Stars & Stripes Triumphant

Stars & Stripes Triumphant by Harry Harrison Read Free Book Online

Book: Stars & Stripes Triumphant by Harry Harrison Read Free Book Online
Authors: Harry Harrison
to him. Therefore I asked him if he would aid us without receiving any more information than that at the present time. I am happy to say that he volunteered."
    "I am pleased to hear so, Commander," Sherman said. "It is good to have you on our side."
    "It is indeed my pleasure," said Wilson. "I'll be frank, General. I find the whole matter very mysterious, and under different circumstances I might reconsider my decision. However, I do welcome the chance to serve under you. Our country owes its very existence to your valor in battle, so I deem this a great honor indeed."
    "Thank you, Commander. And I know that Gus will tell you everything as soon as possible. In the meantime we must take our instructions from him."
    "Let's start with this," Fox said, taking a box from under the table and opening it to remove three silk hats. "These are as different from uniform hats as I could manage at short notice. I hope that I bought the right sizes."
    They traded the hats around, smiling as they tried them on, until they had each found a reasonable fit.
    "These will do fine," Fox said, looking into the mirror and tapping his into place at a rakish angle. "Now—will each of you please pack a small bag with personal necessities? No clothes, please, that will be taken care of later. Meet me here at midnight. And please wear trousers without piping. I will have greatcoats for you, also with their insignia removed. The captain has said that he will provide enough squads of armed sailors to sweep the dockside area as soon as it is dark and remove any intruders. This is most important, since we must not be seen as we leave."
    "And just where are we going?" Sherman asked.
    Fox just smiled and touched a finger to his lips. "All will soon be revealed."
    There was no light on deck when, soon after midnight, they emerged into the darkness. Nor was anyone visible on the dock below. They felt their way down the gangway in the moonless night, with only starlight to guide them. There was a black form barely visible on the dock; a horse's whinny revealed a waiting carriage.
    "Entrez, s'il vous plaît," a man whispered, holding the door open for them. The carriage jolted into motion as soon as they were seated. Curtains covered the windows. They could not see out—neither could anyone look in. They sat in silence, jostled about as the carriage bumped over cobbles, then picked up speed on a smoother road.
    The trip seemed to last forever as they moved swiftly through the dark city. They stopped just once and there was the murmur of voices outside. Afterward, the horses speeded up to a fast trot—until they stopped once again. This time the door was opened by a man holding a blacked-out lantern. He lifted the covering flap of the lantern just enough to reveal the carriage steps.
    "If you will please come with me."
    They heard the sounds of lapping water and saw that they were at another dock. Granite steps led down from the ground level to a waiting boat. Six silent sailors manned it, oars rigidly upright. Their guide helped them into the stern, then cast off the painter and joined them. As soon as he was seated, he said something in a foreign, guttural tongue. The sailors lowered their oars smartly and rowed them out into the stream. There were lights on the small ship anchored a little ways out, and a uniformed officer waiting at the foot of the gangway to help them aboard. Their guide was out first.
    "Gentlemen, if you would be so kind as to follow me."
    He led them belowdecks to a large compartment that spanned the width of the small vessel. It was brightly lit by candles and lamps.
    "Welcome aboard the Aurora," he said. "I am Count Alexander Korzhenevski." He turned to the puzzled naval commander and put out his hand. "These other gentlemen I know, but you, sir, are also very welcome here. I am pleased to make your acquaintance. And you are...?"
    "Wilson, sir. Commander William Wilson."
    "Welcome aboard, Commander. Now, gentlemen, please. Remove your

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