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Underwood’s Exile

Professor Valeska walked into the new building in the Port and found Philip Underwood studying blueprints, the elderly gentleman tossed the large envelope so that slapped down on the wooden surface and slid just under the younger man’s face. Underwood looked up scowling.

“Rude!”

Valeska, obviously agitated, struggled through a range of expressions before saying “And here’s more for rude! You are leaving in two hours, grabbing a launch in the bay, and shipping out. I have booked passage for you on seaborne vessels and airships to take you, forthwith, to Berlin. There you will assume my duties!”

“What?”

“Do I stutter?” the Professor thundered. “Not an hour ago I received an aethergram from Milledgeville. They are outraged, outraged, by your carelessness and behavior!”

“Outraged you say? “

“Silence!” Glaubrius exclaimed. “You are responsible for the loss of five important facilities at significant cost to the Agency. You defaulted on the lease for the one in the Gut and the one in the Academy and all that equipment was sold to cover arrears. You were evicted from the one in Rosehaven and were banned from that Realm. Banned!!” Underwood visibly wilted. “I am not going to address the fiasco that cost us the one we are replacing here for fear it will lead to me  having a stroke!” Underwood grimaced.

“But there are reasons!” the mathematician protested.

“No one wants to hear your reasons!” The old man stopped and turned away and regained his composure before turning back around. “I should cashier you now. But at the moment I cannot. The Society wants to give you one more change. Why? I have no idea.” Underwood started leafing through the contents of the envelope: tickets, writs of passage, maps. There were also sheets of formulas and more blueprints.

Valeska let out a long breath and his face softened. “So how is your German?”

“Rusty.”

“Well you will pick it back up rapidly. You are taking over most of my duties, which consist mainly of paperwork. Something you should not be able to wreck. And the boredom will be a fitting punishment. Do not cross Miss Jo, however, she will kick you up one side of Kurfürstendamm Strasse and down the other. And stay away from the KPD this time. They are a fringe group and very unpopular; you are going to Berlin to rehabilitate yourself and refocus for the job at hand and not find even more ways to get in trouble, do you understand?”

“Yes Professor, I do.” Underwood muttered.

Philip’s duffle was still sitting by the door, he had just arrived, and it was still packed. He picked up his necessaries from the table, pushed them all into the envelope and stuffed that down into his bag. He cut his eyes over to Valeska and nodded curtly. Valeska plopped down in the chair and waved wearily. As Underwood left he glanced back and glimpsed the old man running his eyes over the empty interior of the new building, gears and cogs turning in his head as he planned yet another reconstruction. There was certainly a lot of work to be done.

Underwood walked out into the snowy street making for the dock where his boat was waiting. The snow crunched under his boots until he made his way onto the pier, then he focused on the thumping his they caused on the planks. The pilot was expecting him, of course, Valeska was always very thorough when executing plans. The putative exile dropped his bundle on the deck and sat heavily on the bench seat and looked out over the prow where he spotted the tall-masted ship that would be taking him to the aerodrome at Bayes Port.

“Gloomy Berlin,” the engineer muttered to himself, “it has been a while.” He listened to the steam engine clattering up, watched as the boat pulled away and cut across the smooth, level water undisturbed by any wind on that still, cold day. He was nervous about the aeroship flight, not particularly fond of that method of trouble. He shook it off and said out loud “Well anyway, I always have fancied the German girls.”

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