The Assembler

Chapter 25 - Planning Session

Jean G Hontz

@copyright 2009 all rights reserved

 

The Airship Princess Beatrice made it to London in record time. It caught an especially fortuitous tailwind, or so the passengers were told. Chief Inspector Rory had some other ideas himself.

No matter how it had happened, he was quite pleased when his feet hit terra ferma. And he wasn’t in the least surprised when he saw there was a reception committee to meet him and those he had in protective custody. All of them were quickly sorted and placed into two of the latest model limousines and sped through central London as if the traffic were nothing whatever. How they’d managed that Rory was at a bit of a loss, but he chalked it up as in the same general genre of mystery as the quick passage across the Atlantic and was grateful enough for it that he didn't ask any questions. Not aloud anyway.

What did cause him surprise was when he realized the limos were not on their way to the Admiralty or even Whitehall. Instead they were entering the grounds of Buckingham Palace. Through a small, insignificant gate, one marked as a servant’s entrance. From there the limos sped them on to what Rory would later learn was the concealed entry to the private residences.

If one didn't know the wing they’d come to a stop at was part of Buckingham Palace one might think the place merely a servants hall when one first entered from the gardens. It was not particularly impressive. Rather dismal and middle ages if truth be told. Dark wood, dark floor, few in the way of windows. Decorations were scarce as well. It looked entirely utilitarian and probably was.

They were hurried along not by a liveried footman but instead by what seemed to be a clerk of some sort, from the ink stains on his fingers. He offered little in the way of verbal enlightenment. He merely indicated that they were to follow him and so they did. They met no one during their journey through some confusing narrow passageways although a few times they could hear footsteps a fair distance off and once they heard laughter through one of the closed doors that lined the hallway.

Finally the clerk stopped at one of those closed doors. That particular one bore no special plaque or symbol to mark it as different. The clerk opened it and then showed them into a pleasant if not particularly impressive sitting room.

“Please make yourselves comfortable. The Prince's attache, Lord Laurence Mallister will be with you shortly. He begs your indulgence in awaiting him.” He waved toward a sideboard which offered a fairly impressive high tea service. Then he bowed his way out of the room.

Emmie gave the place one furious looking over then turned on Rory. “And just where is Ned, I want to know?”

Rory returned her glare mildly. “I’ve had no briefing on the current state of affairs as you must realize yourself since I've been with you since we debarked from the airship. I suggest patience, Lady Emiline.”

“Don’t you Lady Emiline me, Kevyn Rory,” she replied. Well, more hissed.

Cyril, of far more placid a character, walked over to help himself to a fairy cake and a cup of tea. Margot joined him there, leaving her father to his own devices. Septimus took a seat near the fireplace. Emmie was pacing.

Rory, the wallflower Sergeant Lumm and the generally oblivious Dr Finigal arranged themselves about the room in a way best fit for each one’s personality and temperament. Lumm was raiding the sandwiches tray, eating as if he hadn't for several days, Finigal sat down at a table to write yet more notes to himself that he never afterward seemed to refer back to, and Rory slouched against the wall observing Emmie’s pacing with an amused eye.

That she'd flirted with him on the voyage over was interesting, intriguing even. That her heart was entirely Ned Black’s to dispose of as he would was incontrovertible. That she’d pretend interest in him again should Ned Black suddenly appear, he didn't doubt for a moment. That he'd play along? That too was quite certain. It amused him and if it woke up Ned Black to what he might lose, then it would be useful as well.

Rory’s thoughts were interrupted as the door to the hallway swung open and a thin, grim looking fellow let himself in. “Hullo! I’m Laurence Mallister,” he announced rubbing his hands together and cobbling together a smile. “I hope you’re all relatively comfortable?”

Emmie glared at him, then demanded, “Where is Ned Black.”

“Ah. This can only be Lady Emiline Hollis-Reynolds. You’re just as I’d pictured you. I confess I was told you would likely be impatient to get on with things.”

“Get on with what things?” Emmie asked, suspicion flaring in her eyes, even as distrust narrowed them.

“Why, getting Mr Black and his infernal machine back, of course. Whatever else would I mean?” Lord Mallister asked, squinting at her.

“We’ve a good idea just where your Benedict Black is, and where his machine is as well. The question becomes how best to get them back, the both of them unharmed,” Mallister explained.

“I’ll sacrifice the damn machine to get Ned back,” Emmie averred.

“As will we, I assure you Lady Emiline. After all he created it. I’ve no doubt he could re-create it, and probably improve on it considerably if given the time, space and parts he'd need.”

“I see. So the government is no longer out for his head?” Emmie asked, point blank.

Mallister opened his mouth to answer but another voice beat him to it. “He’s in no danger, except perhaps of having to have an audience with Mother,” the voice commented as its owner sauntered into the room.

Everyone as on their feet in a thrice and bowing. “Oh, do stop,” the august personage protested. “Here we’re just colleagues, aren't we Chief Inspector Rory?”

Rory, who had honestly not guessed the Prince knew him from, say, Cyril replied, “As you like ... Uhm... sir.”

The Prince grinned. “Yes, you’ll do. I’ll have to see you’re seconded directly to Lord Mallister. No need to have to deal with all those annoying layers of bureaucracy.”

“That is of no interest to me,” Emmie replied hotly.

“It should be, Lady Emiline. After all, you do intend to marry Ned Black don’t you? If so, you’ll want him fully reinstated and protected, I dare say. We’ll keep well off from you, I assure you. I have just the place in mind where we can install yourself and Mr Black. The perfect place, really. My security service assures me the place will be all but impenitible. I do hope you won't mind living in the country.”

“I... What are you talking about?” Emmie demanded of the Crown Prince and future King of England.

“I’ll even give the boy away,” he replied with a wide grin on his face. “I love weddings. Now, might we concentrate on getting him back? Oh, and perhaps we can manage to help Richard Ainsworth at the same time.”

 

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