87. Nemesis

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Instinctively, I tried to turn, but hard arms grabbed me from behind.

"Keep going!" Mr Ambrose hissed. "They may be watching us from the ship, even if we cannot see them. Just keep going."

"But... you know that ship's name. I know you do. What is the matter? What is so special about it?"

"Keep going, I said! Or do you want us both to lose our heads tonight? Yes, I know the ship. Or at least, I have heard reports of it. If it is the one I think it is, it's the most modern and devastating warship of the world."

I stared at the slender, black silhouette of the two-master with mingled fear and incredulity. This? The most devastating warship of the world? I didn't know much about ships, but most of the Royal Navy ships I had seen entering and leaving the port were much larger than this thing, with a great many more cannons and masts.

He has to be joking.

Then, my eyes fell once more on the threatening, black hull, and I remembered that Mr Ambrose did not ever joke.

"Why?" I asked, quietly. "What makes it so dangerous?"

"It is the first warship made entirely out of steel. Where other ships shatter and crumble under cannon-fire, this thing will simply sail on. It's Lord Dalgliesh's latest contribution to our great British Empire. The flagship of his fleet. Everybody was so pleased when he announced the project. What a great triumph for Britain's naval superiority, etc. The Queen congratulated him."

"Does anybody know what use he is putting his marvellous ship to? That he is using it to steal and smuggle?"

"I don't think so. If they did, I think the queen might have refrained from her congratulation."

We were almost directly underneath the large, red letters now. The Nemesis loomed over me like a spider in the centre of its web, ready to strike.

"Lord Dalgliesh really means business this time," Mr Ambrose said, darkly. "Nobody would be stupid enough to get in his way while he is on this swimming fortress of steel."

I shuddered. Mr Ambrose's nemesis travelling on the Nemesis... it was fitting, in a poetic sort of way. How unfortunate that I had always detested poetry.

I opened my mouth to ask another question, but quickly, Mr Ambrose grabbed my arm from behind and pressed. Thank God I understood the signal! He had to have heard something, for a moment later, a figure in a dark cloak appeared above us on the deck of the ship. Underneath the dark cloak, I could see a thin strip of bright red. Another soldier of the presidency armies.

The soldier made a quick upward motion with his outstretched hand. Mr Ambrose nodded. Non-verbal communication – this was one thing he was an expert in. A moment later, a ladder was lowered from the ship onto the deck.

Blast! I would have to go up first. My heart hammering wildly, I reached out for the rungs of the ladder.

Do you know the fairy tale about Jack and the beanstalk? You know, the one where this silly chap ends up in a land inhabited by giants by climbing a mile-high beanstalk that leads all the way to the sky? Well, let me tell you, the fellow had it easy! Beanstalks are nothing! The ladder I had to climb to the deck of the Nemesis was at least twice as high as the sky. And all the time while I was climbing, and climbing, and still climbing, I knew that something far worse than giants awaited me at the top. Giants were usually really stupid, and not armed with guns.

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