Prince Lewis

Bastard Son of King Random and the Lady Morganthe

 
Background
HMS Rebma

Elaine Seymour

Elaine stood at the window, looking out at the grounds. Her corset was biting into her sides, and the heat of the sun was almost unbearable in her huge dress, but she didn't care. She was lucky to have this short break while her mistress was in town. Old Jasper, with the Lady out of the house, had given all of the servants a half hour off. The others were downstairs in the cool cellar, but Elaine had to look up in the sky.

Heathcliff was supposed to be returning from Mars today. He had been impressed into the Navy last winter and shipped off to Mars to fight the Russians. He had been wounded in battle, and was being discharged. Elaine could hardly wait. She had been certain that he would propose that cold December night, and had waited for him for hours before she found out from his mother that he had been taken. He was her True Love, and though she had been tempted sorely, she had retained her virtue while she awaited his return.

Now she was waiting by the window watching the skies. She thought she saw his ship coming in once or twice, but they were mirages, brought about by her hope alone. Heathcliff's ship wasn't due to touch down for an hour anyway.

"Elaine! Daft girl, where are ye?" Grace was calling for her. Grace was in charge of the kitchens, and had been torturing the staff with traditional Scottish cooking for a year now. Elaine headed toward the kitchen.

"Here I am," called out Elaine as she neared the kitchens.

"Yer good friend Roger has gone and dropped all of the eggs. Go down to the market and pick up another dozen. And bring up some cod from the docks while ye're at it."

Oh joy! The docks were where the etherships tethered, Elaine would be able to meet Heathcliff as he came down the gangplank! She was so excited! "Yes, ma'am, right away ma'am," was all Elaine could squeak out. She headed over to the peg by the door, where her shawl and cap hung.

"And girl," cried out Grace as Elaine walked out the door.

"Yes'm?"

"Say hello to yer Heathcliff for me."

Elaine practically ran down the lane.

* * *

Tired, out of breath, and lacking the codfish, Elaine managed to get down to the docks in time to see the ethership descending. She would just have to pick up the fish on the way back. She pushed her way through the crowd of people waiting just outside the naval base. Most were women, waiting for their men to return, although some men were there as well.

Elaine made her way near to the front of the crowd. She overheard a pair of men who were waiting there having a conversation.

"...simply scandalous that they should allow men of such low character into her Majesty's service."

"And to think that so many should come down with it that they should need to send an entire ship full of the louts back."

"I say, they should have left them up there with the High Martians. We certainly do not need such men here. It is all I can do to contain myself when I treat these men."

"And a better man than I are you, good Doctor. I would not treat such scoundrels."

Elaine saw her chance to move closer to the front and did so.

The sun was starting to sink in the sky, and was casting a golden glow across the Thames as the crowd stared up at the gently descending Ethership. The view was simply stunning. Casting a glance due West to look at the sun, Elaine noticed the hulking shape of a brand new ethership, the HMS Redmond, sitting in dry dock next to the Naval base. She spotted a man walking toward the base dressed in a dark suit with a deep reddish-brown vest. As he approached she felt a bit queasy...

The sun was starting to sink in the sky, and was casting a golden glow across the Thames as the crowd stared up at the gently descending Ethership. The view was simply stunning. Casting a glance due West to look at the sun, Elaine noticed the hulking shape of a brand new ethership, the HMS Rebma, sitting in dry dock next to the Royal British Aethership Dealers, Ltd. She spotted a man walking toward the sales department dressed in a dark suit with a deep reddish-brown vest. He must be wealthy indeed to be able to afford an Aethership. Elaine had heard that simply applying for a tour of one of the Aetherships would set one back twenty quid.

She returned her gaze to the descending ship. It flew not only the Union Jack, but also the sign of the Red Cross. Perhaps this was due to the sick men she had heard the Doctor and his friend speak of.

As it settled down and the crewmen secured it to the docking towers, Elaine grew ever more excited. She remembered dancing with Heathcliff at the All Saint's Day dance this past year, and resisting his advances afterward in the meadow. She felt a flush rise up her cheeks as she remembered how much she wanted not to resist his heaving chest and loins, but tried to dismiss the thought before she swooned.

The gangplank lowered, and Elaine was pushed up against the fence as the rest of the crowd surged forward. She saw man after man descend the gangplank. The Doctor was generating a crowd of the passengers as he held up a sign which Elaine was having difficulty reading. In any event, it was the gangplank which held her attention.

At last Heathcliff descended the gangplank. he was wearing the uniform of the Royal Navy, and he struck quite a figure in it. He was everything she remembered, and she called out to him, "Heathcliff! Heathcliff, my love!"

At first he seemed not to hear her, but eventually he turned and headed toward her. "Oh, Heathcliff, I have waited so long for you." She reached her arms through the fence.

Heathcliff approached, "Elaine." He grabbed her arms and held them to his chest, "I had thought I wouldn't be able to see you until I headed up to the manor."

"Oh, Heathcliff, I couldn't wait another second."

"Still, perhaps it would have been best..."

Their meeting was interrupted by the Doctor's call, "Rodgers? Heathcliff Rodgers?" The Doctor was glancing about, obviously looking for Heathcliff.

"Oh Heathcliff, are you ill?" As the Doctor turned her way she saw that the sign he had been holding up read, "Syphillis Patients."

"Oh, Heathcliff! how could you?" She ran from him, or tried to, as she was forced to go through the crowd to get away from him. She was just getting to the open area at the other end of the crowd when she began to feel a bit queasy...

"Oh, Heathcliff! how could you?" She ran from him, or tried to, as she was forced to go through the crowd to get away from him. She ran until she came to the fence at the other side of the pen. Oh how she wished she could just run away and cry. But she would have to wait here in this pen until someone bought her indentured servitude. She could only huddle against the fence and cry and hope that Heathcliff had the pride to stay away from her.

Fortunately, he did.

The man she had spotted earlier, the one with the deep red vest walked around the pen. She realized that she would be better off if she were to go with him, since he was obviously quite well off. She pulled herself together, wiped the tears out of her eyes, adjusted her corset and gown, and drew her shawl about her shoulders.

"Does milord see any servants he has an interest in? I can get their letters if milord wishes to know which are skilled and at what?" Claridge had said those words an uncountable number of times since Elaine had first arrived here. The weeks spent waiting for someone to buy her service had been interminable.

"I believe I shall be requiring one hundred of your finest women, sir. Let us retire to your office where I shall list the servants which meet my specifications." She wasn't sure, but she thought she had managed to catch his eye. He was most certainly a man of great wealth. any gentleman hiring an hundred female servants must needs employ two hundreds of male servants as well.

* * *

Less than a half hour later, she and ninety nine other women were aboard the HMS Rebma waiting for orders from their new master.

The man strode aboard and addressed the women in the large sitting room. "Good day, ladies. I am Lewis Barimen, Prince of two realms far from this place, albeit an as yet unrecognized one. I believeyou will all come to enjoy your service under me. I realize you may have been scullery maids and such up til this point, but I assure you that will change."

He looked around at the assembled women. They varied in shape and size, some short and dumpy, some tall and slender. All were white, British women. Elaine began to feel queasy again...

He looked around at the assembled women. There was some variety, but they were all well proportioned, so long as one considers a large bosom to be a component of good proportions. Most were British, but there were some colonials in the group, whether they be from Africa, India, Hong Kong, or the Americas. Elaine noticed that all were strikingly beautiful in their gowns.

"Hmm, while this would indeed be novel, we should probably og with a more traditional uniform..." Elaine grew nervous. Surely he couldn't expect the British women to wear slacks? Possibly one or two of the colonials might be willing to do such a thing, but how could he expect... again she started to grow queasy...

"That's better," remarked Barimen. Elaine wondered what he was talking about. She drew herself up to further attention to mask her confusion. She noticed that others of the ladies were doing so as well. She couldn't help but notice how good the others looked in their red and white uniforms. She couldn't wait to get to a mirror.

"Now then, I shall have to divide you up as to your service aboard this vessel. You four," and at this point, he pointed to Elaine and three other women, "shall work belowdecks in engineering. You should find the stairs down through there." He pointed and Elaine and the three others headed through the doors he indicated. Beyond the doors was a spiral staircase which headed both up and down. They headed down into a small room. There was a large mechanical contrivance of some type taking up much of the left side of the room, as well as pipes that descended from a large engine of some sort set into the ceiling. There were also what appeared to be jail cells along the wall behind the staircase, and a door next to the cells.

In short, it was a strange place unlike any Elaine had ever seen. Elaine and the other three women waited. Elaine noticed that one of the other three women had some extra insignia on her uniform, but she was unsure as to what it meant. The ladies introcuded themselves to each other. The lady with the insignia was Denise Creighton. The other two were Ariel Lancaster and Maxine Paige. After about five more minutes, Elaine felt queasy again...

In short, it was like any other lower engineering room on any of the many etherships Elaine had worked on. She noticed that the etherscrew was one of the new Edison screws. Looking up at the engine, she saw that it was a fine example of the latest in solar powered steam engines. There were ladders leading up to certain parts of the engine as wella s access ports from the deck above. That was good. It meant that there would be other crewwomen responsible for maintenance as well.

The whistle on the tube blew. Lt. Commander Creighton removed the whistle and called into the tube, "Lower Engineering."

Commander Wyndham's voice came through the tube, "Bring the etherscrew up to speed. We'll be needing to put the screw in line in four minutes."

Lt. Commander Creighton turned to her crew, "You heard her, get moving." The engine above them started to life. Obviously other women upstairs were in charge of the steam engine. Elaine scurried over to the pipes descending from the engine and checked all the valves. Ariel and Maxine rotated the screw and lined up the tumblers. Elaine went over to the gearshaft lever and pushed it forward, raising the gears. Ariel and Maxine slid the tumblers and locks into place and eileen waited for the order.

Looking out of the four small portholes in Lower Engineering, the ladies were able to see London disappearing below them. Others upstairs would be working the Liftwood vanes to control the Rebma's atmospheric movement. Once out of the atmosphere, though, it was the edison screw that would move them.

While she was waiting to engage the gears, Elaine couldn't help but think of Heathcliff. He had been the love of her life. Now that he was gone, she wondered if she would ever find another man. She couldn't help but think of James, the gardener, whose advances she had been resisting while she waited for Heathcliff. He had been a buff young lad, and if she had known then...

Creighton broke Elaine out of her reverie, "Engage the gears." Elaine slowly pulled the lever back, dropping the gears into position. Immediately, the Edison screw began turning rapidly. The ladies all cheered, but Creighton quickly got them under order and told them to stand at attention.

It was just as well that she did. They should have realized, this being the maidne voyage of the Rebma, that the Captain would inspect the ship. Captain Barimen descended the stairs. He looked over the screw and the crew. "Excellent work ladies."

"Thank you, sir," replied Lt. Commander Creighton. The Captain gave the crew one more look. Elaine tried to see the others out of the corner of her eye, to see what he was looking at, but she didn't see anything wrong. She felt a bit queasy, though...

"Thank you, sir," replied Lt. Commander Creighton. The Captain gave the crew one more look. Elaine tried to see the others out of the corner of her eye, to see what he was looking at, but she didn't see anything wrong. She did notice for the first time how shapely Ariel and Maxine were. Ariel in particular looked quite pert and dainty. She had trouble taking her eyes off of Ariel's snug uniform. She started to flush.

"No, thank you, Lieutenant Commander." Captain Barimen headed up the stairs. Elaine thought she noticed Ariel looking her way.

* * *

The Rebma was running smoothly as she rose out of the atmosphere and headed toward the moon. Lower Engineering was getting hotter by the minute, as heat from the engine and screw built up. elaine was sweating in her now bulky-seeming uniform.

She couldn't help but notice that Ariel was sweating as well. A perfect drop of sweat was rolling down the slope of her nose. A vibration passed through the ship and the drop fell off her nose. She caught it on her tongue.

Ariel stood up. "I don't know about you ladies, but I'm dying here." She took off the jacket of her uniform, leaving her wearing only a white, sleeveless undershirt above the waist. The undershirt had already been drenched with sweat. Elaine stood up.

"Get back in uniform!" cried Lt. Commander Creighton. "Get back in uniform or..."

The Rebma was rocked by some sort of extreme turbulence. A hole opened up in the floor of Lower Engineering, and the ladies were thrown off their feet. Elaine fell across Ariel as they both tumbled to the floor next to the screw. Fortunately no one fell through the hole. They were all blasted by a rush of hot air coming from the engine and rushing out the hole. Elaine felt a bit queasy...

The hole was gone. Elaine was lying in Ariel's arms next to the screw, her head resting on Ariel's ample bosom. Lt. Commander Creighton was helping Maxine to her feet. Elaine wasn't sure, but she thought that Creighton held Maxine just a bit longer than was really necessary. That thought reminded her of her own position, though, so she disengaged from Ariel and stood up.

The whistle on the tube blew. Lt. Commander Creighton removed the whistle and called into the tube, "Lower Engineering." It sounded as though every section of the ship was responding as well.

Captain Barimen's voice came through the tube, "Sorry about that. Nothing to worry about."

Ariel put her jacket back on.

* * *

The crew from Lower Engineering were on break. The screw was turning, but some relief from Engineering were watching it. The four ladies went over to a door marked "Sauna/Gym."

"You don't see that on every ship," remarked Maxine. They all headed in. Four other women were in the Gym as well, playing Volleyball. They stopped their game.

One of the women, an Indian lady, called out to them, "Hello, we're with Navigation. Would you like to join the game?"

Creighton spoke up, "We're from Lower Engineering. I'd love to join the game, but I won't speak for my crew." She looked at the crew.

Maxine spoke up first and joined the game. Ariel spoke next, saying, "I think I'll try out the sauna actually." She was looking at Elaine the whole time.

"I'd just make it harder to make even teams, so I think I'll try the Sauna as well," said Elaine. She and Ariel headed into the sauna.

The sauna was a wooden room located next to the engine. There was a locker room immediately preceding it, in which Elaine and Ariel changed out of their uniforms and put on towels.

Once they entered the sauna, Elaine noticed that there was a covered vent which came directly from the steam engine. There was a lever which one could use to release steam into the sauna. Ariel bent over and used the lever. The room filled with steam.

* * *

Back in Lower Engineering, the ladies were talking.

"Sharon from navigation said that everything is gone."

"Everything? What d'you mean everything?"

"Everything everything. The whole kit and kaboodle. Everything except us and the moon."

"What? Look outside, you can see right out there, there's lots of stars. I bet you could even pick out Mars or Venus if you wanted."

"Yes, but Sharon says they're not really there."

"That's what Lt. Commander Lalwani said too. She says that shortly after the turbulence we had, we were suddenly far enough away from Earth that we couldn't see it any more, but the moon is still right where it was before the turbulence."

"Exactly. And we keep moving but we don't go anywhere. Tonya said that we should be an eigth of the way to Mars already, but it doesn't get any closer."

"Ok, that's weird and all, but that doesn't mean things are gone, surely. There's just some sort of, I don't know, anomaly in the ether?"

"But if it was ether-related the screw would be going crazy. And look at it. It's humming along quite nicely. Just vibrating away. Humming and vibrating. vibrating along..."

A few moments went by.

"Anyway, if you hadn't been wasting time in the sauna you'd have heard it from the horse's mouth..."

"She's not a horse! Sure, she's got big thighs, but they're muscle, not..."

"It's just an expression. Anyway, what I meant was that if they hadn't been wasting time in the sauna they'd have been able to hear the ladies from Navigation explain it. That's all."

The whistle on the tube blew. Lt. Commander Creighton removed the whistle and called into the tube, "Lower Engineering."

Commander Wyndham's voice came through the tube, "Take the screw offline if you please, we've reached our destination."

Elaine looked out the portholes, but still saw only space. Apparently Lt. Commander Creighton had noticed the same thing, since she said, "Commander? Are..."

Commander Wyndham cut her off before she could finish her question, "Just do it Lt. Commander. The Captain assures me that we have arrived and intends to disembark."

"Yes ma'am." Creighton closed the tube and turned to the crew. "Alright, let's bring her offline." The ladies disengaged the screw and applied the screwbrake to slow it to a stop.

They all looked around a bit uneasily. None of them really understood what was going on. Elaine felt a compassion for the Captain like she had felt for no man. It certainly wasn't romantic love, but she was fond of him and hoped he wasn't crazy enough to kill himself by walking out of the airlock into empty space. Maxine seemed to be as upset as Elaine, if not more. Lt. Commander Creighton hugged her and consoled her.

Their worry was interrupted by a commotion from upstairs. Creighton headed for the stairs, "Wait here, ladies." A few minutes passed and then Creighton came back down. "He's alive."

The ladies were so relieved that they all hugged each other. Creighton broke free from the hug and adjusted her uniform. "The Captain opened the airlock and, well, they said that there was a room on the other side of the airlock."

"Huh?"

"What?"

"I know, I didn't believe it either, but the airlock's still open, and there's a room out there. If you look out the portholes you see empty space, but if you look out the airlock, you see a room."

"This is bollixed up, right here," said Maxine, and the others could not argue with that.

About fifteen minutes later, the entire crew was summoned up to the airlock. A table had been set up with sandwich fixings and each crewwoman was given a plate. Elaine was close to the Commander when she asked the Captain about this room which was mysteriously here. The Captain replied simply that he would "explain once we were back aboard the ship."

As Elaine was finishing her tunafish sandwich, which turned out to be the best tunafish sandwich she had ever had, a true lady came by. She was dressed in the sorts of finery that Elaine had only seen from afar while watching Royal processions. Not even the lady Elaine had worked for owned such a fine dress. The Captain seemed to know her and spoke with her as an equal. Elaine was impressed.

Once they were back on board, Elaine described the beautiful lady to the others. she was busy describing the beading on the lady's purse when she began to feel queasy again...

Elaine finished describing the lady's attire.

"Wow, this must be a very rich Shadow then," remarked Maxine.

"Perhaps the Captain will let us have some shore leave here. Who knows when we might attach the ship to as nice a Shadow as this one," suggested Ariel.

Creighton broke into the conversation, "Well, I'm certain it won't be your decision. Now get moving. That was the Commander. We're moving out."

The ladies jumped to their tasks. They had been so engrossed in their conversation that they didn't even realize that the Commander had called them.

* * *

They had been cruising for quite a while. Lower Engineering had gotten quite hot once again, but this time Lt. Commander Creighton agreed with Ariel's earlier solution. All four ladies had removed their jackets and were much more comfortable wearing only their undershirts. Elaine was once again watching drops of sweat roll down Ariel's nose, when the Rebma shook once again. The drop of sweat leapt off of Ariel's nose and landed squarely in her cleavage.

This time the turbulence didn't cause any structural damage. They were obviously simply heading through some more turbulent shadows. Although Elaine was capable of staying on her feet, she allowed herself to fall. Lt. Commander Creighton fell with her. Elaine felt a hand brush against her.

Elaine realized that she was happy here on board the Rebma, and looked forward to a long career in Captain Barimen's service.