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The Hawaiian Triple-Cross - Page 4: June 24, 2013 - July 29, 2013

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Back At Ya
Tools of the Trade
Footing the Bill
Needles and Pins
The Golden Circle of Trust
Tentacles


Back At Ya

Entry for June 24, 2013 Written by David L. Drake

After ten minutes of repetitious signaling, Dr. Pogue’s movements became a patterned dance between man and machine. Aim the discharge pistol, turn the crank on the serinette causing the focused flash of Morse code, adjust the angle, and repeat. All the while, he interspersed quiet whistles to control his mechanical arm. The scientist was so intent on doing all of this correctly and properly that he lost himself in the process.

He reached up, made another adjustment, and stopped cold, thinking,
“This is not working.” The corner of his eye caught a dim flash on the horizon during the last transmission. That could only mean one thing: the atmosphere or the cloud cover changed to only reflect back all of the luminous energy that he was sending out. This was just wasting his Daniell cell’s stored power.

Curious though.
“Why at this angle and azimuth?” He kept the pistol at the current trajectory and cranked through a few more times. He shielded his eyes from the pistol’s barrel flash to see the distant reflection, which was so dim that he had to use his peripheral vision to see it. Sometimes he could see the gleaming echo, but other times he couldn’t. Was the climate changing so rapidly that it would bounce light back at one moment and not at all the next?

“Odd,” he first thought, “but wait!”

He rummaged around in his tool bag and pulled out a leather sack containing his original prototype multi-vision goggles. He extracted the device, flipped the leather straps over the back of his head, and cranked down on the adjustment clasp at the back of his head.

He strained his eyes at the horizon. Again he turned the serinette’s handle and the initial barrel flash blinded him into wincing pain.
“That was foolish!” he mentally screamed to himself. He ripped off the elaborate spectacles and blinked his way back to normal vision.

He grabbed a sheet of notebook paper and formed a marginally cylindrical tube facing out from his goggles, fastening it in place with an elastic band. Back on his head, his paper snout made him look bizarre, but it worked perfectly. He cranked out the flashing message again without searing his eyeballs. Again the reflection came back, but incompletely.

“Odd,” he repeated to himself, followed by realization. “But wait! The message! The message!”

He grabbed the pistol’s trigger and squeezed of the code for “Are you Yin? Two for Yes. Three for No.” He stared off into the darkness with his notepaper mask as he repeated this message three times, during which there was no reflection. Then he sent a steady beat of flashes. Pop. Pop. Pop.

Then the answer came back. Flash. Flash. Pause for three beats. Flash. Flash.

Edmond ripped off his headwear and shouted triumphantly into the night, “Eureka!”

Flourish Break


Bespectacled Yin stood on the aft deck of the San Juan, holding the handles of an oversized silver serving platter, shouting instructions at Erasmus. The Chief Inspector was seated in a chair doing his best to aim a wooden pole propped across his shoulder at a spot on the horizon. The slight roll of the clipper ship as it cut through the ocean waves complicated his undertaking. Luckily the clearness of the night gave the former sailor a constellation, halved by the jet black ocean, a point to aim for.

“Left! Left! Up a little!” the scientist shouted as she tipped the platter back and forth. Despite her loud and dire instructions, Erasmus knew to make the minutest of corrections. Dr. Young rested the full weight of the platter on the rod about a foot behind Erasmus’ head, and used a jerry-rigged brace to help determine its angle to the rod. By rocking the serving piece on the rod, she was able to reflect, or not reflect, Dr. Pogue’s projected light back towards its origin.

Sparky stood nearby. She was still winded from running about the ship to find the largest “mirror” available, as Yin had so loudly requested. She was quite proud of herself for finding the platter hidden in the dustiest of corners of the galley. Scattered about the three of them were discarded reflecting surfaces, including various hand mirrors, brass plates, and polished copper skillets, that hadn’t make the cut.

“Ahh…ahh…dot dash, dot er dot dot, dot,” Yin stammered out.

Sparky translated for her, “A R E, the word ‘are.’ Use ‘di’ and ‘dah’ to make it easier to say.”

“Ahh…di di er di di, di er di, di di dah,” Yin continued with bated breath.

“Y O U, the word ‘you,’” Sparky calmly stated. It was clear to her that Dr. Pogue was slow at tapping these letters out, but he must be forgiven since Yin was struggling to keep up. Sparky knew she could have slid the goggles on herself and made this whole process easier for everyone, but Yin needed to be part of this operation, since the message was meant for her.

A number of stammered out ‘di’ and ‘dah’ utterances later, and Sparky reported the question, “Are you well?”

Yin vocalized the response cadence, “now…now…now…,” tipped the platter back to the proper reflection angle to the sky, “now…now…,” and tipped it forward to drive the reflection in to the ocean. She continued this rhythm a few more times in hopes that the repeated answer came though clearly.

Yin went back to vocalizing “di” and dah” sequences. Sparky interpreted for her, “The next question was ‘New York?’” Yin signaled, “No.”

More interpretation. Sparky translated, “Bermuda?” The airship pilot raised an eyebrow. “That actually is a good location. We could stop and get supplies.”

Yin pleaded, “How should I answer?!”

Sparky calmly said, “Tell him ‘no,’ since we didn’t plan to stop there.”

Yin nervously complied.

The stressed scientist uttered another series of ‘di’ and ‘dah’ combinations, this time with Sparky translating as “Cape?” Yin sent a “no” response. Then there was an uncharacteristic hesitation before more flashes appeared. Yin held her breath.

Finally the distant light began winking on and off again, concluding with Sparky’s deciphering of “Panama?” Yin was ecstatic. “Yes! Yes!” she squealed out, adding, “You smart, smart man,” in a quiet voice that she hadn’t meant to share with the others. But Sparky and Erasmus most clearly did hear it. Yin tipped the platter to and fro to send a simple “yes” message back.

The next sequence was longer. Sparky announced it without flinching, “Light fading. Love me?”

They all knew this was Dr. Pogue’s very personal closing to the transmission. Yin looked surprised at its candidness. Sparky insisted, “Just say ‘yes’!” Yin sheepishly complied, the open bluntness of the distant doctor’s query made the woman in the odd goggles embarrassed. She guided the platter for the last set of reflections.

After she sent her response, the remote flashes came no more. Yin stood an extra minute, mentally wrestling with the understanding that not only was the communication completed but also her lifeline to him was severed. She slowly set the platter on the deck and removed the goggles. She looked back at the horizon and stated, “He knows our destination. That’s good.” She then turned slowly and silently walked towards the stairs to the decks below.

Flourish Break


Erasmus plopped in his bunk and thought back on his day. He recalled the crispness of the morning air and the steadiness of the wind. The popping of the filled sails as the ship slipped out of the harbor and hit the open sea.

He remembered his sense of pride when he checked in on Sparky a bit before noon. She had been disassembling, cleaning, and reassembling the Peregrine’s boiler. She delivered her usual speech on the importance of such maintenance and how Mr. Wallace just didn’t know how to properly care for his possessions. All he was paying attention to was how dear she looked in her improvised work clothes and the cute smear of grease next to her left ear to which she was oblivious.

He thought back to finding Sergeant Fox in his room after lunch, unconscious on the floor. After a bit of a shake, the groggy man came to, and apologized for his state. Erasmus remembered telling him to visit Sparky for a full diagnosis, but he doubted the Aerial Marine followed through. Erasmus mused to himself that stoicism had its place, however this wasn’t one of them. Then he realized that he probably would have done the same.
“Men. Good at worrying about others, terrible at worrying about themselves.”

He then let his mind wonder to the lightness of being on the ship, and the tranquility of not having an immediate crisis.
“Feels like a leisure trip,” he thought, “I guess I needed one.” And he nodded off to sleep.




Tools of the Trade

Entry for July 4, 2013 Written by Katherine L. Morse

“Please be a dear and hand me that screwdriver.” Sparky reached blindly backwards toward where she knew Erasmus was standing without extracting her head and shoulders from the trapdoor in the floor of the Peregrine. Drake was pretty sure that the control linkages for the air yacht were in perfect working order, but he understood his fiancée’s need to ensure it herself. It was one of the qualities he admired most about her. He extracted the tool from her belt lying on the floor and plopped the handle into her outstretched palm. More squeaking and clinking emitted from the opening. She reached back with her left hand. “Oil, please.” He carefully oriented the can so her thumb and forefinger fit directly into the handle and trigger. More squeaking from the hole, from the oil can this time. “Done!” she exclaimed. And then she popped up like a rabbit with a big smile on her face. Drake handed her a rag without being asked. She wiped her hands while clambering to her feet. He leaned forward to kiss her, a challenging task given the amount of grease on her face. After a couple of ill-aimed feints, he settled for pursing his lips in an exaggerated fashion to give her a chaste peck without greasing up his moustache.

“Are you enjoying being back at sea?”

“Yes,” he answered somewhat noncommittally.

“I should think a chief inspector would find it advantageous to be a better liar,” she responded archly.

“Normally, I am. But I find it hard to lie to you.”

“Well, that’s an excellent quality for a husband.” She smiled warmly. “What are you finding not to your liking?”

“Although I’m at sea, I’m not a member of the crew. I confess to an unaccustomed sense of boredom.”

Sparky felt a sudden twinge of guilt. She had been so enjoying working on the Peregrine at a leisurely and thorough pace that she had failed to recognize that the other members of Her Majesty’s Eyes and Ears lacked similar enthralling engagements. She offered, “It occurs to me that new and unexpected dangers for which I am unprepared may lay ahead. My only martial skill is with my bare hands. Do you suppose the crew would lend us some weapons? I think it is well nigh time that I learned to use a blade.”

Her beloved brightened right up. “I will procure a couple of cutlasses. Meet me on the deck. Oh, you might want to remove a bit more of that grease.” He tried to point precisely, found that the chore of identifying all the offending spots resulted in his making sweeping gestures about all of her head and shoulders, decided discretion was the better part of valor, and departed in haste.

Flourish Break


“I’m looking forward to being warm again when we get home to Maui,” Keō commented. “What about you?”

“Pua
ʻa,” Pa’ele stated flatly, thinking of the delicious roast pig of his homeland, “not boiled.”

This conversation had proven to be harder than Keō had expected. In the month since they had started their mission, he had only managed to extract a few facts from Pa’ele, most of which he had know before they embarked. The warrior from Maui was taciturn and generally ill tempered. He hated English cooking. Keō certainly couldn’t fault him on that point. Because Pa’ele had been a fostered orphan, his allegiances to anyone other than
Kalei were unknown, particularly since he kept to himself so much. More than anything Keō needed to determine whether Pa’ele was a descendant of Kalanikūpule as was rumored. Or whether Pa’ele thought he was, which would be all the same from Keō’s perspective. He suspected this to be the source of Pa’ele’s chronic anger, but he needed to be certain before they set foot in the Hawaiian kingdom with Edwin Llewellyn.

Flourish Break


“I’m utterly exhausted and my shoulder can take no more abuse. Dr. Young, perhaps you would like to try your skill against Chief Inspector Drake?” Sparky tried to hand her cutlass off to Yin who had been observing the lesson from a position against the railing safely out of range of errant attacks and wild parries.

“No, thank you,” was all she said. Although Dr. Young usually took care to mask her feelings, her discontent was clear on her face. It was not hard to guess that she wished she were back in Shadwell. Sparky cast about for a way to start a conversation.

“I haven’t seen Sergeant Fox all day. What is he about?” This question had exactly the opposite effect McTrowell had hoped. Both Yin and Erasmus froze. They exchanged a cryptic glance as if they were whist partners trying to ascertain and communicate the contents of their hands to each other. Sparky stabbed the point of the cutlass into the deck and leaned on it dramatically. “What are the two of you not telling me?”

It was clear that neither Drake nor Young wished to be the first to break Fox’s confidence. Drake gave up first. “The blow to his head may have been more severe than we first thought.”

McTrowell glowered at him with a ferocious expression that she hoped would dissuade him from such folly in the future. “Need I remind the two of you that I’m a physician? And that you should alert me to such situations sooner rather than later?” They just stared back at her sheepishly. She plucked her weapon from its socket in the deck and handed it to Drake before heading straight to the ladder leading below decks.

She rapped twice on the door to Fox’s cabin for the purpose of announcing her presence, but didn’t await a reply before opening it. It was completely dark inside. The occupant groaned. “Sergeant Fox, you’re clearly in pain. Please describe your other symptoms.”

“Please leave me be. I will recover as I always do.”

“As you always do? How many times have you suffered such an injury?”

He whimpered in pain at the sound of her raised voice. Drake took McTrowell’s arm gently and whispered in her ear, “Perhaps we should leave him to rest and discuss this outside.” He gave the arm a gentle tug to encourage her.

When they were out of earshot, Sparky asked, “What do you know?”

Drake replied first, “He has terrible headaches and I found his unconscious in his cabin.”

Young continued, “He didn’t wish to practice yesterday. I visited him last night. The lantern light caused him pain. He is tired, but cannot sleep from the pain.”

McTrowell placed her face in her hands and rubbed her forehead. “It’s a concussion. It is worse than I originally thought, almost certainly owing to his having suffered several before as he just revealed.” She thought for another moment. “There is no cure but rest. However, he can’t sleep for the pain, but anything I administer to relieve the pain will make his condition worse.” She growled in frustration.

The threesome stood in glum silence for several moments. Yin spoke first. “There is a crew member, Li, who practices zhen jiu.”

“Zhen jiu?” Sparky asked.

“The use of needles for the relief of pain,” Yin explained.

“Ah, acupuncture,” Sparky concluded. Erasmus made a quizzical face.

Sparky continued, “I have read accounts of the practice, but I have never seen it for myself.”

“There is only a little pain at first,” the Chinese scientist promised.

“Well, there’s nothing else I can do for him and it can’t be any worse than what he’s already suffering.”




Footing the Bill

Entry for July 13, 2013 Written by David L. Drake

Virat stood alone, taking a minute or two to study the arched ceiling, the paneled wood walls of the hallway, and the signs on the doors designating their occupants. The University of Oxford had its own unique feel of rhythm and setting, particularly in the afternoon light. It reminded him of a museum in Italy that he had visited on one of his trips there with the young Jonathan Lord Ashleigh. “Ah, yes, the Uffizi Gallery,” he thought. Both institutions were housed in buildings with centuries old architecture, but displaying modern installations. It was a marriage of differences that seemed to work perfectly. He stood in the hallway trying his best to determine if this were a good time to interrupt his master, or continue to hold back, heeding Lord Ashleigh’s request not to be disturbed until further notice. It had been three days since his trip up to Oxford, which was a longer stay than usual without hearing from the Viscount. Virat made the sixty-mile trip this morning for the sole purpose of delivering the envelope he held in his hand.

Virat glanced again at the telegram, which he had received early the day before. It wasn’t his place to open it unless instructed to do so. He didn’t know if this was cause for concern or just a status report from one of his master’s operatives. He looked up at the dark varnished door that bore Lord Ashleigh’s nameplate. He knew that waiting did no one good, so it was best to proceed.

He knocked lightly, hoping that would help convince Lord Ashleigh that he was disturbing his master as little as possible, if such a thing were feasible. He heard a chair being pushed back and soft footfalls approaching the door. He stepped back and prepared for their interchange.

The door swung open, revealing Lord Ashleigh in a studious pose, cradling a sizable book in one hand and a dipping pen in the other. He hovered the writing tool over the book as if he were just about to make an annotation. He was dressed in a rather natty jacket and brown trousers, looking as if he were lounging in a hunting lodge. His cultural tell was that he was shoeless and displaying a pair of his eye-catching argyle socks. The room smelled faintly of lingering pipe smoke. Lord Ashleigh didn’t look up from his tome, quietly and reflexively asking, “How may I help you?”

Virat stepped back slightly to catch Lord Ashleigh’s attention and took a most proper pose for offering the envelope. Jonathan noticed the motion and gave his full attention to his attendant.

What would have looked to any passerby to be simply a manservant proffering a missive, looked entirely different to Lord Ashleigh. Virat had placed his left heel slightly behind his right, revealing that they were safe in their environs. His left eyebrow was raised a trifle, signaling that there was not a plot against them at this time, but literally meaning, “the plans for your downfall are currently abated.” He held the envelope out with a white gloved hand, his palm up and his little finger askew from the line of its sibling fingers, conveying the contents of the message was not known to him, but he also didn’t think it was a cause of alarm. His left gloved hand held the bottom of his jacket’s lapel to his midriff to signify that all was well at his master’s house, which covered everything from the health of loved ones to the honesty of the other servants. Lord Ashleigh smiled and raised his pen hand by about half an inch to signal that he understood.

They practiced these gestures at all times so that they could silently convey their circumstances. When the two of them traveled, they practiced the more obscure signals for times of trouble. Virat remembered training Jonathan since he was very young, and creating a unique set of gestures so that even Lord Ashleigh’s other family members wouldn’t even know, or even notice. The effort had served them well.

“Virat! Do come in,” offered Lord Ashleigh as he placed the pen in the book’s crease, stepped back, and swung his arm as a welcoming gesture into his office. Virat nodded and entered. As he stepped past, Lord Ashleigh plucked the envelope out of Virat’s hand.

Virat stood silently, studying the room with his eyes to see any subtle changes since he was last there. It was all part of his role as protector that he took very seriously.

Lord Ashleigh placed the book on his desk along with a number of its scholarly companions, all open and begging for more annotations themselves. He skillfully ripped through the envelope flap with a flick of his finger and opened the contents. He eyes grew wide.

“What is this?!” he demanded rhetorically, and then reread the telegram again.

“Sergeant Fox is on a ship to the Americas. He has Dr. McTrowell, Chief Inspector Drake, and Dr. Young! That’s almost a third of my operation. They will be gone for six to eight months...” He rubbed his chin in thought.

Musing out loud, he continued, “How did J.B. …? This is incredible! I’ve been trying to figure out how to get him and a contingent of my team to the States! Surely they went to handle the operation I offered…what was it…two months ago? He said he couldn’t leave due to personal matters…and then we had that business up in Carlisle and the capturing of Wallace…and now he’s off to the Americas. I thought he would have checked with me first.”

Virat thought he might break his characteristic silence and add to the conversation. “When a seasoned military man does something unexpected, it means he is improvising. Perhaps he is dealing with an unexpected opportunity.”

Lord Ashleigh replied, “Good point. Let us wish him, and us, luck in this venture. If for no other reason, I’m sure Her Majesty’s Eyes and Ears is footing the bill.”

Flourish Break


Erasmus walked the deck as he watched the orange-red sun sink into the dark ocean. He enjoyed the way the reflected light made a crimson path to the horizon, one that was always shifting and rough due to the surface waves.
“A path to the nearest star,” he thought, as if he could have hopped off the clipper ship and had a stroll to the center of the solar system. He leaned on the rail and thought back to his favorite part of the day: Sparky’s first fencing lesson. He tugged at his beard and smiled as he recalled the instruction and the surrounding events.

Standing on the ship’s topside deck, Erasmus tested the weight and feel of his cutlass while Sparky playfully jabbed the air with hers. “Can we bang them together now?” she asked in excited anticipation. Erasmus simultaneously smiled at her infections exuberance and scowled at her lighthearted approach to such a serious endeavor.

His voice took on that of an instructor, “The cutlass is the butcher knife of the sword family. It is short for easy wielding within the confines of a ship, and is made for chopping, pure and simple. Although often sharpened, it is done mainly as a courtesy to one’s opponent.”

Even the medical doctor made a grimace at that and requested, “Can we get past the grisly part of the lesson?”

Erasmus continued, speaking as a fencing master, “The modern goal of fencing is to convince your opponent to stop fighting; to admit defeat and surrender. For that reason, blades are kept clean and sharp. Our fencing actions will be controlled and deliberate. We could, if we wanted to violate that maxim, put a blade in each hand and run about wildly, stabbing everything and every person in sight. But that wouldn’t be fencing. I will be showing you how to fence. The first step is to take a proper stance.”

Erasmus demonstrated an
en garde position to Sparky, and she initially cocked her head as if she didn’t understand what he was doing.

“Ah, yes,” he said, “Stand here.” He pointed his finger to a point of the deck that was near him. “I am left-handed, so I want you to pretend you are looking in a mirror, and imitate my stance and actions.”

Sparky took her position as instructed, but like someone new to dance, kept looking back and forth between Erasmus’ and her own feet and hands. She was in the pose, per se, but to Erasmus, she looked stiff and unsure, and her balance just didn’t look right. As Erasmus silently pointed things out, like the fact that his feet were at right angles to each other, the pair heard the thud of a chair on the deck. They looked over to see Edwin Llewellyn sitting in the newly placed piece of furniture, his arms folded and a smug look across his face.

Erasmus addressed his former fencing master. “Do you expect me to teach this young lady with you watching?” he asked with a smile.

“By all means. This trip needs some entertainment. I couldn’t have asked for better. Pray, continue.”




Needles and Pins

Entry for July 16, 2013 Written by Katherine L. Morse

“I don’t like this idea,” the Aerial Marine groaned.

“I confess I’m not entirely comfortable with the idea myself, Sergeant Fox, but I have no other remedy for you that will not worsen your condition. And you must rest to recover.” Sparky did her best to sound authoritative and reassuring to hide her own trepidations about the foreign procedure.

The atmosphere in Fox’s cabin was stuffy and close, what with the patient, the Chinese acupuncture practitioner, Dr. McTrowell observing, Yin translating, and Drake loitering on the edges out of curiosity and concern. Li began what McTrowell could only assume was an explanation of the procedure as she couldn’t understand a word he was saying. Fox was lying, disrobed from the waist up. Despite the number of times she had examined patients of both genders, sometimes less modestly draped than even the sergeant, she felt uncomfortable with Drake in the room. She spared a passing thought to wonder when her perspective of herself had expanded to include him.

Her attention snapped back to Li. He was gesturing up and down Fox’s body, stopping occasionally to point at a particular point. He was mostly addressing himself to Dr. Young since she was the only one in the room who could communicate with him. The focus of his hand signs became abstract, waving in the air as if he were trying to gather in some ethereal being or force. Sparky leaned over and whispered in Yin’s ear, “What’s he saying?”

“He is explaining how zhen jiu touches and uses chi to heal the body.”

“I see,” but really she didn’t. She was reserving her judgment until she saw the results.

The two Chinese continued their conversation. Sparky gathered that Li was asking a question about the injury because Yin pointed to the back of her own head. Li nodded and opened a small, lacquered wood box to reveal a multitude of silver pins unlike any Sparky had ever seen. Yin continued translating, “He will feel the pin pricks.” Well, at least that part made sense. “But this pain will pass quickly.”

Li began the physical portion of his ministrations. J.B. flinched at the intrusion of the first needle into the side of his hand, but remained stoically still as the acupuncturist proceeded to stick a needle in the side of his foot. He repeated the procedure on the other side of the Marine’s body. When Li had finished with the needles, he stood near Fox’s head, holding his hands less than an inch from the patient’s cranium. After a few moments, he stepped away from the bunk, bowed to Yin, and departed.

Sparky stood pensively and helplessly staring at her colleague in repose. The moments stretched into minutes while the trio waited for something to happen. Drake saw the change first. The tension leaving Fox’s body was like a fencing opponent letting down his guard. Drake lurched forward to help the patient, but Sparky blocked his reflexive response with an outstretched arm. Without disturbing any of the needles, she leaned close to J.B.’s face, trying to feel his breath in the semi-darkness. She listened intently and then gently laid three fingertips on the side of his throat. She stepped back gingerly and whispered incredulously, “He’s sleeping.” She jerked her head toward the cabin door and the three exited.

It was Drake who first thought to ask the pragmatic question, “Should we remove the needles?”

Yin replied, “Li will return for them when it is time.”

Drake concluded, “Well, then there is nothing to do but to let him sleep.” Sparky nodded her silent agreement with Drake’s assertion.

Yin countered, “I will watch over him for a while longer.” She re-entered the cabin quietly before either of her colleagues could protest.

Drake and McTrowell stood in the passage looking at each other. “What shall we do now?” Sparky asked.

“I think you’ve had enough fencing practice, given how you’re been rubbing that shoulder. How would you like to try your skills at detective work?”

“What are we going to detect?” she asked, her curiosity piqued.

“Motive. It is the most important type of clue there is. Once you know the motive, you know where to look for the other, physical clues.”

“Whose motive are you seeking?”

“We already know Kalei’s, or at least we think we do. Pa’ele is not very talkative, so it will be hard to work on him. That leaves Ke
ō. Let us seek him out. When we find him, we’ll pretend we’re in the middle of a conversation about the Bavarian Airship Regatta.” The look on his fiancée’s face sent Drake the clear message that she thought him daft. “Just play along.” She shrugged her shoulders in tacit agreement.

Locating their quarry was a relatively easy task since Drake had surmised that the Hawaiians did not care for the claustrophobic interior of the clipper ship, having spent the majority of their lives outdoors. Although the Atlantic air was far too chilly for their taste, at least it was fresh, a claim that could not be made below decks. Drake doffed his bowler, poked just the top of his head up through the hatch, and reconnoitered. He spotted their target at the rail, staring west longingly, and wrapped in so many coats that he looked like a rag doll.

Erasmus ducked back below the deck, replaced his hat, nodded to Sparky, and climbed up talking as if he were in mid-sentence, “…didn’t understand that most people retain their first loyalty to themselves and their immediate families.” He spoke loudly enough that he was sure Ke
ō could hear their conversation. He reached down to offer Sparky a hand up onto the deck. “That’s why Ishild didn’t really have control over the pirates. They didn’t see her as family the way they did her father because she didn’t treat them like they were her family.”

Although Erasmus was facing Sparky as he set a deliberately leisurely pace across the deck in the general direction of the Hawaiian, he was tracking Ke
ō’s attention out of his peripheral vision. He coaxed Sparky, “Why did you stop Abusir?”

“He was trying to kill me.”

Drake chuckled softly, “Before the encounter in the Great Exhibition. Why were you so intent on discovering his plan?”

“Because I thought he was up to no good.”

“You meet people every day who are up to no good. Why him particularly? I submit that it was because he posed a threat to your mother.”

“Ah, yes, I see your point now.”

The two of them arrived at the rail just a few feet from Ke
ō. Drake was feeling quite pleased with himself as he recognized that their conversation had attracted their target’s attention. The trap was set. “We extend this shield of protection to the family we make?”

“The family we make?”

“Yes, such as your friend Jean-Michel Petit.” Drake regretted his words the instant they left his mouth. It was going to be hard to continue their intelligence gathering operation if she lost her composure and started to cry, an outcome that seemed almost inevitable with the reminder of the loss of her dear friend. He needed to think fast. “I believe that you accept him as part of the family you have made for yourself in the world and that you were avenging his murder. And quite smartly done, might I add!” He felt peculiarly morbid at the use of counterfeit enthusiasm for his beloved’s use of deadly force, but he needed to keep their little pantomime lively.

“But they’re not really family.”

“Ah, but they are as you have demonstrated. To understand one another, we must look beyond the traditional definition of family through bloodlines and see the families that people build for themselves through choice.” He turned a few degrees to his left.
“Don’t you think so, Mr. Keō?”



The Golden Circle of Trust

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

Keō turned to face the Chief Inspector with a pensive look. His eyes shifted back and forth between Erasmus and Sparky for a second; weighing the words he was about to say. Finally he began.

“’The family we make,’ is an interesting turn of phrase. The extension of trust and caring beyond the bounds of blood is actually a dear subject to me, as you may have ascertained.” Ke
ō’s voice was deep and solemn.

Erasmus and Sparky were still not used to the eloquent articulation of Ke
ō. For a man who was treated to a clout in the temple with manacles during his last interaction with Erasmus, he seemed unflustered as he sincerely spoke his mind.

Ke
ō continued, “My loyalty to my King is unwavering. I may appear to look like my fellow Hawaiians, but we could not be more different. I am here to stop them from achieving their dishonorable intentions. For this reason, you two and I have the same aspirations.”

Sparky and Erasmus glanced at each other, trying to read each other’s level of belief. Sparky gave a slight cock of her head and a raised eyebrow signifying,
“Sounds genuine to me.”

Ke
ō noticed this and pressed on, his voice a bit lower but loud enough to be heard over the slapping of waves against the side of the ship. “Kalei is a friendly chap. Do not let that fool you. He only wants to steal the treasure of our sovereign. The key that Maestro Llewellyn holds would give him access to more than one shipment, and he will engage others to misappropriate as many ships as they can.”

Erasmus ran his fingers through his hair as he thought, countering, “If your only goal is to stop these men, why did you play along with their ruse in London? Why not stop them there?”

“I hear you are a man of the law,” he replied. “A Chief Inspector at Scotland Yard, I believe. I need proof and evidence, just as you do, to detain someone.”

“Really?” Erasmus sounded unconvinced. “Your fellow Hawaiians were hunting down Mr. Llewellyn. That should have been good enough to detain them.”

Ke
ō smiled. “I wish to catch them in the act of thieving so that they can be punished accordingly.”

Erasmus grinned at this. He turned and shared his grin with Sparky, who hesitantly shared one back. Turning back to Ke
ō, Erasmus stated, “I now understand, and I will see what I can do to help you in this endeavor.” He extended his hand for shaking and watched it disappear into the Keō’s meaty paw of a hand.

When the handshake concluded, Erasmus turned back to Sparky. “Let us take a stroll along the deck and enjoy the sea air.” He nodded to Ke
ō as a sign of departure and offered his arm to the lady airship pilot.

As soon as they were out of Ke
ō’s earshot, Sparky offered the question, “What exactly happened?”

Quietly, Erasmus quipped, “Lies upon lies, methinks.” Sparky smiled to herself and hugged his arm a bit tighter.

Erasmus continued, “If he really wanted to catch them ‘in the act,’ then he should have wanted them to have the key from Edwin. Only then could they execute the thieving that would get them caught. But instead, he wants the key himself. Curious. However, I think that he may have a more complex plan, such as getting the key from Edwin, and then giving a false key to his compatriots so that they are caught by the authorities. But the issue at hand is, why does Ke
ō want the key? Is there any way that having the key would aid his King?”

“Chief Inspector!” boomed Ke
ō’s voice over the ocean’s hiss and spray. The large man followed his shout by running toward the couple, a frightening sight in itself.

After stopping and catching his breath, Ke
ō added, “I just realized that you may be wondering why I need the key. It is simple: King Kamehameha believes I already know it since I am a member of his court. One of the conspirators of Kalei revealed to me a key, a unique phrase, that I learned was fabricated. That is how I know the treachery he is planning. I need the key to show others that I am, as you would say in English, in the King’s Golden Circle of Trust.”

Flourish Break


Yin’s head jerked up. She blinked her eyes and realized that she had nodded off. How unprincipled of her. She sat in Sergeant Fox’s cabin on a small stool, watching over his sleeping form in the bunk. After the acupuncture needles had been removed, he had dropped off again. To her, he looked serene and relaxed for the first time in days.

She took a deep breath to fully wake herself, and it was just enough sound to cause him to slowly open his eyes. One arm came out from under the covers and stretched as he focused on her seated nearby.

In Chinese he said,
“Watching over me, little sister?” She smiled a grin that, since coming to London, she only revealed to him. She instantly covered it with both hands but her eyes gave her emotion away. She responded in Chinese, “Always, elder brother.”

Continuing in Yin’s native language, J. B. said,
“My headache pain has disappeared. The doctor you brought is a master worthy of great praise. Thank you for helping me.”

She replied,
“You rescue me, I rescue you. And again and again and again.”




Tentacles

Entry for July 29, 2013 Written by Katherine L. Morse

Sparky lay in her bunk, staring listlessly at knotholes. It was only the morning of the fourth day of their journey and she was, quite frankly, bored. Each one of those days she had been over the Peregrine top to bottom, or at least everything she could reach without a proper docking tower. She hadn’t brought any books to read. No one required stitching up or medicating since the acupuncture seemed to be helping Sergeant Fox.

All she had to look forward to was Erasmus’ requiring her assistance with detecting. It crossed her mind that her clever, insightful fiancé might solve this mystery before they even reached Panama in another 9 days. As much as she desired this outcome, it would mean that she had spent 24 long, dull days on this ship just traveling to Panama and back. She wouldn’t get to be useful or even get to see Hawaii. Seafaring ships just seemed too plodding compared to her preferred means of travel, airships. She was tempted to take the Peregrine out for a quick flight, since it she had finished reassembling it below decks, but its fuel was a precious resource she couldn’t afford to waste in case the air yacht was actually required. Well, nothing interesting was going to happen if she just lay there all day. Perhaps a brisk stroll around the deck would wake her up and provide some creative inspiration.

Sadly, none of her compatriots were on deck. With a recklessness born of monotony, she decided to engage the captain in conversation.

“Captain, are we making good time?”

He put down the spyglass he had been just about to use. “I would certainly know bett’r if it war’n’t for pesterin’ by nosy passengers.” He fairly spit out the last word.

“I’m sorry. I’m accustomed to navigating from the air, so my sense of distance and direction is somewhat hampered.” The sour expression on his face suggested her failings were of no interest to him. She persevered, “How many days until we reach land?”

“Four and a half, five.”

She did some quick mental arithmetic that didn’t add up. “How fast are we sailing?”

“Fifteen knots.”

She had always had an affinity for performing mathematics in her head, a talent she no doubt inherited from her father, although she applied it to the more respectable task of calculating altitudes and arrival times. She ciphered back and forth using a couple of different methods, but the results still made no sense. “Won’t that leave us in the middle of the Atlantic?”

“Bermuda.” For a man who had so much fresh air at his disposal, he certainly didn’t waste it.

“Bermuda?”

“Need to get more supplies and give the crew shore leave.” This time he turned his back on her and put the spyglass up to his eye to make it unequivocally clear that their conversation was at an end.

Well,” thought Sparky, “five minutes gone, 5755 to go.

As she turned to leave, the captain bellowed behind her so loudly that she jumped, “Damnation!”

She whirled back around and followed the direction of his gaze. She didn’t see anything except open ocean. With hardly a thought she unholstered her own spyglass from her gear belt and focused as far out as it would go. There was another ship on the horizon tossing about more wildly than the sea state alone could be causing. As she pondered potential sources of the vessel’s instability, an enormous tentacle whipped out of the ocean and lashed itself around the bowsprit. Her stomach turned over. The sight made her wish more dearly than ever before that she were aloft.

The San Juan’s helmsman screamed, “Kraken!” Without awaiting orders from the captain, he immediately steered to port, away from the conflict.

Sparky shrieked at the two sailors, “What are you doing? That…thing…will drown them!”

“Risk o’ being a whaler,” replied the captain calmly.

“How can you tell it’s a whaler?” She peered again through her spyglass, but couldn’t make out much detail in the frothing turmoil.

He fixed her with a look clearly indicating his displeasure at her questioning of his professional expertise. She couldn’t help but feel a bit chagrined. She imagined she would have been as annoyed if someone had questioned her identification of a class of airship, even at such a distance. “They ‘re fightin’ o’er a harpooned whale. We want no part ‘o that trouble.”

Sparky huffed a couple of times, trying to think of something convincing to say, but she recognized the face of intransigence. And it was his ship. The situation was so frustrating! Surely there was something they could do without endangering the San Juan. She paced around in tight circles, wracking her brains for an idea or a tool. On her third circuit, her gaze brushed across the poop deck and the Peregrine. Of course, she could come at it from the air! But the Peregrine wasn’t armed. She could drop something on the creature, but the Peregrine didn’t have enough lift to carry anything that could do any real damage. Erasmus had considerably more martial experience than she. He would have an idea. She flew down the ladder in search of the Chief Inspector.

“You’re going to do what?!” Erasmus fairly barked.

“I’ll keep the Peregrine out of range,” she replied somewhat more timidly than was her custom.

“I forbid it.”

She took a step back and opened her eyes wide. “And since when do you think you have any right to forbid me to do anything?”

“I mean it’s dangerous!”

“And being chased by a hive of EPACTs down the streets of Paris wasn’t?”

“We didn’t know that was going to happen.”

“Flying HMA Britannia into battle in Carlisle against the Dragon’s Tooth mortar?”

“All right then, you have me there. What are you going to use as a weapon?”

“That’s why I came to you. I don’t know. I thought perhaps you would have an idea, what with your considerable weapons experience,” she smiled flatteringly at her beloved.

“Aim is going to be a challenge. We need something that will disable the creature, even with a near miss.”

“We?”

“You are a talented woman, my dear, but even you cannot fly an airship and handle our chosen weapon at the same time. I’m not trusting your life to one of these sailors.” Sparky had to admit he had a good point there. She tried to wait patiently while he considered options, although she was not entirely successful. She shifted anxiously from one foot to the other. “I have it! Muster Sergeant Fox and get him to help you ready the Peregrine to launch. Let us hope he is sufficiently recovered. We’ll meet on the poop deck.”

McTrowell tapped lightly on the door of J.B.’s cabin. The door was opened by Yin. “How is the sergeant?,” Sparky asked her colleague.

Before Yin could answer, Sparky heard a voice from within. “Who is it?” The voice was sleepy, but not groggy or slurred. Sparky smiled. Although her mission was urgent, the improvement in the Aerial Marine’s condition lifted her heart.

“It is Dr. McTrowell,” Dr. Young replied.

“Tell her to come in.”

Yin moved aside to allow Sparky to enter. Fox was sitting up on his bunk, another good sign. The physician stepped close enough to him to look into his eyes. She could see that he was still tired, but considerably improved.

“Sergeant Fox, are you able to assist Drake and me? We need to get the Peregrine airborne.”

“Yes, ma’am.” Although he lacked his usual vigor, he was clearly trying to compensate with enthusiasm. Or perhaps he was just bored with the inactivity of confinement. He pulled on a shirt and his boots. Yin followed without being asked as they departed for the cargo hold.

Sparky shouted instructions as the threesome scrambled to re-inflate the air yacht’s envelope and fire up its engine. The airship was almost ready to launch. Fox and Young were securing its mooring lines when a wooden crate flopped onto the deck from the cargo hold followed immediately by Drake, panting a bit from the exertion. He hoisted up the crate and staggered toward the rest of his company.

It wasn’t until he was aboard the Peregrine and settling his burdensome load into one of the chairs that Sparky spotted the label, “
Green Fantasy.

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