A new entry in the Omicron Matter – Changes in Plans, Changes in Courses. Alfred Redman accompanied John Smith and Sioubus At as Winifred and Findley were displayed and bargained over. Smith found a solution that will be unpleasant and unacceptable to Winifred Stanhope. Alfred had tried to warn her. Now he is facing a choice, does he stay or does he follow Winifred into captivity. As far Smith is concerned, he will not be joining her. Alfred is not so sure.
For those who are new to the Omicron Matter, the book home page is a good place to start.
After Monday’s short entry, I feel less bothered by this long one. This chapter has a number of shorter entries as action switches back and forth. This long sequence seems forgivable. However, action junkies will be disappointed. What does one do with a brilliant person whose ambition is to take over the world? I doubt any prison would hold Winifred for long. And if it did, she would probably be running the black market and have several guards on payroll. It is what she does.
For your enjoyment, look for more on Friday
Consequences were expected
Alfred watched the aliens leave. All four principles had purchased the Omicron drives. The assembly line on Morgaine’s ship would be busy for weeks. John Smith turned to him and said, “Join me for a brandy, Mr. Redman. Morgaine’s rabble is celebrating at some local pub and Carter-has been invited.” Alfred raised an eyebrow. Smith smiled, “Mr. O’Malley and Miss Weiz have assured his safety with Morgaine’s less temperate crew members.” He turned and walked up the ramp into the ships portal and said, “So it is just the two of us…unless you wish to join Liam O’Hannigan.”
Alfred had been invited to the pub by Liam O’Hannigan ostensibly to celebrate, but it was clear there would be conversation with Iti Greeneyes and others about what happens next. But the tour of the cabins required Alfred’s response. Alfred straightened and said, “A brandy will be a fine finish to the day,” and followed Smith to the bridge.
Smith poured out two snifters and sat in the pilot’s chair with his feet on the console. Alfred took the second glass and sat in a relaxed way in the communications station. Smith raised his glass and said, “To successful ventures.” Alfred raised his glass and sipped the fine brandy. It had full caramel test with a hint of fruit and flower. Smith said, “Camille has fits when I drink on the bridge. The only time I can properly enjoy this station is when she is off.” Alfred smiled at the idea that Smith was bullied by anybody, although a hyper intelligent machine seemed high on the list of possibilities. Smith said, “Between Morgaine and myself, we have contracts for 40 of the Omicron devices plus training. Suffice it to say, even with a small percentage, you are now a very rich man, Alfred Redman.”
Alfred raised his glass took a sip and muttered, “Mother would be proud.” Smith laughed. Alfred looked at the images on the screen. It was a painting showing a sale of some sort. The scene might have been from the station or even London – the characters were as varied as any in the hallway or a London street. The main characters were smiling broadly while children and animals played in the background. Alfred said, “The theme reminds me of early Dutch Masters but I am not familiar with this piece.”
Smith grew pensive. After a few moments he said, “You wouldn’t be. The original was destroyed by the Guild when it dropped an asteroid on the Uycarran National Museum. The asteroid took out the town, but the targeting was more symbolic than strategic.” He leaned back and said, “The artist was famous for her portrayal of Uycarran life and cultural. We are a people of trades and commerce. ” He looked at it, then took a drink.
Alfred took his own sip and viewed the details shown – the people were happy, the colors were bright, and the background he could make out a long row of shops. He commented, “An interesting choice.”
Smith smiled saying, “A momentary weakness.” He faced Redman and said, “All four customers have agreed to support Morgaine’s membership in the coalition. Even Sioubus At said she could be worse which amounts to a high endorsement from him.”
Alfred pursed his lips saying, “When we met, I would not have anticipated building an alliance with Millicent Morgaine.”
Smith smiled a bit, “I am sure it seems odd. I suppose it is a game that our families have played over the years. She and I are just the latest players.” Smith tapped fingers on the console and the image changed to a view of London. Smith then said, “Morgaine will be brought up to speed about the coalition tomorrow.”
Alfred viewed the picture and sipped his brandy then asked, “What of Miss Stanhope?” With a wave he added, “And Mr. Brown of course.”
Smith snorted, “Mr. Brown of course.” He paused and then said, “He really is the laggard of the lot. His redeeming quality is a passable skill with the sword. I suspect Felicity Richards would best him in a game of skill if the rules were fair.”
Alfred shrugged, “Miss Stanhope did warn that he was better at his blade than engineering. She prizes his devotion and willingness to follow orders.” He leaned back and eyed Smith over the glass and asked again, “So what happens to them? It hardly seems practical to keep them locked up. Especially now that we will be actively trading with others.”
Smith swirled his glass and glanced sideways at Alfred and asked, “What would you recommend?”
Alfred sighed, “You can’t leave Winifred near civilization. If she doesn’t cause a diplomatic incident, she’ll find someone who will listen to her. She’ll report what she knows for a reward.”
Smith laughed and tsked, “Such cynicism, Mr. Redman. She was your charge.”
Alfred winced and sighed, “I speak from experience. My experience says leave her some place remote, extremely foreign and well out of touch. On Earth, China might work – the more remote parts.” He took a drink and said, “I would request some books, a decent brandy and the occasional visit.”
Smith said sharply, “You expect to follow her.”
Alfred straightened up and said, “She IS my charge, despite her annoying behavior. I warned her and I view the lock up as commensurate punishment.” He waved a hand and frowned, “Findley Brown you can leave on an asteroid for all I care. But I have invested a bit of my life on Winifred. She is brilliant. One just needs to channel her damnable ambition.”
Smith pursed his lips and said, “I thought I had.” He sipped the brandy and then said, “Regardless, I’ve found something akin to your solution. It will be remote and foreign and she will have no contact. However, you following along to act as her butler is not an option.”
Alfred closed his eyes and said, “I suppose it is too much to hope she will be training as a space pirate.”
Smith quirked his lips and said, “She would be very good at that. But Iti Greeneyes would space her at the first sign of betrayal.” He swirled his glass and said, “I have made a deal with Sioubus At. He will get her for three years. She’ll spend her time training and working on the engines. Scarcely a hardship.”
Alfred was silent for a bit and then said, “She’ll never agree to that.”
Smith snapped, “She lost the right to choose with that second drone and her plotting.”
Alfred maintained a calm tone and said, “I am not disagreeing with that. I warned her about crossing you. But this I know…she will not wait to be sold as a slave even for a limited time. She does not understand consequences. She avoids them; she circumvents them; she deflects them; but she never accepts them. They have been tried on her and failed.”
Smith said defensively, “Sioubos At is a firm believer in the collar.”
Alfred shrugged, “I don’t think he’ll get a chance.”
Smith said in a low voice, “You should make sure your loyalties are properly aligned, Alfred Redman.”
Alfred drank the rest of his brandy and set the glass down, “My loyalties have always been flexible in most matters. Winifred is my charge and it is my responsibility to ensure her comfort and success.” He brushed some imaginary dust off his sleeve. “But, I do not blindly serve Winifred’s ambitions.” He waved at the image of London, “Her comfort and success are not served by selling out humanity. I will oppose her efforts on that.”
Smith eyed him and said, “Her ambitions need to take a rest.”
Redman smiled back, “And you underestimate her again…if you think they will.”
Smith leaned back and said, “That is Sioubos At’s problem now. Not mine.”
Alfred stood and bowed and said, “One can hope…I suppose” and left the bridge.