Wrapped and delivered with care...
Here is the next, and last part of the first serialized tale from our role play group "The Messdeck".
You can start from the beginning here.
Previously Lt Cmdr(E) Maxwell MacDonald-Smythe and his crew in the aged airship HMAS Doris have been enjoying the hospitality of their shipmate Doctor Christine Pearse, who is also the Duchess of Argylle. As the evening progressed in companionable warmth and fellowship after their cold journey north in the winter skies of Northern England and Scotland, they discover that they have been tracked by small mechanical automatons. The bugs are controlled by a nearby cloaked Royal Navy airship.
The crew succeed in disabling the devices and Sgt Fraser warns the cloaked airship off with a flare rocket from his Sgt Major's private stash of exotic weapons. As the airship leaves it drops a package.
What follows is a slightly edited transcript of the role playing we did for our visit to the Manor at Davaar.
"No Sir, all shipshape."
"You checked in the cabin?"
"Aye Sir, were nothing Sir. Unless they are in the gas bags it looks clean."
"Very good get down and go back inside with Simpson and see if you an Cooke can make out what these things are!"
"Aye aye Sir!"
Miss BB standing in her grey bloomers, with her heavy skirt in a heap by her feet, says, "Did you check in the box of warm clothes? I hope they are not in there."
*Iveta checks her holster and its pistol and then heads for the gate.*
*Beyond the walls of the Manor Sgt Fraser slowly moves around the trees near the edge of the property, his rifle ready as he scans the area for what fell from the airship as it left. It is full dark now but the snow on the ground seems abnormally bright, as often happens during a winter night in these latitudes.*
*The shadows of the trees are like black holes against the snow.*
"Blasted thing was around here somewhere..."
He chuckles to himself, "Can't believe I had to use the flare round already." He turns a small bend on the trail and sees the package sitting in the middle of the trail up ahead. It is a wooden crate precariously balanced on one corner in the snow.
"OVER HERE!" He yells.
Miss BB says, "Darn, now I have to run. Coming!"
Iveta turns around and smiles at BB. "Without that skirt, you may even find it fun!"
*The two officers jog briskly through the gate following the sound of Sgt Fraser's voice at the edge of the treeline.*
*After a last check of the outside of the control car Max heads back into the Manor to join Watkins, Simpson, Cooke, and the Doctor in the parlour.*
"It's a frosty clear night and no mistake." Max shivers. "Was almost getting used to being warm again too."
"Well Commander if that ship has moved off perhaps we can return to being warm."
"I apologize for the turmoil Ma'am."
"So far nobody has punched any holes in my walls so we are way ahead of last time." She says with a rueful grin.
Cpl Cooke is munching on a meat pie while looking over one of the captured bugs.
"Well Cpl, these things all down now?"
Cooke swallows and sits up straighter. "Aye sir! I'll leave my gear on as long as we are here just in case though."
"Well done Cpl, let Watkins and Simpson take a look at one of them things."
Cooke holds one up. "Here you go lads."
*Simpson gingerly takes the critter and moves over to the side table under the fancy electric lamp and soon he and Watkins are looking at it through their pocket magnifiers and muttering quietly to themselves.*
Max watches for a second then shakes his head with a smile. "That'll keep em busy for a bit."
As Iveta and Miss BB move across the open space surrounding the manor they see the dark bulk of Sgt Fraser waving from the edge of the trees. Coming up to him Miss BB says, "Good shooting". She smooths her bloomers and asks "What have you found?"
Fraser nods at the two lady airship officers and then points to the crate lying further along the trail. "That's what it dropped Ma'am, but I wouldn't touch it yet. Maybe the doctor has a cart we can borrow to bring it back?"
Iveta eyes the crate, and the size of the depression it made in the snow as it landed, trying to guess its weight. "I'll go see if there is anything at the house. Shall I bring a few more hands?"
Fraser nods. "Yes Ma'am. If you please, maybe that Mr'Gears fellow?"
Nodding, Iveta takes off toward the house at a nimble run.
BB yells, "Pony, bring the pony! Everyone loves a pony."
Miss BB and Sgt Fraser stand watching the crate. Miss BB, hands on her hips says, "It's a box. Can we lift it ourselves?"
Fraser looks to BB. "Best not to touch it yet Ma.am, don't know what it is."
"Can I kick it?" she asks.
Fraser starts. "NO! What if it's an explosive?"
"Hmpf. Maybe the pony will kick it." says Miss BB.
*Iveta enters the Parlour.*
Max says, "Did you find something Lieutenant?"
"We did Sir. A small crate, and we're bringing a cart to get it. Can't think what might be in it, but Fraser's being very careful around it. We'll bring it back presently."
"Doctor Pearse, have you got a cart of sorts? And we may have to borrow your Mr Gears. He's perhaps the best...man for the job."
Christine nods. "Yes, by all means. Mr Gears can assist and I'll have one of the Gillies bring a cart. Would a hand cart or pony cart be best?"
Iveta grins. "Miss BB would prefer a pony Ma'am."
Mr. Gears appears. "Mr. Gears, please have one of the Gillies get a pony cart ready and follow Iveta. Apparently our 'guests' have left something behind."
"Thank you, Doctor." Iveta follows Mr Gears back out to the courtyard..
While waiting for Iveta to come back Fraser slowly starts creeping towards the crate. "I'll take a closer look at it Lt. Please stay back just in case."
"Don't get too close Mr, Fraser."
Fraser slowly gets within a foot or so of the crate then takes out a small pouch with some tools. "Not to worry Ma'am, Paterson isn't the only one who knows how to work with explosives."
*Fraser very gingerly gets right up close to the box listening carefully for any sounds.*
BB whispers in his ear. "You are too close. Don't poke it."
Fraser whips around to see BB next to him. "I asked you to stay back Ma'am what if something happened? We would both be blown sky high!"
*As he turns his arm hits the crate tipping it over on the snow with a crunch.*
Miss BB winces. "Ahhhhh!"
Fraser slowly turns. "..........or.........it could be a normal box......."
"You kicked it with your arm."
Miss BB looks closely at the crate. "Is it cookies?"
Fraser starts laughing.
*Iveta and Mr Gears appear with the pony and cart.*
"Laughter is unexpected. What is funny?"
Miss BB says, "He kicked it with his arm."
Fraser, still laughing, gets up and looks in the box, inside is a nicely wrapped package addressed to Dr. Pearse. "Well... I say we take it back and let the good doctor find out what it is."
Miss BB says, "Maybe it's cookies. Oooo a pony! Can I lead the pony? I always wanted a pony."
Fraser sets the box on the cart. "Don't know what it is, other then it's wrapped fancy and addressed to the doctor."
Iveta looking closely at the package says, "Of all the things I thought to find in the box, a wrapped present wasn't one of them. Let's get it back quickly." She grins. "My curiosity has limits, and it's not polite to unwrap others' gifts."
In the Parlour Max goes over and grabs one of the last meat pies to escape Cpl Cooke's reach. "You'll be having to toss your boots overboard to make up for all that Cpl."
Cooke grins sheepishly. "Sorry sir, but they taste like my mum's."
Max turns to the Doctor. "Well Ma'am ain't heard any bangs I hope that is a good sign."
"Indeed, although this is all very curious."
"Aye, curious indeed, Admiral Chicheley is full of surprises and no mistake."
*Fraser walks behind the cart back to the house keeping an eye out but doesn't notice anything else amiss, when they get back he grabs the box and starts to go inside.*
Christine sighs and then spots Fraser coming in with the box under his arm. "Are you sure that is safe to bring in here Sgt?"
Fraser looks at the package under his arm. "Seems harmless enough Ma'am, I'll have Cooke here do a sweep just to make sure, if he's done eating everything that is." *Chuckle*
"Cpl Cooke you getting any new signals?" asks Max as Cooke waves his gauntlet at the box as Sgt Fraser carefully places it on the table.
"Sort of sir, will know more in a bit."
Christine looks at the package carefully, studying the handwriting intently. "I do not know this handwriting. Your friend has a very odd sense of humour Commander. First he infests my home with insects and now leaves me a present. Why does the story of Troy spring forth readily to mind right now?"
Max smiles. "Aye, too small fer a Greek but still..."
Miss BB and Iveta come in. "What's a Greek?" asks Miss BB.
Iveta winks at Miss BB. "Men in skirts."
"That would be most excellent. I would like to see them try to run." says Miss BB.
Max grins. "Oh there's a fair number of them hereabouts, keep yer eyes open Lt."
"It'd be fair to warn you they don't wear bloomers. Isn't that right Doctor?" says Iveta.
"Oh my!" says Miss BB.
Cpl Cooke watches his instruments intently for a few minutes and says, "All clear sir, should be good to open."
Miss BB rubs her hands in excitement "Oooo what do you think it is?"
*Christine fetches a letter opener from the desk in the corner and carefully starts to open the parcel. She manages to get the outer wrapping off of the box and sets it aside. Inside is another wrapped package with a neatly hand written card.*
"Now if we had someone like that Mr. Sherlock Holmes we all read about in the Strand, I'm sure he could tell us everything about the sender just by the wrapping." she says looking carefully at the card.
"Well now this is most interesting. Um... It's addressed to me form the Fleet Admiral herself!" she says holding the card up and reading it out.
"Dear Doctor Pearse,
With the apologies of the Admiralty for using your grounds to test our crew's alertness"
*She hands the card to Max and unwraps the package to show a bottle of 50 year old Scotch whisky and a box of expensive Belgian chocolates.*
"Oh, Medicine. Not cookies at all." says Miss BB.
"Ahh" says Christine, "but there *are* chocolates."
Sgt Fraser looks over to Cooke. "No..."
"Well now, that sly fox!" says Max looking at the neat and scarily familiar writing on the card.
"Hmpf" says Miss BB. "There should be more chocolates than just these. We made a big big mess."
Christine examines the bottle of Scotch closely. "The Admiral has a strange sense of humour. If it wasn't such a bother, it'd be tempting to dump some itching powder in her unmentionables drawer."
"I could do that for you if you like." says Miss BB.
Christine grins. "I'm sure you could Miss BB." She opens the box of chocolates. "Do we dare try these or are these an elaborate ruse themselves?"
"I will try the medicine if you like. To see if it is poisoned." says BB eying the bottle.
Max laughs "Sgt I hope you didn't punch too many holes in her Majesty's property eh?"
"Not to worry sir, it was just a flare round, no damage unless I hit them directly.....which I don't think I did."
"Well Ma'am, I do know the Admiral has an equivalent sense of taste with respect to scotch as ours, so if you would be interesting in sharing..." says Max.
"Oh, I'm sure a dram or two would be perfect to settle the nerves." Christine rings for Mr. Gears to bring some glasses.
"I agree, Doctor" says Iveta. "If this is from the Admiral, I'd say 'Priekā! Cheers!'"
"It might be poisoned. I should go first... As a test." says BB
*Mr Gears returns bearing a tray of glasses. He sets them down on the center table in the parlour and Christine opens the bottle, pouring a good measure into each glass.*
"Everyone, please take a glass, heaven knows you deserve it!"
Max calls over to where the two engineers are still puzzling over the mechanical bug. "Oi! Watkins! Simpson! over hear and have a wee tot!"
"Aye aye Sir!"
Fraser picks up two glasses and hands one to Cooke. "Take your time lad, this isn't the pub." he says with a laugh.
Christine nods in agreement. "No, this should be savoured. Downing this in one gulp would be a crime that I'm sure the Admiral would have your head for."
Miss BB carefully takes a sip. "Oh my. This is excellent medicine."
Max takes his glass and raises it. "To Dr Pearse and her lovely home! Which we thankfully will be leaving in one piece!"
"To Doctor Pearse! Aye!"
Miss BB nods. "Yay! Oh... 'Aye', that is what I meant to say"
Fraser raises his glass and savors a sip. "Now this is a perfect way to end an evening."
Christine cocks an eyebrow. "You'd best be waiting to say that when your airship is departing Sgt" she says with a grin.
"Aye, and you are right about that Ma'am!"
Meanwhile, out on the heather beyond the manor's bounds, the second jettisoned package has unfolded itself into a dozen small, metallic, rodent-like creatures, each painted the colours of dead leaves or dried heather. A few hedgehog-like spines drape down their necks and each tiny paw is tipped with miniature mole-claws for digging. They separate, moving to predetermined points in a circumference around the manor house, where they will each dig into the ground until only those spines are showing. The spines will extend and transmit to each other, setting up a net that arches up and over Davaar from all sides, signalling entries to the grounds back to an EAD listening post near the coast that normally monitors only shipping.
Just as the Admiralty has not forgotten its interest in Edward Pearse's whereabouts and the fate of his experiments, enemies of the state will also remain interested. And they will not be as scrupulous in their handling of the Duchess of Argyle as the Admiralty has been. This time, the Admiralty will not be left out of the fight.
This concludes the first of three stories from our Role Play group "The Airship's Messdeck"
Thanks for reading, I hope you have enjoyed it.
Stay tuned for the continuing adventures of Max and his shipmates in the second story "Lost at Sea"
Keep your sightglass full, your firebox trimmed and your water iced.