Axis Von Faust, captain of the H. M. S. Mari-Elana, pride of the British navy, sat in her briefing room with her senior officers. Maps were strewn about a large oak table, nautical devices weighting the heavy parchment down. All members of the group wore the same blue and white naval uniforms. A damage report sat in front of Axis.
"It might be weeks before our engine is repaired," the sailing master, a man called Smith, stated.
"The engineer thinks it's beyond saving. He wants a new one," Axis said, reading the note left to her by the engineer.
"Why? What's wrong with the ones we have?"
"The engines are old, and are becoming outdated," a second lieutenant chided in, "The new models are more efficient than what we have. We could manage fourteen knots no problem with what they've accomplished in England these days."
"That, and a new engine would take less time to install and prepare. As you said yourself, Smith, repairs could take weeks," Axis said, siding with her second lieutenant.
"But the cost..." Smith protested, less powerfully now.
"Her majesty would not see the folly in keeping the pride of the fleet up to date," Axis continued, "It would be foolish to do otherwise; the crown does not like failures that could be prevented by a simple technological update."
The consensus was unanimous: a new engine must be had. In addition to hull repairs the Mari-Elana would be out of commission for about a week, provided the workers in the ship yards were competent. After checking maps it was decided that London was the closest port. They could make it there in a few hours. They prayed their other engines would not give out under the stress.
After dinner the officers retired to their quarters, but Axis was too strung up to sleep. She stared out of her window, wanting to see that black ship so she might crush it with her own hands. In the night sky, each black cloud looked like a pirate ship.
In a small room off of sick bay was the doctor's quarters. Axis found her at her desk, her eyes skimming a book. She looked up when Axis appeared in the doorway.
"Good evening, Axis," the good doctor said, putting away the book.
"Good evening, Skyfa." The doctor called Skyfa motioned Axis towards a chair next to her. Axis obliged.
"You'll be happy to know," Axis said, "that we'll be making port in London soon."
"The damage was that bad?"
"I'm afraid so."
"For how long will we be indisposed?"
"We judge we should be up and running in about a week. That gives you time to do...whatever it is that you do when we make port." Axis smiled as Skyfa made a face.
"London you say? Wonderful, I think I'll call upon an old friend there." It was Axis' turn to make a face.
"Friend? What friends do you have?"
Skyfa rolled her eyes, "Just because I am forced to live in this wooden box with you does not mean that I didn't have friends before I was shanghaied into the navy."
"Really? Who are your friends, then?"
Skyfa was quiet for a moment. She seemed reluctant to divulge any information, but she told Axis anyway.
"A doctor that lives in London." Axis leaned forward, signaling for more information. None was given.
"And? Are you even going to tell me his name?"
Skyfa sighed, "Henry Jekyll. I worked with him for several years before I came aboard your ship."
Jekyll's name sounded familiar to Axis.
"You've no doubt heard of him," Skyfa continued, sounding exasperated, "He's rather well known in some important circles."
"And he's...your friend?" Axis made it clear that she did not believe that Skyfa was entirely truthful. She was Skyfa's only real friend aboard the Mari-Elana, and therefore knew that the good doctor was about as social as a snake. A friend in London was suspicious enough without it being some scientific socialite.
"Yes, he is a friend, Axis. Don't give me that look. If it were not for the navy I would probably still be sitting in his laboratory."
"Oh, come off it. I don't care if you would have been sitting beside the queen, I won't have you bashing the service. You like your books; well, I like this ship. I respect your silly interests and I expect you to respect mine."
Skyfa nodded an apology. "I have been able to keep a correspondence of sorts with him these past few years. It is easy enough to get letters to him, but harder to receive them. That month we spent in Ireland, we were able to maintain a steady conversation."
This was getting interesting. Axis never liked going ashore terribly much. When one's home is made of metal and drifts in the air it is hard for one to keep friends for very long (unless they also live in the sky). Making port could be boring. This could provide some much needed entertainment.
"So this, Henry, was it? He entertains often?" Skyfa nodded slowly, predicting where this was going. "And you are welcome, yes?"
"Of course I am. He has expressed several times that if ever I am in London I should pay him a social call."
"You intend to oblige him?"
"Must be nice to have friends in such high social standing. I think I would like very much to meet him..."
Skyfa sighed a weary sigh. Her point could not have been more obvious if she had been yelling it in Skyfa's face.
"Axis," she began. Axis' eyes lit up. "Would you like to accompany me?"
"Oh, I don't know, I have such a busy schedule -"
"Axis," Skyfa interrupted. Axis smiled.
"Of course I would, dear."