26 July NByr5
It’s been a long month. Since I managed to get myself out of Bump, I have spent a bit of time trying to get the Naval Squadron in fighting trim. I mean it wasn’t like I was doing much else. The spirit was willing, but the flesh was still healing. Spending more time down at the docks ended up paying more dividends than I could have expected-it was a chance to get back to work, a chance to get the canal gunboat project back on track, and to be seen out in public doing what I do. Someone had started saying I was broken and bedridden. True, I was still not all the way back to 100%, but far from being beaten or done.
Apparently something else has been going on while I was indisposed with our friends to the north…Mr Underby has been acting as Mr Tenk’s clerk and ‘man Friday’ for a few weeks now, but his demeanor and his involvement in city business has gotten a bit too deep for my liking. This was brought home today, do a fine point. I had been out with a training crew on one of the ‘Ducks’, exercising the guns and basically getting the little ship ready to take up duty on the canals. We put into the City Pier in Clockhaven, and after coaching the coxswain on his approach, I did what I normally do when we put in for resupply in Clockhaven-stop by Chief Coster’s office, grab a cup of coffee and leave my maintenance instructions. The Chief had an exceptionally foul look on his face when I walked into the office. I did manage to get my coffee poured before he lit into me like a green ensign.
Needless to say, after he calmed down and ran out of expletives I found out that the collier had not come by in quite some time, and the coal bunkers were very low. Very low. I knew that all I ever had to do was drop off the forms by Tenk’s office and the colliers came. The story was that it was some deal with his cousins in the mountains, others said it was some contract he had written up that was some exclusive deal with his family. Whatever the case, I didn’t care. My fleet runs on coal, so coal I must have.
The elevator to Tenk’s office was locked. As I cut around to the upper landing, I found Underby parked in one of the offices, busily working on a stack of papers.
“Underby.” He looked up and smiled that painful smile of his.
“Commodore.” I nodded slightly.
“Looking for Tenk, is he around? The coal bunkers are getting low.”
He looked contemplative for a moment, and tapped the pen to his lips.
“I wasn’t aware he took care of that. Oh of course.” He smiled again, and held out his hand. It was a good thing I still had my dark glasses on.
“normally I see Moss more, so I get him to sign them. I left the coal requisitions on his desk, and he hasn’t signed them yet.” I watched Underby shift in his seat a little. Nervous bastard. He cut me another look, this time he was beginning to get a little annoyed at my insistance. Good for him.
“He is still indisposed, but I can get him to sign them for you. That’s what he hired me for….Perhaps the memo didnt reach Militia HQ.” He smiled again. I clenched my fist hard enough that my knunckles cracked, and somehow that little auditory reminder of the night last Spetember made him jump just a little. He caught himself, but I saw that little annoyance that I still had a little bit of space in that big shiny head of his.
“I also have a report for him that is confidential, eyes only. You understand, rather urgent, matters of National security.” This time I smiled that old sphynxlike smile, and he frowned that old pasty frown he used to wear at the Gangplank.
“The other reports will have to wait then. Of course, I understand the importance. I will mention it to him. Good day Commodore.”
I turned and walked out of City Hall. Of course, I’d be back later.