In Skies of Danger

December 1st, 1918

For two weeks, a pall of gloom hung over the campus of Princeton – thicker than the thickest New England fog. The theft of thee USS Dewey, quite simply, broke the spirit of the men gathered together there at the Theodore Roosevelt Institute for Advanced Studies. The weight of a years worth of invention and work simply gone missing was too much to bear. And even despite the security efforts surrounding TRIAS, the sense of helpless despair was palpable across the entire campus.

The reality is that too much had been lost, or, more to the point, not enough was left behind to reproduce what had been lost. Beyond that, Reginald Buckley, the mind behind the lifting body for the Dewey had been taken, and his notes with him. This loss was believed irrecoverable.

It was noon, a grey soupy day. The kind of day where you’re not sure if it’s raining or just a really thick, wet fog. Students walked quickly from building to building with their heads bowed, yielding to the oppression of the weather and the darkness of their own thoughts. And suddenly, everything changed.

The sound of eight Liberty L12 engines shattered the dreary silence over the campus, and students stood gawking up into the rain as the massive form of the Dewey took shape in the soupy sky. As the airship maneuvered into position to be moored, the TRIAS dormitory emptied as a torrent of Fellows in various states of dress and undress sprinted to hangar amid shouts of jubilation and confusion. Many, forgetting any sense of decorum, leapt into the air to catch her mooring lines and hugged them joyfully, while others maintained their sensibilities and worked to assist in docking the craft.

Even as the _Dewey_’s engines clattered to a halt, a silver Pierce-Arrow automobile careened up to the hangar, spilling out Admiral Mayo and his retinue into the chaos. The cargo hatch opened, and the crane lowered, carrying three haggard scientists: Reginald Buckley, Aubrey Kitts, and Peter Milano. As the crane reached the floor, a jubilant “Yeehaw!” came from the cargo hatch, as Wallace Fowler leapt from the hatch, grabbed the crane-cable, and slid down to the bottom – crashing into the other three and bowling them over.

The gathered crowd hesitated in a pregnant pause, then erupted in jubilant cheers that echoed across the entire campus. A heroe’s welcome indeed.

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Princeton University

Princeton University, Princeton about a year ago

It was fall, and the New England air was crisp with the reminder of winter to come. On the Cannon Green, a spectacle unfolded as a group of men gathered, each with luggage of his own, and each sizing the other up. These were no ordinary men, a quick look at them reveals them to be men of good stock – well built, tall, well-groomed, clearly athletic – but something more as well. Instead of the jocularity one might expect amongst such a gathering of men, a subtle intense focus permeated the air.

These men were the first class to inaugurate the Theodore Roosevelt Institute for Advanced Study, hand-picked from across the country: each having earned the right to be here through a grueling and competitive battery of academic and physical tests. Not a single man stood here without the sponsorship of at least one Senator or Congressman, each of them the brightest young mind in his field. And while each of them was eager to prove himself, none of them knew exactly what his purpose here would be.

The quiet awkwardness of the moment was broken, as a detachment of four Naval Officers strode onto the Green, making its way directly to the small crowd, at its point strode Admiral Henry T. Mayo, Commander in Chief of the United States Fleet.

Henry thomas mayo

“Gentlemen,” he began without preamble, “you’re here because you’re the best minds, hell the best MEN, our nation has to offer. You have one task: The German Empire’s Wehrzeppelins – counter them. We’ve seen plenty from what’s left of the British fleet that our Navy as it stands will be shredded if we sail into European waters, and we have word that they are making ready to send a fleet of those damned things across the Atlantic. Follow me, we have work to do.”

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