Major Cecil Greenfield-Smythe was in his cabin, dressing for dinner. He took stock of his image in the closet full-length mirror, tucking in his freshly starched white shirt, just-so. Earlier in the day, the maid had returned the laundered shirt with wrinkles, and he had was forced to have a firm word with her in order to get the shirt properly pressed in time for the early dinner seating.
He had noted this oversight in his leather-bound notebook and then locked the notebook back up in the cabin’s safe, where he kept it contained, lest its contents accidentally–or otherwise–be viewed by unauthorized eyes. He had filled more pages that he’d expected, and truth be told, most with positive notes about his experience on the Friendship. He had one more essential entry to make before the journey was concluded, however, and accomplishing this would not be easy.
He needed to see the Bridge.
He needed to understand how the crew did their maneuvering when close to shore, and when navigating shallow channels. He needed to hear how the crew interacted with one another, when shifts were changed, how meals were arranged, and how communications with ports were handled. These things were vital to his efforts to start his own cruising business venture. His venture capitalists would scrutinize his business plan, and so he needed to have every detail thought out.
His voyages, as he envisioned them, would circumnavigate Great Britain, in a similar way as the Friendship’s fleet did in Scandinavia, complete with the requisite cultural stops along the way, and of course close encounters with the wild cliffs and stunning vistas of his home island. But his plan had a differentiating factor: the vessels would be reworked ships from a bygone but much-beloved era of British shipbuilding. Classic naval ships from the turn of the century, and maybe even older–long decommissioned–would be transformed into pleasure cruisers comfortable for travel. The careful and thoughtful refurbishment of each vessel would highlight her unique qualities, keeping all the historic touches possible, from the wood used on decks to the lighting fixtures. These voyages would have great appeal to British history buffs like himself, but would also draw in the new wave of British patriots, who would be pleased to see the Union Jack flapping proudly at the helm. Each ship would evoke its unique spot in history, giving passengers a chance to experience a bit of time travel, but with modern conveniences, like flush toilets and air conditioning. Each ship would have a museum that paid tribute to the action the ship had seen. With five-star dining and beautiful accommodations, the Major knew his plan was a solid one.
But he had more research to do, and, as he checked the dial on the safe, he reminded himself that he must remain steadfast in protecting his intellectual capital. Britain: Greatest At Sea was an idea worth stealing, he knew that. He had worked for years to establish what he knew would be useful–essential–connections in government, especially when it came to awarding government-sponsored contracts to fix up the old ships. With all of the bureaucracy (which he had helped to establish, he recognized now, with some irony), it wasn’t going to be easy, but he had laid the foundation, and there was only one way to go: full-steam ahead.
He’d need a partner to request the tour of the Bridge of the Friendship, as to not raise any alarms. Mrs. Peirce would work; she was after all, also single, and, being older, was not someone you might expect would be up to anything underhanded. Not that the Major considered this research to be treachery–no! Far from it. He loved the sea and all things sea-faring and only wanted each company to succeed. Having a little healthy competition would only grow the market, wasn’t that right?
Hmm, he frowned at that thought. His government’s purpose had changed. The country had changed; the people too. He felt…left behind, somehow. No more “good wars” and all that. Yes, it was time to move on to new ventures. And despite his career successes, he didn’t feel he’d yet left much of an impact on his homeland, and as the years slipped by, he felt more and more compelled to leave his mark.
He checked his tie in the mirror and brushed his hair a final time as he reviewed his Bridge access plan. This was nearly the last night of the voyage, and there wouldn’t be many other opportunities to get his remaining intelligence. Yes, he must take action tonight. He would talk his way into dining with Mrs. Pierce, and over coffee and dessert, and a brandy for good measure. He would steer the conversation into all things nautical…and he could maybe even get her to have the idea of a Bridge tour herself. After all, this was known to occur after dinner sometimes, when the Captain was feeling generous with his time.
If that didn’t work, he would convince Mrs. Pierce to join him on a stroll on deck under the moonlight, and they would simply take a wrong turn…