A cold soaking rain gently splashed off the leaded glass windows of the study. Idly swirling a glass of eighteen-year-old whiskey, Lord Archibald Swithington read the cable yet again. He noted that all were reported in good health; that meant his daughter was alive. Fitzsimmons must be alive too, which meant that Sarah would always have a protector, not that she couldn’t take care of herself, if needed. But he knew the Sgt. Major and how devoted to his daughter Fitzsimmons had become. That gave him a feeling of some relief.
In his imagination, he could see an impish grin under big green eyes and cherished the startling resemblance to her mother. Grace Swithington and the baby had died in childbirth many years ago. All that had been left was Sarah and himself. They had become very close while dissipating the grief, and she had accompanied him on many archaeological expeditions. Maybe not the proper upbringing that Grace might have given her, but a remarkable education nevertheless. Sarah was his life. It was time to make plans.
Swithington was intrigued by the location of the island mentioned in the cable. The area had evidently never been mapped. The fact that it was so remote meant that he should prepare for an extended journey. The little idea that burned in the back of his mind would not be extinguished. A passage to the center of a theoretical hollow earth might be found at last! The Hollow Earth theory had been a pet of his for a number of years. He had been on countless trips searching for evidence to support this theory. He had been spelunking in Scotland, Iceland, Greenland, Norway and Finland looking for a passage to an inner earth all to no avail. He still believed, with renewed optimism, that an inner earth existed.
Swithington sipped his whiskey, and walked over to the desk. Sitting down, he began to write a list of items that he would take on this new expedition. As he wrote and the list lengthened, he realized that this would be a major undertaking. He would need to contact his friends in the Merchant Marine and arrange for a good size ship. Foodstuffs, medical supplies, guns and ammunition were high on his list. He would also take the spelunking gear and a tunneling machine. He would bring several of the Military Version Impervious Suits. These provided a person an armored exoskeleton and tremendously strong manipulators. Also down in his lab was the newly finished SCIMBS or Steam and Clockwork powered Impervious Mechanical Bipedal Servant. This might be the perfect trip for field trials of the SCIMBS.
Clank, Clank, Pssh, Hsss, Grrrloink! Swithington looked up from his writing and smiled. A little clockwork cat was looking at him and lashing its tail back and forth. He reached down and wound the mainspring key a few clicks. KATZ would be coming too, of course. Swithington continued to make his plans. The whiskey and the sounds of the gentle rain were forgotten.