The landing field for the Rosyth Dockyard was a few miles away from the heavily built-up industrial complex, so after Skipper Miller touched down there, a Land Rover picked them up. As they drove in, Alex, Stephanie and Strong silently stared at the industrial wonder of the place; it was like a village of huge workshops and warehouses lying across a field of tarmac. This was by no means a beautiful use of coastal land, but it was productive. Some of Britain’s most powerful warships – including Hood – were built, maintained, repaired, and equipped here.
The vehicle rolled between huge structures and eventually halted before an administrative building. Alex considered her surroundings carefully; not too many people apparent nearby, but at least the pavements were mostly plowed. As the young whitecoat opened her door and hopped out, then waited for Stephanie and Strong to join her, she wondered how long the grounds had been cleared – getting people back to work at the yard was undoubtedly quite important, but most workers were probably still snowed in. Indeed, there wasn’t even anyone to greet the new arrivals…
The door to the yard’s administrative headquarters abruptly swung open, and just as Strong and Stephanie came to a stop beside their Lady, a new Lord appeared. His coat was gunmetal gray, and his expression was sour.
His introductory announcement backed up his visage: “Expected you sooner.”
He sounded properly Scottish, which normally might have tweaked Alex’s interest, but his choice of words and tone seemed far less collegial than was proper. She just managed to fight off a frown as she turned to consider him.
Stephanie was less successful concealing her first impression: “You expected us to cross the Atlantic Ocean on no notice faster?”
The Champion stopped in surprise at the back-talk, his eyes hardening as they locked onto the American.
“Where’s the rest of your lance, Lieutenant?”
So he was rude and ignorant; this promised to end well.
Seeing Stephanie begin to bristle, Alex took a step forward to interdict, “This is my whole lance. Just the three of us.”
The Scottish Champion continued to glare at Stephanie for a moment, but eventually pried himself free to look at Alex. Grudgingly, he stepped nearer to her and extended his hand, “I’m Lord Duncan, of Edinburgh.”
“Alex Smith,” she took his hand, and found his grip coarse.
“You’re lucky you don’t have to put up with so many camp followers,” the Scot lowered his voice slightly with that observation – as if that would somehow prevent Strong and Stephanie from hearing, even though he was right in front of them. “I’ve asked many times to be relieved of mine, but General Kennedy refuses. Perhaps you’ll be proof of how much more we can accomplishunencumbered.”
Perhaps ‘rude’ wasn’t really strong enough a word. Alex just managed to keep her jaw from dropping, and Stephanie Shylock’s fists began to clench.
But Mike Strong, fortunately, had a clearer head around the arrogant Scotsman: “You’ve begun an investigation?”
Releasing Alex’s hand, Duncan nodded, “Come this way. Smartly.”
With that, he wheeled and hurried back into the building, leaving Alex, Stephanie and Strong surprised in his wake. They looked at each other, and after a few seconds Strong said what they’d all immediately thought: “Shucks, I was planning to do it dumbly.”
“I was going for middlingly intelligently,” Alex offered.
Stephanie shook her head, “I was thinking smartly but not applying myself, and therefore disappointing my teachers.”
That one took a lot of effort to say, so the Lieutenant won the repartee competition.
“That’s pretty good,” Strong nodded, and then with sighs all around, they followed Duncan into the administration building.