The Ritz, London, England
Captain Knight spoke. “Would you mind if we met in Southampton on the 1st of October then? I would appreciate being able to see the ship.”
Dennis was staring off into space, barely keeping up with the conversation transpiring right next to him. As soon as the prince had mentioned Nuestra Señora de la Misericordia,
Dennis' mind had drifted away, sailing back across the seas and back through time, returning to that old adventure that had become something like a long-lost first love to him.
“Why, yes of course, David,” Prince Andrew concluded. “I hope you do not mind if I leave you with Doctor Kramersen, but I must be off.”
The prince smiled pointedly and Dennis noticed the cue a bit too late, giving him an unceremonious wave after the prince had already turned away. As soon as the prince was gone, Captain Knight's smile faltered, his jaw setting into a subtle expression of disdain. Dennis tugged at the rigid fabric of his collar and looked around the room, leaning against an ornate banister.
"So...congratulations on retirement. How's it feel?"
"I have served Queen and Country proudly for 25 years and will continue to do so. I'm honored to join the prince's expedition and you should be honored as well."
Kramersen sighed. "Yeah, I guess so. But it's just not that simple, you know?"
"I beg your pardon?"
"Oh, no I mean...Queen and Country is...great. That's great, you know, good for you," Kramersen said, studying the details of the banister. "But those expeditions...chasing shipwrecks, treasure-hunting, life out on the sea. It's tough. It was really tough. Both on the mind and the body. It's been so many years... Oh, and the food was terrible. Back when we were looking for Misericordia
, now let me tell you. The food on that expedition really put the 'misery' in Misericordia
"Doctor, I'm not sure I understand what it is you're trying to say," Captain Knight interjected. "The prince has been quite adamant. He believes your presence on the ship would be an invaluable asset to the expedition and I have no doubt he's invited you here today to persuade you to accept the offer. I can't fathom why you're reluctant to join."
A waiter passed by with a tray of drinks and Dennis plucked a flute of champagne off of it. "David--I mean, Captain. Captain David? Do you ever go by that?" Captain Knight just stared flatly at Dennis. Dennis shook his head. "That just doesn't sound right, does it? Anyways, Captain Knight
," Dennis said, taking a sip of his drink. "You see, I think my seafaring days are over now. I'm finally on land and I have a dog, I teach classes. I haven't met anyone yet but hey, maybe I'll finally settle down. I could just spend my sabbatical researching in Florida. I've been asked to help write about the effects of mold and decay on shipwreck identification."
Captain Knight looked at Dennis as if he had said something sacrilegious. "As much as it pains me to say this, I also believe your expertise would be an asset to this operation, and not just a few words of your advice. I was surprised to hear you've published books."
"You've read my books?"
"Of course not," Captain Knight scoffed. "But the prince is an admirer of your work's philosophy. Something about scientists being more engaged
"Well it's all true. The best way to find the artifacts is for the scientist to go out there in the field, out there with the crew and the divers, where all the action is happening. It's so much more effective than having the brainy guy stay on shore giving divers some blind advice from a hundred miles away."
"Then you must also understand why the prince insists. It has certainly been a long while since you've been recognized for your field work. Of course, I imagine in the current state of your career, it's an honor just to receive any invitation much less an invitation to join such a prestigious expedition."
Dennis finished his drink. "Well...you're not wrong about that." He sighed. "It seems like you've made up your mind to go. And I'm sure Brenda will agree. You said it yourself, 'An opportunity you cannot refuse.'"
"I'd certainly rather accept this offer than settle into some dull vacation town in Florida studying mold."
Dennis laughed. "Well, when you put it that way...You know what? I'll accept. Once this upcoming school year is through, I'll join. Maybe even for an extended period."
"Don't worry, the honor is all yours, Captain. I'm in it for something else."
"Yes...and what might that be?"
"Adventure," Dennis said with a shrug. "And to take a break from grading some really lousy papers." He glanced over the room full of stuffy men in their black tuxedos, strutting--no, waddling--around. "You know, there used to be giant, human-sized penguins," Dennis remarked. "About 60 million years ago, there were 6 foot, 200 pound penguins walking around New Zealand. Probably all puffed up and proud because they outlived the dinosaurs. Imagine that."
Captain Knight narrowed his eyes. "I beg your pardon? These are honorable men, men of the highest calibre. Not ridiculous birds incapable of flight."
Dennis chuckled. "No disrespect, Captain. I'm sure your men are very capable. But it really looks like March of the Penguins in here, doesn't it? Where are all the women of high calibre?"
Captain Knight shook his head. "I have no idea
what you're talking about."
Southwest of Hawaii
Dennis Kramersen bit into a sandwich and let out a small grunt of approval. "I'm always surprised that the food on this ship is actually good. What'd you say this was?"
"Banh mi," the cook said.
"Fantastic," Dennis replied, taking another bite. "It's nothing like the miserable Misericordia
menu or that spongy meatloaf back at the East Carolina cafeterias but in fact, that's actually a really good thing."
He wandered around for a bit, leisurely finishing his lunch and watching as crew members hurried back and forth, diligently tending to their responsibilities. He headed to the front of the ship to check on the progress of the ongoing dive. He arrived just in time to pass Captain Knight on his way to his office. Dennis greeted him with a wave.
"David, good to see you out and about. How are you?"
"Doctor. Please excuse me, I'm afraid I have some urgent matters to tend to."
"Of course. And make sure you try this sandwich after you're done. Banh mi."
Captain Knight gave a small, stilted smile before hurrying away. Dennis continued strolling along until he entered the area where James Graham was overseeing the site.