Leaving Antarctica

“Where is my Oberfunkmeister? Ah, there you are. Get a message to the whaling station, right away. I want the Pinguin readied for sea by the time we arrive, and they’re to get steam up on the trawler too. Matrosenfeldwebel, get everyone into the tubes. Don’t forget the frauleins in the canteen, and make sure you bring my radio officer with you when he’s done. Oh, and find the ship’s cat.” Felix von Luckner turned to Harold, “If you would come with me gentlemen, please.”

The Kapitänleutnant led the trawler officers across the ravished concourse towards a set of check-in desks labeled Walfang-Hafen, gathering trawlermen as they went. Kriegsmariners were already lining up neatly, and slightly less disciplined groups of New Swabians in lab coats or boiler suits were gathering near the sliding doors to the pneumatic tubes. The Kronstadt shore detail, led by Dark Flo, appeared from behind a pile of rubble, they laughing and joking, she sporting a puffy, almost closed eye. She was limping and the left sleeve of her shinobi shozoko was torn away to reveal an angry graze on her elbow and purple bruising to the shoulder.

“Thanks to one of your overzealous fishermen. Took a swing at me from behind, with a barstool. Can’t tell a ninja from a stormtrooper.”

Bamse, as was his wont, had rounded up the last of the stragglers. With the company assembled the tube doors opened and embarkation began.

“Once you reach the whaling station get your people aboard your trawler and be ready for the off.” Von Luckner was cradling Fotzenkatze, the lithe tabby mascot of the now crippled submarine Seeadler. “I will be along soon as I know everyone is safe.”

The bow and ruptured freshwater tank of the Ancaster had been repaired in their absence, the boiler was nearly up to pressure and springs taken in so that only shortened bow and stern lines held her to the quay. The crew stood, alert, at their stations. Harold stood by the bridge window, his hand placed lightly on the highly polished new telegraph, its dials disconcertingly labeled in German. Billy Tate held the spokes of the enormous ship’s wheel, awaiting instructions. An Aldis lamp on the wing of the Pinguin’s bridge began to flash morse at high speed. Easter Smurthwait and the Ancaster’s sparks eyed the twinkling light, then each other, and shrugged.   Yes, the trawler did have a radio officer. Sparky, a lad hailing from suburban Dudley, had spent the entire adventure locked in his radio room trying unsuccessfully to contact Wick Radio, blissfully unaware and, as usual, totally forgotten.

“’Spect he’s telling us to get going,” said Easter to his skipper.

“OK. Cast off fore and aft.” He rang ‘Halbe Kraft Voraus’ on the engine room telegraph, “I hope that means what I think it does,” and Ancaster’s single screw began to churn the water into a fury beneath her stern. She moved slowly away from the quay, picked up speed, was steered deftly around the breakwater by the third hand, and belching black smoke from her Woodbine funnel, the trawler proceeded out to sea.

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