A Quiet Fight – Dunstable Calling


Fabio Freitas E Silva | Dreamstime.com - Steam punk vintage computer

Fabio Freitas E Silva | Dreamstime.com – Steam punk vintage computer

Dunstable Calling

Abigail swept the shop floor of crumbs and dirt from the street. The day was just about over at the shop. The end of day rush for tea or coffee had ended. Athena had shifted from her formal lessons to her science project. Tonight was another spring rainy night and she was collecting samples from around the city and measuring how much as well as some other properties. She was learning faster since their meeting with Millicent. Abigail knew why. She should be happy that Athena was thriving physically and mentally because of the nano technology. But a small part of Abigail resented, its intrusion into her life. Alice was preparing a warm soup for after the adventure. Abigail gathered the last of the dirt and crumbs into a pan and dumped it outside the shop on the curb.
She came back in to the shop and Athena was at the counter. “Mummy, there is a funny chime going on in the dining room. Aunty Alice doesn’t know what it is and I promise I didn’t touch anything.”
Abigail’s heart jumped. “A chime? Well I guess I should go check and see what it is.” She hadn’t heard that chime almost since she had moved back to London. The last time Stephan had contacted her through the communicator, a stranger had shown up on his doorstep knowing too much and wanting a job. She shook herself. With the new drives those young ones were making, there were likely to be more of those. “Come along, it is probably nothing important.”
In the dining room, there was a jangley ring as if a servants bell was being rung. Abigail knew better. But the lights were also dimming with each ring. Alice was wringing her hands. “What is that noise? Do we have a haunt?”
Abigail went up and grabbed Alice’s hands, “No…we don’t have a haunt. An old friend from my travels wishes to talk.”
Alice looked around, “You know this how?”
Athena jumped up and down, “because Mummy hooked the bell up to a communication device.”
Abigail’s eyes went wide. She looked at Athena, “How did you know that?”
Athena looked sheepish when she saw Abigail’s look. Then she looked a bit defiant, “I figured it out. When you went to all those strange places, it must have been hard to talk. There must be some way to let people know where you are and what you’re doing.” Abigail sputtered. Athena said a little softer, “I don’t know how it works yet.”
Abigail took a deep breath. The nanos let her utilize more of her brain. Her imagination and intuition jump quickly. She pulled Alice and Athena together, “You are absolutely right ‘Thena.”
Athena clapped her hands, “yeah…can see I see it?”
Alice breathed easier, “I should know there was no haunt. One of your strange devices?”
Abigail looked at Alice and put her head on Alice’s, “Yes…but one that is only for problems. Years ago, one of my friends and his wife were taken. My remaining friend and I decided to set up a communication system. We use the post or telegraph for most things. It’s Stephan, up in Dunstable.”
“The bar man.”
“He prefers brewer, but him. I got a post from him not a week ago.” She looked at the flashing lights and said, “If he is using this, something important has come up.” She got down to Athena’s level, “I can’t go with you to the park tonight. I’ve got to find out what is going on. Mum Alice can take you. You know everything to do anyway.”
Athena pouted for a moment. Abigail mentally shook her head – puberty will be a nightmare with this child. Athena said, “I want to see the device.”
Abigail said, “Not tonight ‘Thena. Mummy is worried why Stephan is calling. I need to take this alone.” She looked at Alice after she said it.
Alice crossed her arms, “Where is this …device?”
Abigail pointed upwards, “I’ve set it up in the attic crawl. Nicely hidden.” She looked at Athena who glowed with the information. “I shall have to move it someplace new I suppose.”
Athena looked pouty again.
Alice said, “We will stay here and wait for you to finish your…communication.”
Abigail pleaded, “Alice…”
Alice put her hand up, “non’ mi Amour. We stay. I shall keep ‘Thena occupied down here. But I have no interest in marching in the rain to collect puddles.” Athena took Alice’s hand smiled mischievously at Abigail.
Abigail threw up her hands dramatically. “Fine. Stay down here. I shall stop the racket and bluster. But you… young lady… will not come up … or I shall have you cleaning dishes and tables.” Athena put her hands on her hips and fumed. Abigail groaned. She is only 9. What is she going to be like at 12 or 14? Abigail gathered her working skirt and headed up the stairs to the upper floors. At the topmost floor, she pulled the attic stairs down and climbed up with a lamp. She went to the dusty amour and lifted the lid. The message light was flashing. She pressed some buttons and the clanging stopped. She pressed a button and Stephan’s voice came through, “Alice – give me a ring. I will be waiting. I think we have visitors.”
Abigail muttered a mild curse and then opened another cabinet. She turned the device on and waited a bit. She could not detect any ships or landings in the North London area. Her device had a limited range. Had she been looking, she might have detected Millicent when she landed. But she had ceased to check for ages. She went back to the communication box and pressed a green button and spoke, “Stephan. I am on line.”
The low gravely voice came back clearly, “Thank you, Abigail.”
“What is going on, Stephan? Poor Alice went to palpitations when the bell clanged and the lights flashed.”
Stephan apparently chuckled, “You should have set up something more subtle.”
Abigail snapped, “Engineering decision. I will fix it on my next upgrade. Why did you call?”
Stephan said, “Wynn detected three ships in my area.”
Abigail hissed, “What?”
Stephan said calmly, “The boy is sharp. He modified the sensor to detect dark energy. The ships are using the new drives.”
Abigail breathed easier, “So probably not the Guild.”
Stephan said, “Unlikely. But I am not assuming friendly. Millicent partnered with Smith and the man is unscrupulous. We both who else is out there. Smith isn’t going to be selective in who he sells to.”
Abigail paused, “So three ships, but no contact with you.”
Stephan said, “Exactly…”
“Can’t do anything about nothing.”
“No…but keep an eye out. And if you’ve got any toys it wouldn’t hurt to dust them off.”
Abigail pursed her lips, “That is pretty serious.”
“Just being cautious. I’ve got a couple of things I will be refurbishing.”
“I’ve got some things I can polish up. Wouldn’t want my daughter to see them.”
“Nor mine. It is probably nothing. They will stop by for a beer and move on. Watch yourself, Abby. I want to see that young’un of yours and some more of Alice’s biscuits.”
“She will hit you with a spoon when she hears you called her croissants biscuits. Take care of yourself, Stephan. They are in your neighborhood.”
“Always do. Signing off.”
The signal went quiet. Abigail sat for a moment. She opened up a portable closet. A set of flying leathers hung. She rubbed her hips and belly. Would she even be able to wear that thing after Athena and Alice’s cooking. She pushed the leathers aside and looked at the back wall. There were two pistols and a rifle. They were unlike any on Earth (except what Stephan smuggled). They would do nothing against a ship. She picked one up and charged it and pointed it at dressing mannequin. But her toys would deal with anyone who tried to hurt her family.

Author’s Note

I am over 5000 words on my Nanowrimo story. I wrote this and another section last night.  Given the nature of the exercise, it probably lacks polish and probably is too long for its purpose (Get Abigail into the story and define some of her concerns).  I made progress on the plot. I still have some holes that need filling.  But I am moving forward.

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