Lady Nancy Westover glanced at the note she had just received from her lover, Cecilie; the note had been waiting for her when she returned with her parents from visiting family on the continent. Lady Nancy and Lady Cecilie routinely wrote to one another in Latin. This gave them a sense of additional privacy as the servants who would be handling the notes were not thought to be conversant with Latin. Of course, it was really kind of silly as the servants knew everything anyway. Nevertheless, Lady Cecilie had been opaque in the extreme about the reason for the meeting, while being entirely clear as to its importance.
She wrote a brief note suggesting they ride after breakfast tomorrow and meet in the park. She rang for a footman and sent her message on its way.
Next morning, they met as arranged. They both rode tall thoroughbreds and, while they could ride sidesaddle if compelled by one of the family’s matriarchs, they rode astride today as they normally did; they wore riding britches and boots, hunt jackets, and jockey helmets. They were each accompanied by a groom from their respective establishments. Both of these grooms were girls who loved horses and had been lucky to find a way to make a living doing something they loved. They also loved their mistresses; they chatted agreeably and knew to keep a respectful distance from their ladies. They were fond of each other.
“It’s wonderful to see you again. I was only gone for a week but there were moments when it seemed as if would last forever.” Lady Nancy smiled. She lifted Cecilie’s hand and kissed it demurely.
“Remember just before you left, my mum had that huge dinner-reception for the King and the Earl Martial. ‘Course she’s planning on making me queen and I’ve not had the courage to tell her I plan to remain a not so chaste lady living with you in the country.”
Nancy smiled at the thought.
“So,” Cecilie continued. “Georges and I were sitting in the garden the other day and Georges, the heathen that he is, suggested that I should marry the King and you should marry the Earl Martial and we could all live in bliss in the palace.”
“The nerve!” Nancy continued to smile engagingly.
“I just laughed at him. He’s worried about finding a wife, having lost his leg and all, but I’m sure mum is working on that too. He’ll be an earl, after all.
“Anyway he thought I’d make a great queen and you could marry that adorable Colin. He had it all planned out.”
“Well that was mighty thoughtful of him. Was he going to do the child birth thing, too, or what?” Nancy arched an eyebrow.
“Typically him, he thought that was no big deal. So I sent him off to exercise his stump. He can be a pill, but I do love him. He’s always been a most excellent brother.
“And you know what happened then?”
Nancy gave Cecilie the glare. The one reserved for people who ask that question knowing full well the other has no answer for it.
Cecilie smiled back. “The King’s Own Familiar landed on the bench and proposed the exact same thing.”
“Not funny,” Nancy replied. “Is that a joke? Not funny at all!”
“I know. It’s not a bit funny. They’re very serious. Very serious, indeed. They will let us settle most of the detail, but basically: Cameron suggested that I be Queen and serve the country in that capacity, insuring at least two children; and that you must be the Countess of the Marches and must serve in that capacity, again, at least two children. We’d have a wing in the palace and would live together just as the King and the Earl Martial do. So there’s something to think about.
“You know, not so terribly long ago, arranged marriages were all the thing. This one has the advantage of permitting us to live together. We’d not be separated. But what if we married two other gents, and we both know that’s what our folks want, and then had to live half a country away. Let’s ride out and enjoy the day. We need to think about it and they need to know we’re serious. I can contact Cameron with any questions. I imagine you can too. Come on!”
And they were off at a smooth canter through the parkland between their estates. They had momentous thoughts to think.
They slowed to a walk after a bit. “You know,” Cecilie commented as they idled along the pathway, to the natural rhythm of their horses, “Everyone in our world will tell us that it is our duty to our world to do this. They’ll say that we are called to this.”
Nancy looked off into the distance, “And they’d be right, I think.”
Robert Custis Seward was thirteen and had no idea what to do. His father was crazy. So was his mother. He sincerely hoped he’d never see either one of them again. He did not know it, but that occurrence was vanishingly unlikely. His father was in a padded cell with his bible. His mother was serving twenty years for child abuse. On Earth Prime, twenty years meant twenty years. He did not know what to do.
His older sister, Mary Custis Seward was still in hospital. Her insides were damaged and she spent a lot of time far away from the here and now. She was fifteen.
So here he was, with his brother, Thomas Custis Seward, now ten. He knew he must help protect his brother, just as his brother had helped and tried to protect him and Mary when their father ran amok. But he was not sure how to do this. So today he gathered his brother and they went to the infirmary where they had been treated when rescued to see the one person who they knew. They stood in front of the door. The sign on the door read:
Claude Clanrobert OH
They entered the office and were immediately confronted by an older lady with silvery hair and a no nonsense attitude.
“How can I help you young men?” She inquired crisply.
Bobby almost sobbed at the merest use of the word ‘help’. “Please Ma’am an the only one we know who can do stuff is Nurse Claude. Please, can we talk to him?”
“He’s on the wards right now. Who are you; can I tell him something about you?”
“He won’t remember us; we were rescued about a year ago.”
“Our sister, too,” Tommy, the smaller one, volunteered in an effort to be helpful.
“Yeah, but she’s still in hospital, Ma’am.”
“Well boys, I want you to sit down over there. I’ll get right through to Claude and we’ll see what’s to be seen.”
They sat in worried silence. It was not long before the office door made that strange sort of clatter that wooden doors that are half a frosted glass pane with ornate lettering tend to make. In came Claude looking cheerful and businesslike.
“Why Bobby. And Tommy. It’s nice to see you again. What brings you to see me?” Claude smiled. “Come on. Let’s go get some ice cream, or something.” And he shepherded them off to the restaurant pavilion of the university complex which had a Baskin-Robbins franchise that Tamara and the Dodger had imported from Earth.
Bobby was pleased and excited that Nurse Claude remembered their names.
“So how’s everything going now,” Claude continued after they’d obtained their sundaes and seated themselves. “School? What’s your favorite subject? Best teacher? Girlfriend? Boyfriend? Baseball? Rugby? Football?” Claude hoped to generate some pleasant conversation while he machine-gunned the boys with questions hoping for a chance to ask them why they’d come to see him. But Tommy burst into tears, and Bobby looked like he wanted to.
“But that’s just the problem,” Bobby gulped out. He collected himself, “Nothing’s happened. We still live at the hospital. We don’t see anyone except our friends at the hospital.
“We went through the counselling and therapy when we were first rescued. Then we got the introduction to the Kingdom and all that stuff. But that was all done a coupla months ago. We got nothin’ to do. School or work would be something to do. It would be great to do something. But they say we gotta wait for our sis.”
“Yeah,” Tommy seconded. “We doan wanna go home, but this just sucks.” He grabbed some napkins and wiped his eyes and blew his nose.
Claude was stunned. “You mean you have nothing to do all day?” He was astonished but not disbelieving. Things had been known to get lost while in plain sight before. But it wasn’t supposed to happen to living people.
“Well, when you’re done with your sundaes, we’ll go back to the office and get this all figured out.”
“Oh thank you,” Bobby and Tommy spoke together as brothers frequently do.
And the wheels were put in motion properly. Bobby and Tommy would move into Claude’s cottage for the time being. Claude stiffed in a call to Sir Lawrence, the Physician Royal, and he agreed to see Mary tomorrow; Claude then ran Humphrey Abstruse, Principal Wizard to HM the King, to ground and told him that he wanted tutoring set up at once for Bobby and Tommy. Then he sent a note to Arion, Head Groom to HM the King, and asked that Terence or Harry Cyffylog, or both, come to see him as soon as possible. His boys were going to meet others their own age. When it came to getting things done, Claude was a firm believer in starting at the top.
“What do you guys want for dinner?” Claude inquired of his guests.
“Pizza!” They affirmed together, as happy brothers are wont to do.
Sir Pomeroy Castelnay, OGD, Baron Silleston, Permanent Under Secretary for the Army, opted to have his meeting with Reevers Flushing Earl of Felixtowne in his office, rather than at the club. He wanted to establish a mood of military ambience in a deliberate effort to keep “Good Old Flusher” off balance. ‘Military ambience’ he thought smilingly, who would have thought there could be such a thing? Still, his office was rather formal. Dark paneling with kings and generals looking down from ornate frames; banners, and swords, and statuary gathering dust in corners or on walls where there was no portraiture. There were large windows in two walls a subtle declaration of authority and seniority. From behind his desk, there was a large painting of King Justin III in a splendid carved frame. It showed the King leaving the military hospital at the close of the Trollian War; it was a wonderful portrait, capturing the humanity of the King as well as his Elven spirit.
The Baron was leafing through a new biography of Leonardo Da Vinci that his agent in London had procured for him. He was studying how the two men’s careers had differed, yet been brilliant, in both worlds. Studying these parallel lives was a favored pastime. Twenty minutes after the appointed hour of the appointment with the noble Earl, he put the book in a drawer and signaled his aide to bring in the Earl.
He walked around to the side of his desk with a hearty, “Flusher old chum, sorry to be late. Press of business, don’t you know. The Earl Martial is everywhere doing everything, it would seem. How are you?” He beamed.
Flusher was eyeing the aide coolly. The aide was both a captain and a Bwca. “Pommy, old boy,” he commented as they shook hands.
“Would you have tea sent in, please,” the Baron requested of his aide as the young man exited.
“Please be seated,” he smilingly engaged his old schoolmate.
“So, I say, I hope you’ve gotten to the bottom of this assault and mutiny thing. I say, the nerve, and do you have to have a damned Bwca right here in the office, bad form, I say. What will people think?” Flusher was warming up.
“Have you been enjoying your stay in the city?” Pommy smiled, “There’s a wonderful opera performing just now, or so I’m told. Haven’t gotten there yet, press of business don’t you know.”
“No thanks, not for me. Went home and came back down just yesterday. Don’t have time for frippery, I say. Frippery! Won’t have it!”
“Have you gone to the symphony? They’re doing a series of the Baron Amadeus von Salzburg’s symphonies. Simply grand, they are.”
“I say, Pommy old boy, mebbe yer spending too much time on frippery. I say, late for meetings and such. I say! And is a Bwca aide the thing here in the capital? I’m thinkin’ not, I say. Surely he could be off on the frontier somewhere.”
“Well, I have been looking into your concerns, and that can’t always be done during normal business hours. We must all make allowances, don’t you know?”
“So the inquiry’s over, splendid, I say.”
“Well, Flusher, we’ve not done a formal inquiry. There are other ways of finding out what happened that are often better than an inquiry.
“So, here, basically is what happened.
“A Cadet Brownlees, serving as a Leftenant on maneuvers, outmaneuvered your son who was also acting as a Leftenant in these maneuvers.
“Annoyed, your son confronted Cadet Brownlees on the way to dinner. And poked him in the chest with a finger.
“Brownlees poked back and there was a minor kerfuffle.
“The Cadet Major appeared on-scene and admonished the cadets involved. There were four elves, two Bwca, and a Trollian. Not that it matters in the least.”
An Elven steward now came in with the tea service. Set it silently on a folding table between the two aristocrats, and retired with a smile and a nod to the Baron.
“See here, Pommy! That’s what I mean. You’ve a damned Bwca out front in gold lace and pips, while an Elve brings in the tea. It’s an outrage, I say!”
“I’m afraid that ship has already sailed, old boy. Some long time ago, have you no elves in your employ?
“So as I was saying,” Pommy continued, not wanting to give the floor away, “the participants were admonished on the scene, the combatants were assigned extra duty, and the matter is settled.”
“What the devil do you mean, ‘settled’? I say, I’m going to the King! There was a brawl right there on the walkway. My son, I say, was assaulted; I will demand a full inquiry! A formal inquiry. There was a fight and my son was the victim. I have rights, I say! I’ll have a courts martial. We Elves have rights, I say! Damned Bwca running about brawling and shouting. Damned knackers!” Lord Flushing stood up abruptly knocking his cup and saucer to the floor where the thick Persian carpet absorbed the fall without injury to cup or saucer.
“But wait, Flusher old chum; I keep trying to tell you, as far as the army is concerned, there was no fight.”
“What the devil do you mean, ‘no fight’? Seconds ago you sat right there and told me there was a dust up and I by God will not have it. I’ll appeal to the Personal Council! I’ll have justice!” The Earl of Felixtowne was almost purple with rage, veins were throbbing on his temples and his ears were bright red.
“Well, Flusher old chum, you do what you will. But the King will not move against the Bwca, or anyone else in this matter. Individual criminals, of course, but there are none of those here. Remember. There are all manner of the folk, including even people, in the King’s train; he’s big on equal opportunity. No, old boy, that won’t do.”
“But they were fighting.”
“No, I keep telling you, there was no fight.”
“How can you say that? How can you sit there and say that! You just said that they fought!”
“Well, Flusher, it’s not so much what may, or may not, have actually happened. It’s what the army says that’s important. The army says there was no fight. The army says that because the Cadet Major, a decorated veteran and the senior officer present, said so. Mind you, this is a decorated veteran, highly promoted, not some slick sleeve rookie. There was no fight, and there you have it.”
Lt Byng was ecstatic. He had his first command. She was beautiful beyond words; a paragon of elegance; a sweeping sheer that accented her grace; her powerful main battery gun looming just forward of the bridge; the graceful efficiency of her after works; the fine triple expansion engine waiting to drive her forthrightly through the seas; her elegant funnel with just the slightest devil-may-care rake; she could do anything, go anywhere, and she was his.
He gloried in the honorary rank of ‘captain’ that was bestowed on the commander of any naval ship regardless of his actual rank. Equally wonderful, he and his ship had been assigned to the Marine Commando.
“She’s faster nor you think, Cap’n.” The Chief assured him. “Good fer every bit of twenny knots, wind an weather permittin’ a course.”
They were in the engine room and Lt Byng was very impressed. The engine room gleamed. It sparkled with oil or polish as the nature of the equipment required. There was the crisp smell of steam and steam cylinder oil. The engine looked serious: three cylinders, a heavy crankshaft, the complex splendor of the eccentrics that would control the flow of steam to the cylinders. Everything looked crisp and solid. The Chief had given him an excellent cup of tea which he was enjoying as the Chief regaled him with all the technical details that made his engine room a paragon of mechanical virtue.
Lt Byng was conducting an inspection. Not one of those formal ones, where everyone stood around in their best dress uniform and he went about touching surfaces with white gloves; no, he was interested in operational efficiency and nothing else. He had checked everything topside with the Boatswain, and conferred with the Gunner, the Quartermaster, and the Signalman. They were ready. They would depart next morning at 0430 with the tide. There was really no reason to be leaving with the tide. HMS Carnation did not draw enough water to come anywhere near the bottom at high or low tide. But they were leaving on an operation and the Navy liked to leave for operations with the tide. That’s just how it was done. How it had always been done. This was the Navy after all.
By rights, there should be a junior officer serving as his second in command; but the Midshipman who had been serving in that capacity had been plucked off the ship and sent to the first class of the new Naval Academy. So the next senior officer was the Chief, who was a Warrant ERA, but he was the chief engineer and not a deck officer. For all intents and purposes, his executive officer was the quartermaster, a chief petty officer; the boatswain was a petty officer, while the gunner and the signalmen were able seamen. Still, they all seemed to work well together and the ship was in excellent condition. He’d already decided he would eat one meal a day with his crew and not remain in isolation in his cabin for all his meals.
He had met with Geoffrey the familiar who would be handling the actual attack as it would take place under water. They would receive all of the necessary apparatus this afternoon. They were fueled and watered. They were ready.
Lieutenant Michel Cascone was acting Captain on this training flight.
The training schedule was intense. They would spend the best part of one day in a test flight in which different volunteers served in different capacities on the zeppelin until their area of aptitude or skill began to manifest itself. Some of the applicants had been returned to their original units. Airsickness had taken a toll, so had other infirmities; so too, had simple lack of ability. The standard crew was visualized as: fourteen enginemen to man the engine gondolas; twelve bridge ratings; and twelve riggers; six radiomen; and six cooks and stewards. There would be four chief petty officers and four commissioned officers. They would be assigned in a three watch rota: four hours on watch and eight hours off watch. The cooks and stewards would attend to their duties but wouldn’t be on the standard watch system.
Then the next day there would be some classroom instruction as well as a thorough inspection of every inch of the ship as well as any preventative maintenance that might be required. The Naval Air Fleet needed personnel. The second training ship, HMS Shenandoah was already close to completion and the first capital zeppelin, to be named HMS Prince Eugene of Savoy was taking shape in the second hangar.
Lt Cascone cast a long glance through his lashes at ‘Chipper’ Tavers. Tavers was at his station at the elevator wheel and was doing his usual excellent job maintaining altitude and trim. Lt Cascone stood up from the captain’s chair and looked ostentatiously at his watch, and then the bridge clock. “Standby the lee helm,” he stated matter-of-factly.
“Lee helm standing by,” came the prompt response from the lee helmsman, a signalman striker assigned to operate the engine order telegraphs.
Lt Cascone spoke to the quartermaster. He was going to stop the engines and take two bearings on different objects, fifteen minutes apart. He was very interested in the effect of the wind on any ‘drift’ in his navigation.
“Stop all. Engines at idle.”
“Stop all. Engines at idle, aye, aye sir”
There was some clacking and jingling. “Engines at idle sir,” the signalman, an endlessly smiling young Bwca informed Lt Cascone.
They took the bearings on opposite landmarks and double checked the results. Lt Cascone used this opportunity to admire Chipper, while appearing to be bent over the chart table deep in contemplation.
Captain-Lieutenant (acting) Michel Cascone had a complete and total crush on Quartermaster Striker Chipper Tavers and he did not know what to do. He could, of course, approach him. But he didn’t dare. He was an officer, not only that, but he was an officer in the same branch as Chipper. True, this was a short term temporary assignment, but still; if he were to approach Chipper, Chipper might well be intimidated by his rank, and feel forced to go along with him just because he was a lieutenant. That would be exactly what Michel did not want. He wasn’t much for casual romps. His daydreams were invariably about a long term and lasting relationship. He’d been raised on the great stories of the noble love of the kings and earls martial of the past and he knew that’s what he wanted. But how to go about it? Shit, he thought. What to do?
“We’re going to go ahead one half for fifteen minutes and then take bearings again,” he observed almost absently.
“Aye, aye sir,” the quartermaster responded as the comment seemed directed toward him and he was closest to the lieutenant.
“Standby engines,” he ordered.
“Lee helm standing by,” came the quick response.
“All ahead half speed.”
“All ahead half speed, aye, aye sir”
“All engines at ahead half speed, sir.”
Lt Cascone looked carefully at his watch and the bridge clock again and then adopted a pose of studied nonchalance that allowed him to view Chipper. From this spot, he had a full view of Chipper. Not for the first time, he noted how the sailor’s uniform accented his lovely bum, the elegant sweep of his neck and shoulders.
Whatever was he going to do? There was no one to even talk to. The rule basically said that “as a rule” there should be no fraternization between commissioned and non-commissioned ranks. But it was not prohibited. Another rule opined that intimate relationships between personnel in the same command should be “avoided” lest there appear to be favoritism. But again, it was not prohibited. The only ironclad rule was that there must never be “force” or “threat” or “promise of favor.” After all, at the head of the service was the intimate relationship between the King and the Earl Martial. So these things were possible, they were just damned difficult. Unlike the King and the Earl Martial; he, Michel Cascone, and him, John Tavers had not been born to it.
“Stand by the lee helm,” he ordered.
“Lee helm standing by, sir.”
“Stop all. Engines at idle.”
“Stop all, engines at idle, aye, aye sir.”
“All engines at idle, sir.”
“Very well,” he smiled at the lee helmsman and he and the quartermaster took their bearings. Waited fifteen minutes, and took them again.
“All ahead full, I’ll want turns for 50 knots.”
“All ahead full, turns for 50 knots, aye, aye sir.”
There was some calculating and some adjustments to the engines and then they were moving at a steady fifty knots. Lt Cascone then plotted a course for base and gave the requisite helm orders. Lt Cascone, had of course, been paying attention to trim and altitude throughout these maneuvers.
“How was the elevator during these maneuvers,” Lt Cascone inquired so that he could hear Chipper’s voice.
“Steady, sir. Some minor flutters, sir.”
“Very well,” and he returned to his chart, and his numbers, and began to calculate drift. Chipper does care, he thought. After all, he didn’t need to say those additional words. ‘Some minor flutters, sir.’ They sounded as poetry to Michel. He likes to talk to me. ‘How do I even say hello,’ he wondered. ‘There’s got to be a way.’ But wait! He shook hands with the King! Oh my God.
The whaler had “RESEARCH” blazoned on its side. It was pretending to do research on whales, but it was actually a whaling ship and it was filling its holds with dead whales. It was moving purposefully toward several pods of whales it had spotted.
On the horizon, a small gray ship appeared to be doing nothing of consequence. But aboard that small gray ship, all sorts of interesting things were happening.
Lieutenant Byng was enjoying himself immensely. He was flying the Blue Ensign of a UK government vessel. The fishery pennant was at the masthead. This was a ruse de guerre of the traditional sort that made him almost chortle with glee. Captain Aubrey or Captain Hornblower, two of his friends from childhood books, had done the same thing in the service of their king. It was glorious.
Along with a large roll of some sort of cable, several crates of equipment had come aboard prior to leaving. That same afternoon, a large Rolls Royce rolled up dockside and two people, one elve and one human, accompanied by a mongoose, descended and were escorted aboard by an equerry. He was introduced to a wizard, one Caleb Knox, and his partner, Charles St Clare, who had some affiliation with the railroad, the consequence of which Lt Byng did not fully grasp. Richard Tickie-Tavey Esq was the mongoose who was busy fussing over his people. They retired to the cabin that had been his midshipman’s. They were all up for departure, the railroad man retired to the engine room and the wizard and their familiar observed their departure from the ships bridge, keeping well out of the way.
The young wizard was very forthcoming at dinner and mentioned that one of his particular strong suits was telekinesis. Basically, the whales and dolphins were going to do all of the real work, but he was going to “thread the blade of the saw.” That phrase didn’t make a great deal of sense, but Lt Byng didn’t want to demonstrate his lack of understanding. A few minutes later, his partner Charlie, and the Chief, joined them at the table and Charlie immediately began regaling Cal with descriptions of the operation of Carnation’s engine. The Chief beamed approval and cheerfully advised his captain that young Charlie was a railroad engineer and drove the ‘Prince Royal’s Own.’ The only thing that could possibly equate in virtue would have been to be a Chief Engine Room Artificer.
Rikki was also seated at the table. He had a heavy porcelain mug with HMN on the side. He’d filled it from a thermos. My martini, he explained to the Captain. Lt Byng would have sworn that he was smiling at him. Roughing it here at sea, don’cha know? No olives.
As darkness came on, two sperm whales came up astern of the Carnation. There were several dolphins working with them.
Let’s get them rigged, Geoffrey suggested. The crates had contained a rather elaborate harness and Cal moved one of the harnesses over to one of the whales, who easily entered it. Then the second harness was fitted on the second whale. Now Cal demonstrated what he had meant earlier. He reeled three hundred feet of cable off the drum. “This is the saw, see?” Then Cal moved the cable over between the two whales, and affixed one end of the cable to a fitting on the back of one of the whales. They then moved off, with sure purpose, toward the whaler. Cal held on to the bitter end of the cable with his mind’s eye as the whales neared the stern of the whaler.
Cal stood at the bridge windscreen with his hands on the rail, his eyes were closed. Charlie stood right next to him. The whales moved up beneath the whaler from astern, one on either side of rudder and the ships single prop. They were not breathing and had not been seen. Cal then took the bitter end of the cable saw, ran it over the propeller shaft forward of the prop. Then he inserted and locked it into the second whales harness. He opened his eyes and stepped back and away from the railing and Charlie helped him sit down in a canvas chair they had brought to the bridge for this purpose.
“Takes the vinegar right out of him, it does,” Charlie smiled. Rikki, none the worse for his comfortable martini, was right next to Cal. Geoffrey says she’s workin’ fine, Rikki announced.
“That must be one helluva sharp cable,” Lt Byng observed.
Oh yessir, Rikki responded. State of the art and custom designed. The whales will bear down and also move slowly to the port side to maximize the cut. We’ve more cable if needed.
The engineer on watch in the whaleship’s engine room was not being particularly attentive, so far the watch had been completely routine; but when the prop fell off, the engine sped-up quickly and was quickly pushing the red line. But he managed to get across the control station and close the throttle, bringing the big diesel down to idle before it did any serious damage to itself.
.The bridge intercom started squawking demanding to know what the hell they thought they were doing down there. There was more shouting and insults, but at length it was determined that the prop had fallen off. They requested a tow.
Midshipmen Ted DeLucca and Stoney Davids had weekend liberty. They had to spend the night in their academy quarters, but they were otherwise free all day Saturday and Sunday. They had been out to the zeppelin hangars and admired the two airships in their hangar. There was a great deal of activity on one ship, ratings and petty officers bustling about, the occasional chief looking distracted. The second ship had some workmen busy on one of the engine gondolas, but was otherwise seemingly unoccupied.
“I wonder, what they’d be like? What do ya think, Stoney, should we volunteer for the air fleet? Bet I’d not get seasick there.”
“Let’s check it out. Ask around first,” Stoney observed. “That’s a serious call ya know?”
They had admired the building that would house the actual documents, art and artifacts from the Alexandrine Library. There was a lot of statuary standing together on one pavilion that seemed rather like a marble crowd scene. A fascinating crowd scene, to be sure, consisting as it did of kings and pharaohs, soldiers and huntsmen, generals and scholars, gods and goddesses, many of them nude, or close to it. There was a great deal of work going on and around this building.
And then it was lunch time, and they headed for the restaurant pavilion determined to try something that wasn’t regularly on the menu at the academy dining hall, pizza perhaps. They went past several possible establishments and seemed to be inclining toward a pizzeria with outside seating.
“Look it! There’s, some soldiers,” Ted pointed toward a table at the pizzeria. They could see two Glengarries and one red tunic seated at a table. “Let’s go compare notes.”
As they approached the table, it became clear, that the two heads in Glengarries were kids with unusual haircuts; the third was clearly older and was wearing the walking out uniform of the Guards Fusiliers. As they approached the table, he stood to attention and saluted. They returned his salute but told him he didn’t need to do that as they were all just on liberty together.
“Well when yer just a Boy Drummer it’s best to salute first and worry later,” he grinned. “I’m Frank. This is David and Jacob and we’re here to visit my sergeant who went and got his own self shot.”
Ted and Stoney had also introduced themselves, but at a more fundamental level, the three of them recognized one another as serious players. Ted and Stoney noted that Frank wore the ribbon of the DCM, the Commando Badge, and most importantly, was carrying a revolver in a gleaming brown leather holster; Frank recognized the ribbon of the SSM that both of the middies wore.
They immediately respected one another and Ted and Stoney envied Frank the Commando Badge and the holstered revolver.
Ted and Stoney joined them at the table ordering another pizza and a pitcher of pomegranate juice.
“You must promise,” David looked seriously at Stoney.
“Not to tell our parents that we ate pizza.”
“Oh, kay,” he replied smiling. “You got it.”
David looked relieved.
“It’s the pepperoni and sausage,” Jacob explained. “We’re not sposed to eat it. But it’s so good.”
“Jacob and David are from Brooklyn. There was gonna be a kidnapping of ‘em, but the sarge broke it up. They’re gonna have a final physical tomorrow and then go home. So we wanted to say good bye today.”
“Yeah, but we get ta keep our new hats,” David smiled gleefully.
“An Minerva said we can come here when we grow up,” Jacob appended.
All concerned then tucked into the hot pizza.
Justin and Colin were relaxing in the bath. They had been passionately energetic earlier and had managed to splash water all about. Colin used to worry about this as he knew that the maids who cleaned the bathroom would know exactly what he and Justin had been doing to splash all the water about. Somehow this embarrassed him. It was tranquil now; the jets were murmuring quietly and the water gently massaging them. And there were no worries about staff; clean up in the bath would now be handled by Taras and Keisha who were special footmen. They had full rights to use the bath. They would know how the water got splashed about as they would do exactly the same thing in the bath when it was their turn. Somehow, this soothed Colin’s conscience.
“So, Cameron’s been off talking with those girls. What do you think about that.” Justin wondered.
“Well, it’s something that has to be done, that’s for sure. I’m not looking forward to it. Cameron needs to be sure that the girls must know exactly what they’re getting into.” Colin was pensive.
“Oh I think you can be sure of that.” Justin assured him. “We’re going to be going on dates and then an engagement and all of that. And all very public and known about, too.”
“Lawrence and Claude are on the warpath again. And it’s nice to know that there are some certainties in the world,” Colin observed.
“Really. Nothing new about that,” Justin grinned. “It was fun having young Chipper over the other weekend, wasn’t it.”
“Yes it was. He was really enthusiastic about everything and everyone. If there was a bad word, about anyone, from cook to captain, I certainly missed it. He’s a delight to know, and you must have him over again. What are Lawrence and Claude on about?” Justin was always concerned with the kingdoms affairs.
“Well, Lawrence is upset about the lack of progress setting-up the clinics in the more rural parts of the country, and particularly on the frontier. We need to help out the Trollians; they’re all coming across the border to our clinics which are over worked and under staffed because of this additional workload. He’s advocating a program to create a teaching hospital in Trollia so they can bring their national services up to date. Pestering poor Helene at the State Department. He’s determined. Plus, I want to form a Trollian regiment for your service.”
“I’ll go see him, I think,” Justin paused looking into the future. “It’s a good idea and the Trollians are like one step away from being a province. There’d be some practical, and personnel issues, I think, that might require more than just a little solving, but I think we can handle that. They’re our neighbors and a case could be made that they’re my subjects now.”
“And Claude is furious because three kids, that had been rescued, had then somehow been forgotten in the paperwork jungle. They had to come to see Claude as he was the only one they’d met who seemed to get things done. He got things done, all right. He always does.” Colin paused.
“Should we promote him?” Justin queried.
“Well. Yes. I suppose. But we’d better be sure he’d be happy in the new job. He’s awesome where he is.” Colin was genuinely concerned for Claude’s well-being.
“And did I tell you about the Marine Commando? They sawed the prop right off a whale ship. Should be interesting to see what the world has to say when they see the shaft in dry dock.” Colin chuckled.
“My Dad was by, they’ve got the preliminary plans for the space station and the telescope almost finished. It’ll be great. There’s already quite a buzz about it in the city.”
Colin swung about so that he was alongside Justin. He kissed him lightly on the cheek and then reached down to do some gentle fondling. The kissing developed and waves began in the tub. Soon water was sloshing and splashing all over the bathroom floor. Again.
1 The ‘Empress Eugenie’ by Franz Winterhalter.