“Grandpas bring a little wisdom, happiness, warmth, and love to every life they touch” –Anonymous
Keisha could hear the two Spads veer off to either side just after the machine gun clatter stopped. Her eyes were squeezed shut and she’d bent forward in her chair as far as she could, covering her head with her arms.
She felt her body being pulled forward even more, which meant the Kestrel was going into a dive.
“Miss Davis, are you alright?” It was Isaiah! He was alive.
“I’m okay. How’s Josiah?” She opened her eyes and looked to her right but her view of the man and boy was obscured by clouds of mist.
“I’m fine except for being scared out of my wits.”
“We made it,” Granger shouted. “Get us down, Oscar. We’ve got to ditch the zeppelin’s superstructure.
“Duck soup, Boss.”
“Don’t give me that mush. It’s curtains for us if we don’t land this tub, and we’ll have to hit on all sixes to get the job done.”
The lights flickered back on and the teenager saw shattered glass all over the forward section of the control room, and covering the two pilots. The bullets had angled up, and Keisha marveled at the myriad amount of holes decorating the ceiling above them. Looking forward, all she saw was the fog. Radar hadn’t been invented yet, so how were they going to keep from crashing into the ground or something else?
“Your maneuver was successful, Granger. We’ve left both the cannon fire and the our biplane attackers behind.”
“More like above and behind, and we’re not out of the woods yet.”
“Skies clearing ahead.” Oscar took one hand off the wheel to point to an opening in the cloud cover.
“Watch out!” At Granger’s cry, they both pulled up hard on their control yokes, and the engines of the vast airship whined at the abrupt call for power. Everyone was thrown back and to the left in their restraints as the Kestrel climbed and banked to starboard, desperately trying to avoid the wooded peaks, still partly obscured by the thick haze clinging to the surface.
“Good call, Boss.” Oscar’s laugh was anxiety driven but it was the only way Keisha could tell he might be as scared as she was.
“Compass heading’s just about right on the money, Oscar. Turning 45 degrees north should do it.”
“That’s Baltimore Canyon below. Should be just a minute or two more.”
“Got it. I’m signaling.” She keyed her mike. “Boo-Boo Bear to Mama Bear. Got a loaded picnic basket headed your way. Set up the table, over.”
Keisha could make out a faint voice coming from Oscar’s headset, which had somehow gotten pulled down around his neck. “Mama Bear to Boo Boo. One table coming up. Over.” The man’s baritone didn’t strike the girl as a “Mama” of any kind.
“Roger that, Mama. I see it. Orienting west. Basket in fifteen.”
They had stopped their forward flight and were descending, but it was impossible to see anything but forward and to the sides, and the fog still obscured most of their view.
The engines wound up to a scream and then died, and then they landed hard enough to shake them violently.
“Attention Mama Bear and all you other grizzlies. Blowing envelope, blowing envelope. Brace yourselves.”
Oscar reached up and pulled yanked down a large, red handle marked “Emergency Release.” There was a series of loud bangs, and Keisha mashed her hands against her ears. “We’re exploding!”
The entire ship shook like an earthquake. Was this more cannon fire? The enemy airships must have found them.
The engines powered up again and moments later, it was like Keisha was back in Grandpa’s warehouse, but a tornado was ripping the roof off and carrying it away.
“Envelope away, Mama Bear. Cover the table. Over.”
“Bringing you home now, Boo-Boo. Stand by.”
More gigantic latches slamming against each other, a heavy vibration, and then they were being lowered. The zeppelin had been released back up into the air and was climbing, while is massive crew and cargo gondola was going downward, but to where?
“Where the hell are we?”
“Home sweet home, Dollface. Wait’ll I show you around the joint. It’s the bee’s knees.”
“What are you saying?”
Before the pilot could respond, Keisha was again jolted in her seat as the elevator platform taking them downward came to a stop.
Josiah gave out a slight yelp, and the girl turned to see him holding onto his Dad’s hand. It was one of the few times when he seemed like a normal kid.
“How are you doing?”
“I’m still enduring, Miss Davis.”
“The boy’s been through quite a lot as have we all, in part because of your decision-making.”
Keisha cringed at Isaiah’s criticism and then her temper flared. “Okay, okay, so I goofed. So sue me.”
“Hey kiddo, this yours?” Oscar was standing over her holding the girl’s backpack out. This was the first good look she’d gotten of him. He had an aviator’s leather helmet on with the goggles pushed up over his forehead. His leather jacket was darker than Granger’s, and he wore a long, white wool scarf around his neck that hung down nearly to his waist. He was probably around Isaiah’s age or a little older, thin salt-and pepper hair sticking out of his headgear, and a three-day stubble on his face.
“Are you going beef at each other all day? Get a wiggle on, especially you, you old bird.” Granger lit another cigarette and then walked out the hatch at the rear, descending the stairs.
They were all standing now, and Keisha put on the backpack rather than carry it.
“Don’t let her drive you loony. Her bark’s worse than her bite, well, with her friends, anyway.”
“You’ve got it right. Oscar Merriweather at your service.” He took Keisha’s hand and raised it not quite to his lips.
“Pleased to meet you, Miss Davis. Now if you’ll all just follow me, I think the Boss said you’d enjoy a brief tour of the place.”
Oscar was leaving and Keisha asked Isaiah, “Is this place one of your’s?”
He laughed, “Oh Heavens no, Miss Davis. This facility is at Granger’s disposal thanks to her employer.”
“Like the Boss said, time to get a wiggle on. That means hurry up,” Oscar called from the hatch.
It was like walking onto a giant movie set of a secret, underground base, except this was real and nobody was filming the story of their lives. The only thing left of the Kestrel was the gondola, but it was two stories tall and included a control room, engine room, crew quarters, and hanger containing six biplanes and the autogyro.
All of that was drawfed by the hanger, which made Grandpa’s warehouse look like a studio apartment. It must have been at least six stories tall to accommodate the airship including the zeppelin.
“Welcome to the Scrape. Pretty impressive, huh?”
Keisha was startled to hear Oscar speaking right next to her. She’d been overwhelmed by the size and complexity of what she thought of as “Granger’s secret hideout.”
“That’s an understatement. The Scrape?”
Our main airship is called “The Kestrel,” it’s a kind of falcon. Falcons nest in a depression called a scrape. We had to call the place something.
“This is the main hanger. An elevator platform lifts the Kestrel to the surface and brings her down again. We also store more aircraft over on the western wall.” Oscar pointed to about twelve to fifteen winged planes, most of them smaller biplanes but a few could have been cargo ships or bombers. There were two smaller dirigibles on the north side of the chamber.
“In the opposite direction, the hanger extends into the Fab. The ship is designed to separate from the envelope if needed, and we’ve got a construction crew starting on a new one. Should take them a week to ten days until it’s complete.”
“Who built all this? I mean, how can you keep something like this a secret?”
“I’m not sure the Boss is ready for you to know about that, Miss Davis.” He was chuckling, but his eyes said “don’t ask.”
“I quite agree.” Isaiah’s voice came from her left. She thought he and Josiah had already followed Granger to where ever she’d gone.
“Do you know?”
“Somewhat, but not the complete details. Since this is Granger’s operation, I shall leave it up to her to decide what she wants to reveal and to whom.”
“Shouldn’t you be calling her ‘Miss Granger’ or ‘Mrs. Granger?'” Keisha was teasing now. “You’re always so formal with me. How does she rate a pass?”
“Because Granger is merely a code name, not a proper form of address.”
“So what is her name?”
“That is another revelation I shall leave to her.”
“The Boss said to meet her in the wireless room. It’s this way.” Oscar indicated one of several doorways against the south wall.
The four of them walked across the cement floor while various men and women passed them, a few at a run, carrying out duties Keisha would have to guess at. In the movies she and Grandpa used to watch, she never questioned how secret bases got built, but this was reality. Even in an alternate quantum universe, there were still basic rules. How could anyone dig a big enough hole in the middle of a forested mountain range, build a vast industrial complex in it, and then cover it up? Just getting the materials into a wilderness area would be a logistic nightmare, not to mention the impossibility of hiding such a massive construction project.
“Boy, we got the break we needed. Glad you could join the party.”
Walking into the wireless room, they saw Granger had just removed a headset and was handing it back to a young man seated at one of several wireless stations. Her communications panel on the sub looked like a toddler’s toy phone by comparison.
“What’s the deal, Boss?”
“Feds swallowed it hook, line, and sinker. The envelope crashed about five miles off Stinson Beach.”
“So it made it out of Bodega Bay. Lucky break for us.”
“It’s a dilly, alright. Explosives on the Barsoonian charge engines blew up just as planned. The whole thing sank like a bucket of rocks. They might never find out we played them for saps.” She smashed her spent cigarette in a glass ashtray on the wireless operator’s desk. “Thanks for letting me listen in, Charlie.”
“It’s all jake, Boss. I’ll keep on the police band in case they have anything more to say about it.”
“Good. Flag me if anything interesting comes up.” She turned to her guests. “Anybody hungry? I’ve worked up an appetite. Come on.”
Keisha and Josiah trailed behind the other three like a couple of kids on a museum tour, though the teenager felt more like it was Disneyland. The wireless area was only part of a much larger control complex, probably running everything from aircraft operations to who knew what?
Granger took them through a door in an opposite wall, then turned right down the corridor. At the end, it opened into some kind of lounge or break room, and then after that, it turned into a large cafeteria.
“How many people you suppose work here, Miss Davis?”
She looked down at the child. “Beats me. From the size of this place, it could be hundreds.”
It wasn’t a cafeteria like Keisha was used to. The tables were round and sat six, but they all had cloth table coverings. People were sitting in upholstered chairs and eating with real silverware off of porcelain plates. The lighting was provided by a series of crystal chandeliers, and in spite of the fact that several people were smoking cigarettes and cigars, the air smelled fresh.
One entire wall was a bar. As they got closer, Keisha saw people walking up, consulting a menu, and then manipulating a series of knobs and levers. Then after a short wait, out of the wall on the other side of the bar, panels would open and slender robotic arms would deliver a tray, presumably with what was ordered.
“Just coffee for me, Boss.”
Keisha tried to remember the last time she’d eaten or for that matter slept. It was on the Dakuwaqa. Suddenly, there was a war going on inside of her between hunger and exhaustion, even though it couldn’t have been that long ago that she’d had food and rest.
“What? Oh. Uh. What are you having Josiah?”
“Cold meat hash and gravy and fried hominy.”
“Uh. How about some scrambled eggs and toast?”
“Menu says fried, one minute, or over easy. The toast we can do.”
“Two fried eggs then. Sorry. I feel so tired all of a sudden.”
“Don’t eat your heart out. It’s all duck soup. We can get you a flop so you can hit the sack if you want.”
“No doubt the children have been through a lot, Granger. I suspect they could both use some rest.”
It annoyed her when Isaiah referred to her as a “child.” She was a whole six years older than Josiah and practically an adult anyway.
“I’ve got us a table over here.” Oscar held out a chair.
Once the tray holding their ordered was dispensed, Isaiah tried to take it from Granger but she pulled back. “Keep your meat hooks to yourself Isaiah. I’m not some sort of flower who needs a man to do for me.”
“If you insist.”
She hefted the tray over to where Oscar was standing, set it on the table, and then pulled out her own chair.
Keisha saw Oscar looking at her and realized he was holding the chair for her. She was too tired to argue.
“Thanks.” She tried to sit down and then realized she still had her backpack on. “Wait a sec.” Taking it off, she set it at her feet and then let herself sink into the comfortably padded seat.
“Which reminds me, Miss Davis, we should check the remote controller device. Of course, we’re well out of range of our submersible, but since it remains at the bottom of the bay near Mr. Tyson’s home, there may yet be some way to retrieve it.”
“Oh yeah, that’s right.” She’d forgotten that the plan was for she and Josiah to be on board the submarine right now, though she had no idea what she was supposed to have done after that.
“If Josiah and I had left you behind, what would have happened? I know you planned to rescue your wife from Mr. Tyson’s house and bring her back to the submarine, but she wasn’t there.”
“My alternate plan was as you see it. I trusted Granger and the crew of the Kestrel to come to my aid, which indeed they did.”
“What would have happened to us? We’d be stuck underwater with no place to go except back to the Farallons, and for all I know, it’s not safe there anymore.”
“I still could have contacted you by wireless from this facility.”
“Only at night when we could bring the Dakuwaqa near enough to the surface to raise the antenna.”
The more she talked, the more she realized Isaiah’s plan to rescue Eralia hinged on everything going right. His “plan B” had more holes than the Kestrel’s gondola. She looked over at Josiah and saw he’d stopped eating and was looking at his Dad.
The inventor took a deep breath, but it was Granger who spoke next. “Look Snookums, except for Isaiah’s tub sitting at the bottom of the Bay, it worked out good enough to get the three of you off of Tyson’s rinky-dink island and back to our joint.”
“No, it’s alright, Granger. Miss Davis makes some excellent points.”
“Maybe she does, but a room full of people isn’t the best place for her to give you an earful. You’re a good egg and you pulled a real boner, but we’ll figure out a way to make everything jake again.”
In spite of Granger’s concerns, when Keisha looked around, no one seemed to be paying any attention to them. People came in, got food, ate, and left.
“I certainly hope so for all our sakes, but especially for those of my wife and daughter.”
“It will. Remember, we’ve got an inside man, or rather an inside dame.”
“I can’t ask you to do that again.”
“Who’s asking? I hate to pop your balloon, tiger, but you’re not the only one with a pile of chips in this poker game.”
“Of course. I’ve been totally selfish. I forgot that you have your own reasons for being involved.”
“Forget it.” Oscar lightly punched Isaiah in the shoulder. No one expected Tyson to tumble onto your scheme so soon and to put a hit on you and your family.”
“It is true that he’s been one step ahead since Miss Davis’s arrival.”
“I had nothing to do with…”
“No one is saying you had, Miss Davis, but it does seem like Mr. Tyson did anticipate your arrival aboard the Graceful Delight.”
“I can’t wait to take a look at those engines, if they’re half the doozy you say they are.” Granger swallowed the last of her coffee and lit another cigarette.
“At this juncture, we will need another plan to retrieve the airship, Miss Davis’s journal, as well as the missing members of my family.”
“Not to mention that tub of bolts you’ve got sitting in the water off Red Rock. Like I said, Isaiah. I’ve got a plan.”
“Hey, Boss. Why don’t we scare up a couple of rooms for them to take a load off.”
“Good idea.” She turned from Oscar to Isaiah. “You stay here and give your dogs a rest. We’ll come back and flag you when we’ve arranged a couple of free bunks.”
“Yes, of course. Thank you.”
After the pair had left, Isaiah uncharacteristically touched Keisha’s forearm. “It was kind of them to give us a bit of privacy.” He had lowered his voice, but there couldn’t have been more than ten or twelve other people still in the cafeteria, and no one was near them. “You were right about everything you said before. I let my zeal and my own arrogance put you and my son in an exceptionally difficult situation. I pride myself on my mechanical inventiveness, but I fear I’m only a mediocre military strategist.”
He paused for a moment looking embarrassed. “What I’m trying to say is that I deeply apologize and humbly ask for your forgiveness. If circumstances were otherwise…no, that’s an excuse. I’m responsible for the predicament I put you both into and there is no justification for it.”
“Oh Pa. It’s okay. Mama needed help. You did right.” The boy leaned over and hugged his Dad. As they embraced, Isaiah murmured. “That’s no reason to risk your safety as well, son, and your Mother would be the first to say so.”
“Isaiah. None of this worked out the way we thought it would. I mean, I had no idea what was going to happen when I started the Delight’s engines back in Grandpa’s workshop.”
“Yes, of everyone involved, you have no experience in what to you must be a very strange world, and you’ve had little time to acquaint yourself given the chaotic events that have surrounded us.”
“That’s what I mean. We’re all doing our best. I know you are. I lost my Mom and my Grandpa, so I can imagine what you’re going through, at least a little.”
“You are very gracious, Miss Davis. Thank you. I promise if at all possible, to plan out our my actions more carefully next time.”
“You mean our actions, don’t you?”
“I’m afraid I cannot compound my past errors by allowing you or Josiah to go any further in this endeavor. You are both immediately safe in this location. When I leave here, I plan to leave without you.”
“No, Pa! You can’t!”
“I agree with him. We didn’t go through all this just to sit around playing video games while Eralia and Leah are still missing.”
“I am unfamiliar with these video games, but I must insist you and my son stay here.”
“You can’t. You heard Tyson. He can’t figure out why Grandpa’s Journal is so important. Until he said that, I couldn’t either, but now I have an idea. When you get that journal back, you’re going to need me.”
“Why is that, Miss Davis?”
They all looked up to see Granger standing over them.
“Found you a couple of rooms. If you’re done with your vittles, I’ll walk you over. Don’t worry about the plates. One of my guys will be around for them.”
“Thank you again for your hospitality.” Isaiah stood and before he could pull out Keisha’s chair for her, she got up, too.
“I keep forgetting about how manners work here.”
“Don’t let it be a bother, Doll. We gals can sit, stand, walk, and wiggle without a man calling the shots, right?” Granger gave the teenager the “thumbs up.”
“Right.” It was the first time Keisha remembered smiling in days. Even Isaiah humorously rolled his eyes.
Keisha was bored. She slept a little, tossed and turned, got up and paced, and then tried to sleep again. She opened the drawer to the one night stand in her spartan room and only found a Bible. It was one of those “thees” and “thous” Bibles, not the one that her friend Alicia had given her when she was trying to get her interested in going to church.
If Isaiah and Josiah weren’t sleeping, they were probably praying or reading the Bible or who knows what. She wished she had her cell, but then she remembered that even if it worked, there was no WiFi, cell towers, or internet.
“I’ve got to get out of here.” Keisha opened the door to an empty corridor. The place reminded her of visiting her brother’s dorm at Berkeley, except it looked like these were built a century earlier and they were underground. She had slowly walked about halfway down the hall and was nearing an intersection, when she heard fast footsteps coming from the right. She thought about ducking back but then remembered she wasn’t a prisoner.
“Hey, Dollface.” Granger rounded the corner, dressed more casually in a looser blouse and baggy slacks, but still wearing tall leather boots with heels she had on earlier. Thought you’d be up by now. Got a surprise.” She was holding a large box in both hands. “Let’s get back to your digs.”
“Okay.” Keisha never quite knew what to make of Granger. She had the face of an angel, the body of a goddess, and the mouth of a longshoreman, plus she was a chain smoker. She was also the person in charge of a vast paramilitary installation and Keisha hadn’t even scratched the surface of the mystery surrounding the Scrape.
Back in her room, Granger tossed the box on her bed and then lengthened the wick in the oil lamp on the night table so the light got brighter. “Figured we’d share a little girl time, and I know Isaiah’s not going to think about it, but here. Open her up.”
Keisha removed the box lid to find an elaborate outfit similar to the one she was wearing, but it looked a lot more intricate and expensive.
“You can’t keep wearing the same set of clothes all the time.”
“Thank you.” She lifted out the top layer and saw there were other clothes underneath.
“Thought you’d be like me and like to wear trousers more often than most gals, but there’ll be times you’ll need to gussy up, too.”
The young girl saw at least one other dreaded corset and a series of frilly undergarments that looked more complicated to put on than an advanced infantry exoskeleton.
“Granger, can you do me a favor?”
“Sure, Snookums. What’s your pleasure?”
“I’m not exactly from around here, and most of the time, I wear just a t-shirt and jeans. Can you show me how all this stuff works?”
“Oh, can you call me Keisha, please? I don’t even know what ‘snookums’ means.”
“I can do that too, Keisha. Here, let me give you your first lesson in titivating San Francisco style.”
It took Keisha an hour to learn the basics of how women’s clothing was engineered in this world, which seemed just as complicated, over-designed, and baffling as the rest of their technology. Finally she felt confident that she could dress herself in whatever attire came her way.
Oscar came by later and escorted the three of them back to the cafeteria, and after dinner, they returned to the main hanger.
“Hey, where did the Kestrel go?” Keisha was astonished to see the elevator platform empty. How could anything have moved something the size of a small office building?
“Take a gander that way?” Oscar pointed to the wall to the left where she saw the gondola having the skeletal structure of a new envelope mounted. “We can’t do without our main baby, so we’re outfitting her with a new buoyancy and drive section, but that’s not why you’re here.”
They followed Oscar to the far wall. In addition to noticing that both Isaiah and Josiah were in fresh clothes, she saw several doors, including one marked “Munitions,” however they were being led to another labeled “Garage.”
Their guide held the door open for them and they entered another large room, this one containing all manner of stream-driven automobiles and trucks.
There was a figure standing next to what had to be a limousine. Keisha wouldn’t have thought in a million years that the woman was Granger.
The gown was burgundy with a black corset and the full skirt flowing all the way to the floor. From the waist up, it was form-fitting and low cut, showing off so much cleavage, Keisha thought Isaiah was going to cover Josiah’s eyes to preserve his innocence. The hat’s color matched the dress with a black feather angled off to one side. As Granger struck several modeling poses, the adolescent caught a glimpse of black lace-up boots sporting three-inch heels. Her lips glistened the same burgundy as her clothing.
“Wow. You look terrific.”
“You’re not so bad yourself, Keisha. Glad you and the guys are here to see me off.”
“I mean, what’s the occasion?”
“I’ve got a date with my fella. We’re going to the opera tonight.”
“Yes, Miss Davis. Remember Granger said she had a plan.”
“And remember when I said I objected to it.”
“You’re not objecting to anything, Isaiah. With or without you, I’ve got my own score to settle, but I figure you scrub my back and I scrub yours. Right?”
“I agree that we can assist each other in achieving our goals.”
“Fine and dandy. Driver’s got my fliver warmed up and I don’t want to be late. Wish me a good time.”
“What’s going on a date have to do with getting Eralia back or my Grandpa’s journal?”
“Easy, toots. My date is with Mr. Stanley Tyson.”
- The Adventure Begins!
- Aerial Encounter
- Police Pursuit
- Desperate Attack
- Submersible Disaster
- Menace in the Dark
- Below the Waves
- Prelude to Piracy
- Farallon Sojourn
- Forlorn Rendezvous
- Assault on Red Rock Island
- Death by Airship
This chapter is longer than I wanted it to be, but I needed to explain a whole bunch of things and flesh out Granger and Oscar a little bit. I also wanted an excuse to “teach” Keisha how to dress in late 19th century/early 20th century women’s fashions.
You’ll find out more about “the Scrape” in the next chapter including some hints how such an enormous complex could be built and remain hidden in the general vicinity of Mt Tamalpais, which is roughly twenty-five miles north of San Francisco.
Oh, I had to look up breakfasts by decade to get some idea of what kind of meals Granger’s cafeteria would serve: American Breakfast Through the Decades.
The next chapter is Kentville.