Ice and Clockwork Epilogue Part III

Saturday, February 16, 2019 0 comments

Dog and Pony...

Here is the third and last part of the Epilogue to my serial story Ice and Clockwork.

Previously, Lt Cmdr Maxwell MacDonald-Smythe (Max) having recently returned to England after being shipwrecked on the coast of Norway, as detailed in Lost at Sea,  has been given command of the Velvet Brush. However his ship is still undergoing refit at the EAD's airdock.

You can start from the beginning of the Epilogue here.

Enjoy Part III

Ice and Clockwork Epilogue
A serial story from The Airship's Messdeck.
Part III
  by Kevin Jepson

EAD London

Max enters the headquarters building of the EAD, brushing the dirty grey snow off his uniform greatcoat as he does so. It is a cold, snowy winter day in London. There has been no sign of the sun for a week and everything is chill, damp and grey. Max rubs his lame leg, which always aches in cold damp weather. The entrance hall of the headquarters building is busy with clerks, officers, and couriers heading into and out of the entrance hall.

Probably always like this nowadays, not like when we worked here all them years ago.

An orderly comes up to Max and salutes, "Lt Commander MacDonald-Smythe?"

"Aye that be me."

"This way Sir, they are waiting for you in the meeting room Sir"

Following the orderly as he threads through the rushing crowd, Max wonders who he is going to be meeting with this time.

The meeting room is a large office at the end of the corridor with a heavy oak and brass bound door. Two marine sentries stand guard beside the door and salute Max. The orderly opens the door and ushers Max inside.

The center of the room is filled with a large heavy table crowded with reports and papers. Admiral Wilcox is seated at the head of the table. Max comes to attention and salutes. The Admiral stands and says "Ah Gentlemen, and Ladies, Lt Commander MacDonald-Smythe has joined us. Please stand easy Commander and take a seat. The orderly will take your coat."

"Thank you Sir"

Max sits at the only empty seat at the table. Looking around he sees that the 10 or so men and women around the table are a mix of civilian contractors and Naval personnel. He recognizes the gruff lead of the dockyard hands, and the dockyard boffin who accepted the Velvet Brush from him more than a year ago now. Max smiles and gets a nod and smile in return. The officers seated next to Admiral Wilcox are full four stripe Captains, who Max does not recognize. At the end of the table are several ladies. one of them Max recognizes as Madame's cousin, the one with a clay pipe and bowler hat, she smiles at Max and gives the hand sign to 'fly level'. The same sign Mary had given him when he had been getting ready to present his report, in this same building, after the attack on the ship in Portsmouth two years ago.

So many miles under yer keel since then Max me lad.

Admiral Wilcox rises from his seat and says "Ladies and Gentlemen I want to thank you all for braving the cold and taking time from your extensive duties to join us. We need to make sure everyone is on the same page with respect to the status of the Velvet Brush. As you may know, Lt Commander MacDonald-Smythe has been given command and is currently collecting his crew. Their Lordships are anxious that we release the Velvet Brush back to the Admiralty as soon as we can do so. With that in mind I would like to call upon each of the department heads to make their reports please, starting with the Dock Master."

For the next hour and a half Max sits quietly as each section head presents their report on the status of the his ship, the Velvet Brush.

My Ship! Never thought I would ever get formal command being an engineer and all, but a command is a command, even if it is probably temporary till they assign another four striper.

As the meeting progresses it becomes apparent that it may still be some time before the Velvet Brush can be formally turned over to the Admiralty.

Well, more time to try and understand all the changes they've made to her I suppose.

When it is Max's turn he tells them that he has most of the old crew collected from their various postings, that the deck crew was being assembled and that the Marine contingent was mostly complete awaiting the return of its senior NCO from his "detached service" with Naval Intelligence.

After everyone has given their report Admiral Wilcox rises again and summarizes the reports for the clerks to record the status. He then dismisses everyone suggesting that they partake of the excellent luncheon laid on for them upstairs.

Max rises to leave as well but Admiral Wilcox calls out to him. "A word Commander if you please."

"Of course Sir."

"Since it appears that you will have to wait a while longer till you can get your fine ship in the air, there is another duty you will need to perform for us."


"You have heard about the new 'Spread the Wealth' plan that her Majesty's government has devised?"

"No Sir, I have not been following the press I'm afraid Sir."

"Ah, quite, mostly drivel frankly, alas this is not. Somebody in the Government has decided that it is not right for Her Majesty's Military to keep all its technical discoveries to itself. So they have requested that we start releasing the results of our experimental work to the public."

"Is that wise Sir?"

Admiral Wilcox snorts. "No it is not! However the reasoning is not all bad, if our industry can make use of these developments then our Empire will still stay ahead of our competitors even if in the process we give up some of our military lead."

"What does that have to do with me Sir?"

Admiral Wilcox sighs. "We need you to start the process of releasing the information deemed no longer secret."

"Me Sir? How am I to do that."

"Dog and Pony show I'm afraid."


"Ha, don't look like you are going to a courts marshal commander, it isn't that bad. I understand you are an excellent speaker on technical matters. Sir Gordon told me of your presentation here after the attack on your ship in Portsmouth. You don't have to worry about what technical information you will give out, that has been prepared for you already. All you have to do is give the impression that we are complying with the Government's request."

"Impression Sir?"

"Dog and Pony commander, dog and pony. We are going to release information and technologies that we know are already compromised so we loose nothing but may actually gain if our businesses can make some use of it."

"Aye Sir, understood. I'll do my best Sir."

"Excellent. Your first event is at the London Air Services association Monday next. Faraday has all the details and the documentation for you. Now let us get some of that luncheon before everything is gone eh?"

"Aye aye Sir!"

You can read the transcript of Max's speech here.


Thanks for following along with the adventures of Max and his crew from the Velvet Brush.

I hope you have enjoyed them.

There are many adventures yet to tell.

Thanks for reading and as always...
Keep your sightglass full, your firebox trimmed, and your water iced.

Ice and Clockwork Epilogue Part II

Saturday, January 12, 2019 0 comments

The Message

Previously, Max was called to the EAD for a meeting with the current head of that organization.
Max and his crew have only been in England for a short while after being rescued from their adventures as told in my serial tale Lost at Sea.

Here is part two of the Epilogue.

Keep your sightglass full, your firebox trimmed, and your water iced.

Ice and Clockwork Epilogue
A serial story from The Airship's Messdeck.
Part II
  by Kevin Jepson

Max enters his room at the Officer's Hostel and closes the door behind him. It is the same room he had before taking the old Doris north in the dead of the previous winter. He drops the folder with his orders, and the envelope from Mary, down on the desk and sits on the bed. Somebody had set a fire in the small grate so the room is just warm enough to be comfortable.

Well here we are again Max you old salt, back in the same hostel waiting to get on with another mission and just as confused as before.

He takes off his jacket and cap and tosses them onto the chair, lies back on the bed and stares at the tin ceiling. The dim watery light of a winter London day gives the room a slightly misty look.

It's as if I never left for God's sake, like all that happened was a dream or something. I half expect to see the rat ticking on the window sill.[1] But you are sitting up in Scapa Flow where I left you when we sailed out into the North Sea in the the Argo all those months ago. I wonder if yer still ticking you little clockwork bugger.

Some things had changed though. The young seaman Jones had been assigned to a cargo airship carrying supplies up to that same base at Scapa Flow, and the old pensioner had gone to his rest some months before.

Max smiles as he remembers Jones in all his finery striding off to meet Daphne for tea at Lady Formingham's London house...

Max looks over at the thick folder of paper on the desk and sighs.

Ah, Mary... Well, nothing for it, best find out what you has to say.

He gets up and pulls the envelope out of the folder. Looking at it carefully he can see that the doodle of the pelican crosses the seal of the envelope.

Clever Mary, nobody could open this without me knowing. Not that Admiral Chicheley's boys couldn't read it through the paper and all. No, if they had gotten their hands on this I would never have received it. Unless they want me to get it that is. Odd that Admiral Wilcox would give me this while telling me that I am still forbidden any contact!

Taking a letter opener from the desk he carefully opens the envelope and takes out the letter and begins to read it.
My Dear Maxwell
I do not know if you will ever see this.
I fear that you may be lost in that awful storm, the worry is horrible.
Gordon has been almost frantic about it too. He would send everything he has to find you if he could but there are so many lost his resources are strained to the limit.
I have sent this note by Daphne's beau, the young lad you so graciously helped to make a good impression before you left. He flies on the supply ships that bring us our regular supplies. I told him to give this to Sir James if he could and no other.
Sir James is an old friend of Gordon's and though he is constrained as much by Naval Intelligence as anybody he can be trusted to pass this along if you ever return.
On that wondrous and happy day I hope you can read this safely and know that I have not stopped thinking of you since you sailed away on that old trawler.
Your friend always.

I know that SHE can read this but perhaps others may not, even the pelicans on the Thames can keep their secrets.
RjIj* ufnJ* mABh* aKxt* lFrv* ztey* jnfn* OtGi* wisy* wlyx* qDuy* )iIp* Fpfx* ucuv* ueIx* umrp* fDxx* orps* Awha* AqDl* yxmz* pfzx* wisH* !Eiv* uFys* sBcx* wJmA* Dwat* Ewsn* wuwD* llCk* bHpy* txvf* nMmA* BhaG* Jwuw* jtnJ* mqHc* qIBq* ljuf* nqqE* xciI* Cfz&* cUvu* Dlvd* znKx* qiBp* IpgG* Ccuv* uDlv* dznD* tFif* bFue* rxua* MEzl* jvaW* piA&* cBzB* euBc* oCJe* mBcj* Hpxq* npt+* pQAE* haoB* BmHv* /n2f* DH [2]

Max stares at the note for a long time before putting it back in the envelope and placing it carefully on the desk with the pelican doodle where he can clearly see it

Secrets indeed.

Mary what are you up to now...

Part III is here.

[1]When the Velvet Brush was in the airdock at Portsmouth she was attacked by KARs (Kamikaze Automaton Rats) These were clockwork automatons loaded with explosives sent by an unknown assailant. The crew captured one and Madame Taxus-Hemlock converted it to be useful as a way to communicate securely between the members of the crew. You can follow the adventures of  Madame's assistant and protege Maddie Hatter in the Maddie Hatter series by Jayne Barnard where she has a clockwork bird created for her by Madame.
[2] As part of our role play we created a code system to use when communicating outside the group.
I will leave the decoding as an exercise for the reader.😉

An Interlude

Friday, December 28, 2018 0 comments

Max and Mary

So after I posted the first part of the Epilogue to my Serial Tales, I was asked a couple of times about Max and Mary Formingham, the wife of Admiral Sir Gordon Formingham. As people suspected there is some history there.😎

In fact during our role playing Mary Formingham figured fairly prominently in Max's world and the story as it progressed. I wrote the following piece early on to give some context.

It needs a bit of a backstory to place it in the timeline.

If you have been following my serial stories, in Frozen Sky you may recall the conversation that Max had with his old shipmate from Esquimalt Lt John Barbesly. It was mentioned that after flying from Esquimalt in British Columbia all the way to Portsmouth in the winter the ship was attacked and badly damaged while in the Portsmouth Airdock!  The attack killed two of the crew and nearly killed the Captain. Naval Intelligence decided, in the interests of trying to catch the saboteurs, that they would let everyone think that the Captain had been killed too.

It is while working to repair the damage that the following episode occurs.

Keep your sightglass full, your firebox trimmed, and your water iced.

An Interlude
From the Airship's Messdeck

Max is sitting at his desk in the engine room of the Velvet Brush after a long day working on repairs. He pulls a rum bottle out of the drawer and calls the Black Gang over for a drink.

"Right lads, that's it for today I think. Come and have a tot before we heads for the mess, eh?"

There follows a chorus of "Aye AYE Sir!" and a scramble to grab tin cups from the rack.

Max carefully pours out a shot of the thick navy rum into each cup. This is not Grog but the pure black rum from Jamaica, not a drop of water has ever touched it! Once everyone has their shot Max raises his mug.

"Gentlemen, I give you 'Our ships afloat and aloft.'"

Everyone says "Our ships!" and takes a sip. Nobody drinks the shot all at once, it's a waste of good rum to do that.

Watkins says "Sir, have you heard anything about the skipper?"

Max takes a quick look around to see if there is anyone other than his black gang about.

"Aye Watkins I has, I got word that the skipper is healing up pretty well considering, and he's as anxious to get ta grips with whoever done us as we be. Tough bastard he is, always was a bit of bear that one."

"You knew him before, right sir?" asks Simpson leaning on the generator casing.

"Aye lad, I did, that was nigh on 20 years ago now."

The black gang, recognizing the signs, begin to shift and slide into more comfortable positions.

Where to start Max me lad, where to start...

Max takes s sip of rum and stares off into the distance before starting.
It was when I was newly appointed to the EAD, a shiny new single stripe Lieutenant I was, full of ideas and plans and all sorts of mischief. I was assigned as the aide to Admiral Gordon Formingham, now Sir Gordon, who was then in charge of the EAD. We worked long hours on some very novel ideas. In those days there was no shortage of ideas flying around, good and bad. The Airship service was still pretty new and nearly everything was experimental. The EAD was charged with sorting the wheat from the chaff, so to speak. To bring forward ideas worth testing and to try as much as possible to prevent expensive and impractical ones from wasting everybody's time. It was always a tug-a-war between the Surface navy, with their tried and true ironclads, and the Airship service, with our experimental, and very dangerous craft.

Well, one day the Admiral tells me that there are plans for an airship base to be built at Portsmouth and that he would be going down to personally oversee the survey of the potential site. Which was actually on the other side of the harbour from where we are today.

But there was a catch, you see Admiral Formingham had gotten married 6 months before and he was damned if he was going to leave his bride kicking her heels in London while he was in Portsmouth. So there was nothing for it but that Mrs Formingham would have to come along. With her would be her best friend and Ladies Maid Sylvia Baxter. The Admiral informed me in no uncertain terms that it would be my duty while in Portsmouth to insure that the Ladies needs were taken care of.

I was not pleased I can tell ya!

Here I was, full of the glory of my new shiny gold stripe, working for one of the most prestigious engineering and scientific organizations in the whole bloody Empire, and I was to be nursemaid to the Admiral's wife and her friend! Well there was nothing for it, thems the trials of being an aide I supposed.

So come the following Wednesday we loaded an enormous pile of baggage into a couple of carriages and headed for the station to get on a train for Portsmouth. The Admiral and his wife and maid got a private carriage of course, whereas I got a public compartment. I was sitting there feeling a might sorry for myself when this big Highlander, complete with bearskin hat and kilt comes in and sits down.

I didn't pay him much heed, but he kept staring at my cap badge.

"Are you in them airships laddy?" he says.

"Aye I am that" I says.

"Must be wonderful to fly eh?"

"It is indeed."

I must say I felt a bit disrespected as he didn't say "sir" and he could plainly see my gold stripe. Oh the trials of the newly minted officer.

We rode in silence for a while and then he introduced himself as Malcolm Lewis MacLeod, a sergeant in the Black Watch regiment. He was on his way, on leave, to go take in the sights of Southern England. He was also mad about airships. He knew quite a bit and was fascinated with their design and uses. Needless to say by the time we were approaching Portsmouth it was as if we had known each other for years. Well as such acquaintances go I expected to see him off the train and that would be that. At least he had made the trip to Portsmouth more pleasant than it would ordinarily have been.

However, as we were nearing the station Admiral Formingham, his wife, and her maid came down the corridor. I jumped up and saluted the Admiral. MacLeod did too, but much slower, slow enough to be obvious in fact.

Arrogant bugger I thought.

As the Admiral was telling me about the name of the hotel we would be staying at and what the rest of the day's schedule would likely be, I noticed that MacLeod was staring at Miss Baxter. He was staring at her so hard she started to blush and turn away to look out the window. He looked like he had been hit on the head with something hard, the poor bastard.

As the Admiral headed back to his compartment, followed by the ladies whispering and giggling as they went, I turned to look at MacLeod. His face was red and he was shaking his head. "My God man have ye no seen such beauty afore".

"Aye they are a fine couple of Ladies to be sure". (Definitely a good eye that one)

As we pulled into the station I said my farewells, wished him a pleasant leave and headed off to wrestle with the porters and all the baggage. I thought nothing of him further, just another passing acquaintance on a train.

The hotel in Portsmouth was pleasant, much better than any I had stayed at on my own penny that's for sure. And to be honest my duties were anything but onerous given the pleasant company and all. Mrs Formingham and her maid were always chattering and giggling but also very attentive when I tried to explain naval terms to them.

So it must have been a couple of days after our arrival when Admiral Formingham comes by and announces he is going to be off to the survey for a few days and would I please make sure that Mary and Sylvia have entertaining things to do.

Two days later and we had already toured the dockyard, the local churches, and seen one play.

What to do now?

"Maxwell" says Mary, "You were once a surface sailor if I recall, perhaps you could take Sylvia and I on a tour of the harbour. There are such big ships there and they are so hard to see from the seawall."

*The black gang looks at each other, "Mary" not "Mrs Formingham"*

"Aye ma'am we could do that, the weather is looking good." I says, and we head out to see about hiring a launch for the day. Well as luck would have it there were none for hire. But as we were walking back along the seawall who should we see standing in a row boat at the dock side but Malcolm MacLeod, in full highland finery. Every button polished so that it fairly gleamed in the hazy light.

He waves and haloos until we come up to him. Whence he makes a grand bow and proclaims "Dear Ladies, I understand ye are wishing 't go afloat 't see them big ships and such. An I hear you were unable to hire a vessel for your outing." At which he gives me a broad wink. "Well it seems as how some of these laddies were not actually using this fine vessel and decided I could use it. Now not being a sailor I will now turn command over to my mate Maxwell for our voyage? What say you laddy shall we sail the briny with these fine Ladies in company"

"MacLeod you would make a grand Pirate and all!" says I and we promptly board the boat. I was not at all convinced that we wouldn't soon have the constabulary down on us for stealing it so rowed forth with gusto.

Now that was a picture in the sternsheets it was. There was MacLeod in all his finery flanked on one side by Sylvia looking very coy indeed and on the other by Mary with that fine straightforward look of hers. MacLeod turned his whole attention to Sylvia who fairly glowed in the light of his buttons.

We had a very pleasant row amongst the great ships and when we finally arrived back at the landing we were greeted by a couple of very angry looking sailors. MacLeod told them off broadly, and then quietly tossed them a sovereign with a wink, and we headed back to the hotel.

That my lads was the start of many an adventure I can tell you. Mary, Sylvia, MacLeod and I were inseparable. MacLeod even got himself seconded to the Marines at the EAD for a while and we had many a lark there the four of us.

*Knowing winks and smiles amongst the Black Gang but Max doesn't seem to notice*

*Max pauses and stares into his mug for a second then shakes his head*

Well, all good things lads all good things.

When I was assigned to the old Pelican I lost track of that Scottish bugger. Didn't see him again for many years and by then he was an Instructor of Marines and out ranked me by a long shot. Then I didn't see him again till he became the Skipper of our ship in Esquimalt. Strange how things go round like that eh?

Poor Sylvia, I don't know what ever happened between them, I never asked. I figured he'd tell me sometime.

When I saw her at Mary's...

*Max looks around at the attentive faces and coughs*
"Ah... Sir Gordon's, in London, she was beside herself with grief at the thought that the skipper had been killed. Broke my heart to know he was still alive an not be able to tell her it did."

"Well lads that's enough yarning, they'll have given our meals away by the time we gets there so... Watch below!"

"Watch Below!" and all the Black gang crowd up the ladder an head towards the Last Step[1] and their dinner.

Max pours himself another shot of rum and leans back in his chair.

"Aye that were the time of yer life that were, Max me lad, and that's a fact."

Continue on to Part II of the Epilogue here.
1 The "Last Step" is the entrance to the airship and if you walked out while the airship was flying it would be the last step you ever took!

Ice and Clockwork Epilogue Part I

Friday, December 21, 2018 0 comments

Back in England!

I have been posting three serial tales from our Role Playing group The Airships Messdeck.

All take place after our airship, the experimental HMAS Velvet Brush,  has been taken out of service for a major refit.

Most of the crew were assigned other duties but Lt. Cmdr. Maxwell MacDonald-Smythe (known as Max to his shipmates) Chief Engineer and acting commander, along with other members of the bridge crew and two of the airship's marines, were sent to Scapa Flow to test a new piece of equipment. Their adventures are detailed in the first two serial tales Frozen Sky and Lost at Sea. The third serial tale Ice and Clockwork tells the story of what happened to Acting Lt John Watkins and the two marines who had been left behind in Scapa Flow when Max sailed off on the old steam trawler Argo.

<<<<Spoiler alert>>>>

At the end of Ice and Clockwork Watkins receives the glad tidings that Max and his shipmates have been found and are being returned to England!

<<<<End Spoiler Alert>>>>

Here follows the first of three parts that continue the story.

In this Epilogue to those tales we catch up with Max as he is called to the EAD Headquarters at the London airdock after his return to England.

Enjoy Part I.

Keep your sightglass full, your firebox trimmed, and your water iced.

Ice and Clockwork Epilogue
A serial story from The Airship's Messdeck.
Part I
  by Kevin Jepson

Headquarters Building EAD Dockyard London

Max pays the Steam Cab driver his fare and, brushing cinders from his now slightly too large uniform, walks up the steps of the EAD's Main office at its London dockyard.

Would have liked to get over to see the ship first but the message from the dockyard commander was emphatic. Wonder what the hurry is now after all this time.

He walks up the steps and gives his credentials to the Marine at the door. An orderly comes quickly to collect him and takes him to the office of the Dockyard Commander. Max is pleasantly surprised to note the name on the door is Admiral Sir James Wilcox. Admiral Wilcox had been in charge of the Portsmouth dockyard when they left for their adventures on the way to Moscow almost two years ago. He is now the head of the EAD itself.

The orderly tells Max to wait outside the office as the Admiral is busy at the moment. A Marine sentry beside the door watches him with a studied blank stare. After checking to make sure his uniform is adjusted properly, Max starts to look at the pictures arrayed around the waiting room.

He stops in front of one old and faded lithograph of a badly damaged airship, barely aloft, creeping into the airdock in St Johns Newfoundland. "I'll be damned if that ain't the old Pelican and all."

Max reaches down to rub his bad leg, memories rushing back, memories of struggling to keep the badly damaged engine running, his leg a mass of bloody bandages and searing pain, every second expecting the crash of icy water to come pouring in as they hit the sea...*


Max jumps.

"Sorry Sir, the Admiral will see you now." The Marine sentry is looking at him strangely.

"Eh, thank you corporal, fine ship the old Pelican."

"Aye Sir, if you say so Sir."

Steady on Max, maybe the Pelican is a good sign now... maybe. Let's see what's what shall we?

Standing straight he marches into the Admiral's office.

Max comes to attention in front of the desk and salutes. He half expects to see Fleet Admiral Chicheley lounging in a chair as well, but there is no one there but Admiral Wilcox. That gentleman, with a broad smile on his face, rises and returns Max's salute then reaches across his desk to give Max a hearty hand shake.

"Welcome home Commander!"

"Thank you Sir."

"Please stand easy and have a seat."

"Sir." Max takes a seat before the desk, acutely aware of how his uniform jacket sags as he does so.

When did you become such a clothes horse you old fool...

As if reading his mind Admiral Wilcox, still smiling, says "You look well after your adventures."

"Thank you Sir, bit light on the ballast at the moment though Sir."

"Ha, not surprising! Some good English roast beef will soon have you filling out again I'm sure. I have read your report, it would make a good book frankly, perhaps we should have it serialized in the Strand Magazine eh? Although I suspect the Intelligence mavins might have something to say about that."

"Aye Sir."

"Your crew performed well Commander, my compliments on keeping them going. Also your request that Mr Angus be reimbursed for the loss of his ship while in Her Majesty's service has been submitted I expect that will occur."

"Thank you Sir"

"As you have no doubt heard, the Velvet Brush has completed her re-fit and will soon return to service."

Max sits up very straight at this.

The Admiral smiles "Anxious to get back into harness eh?"

"Aye Sir, I've had enough of the briny and all that's for sure Sir."

"Indeed. Well you will be happy to know that you will be assigned to her as her commander, if you want that post that is?"

"Ah... er... Aye Sir! Thank you Sir. And the rest of the crew Sir?"

"They are being informed that their services will be required when the Velvet Brush is re-commissioned." Admiral Wilcox sighs. "It seems that Intelligence has uses for you and your fellow crew members although what uses those may be they have not deigned to inform me."

The Admiral pulls a thick folder of paper from the pile of similar folders on his desk and hands it to Max.

"Your orders Commander. You will take command as soon as the EAD releases her back to the Admiralty. Until that time you are to collect the crew and review the changes that have been made during her refit. She will return to active duty, on detached service for Naval Intelligence. You will report to Admiral Chicheley directly."

Of course...

"Aye aye Sir."

The Admiral steeples his fingers and watches Max for a moment.

"Is there something else Sir?"

"There is indeed Commander, it concerns Lady Formingham."


Max sits back in his chair. "Lady Formingham Sir?"

"Yes, you were ordered to not have any contact with Sir Gordon or Lady Formingham yes?"

"Aye Sir"

"Those orders are still in force Commander."

Blast and damn!

Admiral Wilcox reaches into his pocket, pulls out a small envelope and carefully places it on his desk in front of Max.

Max can see a doodle of a pelican clearly, "Ah... I don't understand Sir."

"Be careful Commander."

Max takes the envelope and slips it into the folder with his orders.

"Well... I wish you success with your new command."

"Thank you Sir"

"Carry on Commander."

Standing up Max comes to attention and salutes the Admiral before turning and marching out of the office.

Bloody hell, back a week and it's like nothing has changed!

Part II will follow after an Interlude

* After a scandal involving the wife of the then head of the EAD, Admiral Sir Gordon Formingham, Max had been assigned as engineer on the old patrol airship HMAS Pelican. During a skirmish with five pirate airships off the coast of Newfoundland Max was badly wounded in the leg. Despite that he managed to nurse the engine along to keep the Pelican going until she was safely back in St Johns.
He still walks with a cane as a result of that wound.

The Eleventh Hour of the Eleventh Day...

Friday, November 9, 2018 0 comments

Lest we forget.

Photo by Neil Zeller

The Steampunk Worlds we play in are based on the real Victorian world.

So it is important to note that this weekend as we remember those who sacrificed themselves in service to Empire and in response to the commands of their Kings and countries, that we must also remember that ALL the men and women who participated in WWI were "Victorians" and those who served in WWII were mostly "Edwardians".

These two titanic conflicts changed the worlds of these people in unimaginable ways. Neither the Victorians or the Edwardians, as we tend to study and re-create them, remained when the smoke and dust settled.
Not only did hundreds of thousands of them die, but the very cultural structures in which they had grown up were swept away.
In 1914 a farmer in Western Canada, a fisherman on the Coasts, a labourer in the factories of Eastern Canada, or a miner in the far north, went when their King called because that was what one did.
100 years ago when the guns fell silent at 11:00 am on November 11th they did not know that everything had changed forever but they hoped that at least war was done with.

Alas their children found that was not true.

There are none alive now who remember the world of WWI and few indeed that remember WWII.
We owe it to them that WE remember, we also owe their World, the Victorian and Edwardian World we celebrate, that it not be forgotten either.

Lest we forget.
God Save the Queen!

Keep your sightglass full, your firebox trimmed and your water iced.

Ice and Clockwork Part VII

Thursday, November 8, 2018 0 comments


Previously  Watkins has retrieved the secret package from the remote Aetherwave Station and has arrived back at the airship field outside Reykjavik.  While loading it onto the HMAS Francis he discovers that his two wayward Marines have returned aboard. After giving them a mighty dressing down they tell him some exciting news concerning Max and their missing shipmates!

Enjoy the conclusion of Ice and Clockwork part VII.

You can start from the beginning of this story here.

Thanks for reading along.
Keep your sightglass full, your firebox trimmed, and your water iced.

Ice and Clockwork
A serial story from The Airship's Messdeck.
Part VII
  by Kevin Jepson

"News? What news."

The two Marines are now grinning again.

"They have been found Sir! Miss BB... er Lieutenant Buckert and Max and Lieutenant Baleva and Mr Simpson and all Sir. They found the Argo wrecked on the coast of Norway and they are bringing them all back. They'll be in London on Sunday Sir!"
Watkins lets out a whoop, all pretense of rank gone, "Damn! I knew it! Wow, after all this time! Fantastic news Ellis!" Grinning broadly now he shakes Cooke's hand, and even gives Fraser a big hug. "Was this a general announcement?"

Cooke still smiling says "No Sir. Were a private message for you direct from Naval Intelligence, which was odd. Sweep couldn't decode it so me and Sarge looked it over. It looked kind of like that code the Admiral had the Sgt Major and Max use in Cape Town."

Fraser chimes in. "Since it were addressed to you and you wouldn't know the key either as only the Sgt Major and Max were supposed to have it, we figured it would be a key you would think of. Took a few tries but then we hit on the name of our ship and it worked! The Skipper must have had second thoughts about keeping two such crazy marines on his ship!"

"Well, bloody fine news indeed, wish we could be there when they step back on to the shore of old Blightey!"

"There is more Sir, the Velvet Brush is finished her refit and will be ready to start flying again, Sweep was reading the news and told us."

"Bloody hell, and us up here in Iceland!"

Fraser asks "Any chance we could get back aboard her?"

"Well if Max has anything to say about it I suspect so, but we got to get back there first. At least my orders are to deliver this package personally to Portsmouth 'With Dispatch'. So we can make a beeline there, if the Captain agrees that is. Get this lashed down and hooked up, I'll go report to the Skipper and make sure we are ready to be about getting under way as soon as we can!"

"Aye aye Sir!" The two Marines still grinning like schoolboys set to work with a will.

Watkins hooks up the ships power cable and once he is sure the power levels are correct switches over to the ships systems. As he heads to the ladder to climb up to the keelwalk, Fraser says "A moment Sir."

"What is it Kade?"

"That were a fine tirade Sir, worthy of a full lieutenant that was!"

"Hah! Go to hell Sarge!"

"With pleasure Sir, at least it would be warm!"


Just outside the gates of the EAD's London Dockyard. An icy fog rolls across the cobblestones almost as thick as liquid water. It hangs close as if it is not sure whether to turn into frost or just fall as rain.

Kade Fraser stamps his boots and blows on his hands, his crimson Airship Marine coat is wet through and icy water drips off his cap. "What's taking Watkins so long anyways, he just had to drop that package off at Whitehall and then meet us here."

"I don't know Sarge, could be he had to get debriefed or something." Corporal Cooke is also stamping his boots and rubbing his hands.

"Well it's been a great big run around and all, first we was supposed to take it to Portsmouth and then, once we flew all the way down there, they tell us to take it to London... on a bloody train!"

Cooke chuckles. "Still can't believe that one Sarge, you see the look on Watkin's face when he was trying to figure out how long the batteries would last on that containment? Thought he would have a fit. Still, if you need to nurse a potentially dangerous gadget across the North Atlantic John Watkins would be your man and no mistake."

Fraser looks over at the gate and then up at the towering walls of the vast Airdock beyond. "True enough, I know where he wants to be right now and that's on the ship floating inside that airdock."

Cooke follows Fraser's gaze and says "Aye and I don't mind tellin you I'd like to be there too! Say Sarge, you think old Max will share some of his rum with us? We's practically Black Gang now."

Kade Fraser laughs. "Now there's a thought to warm yer cockles!"


Here is the first part of the Epilogue.

Ice and Clockwork Part VI

Friday, October 19, 2018 0 comments


Previously  after arriving in Reykjavik to retrieve a secret package from one of Her Majesty's Aetherwave Stations, the sledge and its two sleeping Marine passengers was stolen. The Marines have still not been found when Watkins takes the recovered sledge out to an extinct volcano that British Intelligence uses as a base. Picking up the package Watkins heads back to Reykjavik.

Enjoy part VI.

You can start from the beginning of this story here.

Keep your sightglass full, your firebox trimmed, and your water iced.

Ice and Clockwork
A serial story from The Airship's Messdeck.
Part VI
  by Kevin Jepson

The steam sledge grinds its way back through the icy night towards the lights of the docking field. The Francis has been moved out of the hangar and is tied firmly to the docking tower. She is floodlit by lights and looks like a great snowy whale against the dark arctic sky. The Auroras can be seen flickering their greens and reds far above.

The sledge had stopped on the outskirts of Reykjavik to get more coal and water and then had skirted the city so as not to arouse any more "interest" than necessary.

"Well I wonder where them Bullocks have got off to. I'll take a strip off them good an proper if I find them." Watkins checks the power gauges on the containment box. The box buzzes slightly to the touch but otherwise it could be any wooden shipping crate.

The sledge pulls up to the entrance of the docking field and Watkins hands the appropriate pages over to the watchman at the entrance. There are a couple of British soldiers there too, and they take a quick look through the sledge.

The corporal in charge asks "Sorry to be a bother Sir, but we still haven't found your Marines. It is like they just vanished in the snow. Checked every pub in the city and no sign of them. The Major asked me to tell you that they will be charged with theft if they are found and to make sure they do not leave Iceland."

"Ah, I'll keep that in mind Corporal. We will be leaving shortly I imagine. Good hunting!"

"Thank you Sir, safe flight."

The sledge moves towards the Francis and parks far enough away that there is no chance of sparks or hot cinders igniting any leaking hydrogen. A couple of the ground crew come up and help Watkins manhandle the package out of the sledge onto the ground.

Watkins goes to the driver and pays him for the trip, plus some extra for the inconvenience of having his sledge stolen. "Thank you for all your help driver."

"You're welcome Sir, is pleasure driving you." The sledge trundles its way off into the darkness in a glowing cloud of steam lit by the lights of the field.

"Right, lets get this aboard shall we."

They load the package onto a cargo sledge and drag it over to the cargo bay of the Francis.
She is floating some 10' or so above the field so they will have to use the cargo hoist.
The cargo door is open and the hoist is rigged ready to winch the package up. Watkins can see two of the Francis' crew, bundled up against the cold ready to load the package.

After checking the power and re-checking the cargo hoist straps, Watkins gives the order to hoist away. Once the package is moved into the hold he dismisses the ground crew and climbs up the ladder to supervise the stowage and connection of the power to the ship's systems.
As he enters the cargo hold it takes a moment for his eyes to adjust to the dimmer light, the main hatch has been closed so the bright floodlight of the docking field is cut off.

There is a stamping of boots and the two crewman snap to attention and salute.

"Good evening Sir!" Cpl Cooke and private Fraser are standing ramrod straight beside the package with their hoods thrown back.


It is obvious that they have something to tell him, but unfortunately they are both grinning like school boys caught sneaking out of the girls dormitory and Watkins is not amused.

"Christ! What the hell were you thinking! Where the hell have you bastards been hiding?" The two Marines don't stop grinning which infuriates Watkins even more. Not waiting for an answer he proceeds to berate the two using many of the same terms that he had been subjected to by Major Woolsley-Hampton, MBE. That does it and the two Marines turn stoney faced under the raking.

Watkins realizes he is being unreasonable and stops his rant. "Well, yes hmmm... What do you have to say for yourselves, report!"

Cooke glances at Fraser who is looking straight ahead like he is under inspection.

"Um. Sir we didn't steal the sledge Sir, but we have news Sir!"

"Never mind that what the hell happened Corporal? Start at the beginning."

"But... Aye Sir. We were waiting in the sledge as you asked and the driver went off to get some coal and food. It was warm and we got kind of sleepy, since we were not sure how long you would be we thought we would have a bit of a lie in. That was all. Next thing I know Fraser is shaking me awake and it is bloody cold and black as pitch in the sledge. We were way out of town on the side of the road, the boiler was stone cold, were the cold that woke us."

"Your asking me to believe you slept while the sledge was driven out of town."

"I know that sounds crazy Sir, but it's true. Must have been given something to keep us asleep, maybe a gas or something. Found this note pinned to the seat beside me Sir."

Cooke hands Watkins a paper with a message written on it. Watkins looks at it closely the characters are rough.

It says Спи спокойно красных мундирах .

"It's in Russian!"

"Aye Sir. Couldn't read it so just stuck it in my pocket. Sweep translated it for us when we got back Sir, it says 'Sleep well Red Coats!' bastard must have been riding inside the sledge with us Sir."

"Ah, creating an incident, why didn't you report this to the authorities then?"

Cooke looks a bit sheepish and glances again at Fraser who is just as stoney faced as before, "Ah I wanted too Sir, we talked about it but Fraser said there was no way they would believe us and it wouldn't be worth taking a chance on not being handed over to the locals."

"Private Fraser explain!"

Fraser, still staring straight ahead says "Sir! I figured first thing that would happen when they started to look for us would be that they would get our records Sir, would look bad after my stay in the brig at Scapa Sir."

"Hmmm yeah, that did come up as it happens, carry on."

Fraser continues "Also Sir, I have visited some far off locales and I find the local garrisons are more than happy to grab any Marine found adrift and add them to the local detachment, on pain of being hung for desertion Sir. That is AFTER their ship has left while they are cooling their heels in the local gaol."

"Ah." Watkins recalls the change in the Major once he found out who had trained the Marines.
"Probably not an unreasonable conclusion there too. Carry on, what happened once you got back to the ship?"

Cooke continues on with "Well Sir, we figured the best approach would be to get back to the Francis and explain to the captain what happened. When we approached the docking field it was crawling with local police, we had to wait out in the snow for most of the morning till we seen Sweep being lowered out of her snug in her box. Taking a chance we walked over to her as if we were ground handlers. She was surprised to see us and told us the Captain had been asked to hand us over if we came back to the ship. She told us to clear off, but just then one of the local peelers came over so she ordered us to help her across to the terminal. Once there I found some ground handlers coats and we started acting like we belonged Sir. Then we just came aboard when we brought sweep back to her Snug."

"How did the Captain react?"

"He were fed up with the locals and the officious Consulate people Sir. I think he agreed with Sarge and was not going to lose his Marines to the local detachment so let us stay. That's when Sweep got the news Sir!"

Cooke is fidgeting and even Fraser is starting to smile.

"News? What news."

The two are now grinning again.

"They have been found Sir! Miss BB... er Lieutenant Buckert and Max and Lieutenant Baleva and Mr Simpson and all Sir. They found the Argo wrecked on the coast of Norway and they are bringing them all back. They'll be in London on Sunday Sir!"

Part VII is here.

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