What Prices Paid_Part 8
by Jim Rapkins
London, Great Britain
23 July 1909
“Congratulations, Spence, I’ll be over there to congratulate you properly later on. Have some Bruichcladdich waiting for me.” Devon Cavendish replaced the receiver in the cradle, glad to be rid of the distraction. Of course Spencer was the new Prime Minister, the Opposition was in shambles, and Fisher had shot himself in the foot by refusing to offer up his protégé as a sacrificial lamb on the altar of public scrutiny. Asquith had been…persuaded…to remain on the sidelines, and Lloyd George…well, no one wanted a Welsh PM. But the election was won, and the Party well and truly in control.
Which brought his attention back to the matter at hand. He finished pouring the drinks the phone call had interrupted, placing them on the silver tray himself before turning to serve the three men seated in the small office. Large, brusque men who were ill suited to the small confines of the spartanly appointed room. All three wore the uniform of the Sky Fleet, though some wore it more easily than others. Cavendish again mentally berated the short-sightedness of the Admiralty that had left him with little choice other than to approach such men as this. At least in the Borderers, there had been men of class. He doubted these men even knew what Bruichcladdich was, let alone what it tasted like. They were impressed enough with the Glenfiddich he’d just poured each of them.
“What exactly are we here for, milord?”
Cavendish managed to keep his annoyance from flashing across his face as the senior of the men spoke. Captain John Christian, the so-called Butcher of Calcutta, and his irritating New Zealand accent. No class. Cavendish knew the only reason he hadn’t been cashiered from the Sky Fleet was Fisher didn’t want to irritate those hawks in Parliament who had nodded with agreement at Christian’s heavy-handed approach for dealing with the natives. He forced himself to adopt the disarming smile that left most military men thinking he was yet another spoiled politician. That he had left the cane at home certainly didn’t hurt.
“Thank you, John—can I call you John?—for asking.” Cavendish couldn’t care less whether Christian minded him using his given name, but small concessions and all that. “What I want to talk to you gentlemen about is where you see the future of the Sky Fleet going.” All three men shifted uncomfortably in their seats at the words. Cavendish decided to play the status card. “As you may know, I’m a Privy Councillor, and I feel it is my duty as such to give the King as accurate advice as I can. For that, I need to know what can be done to improve and fix the service.” And what I need to do to ostracize the Fisher clique without completely gutting the efficiency of the Sky Fleet. At the end of the day, Cavendish wanted the Sky Fleet to be full of Christians, pit bulls for the Empire, not afraid to put a bit of stick about. Fisher would never let his troops off the leash like they needed to be. Hence, he needed to go. It wasn’t about one man, it was about the future of the empire.
“For one, you can tell the bloody Admiralty to stop tying our hands and give us some decent crews, instead of their cast offs. Or better yet, you can tell the Admiralty to sod off, and give us our own service.” Lieutenant Commander Ralph Richards, currently CO of the HML Raven. He’d voiced a thought that Cavendish had espoused himself at times, making the Sky Fleet separate from the Navy, but the reality was the two were so closely tied together, it was impractical to separate them. Still, he liked Richards’ line of thinking. One to watch.
“To do that, you’d have to get rid of Fisher. And then you’d have Scott. I’m not Jackie’s biggest fan, but I prefer him over Prancing Percy.” Cavendish furrowed his brow. Stupid flyers didn’t realize the Sea Lord was a political position, not a military one, and replacing Fisher with Scott would not happen…but replacing Fisher was one part of the equation, replacing Scott was an easier task…He decided to broach the issue with these men, his litmus test of the flying corps.
“Who would replace Scott, then?” The third man, Frederic Dreyer, didn’t hesitate to respond.
Cavendish had been surprised his contacts had recommended inviting Dreyer at all, given the man’s close relationship with the Fisher clique. But the fact he was here suggested ambition, and more than that, Dreyer was intelligent. Intelligent enough that Cavendish might make use of him, if he could trust him. Trusting a Son of Abraham? Well, politics makes for strange bedfellows indeed. It was certain someone of that faith would never make flag rank in the Royal Navy without very strong backing. Of course, that backing would come at a price…It was worth considering.
In any case, at the moment this discussion was about the King—or more accurately, Cavendish advising the King. It wasn’t yet about Fisher’s transition from power, so Dreyer had no reason to feel conflicting loyalties. For the moment, he was a sounding board and nothing more.
“It doesn’t matter anyway—Fisher has the King’s ear, and nothing will happen while that’s true,” Christian said. Cavendish found himself reappraising Christian’s political acumen. Now if only one of them would nudge the conversation in that direction…
“About the only thing that would change that is if Fisher invaded bloody France! Hahah!” Richards took another swig from his tumbler and then filled up the glass from the crystal carafe. I should not have invited him after all, a drunk by the looks of it, and his greatest contribution is get Fisher to invade France. What a waste of time…
Or is it?
To Be Continued…