The Winter War: Part Five
Kennedy was a little red-faced by the time he reached the spot where Balt, Carlton and Annabeth were waiting. But it didn't stop him from coming to smart attention and snapping a parade-perfect salute to his brow, knuckles bloody from beating the man he had dangled from the window.
"You bellowed, colonel?" he said, his tone far more familiar than his crisp salute. Balt chuckled.
"That I did, sergeant major," he replied with a grin. "Time to stop bothering the girls and beating up their paying customers. I've got a job for you."
"Sir, yes, sir. 'Bout time, sir. Does that mean I'm unretired, colonel?"
"Not officially, Kennedy. Willoughby is still the MoD so the reason you were retired is still there. Regardless of that, I need you and your boys to do something for me that will save queen and country like you've done so many times before."
"Count me in, sir!" Kennedy barked, all signs of his earlier belligerence gone. "For Queen and Country! I'll have the lads rounded up in about three or four hours. Where are we mustering?"
"The West India Docks on the Isle of Dogs. Bring your jump gear and prep for hard travel."
"Right-o, sir. See you there!" Then the stout fellow was off running down the street, moving far faster than a man that size should be able to.
"I need to put some things together, too," Annabeth said rather perfunctorily, stuffing a broad rimmed hat onto her head.
"You're not seriously thinking of joining this venture, are you?" Carlton quickly asked with a frown.
"Oh no, you don't, Carlton!" Annabeth snapped, putting hands on hips. "You're not going to stop me from helping this time, either."
The outburst earned her a raised eyebrow from the spy master and a frown from Balt.
"I thought you said she uncovered Brown and leveraged Cruikshank into helping us," the big soldier asked, looking over at the Agency man.
"She did," Carlton began to reply before Balt interrupted him.
"Then I don't see the problem here, spymaster. We'll need all the able bodies we can find for this operation. And if one of them happens to wear petticoats and has long hair, then so be it!"
"Thank you, colonel," Annabeth said brightly, bobbing a quick curtsey. Then she too was off and running. "I'll be back shortly!"
Fortunately the young lady was as good as her word. It wasn't five minutes before she returned with a good sized duffel of her own, slung over her shoulder along with a couple of bandoleers of ammunition, and a travel kit. Having already hailed a taxi by this point, Balt shooed them all inside and together they made the crosstown trip back towards the Thames and the great dockyards there that were responsible for handling goods from all over the Empire that couldn't travel by dirigible.
Carlton took one last doubtful look at Annabeth sitting across from him and beside Balt before looking at the big soldier.
"So, clarify something for me, colonel," he began. "You've gathered weapons and supplies, dirigibles, and soldiers from a disgraced regiment. I know you intend to strike von Brandenburg's fleet before he can cross the Channel and attack England, but I still haven't reasoned out how, exactly. Care to indulge me?"
"The key are those soldiers from that disgraced regiment," he replied."About five years ago, Brigadier General Robert Naismith came up with the idea of dropping soldiers from dirigibles via parachute onto the battlefield. Then Minister of Defense, Lord Ian Cowley liked the idea so much, that he commissioned a new regiment."
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