Here is the third part of the serialized tale from our Roleplay group.
You can start from the beginning here.
Last time we left Max and his crew aboard the aging cargo airship HMAS Doris tied up to a mooring tower on the edge of York in England. It is a freezing cold winter's night. Since there is no lift and it would be a long climb for Max with his bad leg, he has sent his crew below so they can get warm and have some good food while he stays aboard on "Ship Watch".
"John Barbesly! Good God man what brings you to ice bound Yorkshire? Come in and get out of this wind!"
"Could ask you the same question Sir."
"Belay that Sir stuff, nobody here to worry on it John."
*They go back into the little cabin. Max clears a space of the Navigator's charts, carefully avoiding the communications equipment, while the Lieutenant starts to unpack his satchel.*
"First off I'm going to get rid of this cold! You will like this Max!" and he takes out an odd mushroom shaped contraption and puts it on the floor under the table. After fiddling with it for a second or so he pushes a button and there is a quiet womph sound and then a rich red glow from inside the mushroom's top.
Max jumps back "Dammit man, you trying to blow us up!"
"No Sir! See this is based on the same pattern as the Davies Mine Lamps. The hydrogen may get inside but if it burns it can't get through the mesh."
*Soon there is a lovely warm current of air coming out from under the table. Out of the satchel comes cloth wrapped hot food and some insulated tankards of mulled wine.*
"I seen your Marine getting this ready to bring back up to you an overheard him talking to his Sergeant and he mentioned your name so I said I'd take it up to you."
"Much appreciated John, much appreciated indeed, was fair to being frozen solid I was. But what are you doing in old Blighty? Last we met you was Admiral's Clerk on that flagship in Esquimalt. Were just before we left in such a rush!"
"Oh Aye and that's a tale indeed, you get going on that food and drink I'll fill you in!"
*As the chill finally starts to leave the little cabin on the Doris, the Lieutenant tells Max of the events that followed the precipitous departure of the Velvet Brush from Esquimalt*
"You hadn't even got over the horizon towards the mainland before all hell broke loose in the shipyard. There was Lobsterbacks everywhere. One of our own detachments was detailed to try to round up as many of the Company Boffins as had not managed to leave. The ones they rounded up were surprised, it was like they couldn't understand what was happening."
Max munching on a pasty says "Well yer probably heard that someone had tried to disable us with a bomb. Were planted in the drive, would have taken our tail right off!"
"Aye we did hear that eventually, but we hadn't at that time. A signal had come from the Admiralty ordering the whole yard locked down! The Old Man was livid, he got the order direct and was told to take over the dockyard. Seems that the Admiralty wasn't taking any chances that the dockyard officers weren't in on something nasty."
"Argh, can't imagine that were a fun thing to do."
"Yer right on that score, the Marines were no problem, I think they would rather be under the command of a serving Fleet than a dockyard anyways, and they just wheeled about and got on with it. I went with my Admiral to the Dockyard HQ and was there when the he assumed command. The poor dockyard commander looked surprised but didn't bat an eye, simply stood up saluted and left his office. I was detailed to collect every piece of paper in the place, organize it by date and correspondent. Have you any idea how much paper there is in the HQ of the biggest airdock and naval base on the Pacific Coast!"
Max chuckles "Aye well yer did always like paperwork John."
"Well I tell you my taste for it waned considerable that night! But I tell ya Max, it were what happened the next morning that really made things go crazy?"
"We was heading north towards Prince Rupert by then, had some trouble with the drive arcing all over the place, burned one of our Black Gang pretty bad. Aye and just as he got better he was blown to smithereens in bloody Portsmouth!"
"I heard about that Max, lost yer Commander and them young lads and right in the middle of the largest naval base on Earth too. I can tell you that made every dockyard, port and base in the Empire act like there was war on! Was like somebody kicked the biggest ant hill the world had ever seen... But as I was sayin, next morning word came that somethin odd had happened at the Company yards outside Vancouver. The Old Man, having spent a long night interrogating the dockyard commander, 'in conference' is the term the report used, swore mightily and grabbed the Marine Major and his troop from the flagship, me, and a bunch of dockyard workers, and flew us in a runabout straight there."
Max nods and says "Ah, we seen what happened there as we flew over, were the strangest thing, there were a great ship just like us and she simply collapsed in on her self as we passed."
"Aye and when we got there all that was left was a mass of girders. It was odd indeed, there weren't a single piece of fabric anywheres in that pile. Nothing, not even the cloth covers of manuals and books, no seabags, no tool bags, nothing! Were like she had been attacked by a giant swarm of moths. Well we secured the site and I went with a couple of Lobsterbacks to secure the office. But as we were approaching some bastard set fire to the place and it was pretty well done by the time we got there. Heard later the bloke who set the fire had died in it too, served the bastard right."
"So did you find out anything about that ship?"
"Aye more 'n I wanted to know, I were put in charge of the team searching it. I can tell you she were nearly finished but that she would never have flown."
"Eh? Why is that?"
"She were a direct copy of your ship, but she had no core." Max starts and John holds up his hand "Aye and that's OK Max, I been briefed since as to what that means and all, it's my new job see?"
*He folds his collar back and Max sees the insignia of Naval Intelligence.*
"Ah, if she had no core then how could she have flown?"
"Well see that is the question the Intelligence Boffins had too, best guess, and you never heard this from me, is that if that bomb had gone off and disabled your ship in Esquimalt the Company would have spirited the core away and mounted it in the copy. Along with a bunch of other equipment that hadn't been installed yet but was just lying around."
Max takes a big swig from his mulled wine, and after a second or two says "Seems like there is no way they could have got away with that."
"I agree and that were the conclusion of the brass hats in Whitehall too. Don't know the official rationale but personally I think it was a botched job. The sabotage may have been intended to happen somewheres over the rough country North of Vancouver, then they could have salvaged the core and other bits and mounted it in their copy and nobody would be the wiser."
"Christ John, you saying they intended to bring us down in flight!"
"I am Max, and everything that's happened since would tend to confirm that wouldn't you say? Were only cause you were tipped off by finding that device before you left that you been able to stay in one piece."
"An that's a comforting thought to be thinkin and all. So how did you end up in Intelligence then?"
"Well, see that ain't something I'm really sure about. Was about two months later, after we heard about the attack on the Velvet Brush in Portsmouth when I were approached by this odd fellow from England."
"Aye some high brow named Biffington, he had my transfer papers and within a fortnight I was in Portsmouth talking to..."
Max finishes his sentence "Fleet Admiral Avis Chicheley"
"Aye that's her, and things have been very interesting indeed ever since!"
Part IV is here