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PART 10: June 10, 1915  

June 17, 1915 - New York, New York! - Part VII

--- Noon, Ottoman Consular Guest Suite

"Master, the noon meal is being laid, and, sire, the ambassador has been asking about you." The tone from outside the entry carried much information, including that the ambassador would soon likely seek him.

"Yes, yes," replied Hadi, adjusting his costly raiment. The Ottoman captain let his eyes drink in again his surroundings. The sea voyage had begun well enough, that is, until that cowardly German commodore had let the British curs shoot at HIM -- Abdul's messy demise had even cost him one of his favorite robes. Here, the walls were flecked with gilt and the floors softened by splendid Persian rugs, as they well should be. Yes, being back ashore was a relief. There was only so much a noble should have to endure, he knew, studying his magnificent figure in one of the heavily gilded mirrors.

Last evening, for example, had been wonderful, almost spectacular. These Americans had developed this dish called "steak" and Hadi had quickly become its gustatory champion. He belched magnificently as he reflected upon the last evening's reception. Life these last three days had been a delightful whirlwind of fetes. And buffets! What a marvelous concept! One need not wait for any particular dish to be brought out and all to be served. Instead, one simply took what one wanted when one wanted it. He patted his impressive girth contentedly as he left his suite, and smiled as it rumbled back at him. It had, after all, not been fed for a couple hours, almost.

As he emerged from his suite, several of his servants bowed deeply and most fell in behind him, several steps to his rear. One went well ahead, to assure the ease of his master's passage, and another came to within a carefully gauged half step, falling in just behind Hadi.

"Great Lord," said this favored individual, "there is much activity in the heathen shipyard. Several may be getting ready to sail, including the two greatest ones."

"That no longer concerns me," replied the great man with a grand flourish. "What of the other matter?"

"Oh, oh, oh," whined the other, bowing abjectly, "mercy, master, I beg thee! But I have been unable to learn where these infidels net mignon."

"Is it a mystery, then, you worthless jackal?"

"They know, oh, Munificent One," the servant responded. "I am sure of it. They just refused to answer my question."

"Ah, a closely held secret, then!" This, Hadi could well understand, as such was commonplace in Istanbul.

"Yes, sire. They but laughed at me when I asked where they were found."

"You are to persist in this until you can report success. If you fail, perhaps I must withdraw my favor ..."

"Oh, no! No, oh Glorious Lord, may your camels fill the dunes forever! I will not fail you. I swear it!"

Hadi left the miserable servant still muttering entreaties and wringing his hands in anguish as he entered the dining room. He returned the many courteous nods and other signs of welcome with ones that were probably no more than false than theirs. He sat down at one of the places of honor, and the meal soon began. Hadi looked over the dishes as the deferential waiters placed them before him, but the offerings seemed to possess neither the zest of home nor the novelty of New York. He dug in, nonetheless, determined not to offend his host. At the head of the table, the ambassador quailed, unnoticed by Hadi.

"Captain Hadi," began the ambassador, in between dishes, "this evening there is to be another reception in your honor. I am sure you will again be asked to relate your experiences at the great battle in the North Sea, the, er, ‘Kaiser's Battle' in which you played such a decisive role. Last night went quite well, I thought."

And indeed it had, much to the ambassador's surprise. Lubricate this bottomless pit of a sailor enough food, he had learned, and Hadi would wax quite eloquent. The evening engagements had all gone so well, in fact, that the official had decided not to notice the strange crates Hadi's retainers had brought off the Imperator. With that thought in mind, he drew in another breath and spoke of the upcoming festivities that were to be held at the elegant residence of a local, wealthy Turkish businessman.

Hadi nodded and, not tasked to speak, continued diligently to display his fullest respect for his host.

---- Noon, Vice-Admiral Stennis' Office

"Dave, thank you for dropping by," greeted Stennis as Rear-Admiral Alton stepped in.

"Thank you," said Stennis to the steward, as the coffee service was set down on the table. "That will be all for now. Lieutenant, would you see to the Admiral's aide?"

The door closed, leaving the two admirals to themselves. Outside the two junior officers moved several steps down the corridor and began to talk shop and women, but mostly women.

"So, Dave," began Stennis, "did you get a chance to read the papers I sent over?"

"Yes, sir. I did. John, do you really believe those numbers from Geneva?"

"Yes, though I admit that I didn't at first. Now, though, I think we have to accept them. The British papers splashed them all over in headlines last week, I've been told, and neither 10 Downing nor the Royal Navy came right out and denied them. Also, Jonathan Pratt and I go way back and I don't think any Hun could put something like that over on him. The German captain convinced Jon that he'd been at the battle and his lists named ships and named names. Lots and lots of names. Also, I just learned, we somehow had a serving officer there ourselves. He's been reluctant to try to dispatch a full report, I hear, but what he did get out of Britain was fairly consistent with the Pratt documents. No, I fear the Germans did indeed do pretty much as they're boasting."

"I guess Strassburg showing up, right here in New York, is just another bit of evidence."

"Yes," agree Stennis, without enthusiasm. "As you know, the British have stopped all their merchant traffic, as of dawn this morning. Washington has decided that Strassburg must leave within 24 hours after dawn tomorrow."

"Of course," replied Alton. "They'll leave right just after dusk! The Brits will have a devil of a time trying to spot them, let alone track and engage them! They could sprint up or down the coast for hours before making their break for the open sea."

"I'm sure that's precisely what was intended," acknowledged the senior admiral. Both men looked at each other with various levels of dismay and relief.

"In fact," added Stennis, "one liner could go each way. That would complicate matters considerably, I would think."

"I agree, sir. Well, what are my orders?"

"You are to stand out to sea this afternoon with Wyoming, New York, and a suitable screen force. Join up with Peace's Montana and Snepp's half-division, and take local command. You're a show of force and our coastal waters are not to be turned into a battleground. And, Admiral, let me be frank. Snepp is to keep a decent interval from the British and the Germans when they do sortie. I want no cloak and dagger games out there. I'll be sending out Aylwin under young Leverett to escort them out to the limit. The Germans know him and his ship well enough by now to avoid any accidents."

"And when they are outside the three mile limit?"

"I have been given strict orders not to interfere in international waters, except in rescue operations. Those, Admiral, are your orders, as well."

"Aye, aye, sir."

Alton did not like that one whit, but orders were orders.

jim (Letterstime)

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