Zimmer came over to the stove smiling and rubbing his hands together before extending them to the fire. “It's all set. We have three sleds and we'll try my arctic transport devices as well. Charles, you will take one sled, sharing with food and tents, because we need the rest for cargo.”
“Apparently, I'm supercargo,” Nigel grumbled, taking his turn at the stove. “You get a nice passenger sled and I get to ride atop a disassembled contraption.”
Zimmer shrugged. “You can always ride the mechanized cargo transport with me. However, given there is still a small chance of explosion, I thought you'd prefer the safer method.” He looked at Edward. “Your lordship will be testing a personalized arctic transport. It's based on existing snow fliers and diesel powered, so it should be capable of speeds up to thirty-five miles an hour, about twice as fast as the sleds.” He looked around. “I propose a hot meal before we head into the wastes.”
Charlie had no quarrel with the idea but the food put before him was as strange as any he'd faced in Egypt or Turkey. The salted herring with onion gravy was nothing like the golden fried cod in London. Fresh rye bread with real butter and peasoup rounded the meal out and puffy pancake balls finished out the meal. Edward ate heartily, clearly dreading another adventure spent on bully beef and machanochie.
They were finishing the last of the pancakes when the head of the crew came to report they had off-loaded everything and loaded the dogsleds. The mushers were waiting.
“Splendid,” Zimmer said. “You and the men help yourself to lunch. We'll be back in a week or so.”
“We're not taking them with us?” Charlie asked.
“We shouldn't need them. The machinery is entirely designed to be assembled and operated by two to three man crews. This will be a full field test. The mushers will handle the transport, but the testing is all on us.”
Zimmer took them out to where three dogsleds with their teams of ten dogs waited in harness. An odd looking machine, looking a bit like a motorcycle on skiis with a large five-bladed propeller behind it, stood with bulging saddlebags draped over the comfortable looking seat. Beside it, a blocky thing on treads, with skiis instead of the front wheels, looked ready to rumble its way across the ice all the way to Canada.
“The cargo transport, and the personal transport. You'll be testing the gear in the saddlebags as well, your lordship. It should carry two soldiers, their weapons and gear much quicker than most forms of ice transport we have now. I based it on Alexander Graham Bell's airboat design. Had old Napoleon used a few hundred of these, the Bolsheviks would all be speaking French.”
Charlie give a thin smile at the joke. He watched, shifting from foot to foot, as Edward straddled the personal transport. He looked at the dogsled waiting for him, packed with gear and a Charlie-sized gap in the middle. The tarp meant to go over it tempted him. He could bundle in, safe and warm, while Zimmer drove the heated truck and Edward froze on the personal transport.
“Load the sled,” he said. “I'll ride with Edward. It's a two-man transport, after all. Let's test it properly.”
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