Undistress (3)

IMS Sukórya’s Joy; and
IS Esseldár’s Champion, Cerulean Ocean, 1340 Gradakhmath 4

The rendezvous went smoothly. We cleared the watchers back from the bow – the foc’s’le was already clear, but there was no sense in risking the passengers any more than absolutely necessary – while the black hump in the water that was Champion circled around and came alongside to starboard, only a hundred yards off, matching our slow south-east progress with easy competence.

A puff of smoke from their “bridge”, I suppose we’d call it, marked the discharge of a line-shooting gun, and seconds later a rope – plain rope, I saw myself later, nothing as strange as we were expecting – came falling across our bow. Captain Ollávé gave me the deck, and went down to supervise the operation personally; keeping station with Champion was a routine operation, and I believe he wanted to be first to welcome our guest from the mystery ship aboard. The breeches buoy would allow only one man at a time to cross, so the risk was minimal – at least, discounting what the submarine could do – but I noticed the distinct outline of a clockbow in his pocket as he left the bridge.

He’d had me call down to the master-at-arms and have her break out a couple of pistols, too. Of such limited use as they were, being intended for keeping order on a liner.

But that was not my problem to deal with; mine was keeping Joy moving on a parallel course while they walked the line down to the flying bridge and made it secure there – Champion rode low enough in the water that a high belay was needed at our end, so the crosser wasn’t dipped in the ocean – and keeping a weather eye out for anything unexpected Champion might do, so I paid no heed to the thumps and bangs drifting down from above, or the steady chug of a steam winch that followed them.

Until I turned at the sound of voices behind me, and found myself staring at the man standing next to Captain Ollávé, wearing the white dress uniform of the Line with commodore’s pips at his throat.

“Well,” I heard him say, “as I said, Captain, I believe this should establish my bona fides.”

– Kairin Teresu, first officer