Chief Inspector Wolfram Hollweg was in his last year as a policeman. He would be retiring in eight months or so and, but for one case, he could look back upon a distinguished career. But that one case continued to occupy some of his professional life, and a great deal of his personal time. He thought of it as the Case of the Golden Seraphim. It occupied one large file cabinet in his office and terabytes of storage on his personal computers.
The Case of the Golden Seraphim was a mystery of events. It was not just a single crime, or a series of crimes by a single criminal, or gang. In fact, many of the incidents that composed the case were not even crimes.
His investigation began with an incident that was actually the return of stolen property and could only be considered marginally criminal. Unknown persons speaking an unknown language had entered the Neue Synagoge in Berlin and placed a large golden menorah on a central table. The only record of the menorah showed that it had last been inventoried by the SS in a warehouse full of valuable property looted from Jewish properties prior to the outbreak of World War II. There was no other mention of it though it was hallmarked by a goldsmith long out of business whose place of business had been demolished in the Dresden bombing.
The night watchman had been roughed up a bit when grabbed by the intruders but was otherwise unharmed; the menorah had been placed and the police called. The watchman insisted that the men told him that they were returning the menorah to the Jewish people. Then they vanished in a burst of light. The watchmen insisted that they were “seraphim” and would not be shaken from that story. This was an example of a premium case. These cases consisted of an inexplicable event that would normally be called impossible, but that was actually witnessed and contained physical evidence.
A secondary event was something that was inexplicable, such as the screw falling off a ship because the shaft had been sawed through. Replacing the shaft and prop, the ship departed and the shaft was immediately sawed through again. There was evidence but no witnesses. And what kind of saw could do this and who wielded it? Not some water front gang that much seemed a certainty. Most importantly, from the standpoint of a criminal investigation: where was the profit? Where was the money? There was no money trail, no insurance scam, no clear profit apparent and no one took credit for the event. Greenpeace had only applauded from half a world away.
A tertiary event was an inexplicable event: where there were no reliable witnesses, nor any physical evidence. Many of these were UFO sightings; or the reported “ghost” Hindenburg over Lakehurst. There was nothing to go on, from an investigative standpoint, but a most unusual event nevertheless. There was the case of the disappearing street gang in San Francisco. The authorities were preparing to arrest eight young men for an assortment of crimes including armed robbery, conspiracy, and narcotics trafficking when the eight young men seemingly vanished. They were no longer at home; they were no longer at school; they were no longer on the street; their probation officers could not find them. There was not a gang war in progress. None of their associates knew where they were. None of their bodies were found. They had simply vanished. Without, he recalled, their cash or narcotics stash. A religious awakening and retreat into a monastery seemed unlikely, but remained as possible as anything else.
Chief Inspector Hollweg had been developing connections with law enforcement personnel from around the world in an effort to work on these cases. And that accounted for an early morning call that reported a school shooting in Louisiana, in the US. This was quickly followed by the case file and pictures. This would be a workable case but for one problem. As with the disappearance reported by Detective Flynn years ago, the suspect, or hero in this case, had disappeared in a flash of light and this disappearance was witnessed by a number of children. And there could be absolutely no doubt that he’d been there. The school shooter lay dead on the front steps.
There were the usual kooks on the internet saying that it didn’t happen. But there were plenty of kooks demonstrating a remarkable level of ignorance on the internet these days, so that was no surprise. Everyone who knew the facts of the case knew that it happened. The big question, was how?
And how, if at all, did this case fit in with the others? In this case, unlike all of the others, the subject in question had left some hard personal evidence. His hat. DNA was almost a certainty.
The cap had the name “Frank Young” written on the inside sweat band. The lining in the crown bore the label “Buchannan & Co. Purveyors of Headgear to HM Soldiery”. And a very distinctive plume was attached to a cap badge inscribed with a crown and below that what appeared to be a royal cipher.
The “J” should be for the monarch’s regnant name, the “3” would indicate the third ruler of the name, and the “R” of course was for Rex, Latin for king. Obviously this king was not a slave to tradition as a Roman numeral would normally be used not an Arabic one. Of course, the “R” could also be for Regina which was the Latin for queen. But he could not think, just off hand, of any current king or queen who was a ‘third’ and whose name began with “J”.
There was no record in any city of a “Buchannan & Co. Purveyors of Headgear to HM Soldiery”. It was another of all too many dead ends.
There was the bullet, it had rattled about in the skull of the suspect as bullets frequently do, but it was just a .38 caliber bullet. They would hold onto it, of course, if they ever came up with the pistol, this bullet could prove which pistol had fired it; but other than that, it wasn’t much use being only slightly less common than dirt in the armed camp that was the United States.
He considered all of his evidence, and then considered Sherlock Holmes’ injunction that when you had ruled everything else out, whatever was left must be the answer. And he sat back dazed, for that would mean he was involved in some kind of match with a sovereign nation. A nation with at least a king and an army, it would seem that it spoke, or at least understood English, it had an unbelievable method of transportation, and a very high level of technology. Then too, where the hell was it, anyway? Some kind of ‘Shangri La’? He had police sources on every continent that had a police force and no one could answer that question. He dreaded the very notion of ‘alien.’
And there was his phone ringing.
Once again it was his ability to ‘feel’ any craft he happened to be handling that had conspired to promote and challenge him. Sub Lieutenant John Tavers, SSM, Royal Space Corps had gone into space with the first crew of the first station. Upon returning from the assignment on the space station HMS Insouciant, he had been asked to take a test in a flight simulator that was supposed to duplicate the feel of the first powered space shuttle that could maneuver without the assistance of a familiar. He had done well, of course, and was transferred from the Naval Air Force to the Space Corps that same afternoon. He was also promoted, but he had not been able to contact his lover and tell him what was happening as Captain-Lieutenant Cascone was on his way to Alexandria in the dirigible HMS Prince Eugene of Savoy which he commanded. There was a great deal of bustle at Space Corps headquarters; but he knew no one there and no one was in the least interested in helping him. He had already been referred through a complete bureaucratic circle once.
Now, he was feeling rather put upon. All he had ever done was serve the King. When he was twelve, he enlisted in the Navy as a ‘Sideboy’. Then he became a striker for the ships carpenter which earned him the nickname ‘Chipper’ which was still in use by his friends and his lover. But no one was so friendly here. He was maneuvering the shuttle HMS Siranui in close proximity to the moon. His world had been turned upside-down and now he was here on this shuttle with a lovely scarlet bird he knew to be a familiar, and an aloof human in the uniform of a commodore who appeared to be a jerk. He hadn’t seen his lover, hadn’t been able to communicate with Michel, and hoped that the mail was not overflowing at their apartment which he had not seen for two weeks either. And what if there was a burst pipe or something? The hummingbird feeder would be empty. All of these events had conspired to turn a happy and singularly capable servant of the King into a sullen malcontent who was about ready to tell them all about it.
What’s our current velocity? The familiar asked.
Chipper was facing his control panel, no one saw him roll his eyes. “Current velocity with respect to what? Sir.” He inquired in that deadpan tone reserved for answering stupid questions from superiors. “The moon? The station? Prime? Sir.” He inquired with feigned innocence as if the question was the most natural thing in the world. But there had been a pause between “Prime?” and “Sir” that was just short of insolence in its duration.
The moon, responded Bucephalus into the silence that was becoming tense with misunderstanding.
“645 meters per second,” Chipper responded instantly. If James of Cooper, Commodore (staff) of the Royal Space Corps; or the familiar Bucephalus had bothered to pay any attention to Chipper, they’d know that his response was sullen. Hovering on disrespect. But they thought that they occupied a rarified realm where the needs and wants of a mere lieutenant were of little concern.
How fast can you bring our velocity to zero? The familiar asked again.
Chipper played his controls expertly. There was a gentle thrumming as the maneuvering thrusters played, then: “Velocity zero,” Chipper reported. ‘Fuck ‘em,’ he thought, ‘they can time it themselves.’
“Are you sure? That was awful fast? Did you overcompensate? Check to make sure we’ve not reversed direction!” James of Cooper ordered tersely to the point of rudeness.
And that was that. Chipper knew the King and had frequently been his guest; the King’s father had promised Chipper that he would be able to bring Michel into space so they could both experience the view of their planet; a planet that Chipper now consciously and consistently referred to as his “Mother”. This pompous ass of a staff commodore could just plain old fuck off for all he cared. He didn’t need to be a fucking lieutenant either. He sat back from his control panel, unbuckled his seat belt, stood and propelled himself to the rear of the cabin where he grabbed a stanchion and floated weightlessly. He looked calmly at the cardinal and the commodore.
“Shove it up your ass,” Chipper told them.
James of Cooper, Magister of the Heavens and commodore, looked at Chipper stunned. He was brought up short. He’d been rescued from his drunken uncle and from that moment onward, everything had been given to him. A telescope in hospital as well as his books and even his frying pan were found and given him. Then a telescope in space, a space station to hold the telescope, space ships to help design, a moon base to establish and plan; he had engineers, wizards, scientists, and familiars to work with; all these things had been given him and the answers he provided to questions had not been doubted. Even when the questions were about the dangerous force in space that was stalking their world, he was never doubted. All this time and all these events and no one had ever talked back to him. Much less talk back rudely; he did not know what to do. So he gaped.
Bucephalus too, had been taken by surprise. But he was a wise old warrior and quickly realized what the problem was. This was a mutiny, but not the dangerous sort of mutiny, there was no threat to the person of the magister or anyone else. This young lieutenant had no intention of attempting to leave them adrift in space in some variation of the mutiny on the Bounty. He would not harm them in any way. He just didn’t want to go any further with them. Like Alexander’s Army at the Hydaspes. This young lieutenant knew his worth and he wasn’t having it. Bucephalus mentally kicked himself; you’d have thought he’d forgotten all that he’d ever learned from the great Alexander about handling warriors.
“Please forgive us,” Bucephalus began. “We have not given you credit for your years of service. We have not given you credit for your heart. We have not credited you for your love of the King. We would never treat a coachman with the disrespect we’ve show you. You are a master pilot and you handle this craft with a feather touch and complete command. I thank you as a senior familiar. My friend James here, a Magister of the Heavens, thanks you for easing his task and contributing to our success. Our King would thank you were he here. I rather imagine that, were he here, you would not have been treated so cavalierly in the first place. Thanks. We’d forgotten who you were; we’d forgotten what you’ve done.”
Chipper was the stunned one now. He’d expected a screaming match. He expected threats. He expected the familiar to take control of the ship and return them to the station at the very least. He expected to be marched off and locked away until he could talk to the King. He expected his world to change once again. He did not expect this.
“Uh, well. What? What do you want?” He looked at the two for a long moment and the cardinal cocked his head almost inquiringly as birds will do. “Do you want me to pilot again?”
Would you please? Get us back to the station at your best speed, and then we’ll all take some time off. Figure everything out, and start over again.
“Aye, aye sir,” and the Siranui swiftly and smoothly accelerated away.
Cornet Glenn Yelland of the First Mississippi Yeomanry was an extremely happy young man. He had been rescued from a high school bully and catapulted into a different universe and he loved it. On Earth Prime it was good to be bright and talented and educated. He had brought Carlos around to chat with his mom and dad and they had agreed that he could live on Earth Prime on the condition that he visit them on a regular basis and that they could visit him on this “other earth” as soon as he was established. Carlos assured his parents that the local school would understand that Glenn had left for a scholarship in another state.
One of the first things he had read when he was settled into his room at Camp Farragut, before he had even completed his first weekend there, was an article in the ‘Army Times’ discussing the problem of obtaining something remotely resembling rapid fire capability from a cross bow for use by the space grenadiers in space or an alien atmosphere should close combat become necessary.
Glenn wasn’t interested in spending any more time on Earth than was absolutely necessary. So he had brought his laptop to Earth Prime with him. In his room, during what he considered to be his abundant free time, he wrote a lengthy paper on a weapons system for use in space that he thought would be superior to the cross bow. He asked Lance Corporal Ackroyd how he should address his report and was told that technically he was assigned to North America Command, so that would be the place to start; but he was also told that sometimes things went awry in the office, so he should probably copy it to Space Command. If he didn’t get a response quickly, he should come get him and they’d figure out how to rattle the system and make sure the report arrived on the proper desk.
But there was another quite fascinating distraction at Camp Farragut that occupied a great deal of his thinking. Glenn was an officer in a newly formed yeomanry regiment. It was likely that none of these newly selected ‘yeomen’ would know how to serve as an officer’s batman. They were American high school students, after all. Accordingly, because form is important, and everyone knows an officer needs to be cared for, an orderly was appointed to assist Cornet Yelland. With that appointment, Glenn lost all interest in the affairs of Earth.
Leonardo Giacinto Caprotti. Why, the very name was musical and beautiful. Then there were his eyebrows. They were sublimely symmetrical; they had this sensual arch over his lambent eyes that promised blissful intimacy. His hair was full and so black that you could seemingly feel into it with your eyes and sense the dark red accents that lurked in the ebon luster. And his eyes! They were hazel with flecks of gold sparkling in the spring-like glory of his irises: they were meant to fall into. His flesh was as the finest silk, smooth and lightly tanned, meant to be stroked and caressed. And then there were his lashes.
Glenn hadn’t thought much about love. He hadn’t thought much about other kids at school, at least not that way. He had a few friends; he had a few enemies. And now that he thought about it, he thought that his best friend might be happier here on Earth Prime than he was at home. He would have to arrange to talk to him about it. And now there was Leonardo. What a glorious name. One wouldn’t want to shorten it or have a nickname. Saying “Leonardo” was way too sexy as it was. And yes — there were his eye lashes.
Apparently, his report had landed on the right desk for the next thing he knew, he and Leonardo were in Kingstown and he was assigned to the weapons development staff at the Headquarters, Ancient and Honourable Company of Artillerists and etc. He loved that name. He loved Leonardo more. Particularly the way his wondrous hair curled and looped over the top of his ears and waved onto his collar. The chaos of those curls was wanton with promise.
He had a suite of rooms that did not impress Leonardo in the least. Leonardo sniffed and cocked an eyebrow with disdain. It was the cocking of the eyebrow that did it. This really emphasized his lashes with the beckoning curve. Glenn stood up from the comfortable chair he’d been testing. He looked longly at Leonardo and the look was just as intensely returned. Richard the Lionheart strode across the carpet and took Leonardo in his arms and kissed him with a passion he had never possessed before. The kiss was returned with equal passion and clothes started coming off.
Later that same week a number of interesting things happened. His idea for a weapon that would work in space seemed entirely plausible. They’d achieved a muzzle velocity of 3000 feet per second with his air rifle design. That muzzle velocity was comparable to a number of rifles currently in use. The next goal was to achieve a magazine capacity of fifteen rounds. This magazine capacity and the air pressure cylinder remained the principal technical problems that needed solution. Additionally, he’d been promoted to Major in the Ancient and Honourable Company of Artillerists, etc. and was now assigned to work in Kingstown. They’d also told him that his work was so important that he would be decorated for his work. Most importantly it was Friday. He and Leonardo would be dining out tonight. Glenn could already see the candlelight coruscating in Leonardo’s eyes.
“Oh my God, would ya lookit that! There! See?” Pat shouted at his pal Joey and pointed into the New Jersey sky where a huge cigar shape was passing slowly overhead. The two boys had been loafing through the scrub country near Lakehurst enjoying the day and each other’s company as only twelve year olds can.
“Oh my God,” repeated Joey. The two boys stood and watched. They could hear the low rumble of the engines now that they’d stopped moving through the brush. “What the hell is it?” Joey asked the quiet of the woods.
Pat, as it happened, was a very knowledgeable student of aviation history for a boy his age; he’d visited the Museum at Lakehurst and had a tee shirt to show for it; he’d visited the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington. He had a hat to show for that as well as several new books and a great deal of information. True, he might get a little excited and call a “Fokker D VII” a “Fokker D-C VII” but he knew what he meant and he wasn’t talking about an airliner.
“It’s a ghost,” Pat declared.
“Whaddaya mean, ‘it’s a ghost’? Ain’t no ghost. It’s a space ship.”
“Nope. It’s a ghost. It’s the Hindenburg tryin’ for another landing.” Pat’s imagination was fired and he was off with a ghost story extempore: right up there, before their very eyes, was a gallant airship captain, grievously burned, heroically trying to land his dying ship; there were two boys, just like them, who tried to save the ship, and when they couldn’t put out the fire, they rescued women and children from the passenger cabins; but there were others they couldn’t rescue and the ship had to come back and land safely so that those souls could get to heaven. It was a good story and Joey thought so. Later that night, when his Mother asked him if he’d seen the UFO, he told her it wasn’t any old UFO, it was the ghost of the Hindenburg. So he told her the story. She thought that was a most excellent story and she told her friend Lidia next morning and, before long, the ‘Ghost of the Hindenburg’ made it into print in the local paper, and later a national news magazine, to say nothing of all the UFO blogs.
“The ground ain’t right!” Reported the bridge lookout on HMS Shenandoah as she cruised over what had been the woods of what should not be called New Jersey on Earth Prime. “There’s buildings down there! Roads!” The lookout continued trying to explain his most unusual sighting report.
HMS Shenandoah had been on the last third of her trip from Kingstown to Camp Farragut. She carried a number of important passengers. HSH the Lady Nancy, Countess of the Marches was aboard. She was interested in all aspects of flight and thought she might like to become involved with the zeppelin operations. She had spent hours in the control car; she had spent hours in an engine gondola; she had spent hours exploring the interior of the ship. Wherever she was, she asked numberless questions about zeppelin operation, care, and maintenance.
Also aboard, was Sir Claude Clanrobert, KOM, OH, Chief of Royal Medical Services. He had been conducting an inspection of needs and facilities in Trollia and was enroute to Camp Farragut to do the same for the North American Command. Accompanying him were his two foster sons, Bobby and Tommy Seward who had been rescued from their murderous parents; their best mate, Andy Tolliver who had been rescued from himself; and two new arrivals, Monty and Rodger Conroy and their dog Turbo who were rescued from the streets just before a San Francisco street gang could mug them3. Turbo had been a little nervous at first, but had been shamed into calm acceptance by the effortless sang froid of Pilot, ship’s cat of the Shenandore — as the crew called her - who behaved quite as if he were the captain.
“Elevator, I need five degrees up inclination. Sound General Quarters. Messenger get the Captain,” Lieutenant DeLucca4 ordered calmly. The klaxon sounded loudly throughout the ship sending passengers and crew to emergency stations.
“Aye, aye, Sir,” responded the messenger as he vanished up the ladder.
“Five degrees of up inclination, aye, aye, Sir,” responded the elevatorman. And then, as Captain-Lieutenant Flemming came sliding down the ladder followed by the messenger. The elevatorman reported, “Elevator at neutral with five degrees of up inclination on, Sir.”
“Very well,” replied Lieutenant DeLucca to the elevatorman. “Captain. I think we skipped from Earth Prime to Earth somehow. All of a sudden there were buildings and roads and movement on the landscape below. I’ve ordered us to gain altitude.”
“Very well, thank you, I have the deck,” he grabbed binoculars and began to look below. “What could cause that?” Captain Flemming asked of no one in particular.
“Captain has the deck,” Lieutenant DeLucca announced to the bridge.
“One-three hundred feet and five degrees of up inclination, Sir,” the elevatorman reported.
“Has to be a familiar, I think,” Lieutenant DeLucca offered.
“Yes, at least I’d certainly think so,” Captain-Lieutenant Flemming replied.
“One-four hundred feet and five degrees of up inclination, elevator is neutral, Sir,” the elevatorman reported.
“Lee helm, all ahead flank,” the Captain ordered.
“All ahead flank, aye, aye Sir,” the lee helm reported.
“One-five hundred feet and five degrees of up inclination, Sir,” the elevatorman reported.
“Avast reporting altitude, elevator. I want ten degrees of up inclination.”
“Ten degrees of up inclination, aye, aye, sir.”
“Captain,” the chief quartermaster called, “Midships lookout reports that our familiar was knocked unconscious and is on the upper catwalk between station four and five.”
“Very well, thank you. DeLucca, you have the deck, climb to ten thousand feet and start plotting a course to get us back over the ocean. See if there is any cloud cover we can use. I’m gonna check on our mongoose. Be right back.”
“Aye, aye, sir, I have the deck.”
“Ten degrees of up inclination on, sir, elevator is neutral,” reported the elevatorman as the Captain charged up the ladder.
When the zeppelins were being designed and built, a great deal of attention was paid to matters of material and construction; the engineers had also gone to great lengths to ensure that all parts of the zeppelin were maintenance and repair friendly. Not even one engineer, however, had ever considered that the horizontal webbing between the gas bags and the framework would be used as a trampoline. The webbing was designed to prevent a long fall were a crewman to lose their grip, or drop a tool, they were nicely elastic and springy with a tight mesh.
But Andrew Tolliver knew exactly what a trampoline was and had enjoyed his until his parents kicked him out of the house. He climbed onto the webbing, found his balance easily, and after a few tentative jumps, was having a fine time. In short order, he was joined by Bobby Seward and then by the Conroy brothers and the four boys were having great sport, bouncing, wrestling, tagging each other and laughing quite a lot. Rikki, the familiar along for the ride, was somehow attuned to ‘a good time’ and he found the boys quickly and was soon bouncing on the webbing with the boys. He was just starting to experiment with a back flip when he and Monty Conroy came down at the same time, in the same place. This never works well, and Rikki went off on an uncontrolled ricochet, hit his head on a duraluminum stringer and fell unconscious onto the webbing. There was the usual sense of dislocation caused when shifting universe. Andy recognized the feeling, but the others just seemed surprised and shocked by Rikki’s fall.
“Come on, guys, we gotta get Rikki up here! Outta that netting!” They quickly worked a way to support Rikki and they quickly manhandled him up and onto the catwalk. It wasn’t that Rikki was heavy, or all that big; but it was awkward. Rikki was completely limp, and the webbing was never meant to be walked on; it had, after all, just been a very satisfactory trampoline. At that moment, a crewman came up and asked what the “hell” they thought they were doing? At that moment, the alarm started to sound and the zeppelin began to climb sharply.
The crewman went to a phone box on the catwalk and in short order, the Captain arrived followed quickly by a medic. The medic placed a brace on Rikki’s neck and covered him with a blanket. Rikki did not seem to have any broken bones, he had an obvious bump on the head, but he was not bleeding. The medic broke an ampule of smelling salts and wafted it under and around Rikki’s nose. Rikki’s eyes flew open. “Fuck,” he said. There was another moment of dissonance and Rikki closed his eyes.
Pat and Joey saw the ghost disappear with a flash. “Wow,” Joey observed.
“Yeah,” Pat echoed. “I don’t think they made it. We should try and watch for ‘em to try to land again.”
The boys nodded with the certainty of full understanding.
Midshipman Luis Varela was ecstatic. Getting here had been quite a run. But here, aboard a space shuttle and being trained to be a pilot, was as wonderful a “here” as could be imagined. Things had been hard for most of his life. His father had died when he was six; but his mother was a formidable presence. She worked hard; they all worked hard. But even when they were all working hard just to keep food on the table and a roof overhead, his mom had insisted that he and his brother and sister go to school, and then devote a certain amount of time each day to reading and study. Then his sister had disappeared for several months and the police did not seem too concerned; but then she returned with a remarkable idea. They had all moved to Earth Prime. First they sold tacos and burritos and cold drinks from a cart pulled by a donkey; then they all went to work in the restaurant his mother and sister had opened. The restaurant was very successful and indeed, the people who moved through the restaurant, including the King and the Earl Martial, had fueled his interest and desires. Then, when they had formed the Royal Space Corps, Luis knew where he wanted to go.
But getting there might be difficult. He and his family were from Earth, and while they had met people and been quite successful on Earth Prime, they were still recent arrivals and there were some gates they did not know how to open, some roads they were unsure of following. But the King, a regular patron at their restaurant, had dined alone one night and Luis had seized his chance. He asked of the King and the door was opened; an intelligent and hardworking young immigrant was on his way to space.
Midshipman Ralph Cyffylog was also aboard and, as promised, he bore serial number “0001” in the Royal Space Corps. He felt confident and elegant even in the working overalls of the Corps. He felt positively raffish in the walking out uniform. He worked harder than most as he remembered that he was the King’s man, that his home of record was the palace. He knew that his work reflected upon the King and his entire household; he was determined that his reflection was going to be one the King could take pride in.
Chipper Tavers was back in business. When they had docked the Siranui at the station, after the mutiny, Bucephalus had taken him directly to Prince Eugene of Savoy cruising over the Mediterranean Sea. He had a heartfelt talk with his lover; he would have liked to spend some time with him, but Michel thought that might set a bad example, so after glorious kisses in the privacy of the captain’s cabin, Bucephalus returned him to the space station. But this was a happy Chipper, at peace with the world. Michel would be home in a week and then they would go to the space station together.
Chipper could now devote his attention to training two new midshipmen in the new shuttle HMS Amagiri. This shuttle was very different from the Siranui: she was faster, longer ranged, equipped with a weapons bay for future tests, and the cockpit had a wide screen that made for excellent visibility. Distant objects that her detectors had located would appear highlighted on the screen so the pilot could actually see much further than was possible with the unaided eye.
Corporal Frank Young, DCM, Guards Fusiliers, knew himself to be lying in a comfortable bed, a hospital bed he rather imagined; his memory seemed okay so he knew that he’d just been in a shooting and had been hit in that shooting. He wiggled his fingers, then his toes; everything seemed to be working just fine. He poked himself in different places with different fingers and was pleased with the result. He was sore in places but not really in pain. He slit open his eyes and saw Carlos sitting on the railing at the foot of his bed.
You fuck, Carlos observed pleasantly. I leave you for five tiny little minutes and you start a fucking war. What am I gonna do with you? Carlos was smiling but you had to be there to feel it.
“Come on, Carlos, I didn’t start it,” Frank was smiling.
I know, but you sure as hell finished it.
“Yeah. Well I didn’t have much choice, now did I?”
Their friendly banter ended as two personages entered the room. One dressed in a morning suit with a red rose boutonnière came quickly bedside and rested the back of his hand lightly on Frank’s forehead. It was just as Frank’s mother had done years ago when she thought he might be ill. The other was a little older and was dressed in robes of red and gold. He had no idea who his visitors were, but they were clearly somebodies.
“No temperature, and that’s a good thing.” The young man in the morning suit observed. “Do you know why?” He inquired of Frank. “No infection, so far,” he went ahead and answered his own question smiling broadly at Frank.
“And look here,” he was now removing bandages as he continued to poke and prod. “These wounds are healing nicely. You’ve good flesh and an excellent constitution my young friend. We should have you out of here and in physical therapy in less than a week if you continue to heal like this. But make no mistake, you were hit by three different bullet fragments and the wounds were serious. I guess they make you fusiliers tough don’t they?”
“Yessir they do.” He wondered what he should say next. But that problem was solved for him.
“And you are certainly one of the finest Fusiliers that ever wore his King’s coat.” The King had entered followed by a naval equerry and a Grenadier orderly. He was easily carrying a large owl and he set the owl on the beds foot rail next to Carlos. The King was wearing the undress gray uniform of the General Staff and he wore the Star of a Knight Grand Cross of the Golden Dragon and no other medals or insignia.
To the degree that it was possible to come to the position of attention while lying in a hospital bed with bandages, an IV, and a catheter attached, Corporal Young did so.
“Please relax. Relax and get well. Relax and try to enjoy. I have never had so fine a Fusilier as you and I want you to get well soon.
“I want you to know how proud we all are of you. No one knows how many lives your selfless dedication to duty. Your heroism. Saved. But it could have been well into the dozens had that maniac actually entered the school. There have been other such incidents on Earth, as you know, and too many have died needlessly. Our world thanks you. Their world would thank you if it knew you.
“How are you feeling?”
“Prime, Majesty, just prime.”
“Prime? You are riddled with bullets, swathed in bandages, you have tubes dangling from important parts. How can you possibly be ‘Prime’?” The King smiled and stroked his Corporal’s forehead.
“You asked me how I feel, Your Majesty. And that’s how I feel. Prime. My King, the Colonel in Chief of my family’s Regiment, has come to ask after me in hospital. I feel prime, Your Majesty. What else?”
“Do you know Sir Lawrence, here? He’s my doctor, the Physician Royal. And this is Humphrey, he’s my personal wizard and Chancellor of the Colleges Royal. And this is Leftenant Davids of the Navy, and Cameron is my familiar. This young Grenadier is Horace, but he’s been very quiet all morning. We are all happy that you ‘feel’ prime, but we also want you back in one piece.
“How is he doing Lawrence?”
“I think he will soon be completely ‘prime’ Your Majesty. He has no hint of infection and is healing cleanly. The bullet wounds were all ragged. More like shrapnel than the usual bullet wound. So they were ugly. There were no broken bones. No serious organ damage. We will start him in physical therapy soon and should have him back on the parade ground in a month or so.” Sir Lawrence smiled.
“That’s great. I am very pleased to hear that. We need you and that’s a certainty. Have you given any thought to what you might like to do when you return to duty?” The King smiled while he reached for a small leather box that Lieutenant Davids was holding. The King opened the box and removed the medal which he pinned on Corporal Young’s pillow. “Here is your Coeur du Lion in recognition of the wounds you have received in our service.” He regarded Frank calmly waiting for an answer.
“I’m a Fusilier, Your Majesty. My Tad’s a Fusilier; his Tad was a Fusilier and so was his Tad before that.”
The King smiled, bent over and kissed Corporal Frank Young, DCM, on his forehead. “Well think about it. I’m sure I’ll need some Fusiliers in space. Get well. Lawrence, Humphrey,” he smiled shaking their hands. “Well, I must away. Gents.” He smiled another nod at Frank and was gone.
The King, Cameron, Lieutenant Davids, and Horace the orderly from the Guards Grenadiers exited the hospital lobby onto the capital promenade where they met a donkey and her groom. Good morning, Your Majesty. I am Miss Judith of Jerusalem, familiar to the good. I have met the Prince Royal and am sworn to his service. She bent her knee and bowed to the King.
1 Evanix Rex air rifle.
2 Students of war in the air will immediately note that this Fokker D7 is wearing Polish colors. In the immediate aftermath of World War I there was a hard fought war between the newly formed Republic of Poland and the bolsheviks. The Poles put together an air force that mostly flew German and Austrian equipment, though there were some Italian fighters and one Sopwith Camel. Interestingly, a group of Americans who were too late to fly in World War I volunteered and flew for the Polish nation. See Karolevitz and Fenn, Flight of Eagles: the story of the American Kościuszko Squadron in the Polish-Russian War 1919-1920, 1974.
3 The Seward brothers and their sister were rescued in chapter 1 of ‘Up Ship’; Allen Tolliver was rescued in chapter 7 of ‘Up Ship’; Monty and Rodger Conroy and their dog Turbo were rescued in chapter 9 of ‘Up Ship’.
4 Lieutenant William DeLucca is the second eldest of the four adopted sons of Colonel DeLucca, KT, KGD, he was planning on the Space Corps but found that he loved service in zeppelins.
5 Free photos from Ciker.com