And beneath the beacon that is the orange antimacassar, the next chapter awaits.
Otis and Evan: a serialized novel by jabney:
"But Butt is a Captain, Otis. This is 1907. He won't be promoted to Major for several years."
"So how come Alphonse called him, "Major?" Do you think Alphonse is one of us?"
"You mean a time-traveler, Evan? Could be. It's not like we invented time-travel. But there are other explanations."
"Such as wishful thinking on Alphonse's part. Or maybe Butt gave himself a verbal promotion to impress Miss Merrydew and the Countess."
"Or maybe President Roosevelt gave Captain Butt a secret promotion, or maybe Alphonse pronounces the word spelled, "C-a-p-t-a-i-n" as, "Major" or... damn dude, it's gotta be time travel. Let's think this through, Otis. When does Alphonse come from?"
"We could ask him."
"No no no, hear me out Evan. We ask a series of perfectly innocuous questions designed to establish when he was born without ever asking him when he was born."
"Oh that's right Otis, I forgot, you used to work in human resources."
"We call it, "Personnel," now Evan. And I worked with personnel, not in personnel. The candidates I would interview were already vetted by personnel. And they assured me that nobody in personnel ever said anything about screening out old people."
"And yet Otis you always seemed to wind up with only fresh-faced recent graduates to pick from."
"Amazing isn't it."
"That's one way to describe it. Or you could just call it illegal age discrimination."
"Not any more illegal than your Teenage Mutant Radicals Club, Evan."
"Well that was different Otis, we had no teenagers, and the most radical thing we did was to put tomato juice in the beer."
"You put what in what!?" Otis said, looking aghast, "I'm glad now that you didn't ask me to join."
"I never knew that you wanted to join. Besides, Otis, you were my boss."
Otis said, "Of course I didn't want to join. You were in direct violation of perpetual copyright law. But it would have been nice of you to ask."
Before I could say anything, Alphonse returned carrying a bottle of champagne. As he popped the cork, I could see another table being served succulent raw oysters. As he poured the bubbly liquid into our glasses, I could see a fat rustic looking pheasant that had been under glass now being carved. And for a mere child! Then as Alphonse returned the champagne bottle to its icy bath, I could see a magnificent flaming dessert being carried with great pomp to the long table. The eunuch moved from his position at the end of the table and, taking out his scimitar and bowing to the old man at the table's head, proceeded to slice the still-flaming dessert into five pieces: one very large and four quite a bit smaller. "I bet he's as hungry as I am, Otis."
"But hungry for what, Evan?"
"I suppose we'll find out later, Otis."
"Jealous a little. I've never been with a sexy eunuch. And no, Charlene doesn't count."
"Why not Otis? After all when Charlene was Charles, all the male equipment was there. I oughta know. We had gym class together."
"Sex reassignment surgery is different. Especially in our time. And most especially on the SS Oligarch. I oughta know. For one thing, the Scientific Integrity Team makes you choose a gender and agree to remain that way for at least five years. And if you get pregnant after the change it's another five years."
"You mean you used to be a girl?"
"No, just curious. But not five years curious."
"Oh the things I'm learning now that we're family, brother Otis"
"Well brother Evan while you're learning, why don't you learn how we're going to get his hunkyness to come to our cabin."
"Watch," I said as I got up from our table and started toward the long table. Being careful to keep my back turned to the women of the harem I approached the old man, gave a polite bow, and with just the slightest hint of flirtation said, "Pardon me if I'm speaking out of place, but your man is carrying one of the finest blades I have ever seen. Damascus steel, right?."
Before long I returned to our table--the Countess and Miss Merrydew still had not arrived--and pausing near Otis's chair, I leaned over and in a low voice said, "Flattery will get you everywhere. Especially when the object being flattered is a weapon or a musical instrument. The sheik is sending his man over tonight with a dagger that I just may wind up purchasing."
"So why this sudden interest in anatomy? I didn't think well muscled giant was your type, Evan. And don't try telling me it's the dagger. You wouldn't even peel the potatoes during the team building camp-out."
"I don't believe in peeling potatoes. Destroys the nutrition. And as for my type, he isn't. But does it not strike you as odd that our waiter is paying so much attention to a table that isn't his? And didn't Alphonse seem to suddenly warm to the idea of bringing us a doggie bag as soon as he heard that our scimitar-wielding friend just might be there."
"You noticed too?"
"Yes I noticed. And I also noticed..." Whatever I was going to say was forgotten when a kilt-clad man stood up and said in loud voice, "Who let this creature into the first-class saloon!" It was Kelly and she was chowing down on a lovely piece of salmon.
Otis jumped out of his seat, rushed to the Scotsman's table and said, "I'm so sorry, she was my brother's cat at the monastery, and the two can't stand being parted." Turning to me, Otis said, "Evan, come fetch Kelly and take her back to the cabin, please." Dinner, rather the hope of dinner, was over.