The Great Dance, Chapter 37-38

Peble reads BuShips the riot act. Geral contacts his parents about spider issues.

Chapter 37.

The Arsenal, Cleadsgate.

Peble looked at Commodore Gernsbac and Captain Steelbender and said, “I thought that the admiral’s instructions about obsolete ordnance on the navy’s vessel’s were fairly clear. Yet this proposal for Persistent refit, when she returns at the end of the moon, does not include a replacement mount for the three inch guns and apparently the intention is to use one of Persistent redundant three inch mounts to replace the refitted mount on Diligent.”

“We believe that it would be the most efficient way to return to a standard.”

“A standard that leaves the survey ships with obsolete ordnance and unable to replace their ammution supply. Considering the circumstances of Diligent’s last voyage, that simply is not acceptable. I believe the admiral’s instructions were clear.”

Diligent’s irregular mount is using ammunition obtained outside regular channels from the army.”

“That should be easy for supply to rectify. Then the survey ships would no longer have to rely on the army for replacement ammunition.”

“BuShips and BuOrd do not want another gun and ammunition in the supply system. Returning to standard would avoid that problem.”

“How many rounds are there for those guns, commodore? Should I call supply and ask? If BuShips wants to maintain a standard for active ships, it must maintain supply for the ordnance. BuShips and Guns cannot declare a gun obsolete and then insist that it be maintained on active ships. The admiral is looking closely at this refit after the events with Diligent. I will add that he was not pleased with Diligent’s reports on the status of the ordnance when she departed on her recent voyage. If Persistent does retain her current main gun, the admiral expects that her magazine and ready rack will have the full complement of shells and cartridges when she departs. I will take this Proposal to the admiral’s office, but right now, I would take it and be prepared to come up with something more in line with what the admiral will expect.”

“That is unreasonable, captain!”

“Unreasonable is merchant ships and naval vessels being sunk because BuShips wants to punish the survey ships, commodore. We came a lot closer to losing Diligent than the navy should have. The navy exists for a reason. We are the wall. I know that in the press of our day to day jobs, it can be easy to forget that, commodore. On the other hand, the crews at sea know it all too well. Perhaps I should discuss a transfer to a seaborne assignment for you with the admiral.”

“I will have a new proposal on your desk in a five day, captain.”

Gernsbac and Steelbender left the office and Steelbender said, “I hope that Ensign Wavecutter gets us a better case or we are in real trouble. I will have my people start work on a new mount.”

“We’re going to be stuck with that irregular mount, just you watch. I will have to use some of my connections.”

“The problem is that the admiral can point to Diligent’s success and point out that upgrading the mount was necessary. I will send somebody to Milport and get the details. We really don’t have any time for anything else.”

“I don’t like the idea that Captain Duggings has us over a barrel over this.”

“We didn’t consider that the survey ships would actually need the guns. The Senate messed things up when the post treaty bill for the new survey ships fell apart and the two ships were slated for refits. We didn’t budget for new mounts and I kicked the can to keep costs down.”

“That was a mistake. The question now is how do we keep Admiral Harper off our backs over this.”

“That doesn’t look as if it’s going to be easy, sir.”

 Greldug came into Tom’s office and said, “I’m on my way back to Ishendell.”

“You seem to be having more fun than you should be.”

Greldug grinned. “Maybe it’s my inner dragon being released, or getting my hands on the admiral’s files at last. Of course Crowburg was the big surprise.”

“What’s going on with the other side?”

“Major Tollings is working on something. The big question is what other hidden resources they have.”

“Scourge devises?”

“I doubt that they have very many, if any. All of the devises that we have records for have been accounted for and the cores are under radiation lab control.”

“If I were the other side, I would be worry that the things were under the control of my brother and Jorge. Then again, I would be worried about what my brother and Jorge would get up to even without Scourge devises.”

“They should be glad that your brother is busy keeping the Empire fed and Jorge is in college.”

“Do you know what my brother and Alinis are up to? They were playing at Castle Hill Park, but they haven’t said what they were doing.”

“From what Sarya has said, and she only knows what the Richflights told her, Alinis realized that there must be more under Castle Hill and rather than trying to hide that they were moving the material, Richard arranged for the other side to steal it and port it to the other side’s not so secret headquarters. They apparently used a portal that Jorge had already played with, and there was a switch.”

“So the other side doesn’t even know where the material is? What did my brother switch it with?”

“Leftovers from the book faire, things that Alinis and her friends bought from the trash dealers at the same time my grandson found the Crowburg book.”

Tom laughed. “I bet that made the bosses mad. I think that I will call my mother and make sure that Alinis has security.”

“That might not be a bad idea. What do you think that your brother did with the material? I would like to get a look at it.”

“Ask him. When he gets sneaky, keeping up with him is impossible. I don’t know what his kids really get up to, so I can’t tell you what they set up.”

“Anything else you want me to keep an eye on?”

Diligent is doing a survey of the coasts of Vestia and Apua and some of the other places there that have not been well charted.”

“That coast between Hammerfall and Clerves that has been essentially unpopulated since the Mage Wars. Most ships steer clear, because of the hazards.  Diligetn is a good choice to do a survey since her refit. I’ll keep an eye on her from Lain Othrond.”

“That should do. I think that’s it for now, so, dismissed.”

“Dismissing.”

Peble came in and said, “I’m glad I caught you, Greldug.”

“What do you want, Peble?”

“I just had a nasty chat with Commodore Gernsbac and Captain Steelbender over Persistent’s refit. She comes in next moon to get the same treatment that Diligent did. I can’t be sure if it’s pure pigheadedness, but BuShips wants to use one of the mounts that are redundant on Persistent to replace Diligent’s main gun and return her to “standard.” If you should keep an eye out for somebody talking to the commodore, I would appreciate it. Also, Guns has placed a spy on Diligent.”

“Considering what happened up off the Timberlands, I will take that under consideration.”

“I may need to call you back, Greldug,” Tom said “The Court for Commander Ironforge is coming and I may want you as a witness.”

“Not on the Court?”

“I’m drawing cruiser and battleship captains for that, since the Board was represented by the disreputables.”

“They did a good job discovering the evidence. There’s no doubt that he is guilty.”

“No there is not. On the other hand, officers with connections have managed to escape the consequences of their actions before. I want to make sure that no one can say that the commander was given unfair treatment. Now, I see two officers who should be returning to their duties and not cluttering up my office.”

The captains laughed and left the office. On their way down, Peble said, “May I buy you lunch, captain?”

“You may. You want to know what my grandsons have been up to, don’t you?”

“I do. Bladloc has done some interesting things for us.”

Chapter 38.

Noxbury

Arachnae dozed in her hide and savored her latest meal. At one time, Noxbury had been the big city in her life. Now, even though oil had added to the cattle as sources of wealth, to Arachnae, the city was a small place full of pretensions. It did have a plentiful supply of rough men looking for loose women and if one or two disappeared, as long as there wasn’t an obvious shootout in the street, the police would not look too deeply. She was sure that the Ironaxes would be looking for her here, but even if they and their FSA friends did come, they would be at a disadvantage.

Geral Ironaxe looked at the telegram and frowned. He hadn’t spoken to his parents for a very long time and after he had married Ilva Umevan, he and Ilva had moved south to Noxbury and Geral had started his business first by using explosives to drill tunnels for the railroad, roads for the state and the ranchers, then in the oil industry where he had knocked holes in deep rock and now his geo sensing business, where he used charges to send sound waves into the ground and sensors to record the vibrations, producing a picture of the underground.

He and Ilva had left Ironton when she was pregnant with their first child so that the child would not be exposed to the drama surrounding their family’s feud. Now, forty years later, the family wanted to talk to him. Going out into the shop he went over to the garage where his second son was setting up a rig for a survey. “Tell, you have the office until I get back.”

“What’s going on?”

“Your grandfather sent me a telegram. He wants to come down.”

“You and mom don’t talk about our grandparents very much.”

“We have our reasons. In any case, I want to talk to the Sheriff and your mother before I reply to this. Also, tell the boys to keep it in their pants or they could be dinner.”

“Dinner?”

“Something came back that happened a long time ago. It was dealt with, but apparently there is another one. I need to go.”

Geral went to his truck and drove over to the sheriff’s office. The Sergeant behind the desk said, “What can I do for you, Mr. Ironaxe?”

“Is the Sheriff here?”

“He’s in back. You know the way. Is there something that we should know?”

“If you would, pass the word around that it will be better to stay at home for a while.”

“What’s going on?”

“I know why we’ve had those men disappearing.”

“Then the boss will want to see you.”

Geral went around the desk and to the hall in back. At the Sheriff’s door he knocked and said, “Dade, it’s Geral.”

“Come in, Geral. What do you want?”

“Dade, I haven’t said very much about my parents, for very good reasons, but they sent me a telegram and I think that they have a handle on those disappeared men.”

“What is it?”

“Well, before your time, we had a sort of spider monster, who could look like a woman until she struck. I set up a charge in the cave that she used to hide in and set it when she was inside. That ended the problem, but apparently there was more than one spider and a spider may be here.”

“Why?”

“She was a local bad girl at one time, before she went north. Marian Grant.”

“How did she become a spider?”

“My father is coming with a brief. The telegram says that the spider murdered my nephew Alog in Ironton. So, the family is very interested in the spider.”

“If your father can shed some light on this before it becomes a real problem, I want to know what he has to say.”

“It isn’t very urgent, but you may want to out a damper on certain activities for a while. The spider goes after certain types. My father has more.”

“I’ll talk to some people.”

“Ok, I need to see my wife.”

Geral got back in the truck and drove out to his house on the outskirts of town. Even covered in dirt, Ilya looked as beautiful as the day she had said, “Yes.” She was with Terrel, who gardened and kept the outside of the house, as well as taking care of the two cows that provided milk, the chickens which provided eggs and the raft of dogs and cats that seemed to just be around. Ilya stood up as he drove up and said, “You’re home early, Geral. What’s wrong?”

“Dad is coming down. He sent a telegram.”

“He’s never done that. Did he say why?”

“Apparently my nephew, Alog, was murdered, by a spider.”

“She’s dead.”

“There was more than one. Dad thinks that there is one here, and I think that he’s right.”

“That’s not good. Does your father have any clues as to who she is?”

“Here’s what he sent.” Geral handed his wife the telegram.

Terrel said, “Looks like I’m going to have to clean the rifles if that thing is back.”

“You know better than to play around, Terrel,” Ilya said.

“I know, and my brother was eaten the first time. They found what was left of his body up the draw. Still, this is an oil town and there are a lot of rough men here. The lady hasn’t attracted attention as yet.”

“She will. The new spider is apparently Marian Grant.”

“Now there is a name I haven’t heard for a very long time. Her parents had that ranch up aways until they went to the fire after a car accident. The sheriff could not be convinced that it may not have been an accident. Her brother was a victim of the spider.”

“Terrel, I think that you and dad should have a long sit down when he gets here.”

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