Yeoman Fischer was drained from a long day of preparing the Captain’s quarters. The crates of Commodore Maxby’s personal effects had been delivered the previous evening with instructions in the form of ship’s Specifications as to their precise placement. It was 0245. The Yeomen sat on the floor in the corridor reviewing the checklist for the sixth, final time when the puff of steam from the pneumatic car blew the papers off her lap and all over the gangway. Images of Blaiser blasts and visceral jabs to the midsection danced in Fischer’s brain as she dreaded the arrival of yet another crate.
The lift door opened. From her vantage place on the floor she slowly peered around the corner to see who was bringing her more work. A pair of gold knees strode out and into the hall. As she looked up, she saw what looked to be an old fashioned automata carrying two large streamer trunks. As she sat there somewhat dumbfounded, the mechanical man walked towards the Captain’s personal quarters. Before she could utter a word, a clockwork dog exited the car and followed closely behind its steam-puffing master. Checking to see if she had perhaps fallen into a dream, she pinched herself and continued to observe the mechanical pair amble down the corridor.
She rose and was about to address the two mechanisms when a low and steady voice emanated from behind her. “I take it everything is in order?”
The voice startled Fischer. She twisted around quickly, planting her elbow into Commodore Maxby’s solar plexus. Maxby’s breath leaped out of his chest and his eyes bulged in response. The two stared at each other in mortified shock.
The Yeoman was the first to recover. She tried to snap a salute, but Maxby was able to block her arm before it would have contacted his chin on the way to her temple. Trying desperately to persuade his body to inhale, Maxby put some distance between the young Ensign and himself. Fischer recognized the Commodore’s uniform. Her heart stopped. She never imagined that her first day assigned to the Dauntless would result in her demotion to hull scrapper.
Air was finally being admitted back into the Commodore’s lungs, allowing him to say hoarsely, “Striking your commanding officer is punishable by death.”
Anticipating that her eyes would soon be rolling back in her skull, Maxby continued, “I will forego the punishment if you promise never to tell anyone that you immobilized your Captain with a single strike.”
Her mind was a blur so she attempted to complete her salute and stated, “Yeomen Fischer reporting, sir.”
Maxby allowed her to hold the salute until the shocked look melted off her face. Coincidentally, it was the same amount of time for Maxby to regain his composure and posture. He returned the salute and repeated, “I take it everything is in order?”
“Yes, sir,” she replied, dropping her salute.
Maxby nodded and proceeded to make an inspection of his new home.
The dining room was hung with all manner of military regalia and war surplus dating from Ramses II at Kadesh to the Selenite counter-invasion of Luna. The parlor included mechanical curiosities of all shapes and sizes with the centerpiece being a Wing and Son’s piano/pipe organ/calliope that had more keyboards than the encryption engine in the Signal Room. The Captain’s office resembled a medieval armory displaying all manner of weapons from a Roman gladius to a Romlian Interruptor rifle. The library was packed with literature dating as far back as the Italian Renaissance and included a very complete collection of Frank Reade novels. The smoking room had been successfully converted into a small chapel populated with pluralities of religious icons and relics. The Yeomen’s office was copiously decorated in seals, stamps and currency spanning recorded human history. Even the main corridor was adorned in scale models of sailing ships, ætherships, stations and vehicles of war. The only room that did not resemble the London exposition was the Commodore’s bed chamber. From the look of things, this room could have existed in any country manor in England. Victorian patterned wallpaper, oak wainscoting, bureau, chest of drawers, and four poster bed resided within. The only wall hangings were a portrait of the Commodore’s late wife and the 1890 print of Queen Victoria. The Commodore was now at home. All was indeed in order.
The Commodore introduced Yeomen Fischer to Fairlane. “Fairlane here is an antique automata over 100 years old. The best of British craftsmanship. Fairlane will be acting as my personal cook, butler, valet, secretary, and etcetara so I will not require a personal Yeomen. But since my needs are few, Fairlane will spend most of his time serving as bartender in Horatio’s Hall.”
“Glad to have you aboard, Fairlane,” the Yeomen responded, but she thought about what her new duties might be as the automata would assume most of her duties.
Sensing her trepidation, the Commodore said, “You will be assigned to assisting Representative Durano and the other command staff. Durano will need a great deal of assistance to fit in here, and it will take a hard working and dedicated yeomen to help him to do just that. I can tell by your handiwork here that you are just the crewman for the job.”
Fischer did not fail to recognize the compliment and thanked the Commodore for his faith in her.
“Morning comes early so go and get some sleep. That’s an order, Yeomen.”
“Aye, aye, Captain.” She returned with an enthusiastic smile and left for her cabin.
Fairlane arranged all the Commodore’s uniforms and accessories in the fashion the Commodore had always had them and then moved on into the galley to set up the Captain’s larder. Anubis, the Commodore’s clockwork companion, had retired to his customary place at the foot of his master’s bed and shut himself off. Maxby sat in his bed chamber all alone. He wondered if the crew could forgive him for what he was about to do to them and their careers. Their good names were in jeopardy if his plan failed. He looked in the mirror and asked himself if he were not just an old fool.
Only time would tell.