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The Hawaiian Triple-Cross - Page 1: February 4, 2013 - March 11, 2013

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Care for a Brandy?
Peregrine
An Offer To Teach
Portsmouth
The Shaky Landing
Court Martial This!


Care for a Brandy?

Entry for February 4, 2013 Written by David L. Drake

Dr. Sparky McTrowell was beside herself with panic. Two men had just grabbed Edwin Llewellyn while he was an uninvited guest at the Slate-Howgill wedding breakfast reception, and escaped with their hostage via two ropes hanging from a passing airship. But that wasn’t her real concern; it was that her beloved Chief Inspector Erasmus Drake heroically followed the three, clinging to the end of one of the lines. Sparky glanced down at her newly acquired ring and thought of her brave beau that just disappeared over the rooftops.

She spun to see the gawking attendees crowding the door that led from the house’s interior to the garden. They had never seen such a spectacle before and stood agape, staring at the sky and the retreating craft with a man dangling from it. She broke into a full sprint as she ripped off her wrap and indiscriminately tossed her clutch purse to the side. The well-dressed crowd parted to reveal the handsome, broad-shouldered Sergeant J. B. Fox dressed in his finest suit. It was the first time that Sparky had seen him with a worried look, which didn’t help her in her urgent undertaking. She grabbed his hand as she ran, giving him no option but to join her.

“Come with me,” she commanded, and he was running out the front door with her, his hat and overcoat left behind with the doorman.

Bounding out of the front door, Sparky immediately grasped the scene in the curved driveway. Carriages and hansoms crowded the gravel semicircle, and all of the horses were being fed as they stood harnessed to their conveyance, save the cream-colored horse that transported the bride and groom, which was unhitched and enjoying a long drink at a water bucket near the low wrought iron fence that demarcated the Howgills’ property.

Without breaking stride nor letting go of J. B., Sparky high-stepped one foot onto the fence and thrust herself up, landing roughly on the unsaddled back of the surprised steed. The Sergeant imitated her maneuver, landing straddling the animal’s rump. The impact caused the creature to snort-drink an extra mouthful of water, and raise its head in a shaking-sneeze.

“Dave!” cried out the horse’s handler, followed by, “you two, stop!”

Sparky grabbed a handful of mane, and ignoring the shouts, kicked her heels into the sides of their mount. It responded skillfully by springing forward and galloping into the street, its well-appointed riders doing their best to stay on.

Initially J. B. instinctively grabbed Sparky fully about her waist, but instantly realized the impropriety of such as his hands felt the smoothness of her satin dress. He adjusted his grasp to the sides of her waist, which gave him little to no purchase on a galloping horse. With one hand, she grabbed his wrists and moved them back to around her waist.

“Hang on, Sergeant! We’ll shock all of London by my unladylike position astride Dave the horse. You hanging on to me will barely add to the spectacle.”

The receding tail of the airship showed it both gaining altitude and picking up speed. The streets were relatively clear for London, but the two on their bolting charger drew the full attention of everyone on the streets. Children and adults stood, mouths-open, watching the remarkable scene.

Sparky tugged Dave’s mane to the right to lead it around the intersection, but the horse was unwilling to be steered.

“What is wrong with this horse?!” Sparky shouted as the stone wall across the road loomed up.

“It is English trained! Use your legs! Lean!”

Sparky cranked her body over at an exaggerated angle to force a new trajectory out of Dave, which worked, but in a awkward manner that showed that both rider and mount were learning something new together at breakneck speed. Dave rounded the corner and sprinted down the avenue.

With frustration, Sparky shouted, “This would be a great deal easier with a saddle!”

After a long 15 minutes of zigzagging though the streets over the rough of cobblestones, J. B. finally spoke up.

“Hold up, doctor. We’re losing them.”

Sparky silently conceded, discontinued urging Dave forward, and pulled up to a halt. She turned to face her passenger, tears running down her face. J. B. softened and his arms shifted to a hug.

“I know,” he consoled her. “I know.”

She slumped a bit in her beautiful deep dusty rose dress and cried out loud, large teardrops falling from her cheeks making tiny dark pink puddles on her skirt. What she had unknowingly wanted all of her life had just been ripped away. She was in an odd land, without a true home, with her heart breaking.

“Sparky,” J. B. intervened. “You’re a pilot. How far can that craft go?”

In an undignified fashion, she wiped her wet face and dripping nose with her right dress sleeve, bringing back her rational judgment.

“It’s a three-prop, elliptical envelope, single-stoker airship.” She followed that observation with an inelegant snort that cleared her nose a bit. “It can only go about seventy to eighty miles without some kind of refueling. We don’t use such small, inefficient crafts at the port.”

“All right. Given that, and the direction they are going, where are they headed?”

She took a quick look at the location of the sun and the spires in the area. “South-south-west. Either Brighton or Portsmouth.”

“Why would they go there?”

“Portsmouth! There are many international shipping vessels there to further their escape. And the Royal Navy has fortifications there, so we have support if we can contact them.”

“Sparky, what’s the fastest way for you to get there?”

“To the Airship Port!” She righted herself and prepared for another gallop through London. J. B. cleared his throat, and tapped her on her shoulder to get her attention.

“Dr. McTrowell, you have no purse, you’ve lost a shoe, and you’re not dressed for this. Let us retrace our steps, gather the needed gear and kit, contact Scotland Yard, and do this properly. Erasmus deserves a well-organized rescue, don’t you think?”

Flourish Break


Chief Inspector Erasmus Drake had gotten himself in a very bad situation. Years of practicing fencing gave him a better than average hand strength, and he had spent years shipboard as a child. But hanging from the end of a rope by only his grasp was not something he could do for an extended period of time, and he knew he needed to change the situation quickly.

The man who had saved him from living on the streets as a boy was above him, held by the armpits by two large Polynesian men in proper British clothing, also hanging from ropes. A third Polynesian man leaned over the railing of the airship.

“Welcome aboard, Edwin Llewellyn!”

He leaned further over the railing, and with two strong hands grasped the shoulders of Edwin’s suit and hauled him aboard. The two who had abducted Edwin climbed the ropes with ease, and each one, with one leg thrust over the railing, hopped onto the external deck and out of sight of Erasmus.

Erasmus took a second to look down to see the rooftops of London fall away from him as the craft gained altitude. He looked back up at his hands. He was hanging on the end of a rope with both fists clenched about a hemp rope just above a knot. The whiteness of his knuckles and the tension in his hands told him that we would not have the strength or skill to let go with one hand and just a climb up the rope. To add to his circumstances, the rope terminated right under the knot, so he wouldn’t be able to get a purchase with his legs or feet without swinging them up.

“Assistance, please!” he shouted. He thought it would be best to be as polite as possible given the turn of events, him being uninvited to the vessel and that sort of detail. There was no immediate response.

Erasmus looked down again and had the introspective thought that ever since he had met Sparky, he had spent a great deal more time in his life hanging over the edge of flying craft. If he survived this, maybe he would see if he could avoid this “over the railing” way of life in the future.

A smiling face appeared above Erasmus at the top of the rope. It was the third Polynesian man.

“I have not forgotten about you!”

The man grabbed the rope and started hauling Erasmus up, hand-over-hand. Erasmus did his best to not kick or flail, since it might make either his rescuer’s hands slip or make his own hands slip. Neither was desirable, and both were undoubtedly fatal.

When his hands neared the railing, the two abductors helped by clasping Erasmus’ arms with two hands each, and lifting him over the railing to the safety of the exterior wooden deck. His handlers were not rough with him, but neither were they gentle. When his feet hit the deck, it took all his strength not to allow his knees to buckle from the fright of his ascent. The third man took him by the arm.

“I’ll take you to where we have Edwin.”

Erasmus was beside himself. He jumped on that rope to come to the aid of Edwin, as if he was going to fight off his capturers and guide the flying ship to safety. Instead, it appeared he was just another captive.

Entering the internal rooms of the airship, it was clear to Erasmus that he was on the airborne equivalent of a dinghy. The bridge, if one could call it that, had a simple steering apparatus that consisted of a single handle that probably controlled a rudder of sorts, and a turntable knob that controlled the speed of the steam engine that worked the propellers. There was a single foot pedal. Altitude adjustment? Erasmus didn’t know. It was tidy enough, and all equipment was stowed and lines fastened.

They know what they are doing, Erasmus thought. Leading him past the bridge, Erasmus’ captors took him to a strong wooden door with a large handle. It squeaked when opened, and the hinge chimed in with its own creaking when the door was swung open. The third man gently guided Erasmus in and closed the door.

Inside, Edwin sat on an upholstered armchair in a comfy room with a rug and curtained windows.

“Erasmus, have a seat.” Edwin motioned to the other upholstered armchair in the room. “Care for a brandy?”

“I hate to be blunt, Edwin, but what I care for is an explanation. I took a great deal of risk getting here.”

“Fair enough, and you shall have your explanation. I am here under duress, but these gentlemen don’t see it that way. I’m sorry you got dragged along, but I’m glad you’re here. Perhaps together we can sort out this…predicament.”

Erasmus took a seat, knowing that this wasn’t going to be a short tale.

“How did it start?”

“It all started as all of my stories start. I was giving someone fencing lessons.”

Erasmus smiled, and thought
I’m sure it gets complicated after this part.




Peregrine

Entry for February 11, 2013 Written by Katherine L. Morse

Satisfied that McTrowell had sufficiently regained her composure, Fox began sketching a plan.

“Let’s return to the reception. You can reclaim your discarded belongings. I’ll coordinate with Dr. Young. We’ll rendezvous at the airship port. I believe it’s time to test Her Majesty’s new arrangement with Western & Transatlantic. Commandeer the fastest ship they have and don’t take no for an answer.”

“You needn’t worry about that, Sergeant Fox.” Her face bore a steely and determined look. She leaned into Dave, coercing a smart pivot to retrace their course back to the Howgill residence. She didn’t set quite the same breakneck pace as the original chase, but she evoked curses from a number of cabbies along the way. They had nearly reached their destination when Fox reached around Sparky unceremoniously and tugged her hands to bring the horse to a halt. Before McTrowell could ask what he was doing, he hopped off Dave’s back and dashed to the curb. He reached down and triumphantly hoisted her wayward shoe. He slipped it back on her foot before remounting and giving the horse a quick slap on the flank to get it moving again. Although Sparky was still very anxious about Drake’s situation, the small kindness lifted her heart slightly.

By the time they arrived back at the reception, the festivities were winding down. Young and Pogue were standing under the eaves of the front porch. Pogue was fidgeting anxiously, but Young was standing perfectly still and erect. She held Sparky’s wrap and clutch, the latter neatly folded under the former. She placed her right hand on top of the stack, stepped up next to the horse, and handed the two items up to Sparky. As soon as Sparky took her accessories, Yin put her arms straight down at her sides, palms flat against her thighs, and executed a small, stiff bow from the waist. McTrowell thought this an odd gesture under the circumstances, but nodded her head in return.

Fox dismounted and continued with his earlier orders. “Yin, return to Dr. Pogue’s residence. Dress and pack for a rescue mission. Collect Dr. McTrowell’s flight gear. I expect us to return within the day, but prepare for other contingencies. I will notify Lord Ashleigh and collect the chief inspector’s kit from his flat. Rendezvous with us at the offices of Western & Transatlantic.”

Flourish Break


Sensing that there was finally something he could do to help the situation, Pogue asked one of the hired footmen to hail three cabs. Then he quickly ducked back inside where his arm couldn’t “hear” the footman whistle. He didn’t think knocking himself out again would be a positive contribution to the mission at hand. While he waited for the cabs to arrive, he busied himself making a mental inventory of his most recent inventions and trying to fit them into the current situation like so many jigsaw puzzle pieces. A ha, he had just the thing! Satisfied with his solution. He trotted back outside to join Yin in the cab.

Flourish Break


Littleton did a double take at the sight of McTrowell striding into the office with her usual command air, but dressed incongruously in a fancy, pink party dress. While he was gaping at her attire, she sized up the situation. Although she always considered him a nervous man, he seemed unusually tired and distressed. There were dark circles under his eyes that she hadn’t remembered seeing before.

“Mr. Littleton, is Mrs. Wallace in?” She jerked her head toward the office door.

“Yeah, they’re in there.” He made no effort to disguise the wince that crossed his face.

They’re? She would just have to find out for herself. No sooner had she opened the door than the source of the office manager’s wince became abundantly obvious. Both Mrs. and Mr. Wallace were in the office. The bitter tension made her skin crawl. Out of compassion for Littleton, she closed the door behind herself.

“Well, Mr. Wallace, I see you’ve recovered from your…gout.”

“Yes, Her Majesty’s ‘physicians’ are quite effective.”

Sparky nodded knowingly. “At least you’re at work and not still under their care…in the Tower.”

“Quite so. And she was kind enough to suggest a few ‘nurses’ for Western & Transatlantic Airship Lines to employ in case I should have a relapse.”

Sparky struggled to hide a smirk. He could grouse all he wanted about being under house arrest, watched every minute by Her Majesty’s agents and his own wife, but he had only his wife’s good graces to thank for the fact that he wasn’t rotting away in the Tower of London. But, she had more urgent matters of concern.

“Pursuant to your agreement with Her Majesty, I’m here to requisition an airship for an urgent mission.” She was about to mention Drake’s kidnapping, but it occurred to her that this fact might make Reginald Wallace even less cooperative. And she didn’t have any time to waste.

Annabelle Wallace spoke up. “The cargo ferry Holyhead isn’t scheduled for a run for a couple of days. I could have it fueled up in an hour.”

“Too slow.”

“The Burke & Hare is ready to go, but it’s scheduled to make a flight to Paris within the hour and will already be loaded with passengers and baggage.”

“It would take too long to unload and the process would draw too much attention. Is there nothing else?” She couldn’t keep the note of pleading out of her voice.

“There’s the Peregrine.” She had barely gotten the ‘P’ out of her mouth before Reginald croaked and gurgled like he was having a seizure.

“Most certainly not!” he shouted.

His wife continued bitterly, “It is not as if you can go off gallivanting across the skies in your personal yacht when you’re under house arrest! You know the terms of your parole. We must provide transport to Her Majesty’s agents when they ask.” She made a sweeping gesture toward McTrowell. “They’re asking. Or would you rather go back to the Tower and forfeit all our property?” If her words didn’t silence him, the expression of towering rage on her face did.

Mrs. Wallace regained her composure and turned to McTrowell. “Dr. McTrowell, the Peregrine is docked at our private tower, number 42. I’ll have Mr. Littleton send an engineer right away to prep her for flight. Good luck.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Wallace. I’ll be certain that Her Majesty is informed of your cooperation.” She departed without saying anything to Reginald. As she passed through the outer office, she noticed that Littleton was looking conspicuously busy in the file cabinet next to the door she’d just exited. Considering how badly she knew Mr. Wallace abused him, she hoped that he had enjoyed the show. As she opened the door leading outside, she heard Mrs. Wallace call out.

“A word please, Mr. Littleton.”

Flourish Break


Where had he put those? He really must ask Yin to help him set up a better system of organization. Pogue felt a lump rise in his throat at the thought of his colleague. He fervently hoped that Sergeant Fox’s assessment was accurate and she would be back within a day. Her absence during that business in Carlisle had nearly caused him to perish from anguish. His focus was seriously starting to wander when he found the object of his quest.

He picked up the two components tethered by a shielded copper wire. Fortunately, he’d had the sense to construct a lidded wooden box to hold the porous pot-style Daniell cells. He cursed himself for not devoting more time to the problem of preventing the copper from the copper sulfate blocking the pores of the earthenware canisters, but the glass had just seemed so much more interesting. He set the box on the nearest worktable and gently laid the attached goggles alongside. He snatched up a screwdriver and disconnected the goggles from the battery. Casting about, he found another wooden box that was filled with a jumble of sawed off bits of pipes of random diameters. He dumped the contents carelessly onto the table and shoved a piece of chamois into the bottom of the box to provide at least a modicum of padding. The goggles were frightening to behold when worn by a human, but the two wheels of lenses that could be rotated independently over the wearer’s eyes depending on the visual conditions were easier to operate on the move than switching out the lenses. And there was considerably less risk of losing one of the lenses of precisely manufactured glass or crystal. He carefully coiled up the copper wire, stowed it with the goggles, and latched the box.

He sprinted up the stairs of the laboratory and out to the foyer. He was just in time. Yin was standing there checking that she had everything she needed while she waited for Mr. Bingham to bring the carriage around. She was wearing that clever black dress with the swing clasps, the one that she had exited so rapidly when the basement was flooding. It crossed Pogue’s mind that he’d remembered two overly exciting incidents in the last five minutes, both involving Drake and McTrowell. He was beginning to question the wisdom of accepting the post of quartermaster for Her Majesty’s Eyes and Ears.

Yin’s voice snapped him out of his ruminations. “What is it, Edmond?”

He held out the two boxes. “These might prove useful.
It’s the multi-vision goggles.




An Offer To Teach

Entry for February 19, 2013 Written by David L. Drake

Edwin Llewellyn took a sip of his brandy, savoring it. The Chief Inspector carefully watched the man who had been kind enough to provide him house and home while he was still in his teens. In doing so, he unintentionally began mimicking Edwin’s placid manner. This transformed Erasmus from anxious to calm within seconds.

Edwin lowered his glass and leaned toward Erasmus. “This brandy is exceptional, you should try it.” Edwin swirled the liqueur in his snifter without lowering his gaze. The fencing master knew, without looking, exactly how high the brandy was going up the side of the vessel, and he continued the libation’s spiral with a steady hand.

“My fencing
salle has not changed significantly since you were last there. I still use the strip closest to the door as my lesson strip so I can keep an eye on anyone entering or leaving. One day a couple of years ago, I was just finishing one of my afternoon lessons to a cadet from the local military school when three gentleman entered the school. I gave them a quick look,” Edwin broke his eyes away from Erasmus to peer over his glasses and look about the room to illustrate how quickly he had glimpsed the men. He then fixed his eyes back on Erasmus.

“I completed my lesson, …” Edwin made a small, single back-and-forth motion of his hand with the brandy that Erasmus instantly knew was a miniature imitation of a sword salute. It was how the master concluded all of his lessons. “And went over to greet the gentlemen. The oldest of the three was Gerrit Judd, an American physician and the Minister of Finance to Hawaiian King Kamehameha III.” Edwin showed his astonishment by elongating his face; his jaw dropped, his mouth drew in but stayed closed, and his eyebrows shot up. It caused Erasmus to smile, and Edwin leaned in further for the rest of the story.

“The two younger gentlemen were the sons of the King! The older was named Lota, and the younger was Alexander. They said they were in London to discuss a treaty with the royals, but had heard of my school and wanted to come by and watch a few of my lessons.” Edwin took a moment to sip his brandy.

“I said they could sit and watch if they liked, but I had only a single lesson left for them to watch. They said that was perfect, and took a seat in the chairs I have along the wall near the entrance. The cadet that I had next had a very good hand, so I thought we would show them some wood chopping.”

Erasmus was very familiar with this colloquial term for a series of rapid parries and thrusts that creates a wonderful rhythm of blade contacts. He knew that when this exercise was combined with footwork maintaining correct fencing distance and proper disengages that evade the master’s parries, it was a wonder to behold. In his youth, Erasmus had spent many lessons doing this wood chopping drill with Edwin, and he couldn’t help but mentally hear the pattern of metallic blade strikes that is the hallmark sound of a fencing school.

Erasmus smiled again. “So you gave them a good show?”

“Yes, and they enjoyed it so much, that they returned the next two days in a row. At the end, they offered my passage to Hawaii to teach at the Royal School in Honolulu. The same school that Lota was attending.”

“A grand offer, I must say.”

Edwin elongated his face again to show his amazement. “I was tickled that they offered such an opportunity. Of course, I said I was honored by the offer, and indicated that I’d think about it.” A final tip of the snifter and Edwin had emptied his glass. He looked at the bottom of the drained vessel, and smiled to himself quickly, as if considering how to proceed.

“Erasmus, you know I don’t like things to change. I like the school that I’ve built, and I’ve been in London for many years. I never intended to go to Hawaii.”

Erasmus nodded his understanding.

“Six months ago I started getting letters from Mr. Judd offering to provide my passage to Maui. I politely responded that I was not interested at the present time, and thanked him for the offer. The letters continued, providing the dates their escorts planned to arrive in London. I answered back that I was not prepared to leave, and again thanked them for their offer. On the day they said they would arrive, those two that grabbed me showed up at the school. I could see that there was no negotiating with them, so I exited out my back door. I skirted them for a few days, and decided that I would seek you out for protection. That’s why I went to the wedding reception.”

Erasmus wrinkled up his brow.
A nice tale, he thought, but it doesn’t really hang together.

The door swung open and the “third” Polynesian man stepped in, a great grin on his face. “It is time. We have reached Portsmouth, and we need to board the King’s ship.”



Portsmouth

Entry for February 25, 2013 Written by Katherine L. Morse

Edmond rummaged around in his pockets and produced a small, waxed paper confectionary bag that he subsequently handed to Yin. She wrinkled her brow slightly in mild confusion.

“Jelly babies, for Drake…when you find him. In case he needs to think faster.” He attempted not to sound concerned or flustered, but he mostly failed. He darted forward and planted a small peck on her cheek. This was not how he had planned to spend the afternoon of the Slate-Howgill wedding. He had been hoping for a conversation of a more personal nature with Yin at what seemed to be the perfect time. Instead he would be eating dinner at his workbench, trying not to get crumbs in the works of his latest project, as he had in the days before the inimitable Dr. Young had come to grace his life. Except that instead of the blissful indifference to the outside world that he had enjoyed at that time, he would also spend the entire time trying to ignore the gnawing anxiousness about her wellbeing. He prided himself on being a logical man, yet he found it no good to reassure himself that she was as capable of taking care of herself as any human being he had ever met. As his brain fretted around in a circle, he noticed that she was studying his face. His worry must have been showing. “Well, then, I’ll see you tomorrow. Please invite the Chief Inspector and Sergeant Fox around for dinner. Won’t that be delightful?” He didn’t imagine he was fooling her with his false cheerfulness, so he kissed her on the cheek again for good measure.

Hearing the horse’s hooves on the street outside, Doctors Pogue and Young collected the assembled gear and headed out to the curb. It was more than the two could carry, so Mr. Bingham popped back into the foyer to collect the remainder. When she thought Mr. Bingham wasn’t looking, Yin returned Edmond’s kiss without a word. Mr. Bingham caught the buss out of the corner of his eye, but quickly pretended to be busying himself with gathering the remaining equipment. It also gave him the cover he needed to hide a sly smile. He regained his stoic composure and hustled out to the carriage where he and Dr. Pogue finished loading.

He climbed up to his seat and gave the reins a crisp snap. He nodded to Dr. Pogue and said, “Good day, sir,” because somebody had to say something in the awkward silence.

Sergeant Fox was waiting for Dr. Young when she arrived at tower 42 after a short detour to the Western & Transatlantic offices. Littleton had simply said, “42,” the instant she poked her head in the door. McTrowell was making her final engineering checks as they loaded the rest of the gear into the gondola. They had a bit of a challenge getting it all to fit since there was only one room in the yacht excluding the minuscule and primitive “head” toward the back just in front of the engine room. In addition to the captain’s station where the pilot was obviously expected to stand, there were four comfortably upholstered chairs mounted to the floor on pivots. They took up most of the space, but the fact that they swiveled made them terrible storage space. Fox had half a mind to unbolt them and toss them out, but there wasn’t time. He cast off the docking line and hauled in the gangway.

He joined Sparky at the helm and turned his attention to the position of the sun in the sky. “Dr. McTrowell, we may run out of daylight before we get to Portsmouth. Are you prepared to navigate under the circumstances?”

“We’ll have no trouble getting as far as Guildford. From there I’ll navigate by compass, south by southwest. We’ll have to be on the lookout for Chichester. It will be the only other well-lit town between Guildford and the coast, and it will be an indication that we’re too far west.”

“I am expertly trained with a compass.”

“As am I,” Sparky retorted testily. “However, sky yachts are notoriously skittish and prone to blowing off course.” She extended her spyglass and pointed at the dark clouds to the west. “We’ll be lucky if that storm doesn’t blow us all the way to Folkestone in the dark!” Her voice trembled with emotion.

“Dr. McTrowell, there’s no reason to become overwrought.”

“I’ll give you overwrought if you don’t sit down and shut up!” She brandished her spyglass like a cudgel. She ground her teeth together to keep herself from crying.

In an uncharacteristically compassionate gesture, the normally taciturn Marine grasped her hands gently and lowered them. “Sparky, we will get to Portsmouth tonight and we will rescue Drake, on my honor as Her Majesty’s Royal Aerial Marine. I have never left a man behind and I will not besmirch my honor on this mission.” He waited for her to collect herself. “I know this will be difficult, but our chances of success are much higher if you remain calm and focused. Until we reach Portsmouth, Yin and I have no other task but to aid you in navigation.”

True to her prediction, Sparky flew as far as Guildford mostly without incident. Her shoulder injury made its presence felt as she had to continually steer hard to starboard against the wind before the oncoming storm. She replayed J.B.’s words over and over again in her head to reassure herself against the daunting threats arrayed against her including the weather, the darkness, the sky yacht that was as unsteerable as its owner, the grinding pain in her shoulder, and the lead their adversaries had on them.

And, as she feared, dusk and storm clouds descended on them almost simultaneously just southwest of Guildford. She battled with the helm in determined silence, trying to keep an eye on the compass and the lights below. Fox waited about ten minutes before he nodded at Yin and stepped forward to lend his strength to Sparky’s. Yin picked up Sparky’s spyglass and began a steady patrol behind the pair at the helm, alternately peering port and starboard for any landmarks on the ground.

After an hour of exhausting buffeting and repeated course corrections based on Young’s observations, Fox shouted, “There!” He pointed at a light barely visible in the enveloping menace of the storm.

“What is that?,” asked Sparky.

“The Southsea Castle lighthouse.”

“That’s on the coast. The airship port is north of town. We need to turn around.” She tried to keep the panic out of her voice at the realization that they had overshot their mark, wasting valuable time.

“We could,” Fox offered, “but there are docking towers at the Portsmouth Royal Dockyards.”

“I can’t land there.”

“Can’t or won’t?”

“Access is restricted,” Sparky retorted.

Fox pointed at his uniform.

“Oh,” Sparky replied simply. “But Drake’s captors won’t have landed at the Royal Dockyards.”

“Correct, but if they are planning an escape by sea, they have to get to the port. I can muster reinforcements at the Dockyards and we can cut them off there.”

“What if they’re not heading to sea?”

“Then they wasted a lot of effort flying to Portsmouth.”

There was no escaping the logic of his conclusions. Bowing to the value of Fox’s considerable tactical experience, she headed for the lighthouse.

They had their first and only spot of good fortune as they dropped altitude; there was better visibility and less wind below the cloud cover. As she approached the lighthouse, Sparky could just make out the tiny airship port with only three docking towers. Fortunately, all of them were empty. She aimed for the closest one.

She summoned the last of her flagging strength to hold the Peregrine steady by herself because Fox and Young had their hands full trying to dock without assistance. She didn’t dare to take her eyes off the tower, but she could tell from the grunts and banging behind her accompanied by the blast of cold, wet draft that they had lowered the gangway and were wrestling the mooring lines.

Despite the cover of darkness and rain, the Marines on the ground were as vigilant as ever. They were waiting at the top of the docking tower, rifles leveled in preparation to repel intruders. Sergeant Fox walked right up to the presumably loaded weapons pointed at his chest and said, “
Sergeant J.B. Fox on assignment for Her Majesty’s Eyes and Ears. Take me to the Colonel.



The Shaky Landing

Entry for March 4, 2013 Written by David L. Drake

Erasmus peered intently at the fashionably appointed Hawaiian man who had been so polite about kidnapping him and Edwin. He then turned to the well-dressed Edwin and thought about the story he’d told as to how he’d been brought here by force. The Chief Inspector felt that everyone on this craft was far more accepting of the situation than he was.

He turned back to the over-sized, very strong, Hawaiian. “May I ask what your name is, good sir?” Part of the reason for his asking was to judge his actual circumstances.

“Thank you for asking. I am called Kaleikaumaka.” he replied with a smile, and he waited for Erasmus’ face to instantly contort, showing his inability to even absorb the name phonically. He continued, “It means ‘the child looked upon with pride.’ You may call me Kalei. KAY-LEY-ee.” He grinned and watched Erasmus mouth the syllables.

Erasmus was over-acting his cultural education to form a bond, no matter how delicate, with Kalei. He hoped to acquire recognition as a person, and by doing so, gain trust.

“I am Erasmus. Pleased to make your acquaintance.” He waited for a slight reaction, which came in the form of a raised eyebrow and modest nod, before continuing. “Are we docking directly with the ship?”

“That would be too risky even under normal circumstances. The weather has changed since we left. Mostly wind. Maybe some rain to follow. We’ll be docking at a field where we obtained this airship. We’ll get some food and supplies, and proceed to our ship. We should be docking soon. I suggest you steady yourself. This airship is given to teetering.”

Erasmus noted that his English was excellent and was spoken without hesitation, demonstrating that he was not performing any mental translation. His accent was rather flat in tone, hinting that he had been educated by someone from the Americas. He most likely was trained since his youth, which meant he had been exposed to English speakers most of his life.

As Kalei left the room, Erasmus mentally practiced the man’s full name again.
KAY-LEY-ee-KAH-uu-MAH-KAH. He wanted to make sure he knew this well enough to use it at some later time to show that he was, in fact, paying attention. He rolled it over in his mind a few times more, to make it last. Then he hoped silently to himself that he would have some “later date” to use it.

Erasmus retook his seat. He scooted the position of his legs to intentionally square his body to Edwin, who responded by leaning in slightly to Erasmus. Erasmus recognized this as Edwin’s way of giving his full attention to his clients. It may have been overplayed when he was younger and building his business, but with his current hearing issues, it was now part of his inherent nature. It was off-putting to those that hadn’t been trained to expect it or endure it. For fencing students, it was practically part of their training to remain calm while someone was inside of their invisible bubble of safety and decorum.

Erasmus tried to think of a way to tell his life-long friend that he thought he was lying. He felt it was best to handle this as he handled questioning a witness: use an easy manner, state the facts, and let the person answering the questions discover the contradictions. Erasmus cocked an eyebrow. This was his inquisitive face.

“Edwin, how are you going to journey to Hawaii? You have no traveling clothes. You have no extra clothes at all.”

“That is a good question. They may let me pick some up with the supplies.”

“That was the easy question,” thought Erasmus. “Let’s get to the hard ones.”

“You said you were evading these men for a few days. I trust you didn’t suffer. Why, your clothes look fresh. Good thing. You fit right in with the wedding breakfast party.”

“Erasmus, how long have we known each other? Don’t answer. I remember the years. You still need to work on disguising your assaults. You want to see if I double my bet and follow my tall-tale with another? Well, …” Edwin paused to smile at how quickly Erasmus had caught him at this game.

The ship jerked to one side enough to move the heavy chairs a few inches, which rocked the two men, making them grab for their armrests. Hoping to verify that this was just a clumsy docking maneuver and not another close call with a building roof, Erasmus jumped to his feet and ran to the door. He found it open, which went with his growing belief that this was less of a kidnapping and more of something else that he hadn’t pieced together yet. The door squeaked open, but the din from without concealed its noise.

He passed through the door and into the darkened outer room. Night had set in and black clouds filled the sky. The single oil lantern on the bridge had been turned to its lowest operational point, and all other light sources on the airship had been extinguished. Erasmus could see the three men working hard at the bow trying to lasso one of the hooks on a single docking mast. The wind had picked up and the unpredictable drift of the airship must have caused it to strike the mast once. The men were tossing multiple lines out into the volatile air currents without success. Although Erasmus didn’t understand the native Hawaiian language, he could detect the bite and intensity of curse words. He crept closer and knelt at the frame of the bridge’s fore door. He wanted to see if he could learn more of this strange abduction.

“Hooked it!” one of the men shouted. All three men grabbed the secured line to help haul the ship to the unadorned mooring stanchion. Their strength was put to the test in the bad weather, pulling the vessel to its new earthbound mainstay.

Erasmus watched the three work in tandem to wrestle the ship close enough to get a second line, and properly anchor the airship. The front man had one leg up on the rail, and the others leaned back at a sharp angle, arms outstretched as they played tug-of-war with Mother Nature. It took only a couple of minutes, but when the job was done, the men stood at the rail breathing heavily.

“Do we kill him now?” one of the men inquired. Adrenalin shot through Erasmus, but he stayed quietly in place.

“No, it may upset Llewellyn. Best to wait.” Erasmus thought the answer came from Kalei, but he couldn’t be sure.

“We only need to get the key from Llewellyn. Can we do that and get rid of him at the same time as the other man? It will make this trip easier. And faster.”

“Hmm,” was the reply.

Erasmus was having trouble hearing so he leaned out farther. Kalei turned around to rest his back on the handrail. Erasmus jerked his head back hoping that he hadn’t been spotted. With just the corner of his eye peeking around the door jam, he could see the Kalei was deep in thought on his answer.

“Let’s see if we can get it from Llewellyn. Make friends. With both of them. If we can get it, both of them can be eliminated. That would…serve our task best.”

Erasmus swallowed hard at the reality of his situation. He turned and started creeping his way back toward the holding room where Edwin was waiting. He couldn’t help but think, “I did want to maintain my association with Edwin for the rest of my life, but I thought it would take a great deal longer to do so!”



Court Martial This!

Entry for March 11, 2013 Written by Katherine L. Morse

The Marines led Fox and the two women to the quarters of Colonel Morris, the commanding officer of the Marines stationed at the Portsmouth Royal Dockyards. As the officer in charge, his quarters were relatively luxurious compared to the Spartan accommodations of the men under his command. His was a small, plain cottage immediately adjacent to the barracks. Their Marine escort stepped aside to stand at attention outside the entrance as Sergeant Fox rapped smartly on the front door.

The door was opened by a uniformed man Dr. McTrowell would have thought too small for the Service. His face bore an expression of peevish annoyance that Fox ignored completely.

“Sergeant J.B. Fox of Her Majesty’s Eyes and Ears to see Colonel Morris on an urgent matter.”

“The colonel is sleeping and left orders not to be distributed.”

“And who are you?”

“Private Marcus Strutton, his aide de camp.” He puffed up his chest in an attempt to bolster the importance of his position. It was pathetic compared to muscular bulk of the indomitable sergeant. If the circumstances hadn’t been so dire, Sparky would have snorted at the humor of the ludicrous juxtaposition.

“Private Strutton, I outrank you and I am here on Her Majesty’s business. Rouse Colonel Morris!” Fox barked. Sparky was sure that settled the matter. She was dishearteningly wrong.

“When Colonel Morris is indisposed, I am in command.”

“Are you mad? A private cannot hold command. Out of my way!” Fox made as if to shove the supercilious private aside, a task he could have executed effortlessly.

The private squealed, “I could have you court martialed.”

The sheer audacity and ridiculousness of this pronouncement stopped the normally unflappable sergeant in his tracks. “Now I’m quite certain you’re mad. Wake the colonel or I shall.” But he still hesitated. There was a remote chance that some regulation of which he was unaware was in effect. Although he was sure Her Majesty could and would intervene to ameliorate the consequences of such a transgression, such an intervention would come far too late for the chief inspector.

McTrowell was frantic with anxiety. She was not a patient woman under the best of circumstances and every moment they wasted arguing with this imbecile, raised the probability that something terrible and irrecoverable would happen to Drake. She fiddled with the ring concealed by her four-button flying glove.

Fox continued, “Waking a commander officer is not a court-martialable offense.”

“I am responsible for maintenance of all regulations for Her Majesty’s Royal Aerial Marines stationed at the Portsmouth Royal Dockyards.”

“Maintenance of regulations does not include imagining new ones to suit your personal purposes.”

“It does if I say it does. I can have you court martialed for questioning my authority.”

“No, you cannot!”

“Yes, I can.” The private reached for the fountain pen resting in the inkwell on his small writing desk. There was a large ledger on the desk open to a page entitled, “Court Martial Offenses.” The page was nearly full of entries written in a constricted hand, not doubt the private’s.

To her horror, Sparky realized that this dishrag of a man was actually just about to author a new regulation on the spot specifically designed to obstruct their urgent mission. Her ears began to ring with rage. She elbowed her way around Sergeant Fox.

“Am I to understand that the threat of court martial only applies to members of the Royal Aerial Marines?”

“Well, of course.” The private puckered up his face in an exaggerated show of disdain at the stupidity of the American civilian who clearly failed to grasp military regulations.

Quick as a diamondback rattlesnake, Sparky lashed out with her fists. Private Strutton couldn’t have weighed much more than nine stone, soaking wet. Needless to say, he was no match for the righteous fury of the airship pilot who had felled the Duke of Milton weighing twice as much. And this time she planted her feet and put her hips into it, lifting him off the floor with the first punch. She managed to land four body blows before the obstructive Lilliputian hit the floor.

Sergeant Fox’s face broke into the only true smile Sparky could recall having seen on it.
“Dr. McTrowell, Chief Inspector Drake didn’t exaggerate in his report of your martial skill.”

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