Millicent and her contractors headed up to Dunstable to meet Jason McNeil. The following day they visited his parents old house to survey the ruin. While they are there, John Smith arrives with Neville Carter-Frasier and Findley Brown.
This is part one of two sections before I start putting up the climatic attack. This was the first scene in which Millicent and John Smith talk to each other. The dialogue was fun to write. My only tune up would be to tighten John O’Malley’s comments. I have the germ of the idea but I haven’t made it sound right. Work to do. We also start to have hints about Jason’s parents. Those were there already in the part I cut out. What is gone from “Jason Makes Choices.” Very little. I had started to split entries into smaller chapters at this point. This is the first half. I’ve tightened the language some but you get nearly all of it.
A Meeting of The Minds
While Millicent and Jason were reaching an accommodation, three people had arrived at the lot. Findley Brown was on one side wearing his usual coat, tie, and bowler and an insufferable smirk as he stared at the group of seven milling about. Neville Carter-Fraser was on the other side wearing a coat, vest and a top hat. He was watching Findley by glancing at him every few moments. He wrung his hands and jumped with each of Findley’s movements as if Findley might strike him. Neville’s face held a touch of despair when he finally looked at Millicent. In the center was a tall man who was Millicent’s height. He wore a long black coat, a striped vest and a bow tie. He had a handle bar moustache that had been carefully waxed. He clapped his hands slowly at the end of Jason’s and Millicent’s conversation as he surveyed the tableau. He said in a melodious voice, “So this is how the magnificent Millicent manages her contractors. It is a wonder they ever get anything done. I can’t imagine handing over such an obstreperous product to one of my clients. I find a bit of training and reinforcement makes these,“ He paused as he searched for the word, “humans remarkably pliant. Isn’t that so, Neville?” He patted Neville on the shoulder lightly and left his hand on the shoulder in a fashion that should have looked comradely. However, Neville’s flinch made it look more like a subtle torture.
Neville replied quietly in a shaky voice, “Yes…sir”
The man who must be John Smith clucked his tongue said, “Oh Neville, that wasn’t what we agreed to back in London…Findley?”
Findley grinned evilly and touched something in his hand. Neville screamed and fell to his knees, “I’m sorry master. It won’t happen again.”
“Much better, Neville,” Smith smiled and replied, “Findley, reward Neville for that good response.”
Findley grinned again and pressed another button. Neville’s pain had disappeared and his eyes closed and he sighed easily. He said, “Thank you master.” Findley pressed a button again and Neville shuddered some more and started moaning. Everyone watched wide eyed as Neville curled up a bit on the ground sighing.
Smith raised his hands in a calming fashion said, “Relax everyone. I assure you, Neville is thoroughly enjoying it now. Aren’t you Neville?” and he nudged Neville with his toe. Neville merely nodded.
Millicent dropped the bag of strange bit from the yard and moved toward Smith shouting, “Stop it. Stop it now. You’ve made your point.” Pausing as she watched Neville crawl and struggle back to his feet swaying a bit. Millicent said, “Tell me Smith, how do your addicts even think? Oh I imagine with the fear and the pleasure, they fetch and work and perform whatever acts you want them to. ‘Pliant’ as you say. But creative? How, if they are waiting for the next jolt of pleasure? “ She looked at Neville long eyes and asked quietly, “Neville, did you start any electric projects under your new …employer?”
Neville looked at Smith for direction. Panic filled his eyes with the fear he would say the wrong thing.
Millicent persisted, “Neville. Has Smith told you where you’ll be going and for how long?” Neville’s lip quivered at the question and he looked away. Millicent glared at Smith. “You call him ‘pliant’. I say you’ve made him useless.” She turned her attention to Findley Brown, “Mr. Brown, don’t you see Smith is training you just the same as Carter-Frasier? Just a different reward. The control must be intoxicating –better than sex. Does that button do it for you Mr. Brown?” Jason stared at Findley in shock as Millicent bluntly assessed him. Millicent turned back to Smith, “Neville’s collar is bad enough. That you’ve put Mr. Brown in charge of the matter is even worse. It’s like asking child to run an airship. Or asking a fox to mind the hen house. But I suppose he is meeting your expectations keenly. You just need someone to beat the workers and do the occasional fight. All aggression with just a hint of intelligence? Neville is just training Findley for later. They call it cock fighting around here.”
Smith clenched his fists, curled his lip and glared at Millicent. Millicent smiled back. Then she said with her own curled lip and said, “I’ve seen your type, Mr. Brown. Smart enough to lord it over servants. But otherwise rather dull.” She turned to Jason, wrinkled nose as if she smelled something distasteful and asked, “Jason, did I read him right?”
Jason started to speak, but Michael spoke up first, “That’s my take on him, Millicent. He had Jason carrying his books in University until a few upper class friends corrected that.” Rachael smirked as if remembering a bad joke.
John looked at his fingernails commented, “Findley constantly had me helping him with math. Too busy to do it on his own I suppose. Improbably, I hoped he would help me after school and get in the factory here. I seemed to have misread his loyalties. I was expecting a friend and he wanted fealty. ” He shrugged and then said, “That didn’t work for me. Some of my best work has his name on it. Decent practice for something truly challenging later.”
Findley screamed incoherently and rushed at Jason who had said nothing. John and Liam stepped in front of Jason and grabbed both arms of Findley and lifted him. Liam said in a thick Cockney accent, “Not today arsehole.”
Jason stepped up to Findley now restrained by Liam and John and whispered, “You fool! What have you got yourself into?”
Findley struggled for a moment in the two men’s grasp. Jason stepped back and felt his stomach go hard. Was Smith unleashing Findley as he wanted to be or was his molding and guiding Findley in this? Findley calmed down and shrugged himself off Liam and John, “Something way beyond Dunstable. This town owed my father. He put this town on the map. What did he get? Complaints, criticism, and he took it with a smile. Well I won’t. Your recruiter there is on her way out. Smith is the future. Earth is an orchard to be picked and I would rather be the guide than the fruit. I will have real power. People will bow to me. Just like Neville and Simone and Edward.” Jason stepped back from Findley as if he had smelled something bad.
John grabbed Findley by the shoulder and turned him to face Neville Carter-Fraser who looked distraught, and said loud enough to be heard, “And what of Neville?”
Findley sneered, “Weak, but useful. Someone to be used. A tool like you.” He said it louder, “like all of you.”
Smith smiled and said, “Tsk, Tsk Mr. Brown. They are baiting you. Miss Stanhope is quite correct. You will need to learn control.” Findley quickly returned to his spot next to the tall Smith in the middle. Smith continued, “Findley is mine and I didn’t even have to use the collar. As for Neville and the others, Morgaine,” Smith shrugged,” It was your interference that made those necessary. My client won’t mind too much. He has exotic tastes and Neville will supply those nicely.” Smith stroked Neville’s cheek gently. Millicent stared in anger as the others watched in shock or turned away in embarrassment. Smith crossed his arms and continued, “The galaxy is changing, Morgaine. The Guild set too many restrictions for contractors and clients. You are far too secret about your sources. This is a big world. You really should share, Morgaine. Times are changing old girl. Your precious guild rules won’t matter shortly.”
Millicent clinched her fists and said through bared teeth, “Your rabble has said that for ages. You whine about restrictions and ownership when they don’t favor you, but lay waste when it’s your license. As for my rules – my clients have been doing very well. The plutocrats have never had strength on the guild council.” She pointed at Neville’s collar and Neville flinched as she said, “Your clients will be like America – torn apart, ravaged over a strange notion of species supremacy.”
Smith tsked and put his hands behind his back and smiled as he said, “You’ve been gone a long time, Morgaine. Minds change, politics shift, people move. They die.” The last was said sharply. He smiled broadly, “The rules are going to change. And this planet will be the first to see it.” He touched the collar. “I can buy this on the open market now. My penalty? A reprimand. I didn’t really need them though. They would have come on their own without them if not for you.”
“I told him the truth, Smith. You turned him into an addict. And you have the audacity to blame me?” Millicent said with her chin high and her hand across her chest.
Neville looked confused, “When did she talk to me? And why is she calling me an addict? What are you doing?”
Smith said hastily and quickly, “Shut up Neville. I will explain later. Be quiet or expect Findley’s help to stay quiet.”
Millicent looked at the sky laughed and said, “Now whose losing control? You’ve collared him and you still can’t tell him the truth. Your recruits really are merchandise to be tamed and sold.” She turned to Findley and said in an aside, “Careful, Mr. Brown – ask for the long contract. Even Smith has to give you that.”
Findley said defensively, “I know we are leaving for good. I also know I will be designing weapons and probably using them in fights. I might be injured or die in those contest, but I will be in charge of my life. People will obey me, “ he said glaring at Jason.
Smith smiled approvingly nodding at Findley said, “They have such a cruel streak. They are perfect for games. You really should have shared Millicent. Have you studied their history? It is positively red with aggression, cruelty and barbarism. They are meant to fight and serve others.”
Millicent snapped, “This is my planet you $#%&@!”. Jason couldn’t understand the word, but Smith flinched and looked angry. Millicent continued, “Leave it. Leave my recruits alone. I will see you in Guild Hall for this abomination,” she pointed at Neville.
Smith changed moods almost immediately and laughed, “Your sponsor can’t help you much longer, Morgaine. This planet has been noted by the Council as worrisome. I am collecting data and these are two of my data points. As for your recruits…and not all of them have signed… I might leave them alone for a price. Eleanor Woodson is such a brilliant young lady. I might trade her for …a joint license agreement.”
Millicent’s eyes got big. Several of the group voices grew loud asking about Eleanor. Millicent silenced them with a gesture and a sound and asked quietly, “What have you done with Eleanor Woodson?”
Smith frowned for a moment at the sudden silence and then smiled, “So you can control your contractors.” Smith picked some lint from his jacket in an appraising fashion and said, “She is in my custody at the moment. That nanotechnology of yours was quite a problem. She recovered but was a bit worse for wear. Of course now, Winifred Stanhope is using her own proven methods. I find her quite enthusiastic in these matters. I expect Eleanor will be begging to sign anything just to have Winifred out of the room by the time I get back.”
Millicent said viscously, “You will release her or on your head be the consequences.”
Smith laughed again, “Consequences? What consequences? Old girl, your precious Guild is light years away. That ossified council can’t find its own ass to wipe without a consensus. I have Eleanor now and I will find my own uses for her. You really should share. It’s best for everyone. I have some other deliveries I am waiting for anyway. I will wait a week for your negotiations.”
“I will sign nothing with you,” she snarled back.
Smith rolled his eyes and raised his hands and said, “Then Miss Woodson is as good as mine. In a week’s time, Miss Stanhope will have broken her. Don’t be so stubborn, Morgaine. This really can work for both of us.” He turned around, started walking back down the street and looked over his shoulder, “Mr. McNeill. Morgaine really doesn’t know anything about your parents. Now my employers might be able to help you. I’ve got a space or two if you agree to terms.”
Jason’s mouth opened and then he rushed at Smith. Liam and John restrained him now as he shouted, “What do you know? Tell me what you know. What happened to my parents you bastard?”
Smith glanced at Millicent, “This is why I prefer training and restraints. They can be so unruly.” He nodded to the struggling Jason caught between John and Liam, “He has no discipline. I’ll work on Mr. Brown while you work on Mr. McNeill.” He put his finger to his chin and looked as if in thought, “We get them together later. It will be marvelous fun.“ To Jason he said, “No freebies Mr. McNeil. You want information? You join me.”
Millicent hissed, “Are you through or should we start the get together now?”