Subsubsection: Saturday 27 September 1930 Up Section: Stratford

22 August 2018 (Airships and Bow)

As they leave, Bessie thinks about the clothing the anarchists were wearing: she reads it as what a middle-class woman will wear if told to pick out dark clothes with freedom of movement, certainly not any sort of uniform. The group considers how one might find and recruit female anarchists, while travelling back to Millie’s to get some sleep.
Later in the morning, the papers report multiple outrages overnight – not Woolwich, but various other incidents across London. These seem rather to have fizzled.
Ramsey arrives unannounced, and rather tentatively mentions that he has a commission: his department has a vague and unreliable means of divination, and it’s indicating problems with the Imperial Airship Scheme – specifically the Air Ministry’s R101, due for her first flight in service in a week or so. He’s not directly involved, but it seems that there are two competing airships, the R100 built by Vickers that’s recently crossed to Canada and back, and the R101 built by the Ministry that’s still being worked on. There are deep politics involved here, with the R101 being the darling of the Labour government, so the GRO is unable to exert any pressure to have the flight delayed (and can’t be seen to be involved at all, hence this visit).
None of the group is particularly knowledgeable about airships (though Audrey will be), and they wonder whether they can get in another woman who is. Ramsey thinks about it, and while there’s nobody who officially matches that set of skills, he can probably arrange to borrow Molly Wallis, wife of the chief designer of the R100. References can be supplied for the group as itinerant seamstresses, as it seems that there’s work still to be done at Cardington. Ramsey tries hard to hint that he isn’t encouraging sabotage to prevent the flight, though it might still be better than a disaster on the flight itself; he’s clearly in the position of someone brought up with lots of “straight bat” and “play the game” who finds himself very keen to win. In any case, the team agrees they’ll go to Bedfordshire on Monday morning.
In other matters, it seems that most of the anarchists arrested overnight were male; he hasn’t been involved with interrogations, but given the new information will see if he can work his way in to Woolwich. The group gives him a description of “Brass Earrings”, and Millie (having pulled the image from Bessie’s mind) tries to give it to him directly, but finds she’s scorched by the amulet (which he, politely, won’t take off). There are political implications here too: MacDonald has made some concessions to the labour movement, and the response to these incidents is largely of the form “give ’em an inch and they want a mile”. The Reichsaußenminister Julius Curtius has made comments on the situation (and how Germany deals better with labour unrest); this seems remarkably prompt of him.
Meanwhile there’s last night’s affair to consider. Bessie and Gertrude visit Plumstead Marsh, which has a fair few sightseers on it after last night’s excitement, and they’re able to spot something where the leader of the group vanished: not a bulge like the ones the dragon left, but an adhesion, connecting this place to somewhere else. With maps and a bit of effort, Bessie’s able to pin it down to a terrace just off the Mile End Road.
The group goes there, borrowing Gertrude’s son Bart in case of violence. Millie walks along the road with him, and can pin down the magic to a particular house; there are two magical things in there, both on the ground floor. There are no gardens, just yards connected together. She changes her appearance and goes along the street with temperance leaflets; there’s no answer at that house, and she can’t hear anyone moving about inside. What little she can see through the mostly-drawn curtains of the front window suggests a bare room.
While the street isn’t empty, many people are at work, and the group decides to go in now. Bessie picks the lock, and they enter the front room of a two-up, two-down terraced house. It’s bare, and the magic is in the back, so they open the door by the stairs; the other end of the adhesion is on the wall, and there’s a small metal jewellery-box on the floor that’s the other source of magic. As they’re deciding what to do, the whole place suddenly goes up in flames; they’re all burned (though Millie seems to be acquiring resistance to extreme heat), and they get out as fast as possible. The neighbours are curious, but they shout for help and manage to evade close attention while the fire-fighting gets started (and Gertrude’s able to suppress the flames a bit).
Bessie spots one of the bodyguards from Thursday night watching the crowd. Millie sends Horatio after her, first to see if she can spot him (apparently not), and then to nip her ankle (she jumps, but still doesn’t seem to see him). She sends him into the fire to feed and to get the box, which he brings back only slightly nibbled. Gertrude heals the most injured, Audrey and Bessie, on the way back to Millie’s.