Rachael – on the train – Odd Ninefold Brew Keg
Rachael watched the countryside rumble by. She missed her heated seat at the moment. The coach was drafty. Despite the extra layers and a small coal heater, she was chilled.
It had been two days since the final addition to the door chime had been unveiled. When she told her father she would be leaving with Millicent, he was distressed. She had known he would be. But he had said things she had not expected. To this point, he had always encouraged her to be independent and he had always hinted she should seek more adventure. So she was surprised to hear him say, “it is too dangerous,” and “you need me.” She was still finding out how to navigate in the wheel chair and she was daily finding new barriers that had to be dealt with. It was navigating with the chair that finally made her choice of leaving easy. As fond as she was of her room, the shop, the temple and her neighborhood, at each place someone had to pull her up stairs or lift her through a narrow door. Getting up to the flat above the shop was tiring for her and whoever lifted her. The loo in the flat had no handles. She would spend half of whatever fortune Millicent left her just getting the house usable. She tried to stay calm as she explained these things to her father, but it wasn’t easy. Her father argued. He said he could make the changes himself. Finally, in frustration, she got out of the chair and onto the floor and said, “Get me into that chair and I won’t go.” He tried, but he couldn’t lift her. When he stopped trying and sat glumly in his own chair, she levered herself onto the chair. He could only watch and could do little to help her. After a long silence, he agreed that he couldn’t help her in the ways she needed now. The admission was hard for him to make and hard for Rachael to hear. She came back the day after the unveiling and they went to temple together. It ended better than the start might have predicted. She would stay in contact until the group left. He would visit on the ship when time permitted. He was getting to know Mr. Woodson and finding the man an excellent businessman and a man who understood his loss.
And so she was on a train to Dunstable to solve a mystery. Jason’s Parent’s House, The Iterum, had collapsed because of an experiment or it was blown up. They were experimenting on several fronts. The first experiment seemed to be a way to capture, store, and use energy from lightning. At least that is what Jason said. She managed math with one integral symbol; her eyes crossed with two or more. The second experiment involved the electrical and heat conductivity of several alloys. According to Jason and Simone, some of the conductivity numbers seemed impossible. The elements involved were rare, only recently discovered, and very hard to work with. The third set of entries in the notebooks involved a device with rotating circles. This was something she understood. There were four concentric circles of material. Each rotated on a different axis and at a different rate. The gears of the pedestal managed to rotate each circle in both directions. The fourth and strangest entry involved mostly math, but also had experimental data on live plants. They seemed to be looking at growth rates over some months and years. And as near as she could tell, none of the plants or animals aged significantly over the five years of experiments. These entries always had the heading “Odd Ninefold Brew Keg”.
Simone – On train –Thinks About Strange Metals
Simone sat opposite Liam O’Hannigan and Milicent. Millicent looked out the window while Liam’s head drooped and he snored lightly. Simone fingered the collar lightly. She had almost forgotten about it these days. Since Alfred and Winifred had delivered their message, there had been no more episodes and, for that, she was thankful.
She was still angry with Millicent for even accepting the message from those two, let alone agreeing to meet with Smith. The nightmares from those days had lessened, but she still could see Winifred’s leering grin, Neville’s frenzied anticipation, and Alfred Redman’s haunting impassivity. Millicent’s reason was that she had promised and that was all that was necessary. Millicent, who was sympathetic on most matters, was intransient on this. Millicent promised that she and Eleanor would never have to deal directly with Smith or his crew, but Millicent would deal with Smith and this was not a matter of debate.
Despite the coming discussions, Simone felt safer than she had since the rescue. Having chosen to join Millicent, albeit in a forced choice, Simone felt freer than she had since she was a child. Her family was a different restraint than the collar, but no less constricting. The collar provided a needed excuse: leave or die. She now had a life beyond actuarial tables. As a contractor under Millicent, she had opportunities that exceeded her imagination.
Rachael had involved her in the indexing of the notebooks and sought her knowledge on materials. At first Simone said the experiments were impossible. Charles corrected her and provided some explanation of these new materials. Following the directions in the book, she was able to create small amounts of the materials. Then she and Rachael performed a set of experiments and observations. While she was no Jason, she knew enough electronics to say these new materials exceeded expectations. Charles suggested placing some of the materials over a magnet and they floated! Most were rather brittle and all were hard to work with. One was very malleable. It was also very reactive to the atmosphere and had a strange glow about it. Charles had Rachael and Simone work behind screens “for our protection.” When they asked what they were being protected from, Charles would only say, “You need a bit more knowledge to know why it was necessary.”
Millicent – Arrival in Dunstable
Millicent shook Liam and said, “We’re here Mr. O’Hannigan.”
Liam stretched and said, “Right. We’ll get Rachael out first and then get the luggage. The big boys should be at the station to help.”
Millicent said, “Big boys? …Jason and John? I didn’t ask them to be there.”
Liam shrugged and then grinned as he said, “But I did. They need to work a bit for their keep. And you’re not the only one who knows how to send messages.” He stepped out of the cabin and then held the door to allow Millicent, Simone and Eleanor out.
The luggage and people gathered in front of the station. Three large crates held special equipment that she would use investigating The Iterum. One of those crates contained a small, fully charged drone in contact with Charles. This visit, she would have the resources to do a proper investigation.
As Liam predicted, Jason and John arrived at the station each driving a wagon. They had completed the water heater a few days ago. Since they had arrived they had learned to lay tile, plumb bathrooms, and a bit of rough carpentry. While they might view the skills as “useless”, Millicent thought it was all to the best. She looked at Jason and John, “The water heater functions?”
Jason smiled and puffed out his chest a little bit, “Better than the first.” Then pointed to John, “John had some good suggestions.”
Millicent smiled and moved past them, “Good. Glad things are working better. I could use a good bath after a long train ride.”
Jason scratched his head as she went by, “You’ll have to work that out with Jolene.”
Most people stayed at the “Cow and Pig” but two would have to stay elsewhere. Regardless, the group assembled at the “Cow and Pig” and met up with people from the visit last fall. Millicent called the assembled group together. “We’ll start work at The Iterum tomorrow. I have said before that knowing what Jason’s parents did was important. Looking at the notebooks, I am even more convinced of this. Tonight you should rest, see the new water heater and have some fun. Tomorrow we start right after breakfast. “
With her dismissal, most everyone gathered around Jason and John. Stories were being shared about the water heater and the door chime. Millicent watched the group for a bit and then returned to her own table. Liam was at her shoulder, “Not joining the gab fest?”
Millicent sighed for a moment and said, “This is as it should be. They have to trust and depend on each other and learn to be without me.”
Liam tsked and said, “Ye’ve always been the outsider?”
Millicent said, “John Smith and me both. It is the nature of our kind I suppose. Or at least it used to be..”
Liam asked, “And how will such a loner spend the afternoon?”
Millicent said, “A walk, a spot of tea in a lovely tea shoppe and a trip to the public baths.”
Liam glanced over at the crowd of young engineers and then back at her and said, “If you’ll suffer a bit of company, I’d just as soon have spot of tea myself. And trains can be so sooty.”
Millicent bowed and said, “For you, I shall break my solitude for a day.”
Millicent – Justifying Negotiations
It was a short walk to the tea house. A fine spread was laid out. Liam O’Hannigan was the perfect, if scruffy, gentleman. While he might hold the cup like mug while drinking his tea, he didn’t slurp and he took small bites of the sweets and savories. After starting a second cup he asked, “Why are we dealing with Smith?”
Millicent finished her sip, dabbed her lips with a lacy napkin and said, “Because I promised I would. Rachael’s back was broken. Felicity’s face was severely burned. Jason was concussed. Smith could have leveled the house on us. He did not. Camille’s drones could have attacked before Charles could send any aid. She did not because I returned his notebook and I promised to negotiate some likely new technology with him.”
Liam snorted and said, “ You promised? That’s it? I wasn’t sure before the raid that he was the monster you said. But I’ve talked to Eleanor and Simone. ‘I promised’ feels pretty weak to me.”
Millicent looked at the ceiling in annoyance and then back at Liam and said, “Yes, ‘I promised’ is enough for me. Smith and I are from the same culture. I find his practices loathsome. But I will keep my promises as hard as that is to believe. I also believe he will keep his to me. “
“He lied to Simone, Neville Carter-Fraser, and Edward Wayland. Why won’t he lie to you?”
“Technically he didn’t lie. He just didn’t tell the whole truth. That is one reason I find Smith’s practice appalling. It is one of the Guild’s darker practices. Some of my fellow finders act like Smith; they will bend the truth into a pretzel, but they don’t quite break it. However, I am not some neophyte full of eager trust. If he tried such prevarication with me while we negotiated, I would know it. He would lose access to technology he desperately wants and a handsome profit to go with it.”
Liam said, “I still don’t get why the promise is so binding.”
Millicent said, “What’s left of my race are traders. The rest of the Galaxy hates doing business with us for good reason – we ave very good at making a profit. Despite that dislike, they don’t have much choice. We have the best goods and services for trade.” She took a sip of tea. “As harsh as we are in trading, we are honest. The penalties for lying – breaking a contract as we say – are severe.”
Liam raised his eyebrow in question, “Severe?”
Millicent said, “The equivalent of bondage in Australia. I would lose what wealth I had and be left on a backwater planet to fend for myself. If they were feeling generous, they might leave me with tools by which I could make my own weapons or find food. Banishment, but no lovely castle to write letters from like Napoleon.”
Liam waved his hands up and said, “Fine. Severe. But slavery is ok. Torture and rape are acceptable. Murder?”
Millicent blew air out between her cheeks and said, “Since not all our trading partners have restrictions on these matters, some of trader and finders have no compunctions about them. Some of us complain. Others fume. And still others fill the void left by traders who won’t deal in such matters.”
Liam bit a cucumber sandwich fiercely not having a good reply. Then he got a quizzical look in his eye and he asked, “What if your patron broke his contract?”
Millicent said, “We control all the best goods and services and are honest brokers. And we protect our own. If someone broke a contract with me, no one would trade with such a person – not even Smith. The risk is too great that there would be a repeat performance in dishonesty. I wouldn’t likely trade with someone who had broken a contract. A few years of isolation usually fixes the matter.”
Liam looked shocked, “You’re a bloody cartel!”
Millicent smelled the tea and said, “Such a harsh word. A mutual benefits society…let’s say. Besides your East India Tea Company was little better. Regardless, Smith and I play by the same rules in negotiations.”
Liam said, “Still seems to me like you have the goods and he has nothing.”
Millicent said, “Not so. He already granted safe passage. As far as I am concerned the notebook and an agreement to talk paid for that but that will be an item of negotiation. I have people and plans or at least most of the people. I am willing to bet he has the mineral resources and we will need Camille’s help if I am right about what is in those notebooks.”
Liam was quiet for a while and then said, “You’re dealing like your weak.”
Millicent said, “He also holds the key to the collars on Simone, Neville, and Edward. I want them.”
Liam pursed his lips, then said, “So you deal with the devil. Don’t give away the store.”
Millicent smiled, said, “I never have,” and took a sip of tea.
Jason – Discussing the Notebooks
The rest of the group had arrived in the afternoon. So there would be celebration with the staff after work. After Millicent left, Rachael quickly pulled he and Simone aside and said, “We need to talk”. Rachael lifted the heavy satchel with books to emphasize her point.
Jason asked, “Now?”
Rachael smirked and said, “I expect a thank you from Candace before we leave town for removing the scales from your eyes.” Jason blushed. Rachael continued, “Yes, now Don Juan. Simone and I have questions that you are capable of answering …maybe.”
Jason looked confused, “Charles can help with things like that.
Simone said, “I won’t say he is exactly evasive. He just keeps saying we don’t know enough.”
Rachael said, “I’ll say he’s being evasive. Have you made any progress on some of those equations?”
Jason glanced over at Stephan, raised his eyebrows and pointed to the back. Stephan nodded and pointed with his chin while cleaning the counter.
Jason said, “Follow me.”
The two women followed Jason to Stephan’s office. He looked flustered when he saw the steps down into the sunken office.
Rachael groaned and said, “Don’t worry, I’ve gotten used to it. Move me down there. I have to weigh less than any horse you’ve worked with.”
Jason lifted Rachael with relative ease while Simone moved the chair onto the crowded office floor. Jason returned Rachael to her chair less some dignity. Jason then laid open his notebook with his own diagrams and equations. He said, “The equations describe a field or more like a boundary. The features of the field, the manner of producing it or controlling it don’t make any sense.”
Simone supplied, “The materials used in producing the field surely don’t make sense.”
Jason said, “or, rather, we don’t know or understand the principles of the field or the materials.”
Rachael snorted, “You’ve been hanging around John too long. Difference without a distinction.”
Jason said, “Not quite. The field seems to isolate the interior from everything. The graphs tell me this is what should happen, but it doesn’t say why. ”
Simone said, “Glass or metal act like barriers. How is this field different.”
Jason stroked his chin as he explained, “Glass isolates the interior from touching other things and possibly heat, depending on thickness. Metal isolates from touch and light and possibly magnetic properties. But with this field, there are other forces at play. This field, theoretically, isolates the interior from gravity which should be impossible. And according to graphs I’ve made, it isolates the interior from time. But nothing should be isolated from time. That should be impossible. I might be able to prove it, but it is difficult calculation and I haven’t figured it all it. Regardless, you can’t hide from time. But things in this field can.”
Rachael stared at Jason’s notebook with the multiple integrals and field diagrams and said, “Blimey. That explains the fourth set of experiments.”
Simone and Jason said together, “Explains what?”
Rachael said quietly, “Animals and plants they were measuring and monitoring. They showed no signs of growth or decay over two years. Nary a gray hair or a lost leaf in two years.”
Simone said, biting her lip, “I think tomorrow is going to be very interesting.”
Eleanor – Walking to the Iterum
Eleanor walked with Simone behind Rachael in her chair and Felicity. The men and Millicent were carrying the crates to The Iterum. Millicent, in a rare moment of sexism, had the men lugging the heavy luggage in the large cases. The three crates held special equipment that Millicent brought to help with the investigation.
Simone had been agitated since her meeting with Jason and Rachael last night. She had talked incessantly and turned over and over in bed. Eleanor asked Rachael, “What did you three plan last night? Jason’s eyes are crossed. He is so confused and for the first time I don’t think it is about women. Simone has been on edge since the conversation. And you just seem moody.”
Rachael said diffidently, “We haven’t planned anything.”
Eleanor replied quickly and sharply, “Then what the hell is going on?”
Simone picked at something on her coat. Rachael faced forward, continuing her roll towards the Iterum and said, “The notebooks revealed some things that don’t seem possible. We agreed to hear what Millicent said before we reached any conclusions or say anything.” She paused and then continued, “So just keep your knickers on.”
Eleanor fumed, but said nothing more. They arrived at the deserted house. The cases were placed along one of the walk ways. Millicent opened one. She leaned down and flipped a switch. An orb hummed and rose out of the case. Jason said wide eyed, “It’s a drone.”
Millicent said, “One of Charles that has been modified. This one goes under water.”
Millicent – at the House – Getting the Drone moving
Millicent opened her notebook to a page and said, “System Check Charles.”
Charles voice came from the notebook saying, “All systems are nominal.” The drone floated up and rotated around as if it was taking in the group. Charles voice said, “Everyone seems to be a bit cold. We should get started.”
Millicent smiled and said, “Right.” She turned to the group, “John and Eleanor unload that second crate. You’ll find a large circular saw and supporting equipment. You’ll need a bit of brute force to get the machine out of the crate.”
John opened the crate with Eleanor looking over his shoulder. He whistled and said, “No wonder the thing was some bloody heavy.” Liam had joined them and the three of them lifted it out and set it on the path. The power source was similar to the drilling machine used to rescue Eleanor. John looked at the ice on the pond and said, “That has to be near on a foot thick.”
Millicent winked at him and said, “Good, you won’t fall. A dunking would tax your nanotechnology.” She pointed to the floating orb and said, “That has to get under the ice and get materials back out.”
Eleanor looked at the orb and then at John who squinted at it as if measuring then said, “Right let’s get started. He placed the large circular blade on a section of ice. Eleanor measured over approximately 3 feet and marked the ice. John switched the power on and there was a small hum. Millicent watched as the two conferred on the machine testing knobs that made the blade go up and down, right and left and tilting one way or the next. Eleanor and John positioned the blade at the start of a marking and set the saw blade turning.
Millicent called Jason, Rachael and Simone over and asked, “Now, what are we looking for?”
Rachael – What to look for
Rachael said, “A great honking power source. It seems they found a way to harness lightning. I asked Stephan and Jolene. Apparently there was terrible lightning storm the night of …” she waved to the wreckage of the house, “So they were probably using lightning rods…several of them if my reading is right. If the pond was where the lab was, there should be the remnants of glass jars.”
Jason supplied, “Leyden jars. They would regulate the surges of electricity from the bolts of lightning. The lightning rods would be the collectors and the jars would be the storage units. At least for a few moments.”
Millicent called over Michael, “Michael , look for lightning rods around the house and then look for cables that run to the pond.”
Rachael continued, “The central device created a field with a set of rotating bands of metal. I strongly suspect those bands are the key to understanding what Jason’s parents were doing. “
Simone said, “The bands were a combination of strange metals. The metals were blue just like the water but these metals were a dark blue – the hue of indigo.”
Millicent hissed to herself, “Where did they find enough of that?”
Simone asked excitedly, “You know this material? It defies explanation.”
Millicent closed her eyes and put her fingers on her temples and said, “We need to expand your boundaries of explanation a bit.”
Simone folded her arms, but said nothing more. Jason said, “The field generated was strange in that it would have disrupted normal forces such as gravity. I would look for odd circular marks on the walls or floor to determine the range of the field.”
Millicent began pacing along the edge of the pool and said quietly, “Damn. How did he manage that here? They really did make one. Alright Charles do you have enough to start?”
Charles voice came from the notebook, “Yes, I have enough to start. I will project so you and others can guide the drone.”
Millicent acknowledged Charles message and looked for a bench to sit on. Jason followed her and then asked, “You were upset by our discoveries. What did they make? What did they do?”
Millicent sat down with her shoulders slumped as she watched the saw be positioned for a second cut. She said, “They made something they shouldn’t have. And they were noisy about it.”
Felicity on the Garden Path
Felicity and Michael began looking for the lightning rods and cables towards the derelict house. Michael quickly found one on the far side of the house. The near side was a wreck and the rod was likely gone or crushed. Michael began looking around the garden shed for any evidence of another. Felicity knew the rod had to go directly into the ground. There were no obvious cables above ground. She looked around the garden and noticed a stone path in the back of the house that intersected the more formal path to the pond. Felicity went to the garden shed. Inside the dusty and rotting shed she saw a set of gardening tools on one side. She grabbed a pick and went to the stone walk way. She swung the heavy tool and then tried to pry up the stepping stone. With the second swing, she had the attention of Jason who shouted, “Hoy…tearing up my house?”
Felicity shouted back, “When is the last time you slept here? It needs some dusting. I am looking for the cables. I am certain they are under this pathway.” Jason and Michael came over to be helpful, but she shooed them away, “Get your own pick. If I am right, the pathway from the house and the shed also have cables that run to the pond.” Michael and Jason looked at each other and shrugged and went to the toolshed. Felicity wasn’t as sure of what they would find in the shed as she was sure that she had the best tool. She swung the pick again. Weeks of strength training seemed to make a difference as the slate flag stone loosened and then came up with fifth swing. Felicity carefully probed the soil with the pick and felt something solid underneath. She removed more stone quickly and then traded Michael the pick for his shovel. She dug down removing two feet of soil under the path. The solid object had a flat surface that looked like a long box without ends. She shouted, “I’ve found something.”
Michael and Jason quickly removed more of the flagstone. Felicity and, now Simone cleared away dirt.
Millicent and Rachael came over. Felicity and Simone stood in the shallow ditch.
Simone said, “Something is protected from the elements.”
Millicent squinted her eyes narrowly, “Or protecting the residents from the contents. When John and Eleanor are done, we’ll bring the saw over and find out what is in there. We need to open that up carefully. Don’t touch anything in that box.” Millicent looked over at Felicity who was resting and panting a bit on the shovel, winked and said, “Good thinking!”
John – Opening the pond
As the saw worked its way through the 3rd edge, John rummaged in the cases and found three good sized eye bolts. With a hand drill, he predrilled the ice for each of the rings and then screwed them in. He packed a bit of snow in each hole and hoped there was enough time for ice to form to hold them in place. He shouted to Eleanor over the noise of the cutting saying, “Just need those to set a bit and we’ll be able to drag this block right out. Eleanor nodded, gave her thumbs and continued her monitoring of the saw. The third track done, the two of them set the circular saw on the fourth and final track. John looked over the yard and saw several of the group digging up a stone walk way. Odd, he thought, but everything about this house was odd.
The final edge took about 10 minutes to complete, it was a bit longer because the block was starting to bind the blade. Eleanor had John and Liam use poles on adjacent cuts to keep the block true enough for the blade to do its work. Finally the saw finished and the block wobbled a bit free of the rest of the ice.
John found some stout rope in the garden shed. When he came out, he saw Millicent talking to Eleanor and pointing to the crowd around the walk way. He reached the hole on the pond and tossed one end to Liam and said, “Tie this into one of the eye bolts. And for God’s sake be careful. If you fall in, Millicent will hide me and I expect Charles will torment you no end.”
Liam shook his head and got down on all fours and said, “Aye, be careful on ice…got it. Going to tell me to breathe too?” Shortly, there were three lengths of rope extending from the eye bolts on the block of ice. At that point, John hailed Jason over and said, “Farm boy, we need to lift out this block of ice. Liam gets the middle, you and I get the outside.”
Jason rolled his eyes, “You sure you don’t want to spread all that Irish brawn out.” And took the rope he was directed to. He called Eleanor over and said, “You and Simone push down on the block opposite we brawlers with one of the poles. When it submerges, we should be able to haul it out. Careful of that water. Stephan and Millicent are afraid of that water and that is enough for me. Eleanor took the pole and nodded and handed a second to Simone. Jason, Liam and John took hold of the ropes but kept them slack. Under their feet was a burlap sack cloth. Simone and Eleanor pushed down on the block of ice which went down a bit. Simone and Eleanor developed a rocking rhythm with each push going down further. On the fourth hard push their side went under and John could see the bottom edge of the block. He shouted, “Heave to boys” and the three men pulled hard on the ropes. The block of ice burst up and onto the cloth and a light blue water sloshed up onto the surface of the ice.
Millicent looked intently at the water and opened the notebook and said, “Time for a swim Charles.”
Millicent – Examining a Shattered Lab
The group all watched transfixed as the droned lowered into the open hole. As the drone lowered , the water level of newly exposed pond rose. The slow entry prevented sloshing and did not exceed the 10 inches of ice.
Millicent said, “Start recording immediately and proceed down.”
The group looked confused at the information. Millicent said with some impatience, “There are some materials and ideas that will be new to you. Charles has provided an assessment of the water. Cobalt, you all knew. The others are substances or energy types that have not yet been discovered here.” She looked over at the now untended trench and then said, “Eleanor, get a team together and open up that masonry box under the path. Keep Simone close so she can examine the cable we think is there.” She then turned her focus back to the screen on the notebook and saw a flash of a wall.
Rachael pulled over and said, “Sit down, stoop over or I will run over over your toes.”
Millicent smirked and moved to a bench and Rachael watched the screen from the side while others gathered around to watch the image Charles’ drone returned. Millicent commanded, “Turn the drone around.” There was a pedestal that was 20 feet away.
Rachael said, “I know that.” She flipped through one of the notebooks in the satchel and showed Millicent the diagram of the pedestal with the whirling concentric circles.
Millicent said, “Scan area for sections of partial circles.”
Charles said, “I’ve found multiple matches.”
Millicent replied, “Mark locations for retrieval but continue with the survey.”
The drone moved towards the pedestal. To the left, a large thick table was on its side. Near there was the remnants of a console. The side towards the pedestal was shredded. The top was a tangle of wires as if somebody ripped off the top. Millicent said, “Nobody scavenged afterwards? Did the?”
Jason said, “Not that I know of. Stephan said the pond filled almost immediately. He guessed they had some sort of fire suppression that must have started the filling and the storm finished the job.”
Millicent’s expression darkened. She said, “Circle the pedestal and return.”
The drone circled around the pedestal. More pieces of equipment of various shapes and conditions were scattered around the room. The drone headed back toward the house and passed through a set of broken doors. In the hallway were dozens of jars. Rachael said, “Leyden jars according to the lab book.”
Jason said, “They would hold electrical charge temporarily.”
The screen showed broken pieces of the door: hinges, chunks of the door frame, a large rectangle of heavy wood. Off to one side was a large, heavy round pole capped with iron and handles on the side.
John said, “That looks like a battering ram.”
Liam said, “Aye, it does. Now how do you know about those?”
John shrugged, “Same way you do…raids on Republican sympathizers.”
The drone moved along the hall way. As it reached the end, the far wall came into view. Silhouettes of human figures were shown on the wall in dark blue color.
Millicent heard Jason exclaim, “Blimey, what the hell were those?”
Millicent said calmly, “People, I suspect. There was far more to that lab explosion than meets the eye.”
Simone – Performing magic
Simone watched Eleanor as she used the saw to cut through the masonry. Simone had never clearly seen the drill that had opened the basement wall and set her free. Or at least free of Smith and his gang. She touched the collar lightly and then shook her head to clear her thoughts.
Over by the pond, she could see the drone was staring to bring up small bits and pieces of the wreckage. Jason was washing them down with some fluid that made them safer while the drone submerged to bring up more.
The saw had slower going on the masonry. There were two cuts across the length of the tube. Eleanor was finishing the second lengthwise cut. When the cut had been finished, the piece feel into the channel. Simone said to Felicity “Only touch the masonry and use gloves. Millicent’s been very mindful of toxins in this place.” She and Felicity pulled out the broken pieces of brick and mortar while Eleanor moved the saw back over by the pond.
Slowly a thick inch and half cable came into view. Where the cable wasn’t covered in mortar dust, there was a cobalt metallic blue – almost the same color as the water. Simone doubted the cable was cobalt because of that material’s inferior electrical properties were inconsistent with the strange materials documented in the notebooks.
Felicity commented, “You wouldn’t know it had been buried 20 years.”
Simone agreed, “There should be at least some patina of oxide. This looks like they could have laid it yesterday.” Simone considered it for a moment and then said, “I need to make a test. I will wager Millicent has some materials in those crates to help me make that test. Felicity, find a whisk and clean off the cables carefully. Use a face mask. God knows what mysterious materials are tied up in that dust.”
Simone went over to the crowd that was watching the drone work underwater. Simone tapped Millicent on the shoulder and said, “I need to make the cable extremely cold. And I need a magnet.” Millicent turned to her and scowled.
Liam said, “Tain’t cold enough for you?”
Simone smiled sweetly, “I need it to be -400 Fahrenheit or so…and a magnet.”
Liam whistled. Millicent put a hand on her head and rubbed her brow, “Oh dear Lord…they really bent the rules.” Without looking up she pointed to a crate and said, “You’ll find a canister of liquid in that crate. Be extremely careful, it will burn you worse than a fire. For a magnet, you’ll have to rummage, but there is bound to be one around here somewhere.” She turned back to the pond and the notebook saying, “I predict you’ll see the results you are expecting.”
Simone blew out her cheeks and said, “I shall test because that is what one does to a hypothesis. I haven’t decided whether I will be happy about the results.” Millicent turned her eye to Simone and raised an eyebrow and then shrugged and continued monitoring the drone’s effort in the pond. Simone gathered the canister and the magnet and returned to the trench and Felicity.
Simone looked down at the cleaned cable and said, “Perfect Felicity. Now watch. I suspect science is about to perform magic.” Simone placed the magnet on the coil and made sure it was stationary. She then poured the contents of the canister onto and around the cable. The liquid bubbled, hissed and steamed and yet Simone could feel the cold even from a couple of feet away. The colorless cloudy liquid pooled next to the cable and magnet. In a short time, the magnet rose by itself. Felicity exclaimed, “You were right – magic.”
Simone sighed, “I suspect there is an explanation, but we don’t know it yet. Now it is a mystery just like everything else about this house.”
Rachael – Making a Steam Engine Out of Coconuts
Rachael watched the drone pull up another set of floor detritus. There were portions of the circles. There was a set of fly wheels. The pedestal was set, so there was no lifting that. But the drone used the same technology as the goggles that were so useful on the raid on Smith’s house. So with the penetrating images, she probably had the equivalent of blue prints for the pedestal. The console was another matter. The inside was a nest of wires, switches, and various electronic gadgets. She really was going to need Jason to give her some basics just to keep up with this stuff. Charles believed the drone could lift the console, the hole needed to be bigger and there was no guarantee of its condition once it was lifted. However, Millicent kept avoiding moving the console.
Rachael argued, “We’ve got a bloody puzzle and that is a bloody giant piece.”
Charles asked, “Millicent?”
Millicent looked at the pond without expression saying nothing.
Rachael heard the notebook ask, “Millicent, how much farther are we going to go?”
Millicent sighed deeply, “We promised Smith.” Then she said sharply and loudly, “Pull the damn thing up. We’re probably going to need one of our own before this is over. Let’s see how the natives built a steam engine with coconuts and vines.”
Rachael stared at Millicent and exclaimed, “What the..”
Millicent cut her off, “I’ll explain later, Miss Weiz. Right now I am deciding if I am angry with Jason’s parents, impressed with them, or worried for them.” Liam and John looked at each other and shrugged. John looked over at Eleanor, spun his finger around to indicate get going. She started up the saw to make a bigger hole.
Jason came over and demanded, “What about my parents?”
Millicent closed her eyes, “I think I know who took your parents and why. I might even know where they are kept. I am pretty sure they were taken because they crossed some very important boundaries. I will explain this afternoon, but too much is going on now. Please …wait until then.”
Jason fumed but went back to cleaning and cataloging the detritus from the pond.
Simone came back with the canister and the magnet. Rachael could see she was smiling in a sad way. Millicent looked at her and said, “It floated, didn’t it.”
Simone said, “Nearly an inch; just like the notebook said it would. Felicity is convinced I’m a witch.”
Millicent said, “150 years ago you would be burned at the stake.”
Simone looked at the ground and said, “Your contract provided an easy escape for me. Do I need to plan on how I’ll fit into the firm in 10 years?” Rachael stared at Simone wondering what she was talking about.
Millicent smiled equally sadly, put a hand on Simone’s shoulder said softly, “My dear Simone, you can do whatever you want 10 years from now and it doesn’t have to be here. Besides, I think there are bigger worries now.”
Millicent turned back to the widening of the hole as Simone headed back to the cable. Rachael watched Eleanor cut the new block of ice quickly. The block was quickly levered out and the drone went down. The console was bolted to the floor. The drone used a tool the seemed to melt the bolts even though they were under water. A cable was wrapped around the console and it was lifted up by the drone as if the drone were some great winch on an airship. The drone came up dripping water. Millicent shouted, “Stand back. That water is dangerous.” Eleanor pulled away the saw from the hole as the drone rose with the cable attached. Slowly the dripping console emerged. Water poured out of holes and crevices. The droned moved its load over solid land and set the box of wires down gently.
Millicent said, “After he finishes rinsing, move it to the shed for storage.”
Millicent turned to Rachael and said, “How much have you figured out? Simone seems like she is pretty far along.”
Rachael regarded her with a squinted eye, “They created some field, trapping something? Protecting something? Jason could explain better. I can tell you how to make that field between the books, the pedestal and that console.”
Millicent shook her head and looked up at the sky and said, “Yes, of course you can.” Rachael watched as Millicent toured the yard looking that pieces and stopping at the console. Her posture was poor, her movements less expansive and she somehow looked older than she had before. Millicent talked to the notebook and other people pointed to the crates and the shed. She returned to Rachael and said, “The others are going to clean up and meet me back at the pub. Care to join me for the walk back?”
Rachael looked around, “I’m no use here anymore.”
The two headed down the quiet street. Millicent’s pace was slower than her normal long strides and Rachael had to make sure she did not go too fast. They moved silently for a bit until Rachael finally asked, “You have been in a mood since last night. What is going on?”
Millicent smiled briefly, “I suppose I have been in one.” Then they walked for a bit more without anything being said. Millicent finally asked, “You and Eleanor were reluctant to sign on. Why?”
Rachael thought for a bit and then said, “You’re asking us to leave everything for a chance of greatness. But we have seen little beyond your amazing technology to say whether that will actually happen. My life might not have been great, but I had papa and I had friends.”
Millicent countered, “But you wouldn’t meet your potential.”
Rachael said, “There is no guarantee your paradise will accept me any better. At least I know the rules here.”
Millicent said, “You wonder why I am in a mood. Between Smith and the McNeill’s, I fear I no longer have my little paradise. I am being forced to make a choice and like you, I have no guarantees things will be better one way or the other. I can look the other way and do what I always have. Or I can try something new and risk losing just about everything. “ Millicent stopped and looked up at the darkening sky. She sighed heavily, shook herself and then started walking at her normal pace losing Rachael for a moment. Millicent said over her shoulder, “Come along, I could use a beer.”
Millicent at the Pig and Cow Fills Stephan In
The cleanup must have gone quickly Millicent hadn’t finished her beer when the others started returning. Or maybe she wasn’t drinking much. The drone would keep watch on the Interum and the pieces they had retrieved. Scavengers would add new layers to the haunting story. With all the commotion of the morning, she was surprised they didn’t have an audience. But people had to work, the weather was freezing, and the house was haunted so people learned to expect strange things.
The group brushed off snow, hung coats, and did what was necessary to return warmth and circulation. The kitchen had set out a luncheon of soup, meat, cheese and bread. People quickly gathered around the warm luncheon and sat down. Felicity came over and asked, “Can I get you something? You look a bit peeked.”
Millicent said, “I’m not very hungry. Enjoy your lunch, please.”
Rachael, who was sitting at the table with her, snorted, “Nonsense, Jolene made a creamed potato leek soup. I don’t like cream soup and I like this one. Now I don’t know much biology, but a bit of warm soup will suit you.” She and Felicity headed off to fetch a bowl before Millicent could properly protest.
Felicity returned with a bowl of the soup and some dark bread. But she did not stay and Rachael had moved to another table. Millicent picked at the bread and dipped it in the soup. Rachael was right. The soup was good. She dipped the bread more and drank her ale.
Stephan sat at her table with his own bowl, bread and cheese. He asked, “What did you find?”
Millicent said, “I can’t tell if he broke my rules. He certainly bent them. But it seems likely he broke Guild rules. And everyone within 50 light years probably knows.”
Stephan took and drink and then said in a quiet voice, “Oh dear Lord. Is that who took him?”
Millicent dipped her bread in some soup and ate. “Subtlety was never Guild style in these matters. Some like to believe it ‘scares the natives back to their proper place.’ I’ve been trying for decades to say places like Earth don’t even know about the Guild let alone about their blasted hierarchy and rules.”
Stephan asked, “If the Guild has them, it’s over isn’t it. Sure it’s bad for Sean and Martha, but we’re end of the matter. Aren’t we?”
Millicent leaned back and cleaned her mouth with a napkin, “If that is true, it won’t be happy news for Jason. But I am worried things might be worse. The Guild leaders have been talking for years about sanctioning Earth. This might become the excuse.”
Stephan looked at her with a raised eyebrow and asked, “Sanctioning?”
Millicent said, “The Guild moves in, takes over and makes sure things are done their way. I think in the old days it was done to correct mistakes of overzealous traders. Now, it just seems a way to stomp on competition. It happened to my planet and …well…there isn’t much left after they are done.”
Stephan said, “Damn. Always thought the Guild were a bunch of do nothing sots.”
Millicent said, “They are until their profits are at risk.”
Stephan said, “What about this lot?” pointing to the tables with her group.
Millicent said, “I need them. Let’s face it. You all are able to think in ways the rest of us don’t really understand. And I might not be able to sway the whole Guild, but if I can sway enough about Earth’s value then I can keep any talk of ‘correction’ at bay.”
Stephan nodded and finished his drink.
Millicent Reviews Information
After lunch, Millicent joined her group at the tables in the dining room. Stephan moved the staff into the back. Millicent said, “I am going to explain to you what you have been seeing. “ Millicent waited, but there were no sarcastic comments from Jason, Rachael or Eleanor. “First, Rachael, Jason and Simone, tell me what you already know.”
Simone started, “The cables, the lightning rod that we found and some of the circular bits from the pond are all a highly electro conductive material. It has zero resistance at lower temperatures. Which, if I understand some of the work done by James Maxwell, is only theoretically possible. And then only at absolute zero – which is another theoretical temperature. “
Rachael continued, “The device at the bottom of the pond produced some field – not electrical, not magnetic, not known to any of us. The energy necessary to create this field seems to be tremendous – far more than harnessing lightning would have produced.”
Jason spoke, “This field blocks everything: light, matter, and gravity. It even seems to block time. It is as if the inside of the field doesn’t exist and then comes back when the field is turned off.”
Millicent looked down at the table and examined its grain. Finally she said, “You read the books very well. Everything you’ve said or observed is probably true. A field was created that blocked or suspended the interior from the forces of the universe.” She looked around and then said, “To understand the meaning, I have a thought exercise. If I applied the field to me and walked from here to London, when would I arrive?”
The three who had been studying the notebooks looked confused, but John answered, “You would be in London instantaneously. You might have aged two weeks, but you would be in London the next minute as far Londoners were concerned.”
Millicent said, “Exactly. Think about that.”
There was quiet in the room and then Michael burst out, “None of that 60 years in 10 years nonsense.”
Millicent Explains Dark Force
Jason retorted quickly saying, “I am not so sure that is nonsense based on the calculations I have been working on.”
Millicent said, “Michael, that ‘nonsense’ you are dismissing isn’t nonsense. It is how nature is supposed to behave. One should not be able to travel faster than the speed of light. If one travels fast enough, time slows for the person but accelerates for the stationary objects. A 3 month journey travelling near the speed of light will actually take 10 years. That is what happens. Because it how nature is supposed to act. And because that is how nature is supposed to act, that is the rules the galaxy plays by. And my Guild takes a dim view of people not playing by the galaxy rules.”
Felicity said, “So you’re saying that others in the galaxy know traveling faster is possible, but doesn’t use it. Why? I would think traveling quicker would be a good thing.”
Millicent looked at Felicity and said, “I’ll come to that. Some of us in the Guild have known it was possible. We couldn’t find an energy source to sustain the field. Sean and Martha, Jason’s parents, did. They found an abundant and ubiquitous source of energy.” Jason sputtered, but Millicent asked the group, “What are sources of energy in the universe?”
John answered, “Gravity.”
Jason answered, “Electromagnetic.”
Millicent said, “Good start. What are the other three?”
There was a long quiet and then Jason said, “Chemical attraction.”
Millicent said, “That is really just a variation on electromagnetic attraction.” She looked around and said, “Your culture. Your world is right on the edge of the discovery of atomic forces. Matter is made up of tiny particles. Those particles are made up sets of charged particles. Some are negative and some are positive. The two attract one another.”
She could see Jason starting to understand. He said, “When we create a battery or a wet cell, we somehow skew where the negative and positive particles are. That explains a great deal.”
Simone was starting to comprehend as well, “When that material becomes conducting, the particles must somehow align with all the negatives on one side and the positives on another.”
Millicent said, “Not exactly, but let’s not quibble. You have the idea. But we still haven’t come up with the remaining forces.” She took a deep breath and said, “In for a penny, in for a pound.” She closed her eyes as if collecting her thoughts and then said, “I told you the pond water was dangerous. There are two forces at play that make it toxic. One force holds the particles together. Sometimes it fails. The particle itself is unstable. When the particle breaks apart, pieces fly out at tremendous speeds. That is another type of force. That is what makes the pond water so dangerous. The forces that cause that breakup are the source of energy.” At this point even Jason and Simone were looking confused. Millicent rubbed the back of her head in frustration, “This is so hard to explain without the background; without you going through all of the steps. The last force is even more mysterious. Careful observation has determined that 70% of the known universe is made of up energy. Only a small portion of that 70% is the types of energy I’ve mentioned. The last type of energy is inferred from observation only. We believe it is what is driving stars apart. If it is 70% of the universe, it must be abundant, but there is or was, no easy way to detect it, let alone harness it. Sean and Martha must have found a way. Now, setting aside technical details, what questions do you have?”
Millicent Explains the Omicron Devices
John raised his hand and asked, “If it is 70% of the universe, why is it so hard to detect?”
Millicent shrugged and said, “Do fish know about water? Do you think about air? Until Lavoisier, you understood air to be one substance. The dark energy is inferred based on other observations. That is the best the galaxy could do.”
Jason said, “So my parents found an unlimited source of energy. Why does this matter? Is that why they were taken?”
Millicent said, “I set rules up about what you can and can’t do when you come back here. It is to allow Earth and humans to progress on their own. Your father bent them, but so far as I can tell he didn’t break them. Your mother was quite influential and brilliant in her own right. At least a third of those notebooks are her work and she brought in new ideas. So your father technically wasn’t introducing new knowledge. What they did was discovered here.”
John smiled and said, “That sounds a bit more legalistic than you normally sound on the subject.”
Millicent pinched the bridge of her nose and said, “Yes, it does. I am saying these things now because my rules weren’t the only set. Sean probably needed a stern talking to about introducing new ideas. But he broke some far more reaching rules.” She looked up and leaned on the table and said quietly, “The Guild restricts certain technologies on junior races and Sean and Martha went far beyond what would be allowed here. Those restrictions are called the Omicron Restrictions and Sean and Martha built Omicron Technology. ”
There was an uproar at the comment. Rachael shouting about “junior my sweet..” Jason shouting about “pompous classist…” Others just shouting. Finally Liam whistled loudly and John stepped into the ensuing silence saying, “I assume you will explain that last comment more fully.”
Millicent closed her eyes and said, “The Guild puts restrictions on certain technologies ‘for the good of all’. Further, junior members are further restricted from ‘jumping ahead’. The Guild allows certain members to use Omicron technologies sparingly but no one else should use them.”
Michael said, “That sounds remarkably familiar.”
Millicent said, “I am sure it does. If you look at your own history, your guilds restricted certain technologies because they were a threat to the current masters. My Guild is no different. They protect their own.”
Rachael said, “Why would they want to put restrictions on technologies for faster travel?”
Millicent said, “It has to do with safety. Your history is hardly peaceful. But one thing that truly limited your empires was distance.”
John said, “It’s hard to keep order in Britain from Rome when an order takes 6 months to arrive and a reply takes 6 months to return.”
Millicent nodded, “It’s the same with wars in the galaxy. Would you sent a battle fleet off to a foreign soil and not know if it was successful for 30 years? Empires stay localized and no one gets to powerful. Restrictions on travelling faster than light have kept things relatively peaceful for thousands of years. Some of the restrictions I object to. But there are some areas I wish the Guild was more restrictive. ” Millicent nodded at Simone who touched her collar.
Liam said, “But why restrict this new energy?”
Millicent smirked, “It would destroy energy brokers and they are very powerful entities.”
Liam whispered, “You’d think things would be different and they’re just the same.”
Eleanor said, “Why restrict research of junior races or research at all?”
Millicent said, “I suppose the Omicron restrictions were well intentioned at first. I have placed my restrictions in place for, what I believe, are altruistic reasons. But over the years, the Omicron restrictions have just kept new races junior. I and others have objected. But my Guild is much like yours of old – the masters have a vested interest in not letting the journeymen succeed and have a vested interested in keeping apprentices from learning anything beyond what current masters already know.”
There was a long quiet and then Michael said, “Ok…I get there are restrictions. What were Jason’s parents doing that upset the Guild?”
Millicent said, “I think there were three matters. First, the developed a field that, used with a ship, allows faster that light travel.”
Jason and Simone said simultaneously, “That’s impossible.”
Millicent said, “The notebooks say it is possible. Rachael’s reading indicates they were setting small objects ‘outside of time’ and successful at it. Second, the device needed a tremendous amount of energy. They used ‘dark energy’ to generate the field. Travel between stars takes a long time. With their device and their energy source, that will no longer be the case.”
Rachael said, “And the third matter?”
Millicent said, “They created Omicron technology on a backward unknown planet. The Guild does not tolerate such things from young races.”
Most of the group just shook their heads in disgust. Millicent could imagine it sounded just like University or their fruitless job searches afterwards. Simone looked embarrassed. It was Felicity who spoke and shook with rage, “That is absurd. That is not fair. Why can’t we do what we want?”
John commented, “I think our cousins across the pond revolted for less.”
Millicent looked at John with narrow eyes and then said, “The problem is that you people are so damn inventive and too observant. I probably couldn’t leave you people here after all the time I’ve let you spend on the ship. Eleanor has entirely new visions of how flight could be. Jason knows about power sources you shouldn’t have for centuries. Simone and Michael know about alloys that will revolutionize everything from buildings to medicine. Rachael and John know engineering principles that are decades if not centuries ahead of their time. I could leave, take all my resources with me, and the seven of you, I include Liam and Felicity, would transform the world. Sean knew about these fields despite significant efforts to hide the research. He and Martha figured out how to harness an energy source the rest of the Galaxy has not been able to detect, let alone harness. If the two of them had been on another planet, they would have been very rich indeed.”
Jason sneered, “But we can’t have some upstart planet think they are better than us? Is that what this is about?”
Millicent groaned, “Yes, for some. But for others it’s fear. You learn too damn fast. You are too damn at good at figuring things out.”
Liam whistled low and said, “You could take out the Queen’s Navy. Smith and you together would be unstoppable. Who the bloody hell would be afraid of us?”
Millicent opened her hands, “There’s the rub. Left alone, you would be rulers in the galaxy. They see the learning and technology curves of you and others. The lines cross and that scares them. You are becoming a planet that needs to be controlled.”
Eleanor crossed her arms with her eyes fierce asked, “Where does Smith fit in all this?”
Millicent said, “I really don’t know for sure. He chafes at rules so standing by the old guard hardly seems his interest. Some of us have been trying to change things using due process, but there is a cadre that takes a less legal approach. Why is he interested in Earth? I don’t know. Maybe he is hoping to get in early before the Guild takes over. He seems to see planets as mineral rich resources to be mined. ”
John asked, “And you are different how?”
Millicent shrugged, “I view planets more like orchards or gardens. A little harvesting here. A little pruning there. Spread some seeds around and the beauty expands.” She relaxed a little and then looked around, “Your planet has so much potential and you all are examples. Jason’s nearly figured out a theory of relativity to light based on notes from an old notebook. Simone figured out superconductivity. Rachael used nanotechnology in her door chime. The rest of the galaxy could be so much better off by giving you some tools and principles and letting you lose. Some tools and principles, I will admit, I would probably hold off on, but the talent you show should be encouraged, not squashed.”
Liam asked, “Squashed? Is that what Smith wants?”
Millicent laughed and said, “The perfect question. No, I don’t believe so…He wants to profit as much as I do.” She looked at the group. “On that we agree. We differ on how the profit should be made. I want you free to develop. The Guild sees you as a threat to the way things are done. And they deal harshly with people who don’t follow the rules. Right now Smith wants the knowledge we have. We have the means to travel faster than light very cheaply. If he can’t have the patent, he wants a part of the franchise. That is what we will be negotiating.” There were murmurs of objections, but Millicent put up her hand and said, “I won’t require you to work next to odious people, but we will need their skills and Smith’s resources if we are to build this thing. Right now, Smith and I have convergent goals – we both want the Guild to step back. I will be negotiating with him. And truthfully, he probably knows better who I can talk to get them to step back.” There was silence.
Finally Rachael asked, “I kept seeing the phrase ‘Odd Ninefold Brew Keg’ all through the notebooks. I asked Stephan and he didn’t have any idea.”
John whipped out a small notebook and started writing. People were quiet as he put down word and after word and then he stopped and said, “That phrase is an anagram. It seems Sean knew he was going to be in trouble. Rearrange the letters and you get ‘Forbidden Knowledge’.”
 Heavy Hydrogen – Combined with water is also known as Tritium. It is a byproduct of radiation exposure. It is also used in fusion reactions
 Element 63 – is Europium, a rare earth metal. Found in high concentrations in Fluorite and Bastenaesite. Fluorite is a relative common phosphate mineral that uncommonly has Europium. Bastenaesite occurs in bauxite region and bizarre volcanic rocks called “carbonotites”.
 Alpha particle – one of three types of radiation. The lowest energy form. It can be stopped by clothing or even skin.
 Beta Particle – One of the three types of radiation. Higher energy than alpha particles, but can be stopped by thin foil. Interacts with water causing the “glow” of reactors that are underwater.
 The Meissner Effect – with a weak applied field, a superconductor expels nearly all magnetic flux. The visible effect of this is magnets that float above superconductive metals.