Short Story: Arrival

Harp’s fingers gripped the rail on the observation deck. Below them, dock hands were moving purposefully as the airship made its final approach to the elevated berth, and the crew were preparing to throw mooring ropes down.

Heliograph signals had already been exchanged while they were some way out, confirming their identity, last mooring and intentions. Harp had fed answers to Robert the signalman as fast as he’d translated the flashes of light. They were The Nightingale, registered out of London, stopping overnight to refuel and possibly take on a private passenger. Their next port of call was expected to be Tintagel.

(The truth of that last statement was probably stretching things a little, but not so much that anyone checking logs later would notice or much care. They would end up at Tintagel sooner or later.)

The rapid responses and general good condition of The Nightingale had made a suitable impression on the berthmaster, and they had been directed to this favourably orientated part of the spire.

The air at this height was biting, even through the thick fleece-lined coats that Abernathy had issued to everyone venturing outside the main cabins. Harp was grateful that no one else from the team had come to watch their arrival; the last thing anyone needed was a member of the group coming down with a chill just as organic material began to hit rotating objects.

Harp sent a deck hand to inform Abernathy of the Nightingale’s imminent docking and the location of the nearest coal supply. Then as the airship began to descend they went back inside into the warm. The warmth in the stateroom was welcome, and Harp gratefully permitted Barnes to take their coat and add it to the others hanging nearby on pegs. Harp waited for the butler before continuing down towards the room that Lord Farnsworth kept set aside for briefings.

Barnes had never made any secret of his discomfort around Harp, but the two of them had come to a working arrangement when it came to Lord Farnsworth’s enterprise. His prosthetics made occasional small hissing noises as the pair made their way down the shallow staircase. Harp’s own progress along the corridor was notably silent. They could hear a quiet rumble of voices through the partially ajar door, but no sounds of breaking crockery or glass so far; all of which boded well, Harp thought.

Four sets of eyes turned to face them as they entered. Harp took the seat Barnes pulled out for them and murmured a word of thank you. Barnes took up station by the door and Harp began to speak.

“Well then, it’s getting to about that time where we need to get serious, but we do at least have one more evening before our benefactor arrives. Talefirth is large enough to have several hostelries and we will be able to restock most of our requirements, so if anyone needs anything or just fancies a bit of shopping and a promenade, then this is your opportunity.”

Harp smiled, and then adopted a more serious tone. “That said, the crews of three other airships appear to be docked at present, so do please be aware of waggling ears and of course try not to get caught up in any unpleasantness.” Harp made no bones about looking straight at the usual suspects for her next sentence: “Perhaps if we could agree to a moratorium on physical debate during our stop-over gentlemen?”

To their credit, both Orson and Herr Machen nodded without hesitation.

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