not happy to see his old school chum and he girded his figurative loins. Flusher was an arse at school and had not improved with age.
“Seems they’ve got this new school set-up and they’re letting just anyone in. People from Earth, and,” he coughed angrily, “the Bwca. And,” he glowered about mightily, “a bloody Trollian! The enemy of our nation! There, in our army school! I say! My God! Is there no sense of tradition? Of propriety? My God, what’s next?
“Mind, I’ve naught against the Bwca, why my valet is one and a fine one he is, too. But this is preposterous! They’re training them to be officers and in command of the Elven. I say, just now the ‘Cadet Major’ of the first class is a damned Bwca, and he’s a bloody ranker. My God Pommy! I say there must be standards! There must be a code. I say!
“And you know what else? The dirty blighter actually struck my son in the face. My son! In the face! My son! Struck by this miserable son of a ranker. It’s got to stop, I say. There must be standards. The army must have them. If the army has no standards the whole world is shot to hell, I say.”
“Won’t you try this whisky, Flusher. I’m thinking you’ll find it soothing. Twenty year old it is. Try it.”
And the Earl seemed to gather in his anger, and took a deep pull on his whisky. He smacked his lips appreciatively and finished the glass. He set it down with a bang and poured himself another from the crystal decanter.
“Fine. It’s very fine. But what about these damned Bwca?”
“Well,” the Baron soothed. “Let me look into it. It’s all a new thing, don’t you know. We’ll have to see what’s up. Shall we have some of the delightful canapés they make just to go with the whisky?
“If I remember, you weren’t in the army, so I guess you don’t have anyone to ask about the situation there. Makes it difficult, you know, not having friends. And of course, there’s been the coronation, new King and Earl Martial now. Well, let me see what I can find out for you.
“Do you remember Peaches from our term?” The Baron went on, “he’s a major general now. Did well in the Trollian War. Maybe he’d know something.”
“Not likely I’m thinkin’. His daddy was just a doctor or some such. He’d not understand I’d warrant. Prolly thinks his daughter should have a commission. I say! Haw, haw!”
The Baron resisted temptation and smiled politely.
With a slight positive buoyancy, and the additional release of some water ballast, the Eckener rose slowly into the morning sky. Part of the Elevatorman’s duty when a maneuver was in progress, was to announce the altitude in increments of 100 feet.
“One hundred feet and trim level sir,” Chipper called.
“Two hundred feet and trim level sir,” he called a few moments later into the silence of the bridge.
“Start all engines,” the Earl Martial said quietly.
“Start all engines, aye, aye sir.” There was some clicking and jingling as the four engine order telegraphs were operated by Lieutenant Cascone. Seconds later there was a muted grumbling as the engines coughed into life.
“Three hundred feet and trim level sir.”
“All engines started, Sir,” Lieutenant Cascone reported as the last engine order telegraph jingled.
“Very well,” the Earl Martial acknowledged with a great smile.
“Idle ahead all engines.”
“Idle ahead all, aye, aye sir.” The Eckener moved slowly ahead.
“Five degrees up elevator.”
“Five degrees up elevator, aye, aye sir.”
“I have five degrees up elevator on, sir. Passing four hundred feet, sir.”
“Five degrees up, and steady on the inclinometer, sir.”
“All engines ahead one half,” the Earl Martial quietly commanded.
“All engines ahead one half, aye, aye, sir.”
“Passing five hundred feet, sir. Five degrees of up inclination. Elevator is neutral, sir.”
And so the quiet routine exchange of information continued as the Eckener climbed steadily until the Earl Martial leveled her off at 2500 feet. The Earl Martial had let almost a third of the Eckener’s length pass through 2500 feet of elevation before he ordered down inclination bringing the nose down and the Eckener trim and level at 2450 feet. Colin smiled visibly as Captain Lieutenant Mathy murmured, “nicely done.” Chipper, without seeming to move at all, jockeyed his wheel gently and the altimeter came quickly to 2500 feet.
Chipper remained at the elevator wheel for half an hour, then another striker took his place and he and the first helmsman went to the chartroom where the chief was explaining their other duties. Later he would take a turn at the rudder, which he did not find challenging.
The first trip of the Eckener did not cover much distance, but it did last all day. The Earl Martial executed a number of turns to see how she handled; different engine orders were tried to ascertain what the various speeds would be. At ‘Full Ahead’ the Eckener made an impressive 74.5 knots. Colin did not try the emergency, or ‘Flank’ speed. When maneuvering astern, it was tricky, but then she’d not really been designed for that and there wouldn’t be a great deal of it. And most importantly, they now knew about it.
The Chief Quartermaster made certain that Chipper was back at the elevator wheel for the landing. The Earl Martial had gradually reduced his altitude until he was coming over the landing field at 250 feet. He was moving into a light breeze of about 5 knots, he reduced speed and jockeyed with the engines until he was stationary over the field. She was level as a table top. He then gave her a slight negative buoyancy and she slowly settled. The mooring lines were dropped and taken by the landing parties and they were home.
It had been exhilarating.
The Bastard Shot Me! Minerva heard Sergeant Jones scream in her mind. He was tryin’ to grab these kids. Black hair, unshaven, male, middle aged, gray sweatshirt, black pants, he’s got a gun and he ran down 50th toward 14th. I’m shot.
Find the sarge! Minerva called. There were four soldiers and two familiars who were working the Rescue Commando assignment in Brooklyn trying to find abused children.
I got the kids, but I need help. Sergeant Jones called. A basement entrance. Just down from that yeshiwa-thing.
I got ‘em. Sarge and two kids, Drummer Young called. Sarge’s been shot! I’m puttin’ pressure on the bleedin’. Drummer Young was doing well for a twelve year old who was just supposed to be a lookout because of his youth. But Drummer Young was the fourth generation of his family to serve in the Guards Fusiliers; he took his duty and his regiment very seriously as only a twelve year old can.
I got ‘em, Carlos the other familiar on the mission called.
Get ‘em to hospital and get back here as quick as you can. Minerva ordered. We’re gonna try an find the perp. Minerva loved to use words like ‘perp’ as she was very fond of police shows. She had managed to get Earth cable TV in her quarters as she was assigned to the Rescue Commando. She had convinced the powers that it was an educational tool. Actually, she hadn’t convinced anyone of anything. But she was popular and well thought of.
But there had been a snap flash at the basement entrance that only a few of the passers-by noticed, but then ignored. Whatever it was, it didn’t concern them.
But Drummer Young took it seriously and continued down 50th Street looking exactly like a boy in a hurry on a boy’s business. Except for his bloody hands.
I got ‘im! We’re about a hunnert feet up 50th from 14th. Gray sweatshirt, black pants, dark hair. He’s winded an he’s leaning on a mail box. He’s got one hand in his pocket an he looks like a wild un.
Almost there, Minerva called.
Drummer Young carried on as a boy with a boy’s business until he was almost on the suspect. The suspect might have been concerned by the blood stained hands, but he was winded, breathing hard, and did not notice. When Young got close he did a sort of change step, dance and jig move that he’d learned playing football with the boys of the Regiment. This put him precisely in position to kick the suspect square in the nuts. The suspect went down with an agonized groan. Drummer Young, worried about the gun, kicked him in the temple to knock him out. It did. He reached into his waist band and came out with a pistol.
A few people had stopped to watch, not many, but a few. Minerva appeared; I got ‘em! Fall back for retrieval. There was a snap flash and Minerva, Drummer Young, and a comatose suspect disappeared. Of course Minerva was a pigeon so no one noticed her. One man, continued to stare at the spot from which two people, one holding a gun in bloodstained hands, had just disappeared. He was a Detective First Grade with the NYPD and he did not believe what he had just seen.
Claude, First Nurse at The Viscount Sir David Lawrence of Coronado’s Royal Infirmary, was beginning to enjoy the excitement that was becoming a regular occurrence in the emergency room. There had been rescues, and arrests; there were challenges medical and practical. Here he’d just been on duty an hour and a familiar had appeared with two young boys and a wounded soldier. The familiar announced the code for serious injury to a King’s man; witnesses; in progress; and had then snapped away. The emergency room staff moved swiftly into action and the soldier was whisked into a bay and his treatment began. It was clear that his injury was significant, but should not be life threatening if treated.
Like most successful bosses, Claude had attracted good people to his team, and he now left them to do their duty. He directed his attention to the two young boys who were clearly terrified. A Bwca orderly was attempting to calm them without much success. Claude noted that, while they were dressed for cool weather in an entirely normal manner for young boys, they had most unusual haircuts and were wearing entirely useless caps.
“You’ve wonderful hair, but my ears are far superior,” Claude told them, smiling while attempting to seem solemn. He stroked his ears and seemed to preen for the two boys. One of them laughed. The laughing boy, now smiling, began to stroke his hair away from his temples, mimicking Claude. The other boy looked solemn.
It was at that moment that four soldiers in civilian clothes, and a young boy with bloody hands and a pistol in one hand appeared in the Emergency Room: that the boy was a proud Guards Fusilier was not at all apparent. There was also a pigeon and a peregrine falcon amongst the arrivals.
“I’ll get the OOD for you,” Claude said before anyone said anything. “He’s been alerted, please wait here.”
Perfect. Thanks. Minerva did the pigeon head bob.
Drummer Young went to the boys. “Are you guys all right?” He stuffed the pistol into his waist band. “My name’s Frank. I’m a soldier. I’ll wash me hands and we kin shake.”
Claude returned with the OOD. He was an Ensign of the 92nd Highlanders in all his kilted splendor; he wore a magnificent basket hilted broadsword3 at his side. He was eighteen years old so he did not appear particularly ferocious despite sword and kilt.
I’m Minerva of the Rescue Commando, and she delivered a concise report of the incident to the Officer of the Day. Claude took Drummer Young to a sink and provided him with soap and lotion.
The OOD went to the nearest telephone to inform the adjutant. The adjutant contacted the colonel, who clarified all the details to insure he had them correctly; he then called the chief of staff.
The chief of staff went directly to the palace residence, where he informed the aide-de-camp that he had a priority report for the Earl Martial.
The Earl Martial contemplated the report for long moments. He confirmed his understanding of several details with the chief of staff. He asked Surus to check all the details with Minerva as he directed his aide-de-camp to obtain eight medals in their boxes and meet him at the infirmary. He went to find the King.
“Come along, love. We’ve got some service to reward,” Colin dragged Justin out of his office, into his general officers undress tunic, and they set off for the Infirmary at a brisk walk. It was barely a quarter mile away.
Surus reported, Minerva confirms the details as reported. She’s very impressed with the performance of all concerned. I’ll wait outside the front entrance. Perhaps our victims might like a ride on an elephant. I wonder if they know of Hannibal.
Claude was sort of generically supervising a room full of people in his emergency room. It would take a few moments to sort out who went where and he thought he might be of assistance. So he was standing by in case.
He heard some muttering and clumping in the hall. The door was opened and a uniformed aide-de-camp, with aiguillette swinging and glittering, held the door as the Earl Martial and the King entered the room. There was one of those stunned moments of silence and then, as Drummer Young started to his feet, the King smiled, “At ease. Please! Everyone, at ease, this is a hospital not a palace.”
The Earl Martial beckoned the OOD over and whispered in his ear.
“Men,” the King began. “Minerva has interviewed the suspect in this matter, and Surus has confirmed her report. He was planning murder. A crime against humanity planned and prepared by the suspect, but interrupted, while in progress by our soldiers, in this case — you. And so it was a crime against myself. His sentence will be confirmed tomorrow morning.
“Now, I want to formally thank you. And this is a good time to thank our First Nurse, Claude Clanrobert, for his steadfast, consistent, and excellent service; for his calm ability to deal with the unexpected, and for his outstanding care of the patients in his care. First Nurse Clanrobert,” and he accepted a small leather box from his aide. “I hereby appoint you an Officer in the Most Noble Order of Hermes Wand. And I thank you.” He pinned the order on Claude’s tunic and the Aide handed Claude the box.
“Now, which of you is Adolphus Lerner of ‘The First’ Light Infantry?” The mentioned soldier stood rigidly to attention. “And William Ackroyd of the 99th Mounted Infantry?” This soldier, already standing came to attention. “Huy Maarten of the Royal Engineers? And Cornell Jones of the 13th of the Line.” By this time, all of the soldiers were standing at attention; the two boys were standing, but of course, had no real concept of ‘at attention.’
“Men it gives me great pleasure to recognize your participation in a most dangerous and exacting operation. I award you all the Service Commendation Medal. You saved lives today and I thank you.”
“Now, then, Drummer Young.” He smiled broadly. “You were first to help your wounded sergeant and see to the welfare of these two young boys. You then proceeded in pursuit of a man you knew to be armed and dangerous while you had nothing in the way of arms but your pocket knife. You advised Minerva of your location and your plan; you located the suspect. You then apprehended the suspect and seized his weapon. You demonstrated exceptional bravery and a high level of professionalism. You made me very proud. With pleasure I award you the Distinguished Conduct Medal.
“You’ll all be recognized on your regimental day, but I want you to have your medals today.
“Now I’m going to go upstairs and give Sergeant Jones his medals. I’m going to tell him how proud I am of him, and of the squad he commanded. I hope to see more of all of you in the future. Surus is waiting outside to take you up to the palace for dinner and a warm bed. We’ll return the lads later, but I’d like to insure they’re okay for now and I think Claude’s watchful eye would be good for that. As well as the company of their rescuers. Again, I’m proud of you all.” He drew himself up and saluted, and then he and the Earl Martial left.
The OOD gave each of the two boys a Glengarry in the regimental colours with cap badge to wear.
Claude, Surus instructed, insure that the boys have a bunch of bananas to feed me on our walk to the palace. Boys love to feed elephants bananas, everyone knows that.
1 For the benefit of any soldierly types out there, a naval quartermaster has nothing to do with supply. They are involved with ship handling, navigation, log keeping, updating charts, and such.
2 ‘Trude Steiner’ by Gustav Klimt.
3 These are sometimes called ‘claymores’ though an edged weapon expert would sniff with disapproval.