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The Hawaiian Triple-Cross - Page 3: April 30, 2013 - June 17, 2013

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Committing to the Odyssey
The Little Woman
That’s Not How I Do Business
That’s Gonna Cost You Extra
The Toppled Noblewoman

Committing to the Odyssey

Entry for April 30, 2013 Written by David L. Drake

In near darkness, their circle of voices was gathered around the damaged crates. Erasmus introduced the tall shadow next to him as Edwin Llewellyn, the man that had saved him from living on the streets of London. The Chief Inspector continued by filling in the details of their escapade while he lit a nearby oil lamp. It illuminated the ring of amiable compatriots. Yin slipped off the apparatus over her eyes, squinting and blinking in the changed illumination. Erasmus continued his narrative with the convoluted set of stories that they had heard from their kidnappers, and the fact that they hadn’t believed any of it. He left out that he didn’t believe Edwin’s tale either, a fact that he planned to resolve the next time he could have a private conversation with his surrogate father. He finished with the detail that the Hawaiian named Keō was in restraints in one of the cabins.

Sergeant Fox immediately cut in at the end of Erasmus’ report. “That’s all very interesting, but we came here to get you back. Sparky was worried sick. We can turn the ship over to the harbormaster. The Hawaiians can be taken by the local authorities. Let us check on this ‘
Keō’ character, apprehend the rest of them, and make good our escape back to London.”

In a show of leadership, he executed a snappy turn to initiate the plan. In that instant, Pa’ele struck J.B. in the chest with a full body tackle. The attack must have been executed with incredible stealth. The shock of it caused gasps about the circle. J.B. flew backward towards the damaged crate, his head whip-cracking forward and then back against the wooden slatted boxes.

Pa’ele jumped up and let out a warrior’s triumphant war cry. Wide-eyed and tongue out, he was a literal fright. He shook his fists above his head, making him appear twice his already immense proportions. He rocketed his right hand out to grab for the nearest person, who was Yin. She instinctually threw an arm out to block his grasp but it had the odd effect of moving herself rather than the massive Hawaiian’s limb, throwing herself down onto the floor.

Like a viper, Pa’ele’s left arm snapped out and caught the top of Sparky’s right arm, encircling it with his meaty paw of a hand. Sparky left fist shot out three times in a rapid sewing-machine motion, first to the right side of his face, then to his chest, and lastly to his left shoulder, hoping to free herself. It was wasted effort, as if she had punched a leather bag full of potatoes. She struck something, but nothing changed.

With rage written all over his face, Pa’ele’s right arm cocked back to deliver a blow to the American. Both Erasmus and Edwin thrust their improvised wooden swords across the intervening crate. Edwin drove his makeshift weapon, blunt as it was, just under Pa’ele’s right shoulder muscle. Erasmus shoved the crudely pointed tip of his broken crate framing into the Hawaiian’s vulnerable left armpit. Both were far too dull to penetrate the rough-hewn sailors jacket, but the jabs were accurate and forceful enough to arrest the intended punch and turn the tide of the attack. The islander gasped at the sharpness of the pain. Sparky reared back and added a well-aimed kick to her attacker’s face, staggering him back and getting him to release her arm.

With a few steps back, Pa’ele shook off his pain and reset himself for battle. From Erasmus’ point of view, Yin suddenly popped up, as if she were hiding in the darkness behind the crate, spinning. Her leg unfolded in a choreographic movement and placed a solid heel into the side of Pa’ele’s chin, ratcheting his head around. The skin on his face flopped around in a comical way as it tried to keep up with the angular rotation of his skull. The massive man went down to the deck with a thud while Yin gracefully landed on her feet.

Sparky ignored the throbbing pain in her upper arm from Pa’ele’s tight clench and turned her attention to Sergeant Fox who, for a man normally quite formal in his presentation, was sprawled on the deck in a most distorted manner. Erasmus sprung around her and, using the second manacles he had taken off of
Keō, secured Pa’ele.

Sparky barked out J.B.’s status. “He has a pulse, but it’s faint. Get me some light!”

Edwin grabbed the hoop handle of the oil lamp, releasing it from its support on the nearby post, hovering it above Sparky.

She continued her prognosis. “He is unconscious. Eyes are rolled up. Bring the light over here. Right…there. His pupils are…responding to light, but not equally.” She then slapped him hard across the face. J.B. sleepily groaned and opened his eyes on his own.

“McTrowell? Oh, my head hurts. I must have bumped it.” J.B. sat up a bit and rubbed his head.

“Glad to see you are back with us,” Sparky said with a smile but it was clear that she was still determining the soundness of her patient.

“What happened? Oh, my head hurts. I must have bumped it.” J.B. repeated the words with the exact same inflection as before.

Sparky regretfully stated, “He has a concussion. We should get him to a safe place until he’s over this. Sergeant Fox, what else hurts?”

“My back hurts a bit, I think I fell into something. And my head hurts. I must have bumped it.”

“Gentlemen?” Sparky gestured to Erasmus and Edwin. They helped J.B. to his feet and guided him between the crates.

Erasmus suggested, “To the galley? The lighting there is good, and there may be fresh water. I might add that J.B. repeating himself is rather disturbing.”

Yin piped up, “I’ll watch him,” pointing at the senseless Hawaiian on the deck. Although she didn’t state it, there was a hint in her voice that she wanted to be there alone with Pa’ele if he were to wake up.

Although J.B. could walk on his own, he still needed a great deal of guidance. He was fascinated by every feature of the ship, commenting to Erasmus and Edwin how sturdy it looked, the excellent carpentry, and the sensible design of the craft’s layout. And he commented more than a few times on how he must have bumped his head.

The men sat him down on at the galley table. Sparky hiked up his shirt to see if J.B. had injured his back more than he was aware of. Erasmus and Edwin went to the far end of the table and through a door into the cooking area. It was a long, narrow room with pots and pans hanging everywhere. It was organized to some extent, but it looked more like the tools of cooking were hung, stuffed, or stacked wherever they fit.

Erasmus lit a lamp and stated out loud, “Let’s see: Sparky asked for clean towels and clean water. Perhaps over here…” He waved Edwin toward a sink with a brass holding tank of water above. He tapped it to hear for the level of water inside. It sounded very empty. Edwin was going through the drawers with a quick open-close motion that made the contents clang about against each other. He finally stopped at one and exclaimed, “Towels.”

From without they both heard Sparky yell, “Drake!” Erasmus recognized it as a cry for defense, not help with Sergeant Fox. He instinctively ran towards the door to the dining table, grabbing a couple of heavy objects along the way. Edwin ran in the other direction towards a different door. Erasmus thought he must have his reasons for such a maneuver.

Erasmus burst through the door to find Kalei looking at Sparky and J.B. She appeared to be panicked by not knowing what to expect from the large intruder. Kalei looked at Erasmus and simply asked, “You’re free from your cabin?”

Edwin rounded the corner, apparently having found an alternative route, a long handled mop in hand. Kalei caught him out of the corner of his eye. Without hesitation, Edwin poked the Hawaiian with the handle of the mop. The big man winced, and then jumped on top of the table to retreat from the abuse by the elderly gent.

Kalei was cornered in the mess hall. He was up on the table, breathing heavily, both hands clenched in sizable fists. From the outside hallway Edwin wielded his mop menacingly and Erasmus looked threatening with his frying pan and a rolling pin. Recovering from the effort to get his three hundred or so pounds up on the table, Kalei finally regained his ability to talk.

“Gentlemen, put your weapons down. There is no need for savagery! Gentlemen!”

To himself, Erasmus knew he didn’t want to try to fight this man. They no longer had the jump on him, and even if the whole affair worked out in their favor, Erasmus knew that he was going to be as bruised as a week-old banana in the morning.

Erasmus hoped he could talk his way through this. “
Keō and Pa’ele are in our custody. I suggest you sit down and we find out what is really taking place.”

“Excellent idea,” came the reply, and the Hawaiian climbed down to the bench seat and sat calmly at mid-table. “What do you want to know?”

Sparky and J.B. sat in silence as they watched.

Erasmus wasted no time. “Let us get to the heart of the matter. Why do you really need Edwin’s key?”

There was a hesitation while Kalei looked at the two Englishmen, followed by his hanging his head.

Erasmus continued, “We can ask your friends.”

“They don’t really know.” He looked up again with sad eyes. “I worked for our King for many years as one of his protectors. A bodyguard, if you will. But, my village was hit hard by European diseases. I needed to do something. I heard that the King is getting five shipments of gold from San Francisco by ship. I was hoping to…acquire…one of those shipments to buy medicines to save my village.”

“Tell me about the key.”

“That is the interesting part. King Kamehameha does not like modern means of entrustments. Handshakes. Lawyers. Contracts, in particular. No one is trustable that you do not know personally.” Kalei paused for emphasis, looking into the eyes of Erasmus to see that he understood. “So he uses an exchange of phrases that only he and the people he trusts know. These phrases are used to make verbal agreements. It acts as an oral pledge of loyalty and trustworthiness. He calls them his ‘key’ since those loyal to him use it to open the door of trade.” He raised an eyebrow indicating that this was about to get more interesting.

“Two years ago his keys, or secret exchange phrases, were compromised. Used in too many places for too many things, I assume. So his son, Lota, returning from travels abroad, taught him a new one. All I need is the King’s new key. I can sail into San Francisco, say the right words, and pick up the last gold shipment.”

“So why come here?” Erasmus asked.

“Lota was overheard saying that he learned the new phrases from a fencing instructor. I mentioned this to
Keō and Pa’ele, and we decided to come to London and obtain the key. But Mr. Llewellyn won’t tell them to us. So we are forced to bring him back with us.” He looked at Edwin pleadingly as he said this. “My family needs the medicines to survive! You must understand!”

Sparky joined in. “Thieving to get medicine seems extreme.”

Kalei responded, “No, I don’t agree. We used to be a thousand strong in our village on Kaua’i. I have watched my aunts and uncles, and their children, wither and die. Now we number fewer than three hundred. That was when we left for England. There will be even fewer when we return.” His voice changed from solemn to angry. “The King has plenty of gold. He can live without some of it. My people cannot.”

Sparky asked, “Where did you plan to get this medicine?”

“There is a man in San Francisco that has cures. They are expensive, but the stories are that they have healed many. I have to try.”

Sparky had her doubts, but she knew better than to blurt them out. She also knew that getting a good doctor to
Kaua’i would be more valuable than medicines. She had kept up with her medical periodicals and knew that the loss of life in the Hawaiian Islands was at an epidemic level, and that this was an opportunity to really help.

Erasmus joined in. “There has to be a better solution. And we need to get you underway so we can get there. How long of a trip is it?”

At least five months, and we would be rounding the Horn of South America.”

Sparky excitedly blurt out “Wait! There is another route! Sailing around the Horn is both slow and perilous, even in this craft. We could sail to the Isthmus of Panama, and seven of us could fly the Peregrine over to the Pacific. There is an ocean steamer called the SS California that makes a run between Panama and San Francisco. Ships sail almost daily to the islands. If we time it right, we could get to Hawaii in less then three months.”

J.B. added, “I think I’ve bumped my head.”

Erasmus asked, “Sparky, is this what you want to do? It is a tad insane.”

She put her finger to her lips for a moment while she thought. Her commitments. What she thought was important in life. How she wanted to be remembered. She looked and Erasmus and nodded that this was her want.

The Little Woman

Entry for May 7, 2013 Written by Katherine L. Morse

“I won’t come any faster, no matter how loud you pound.” Lieutenant Collins grabbed the shirt off his bed and shuffled to the door in his stocking feet. He shrugged into it as he progressed across his quarters, wondering what a man had to do to get a little peace with his breakfast. His head was just popping out the neck of the shirt as he opened the door. Damn! He should have recognized that the sharpness of the knocking meant his unexpected visitor was a woman and an unwelcome one at that. “Morning, Henrietta.” He couldn’t bring himself to say, “Good.” He was sure he could predict at least two thirds of the conversation he was about to have. And he was quite certain his breakfast would be stone cold and inedible before it was over.

“Where is he this time?”

“It is customary to return a greeting that’s offered.”

“Good morning, Simon. Where is he?” The lieutenant shook his head. They had had so many of these prickly discourses over the last couple of years, that she had become inappropriately comfortable with addressing her husband’s superior officer by his first name. He really needed to get himself a new posting.

“As I said the last two times you asked, Her Majesty does not confide in me. The last I heard, he was on protection detail yesterday at a wedding. I have not seen him nor received word from him since then. Perhaps you should go hammer on the gates of Buckingham Palace and demand an answer directly from the Queen.” He was truly losing his patience on this matter. His tormentor was utterly oblivious to his sarcasm.

“Protection detail? At a wedding? How stupid do you think I am?” Lieutenant Collins resisted the sore temptation to answer that question honestly and just waited for the tirade to run its course. “Who needs to be protected at a wedding? He’s with that Chinawoman, isn’t he?”

“I have no more way of knowing whether Dr. Young was present than you do. She doesn’t report to me.” He added under his breath, “Not that your husband bothers much either.” He continued, “I have it on good authority that Dr. Young is quite taken with Dr. Pogue.”

She fired back, “Oh, so now she’s too good for my husband!”

Simon thought wistfully of his congealing eggs and sausage, and sighed.

Henrietta continued, “Why would J.B. be interested in her, anyway? Is she prettier than I am?”

The lieutenant was beyond exasperated. First Henrietta was worried that Fox was having an inappropriate relationship with the Chinese scientist, and then she was declaring that Dr. Young wasn’t good enough for him. Collins found himself reconsidering his personal plan for his life that included marriage. But he didn’t wonder why Sergeant Fox accepted so many lengthy assignments away from home.

“Henrietta, your husband is a brave man and a committed subject of Her Majesty. He goes where Her Majesty’s interests require without regard for his personal comfort or safety.”

“I know that. Why do you think I married him?”

Why indeed?” wondered Simon Collins to himself, but to her he carefully replied, “I know that he loves you and worries about you being home alone. He tells me as much when we talk.” He might have stretched the truth a bit on that last point.

Flourish Break

Drake looked at the company assembled on the deck, stretching and yawning in the weak morning light. He had too many tasks at hand, too little time, and too few people he trusted. He assembled Fox, McTrowell, and Young off to one side to discuss options. “If we’re going to make the aggressive schedule Sparky established, we need to set sail with the tide in two hours. We need to load The Peregrine, get word to London, and keep these smugglers from leaving without us.”

Drake looked for nods all around, and then continued. “I can’t leave the ship. The Hawaiians might take advantage of my absence to break our bargain and abscond with Llewellyn. And there’s no chance they’ll let him leave the ship.”

Yin interjected, “I can help with the loading of The Peregrine, but I do not believe I will be allowed to send a telegram from the Marine base.” The all nodded knowingly at the reality of her predicament.

With an enthusiasm that was a little inappropriate under the circumstances, Sparky chimed in, “Oh, this is like the puzzle of the goat, the wolf, and the cabbage.” Fox and Young looked a little perplexed, but Drake nodded in recognition. “Drake stays on the ship with Dr. Young and two of the Marines. The Marines can help you guard the smugglers, but don’t let them talk to each other or the smugglers. I don’t trust them not to hatch a plot that ends with the two of you in the harbor, the Hawaiians sailing away with Llewellyn, and the Marines a little better off for looking the other way. Sergeant Fox and I will return with the other Marines, and he can help me launch The Peregrine. I’ll fly back here where Erasmus and Yin can help me dock and secure the air yacht while J.B. sends a telegram. With all three of us aboard, we should be able to hold them until J.B. returns. The last two Marines can leave with whoever returns the sergeant to the ship.”

The rest of the company worked through the process in their heads, confirming that it met all their requirements before nodding in succession.

Sparky piped up again, “This plan also has the advantage that Sergeant Fox will have the task of notifying Western & Transatlantic Airship Lines that we’ll be keeping The Peregrine indefinitely.” She smiled a bit wickedly. She suspected she might have to pay for it later, but she did rather enjoy having gotten the best of Reginald Wallace in a transaction for once, even if she had the unfair advantage of having his monarch on her side. One side of Drake’s moustache quirked up in a smile, producing a pronounced dimple. He did love her boldness.

Yin waited for Sparky to head down the rope ladder to the waiting dinghy before placing a hand on Sergeant Fox’s arm and whispering in his ear, “Please send word to Edmond.” The normally imperturbable Dr. Young looked a little misty eyed.

Flourish Break

Littleton flinched when the door to the offices of Western & Transatlantic Airship Lines banged open. Annabelle Wallace came through the door first. It pained him to see how much she had aged in the last month and a half. Before recent events, he had always considered her to be one of those wealthy wives who busy themselves with spending pennies of their husbands’ fortunes on charitable works and pounds on their own pleasures. Now she was the only thing keeping her husband’s fortune afloat and the enterprise was taking its toll.

Speaking of her husband, Reginald clomped into the office behind her like a petulant five-year-old who has been told he can’t have a sweet until Mum has finished her business at the bank. He was still limping and walking with a cane. Littleton wondered uncharitably whether one could sustain a case of gout out of sheer spite.

The office manager reached down surreptitiously and fingered the edge of the telegram tucked under his ledger. He had been dreading this moment since it had arrived half an hour earlier. The only saving grace was that it was, by now, too late to do anything about it. “Ma’am? A telegram for you.” He held it out gingerly at arm’s length like a bomb with burning fuse, a not entirely inaccurate analogy.

Without removing her gloves, Mrs. Wallace opened the missive and read it to herself.


That’s Not How I Do Business

Entry for May 23, 2013 Written by David L. Drake

Sergeant Fox popped over the edge of the railing and onto the deck, and strode toward Chief Inspector Drake. “Good. He has finished helping Sparky and sending the telegrams.” He then squinted a bit and really looked at J.B. for the first time that morning. “How did he obtain a set of clothes that fits so well?” thought Erasmus. The sergeant looked almost too flawless: his stride was measured and displayed military precision, his upright posture made him seem a few inches taller, and he had an air of determination that rivaled his usual purposefulness. What a change from his crumpled body and confused mind late the day before.

“Ah,” Erasmus reasoned, “he is compensating for having lost his edge last night.” Erasmus filed this away as an interesting personality characteristic, one that he knew others would exploit if they were aware of it. “Best not to say anything.”

“You are back. No issues, I assume.”

J.B. halted his march and seemed to give the impression that he was at attention, despite his fixed gaze on Erasmus.

“None. Dr. McTrowell is overseeing the refueling the Peregrine. The telegrams are sent. By the way, I want to thank you for helping me last night. I must have been a handful.”

Erasmus smiled at J.B.’s attempt to learn more about the evening.

“Not an issue. I mainly tipped you over into a bunk.”

“Much appreciated. I woke early with an unusual pain in my head. I took advantage of the time to tailor this sailor’s gear into something that would fit. My years of having to create fitting clothes in Okinawa are paying off.”

Erasmus gave the garment a quick look over. “You never cease to amaze, my good friend.” He started counting off the activities on his fingers. “Here is our current status: the two Marines took Sparky to fetch the Peregrine; Yin is watching the two Hawaiians locked in one of the bunking cabins; and the crew is close to having the ship ready to sail with the tide in forty-five minutes. I hope Sparky can get the Peregrine back here in time. We do have quite a bit of leeway, but both the ocean and the winds favor leaving in an hour.”

“During last night, did you ever find out the Hawaiians’ motivation for grabbing Mr. Llewellyn?”

“Partially. The one called Kalei told us a tale that had ring of truth to it. Edwin may have a phrase that will help him misappropriate his King’s gold, which he plans to use to save his village. We’ll talk to the other two Hawaiians today. They may be more cooperative when we’re in open water and there’s no place to escape to. Oh…yes. Their names are Pa’ele and Ke

Sergeant Fox didn’t appear fazed by the names that seemed odd sounding to Erasmus. Erasmus also didn’t think J.B. was particularly concerned that they were signing on to such a long voyage.
“Was everyone willing to see this through? No long discussions or hand-wringing?” Erasmus had that feeling that his companions were being just as inscrutable as his former captors. Although Erasmus knew that he wanted to take this trip to protect Edwin, he wondered if J.B. might understand what everyone else’s motivations were.

“Why do you think Sparky was so willing to sign up to this trip? This will take a great deal of time.”

“Erasmus, you are not thinking like a woman. Although she may not be cut from the same cloth as any other lass that you’ll find in London, she’s still a woman through and through.” J.B. didn’t flinch or add a smile to his declaration. He wanted Erasmus to think on his words.

This isn’t the interchange that Erasmus was hoping to get.
“Perhaps,” he thought, “I struck a nerve.” He retorted, “Hmm…you are going to have to help me out here. I am not good at this type of ‘guess what I’m thinking’ riddles.”

“Fair enough. She’s been running all over Bavaria and England for the past few months. She has been conscripted into Her Majesty’s Eyes and Ears. She has been though two battles that I am aware of. Much of this was to be close to you.”

Erasmus nodded his understanding.

J.B. continued. “She has been given the opportunity to travel with you for an extended time. Which is exactly what she wanted all along. Add in the last factor, which is San Francisco, and she was fully committed to the trip.”

Erasmus raised his eyebrows, adding, “Ah, yes, San Francisco. She’ll get to see her mother.”

“No, no! She gets to show you off to her mother! And you have also proposed to her. She’s hoping you request to get married in San Francisco. With her mother in the audience. Creating her new family with the blessing of her mother.” J.B. voice had taken on an instructional tone. Erasmus was surprised at this new side of J.B., but his words did hold insight that made sense to Erasmus.

Erasmus again nodded. “Very insightful…”

A rough voice interrupted the conversation. “A word, gentlem’n?”

Erasmus and J.B. turned to see a craggy sailor complete with a full white beard and ruddy complexion. The seaman didn’t wait for an answer.

“I’m the capt’n of this vessel. We hav’ a few points to settle befo’ shovin’ off. Who’s in charge of yo’r little band?”

Erasmus and J.B. looked at each other for a couple of seconds, neither willing to presume the lead position without discussion. J.B. offered, “You have the years of nautical experience. I’m an Aerial Marine; more accustomed to the sky than the water. I think you have the job.”

Erasmus didn’t hesitate and turned to answer the captain. “Looks as if I am the one you want to talk to. What’s on your mind?”

The captain scrunched up his face a bit, as if to indicate that this was a difficult matter, but he had to discuss it.

“I had a deal wit’ th’ three Polynesian fellows. Now I’ve a differn’t customer, so ta’ speak. Probably planning a differn’t route. Also, mo’ mouths ta’ feed. I also just heard yur’ plannin’ to set an airship on board. There’s a bit of work to get it stowed below th’ water line. All this costs money an’ takes time, as I’m sure ya’ know. Th’ Polynesians were payin’ me up front, a’fore we left the harbor. I will extend that offer ta’ ya’.”

Erasmus ran his fingers through his hair to give himself time to show that he was in deep thought, which he wasn’t.

“Payment up front for a job not yet done isn’t the way I do business. We plan to depart in Panama. Give me an estimate for our share and the Hawaiians, who will be coming with us, and I’ll pay you when we depart.”

Erasmus knew that his associates didn’t have a great deal of money on them. It wouldn’t have been wise given the general nature of man and their inclination for greed. But a note written in the name of the Queen would pass for currency, particularly by those who were as worldly as this captain. And having it delivered when they left would be good leverage to make sure they got there whole.

The captain winced at this as if he had burned his mouth on boiling hot coffee.

“Pay when ya’ leave? How ‘bout half up front, right here an’ now!”

“There isn’t anything you can do with that money while transiting the Atlantic except gamble it away with your own crew. Instead, I will give you a note that we are good for it…well…when we settle on the price. I suggest you play cards for matchstick rather than coins for this part of the journey.”

The captain smiled a knowing smile. “Good enough. I’ll go below an’ sum up th’ fee. Send up some o’ me mates, too, since I see ya’ flying sack ova’ ther’.”

The captain pointed to the sleek diminutive airship puttering it way towards the ship. He followed that with a slight tip of his cap and shuffled off toward the ladder leading to the hold.

By the time Erasmus and J.B. turned back to look up, they could see Sparky’s head sticking out of the bridge window, goggles and headgear on, joyously waving.

Erasmus thought to himself, “
Perhaps J.B. knows what he’s talking about.”

That’s Gonna Cost You Extra

Entry for May 31, 2013 Written by Katherine L. Morse

Sparky brought the Peregrine in a low pass parallel to the San Juan, skimming just above the water. She popped open a side window and shouted at Erasmus and J.B., “I’m going to throw out the fore and aft mooring lines, and make another pass by the poop deck! Can you round up some hands to anchor them?”

The Peregrine had mostly passed by the time she finished, so her two compatriots had to resort to replying with exaggerated nods and waving, as if they were engaged in a game of fly-by charades. They scrambled to commandeer several stout sailors as she angled the air yacht up and away. It wasn’t meant to be landed solo, and only under the most civilized circumstances, which is to say fair weather and an abundance of ground crew. At that moment, she sorely wished simply for ground on which such a crew could stand. The Pecos Incident flashed before her eyes, inducing a moment of anxiety and nausea. She gulped down the sea air blowing through the bridge in an attempt to clear her head.

The wind was gusting down among the ships, raising the chance that she would crash into one if she took her hands off the helm long enough to release the mooring lines. She also didn’t want to risk tangling the ropes in the riggings of the ships. She aimed for a higher altitude. The good news was that it got the Peregrine clear of the tangle of seafaring ships. The bad news was that the wind was even more treacherous up higher.

Sparky tentatively took one hand off the wheel and stretched her boot toe toward the small floor hatch that housed the fore mooring line. She could just about reach it. She stood back up and adjusted course slightly. She would have to bend down to the point that she couldn’t see where she was steering in order to get the last couple of inches. She set her course straight out toward the ocean, away from the ships, and grasped the helm firmly near the bottom with her left hand. As quickly as she could without jarring the wheel, she bent low and flipped the hatch open with her right hand. As she stood back up, she stepped on the release for the mooring line with the toe of her boot.

As if to let her know that she wasn’t as clever as she thought, the tiny airship hiccuped in a gust just as she was relaxing and congratulating herself on getting one line down. She had to wrestle the Peregrine back under control. Now she was in a quandary. She was well clear of the land heading out to sea. If she kept going in this southerly direction, there was less for her to collide with as she was dealing with the aft line. Unfortunately, if anything went wrong, there was no way help would arrive in time. She took a couple of preparatory dashes a few steps away from the helm and back to try to judge how long it would take to get to the aft hatch. The problem was that the air yacht wouldn’t hold steady at the current altitude for more than a few seconds. It would be more stable if she descended, but that would put her closer to the water and remove some of the margin of error.

She decided to split the difference. She would angle the Peregrine down slightly. She hoped it would stabilize as it descended. And if it didn’t, at least it would be downhill back to the helm. She took a few deep breaths to steady her nerves, pushed the helm down, and sprinted aft, dodging the impeding chairs and cursing the glossy polish of the floor. The slickness of the floor combined with the uphill angle forced her to resort to throwing herself the last couple of feet. The hatch wasn’t too hard to open by hand, but without the force of her foot on this one, she had to hit the release twice before it let the line go.

She flopped over to slide back to the helm. She had just cleared the first pair of chairs when the airship was bounced by another gust, knocking her sideways into the chair just behind the helm to the right. The pain in her injured shoulder flared, stunning her into immobility for an instant. She pushed the pain back down and struggled back to her feet…just in time to see the water coming up fast. She yanked back on the helm. The tips of the mooring lines trailed gracefully through the waves as she brought the Peregrine back up to a reasonable altitude.

Fox and Drake’s drafting of his crew members drew the captain’s attention. He clambered back up from the hold, but stood well out of range. One didn’t get to be a wizened old sea captain by throwing oneself into the midst of every foolhardy escapade that crossed one’s path. He surveyed the volunteers. There was Tiny, always the first choice of anyone looking for muscle. He spotted brash, young Thomas Winterspoon as he expected, ever ready to jump in with both feet without any thought to the consequences. He was a little surprised to see Aaron Greeves in the company, being a dreamer as he was, but perhaps he thought the airship romantic.

McTrowell slowed the Peregrine and carefully threaded a path between the other ships in the harbor. As she approached, she realized that the poop deck wasn’t nearly as wide as she had thought. It barely stuck out past the mizzenmast. She attempted to stall the air yacht over it without getting entangled in the sails. It was a tricky dance between avoiding the sailcloth and getting the mooring lines in range of the crew, and airships are not known for their sidling skills.

The five men on deck made a grab for the lines. Even with all their weight, they struggled to hold down the tiny airship and, of course, there was no good place to tie it off. They had almost managed to pull it down to tie it to a likely pair of horn cleats when a wave tossed the San Juan away from the Peregrine. Determined to hang on, they were all pulled free of the deck except for Mr. Greeves who had been paying more attention to the design of the air yacht than to the job at hand.

The weight of the remaining four men started to pull the Peregrine down toward the waves. Sparky re-engaged the engine, trying to hoist them back up, but the lines were wet from her previous near miss with the water. Thomas Winterspoon, being the weakest, dropped off first, only slightly unbalancing the airship and dumping himself into the harbor. She managed to wobble back toward the deck a bit. Drake and Fox snatched the opportunity to let go, but the deck wasn’t much more forgiving than the water. The dramatic shift in balance proved to be too much for even the muscular Tiny, who also earned himself a cold dip in the drink. Sparky fervently hoped that the accounts she had heard of sailors not being able to swim were just sea stories.

As she was circling above the masts, it occurred to her that landing a small airship on the deck of a seafaring ship was not a completely outrageous idea, at least to her. The inventor in her mind sprang to life. The releases for the mooring lines would need to be rerouted immediately adjacent to the helm that would consequently require the addition of linkages. But the important contribution would be a rapid coupling mechanism. The mooring lines would need hooks at the end. Those would have to be removable so they wouldn’t be a danger to ground crews when docking on land. Then there would need to be a long rod that could be attached, and subsequently removed, sticking out from the side of the sea vessel. With some careful maneuvering the hooks could capture the docking rod, berthing the airship without worrying about colliding with any of the taller parts of the ship.

She began considering mechanisms for reeling in the airship to the deck, when she realized that this was all a fine fantasy, but it wasn’t going to do her any good just floating around in her head. She needed to come up with a solution using what she had at hand. She was having that Pecos Incident feeling again. Oh, that was it! She knew how to get the Peregrine down. Just like her first pass when she had hailed Erasmus and J.B., she flew low and parallel to the San Juan. But this time, she pulled quickly to port just as she approached the San Juan’s course sail and cut the Peregrine’s engine. It glided slowly into the sail, stretching the canvas taut. Sparky winced in anticipation. She hoped she hadn’t miscalculated and come in too fast. She heard the envelope of the airship creak and she thought she might have heard tearing canvas. She yanked the emergency release value for the envelope, releasing some of its contents in an angry whistle.

And then, with its forward momentum arrested, the Peregrine came to an unceremonious halt, flopping onto the deck of the San Juan like a fish. The railing barely kept the air yacht from tipping right into the harbor. Sparky was tossed to the side like a rag doll.

The captain strolled up to Erasmus as he was picking himself up off the deck and rubbing his raw hands. His craggy face screwed up into a knot as he blurted out, “That’s gonna cost ya’ extra!”

Sparky disentangled herself from where she was wedged between one of the chairs and the hull of gondola. She checked herself thoroughly. She was going to be bruised, but there didn’t seem to be any permanent damage. At least the hatch was on the uphill side and not blocked by the entire weight of the Peregrine. She undid the latch, levered herself through the opening, and collapsed into Drake’s waiting arms.

She smiled at him ironically, “
The lateral stability of this enterprise leaves something to be desired.

The Toppled Noblewoman

Entry for June 9, 2013 Written by David L. Drake

The ticking of the mantle clock was clear and precise, as if it were mechanically hammered out on a percussionist’s woodblocks. The sound reverberated throughout the tidy little flat. Every other second was a higher pitched “tock,” every intervening second was a majestic lower pitched “tonk.” Henrietta sat in her kitchen and listened. Her hands folded on her lap. Her eyes gazed off to nowhere in particular. Her face held no real expression. She was actively listening to the clock ticking away the time. She mentally imagined that there was a tiny butcher in the timepiece chopping thin slices off her life with a cleaver. Perfect coin disks of press-meat sausages popping off the chopping block and evaporating as they neared the floor. One per second. Tock. Tonk. Tock. Tonk.

The flat was spotless from its two cleanings the week before. The chores were done and the larder was as full as it needed to be. The furniture was slightly out of date, being hand-me-downs from J.B.’s parents. Being a military family, they knew the value of furnishings and didn’t want to waste good money on new.

Henrietta was waiting for her husband to return. It was what she did. She married the handsome young Marine when she was young. She had been drawn to his devil-may-care attitude and his rakish looks. His enthusiasm for military service was also attractive, with the possibility of his travel to the mysterious Orient. Imagine getting letters from the other side of the world!

What she didn’t foresee was the hours, and days and weeks and months, of waiting.

The doorknocker clonked twice and woke Henrietta up from her stupor.
“Could it be him? Perhaps with a friend; that is why he knocked!” She jumped up and scurried to the door. She stopped long enough to smooth her dress and put her best smile on. She opened the door. Her smile faded.

It was a uniformed lad from the telegraph office standing in the mid-morning sun. “Mrs. Fox?” He asked without any other pleasantries. She nodded with the resignation that she was getting a missive that would not make her happy. The lad snapped out a small blue envelope and handed it to her. By the time she glanced to verify her name and look back up, the lad was gone. She hadn’t planned to tip him for bad news anyway, so she wasn’t concerned.

Back inside the tidy flat, she popped open the envelope and revealed the note inside.


She sat back down in the same chair. She listened to the clock and the note fell to the floor. A single tear ran down her face that she did not bother wiping off.

Flourish Break

The Peregrine was the pinnacle of the True Avian Airship Company’s line of personal luxury airships. It was designed to be flown solo, but no affluent owner would take such a craft out without his personal engineer to manage the boiler, engine, lines, and any other myriad of piece parts that might get grime under one’s fingernails. Like most yachts, it was a showcase for the owner’s taste and flying ability, a well-designed marriage of athletic contours and handsome appointments.

Where there was a corner or joint of wood, a brass fitting topped it, adding strength and a touch of golden shine. Within the bridge, leather was used for every point where sustained contact between pilot and vessel was made: seats, steering yoke, and control pulls. Safety harnesses retracted out of view when unneeded. All status gauges were grouped in a line under the forewindow, beautifully matched in size and style.

Externally, the envelope’s meshwork gave the appearance of embroidery from the sturdiest of filaments, permitting the use of lightweight material for the gasbag fabric.

To the sailors, seeing this jewel of a flying craft lying askew on the rough deck of the seasoned clipper ship caused a shock of incongruity. The rounded bottom of the airship was not meant to support the vessel on a flat surface, causing it to tip at nearly forty-five degrees to starboard. Its envelope, visibly diminished in size from normal due to Sparky’s rushed landing, awkwardly strained to stay skyward but lacked the lift to do so. The men of the sea looked upon the yacht as an exquisitely dressed nobelwoman toppled on a seaside boardwalk, her attire preventing her from righting herself. They were, due to respect, initially hesitant to rush in to help.

The hatch on the port side popped open and Sparky tumbled out into the waiting arms of Erasmus. After their short exchange, Erasmus tripped on the wet line on the deck, and pilot and policeman collapsed into a heap on deck, both landing unceremoniously on their rumps. Luckily she was in full flying attire, complete with trousers, limiting the embarrassment of such a fall.

Sparky looked about the circle of a male faces shocked into silence.

“Gentleman,” she said from her seat on the deck, “let’s get this trip underway!”

Flourish Break

Dr. Pogue stood in his robe and stared at his drawn bath. Mrs. Bingham had gotten the temperature just right. And a new bar of his favorite soap, scented with patchouli, was waiting patiently in its dish. He was still hesitant to hop in. Of all of his daily tasks, bathing was the single chore made much harder since the loss of his left arm. He had a scrub brush that did and excellent job of extending his reach. The mechanical arm shouldn’t be exposed to water on a daily basis, nor was it really suited to the task of washing. But it wasn’t the effort that truly bothered him.

This was the task that made him realize that he was physically different now. He wondered if his physical change would make Yin see him as deficient. It wasn’t so much as something he thought directly about because if he had, he would seek out a solution or a proper way to discuss it with her. Instead, he just worried about the notion. When this possible deficiency would come to the surface of his thoughts, he spent his time trying to suppress it. That took time. To do this, he instead tried to mask it with other thoughts.
“At what rate is this bath changing temperature? Does it slow as it nears the ambient temperature of the room? When I get in, and my skin warms, does the bath seem to cool more quickly since my skin is also changing temperature?” It wasn’t working. He thought about Yin again.

A knock on the door caused him to blink twice, give a slight tug on the robe’s belt to verify its security, turn, and opened the door. Mrs. Bingham stood with an upturned eyebrow.

“As I suspected. I’m not going to toss you in myself. Well, this just came…” She held out a small blue envelope.

Edmond took the envelope and looked at it, stammering, “Mrs. Bingham, I…”

“Oh, hush. I’m not blind. You miss her. Maybe the telegram will explain her disappearance.” She made a swiping gesture toward the envelope in Edmond’s hand. “Go on…open it. And then get in your bath. I’ll be in the kitchen when you are ready for breakfast.” She took the doorknob and quietly clicked the door shut, leaving Edmond alone, looking at his letter.

He clenched the bottom of the envelope between his teeth, anchoring it as he ripped the flap open with his one hand’s index finger. He dexterously slipped the note out and unfolded it to reveal the message within.


He slipped the note into the corner of the mirror so he could see it each morning. He read it two or three more times, and then pulled on the lapel of his robe to force it open, solemnly ready to face his bath.

Flourish Break

With the right set of sizable wrenches and a two sets of block and tackle, the crew straightforwardly disassembled the Peregrine for storage. In less than half an hour, they mustered the six main gondola components, the framework mount with engine and boiler, and the well-folded bundle of envelope cloth on the deck for lowering into the hold. A dozen men readied the clipper’s sails for casting off while a smaller set worked to open a hatchway to the cargo hold in preparation to lower the airship parts.

Sergeant Fox, still posed in military stance, turned to Erasmus.

“It appears you have everything under control. I will head back to my cabin for a few hours. See you at mid-day in the mess hall.” Without waiting for a response, Sergeant Fox turned crisply on one heel and strode toward the ladder leading down to the decks below.

The sergeant glanced quickly left and right before opening his cabin door. When it clicked closed behind him, his formal demeanor immediately drained out of out of him. His shoulders slumped as shuffled over to the one piece of furniture in the room, a closed writing desk. He leaned heavily on the desk with his left hand to support himself as he pressed the heel of his right hand hard into his right eye socket. He groaned in pain.

He stood in that position for a full minute. He made another guttural sound and removed his hand. He turned and looked at himself in the metal mirror on the wall just in time to see his right pupil suddenly grow large, the opposite of what he expected. Then both his eyes rolled up as he collapsed to the floor, his unconscious body clumsily strewn at the base of his bunk.


Entry for June 17, 2013 Written by Katherine L. Morse

Pogue’s mood was cooling faster than his bath water. He was well on his way to being cold prune stew when Mrs. Bingham knocked again.

“Dr. Pogue, your breakfast is getting cold.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Bingham. Would you please put it in my lab?”

“Yes, dear.” She thought to herself,
Well, at least he’s going to work and I won’t have to break the automated Cornish pasty press again to cheer him up.

Although he had managed to get himself dressed and down to his lab, nothing was piquing his interest. He wandered aimlessly amongst the worktables, gnawing a slice of buttered toast. He glanced noncommittally into several crates as he strolled back to the breakfast tray to dunk the remaining crust into the mostly untouched eggs. The breakfast tray was perched on the corner of the table. As he dropped his gaze to take aim at a yolk, a crate half-hidden under the table and forgotten caught his attention. Its lid was askew. The edge of a sheet of notepaper peaked out. Edmond recognized Drake’s handwriting. He felt a twinge of envy in his chest for his friend Erasmus who was with Yin when he wasn’t.

To add to his gloom, Edmond recalled that his investigation of the contents had been interrupted by the arrival of the treacherous EPACTs. He touched his mechanical arm reflexively. With Yin away and no expectation of immediate collaboration with Miss Slate, who was now Mrs. Howgill he reminded himself, he might as well return to assessing the mechanical discharge pistol.

The EPACT encounter had made him more cautious, so he read the chief inspector’s notes carefully before proceeding. Two facts became immediately clear: he would need a wet cell to power it since he didn’t trust Farnsworth’s, and testing it in his basement laboratory was highly inadvisable. It took him half an hour of rummaging in various commodious and cluttered cabinets to locate a Daniell cell. The earthenware insert didn’t look too clogged, but the copper sulfate had dehydrated to gray powder. The necessary sulfuric acid was carefully stored next to it in a thick glass bottle with a label written in Yin’s graceful, artistic hand. He traced the letters with his fingertip. He shook himself again; he was getting nowhere!

He needed was a suitable testing location. The tower roof! Edmond’s late father had been an amateur astronomer, an avocation Edmond regretted not sharing now that his father was gone. Shadwell wasn’t exactly a premiere star gazing locale, but Pogue senior had whiled away many an otherwise boring evening in the London environs staring up at the cosmos. It had been his excuse for avoiding the drinking, smoking, and invariably tedious conversation at a club of the sort that most men of his social standing frequented. Truth be told, he would rather have been home in the country with his family, but his vocation required his regular presence in London.

Edmond had to give himself a stern remonstration to get moving again. He was determined not to dither the day away with morose musings. It took him three trips to haul the wet cells components, electrical discharge pistol, and all the tools he considered potentially useful up to the observation platform on the tower roof. The stone pedestal for his father’s telescope was still intact. He had expected that the iron mount points would be rusted, but instead they looked recently repainted. Neither were there very many leaves on the deck floor. The Binghams had obviously been up here recently. He reminded himself that he was not the only one who missed his parents.

It took him almost another hour of effort to get his experimental apparatus set up just right and the weapon recharged. With some clever repurposing of some bits of iron bar, nuts, and bolts, he managed to a secure the pistol to the pedestal’s existing mount. Based on Drake’s commentary, he knew better than to fire the device straight up. No need to repeat the blue sunshiny hole in the sky and consequent rain shower. Best to put some angle on it. He aimed at the clouds near a small copse of trees and fired. Although the pistol exhibited none of the recoil of a conventional firearm, the pedestal vibrated with the energy pulsing through device.

Quite to the surprise of the inventor, the full energy of the discharge didn’t simply punch through the cloud cover. To his delight, some of it reflected back to the ground amongst the trees across the way. The experiment proved not so delightful for a foraging squirrel. The reflected energy struck its tail, setting some of its fur afire. Luckily, the discharge did cause some minor precipitation, at least enough to extinguish the rodent’s posterior conflagration. Needless to say, the tree-dweller experienced a sudden and urgent shift in priorities, and set off in search of safe shelter.

Pogue pondered this result for several minutes. He wondered if it were possible to achieve the reflective effect without the destructive ones. Perhaps less power would do the trick. The pistol was fully discharged. He flipped the switch and only recharged it the second time until it began to hum. He fired again at the same angle. It worked! Rather than condensing rain or burning the ground, it merely reflected a blurry spot onto the ground. It also captured the attention of a stray calico cat that had obviously missed the squirrel’s unfortunate incendiary encounter. It pounced on the spot and then searched disappointedly about when its quarry disappeared instantaneously.

His next test would require more mobility in the swivel. He carefully oiled all the moving parts and gave the whole apparatus a few test swings. He also realized that he would need to capture the timing of this excursion. He withdrew his watch, popped it open, and cast about for a place to put it where he could keep an eye on it during the experiment. If Yin had been there, she would have held it and taken notes of their observations. He stacked his toolbox on top of the small bench his father used to sit on during his astronomical evenings. It would be hard to get precise measurements with this arrangement, but it would have to do.

He flipped the switch and listened for the weapon’s signature hum while counting the seconds. At three seconds, it sounded about right and he fired. The rebound hit his feline collaborator in the foot. She jerked it away. Too much power. He waited two seconds while swiveling the pistol a few degrees. He pulled the trigger. The cat licked her paw in exaggerated boredom as cats are want to do. Too little power. He counted: and one and two and fire. The results were more to the liking of the calico that obliged Pogue’s success by batting at her returned playmate. Tick, swivel, tick, flash, swat. The game with the cat brought a small smile to Pogue’s face.

He was getting into a smooth rhythm when he got a delightful surprise. The trajectory he had the weapon on took him back to where he’d originally ignited the squirrel and left a small puddle. The light bounced off the tiny pool of water and struck a tree trunk a few feet from the ground. The cat leapt at it, claws out. Its search for its toy was derailed by the arrival in the tree’s foliage of a plump oriole. Lunch! The fickle feline abandoned her scientific collaboration with the esteemed Dr. Pogue as quickly as she had engaged in it. Well, she wouldn’t be getting any publication credit.

Pogue was wondering how many times the light would reflect and over what distance when he was struck by an inspiration that jolted him as if he had touched the terminals of the Daniell cell. He turned and sprinted down the stairs. He nearly collided with Mrs. Bingham as he dashed for the library. She followed at a more moderate pace. He was rifling through the map cabinet. He found his objective quickly, rolled it up hastily, and departed as rapidly as he’d arrived, leaving maps strewn everywhere. Mrs. Bingham smiled to herself as she restored order to the cabinet. It did her heart good to see him so excited by his work.

Next stop, the laboratory. Amongst his various clockwork parts was a broken down serinette. He removed the pipes he wouldn’t need and slipped the barrel off. He took a couple of quick measurements and cut a sheet of copper the right size to make a replacement. Another measurement of the spacing between the pins and he was ready to begin punching holes in the copper sheet with a hammer and small awl. He carefully rolled the sheet into a new barrel and slipped it into place. He gently turned the crank, listening to the tiny clicks of the pins in the holes.

That had taken almost no time at all. Unfortunately, rigging up a mechanism to fire the electrical discharge pistol each time he turned the serinette’s crank a notch took several more hours and more than a few failed attempts to get right. Now, where had he put that pocket compass?

The sun was beginning to set by the time he returned to the roof. A tray had appeared on the bench. He lifted the corner of the cloth covering it to discover a hearty roast beef sandwich and several of Mrs. Bingham’s delicious pickles. His stomach growled, causing him to realize that he hadn’t eaten since breakfast. He wolfed down two bites of the sandwich and a pickle. The observatory was also now equipped with two tall iron stanchions supporting lit lanterns. Delightful!

Flourish Break

“Sergeant Fox, would you care to practice?”

“Not now, Dr. Young.”

“You do not look well. Should I call Dr. McTrowell?”

“No, thank you. I just need to rest.”

“Very well.” Yin departed, doing her best not to reveal her disappointment. She was surprised that she was already bored when they were less than a day into their voyage. This did not bode well for the next few months. She knew that at some point Dr. McTrowell would decide to investigate the EPACTs in the cargo hold, but the American was currently absorbed with the company of her new fiancé. Dr. Young missed the daily intellectual engagement of working with Dr. Pogue. The thought of Edmond reminded her of the multi-vision goggles. She headed back to her cabin to retrieve them. Perhaps they would reveal something interesting in the night sky.

Flourish Break

Pogue spread out the map on the floor of the observation deck in front of the pedestal, and weighted the corners with spare tools. Standing at the edge of the map, he pulled out the compass. He was off by a few degrees. He adjusted the map slightly and resumed his upright position. Still not quite right. Two more calibrations and the map was correctly oriented. He ate the rest of his cold dinner and set the tray aside. He needed the bench to support the serinette. He had to do quite a bit of rearranging to get all his equipment in the right position in his small, impromptu laboratory. He had to be able to reach both the pistol and the serinette; he needed to have enough light to see his watch and compass. He dearly hoped the cloud cover reached from Shadwell to Portsmouth and beyond.

Flourish Break

Although she wasn’t entirely alone on deck, none of the San Juan’s crew paid any attention to the Chinese scientist. If they hadn’t already thought her peculiar, the bizarre apparatus she wore on her head was certainly strange enough to convince them. She repeatedly rotated the wheels of lenses, tipped her head back to look up at the night sky while holding the whole contraption in place, and then looked back down to switch the lenses again. Her experiment was producing dismal results. The clouds blocked out the starlight. One setting revealed a bit more definition, but the view was still miles and miles of clouds. She wondered whether she was tired enough to sleep. She removed the cumbersome goggles as they were beginning to give her a headache.

Flourish Break

Edmond studied the map intently. Although he understood the shortcomings of its Mercator projection, he was mostly concerned with its application to navigation for which it was entirely suitable. “The Americas” was frustratingly vague, but at least they had to be less than a day out from Portsmouth. He would just broaden his sweep a degree or two. Admittedly, the real variable was how precisely he could control the pivot of the telescope mount. He could rebuild it with precision machinery in his laboratory, but the delay to do so would probably introduce more error into his enterprise than would be saved by the added control.

He carefully aligned the pistol with the most southeastern angle of his search sweep. Plumb lines from the pedestal to the edge of the observation deck would have improved the aim. No time for that either. At least he had remembered to bring a protractor to measure the azimuth. It was only a little helpful since he didn’t know the distance, but it was better than strictly guessing. There was no use fiddle faddling any longer. The cumulative error in all his calculations was increasing as he dithered. He switched on the pistol. One and two and flash click, he cranked the serinette. One and two and flash click, he turned the barrel organ another notch. At 2.5 seconds per flash, it took almost 83 seconds to transmit all 33 clicks of his message plus the three pauses which took an additional 7.5 seconds meant it took a minute and a half to send his entire message once. The pauses were the most maddening because he felt like he wasn’t doing anything, but they were necessary for the clarity of the message.

Flourish Break

Yin performed an honest assessment. She was tired, but not sleepy; in her opinion, the worst possible state. She could go to her cabin and meditate on the colors and moving patterns she saw when her eyes were closed. She often used this method of refocusing her mind away from the business of the day when sleep was a reticent companion. It was the only recourse beyond sparring practice, which had already been eliminated as a remedy. She continued staring blankly at the clouds. As she turned to leave the bridge, she saw a flash out of the corner of her eye.

Her characteristic inner calm tilted nauseatingly sideways. She recalled her original passage across the Yellow Sea to Ryukyu han. The ship had been swept up in a typhoon. The sailors had screamed in fear of Ao Guang, the Dragon King of the Eastern Sea, crying prayers not to be carried to his dragon palace, Donghai Longgong, at the bottom of the sea. She had a keen sense of when her life was actually in mortal danger, and that voyage had been the closest she had ever come. For all the rain in England, she had never seen a storm that struck terror in her like the handiwork of the Donghai Longwang. She turned to face her fear head on and searched for another flash of light.

Flourish Break

Pogue had to scramble to switch the angle of the weapon in the 2.5 seconds between the first transmission and the second. He very nearly knocked the whole house of cards out of alignment trying to get the positioning right in the 2.5 seconds. He was a nervous wreck and had to focus to keep on his precise timing. He really should have devised a timing apparatus to manage the more mechanical aspects of the task. His mind wandered to the design of a clockwork mechanism to time both the advancement of the serinette’s barrel and the angle of the mount. And he very nearly missed getting the barrel organ clicked over for the next signal. He was no good without Yin to keep him on task!

Flourish Break

Yes! There they were. The flashes were fainter than Yin had initially perceived. She hadn’t thought the clouds appeared to be thunderheads. She restored the multi-vision goggles to their precarious perch atop her nose. It took several adjustments to select the right filter. Dr. Pogue had designed the optics and would have arrived at the correct setting directly, but she got there eventually. The lightening was still far off and didn’t seem to be advancing with any menace. She contented herself with enjoying the show. Curious. The flashes were very regular and unaccompanied by thunder. Perhaps the storm was still too far away.

The rhythmic, organized play of light off the clouds reminded her somewhat of the Kabuki to which she had been introduced in Ryukyu han, as if it were rigidly prescribed. She began counting the regular metre. The nostalgic young girl in her heart gave way to the mature scientist in her mind. The periodicity of the flashes was far too precise! She was not observing a natural phenomenon. The mist of dream lifted and she focused her powers of scientific observation.

Just as she began making mental notes of the length and period of the flickers, the signal skipped closer. Eight flashes and a pause. Six flashes followed by another delay. Nine for the third batch followed by ten, and the sprite hopped closer. Were the sailors on deck blind? Oops, yes, they were. They couldn’t see what she saw with the goggles bringing the signal into focus. She was staring intently in the direction of the light when she noticed another critical characteristic of the transmission, because, of course, she was now quite certain that such was the nature of the phenomenon. It wasn’t coming directly from the clouds. It was bouncing off the ocean at some distance before subsequently reflecting off the more proximal clouds. She visually traced its source. It was coming from the general vicinity of London. The beauty of the reflection was that it gave her two opportunities to observe the lights, producing a more accurate reading.

She was enjoying this exercise so much more than sleep! What could it mean? It was obviously some sort of code of the type with which she and Edmond had experimented for the control of devices. Codes! Devices! How could she have been so thick? Surely it was the American telegraph code that Edmond had taught her when they first began designing automata controls. She wracked her memory to remember all the sequences. Just as she got a fix on the alphabet, the signal hopped closer to the San Juan. She lost her composure and leapt in excitement. It must indicate a new start of the transmission!

She focused so hard that she forgot to breathe. Dot-dot- -dot-dot. Dot-dot. Dash dot. She nearly fainted at the end of a minute and a half when she was sure that she had translated the entire message.

“Yin are you there?”

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