Rachael and the others have been inoculated with nanotechnology that will protect them from John Smith’s collaring. In the process they saw new technologies and heard about what might lay ahead. Rachael and the others are then introduced to Abigail who has travelled with Millicent in a previous round.
Abigail provides some background and insight into life with Millicent to the recruits. She also hints at the difficult place that Earth is in. This section was savagely cut. Find out about inoculations and technology? Gone. Learn about John’s poor reaction to shots? Humorous but gone. Introduce Felicity Rand and her sweet innocence?! Taken out and left for you to read in “Rachael Learns about a Journey” . With all that ruthless cutting, you would think I could get the entry shorter. I tried. I really tried and the language is a lot tighter. But 3000 words was all I could bear
For your enjoyment on a rainy day. Look for more on Tuesday.
Rachael Learns About a Journey
Following the inoculations, Rachael sat at the bar drinking water and a beer with John . Michael Richards had brought his fiancée and the four were getting acquainted. When two women and a girl arrived at the door. The girl ran up and hugged Millicent, “Auntie Millicent, I’ve done half the puzzles in the first book.”
Millicent said with a smile, “Oh dear. I may have to talk to the author about making them harder.” Millicent greeted each of the women with a kiss on the cheek –it was European. But it seemed to linger a bit long. Well it wasn’t Rachael’s business.
With Millicent’s encouragement, Rachael and the others moved to a table in the back. Michael and Felicity sat together. John and Rachael sat on either side. One of the women, Abigail, brought a glass of wine and sat in the empty chair. She looked at the four faces staring at her. “Good lord did I ever look that young. Maybe I will start by asking you to introduce yourselves. Your name, your specialty in school or your favorite subject and where are you from.” She looked to her right at John saying, “Let’s start with this fine gentleman.”
John puffed up moment and used his finest posh accent, “My name is John O’Malley. I studied mechanical engineering and was particularly interested in hydraulics. I’ve build some lifts. “
Abigail smiled and said, “I’m sure you have. Where are you from?”
John looked at the table and said, “Stepney, ma’am”
Abigail patted him on the knee said, “Mr. O’Malley that should be a point of pride. No one handed you your University degree. You had to work harder, and were graded harder to obtain it.” She looked around and said, “You didn’t get a job it was because of your Irish heritage or where you were born and it is England’s loss. America figured that bit out and is already stronger than us. If you take this job, you will be valued for your skills, your whit, and your creativity. The people who see you may come to think that Stepney is a center of learning and wisdom because of your work.“
“Yes, Ma’am,” John muttered, not sounding convinced.
Abigail looked to the roof and said, “Lord, I thought it would be different when I came back. We English do so love our class distinctions. Please continue,” and nodded to Michael.
“ Michael Richards from Cardiff. I studied Civil Engineering along with architecture. “
“Do you draw or paint?” Abigail asked.
“A bit.” Michael said.
“Know this…Your imagination will be your limitation in what you can build,” Abigail said with intensity.
“I am gathering that. Millicent showed me something that shouldn’t exist,” Michael said scratching his head.
Abigail laughed and said, “You will find the rules change around Millicent.“ She nodded to Felicity.
“Oh I am Felicity. I am Michael’s fiancée,“ Felicity said quickly and looked to Rachael.
“Really? What did you study?,” Abigail asked.
Looking down a bit, “I am just a maid, Ma’am”
Abigail took a sip of her wine and considered Felicity and said, “Oh my, Millicent is really getting soft. “ Felicity shoulders fell and she looked at the table. Rachael glared at Abigail. Abigail said, “Forgive me. That came out poorly. Please continue, Felicity no surname, where are you from?”
“It’s Rand, Ma’am. I am from Manchester,” Felicity said defensive now.
“So was I. We will compare notes later and I will come back to you. Next?” and she nodded to Rachael.
“Rachael Weiz, also of Stepney. I studied mechanical engineering. I work in a clock shop so I am most interested in automatons,” Rachael said smartly.
“A lass after my own heart. I studied as best I could in mechanical engineering and small mechanics. “ She eyed Rachel with a raised eyebrow and said, “Has Millicent told you what the inoculations really are?,” Abigail asked.
“Yes, but it made no sense,” Rachael protested.
“No truer statement could be made. But it is real. You just don’t understand the physics and chemistry yet around the nanites. They are called “nanites” for nanoparticles meaning on a scale of nanometers. “ She turned her focus back to Felicity and said, “Now Miss Rand, why are you going on this grand adventure?”
“I suppose because I am with Michael,” Felicity said.
Abigail crossed her arms and frowned, “Dear child. If you continue to think that way, you will be homesick beyond compare and no way home. Let me rephrase – what do you like to do?”
“I suppose I like to write,” Felicity said a bit sheepishly.
Abigail said, “Excellent. The writing should start today so everything is recorded. It may be read and it may not but you have to believe you are something more than a mate of another or you will be lost.”
“Millicent said something of the sort.” Felicity replied.
“And Millicent is right nearly every time. It drove me mad. But she has been at this for longer than you or I can imagine. So Miss Rand, if you agree to this, you will write and you will help everyone. You are not JUST a maid. You are part of the team that will succeed on its combined efforts. Is that clear?” She looked first at Felicity who nodded and then at the rest of the table and they nodded as well.
Abigail looked at the ceiling and asked herself, “What would I have wanted to hear if I had this conversation? “ She looked at John and said, “Who would miss you Mr. O’Malley?” Abigail looked at all of them, “I ask you because you will need to say goodbye to anyone and everyone. They will not see you again.” Her eyes clouded a bit, she took a small sip of wine and continued, “A bit of my history – I was a bastard from a dalliance. I got schooling and got into University and studied mechanical engineering. My mother loved me, but she could barely make ends meet at the pub. My sister took over after I was gone. She did quite well I found out, but I didn’t see any of that. When I returned, my younger sister had been dead for 10 years.”
Rachael asked, “Why DID you go if you knew that?”
Abigail asked, “Has Millicent showed you some of the automatons?”
Rachael nodded yes, but said “Amazing, but simply impossible.”
Abigail laughed, “You all will really need to revisit what is possible. They exist. Why did I go? For one, I would be able to see and work with stuff as that. Throw in my unsanctioned origins and I wasn’t going to get much work here. Finally, I had a bit of secret that would make life increasingly difficult and lonely as I got older. Millicent promised my secret would be of no consequence on this excursion. “
Michael asked, “What kind of secret?” Felicity elbowed him sharply and said, “Not our business.”
Abigail smiled and said, “But you know child, so is it a secret?”
“I’m guessing. You three look very happy together,” Felicity replied steadily.
“Oh we are. And that is all that matters to me,” Abigail said.
“What are you two talking about?” Michael demanded.
“Michael, you would miss your nose if it wasn’t on your face. Abigail and Alice are a pair, mates.” Rachael said sharply.
“We are lovers. Does that bother you Miss Weiz?” Abigail asked defiantly.
“As Felicity said, not my business. Can’t say that I’ve thought much about it,” Rachael said and shrugged.
Abigail smiled and took a drink of wine, “Millicent was right about everything. When I left, I was free to be who I was and love who I wanted. I would return to that freedom in a heartbeat were it not for Athena and Alice. It is a powerful freedom: no class distinctions; no biases about family or religion; not a care about who you love; a merit based society. Felicity, you would have a place. Your writing and journaling would be read by many. Could you say as much here? Rachael, you could wear that gold star as you were awarded prizes. John, you could read the literature and philosophy of the galaxy and find a crowd to debate it with. Where would you be taken seriously here?”
John just smiled and nodded.
“Has she told you where you’ll be going?” Abigail asked.
Rachael sounded annoyed, “Not as such.”
Abigail scowled in Millicent’s direction who smiled back from the bar and raised her glass. Athena was on her lap and Millicent was conversing with Alice. “Oh she owes me.” Putting her head in hand and shaking and then looking up, “the technology that she has shown you – does any of it seem possible based on what you know?”
Rachael answered, “Quite frankly – no.”
Abigail smiled, “I was skeptical as well and you know more than I did in your position. But your senses do not lie, it is all real. So if it doesn’t make sense here and now, what is the possible explanation?”
John answered, “That Millicent isn’t from here or she isn’t from now.”
Abigail looked amused, “Not eliminating any possibilities – a proper logician. But I can tell you that switching times is much harder than switching places. So the most likely solution is that she is not from here.”
“That tells us nothing,” Michael protested.
“I have not specified here Mr.Richards. What is your assumption when I said ‘here’? London, England, Europe? When I say she isn’t from here, I meant that she isn’t from here in a global sense.” She paused to let it sink in. One by one the faces processed what she said and expressions changed from confusion to delight or wonder or skeptism.
Michael was first, “Are you saying that what we saw wasn’t made on Earth?” sounding very skeptical. Abigail looked at Felicity and smiled, “He is such a smart boy.”
Michael burst out, “That’s ridiculous.”
Abigail pursed her lips and said, “And he was doing so well. Michael, are you saying the technology you saw can be produced by anyone, and I mean anyone at all, here on Earth.”
“Well no, yes, …I don’t know.” Michael Sputtered and was finally quiet.
Rachael spoke now, “What I saw couldn’t be. No machinery equipment could make gears or springs so small. If it wasn’t springs, the energy source is so compact I couldn’t see it. It is not hard to imagine that it came from …somewhere else.”
Abigail smiled, “You can say it dear…’it came from another planet’. Go ahead try the sentence out.”
Rachael gritted her teeth at the condescension and still felt uncertain, “It came from another planet?”
“Yes. The music box was designed by me. The figures have tiny motors powered by electromagnetic reactors in their bellies. I made that. Michael, the wire that you saw – that material forged by a materials engineer who owns a pub out on the outskirts of London now. He was a big machine guy but worked with lighter and lighter materials towards the end of the contract. Let me emphasize, I could not have done that when we left or even now with England’s finest technology. What we used to construct those wonders has not been invented here yet.”
Michael asked, “What do you mean ‘here’ and ‘yet’?”
Abigail said tartly, “I will get to that. I need you to accept that these technologies came from other planets.”
John replied, “In the absence of data, I can work with that hypothesis. I have heard nothing that contradicts that it came from the future.”
Abigail laughed, “Ever the logician. Still…you all should take notes from him.“ Abigail closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “Several of us went to another planet – several planets actually. You will to and you will experience things that no other human could imagine.” She paused again. Her eyes got misty again. The group’s skeptical looks were giving way to confusion. She continued, “I have seen waterfalls the color of sapphires, a mile high. I stayed in trees that held small cities. I floated through canyons the width of Ireland, the length England or more, and deeper than Everest is high.” Her voice got soft and a bit lost, “sunsets of green and rose, mornings of blue and lavender, plants that sang, Oceans that glowed when you swam. “ She shook her head returning to the present. “You will see sights that the rest of humanity cannot dream of.”
Rachael asked, trying not to sound defensive, “If it was so glorious, why did you ever come back?”
Abigail looked intently at Rachael, “I didn’t have to. But I was tired and lonely and a bit homesick. I spent a year in France. After a year of French food, it is remarkable how good a meat pie tastes.” To herself she said quietly, “We are due for a trip to Paris and Lyon. Athena needs to practice her French and Alice must be missing proper food and wine.“ Abigail returned her focus back to the group, “Two others in my group had the same feeling and we asked to come back at the end of our contract. “
Felicity asked, “What happened to the family you had left?”
“They had died. I found out I had nieces and nephews who had grandchildren of their own. Even if I had known them; I couldn’t have approached them. What would I say that would be believable? We were warned, but the reality is different. It was much harder than I imagined. I had lost my younger sister to old age and I was still in my 30’s.” She took another sip of wine. “I travelled the world for a couple of years finding where I should be. If you do come back you will be set for life. In traveling, I found love and decided I needed to come home. It might be sixty years later, but there is a comfort in hearing the voices and tasting the food one grew up with.”
Michael persisted, “So what did you mean ‘here’ and ‘yet’?”
Abigail leaned over and sotto whispered, “He’s very persistent. I hope you played hard to get.”
Felicity whispered back, “made him wait six months before I said yes to his proposal.”
Abigail patted Felicity’s hand and said, “Good girl.” The others laughed lightly. Michael blushed and protested, “Excuse me.”
“My apologies, Mr. Richards. Just a josh. “ Leaning back and taking a more tutorial tone, “In seeing so much and so many cultures, one learns that civilization always seem to follow the same path in technology and culture to a degree. If those civilizations and cultures are left to their own devices. Morphology drives the nature of the technology strongly and environment as well. The more challenging the environment, in general, the more quickly technology advances. “
John commented, “I think the idea is that successful ideas in crisis are quickly adopted. If everything is warm and happy, there is no need for change.”
Abigail nodded to John and said, “Just so. Millicent has been the only trader on Earth for some time and she is diligent about non-interference. She thinks we are quite imaginative and doesn’t want to get in the way. So the technology you have seen from Millicent will like appear here if a) we don’t blow ourselves up , b) we don’t destroy our environment and c) someone doesn’t interfere. So everyone who comes back agrees not to interfere. There, Mr. Richards is your ‘here and yet’. Coming back here, we agree not to interfere. We don’t exploit our knowledge and expertise – at least not too much. I run a coffee shop with the most spectacular barista machine. I know someone who has a pub and his liquor is simply ambrosia.”
John asked, “What happens if someone interferes?”
Abigail looked at him and said, “We have our own examples of cultural interference. The Americas are covered with Europeans, but it wasn’t always that way. There were civilizations that understood more about astronomy than the rest of Europe does today. The Indians had a vibrant culture of literature, music, and the visual arts and we’ve crushed that for a bit of tea and spice. The list is long. Our world is full of competing cultures and that tension moves us forward. But, if one culture dominates, other lose. That has happened in other worlds. They become factories to support their neighbors. Planet resources are depleted leaving them barely habitable hulks. People are harvested like animals for slavery. Swimming in this sea of avarice are the finders. And not all finders are so careful as Millicent and the rest of the galaxy doesn’t really care if they aren’t.“
About that point, Millicent wandered over and asked, “Has this been helpful?”
Rachael and John responded simultaneously, “Immensely” and “Very much”.
“It is getting late and I will discuss the contract tomorrow. Drink more water.” Millicent handed out some pills. “This will help with the aches in the morning. There are three rooms. I trust you adults to arrange yourselves. I will be staying elsewhere, but will be back here in the morning for breakfast.” She headed back over to Alice and Athena. Athena was yawning and leaning her head against Alice.
Felicity and Michael looked a little embarrassed. “Is she always so nonchalant in bedroom arrangements?” Michael asked.
Abigail laughed, “You have no idea. She finds Victorian society very confusing and frustrating on such matters. Now, my daughter is yawning and I expect Millicent will be joining Alice and myself tonight at our place. I run a café near the University if you want to talk more or you just want a good cup of coffee,” and she got up and headed over to Millicent’s and Alice’s table. She gave Alice a short kiss, pecked Athena on the cheek and asked Millicent something. After she got an answer, she gave Millicent a long hug.