The Assembler

Chapter 10 - By the Sea, By the Beautiful Sea

Jean G Hontz

@copyright 2009 all rights reserved

Cyril thought things were immensely unfair. Ned got to sit next to the pretty girl, whilst he was stuck in the rumble seat. Ned got to give orders whilst everyone ignored him. But the last two times he’d complained both Margot and Ned had glared at him, and he seriously didn’t want Margot to glare at him. Ned was scary true, but..

It hadn’t taken Cyril long to realize Margot shared quite a few traits with Emmie. What was it about him that he always found himself drawn to women who never acted like, well, ladies? This new-fangled equality thing surely couldn’t last! Yes, true, it was 1890 but even so. There was something to be said for traditional roles, wasn’t there? On the other hand, his eyes strayed once again to Margot’s alluring little butt. If she wore skirts with bustles instead of thin linen trousers he’d be deprived of a very nice view.

“Uhm, what?” So rude to wake him up from his reverie, or day dream or whatever it was. It was boring just sitting here amongst the damp rocks, sitting on damp sand, waiting for the darkness to deepen. And his shoulders were sore from toting what seemed like all the heaviest boxes. It had been a long walk, a VERY long walk, from where they’d abandoned the roadster to the beach along this deserted little bay. Why did he have to be the one to carry the boxes, anyway? Why hadn’t they just driven the roadster here so they could have been comfortable, without sore feet and shoulders?

It all seemed very silly to him this Cloak and Dagger nonsense. Slinking around as if they were criminals or something. Those men were the ones shooting at him! And surely by now the wretches would have given up looking for them. They were probably eating a pleasant dinner and sipping on an excellent white wine. He sighed. It was all so ... So Nedish.

And it did gall him to realize that what he’d suspected all along seemed to be so very true. Ned should have been the pater’s son rather than he. He hated this stuff. The Earl, steeped in the musky corridors of Whitehall revelled in it every bit as much as Ned seemed to. Appallingly, Ned seemed enervated by the danger and the mystery of it all. It was bloody well unnerving how much he seemed to enjoy it.

“I said,” Ned repeated, poking Cyril, his voice as low as he could get it, “we’ll leave everything but that one box here until we are quite certain nothing’s been touched in the laboratory. I can’t risk them getting any of these notes.”

Notes? Cyril swore there was lead in the boxes, lead his friend the alchemist intended to turn into gold.

Ned gathered up the boxes and stuffed them into the hold of a broken up sailing ship that seemed to have sat here on the beach for centuries.

Ned and Margot had their heads together again. Cyril felt absolutely like a third wheel. So he wouldn’t stare, Cyril looked around at what he could see of the beach in the darkness. Who could possibly find this stuff even if it were left out in the open?

Where were they anyway? Ned had talked like they were going back to his laboratory but here they were on the strand, with nothing whatever to see but rocky beach and broken boats. Not even a shed in sight never mind a building big enough for a full-sized laboratory. And he acted like they were close to it. The only thing they were close to were smelly old dead fish and crabs and the occasional broken sea shell.

He looked up when the beam from the lighthouse swept over them again. It was aimed far too high to bother them, but even so, the brilliance of that light quite ruined Cyril’s night-vision.

Then Ned was grabbing at his arm and urging him onward. When he got to his feet he found that one of those feet had quite gone to sleep. Why was it that sort of thing never happened to Ned, that’s what he wanted to know.

All he wanted come here to do was to bundle Ned onto the first available airship back to England so they could figure out how to get Emmie free. Instead here they were dodging bullets and madmen and being chased all over Bermuda island or whatever the devil it was called. He was frightened for her!

Margot and Ned took off ahead of him, moving with a smooth grace from stone to stone, seeking whatever cover they could find. He limped and tripped along behind them toting the bloody huge and heavy box! Ned was stronger than he. Ned should be carrying it.

He stumbled as his foot got tangled up in some green ropey thing on the sand. Then in a heartbeat Margot was next to him whispering into his ear, and grabbing his elbow to help him regain his balance. “Wait, stand still. I’ll get it off you.”

Cyril shifted the box and stood up a bit straighter. It wasn’t all that heavy after all, he decided.

“What is that stuff?” Cyril asked.

“Seaweed silly. I hope there weren’t any sea nettles mixed in with it. Otherwise we’ll be slathering you up with cream to stop the burning and itching.”

Cyril, horrified, stared at the foot he could barely see in the gloom. He was going to loose it, he knew. It would turn all black and fall off. He could feel it shrivelling up already!

Cyril looked up to realize Ned was frantically motioning to them and confusing the devil out of Cyril. It was Margot who grabbed at Cyril and pulled him down onto the sand again, more or less face first. Wet sand in his mouth. How very dignified. God but he hated the out of doors.

He had no idea where they were going, but at the moment he didn’t really much care. Margot was lying sort of on top of him - well, on his back - and he was prepared to stay in that position forever if he had to, even with a mouthful of sand. He coudn’t even feel the nettles, whatever they might be, eating his foot off.

He spat out sand and opened his mouth, but Margot put her hand over it before he could voice his complaints. And then, despite his heart beating a wild tattoo of love, and the crashing of waves on the rocks, he could hear the purr of an engine. He shifted and turned his head enought to be able to look over at the coast road. Margot trusted him enough to drop her hand from his mouth. He could see no lights along the roadway. Even so he could hear the motor. The daimler’s motor. He knew enough about cars to know that sound. The rotters were trying to sneak up on them!

After what felt like forever, the sound of the engine lessened and then was gone entirely.

Ned motioned again and Margot helped Cyril get back to his feet. “Nearly there,” she said encouragingly.

She was lying to him he knew. There was nothing near other than a bunch of rocks that sat round the base of the hill on which the lighthouse sat.

Ned, ahead of them disappeared into the rocks. And then he and Margot were at the rocks as well. She led him with easy grace and a sure hand. She ducked into a small cave of some sort and since she had his hand he had to follow her.

The sound of the sea and the wind which had been such a presence since they’d reached the beach died away. Instead there was a silence with only a slight moaning of some sort and an occasional drip. Sounds were hollow in the small cave.

A brilliant wash of light, made Cyril squint. When he could finally see again through dancing dots engendered by upset rods and cones, he saw that Ned held a steam powered torch. He was turning the screw down thankfully and then and the light wasn’t quite so blinding.

“Cyril, you follow me, Margot, take the rear.”

Margot, having unearthed her own lantern and lighting it, nodded. “I told you we were almost there,” she shared, grinning maniacally at Cyril.

Cyril felt himself grinning right back.

“Well, we’re not sure it’s safe yet. We douse the lights when we get to the door. I want to go in in darkness,” Ned explained.

“Where are we?” Cyril asked. “Exactly.”

“Under Gibbs Hill. There are caves all throughout the island. Some were used as smugglers caves, some not used at all.”

“Yes, Ned, but where is your workshop, er laboratory? Is it up on the Hill?” Cyril asked. He wasn’t sure he had enough strength left to climb a lot of stairs, or God forbid some sort of rope thing.

“No, Cyril. My lab is under the hill. Now hush. As little noise as possible.”

Ned started off, and Margot gave him a shove from behind. Cyril wasn’t sure if he felt more like a hobbit or more like a dwarf. Heigh Ho.


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