Jason had spent a week in recovery from his injuries. After a day or two of enforced bed rest, he was allowed to move around. His head still hurt on occasion and his chest hurt from an apparent broken rib, but he could get up and move around. He had wanted to go to the gym and start doing some of the training that Millicent was giving Michael, Liam, Eleanor and Simone but he was told no. He was certain he would go crazy from the lack of activity. But Charles and Millicent were insistent and unsympathetic. He spent some of the time in the Science lab getting “certified” on the lab equipment. That was tedious, but Charles was insistent and truthfully things would be safer and last longer with Charles rules and guidelines.
In one of the breaks between certifications, Millicent joined him in the laboratory and plopped the stack of his father’s lab books on the lab bench next to him and said, “Grab those and follow me.” He followed Millicent across the hall into the Medical lab. Rachael was in the middle of the room, her bed tilted up, her head immobilized but facing a large screen that she seemed to be reading when they came in. Millicent pointed in the direction of Rachael and said, “Do your indexing in here.”
Jason had not been right in the head when everyone came back to the ship. Millicent and Charles had been keeping him quiet and, more or less, bed ridden. So he had never really understood the extent of Rachael’s injury. Her body seemed so small amidst the tubes, wires and screens. From behind one of the screens he heard her Cockney accent saying, “Jason?”
Millicent pointed to a chair and a table at the wall and he slunk there and put the books on the table. He answered, “Hello Rachael, yes… it’s me.”
Rachael said from behind the screen, “give me a moment.” The screen moved away on its own and the bed began to rotate towards Jason and the table. He could now clearly see Rachael strapped into the bed. She made the bed wobble back and forth a bit and said, “It’s not much, but for the first three days, Charles wouldn’t let me move anything. Now at least I can look at people without eye strain.”
Jason remained quiet – he wasn’t sure what to say. Rachael filled in the awkward silence, “I’ve stunned you silent. I seem to do that to some.”
Jason sputtered and said, “They told me, but I didn’t really understand.”
Rachael smiled crookedly, “Well I had heard you were beaten senseless. And then I heard that wasn’t possible because you had no sense to begin with.”
Jason winced a bit and turned red. Then he chuckled and shrugged and raised his hands, “I’ve heard that that.” He rubbed his scared nose and jaw a bit and completed, “from multiple sources.”
Charles piped in, “Only because it’s true.”
Jason looked at her and then said, “People said you were hurt badly and some other nonsense.”
Rachael asked innocently, “Nonsense?”
Jason waved at her legs and the bed, “That you wouldn’t walk again.”
Rachael leaned her head back a bit and smiled wanly, “I’ve been told that. It is hard to argue with the assessment or critique the reliability of the sources.” She moved her hands and arms in their newly restored freedom. “I’ve got these back and I can even write. This table is letting me have civilized conversation again. Charles said I might even be off this in a week or two.”
Jason said, “See – up and about. Nothing keeps you down.”
Rachael smiled with a bit of sadness in her eyes, “I’ll be in a wheel chair…enough of this maudlin drivel. Why has Millicent imprisoned you here? What is this I hear about indexing?”
Jason mentally noted that he would never complain about his restrictions ever again. “My father’s notebooks. “
“Ah… the mysterious and cryptic notebooks.”
“You jest, but there are four or five activities going on and he didn’t have the sense to start new notebooks when he started a new activity. They are a mish mash of daily work.”
“The logical thing would be to organize them into chapters. We could concentrate on one notebook. Are the pages numbered?”
“Then you get to use Mr. Babbages wonderful card indexing system.”
Jason slapped his head, “Good lord, not you too.”
Rachael sniffed a little, “Actually I’ve learned it in the last couple of days. Charles has been keeping my idle hours busy with readings and illustrations. Apparently I am to enjoy it until I start some odd activity called Occupational therapy. “ She waved the thought away, “Say what you will about Babbage. He was parsimonious. He was niggardly. He was a right nasty bastard. But his system works. Maybe he developed it to track broken windows and streets with too many urchins playing steel hoops.”
Jason grumbled, “I wouldn’t doubt it.” Then he said, “Millicent gave me the cards and a brief explanation.
Rachael said in a good nature fashion, “Then we’ll spend the afternoon proving Charles Babbage knew cards but was clueless about humans. Start with titles where you see them and the pages only.”
Working through material
The cards had holes around the edges. They started with book one and identified two experiments. Rachael and Jason wrote the entries and page number for each place the found and cut the first or second holes in the edge of the card. Holes 3, 4 and 5 would be used for the later experiments. Once they identified the two main experiments in the first book, they started classifying the nature of the information: observations or recorded data; calculations or equations; library research; designs, etc. They were deep in discussion when the doors opened and John O’Malley walked in.
John said with some tension, “You’ve been at it for two hours McNeill. Rachael needs rest.”
Rachael said, “Oh John, I am feeling fine. Invigorated even. Don’t be such a yawper. There is some amazing stuff in these books. And I am sure if I had yawned once Jason would have stopped immediately.” She turned back to Jason in a conspiratorial tone “He’s gotten very protective. It would be rather cute if it weren’t so darn annoying at times.”
Jason gathered up the books and the cards and stood up, “No problem John. I am finding the room a bit stuffy suddenly. “
John stiffened a bit, to Jason’s satisfaction, but stayed silent. But Rachael fumed for a moment and then burst out, “Jason McNeill you apologize. That was rude and uncalled for.” Jason started at her rebuke but did not give ground, “Call it pay back for four years of snobbery.”
Rachael was having none of it, saying “Jason … he helped us. He conned his cousin out of a drill bit which we are going to have to replace. He has spent the last three weeks apologizing. What more does he need to do for you to be civilized?”
Jason stared at John who smiled slightly at the defense and shrugged a little but remained silent. Jason sputtered, “Dammit, this is the third time I’ve been told I need to be better… that I need to take the higher road. My Aunt burns my drafts and work and I am supposed to forgive her because her sister – my mother – wasn’t nice to her. Stephan hides what he knew about my father and his notebooks for 15 years. I am supposed to let that go because he was finally opening up and besides my father was doing risky stuff. John was friends and palled around with Findley Brown who spent a lifetime making mine miserable. I am not feeling disposed at the moment.”
There was quiet and John looked at his fingernails and said quietly, “Can’t say I blame you a whole lot. Dad tore up my books and beat me so I wouldn’t put up airs. I am impressed you can forgive your aunt. I won’t be forgiving dear old Pater.”
Jason stared at John open mouthed.
Rachael continued in a sneering tone, “See you ass. He didn’t have the happy sheltered life. Wanted out in the worst way. When he got out, he made his deal with Faust to escape his own little corner of hell. Sound familiar?”
Jason gawped for a moment and murmured, “I didn’t know.”
John said acidly, “You weren’t supposed to. Unlike Rachael’s, or even your family, my family isn’t the type to be brought up in polite company.”
Jason smirked a little.
John said, “I even include you in that, McNeill.”
More people join
Rachael almost pleaded, “Jason, you worked multiple jobs and took the Devil’s debt to get through. I hid my heritage, my culture, my faith. John studied philosophy, poetry, poshed up his speaking and tried to fit into parties. Lord knows what Eleanor had to do – she can’t exactly hide her skin tone.”
John continued, “I can say that discarding you all was not my finest moment. It wasn’t the way to escape. That is what Findley Brown does – walk on peoples backs.”
Jason felt a small kernel of victory and muttered “Damn straight, it’s what Findley does…”
At that moment a voice came from the door and asked “Lord knows what Eleanor had to do to do what?”
Jason waved at John and Rachael saying, “We’re just comparing methods for climbing the social ladder and escaping family pasts.”
The tall dark woman came in with Simone following, “Oh that must have been rich. Did you finally hear about John’s wonderful family?”
John protested, “I haven’t told you!”
Eleanor waved him silent and said, “John, please. Rachael has been bed ridden for weeks. Do ya’ think we ladies have not compared you all?”
Jason’s ears went a bit red and then he muttered to John, “I am feeling a bit picked on at the moment. What about you?”
John eyed him sideways and whispered, “By them …not so much. I’ve asked for some forgiveness before. I think I’ve asked enough. By now, it isn’t me who has the problem, it’s not me; it’s you. Why can’t you let it go?”
Eleanor found a chair and sat in a relaxed fashion. She said, “I’m not sure climbing the social ladder was ever going to be an option for me. There are some things fine clothes and a refined accent can’t hide and Americans and Europeans have funny ideas about people who look like me.”
Simone said quietly in Jason’s direction, “As angry as you are with John, you must be furious with me.”
Jason sighed and said louder, “OK, now I am feeling picked on.” He looked at Simone and shrugged, “To be honest, I had expected a bit of rudeness from you. You have been anything but. When I first started at University, there was a set of West Enders who seemed determined to bring back the old aristocracy.”
Simone looked at her hands and spoke, “I can guess which ones – Winifred Stanhope, Neville Carter-Fraser, and Charles Wayland led that little movement. Findley fit right in with them. They tried to pull me in when they could – invites to parties, ‘join us at the club’, that sort of bother. I suppose my parents would have been happier if I had joined them a bit – family ties and all that. But I was more interested in classes and the work.”
Jason said, “You were brilliant in physical chemistry and biology. Such a strange mix. “
Simone said, “But I couldn’t hold a candle to you. I can work the equations to find the answers. The equations seem to speak to you.”
Rachael spoke again, “There …see Jason…not so bad after all.” Jason could feel his ears burns. John excused himself.
John livens the conversation
Jason watched him go and said after he had left, “His father really tore up his books and beat him?”
Rachael said, “Apparently when he got too big to beat, his father would stage fights with the shop crew. That lasted until he started beating the crew.” There was a smile of satisfaction.
Eleanor said, “He certainly knew how to brawl in the basement.”
Jason’s emotions swirled in an uneasy way. The years of rejection and taunting by the West Enders and John still formed a dull pain of resentment in his gut. But there was something different now. Jason had never known his parents well. For all the hard work, hidden resentment and over protection, his aunt and uncle were never really cruel to him. John had it far worse than his life. Jason may have made it on his own, but there was ample support from the town and his uncle. John had none of that. Worse, when John came home, his successes were viewed as failures. Jason couldn’t say how he would have acted in the face of that.
Jason stared at the door and his shoulders slumped, “So I am an ass.”
He could hear Rachael’s laugh behind him and her saying, “See ladies… I told you he could learn.”
Eleanor remained relaxed and said, “Don’t count your money yet. He is still talking to the door.”
Jason’s ears perked and he looked at the three women smiling at him, “Am I missing something? Did you have some sort of bet going on?”
At that point, John came in with a bottle of whisky and several glasses balanced carefully on the tray. He announced, “If we are going to talk family history, we are going to do it in proper East Ender fashion…with drinks. Country boy pass the glasses around. I’ll make the first toast.”
Charles injected sternly, “Miss Weiz…really.”
Rachael said, “Charles…I have not had a tipple in weeks. I am Jewish. We don’t take the pledge. Our holidays require drinking.”
Eleanor stood up and said, “Charles, don’t be such a bore. A wee dram or two couldn’t possibly hurt.”
Simone looked a bit sheepish, “In this matter, I think I side with Charles. Her drugs won’t go well with the alcohol. ”
John found his old Cockney accent, “Lass…you’ve joined the East side. We’ll have naught of that gentility. Miss Weiz is due a proper drink.”
Jason caught up in the spirit, “Charles , we haven’t had a good pub run since… well since Simone joined us. John’s right. A bit of compromise is necessary here.”
There was a pause, and Charles said in clipped tones, “On your head be it Rachael Weiz. No more than two drinks and don’t ask me for any relief when you have a hangover tomorrow.”
Rachael muttered, “Couldn’t be any worse than that dose of nanotechnology. I thought I would die from that.”
John worked his way around the room filling glasses. Then he raised his glass.
“May you have the hindsight to know where you’ve been
The foresight to know where you are going
And the insight to know when you’ve gone too far
“Slainte” said the others and they took drinks. Charles piped in light music and conversation dissolved to comparisons of people’s relatives. At some point, Michael and Felicity wandered in and John fetched glasses for them but Felicity declined saying it wouldn’t go with her pain medications. But she stayed and drank some water.
A second round was poured and Jason raised his glass and spoke
“My friends are the best friends
Loyal, Willing and Able
Now let’s get drinking
Glasses off the table
“Cheers” said the rest and took drinks.
Jason looked at John raised his glass a second time and winked.
 Charles Babbage – is considered the father of the modern programmable computer. He designed and built a method to feed data into a machine and have it work calculations. Charles Babbage was also involved in several mean spirited campaigns such as targeting broken windows (465 of which 14 were caused “by drunken men, woman and boys”) and against organ grinders (“It is difficult to estimate the misery inflicted upon thousands of persons, and the absolute pecuniary penalty imposed upon multitudes of intellectual workers by the loss of their time, destroyed by organ-grinders and other similar nuisances.”)