Jenny by the Sea
by Robert Allen
Table of Contents|
“The Hunt” appeared
in issue 151.
Jenny was missing and the entire household was in an uproar. Quorn Sulti positively shivered in anger. “Who,” he asked, “was the last to see Jenny?”
“I believe, Sir,” said Rogers, the butler, “that His Lordship, Sir Rupert Ollney was the last to be seen with Jenny. At least, he was the last one I saw in there.”
Quorn Sulti turned several shades paler and fell back into his chair. “Sir Rupert Ollney, you say? You could not be mistaken about this, could you?”
“Oh no, Sir. Sir Rupert really is quite distinguishable. No one else,” the butler shuddered, “would ever dress like that. Brown shoes with a gray suit, Sir. Quite ghastly.”
“Very well, Rogers, send out a seven-thirteen code with Sir Rupert’s description. He must not get away. Jenny must be returned. And Rogers, stress to the operatives: unharmed.”
“Oh, quite so, Sir. I don’t believe any of us would sleep well if Jenny were harmed.”
* * *
The alert came through just as Charlie Littlebear was about to call his wife in to dinner. Instead he cycled the prepared meal into the freezer and grabbed the ration tabs, and then whistled the alert signal out the window. He smiled as Sidris jumped out of her chair and headed for the ship at the double-quick, knowing that the vessel would be ready to take off as soon as he climbed in.
“Someone has kidnapped Jenny,” were the first words out of his mouth as he strapped himself into his seat. “Sulti says it may be Ollney again. Rogers fingered him.”
Sidris looking up, said, “Brown shoes and gray suit again?”
“Yes, the guy will never learn, will he?”
* * *
As the water closed over the ship, Sir Rupert passed Jenny on to his Valet. “Take Jenny someplace comfortable, will you, Crossly? I am really too tired to do any entertaining right now.”
Getting a good grip on Jenny, Crossly answered, “Quite so, Sir. However Sir, I do think we should hurry. They will be after us, you know. You did, after all, wear your brown shoes with that suit. Probably gave Rogers an attack of some sort.” With those words he took Jenny to a more comfortable part of the ship.
Sir Rupert, watching them go, muttered to himself, “I wonder what it is like to spend all one’s time upside down? Deucedly uncomfortable, I should think.”
* * *
Littlebear and Sidris crawled over practically the whole lawn looking for anything that might give some indication as to where Sir Rupert had either come from, or where he was heading. They had to; the galaxy was too big to just guess.
“Crossly must have timed it almost perfectly.” Sidris said. “Everything points to his having come in just as Sir Rupert made it here. He never landed but just hovered long enough for Sir Rupert and Jenny to get inside. He was here for only a few seconds. I don’t think we will find anything.”
“Probably not, my dear, but if it was Sir Rupert’s personal yacht and not a rental job, there just might be something. Sir Rupert is as sloppy about his yacht as he is about his dress. I really don’t understand why Crossly stays with him.
“He and Rogers were in the same class in the Valet de Somme and both know what should and should not be allowed. But, then, Rogers does say that Crossly was somewhat of a wild one and that he was not above cutting a few corners when expedient. Rogers says that Crossly once made two cups of tea from the same bag. Ghastly, what?”
Sidris laughed out loud and then said, “Charlie, or should I say, Charles? You do that so well! You must have aced Snob 101.”
“Wait a sec, hon. The Force-Comb has something. Hand me the Migi-Scope will you?”
Getting down on his knees, Littlebear located the item brought up by the Force-Comb, and, using the Migi-Scope, he examined it carefully. Then he turned, grinning, to Sidris and said, “DNA ID’s this as Blue Barnacle Scelkerfish from Orntak. That’s in the Claw system. Ten to one he is going to contact ZalKor. If he gets through to that creep we will never rescue Jenny.
“Fire the ship up, Sidris, we have a long trip to make. Let’s just hope for Sir Rupert’s sake that he still has Jenny when we get there.”
* * *
Sir Rupert’s screen lit up with the gloomy picture of ZalKors’ office and the crooked fangs of ZalKor’s malevolent smile. “Bell, Thir Wupert, you hab Chenny, yesss? I gib much fundss for Chenny. I gib Chenny good home, yesss?”
“Oh, really, ZalKor, you are so dramatic. Just say what you want and let it be. You’re making my Tea late, and I hate a late Tea. It just isn’t done, you know, in proper circles.”
“For Chenny I gib 150,000 Egyptian Gold Shekelss. That iss much fundss, yesss? I ssend now. You gib now.”
“Well,” answered Sir Rupert, as he reached for the toggle, “that is a start, isn’t it? But, of course, it is past time for my Tea and I just can’t talk when I haven’t had my Tea. Cheerio.
“I say Crossly, is my Tea ready?”
“Tea, Sir? Tea time is still a half hour from now. Wouldn’t do to have it early, Sir.”
“No, of course not. I think, Crossly, I shall enjoy a fine Zalkor stew for now.”
* * *
In orbit around Orntak, Littlebear’s vessel, China Cub, sensors out and working, searched for Sir Rupert’s yacht. They searched in vain, it seemed, for nothing below gave any indication that Sir Rupert might be present.
“Charlie,” asked Sidris, “when are you going to just give in and do it? You know it is the only way that we can really find them.”
‘I know, dear, but it really goes against everything that schooling at Valet de Somme drove into me about Valet Honor. It is one of the few institutions left that still works on an honor system, and to breach that honor is terribly hard.”
“Charlie, this is not Kensington, and you are not the Butler. You weren’t even a butler when you were. You’re an agent and we agents don’t have nicely-nice rules to go by. Now do it before I go bananas.”
Littlebear, turning on the com and setting the correct redirection sequence, began the task of setting up the wave circuits that would put him in touch with the Interspatial Institute of Valet Communications. Then, since the circuit would take awhile to form and become completely secure, he went to their cabin and put on the uniform he had used so recently at Kensington. Then dressed properly, he headed back to the vessel’s bridge.
While he had been gone, Sidris, using a portable holo-suite projector, created a simulation of a gentleman’s private quarters and settled back, unobtrusively in dark corner, and began to set up the signal tracer.
Soon Littlebear was back and sitting in front of the communicator, entering a long string of ID coding and reacting, most properly, to communiqués coming back at him. Eventually the process was complete and Shelton, Valet Master, was onscreen. “I say, Beamis. Are you really there? I’m afraid we had written you off as eaten by beasties.”
“Yes, almost was. The only thing that saved me was the fact that I had straightened up Madam’s rooms and some of her perfume adhered to my uniform. The beasties had the same opinion of it that the servants had. It was ghastly.
“It was called Morning Pleasure, I believe. You might want to include a bit in our service kit. Horrible as a scent, you know, but quite effective as a weapon.”
“Kensington has requested another man,” replied Shelton, “but we, not satisfied with the explanation of your demise, have not sent one. It was understood that the estate was surrounded by a force screen. We have not been able to understand how the beasties could ever get to you, let alone eat you.”
“Lord Crayton Malcolm used me for the prey in one of his beastie hunts. You see, I am afraid, Sir, that it was really my fault. I did not give advice when I should have done so. It was, indeed, a grave failing.”
“You withheld needed advice?” replied a shocked Shelton. “Advise about what, Beamis? What could have been so grave that could possibly have sent you out to be eaten?”
“Surely you must know that, because his Lady wishes, Lord Malcolm subscribes to the Valet de Somme’s Estate Etiquette Guide.”
“Of course. Quite a number of the better informed estates subscribe. How else are they to know the proper manner of doing things?”
“Quite so, Sir. Only, in this case, Lord Malcolm only gets it for his Lady — never reads it himself — and relies on her to keep things straight and proper.”
“Nothing, Beamis, unusual in that. It is often the Lady’s place to see that decorum is met.”
“She doesn’t, sir, read French. She only looks at the pictures. She saw that article on the depravity of Sir Rupert Ollney’s dress recently and urged Lord Malcolm to copy Sir Rupert’s dress.
“I, having been rebuffed in my advice just shortly before by Lord Malcolm, did not advise against that action. Then, when he appeared in a gray suit and brown shoes, and was scorned and laughed at, he, knowing that I should have, even at the prospect of censure, warned him, decreed that I should be the prey in the next hunt.”
“Oh,” answered Shelton, “quite so. You didn’t do your duty, did you? Propriety first, you know.
“Well, if that is the case, we shall send a man out to Kensington right off. And you will, realize, of course, that this will cause a demerit in your records. But, considering that Lord Malcolm had ignored your earlier advice and rebuffed you, we shall make it a small one.
“Good clearing up your record. Is that all?”
“Oh no, Sir. If I remember right, it is almost time for the monthly chess match between Crossly and Rogers. I haven’t been able to see one in a while — running from beasties, you know — and had hoped to catch this month’s contest. I should like to see Rogers win.”
“Rogers beat Crossly?” replied a grinning Shelton. “Oh my goodness, Beamis, you have been running from the beasties. Perhaps a small bet could be arranged. Say, thirty gold shekels?”
“You’re on, Sir. I just feel it in my bones that it is Rogers’ day to excel.”
Soon the monthly chess match was on the screen and Head Valets all over the galaxy were tuned in to see if Rogers could, finally, defeat Crossly. And, while the match went on Sidris, at the signal tracer, worked feverishly to find, and match and trace Crossly’s signal to its place of origin.
Charlie Littlebear, watching his wife at her work, said, in a very low voice, “You know I could be dismissed from the Institute for allowing this to happen. It is absolutely forbidden for a Valet to interfere with the position of another Valet. It is really quite shameful.”
Sidris just gave him the “look” that women have been giving their husbands since time began and continued on with her work.
* * *
Of the coast of Orntak’s largest continent, in the deep waters of the Shirdiin rift, Sir. Rupert’s space yacht, Chaos, lay cozily in its berth next to Sir Rupert’s undersea villa. Surrounding them was a military grade, stage seven, force field that would stand up to the bombardment of a fleet of battle cruisers.
Sir Rupert Ollney felt quite safe in his hideaway and only rarely checked the sonar warning system. That was his mistake.
Coming from the vicinity of the China Cub, settled many miles away in another sea rift, was an Orntak Guelphshark gliding its way above and around the submerged villa. Slowly, as those monsters did, it settled down to an ambush spot often used by Guelphsharks, on the seabed near the force field.
Crossly, looking out a view pane and seeing the monster fish, smiled at the added safety of its presence, not that there had ever been any threat to their safety there.
As the illuminators dimmed in the villa, signaling a sleep period, a small figure seemed to emerge from the Guelphshark and settle into the mud right at the edge of the force field.
Sidris, using the mud to cover her cutting tool, soon had a tunnel cut into the rock under the field and into the central area. Then swimming up to the side of the Chaos, she opened a small case containing a Finder. Everything that the Martio-Jovian Society got was soon fitted with a micro short range transmitter that a Finder could locate when within three feet of the object.
Soon, Sidris was creating a small force shell on the side of the Chaos and using the Finder’s cutting tool, was taking away a small square piece out of the side of the vessel. In just minutes she had removed the transmitter equipped package and replaced it with another that seemed its twin.
Storing the precious package in her kit, she dissolved the force shell and slipped out of the protected area through the previously cut tunnel, and headed through the mud and sludge back to the Guelphshark.
No one in the villa was particularly surprised the next morning to see that the great shark was gone and that they were once again alone on the seafloor.
* * *
Quorn Sulti, gaveling the meeting to order, announced that the 7,416th meeting of the Martio-Jovian Philatelic Society was now in session. Smiling he said that the Society had recently had some really magnificent pieces added to their collection and that the meeting would be concerned with those acquisitions.
Pressing a button the screen above them suddenly was filled with a reddish stamp with the words “U. S. POSTAGE” in an arc over the top and “24 CENTS 24” across the bottom. In the middle was the blue picture of an Old Earth biplane flying upside down.
“Hold it! Hold it!” cried a voice from a screen in the back, “that stamp is a fake.”
Quorn Sulti, with a frown on his face, gaveled down the bedlam that had been started by the interruption and then announced, “The chair recognizes, Sir Rupert Ollney. You may speak your piece, Sir Rupert.”
“Thank you Mr. Sulti. That stamp is a fake because it is well known that there is now only one single Inverted Jenny in existence, and I have it.”
The silence in the hall was almost deafening in its shock on those present. Quorn Sulti, smiling as his position called for him to do, then said the fatal words. “Perhaps, Sir Rupert, you would like to show the stamp so as to prove your claim.”
“Certainly, Mr. Sulti,” Sir Rupert said as he began to punch a combination into the safe in his ship’s hull. After the safe opened, Sir Rupert retrieved a stamp container that was obviously one exactly like those used by the Martio-Jovian Philatelic Society.
“I,” offered Sir Rupert, “entered the Society’s headquarters and Mr. Sulti’s apartment, where I, without any interruption, stole the Inverted Jenny. In doing so, I have proven my often stated position that Mr. Sulti does not qualify as the General Head of such an exalted Society as we are members of.
“For Mr. Sulti to have lost the Inverted Jenny is too shameful to consider,” said Sir Rupert, as he opened the stamp container, “and I, having proven my point, offer myself as the new General Head of our Society.”
Great laughter filled the hall as the camera zoomed in on Sir Rupert’s proof of his qualifications for the position as head of their Society.
There on the screen was a stamp, or sort of one, with the grinning head of a freckled face idiot, over the words: “What? Me worry?”
Copyright © 2005 by Robert Allen