At the Hotel
When Millicent came back, she met with Rachael immediately and told her, “You working with Redman has become dramatically more important.”
Rachael asked, “Then you and Smith have reached an agreement?”
Millicent folded her arms and then tapped a finger and said, “Not exactly. I need to talk with Liam before I tell you all. I…Smith has offered something unexpected…and I need to think about it. Regardless, it is inevitable that the two teams will be working together.”
Rachael crossed her own arms and glared back, “I suppose ‘vague with a promise of clarity’ is better than just ‘vague’. You put me and John at a disadvantage when Redman knows more.”
Millicent said, “I’ve done a few negotiations in my time. I’m not blind to the issues of constraint. But telling you without considering would be a risk to you and others. However, as I said, Smith has presented an unexpected option. It’s implications are serious. Now, if you will excuse me.” Then Millicent grabbed a wide eyed Liam O’Hannigan and marched out the door. Rachael gave a low whistle as they left.
Rachael sat at the table and reviewed her notes from the previous night’s meeting and her own thoughts. Eleanor, Simone and Felicity came in. Rachael stared at them from the desk and said, “I’m going back tonight. I know all the reasons I shouldn’t. It will not change my belief that I need to go.”
They sat in chairs. Simone said in a quiet voice, “John told us about the meeting.”
Eleanor said with a lighter tone, “He enjoyed your opening play. He sounded like a little boy describing your slap…’boom… the fat arse fell on his chair.’”
Rachael remained quiet.
Felicity said, “I was rather tickled about your comment ‘If I wasn’t serious, I would have let John hit you.’ Did you really say that?”
Rachael squirmed in bit and said, “I don’t blame any of you for being angry with me. I just don’t see a choice.” She sat up a bit and then said, “I needed to let him know all is not forgotten.”
Simone said through tight lips, “I won’t work with any of them.”
Rachael said, “Can’t ask you to, but some of us will have to.” Rachael looked at them for a second, blinked a couple of times and said, “I expect Winifred has said something just about the same.”
John, Michael and Jason came into the room when the laughter had stopped. John said, “Rachael and I are going back. We will be trying to come up with answers to this question – If we were in the room with Millicent and Smith or in front of the Guild, what would we ask for?”
Michael spoke first, “It seems everyone else is planning our fate. I frankly think one of us ought to be at the table if they are talking about us.” The others nodded in agreement.
Jason added, “If we are supposed to work with these sots, there needs to be some rules in place. I spent four years being insulted by Brown and Wayland and I took this job to get away from that.”
Rachael smiled thinly back at Jason saying, “Can’t argue with you. But remember rules on politeness cut both ways, Mr. McNeill.” Jason looked startled. He glanced at John who was staring at him. Jason said, “Won’t say I’ll be perfect. But I’ll take my stripes when they’re due.”
Michael said in a soto voice, “With Winifred and Findley, that might be literal as well as metaphoric.” There was strained laughter at that. Michael continued, “We need to decide how any new ideas will be managed. Jason, Rachael and Simone protested. Michael raised his hands in a calming gesture and said, “I’m not talking about the notebooks. Although frankly, you all are just doing what Jason’s parents did. But if we are doing something original, we need to establish how that is going to be divided.”
Felicity hit him on the shoulder and said, “The worlds coming to an end and you’re worried about profits?!”
Eleanor said, “Michael’s right. We’ve already signed away our patent rights to Millicent. What happens if the two groups come up with something jointly? I know it sounds harsh, but that is the world we are entering.”
John looked at his fingernails and said, “I have to agree. The Guild circles around profits. We need to take a page from them.”
Felicity crossed her arms as Michael rubbed his shoulder. She said, “Can’t say I agree, but the first two points are enough to make me feel better about tonight’s meeting.”
Rachael asked, “So what would we say to the Guild?”
Jason said, “Stuff yourselves?”
Rachael wrote in her notes while saying, “Jason is not to be at the Guild meeting.”
Eleanor said, “I don’t know at this point except ‘please don’t take over our planet.’”
People started leaving the room. Rachael watched Simone and Eleanor leave. The two turned back and looked at her, nodded briefly and then left. Rachael felt a bit of weight leave her shoulders. Whatever the outcome, she could still look Eleanor and Simone in the eyes.
Finding a Bigger Enemy
Rachael and John arrived at the Duke of Wellington after dinner. Alfred Redman and Edward Wayland were sitting at the same table. Redman wore his seemingly ever present smile. Edward seemed more relaxed tonight and was leaning back in his chair as she and John arrived at the table.
Redman eyed Rachael carefully saying, “Will we be starting with fisticuffs tonight as well?”
Rachael smiled back and said, “You asked. That will work for me tonight. John regaled the ladies with exaggerations of my little hello. Eleanor and Simone were simply rapt.”
John said to the ceiling, “Wasn’t exaggerating.”
Rachael furrowed her brow and said, “Sadly, there will be no repeat. Can you call a bar maid over? The trip has left me parched.”
Redman pursed his lips and said, “Right…parched.” He signaled to the barmaid who came and took orders – wine for John, beers for everyone else. He then returned attention to the table and asked, “Any thoughts from last night’s conversation?”
John said, “Some. Later maybe. What do you know about today’s discussion between Smith and Millicent?”
Redman fingered his glass and narrowed his eyes. Then said, “Smith was unusually reticent. He only said that positions were now fully fleshed out.”
Rachael said, “Something changed. Yesterday, Millicent was morose. Today she was active like she was planning. She immediately consulted with Liam O’Hannigan.” She left out Millicent’s comments purposefully.
Edward said, “Well from my point of view, it seems I’ve done nothing wrong all afternoon. Not one jolt.” Redman shook his head and looked up at the ceiling.
Rachael eyed Redman and said, “I can guarantee nothing will happen at this meeting.”
Edward fingered his glass and then said, “I appreciate your stand, but I do have to go back to the rest of the group with him. It is best I not stray too far from the approved path.”
The barmaid arrived with the beers. Redman hoisted his mug up and said, “Enough of this dour talk. To small compromises.”
Rachael and rest lifted their glasses and took drinks. Rachael asked, “Diminished expectations?”
Redman dabbed his mouth with a cloth and said, “I am a pragmatist, Miss Weiz. You may be looking at the two people with Smith who will work with you competently and rationally. I suspect I am looking at the two people on Morgaine’s side of the street who will work with us.”
John said, “Italy was fractured into a set of warring factions. Now it is close to challenging Austria”
Redman smiled and said, “Every the student of history and philosophy. Right now I think we are more like Ireland and England. In theory we’re on the same side, but one was slit the other’s throat at the first sign of weakness. I think the only way you’ll get Irish and English fighting on the same side is if they have a bigger enemy.”
Wayland said, “Seems like we have a ready made one.”
John raised his glass and said, “Aye, that we do.” He took a sip and said, “It’s hard not to feel like a mouse negotiating with a cat when it comes to the Guild. We don’t even know how big it is.”
Rachael narrowed her eyes and said, “Ever corner a rat. A really big one? Cats don’t. They know better; they always catch them before their cornered. When the rat don’t see a way out, it turns with those great big front teeth and claws that go through mortar. The rat is still looking for a way out and it will take it if it gets it. But if the cat tries to take the rat at that point, it will know it’s been in a fight.”
Wayland lifted his glass and said, “much better image. Never saw anything like that.”
Redman said, “The dark side of London teaches a few things that aren’t on the list at Eaton, Master Wayland.” Wayland rolled his eyes but returned focus to the table.
John said, “If we’re going to show those incisors, we are going to need some help from Millicent and Smith on how to grow them.”
Redman said, “Which brings us back to the point of this conversation. What do we want to do about these talks?”
Rachael said, “I think we can agree we need a place at the table.” Head nodded around the table. She continued, “We need to stop being told what is going to happen and be asked instead.” Murmurs of agreement followed.
Wayland said, “If we’re going to work together, there are some rules that need to be set up.” He gestured to his neck.
John said, “We’ve reached the same idea. Somebody or a group is going to have to mediate disputes. We already have certain parties who want nothing to do with yours. Any cooperation is going to have to be negotiated.”
Rachael added, “We need Smith and Millicent to agree on how new discoveries will be managed – who gets credit and how that is going to be decided and such.”
Wayland asked, “Isn’t that what got us into this mess?”
Rachael said, “We are about to sell our services to the highest bidder in the galaxy. I don’t know about your contract, but I had to sign away patent rights.”
Wayland sighed and said, “If I had any, I’m sure they’ve been signed away…”
Redman said, “Not that I am feeling left out, but “support personnel will need some managing as well.”
Wayland looked at him narrowly and said, “Is that what you are calling it? ‘Support personnel?’”
Redman said sharply, “Got a better name, lad?”
John, interrupted saying, “That will make Liam’s and Felicity’s roles much easier. “ He looked around and then said, “What will we be saying to the Guild?”
There was quiet.
Then Redman said, “I’m not sure. Right now I think we need to get into talks with Morgaine and Smith. Who will be entering the lion’s den?”
John rubbed his chin and said, “I’ve been thinking about that. I think you and Liam O’Hannigan make the most sense. You are both ‘support personnel’ as you call it, so you don’t have the same financial constraints we engineers do. You are both ‘street wise’ and both plain spoken, albeit with different accents.”
Redman said, “Interesting, Winifred and Brown will be furious they aren’t chosen.” Edward snorted.
Rachael said, “I am not sure any on our side of the street believe they would hold our interests at heart.” She stared at him and said, “You …I’m still not sure…but I think the short term benefits of cooperation will outweigh any thoughts of avarice.”
Redman stared back at her and then smiled, “Cheers. I think there was a compliment in there somewhere.”
John looked at Edward and asked, “What are your thoughts? I don’t know O’Hannigan well enough to say one way or another. On this side of the street, I won’t work and Smith wouldn’t take me seriously if I did. I don’t trust Winifred or Findley either. Neville?…He’s so desparte for the next ‘happy charge’ he would say anything to please Smith. That leaves Redman.” He looked warily at Redman who stared at him impassively. “Can’t say I am comfortable with him either, but we aren’t exactly spoiled for choice with honest brokers here.” Redman rolled his eyes but said nothing. Wayland laughed after a moment and said, “The fate of the world passed to the working class. Winifred and Findley will be furious.”