Here is the third part of my serial tale from our role play group "The Airship's Messdeck".
You can start from the beginning here.
Previously, Max and his crew have been caught in a violent storm out in the North Sea, having been sent out to continue their testing of the "Chirper" after the engine of their old airship, the Doris, had failed. They are aboard an old fishing trawler called the Argo. The trawler is a sturdy ship but the storm is growing worse and Lt Baleva, the navigator, is out on the trawler's lone mast trying to fix the aetherwave antenna.
Enjoy Part III.
Keep your sightglass full. your firebox trimmed and your water iced.
*Max watches as Iveta reaches the base of the mast after securing the wire. The seas are now continually breaking across the deck in a welter of icy green water and white foam.*
Max shakes his head. "She'll never get across all that! Mr Angus can you steer us slightly off the wind and bring the seas more on the bow to give her a better chance?"
"Aye I'll try, an maybe we can but if'n we fall off the other way we'll broach and then more 'n likely that hatchway will cave in and that will be that!"
"See what you can do if you please."
*Max heads down the ladder to the galley space just as Simpson comes up from below.*
"Simpson, get a line ready and head out on deck. The Navigator is up on the bow and you'll need to help her get back across."
"Aye aye Sir! What is she doing out there in this?"
"She went aloft to repair the comms. Now go! Mr Angus is going to try to steer to reduce the waves but you won't have much time."
"Aye aye Sir!"
*Simpson grabs a line from a locker and, tying himself into the end, carefully opens the hatch and steps out onto the icy deck. Making sure the hatch is securely dogged shut he quickly heads forward. Struggling to the front of the cabin he ties the free end of the line to the rail and looks across the open, wave lashed deck to where Iveta can just be seen at the base of the mast. He waves until she sees him.*
*A solid mass of grey-green icy water promptly washes him off his feet.*
Saviours come in various shapes and sizes. Today’s came in the form of a “Simpson”. The sight of him had never caused, in Iveta, any emotion whatsoever - but on this occasion he may as well have been a ruggedly handsome, sword-wielding, battle-ready warrior for the rush of relief she felt at seeing him wave. And then be promptly knocked down by one. Top over tea-kettle. While the knightly vision may have been broken, there was no denying his courage, and Iveta knew she could not get back alone.
She watched him move as quickly as he could, the water and wind fighting him every step, while she worked to revive her numbed fingers and feet. She felt the ship moving a bit differently, altering the fury of the wind slightly, and knew that the others were also working hard to bring her in.
Iveta had grown up in the north, was easily familiar with winter and deep, bitter cold, but the ocean bites with a different kind of chill and she was humbled by it. It was only now, seeing Simpson struggle on her behalf, that she fully appreciated the danger in which she'd placed both herself and now, her crew mate.
When Simpson did finally reach the mast, ready to bring her back, "Thank you," was all Iveta could muster through chattering teeth.
He smiled, some of the formality broken for the moment. Shouting to be heard over the roaring wind and sea he says, “Captain asked me to bring you an umbrella Ma'am.”.
The sheer unexpectedness of his words, combined with the adrenaline she’d already spent, and the grim reality that they might not make it back across the deck at all, broke Iveta into a strange, incongruous laugh. It was what she needed.
He held her fast as they anticipated the waves, alternately moving when it was clear and holding on when washed over.
Move. Wait. Hold on. Water. Air! Breathe. Move. Wait.
After crossing a deck seeming twice as long as it really was, they reached the hatch. The wind seemed to give one last angry scream, and Iveta would long remember the sound of the hatch closing in triumph. She lived. It took her a moment to apprehend that. Bone-chilled and bedraggled, she turned to thank Simpson once more, but being a good crewman, he was already off to attend to other duties. She had duties as well; she was Navigator, after all.
First, dry clothes. Then back to where she’d left BB, and to the work it would take to make it back. Though had anyone asked, she’d have been the first to admit that what she really wanted right then was a good, stiff drink.
Vodka, of course.
*Max comes down the ladder from the Argo's bridge and sees Iveta sitting at the table starting to work again. Simpson is working at the trawler's galley stove trying to get some water boiled for tea. Miss B.B. is sitting at the table eyes tight shut again, still clutching her bucket.*
"Are you okay Lieutenant Baleva, nothing broken or frozen?"
"No Sir. I am fine Sir."
"Glad to hear it!" Max takes his flask from the pocket in his jacket and hands it to Iveta. "Take a tot, that'll help yer blood to get moving."
"Thank you Sir."
*Iveta takes a swig from Max's flask and hands it back and he carefully returns it to his pocket*
"And Lieutenant... if I EVER catch you doing anything as foolish as that again you will be spending your off watches polishing brass in the engine room!"
"I'll not loose one of her Majesty's finest navigators because that navigator decided to go for a stroll on the deck in a bloody gale! Is that clearly understood Lieutenant?"
Iveta stiffens in her chair "Yes Sir!"
"Good! Now as soon as this gale allows I need to know our position so we can tell Mr Angus the course to get us back to Scapa."
"Carry on Lieutenant."
*Max goes over to Miss B.B. and gently puts his hand on her shoulder.*
"You still with us Lieutenant?"
*Miss B.B. nods but doesn't open her eyes or say anything.*
"When we have our position please send a message to Scapa informing them that we are storm bound at this position and will return when conditions permit. OK?"
*Miss B.B. simply nods and Max pats her shoulder.*
"Carry on Lieutenant, we'll be out of this soon enough."
Max heads to the ladder leading down into the stoke hold and as he starts to carefully climb down he says, "Simpson, when you can, get a hot drink to Mr Angus, I'm going to check on his boys below, we will need to spell them off. I tried to take a trick at the wheel but Mr Angus wouldn't let me! He's a crusty old bugger that one, won't let any bloody navy types get their mitts on his ship."
"Heh, Aye aye Sir."
*Max descends the ladder into the stoke hold.*
Simpson, seeing Iveta sitting in her chair flexing her fingers and obviously a bit dismayed by Max's rebuke, says, "It's alright Ma'am. He was just scared for you is all."
"He has a funny way of showing it."
"Aye he does at that, but more an likely he'll sing yer praises in his report. He cares for his crew more than most and that's a fact Ma'am."
*And still the storm, howling and screeching, rages around them, the twisting and crashing of the hull amongst the waves a counterpoint to the rumbling roar of the breaking seas.*
Part IV is here.
(1) This section is written by the accomplished, elegant, and talented Josanna Justine, who is Iveta in our role play group