Chapter 16 – A Working Vacation


Airship Travel to Prague

Crossing the Channel

Millicent sat in an observers chair on the bridge and watched Eleanor Woodson guide the airship as if she had been doing it a life time.  Eleanor was nervous because she hadn’t. She had flown on a few trips on University excursions on small vessels with an instructor watching. But she had never been fully in control and none of the flights were on anything as large as this one.  She watched the gauges in front of her and shouted commands to John O’Malley who adjusted valves and threw switches. He had regularly worked on the machinery of ships this size so he seemed completely comfortable in the exercise as they started to cross the Channel.  Eleanor’s one weakness was navigation and Charles, under protest and a blanket of derisive remarks, supplied direction. Charles, from the notebook said, “Take a course of east south east and hold that for six hours.  You know we would be in Prague by now and you could be having lunch in an hour.”

Simone was also in an observer’s chair and said, “Felicity made us a scrumptious luncheon and we can eat that whilst Eleanor and John do their finest.”  She was staying close to Eleanor now because she could, not because she had to.

Eleanor was certain she heard a “Hmph” from the notebook.

Millicent had used connections with John, the Dean, and even Winifred Stanhope to finagle the use of this airship without a crew. After a few extra pounds and a hefty insurance policy, Eleanor was getting her chance to fly a dirigible.  John was a fully qualified support engineer. The two of them had spent the last week in London going over the specifics of their ship and practicing scenarios in the Environmental Lab which Charles had, with dripping sarcasm, simulated as an airship bridge. “Oh my…there’s a gas leak in bladder five. Whatever shall happen…please kill me now. You know …in the time it takes for bladder five to empty, I could launch, travel and land in Prague.” Millicent had a private talk with Charles and, afterwards he aided in the simulations in a sulky and silent fashion.

And so now the group was on the trip. Edward Wayland had declined. He had made it clear from the beginning that, while he was grateful to Millicent for her efforts to free him, he had had quite enough of strange beings controlling his destiny.  Millicent was disappointed on multiple levels. Edward was a talented chemist and she was certain his skills would be useful to their efforts in the short term and highly marketable in the long term.  She also felt the galaxy had made a mistake and needed a chance to make it right. In the end, she suggested he spend some time with Stephan in Dunstable. She suggested that he just escape the London grime and enjoy the country life for a couple of weeks. . She also hoped that some time outside of London would refresh his view of life.  Stephan would understand his trials and might prescribe the right combination of work, socializing, and information to ease Edward Wayland’s torments.

Liam, Rachael, Jason, Felicity and Michael were below on the observation deck. Liam was, no doubt, mixing drinks. Michael and Felicity would be admiring the passing terrain.  Rachael would probably be close to Liam. She had expressed sympathy and solidarity with Charles, especially after seeing the lack of accessible features on their transportation.  Jason would probably be reviewing his father’s notebooks. The early start had been challenging for all but Jason, Eleanor and John. But during the eight hour flight they would cross Belgium, Germany, Austria and have dinner in Prague.

Taking the ship would have been quicker, but there would have been no easy way to get from some rural house to downtown Prague.  That logistics issue had finally tempered Charles a bit. Millicent did not have any warehouses in Prague for the ship to stay and land.  They would have to leave the ship and him behind anyway and London was as good as some far away barn on the edge of Prague.

Charles provided the latest estimated arrival, “With the favorable winds, we should arrive in Prague in five and one half hours – I could goto Jupiter in that amount of time.” Millicent commented back, “but the beer isn’t nearly as good and the number of dance halls is very limited.”

Eleanor told John to adjust the fuel mix on engine three and then said, “Charles! I have been waiting 10 years to do this. If you won’t shut up and let me have my fun, I will have Simone take the notebook downstairs and have O’Hannigan and McNeill regale you with Celtic ballads and drinking songs.” Simone stifled a small laugh.  John smiled broadly. Millicent only nodded knowingly at Eleanor and winked. The notebook said, “You wouldn’t dare.”

“I made back up maps in the environmental lab after the second day of your whining.  After all, what if communications went down or your notebook got misplaced? I have to be able to manage from up here without you if necessary. It’s just prudent.”

“Celtic ballads and drinking songs?”

John said, “Liam’s ‘O Danny Boy’ makes the street cats cry.”

Eleanor continued, “John and I have been doing practice runs in this bridge for a week. I have a bit of wheelhouse experience and John knows the machines without you.  It will be easier with your help, but Europe is hard to miss and I am sure I can stop along the way and get directions if I have to. I was given command of this bridge and I intend to exercise it. Are we clear?”

John stood straight and made a sharp salute. The notebook remained silent for a bit, “Unless you need me, Captain, I will be talking with Betsy. At least she understands the troubles I endure for you lot.”

On the Observation Deck

Michael leaned on the rail with Felicity watching the English Channel get smaller as the ship moved over Belgium.  After three hours of standing up and more than five hours since they woke, his legs felt like jelly.  But,  he was too excited to sit and Felicity did not want to miss a single sight on the journey.  They were approaching the river Rhine, and even from this height, he could make out the spires of the famous cathedral of Cologne.

Liam and Rachael were staying close to the bar in the middle. Liam said, “Heights make me queasy.” Rachael could see, but the windows were a bit high and limited her vision of the landscape.  So she kept Liam company and griped about the lack of “proper accommodations”.  Michael had suggested to Rachael the idea of a glass bottom gondola. Rachael had brightened at the idea;  Liam had visibly shivered at the mention.

Michael stretched and worked his legs and then said, “Felicity, I am famished and we moving over farm land. I am going to sit and eat a bit. Do you want me to bring you anything?”

Felicity gave him a peck on the cheek and said, “One of the egg sandwiches, an apple and some water, please.” She returned to her gazing of the passing country side. He headed for the bar and said, “A beer, barkeep.”

Liam pulled a pint and said, “I think I understand the big guy back in Dunstable.  I could get used to this.”

Jason looked up from a notebook and said, “Stephan was work at 8 and closed the bar at 10 and cleaned up until 11 – six days a week.”

Liam paused in his drink for a moment and said, “You could let a man enjoy his revelry for a moment, Mr. McNeil.” He sighed deeply and then said, “But a hack is what I should be.” Michael chuckled and found the picnic basket of food. He found a chicken sandwich for himself and an egg sandwich for Felicity. He took out two apples. He arranged a plate for Felicity, picked a flower from the bouquet  behind the bar and brought the plate and a glass of water to Felicity. She looked up from the passing scenery and then saw the plate with the flower.  She smiled and whispered in his ear, “More stolen flowers?”
Michael said, “Whatever works.” She gave him a proper kiss and he returned to the table with Jason and pulled out his own sketch book. It was full of pictures from the Isle of Wight, London and Dunstable.  He took a bite of the sandwich and then set the canvas pack of pencils next to the book and considered what to sketch. He started with a rough sketch of the Cathedral of Cologne from what he could remember of pictures and the distant spire on the horizon.

 

Michael's Sketch of Cologne Cathedral

Michael’s Sketch of Cologne Cathedral

Arrival in Prague

Eleanor stood at the wheel as the ship crossed the Danube. She adjusted the ailerons and the engines to tilt the airship into a steep descent.  She had warned everyone to strap in, but there were still shouts from the observation deck below. Millicent said calmly and without any touch of sympathy, “You did warn them.”  Eleanor gritted her teeth against the shouts from below.  At least Simone and John were taking the descent well. But even John said, “I’ve watch landings growing up and pulled in my share into the hangers. That is all that is keeping me from shouting out now.”

Eleanor said, “Trim the front bladders and lower the pressure on all.”

John muttered, “That and I’m busy.”

Eleanor heard Simone gasp, “Oh my, that’s steep.”

Eleanor said, “We’ll be leveling out at 500 feet. John, deploy signal flags and let me know when we are cleared to land.” She pulled some levers and the ship began to level out. She began circling the field. John said, “There two ships ahead of us. We will be cleared for landing in one hour.”

Eleanor grimaced and said, “Wonderful. Night landing. We probably shouldn’t tell them it’s my first time using this ship.”

Charles said from the notebook, “This was utterly avoidable.”

Eleanor pinched her nose and said, “Yes, Charles. We know.” She looked and said, “In for a penny; in for a pound. John and I have been practicing this and at least the wind is light.” Eleanor set the ship in a slow circle around the landing field.

Millicent said, “I’ll take the notebook downstairs.  Charles and I can point out the sights to the others while we wait.”

Eleanor nodded and breathed a small sigh of relief as Millicent grabbed the grumbling notebook and headed for the stairs. Simone said, “You’re nervous. Aren’t you?”

Eleanor tried to sound confident as she said, “It is a small ship and easy to control. John is doing a magnificent job interpreting my bad commands.” John nodded and gave a light two fingered salute. She closed her eyes and said, “Yes, I am nervous. It has been smooth, but landings are always the hardest part.”

Simone came up and gave her a light waist hug and then stood by her side. The ship slowly circled the field three times as the two other ships landed. John held a telescope watching the field for signals. Finally he said to Eleanor, “We’re cleared for landing.”

She said, “Alert the ship.” She gave small hug to Simone and then pointed to the chair. Simone headed over and strapped herself in.

John took a voice tube and shouted into it, “Strap in for final descent. Strap in for final descent.”

Millicent hustled back up the ladder and took her place behind Eleanor and strapped in.  She asked, “You won’t need Charles for anything will you?”

Eleanor said tightly, “No. It is me and John now.”

Millicent smiled broadly, “I thought so. You’ve done marvelously so far.”

Eleanor gave a small salute back and wondered what Millicent knew about piloting an airship.  Then Eleanor decided Millicent  probably knew a great deal more than Eleanor would expect. She shouted to John, “vent lift bladders, Mr. O’Malley and flaps down 30 degrees.” She raised the engine speed pushing the balloon down like a large wingless bird. The ground raced towards the gondola.  A group of twenty or so people formed a large V on the landing field.  John called out temperatures and pressures and the airship headed down. At an elevation of about 20 feet, Eleanor began to level out the blimp. The lead member in the V grabbed the first line on the airship. As the ship lowered, more lines were grabbed and soon the ship was held be the group of people. Eleanor slowed and stopped the engines. The lines were attached to winches and the ship was stopped and slowly lowered. Eleanor let out a sigh. She then said into a speaking tube, “Welcome to Prague.” Millicent, Simone and John clapped loudly. A ruckus from below could be heard. Through the cheers, Eleanor heard Charles comment from the notebook, “Not bad. You’ll work out. But I really need to get you piloting a real ship.”

Prague Old Town

A visit to the past

Rachael winced with each bounce over the old cobblestoned road. Even with the suspension and the rubberized wheels, the bumps seemed to shake her very core. The Grand Hotel Praha was in downtown and managed to deal with her disability. But after a few blocks with the narrow streets, the cobbles, the hills and the heavy traffic, she had finally relented and let John push her the final few blocks. They might have taken a carriage to their destinations and as far as she was concerned, they might take one back to the hotel. But Millicent had convinced her that the walking the streets would be a valuable experience and she had agreed.

In some ways, much of the town was like her old neighborhood: small shops and vendor carts on the street. But the hawkers spoke a different language and the signs were in a different language.  As they proceeded, something completely different appeared. Two men were wearing shtreimel[1]  and long bekishe[2]. Under the coats were white Tzitzit[3] and gartals[4]. Her father and uncle wore on these on Shabbat but never midweek. The two men both had long beards and peyots[5]. She gasped when she saw the sight and bit her knuckle as her eyes watered. Millicent smiled at her and put her hand on Rachael’s shoulder.

Felicity noticed Rachael’s reaction and asked, “What’s the matter?”

Rachael pointed discreetly at the men discreetly and said in a whisper, “I’ve…I’ve only seen pictures and heard the stories. In London, if you saw that dress at all, it would only be on high holy days.” She composed herself and then said, “It’s like I am seeing my great grandfathers walking across the street.”

Millicent said, “After we visit the clock, we’ll visit the Jewish Quarter for lunch. You should visit one of the temples.”

Rachael snorted, “If they are dressed like that, they won’t know what to do with me…Uncle Moshe and Da’ offended a few in my synagogue…Still, even a visit to the women’s side could be good.”

Felicity raised her eyebrow and voice, “Women’s side?!”

Rachael said, “If we see men dressed like that, they are not enlightened in any fashion…especially on matters of women.” She squared her shoulders and said, “Let’s move. The square should only be a block away. We can debate religious traditions later.”

Clock Makers meeting

They walked around the corner and came into the square at the base of the Astronomical Clock.  Millicent pulled out a pocket watch and said, “There should be show in about 10 minutes. I think we can rest and wait with the gathering tourists.” Rachael nodded to a group of people in brightly colored suits and dresses milling next to the taxi stand who were pointing at her.  Millicent explained the various astronomical features shown:  The zodiac signs, the dials showing the sunrise and sunset, the dials that show the star time or sidereal[1] time, the position of the ecliptic, the equator and the map that showed the place of the observer. Rachael followed the conversation closely. Everyone had been studying astronomy with Charles so they followed the terms.  And them the clock started.

The twelve apostles started a march around the track of the clock. The figure of death held an hour glass and beckoned to a Turkish figure which declined by nodding its head.  At the end of the march of the apostles, a golden came out and crowed as the hour was chimed.  Felicity and Michael pointed and oohed and ahhed as each figure came out or some new feature was revealed.  Rachael enjoyed and admired the mastery. She may have done more complicated actions in her small clock (not allowing this year’s extravagance which cheated with technology from Millicent) but her piece was smaller and the parts easier to time. The number things the clock showed was impressive in its own right. But the size of the figures that moved was impressive.  What truly captivated her was the clock itself. It tracked local time, sidereal time, the zodiac, the movement of the sun, and provided a church calendar. That meant five different movements that had to be enclosed in that tower.  The movements needed to be timed.

She commented Millicent, “It doesn’t look 400 years old.”

Michael's drawing of Astronomical Clock

Michael’s drawing of Astronomical Clock

Millicent answered, “It is in the middle of renovation. I have arranged a meeting with the chief engineer in charge of the repairs.”

Rachael smiled and then looked disappointed. “I’ll never get up those stairs.”

Millicent said, “You’ll have to leave this comfortable chair and it won’t be dignified, but we will get you up and down the stairs to see everything that you desire.”

Rachael shrugged herself and said, “I suppose feeling like a sack of potatoes will be better than maintaining my dignity. If I can see how that wonder works then you and John can carry me there and I won’t make a single complaint. Let’s start!”

Afternoon Prayers

John and Millicent returned Rachael to her chair. The clock maker shook both her hands and said in a heavy accented voice. “You must return after I finish restoring the figures. There is still more to do.” He then gave her a kiss in the European style and said, “And I must see your work.  Few truly appreciate the timings necessary here.”

John answered quickly, “Visit Mordechai’s Clock Shop in East London.  Rachael’s doorbell is the talk of Stepney. It may not be so big…but we locals are right proud of it.”

The clock maker stood straight and said, “Then I shall make a trip to London. I am sure to need materials anyway and I should another master’s work.” Rachael felt her blush by the clock maker and John’s comments.

Millicent bowed and thanked the graying man and said, “Then we shall leave you to it.”  She turned headed north west out of the square. The road was wide and had decent parkways for Rachael to roll on and so she took over her own propulsion. Rachael wheeled next to Millicent. She was a touch out of breath but said, “Thank you. You probably didn’t need to make this trip, I imagine. But thank you.”

Millicent stopped and faced Rachael. She crossed her arms and said, “Miss Weiz. I do need to make this trip to get some vital material. But we would have made this trip regardless. We will be leaving soon and I can’t say when we will back.” She paused and the others caught up. She continued, “We will be leaving all you know and understand soon. You lost a great deal in my service. It is unlikely even my best technology will return you to your former mobility. “Millicent’s voice got quiet as she said, “Despite your protests, you are wrong. I had to bring you here. I had to show you someone of your own that you could admire and someone who could appreciate your abilities like no other.”  Rachael sat stunned for a moment. John’s hand was on her shoulder.  Millicent turned and started her march down the street saying and strained voice, “Come along. There is one more stop.”

As they proceeded down the boulevard, Rachael saw more and more of the dark clad men and women in long skirts and shpitzel hair coverings.  The men and the women tended to avoid each other and Rachael shook her head at the old world traditions.  Finally they arrived in front of a tan building with a tall dark roof. Rachael looked at it, saw the Star of David in the window and said, “It’s a synagogue!”

Millicent said, “One of six.  This is probably the oldest based on the architecture.”

Michael said, “It’s high gothic…1200’s at least…maybe older.”

Millicent said, “I find the Maisel more pleasing to the eye, but it is 300 years younger and redone in a baroque style.”

Michael said, “I could spend a month in this town!”

Millicent said, “You have two days. And you will bring Rachael here to make sure you don’t offend.”

Rachael said, “I doubt the locals will care for me.”

Millicent said, “I think the ones that matter will appreciate your presence. I may be wrong. “ She pulled out her watch. “It is a bit early for afternoon prayers, but I am famished after all that stair climbing. There is a lovely restaurant the corner that will have us served in time for you to make services.”

The restaurant was magnificent. Rachael had stuffed herself with dish of lamb and spring vegetables. Others had been equally pleased. Michael commented that if food was this good, he might consider converting.  John ordered a proper wine and it was a pleasant after noon meal.

The group returned to the “New Old Synagogue”. At the base of the stairs of the old temple Rachael looked up and sighed. Millicent talked to John and Michael and then headed up the stairs to the temple. Millicent talked briefly to a doorkeeper pointing at Rachael. The man scratched his beard and then nodded after a moment he returned with a chair and followed Millicent down the stairs. Rachael was hardly modest in the style of Halacha, but then she wasn’t married so by some reckoning she probably shouldn’t be out on the street. The man scowled at her and pointed to his head.  Rachael sighed and said, “Felicity, do you have a scarf? I am not properly modest.” Felicity produced the scarf.  Rachael covered her hair and scowled back at the man. He frowned but then nodded.

The chair was set down. She was placed in the chair. John and Michael took the front while Millicent easily lifted the back of the chair and the man’s eyes went wide. He protested in Bohemian. Millicent said some sharp and the man scampered up the stairs to the door. John and Michael followed the man in the outer room. Michael protested, “You won’t see the chapel.”

Rachael said, “There will be windows. It is enough. Trust me,  Michael. Besides, this is how it is done here.”  Millicent said, “She  knows. Follow the man.”

They arrived. Rachael was placed near a window. Millicent said, “We’ll leave you for now. I expect we’ll be back in an hour.” Rachael said, “I don’t know what to say.”

Millicent said, “If I recall correctly, you start with ‘How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of Hosts. My soul longs, indeed it faints for courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God.”

Rachael said, “Cheeky and you know far too much to not be Jewish.”

Millicent said, “I will see you in an hour.”

Rachael sat in her chair and peered through the window. She rocked to the prayers as they were sung.  When she didn’t get up and others scowled, she pointed to her legs and shrugged. Some faces got gentler and that helped. She chanted as best she could when it seemed right. At then she leaned back and closed her eyes and absorbed the moment. Surely God was in this place and this moment.  She thought of her grandparents who might have worshiped in temple like this. Then she thought of the Diasporas this community represented. There were a half dozen varieties of Jews in this community and each was a foreigner in their new homes. They had been the wrong people in the wrong place in the wrong time.  A pogrom was coming again and now it wouldn’t just be the minorities who would suffer.  Was she running away or was she facing it like the Macabees? She snorted when she remembered how well that turned out.  She sat in her chair and watched the attendees leave and the vestments restored. One women in a heavy accented voice asked, “You cannot move. You will be ok?”

Rachael nodded, “Someone will be here for me. Thank you. Thank you for letting me join you.”

The woman smiled and said, “Ignore the old ones. We like to see the new faces. Join us for tea?”

Rachael smiled and said, “Not today. I will be back tomorrow. Then?”

The woman patted her on the shoulder, “I bring friends and you can tell us of your travels.”

Return to the hotel

Rachael was tired.  She also was at peace in a way she hadn’t felt in a long time. She was a foreigner here and that seemed to be her fate for life.  But for today, she had been greeted as a colleague and appreciated. And, for today, she had found a place where her faith was not a hindrance but a source of connection and even meaning. She also had a chance to see what her grandfather, father and uncle had left. Having seen the comfort of the community, she also realized her father was right. She could never really be happy here. Time had stopped for three hundred years. She needed to do more that keep the old ways going. The clock maker had restored the old figures and returned the clock to its former glory, but he was also adding new features. Now the clock showed modern time as well as Bohemian time.  She knew that she could do the same and more. Like her grandfather, father and uncle before her, she would be finding new worlds with new opportunities. Her arms were tired, but she was rested and she was content to let John push her back to the hotel.

Business in Prague

Jason, Eleanor, Simone and Liam road in the carriage along the cobbled streets. Liam grumbled continually that they could be going in circles and he wouldn’t know. Simone was certain west based on the sun and those road markers she could understand. She wouldn’t guarantee that the driver was taking the most efficient route, but they were headed in the right direction.  She had a device in her ear that helped with translation of what she heard.  It didn’t help her speaking, but an appropriate phrase would show up the notebooks that went with the ear pieces.  In the end, everyone could function in a foreign country albeit with odd looks from the locals.  Charles had promised a better and more permanent solution, but the wondrous notebooks would have to do for today.

They arrived at the small gemologist shop and the four riders climbed out of the carriage and stretched. Liam tried his hand at negotiating with the driver as Simone and the others headed to the door.  The outside was non-descript save for bars over the windows and a wood shingle with an image of a gold nugget and a geologic pick.  Entering the store a bell tinkled indicating their entry.  The shop was dusty by any measure save for Eleanor’s wood shop flow.  The shelves were filled with bins of rough cut rocks of various colors. Hints of the wonders showed on the edges in the form of color or crystals, but the wonders were still hidden awaiting a skilled worker to remove the tailing from the gem.

A grizzled woman came out to the counter. She wore a leather apron and safety goggles and was cleaning her hands with a towel. She glanced at them and said, “Ein bisschen weit für Touristen[1].”

Simone asked in carefully worded slow German, “Sind Sie Adele Maly?”[2]

The woman’s eyes narrowed and returned, “Vielleicht. Wer will das wissen?”[3]

Simone whispered thanks for the translation and then said,  “Verstehst du Englisch?, Meine Deutche nicht sehr gut.” She had studied the phrase carefully and practiced it multiple times today.  This time she got a hopeful answer.

The old woman set the cloth on the counter and said in a lightly accented voice, “and your Czech will be worse. I do business in London. Who are you?”

Simone breathed a sigh of relief and said, “Danke. I am grateful as that will make this easier.” Simone set her satchel on the counter. Straightened her hat and then said, “Your name was given to use by Professor Henry Dean.”

The woman’s eyes brightened and then narrowed a bit and she asked , “And how is his wife, Amanda?”

Jason said, “Maybe we have the wrong location. Dorothy is doing well. The last I talked to her, she was planning her spring garden.”

The woman smiled at Jason and said, “Ah one forgets after so much time. And there was all those stouts.”

Liam spoke next and said, “He’s Dean now and doing right well, but I remember him drinking lagers during those dart games.” He smiled and said, “Not nearly as good as yours, mind you. How many more of these will we be going through?”

The woman bowed and said, “It is enough for now. Henry was fine man, but one needs to be cautious in my business. You still haven’t told me who you are?”

Eleanor eyed her and said, “We are people who would like to make a significant purchase. A geologist needs to be cautious?”

The woman said, “I hunt for gems and exotic minerals. Such business attracts…questionable clients.  And I still await a name.”

Simone said, “As I said, Henry Mill recommended you. My name is Simone Campbell. I represent a small business you’ve never heard of that wants to make a large purchase of xenotime[4]. “

Adele Maly  raised her eyebrows and said, “That is a rather rare mineral and hardly something that makes lovely jewelry.”

Simone started, “It has…” but Liam interrupted her and said, “Our needs are our problem. Can you find the stuff?”

The woman looked at Liam and then said, “As I said, questionable characters. I have some samples in the back.” She walked through a set of doors.

Simone hissed, “Why not tell her what we want with it?”

Liam hissed back, “Because we aren’t the only ones looking for it now. I’d rather not tell Adele and then have to pay her to keep quiet.”

Simone felt confused but nodded her agreement. Adele Maly returned with a small bag. She spilled out a set of 5 stones, each about an inch in length. Simone looked at one closely. Miss Maly proffered her loupe. Simone took and nodded her thanks. She looked into the pink brown mineral. There were some small fluid inclusions and there were streaks of brown indicating impurities of Ytterbium with the Yttrium, but they were rose brown color necessary for high grade.  Simone looked at it and asked “How much of this is Xenotime versus Monazite?”

The old weathered woman eyed her then picked up a stone and took the loupe back. She said, “Don’t know about Monazite.  I know it is low in lithium, iron and other  major elements for that matter.”

Simone pulled out a notebook and jotted some figures. She looked at it and circled a number and showed it to Liam. Liam nodded and then said, “Let’s hear your costs.”

Miss Maly said, “For these stones, 10 marks.”

Liam replied crossing his arms, “A bit pricey.”

The old woman smiled back and said, “Prices are high when there is a monopoly. You won’t get anything else like that from anyone else.”

Liam said, “Really, you say? Well now, could you examine these  and tell me what you’re looking at. Miss Maly.”

Liam pulled out a cloth and poured out nearly identical gems next to the Xenotime that Maly had brought out. Her eyes narrowed and then she grabbed one  and looked at it with the lens. Finally she said, “Excellent quality. Almost as good as mine. Where did you get these?”

Liam smiled back saying, “A competitor. Now we will be need some significant quantity of this. I could go to this other dealer, but Dean Henry said you were reliable and I like that. “

She tucked her lens away and picked up her stones and looked at him. She said, “Not much demand for this stone. Ugly. Fractures easily.  Makes it had to get a profit. Hard to find in quantity. ”

Liam said, “We’ll be removing excess inventory then. 5 marks.”

She said, “7 marks. I need to make money. Less than that and you can get it from the other person. How much will you be needing.”

Liam said, “Deal.” He pulled out some coin and then said, “We’ll need to examine it tonight. Simone, how much will you need to make two?”

She squinted her eyes at the stones and said, “I need to do a proper assay. I would be guessing.” She wrote a number of notebook. Liam looked at it and said, “10 Kilograms. I figure we are taking 5 grams here, so that is…”

Jason frowned now and then finished for Liam, “35,000 marks”

The woman whistled, “For this ugly rock?”

Liam said, “Buyers with exotic tastes. Can you supply that much?”

The woman scratched her head and said, “My source is a couple of days away and you are asking for bulk quantity.  It won’t be pretty stuff like that – if you can call that pretty.”

Eleanor lifted an eyebrow at the word, but Simone said, “Doesn’t need to be pretty just as dark pink as you can find.”

Maly said, “I’ll need a 50% deposit. Come back in a week.”

Liam said, “Let’s make it 5000 marks so you have more incentive. We want it quickly, but no sense paying for dust.” He pulled out a leather wallet and laid out large bills.”

The woman licked her lips and said, “Come back in a week. You’ll have your Xenotime.”

Liam smiled and took all the stones on the counter and said, “Thank you ma’am.  Come along kiddies. Dinner will be on me!”

Inside the cab, Liam opened the notebook and said, “Charley!. Have one of your drone thingys follow her to her source.”

The voice from the notebook scolded him, “You won’t cheat her, Mr. O’Hannigan.”

Liam said, “It would be nice to cut the middleman out and get it ourselves. But people remember things and word gets out. No… I want to make sure she doesn’t cheat us. She has a lot of our money. I want to make sure she actually does something about it.”

Charles replied, “Very well. I’ll dispatch one that should be there in time to follow her where ever she goes.”

Dinner and discussion

Millicent met the group at the Grand Hotel. As the groups mingled, she pulled Liam aside and asked, “Success?”

“Oh aye and Simone asked for enough for two. It will cost 35,000 marks.”

Millicent crossed her arms and said, “Pricey. And we’ll need new source after the first two.” She opened her own notebook and asked Charles, “Find any candidates?”

Charles answered from the notebook, “I found several asteroids in the local belt that seem promising.  There will be plenty for more devices. We will probably need to develop a means of smelting it and building up a reserve depending on how many of these things you want to sell.”

Liam looked confused, but Millicent said, “We need the devices to work first. Good work, Charles and Good work Liam. We can get started.”

Liam said, “Then thank ye I suppose. Now I am thirsty and I am sure I can find a sausage somewhere in this town.  But can you answer something? If you can find some other source, why bother to pay this woman?“

Millicent said, “Because the other source will be in space and we will have to mine and refine it much more carefully than if we use this mineral.”

Liam scratched his head, “Should have known better than to ask. I am going to take whoever wants to join me to dinner.”

Millicent laughed and said, “If you can wait, I’ll join. I think I can find a good goulash place nearby.”


 

[1] Sidereal Time – A time keeping system used by astronomers based on Earth’s rotation relative to fixed stars.  Specifically, it tracks time based on the given longitude of a location.

[1] Shtreimel – large round fur hats

[2] Bekishe – long black coats

[3] Tzitzit – traditional prayer vest

[4] Gartals – traditional prayer rope.

[5] Peyots – side locks


 

[1]  A bit far for tourists

[2] Are you Adele Maly

[3] Maybe – Who wants to know?

[4] Xenotime – a brown to brown yellow mineral with a formula of YPO4. It is found in pegmatites and not particularly “pretty” . Our team will be wanting it as a source of Yttrium – a rare earth element used for superconducting. Interestingly, Y is found in higher concentrations on the moon.

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9 thoughts on “Chapter 16 – A Working Vacation

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  3. Pingback: The Omicron Matter – A Working Vacation – Arrival in Prague | The Finder's Saga

  4. Pingback: The Omicron Matter – A Working Vacation – A Visit to the Past | The Finder's Saga

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  6. Pingback: The Omicron Matter – A Working Vacation – Afternoon Prayers | The Finder's Saga

  7. Pingback: The Omicron Matter – A Working Vacation – Return to the Hotel | The Finder's Saga

  8. Pingback: The Omicron Matter – A Working Vacation – Business in Prague | The Finder's Saga

  9. Pingback: Edward Wayland – The Road Back 5 | The Finder's Saga

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