Chapter 17 – Joint Ventures


Planning

Millicent, Liam and Rachael waited in the large room at the Savoy in London.  Liam paced up and down the intricate Persian carpet. Rachael muttered, “will you stop pacing? You’re wearing a path in the carpet.”

Liam snapped, “You’re a fine one. Winifred Stanhope will be coming to this meeting and you’re acting like it is tea and crumpets with the Sunday ladies.”

Rachael set her cup down and said, “Because it is. And it is because I want it to be that way.”

Millicent sat her own cup down and said, “What a fascinating idea. Have you been spending too much time with John and Charles?”

Rachael smiled and said, “Probably. But, that’s not why I say that.  I simply will not let those people annoy me before they even get here. And if they try, my not being annoyed will perturb them further. “ She drank her cup calmly and said, “Winfred spent four years feeding off the annoyance of myself and others. I have no intention of feeding the beast further.”

Millicent picked up her cup and drank her tea and said, “You can learn a thing or two from her, Liam. Stop pacing…” At that moment there was a knock, “Regardless now. Our counterparts have arrived. Liam, the door?”

Liam straightened his coat, nodded to Millicent and Rachael and then opened the door.  Alfred Redman strode in, surveyed the room and then waved in the others. Winifred Stanhope came in first. She removed her cloak, tall hat and gloves and placed them on settee . She flexed her robotic hand smiling darkly at Rachael and took a seat on the couch with her outer garments.  Alfred took off his long dark coat. He wore a colorful vest that concealed bulges of a lethal nature. The tall Smith came in and handed his coat and hat to Liam. Liam rolled his eyes and placed the items without care on the reception desk in the room. Liam muttered “Prig.” Smith merely smiled and took his place on the settee with Stanhope and crossed his legs.  Liam moved behind Millicent and observed the group.

Rachael smiled at Redman and said, “Looking dapper as ever, Mr. Redman.”

Redman bowed slightly and said, “The pant dress suits you well.”

Rachael smoothed the cloth on her lap a bit and said, “I had to get Michael to draw a picture and the seamstress still had doubts. I would prefer a narrower cut, but I refuse to buy clothes from a man’s tailor.”

Winifred Stanhope snorted as she sat saying, “Where did you go before? I’m sure I couldn’t tell.”

Liam hissed, “Prissy bitch.”

Millicent put her hand on Liam’s arm to quiet him. Liam heard Smith say, “Winifred, you promised to be civil. Good or ill… you will work with Miss Weiz.”

Liam smiled slightly as he saw Stanhope flush and then glare at Smith. She then turned to Rachael and said, “Excuse me the trip has me a bit confused. What I meant to say is …you must find the outfit convenient with your…condition.”

Liam saw Alfred roll his eyes, but Rachael smiled and said, “I imagine you have quite the collection of gloves. I’ll be happy to show my collection of feminine trousers for a glance of your stash.” She glanced up the clock and said, “Shall we trade insults, Winifred? Or figure out how we will be cooperating? Frightening and appalling as the thought is, you and I may be best qualified to work together.” Liam grinned. Stanhope tapped her metal fingers on the table making an odd clacking sound.

Then Stanhope said, “Appalling as it is, there isn’t much choice is there? Smith warned me I would have distasteful tasks when working on his contract.  I hadn’t figured it would be so soon. Let’s get this meeting over with so I can get some fresh air.”

Rachael leaned forward smiling and said in a low conspiratorial tone, “Couldn’t agree more. It has gotten unaccountably stuffy in here in the last few minutes.”

Liam could tell Millicent was rolling her own eyes as she said, “Now that we have the pleasantries out of the way. I’ve sent over the plans and material requirements via Charles.”

Smith said, “We have a surplus of Uranium. There are some very good sources out of Africa. However it seems someone has cornered the local market on Yttrium. “Liam kept his face blank.  The little exchange in Prague might have been more expensive than he would like, but it was worth it to see Smith’s annoyance.

Millicent smiled as she said, “I am certain  we have enough Yttrium to help finish devices for the two ships.”

Smith leaned back and said, “No doubt.”

In this moment, Stanhope asked, “Have these devices been tested on anything?”

Rachael said, “The notebooks listed some test results on plants. There seemed to be no damage.”

Stanhope looked at the ceiling and said, “Plants!? Plants! We are gambling our lives on ‘plants showing no damage’?”

Liam eyes narrowed and he said, “Scared Missy? Doesn’t seem like you.”

Charles spoke from a notebook and said, “I have a set of rats we can use.”

Camille added, “If you don’t like his, there are plenty trying to get into my warehouse.”

Stanhope ignored the comments and said, “Right now we are planning full scale models. We are assuming Morgaine’s band of pretenders got it right.”

Millicent snapped, “Fine, Miss Stanhope. What do you propose?”

Stanhope filled in  quickly, “We build a smaller version of the devices on one or two of the drones and send rats.”

Camille added, “Do we have to bring the back?”

Charles said, “Excellent question.”

Smith eyes narrowed, “Whose drones?”

Charles and Camille said simultaneously , “Hers” and “His”

Stanhope said, “One of each…If it works, there might be a market for such small devices traveling like that.”

There was quiet for a moment and then Millicent said, “If we could notify multiple parties at once…”

Smith coughed loudly into his hand interrupting. He glanced at Alfred Redman, and then back at his fingernails.  Redman merely stared back.  Smith said, “If one had such needs, they would be invaluable.”  He looked from Rachael to Stanhope and back and then said, “Can you stand being around each other long enough to design and build two?”

Liam watched Rachael and Stanhope stare at each other for moment. Rachael spoke first, “It’s Winifred’s idea.  Testing is a good idea. She has my help if she wants it.”

Stanhope said, “You said I face unpleasant situations.” She looked at her hand and then said, “Weiz knows her way around miniatures and labs. It will go quicker with her. We do the work in my shop.”

Liam shouted, “Now wait just a second.”

Rachael put her hand to Liam and said, “Simone and Eleanor will kill her in her sleep on our ship.” She nodded to Stanhope and said, “Your lab, but John will be there to assist with the start of the full scale model.”

Millicent asked, “We can start work on the full scale before you finish your toys?”

Rachael said, “Simone can start producing the wire. Jason can start building the console on our ship. Neville can probably build it on theirs. Eleanor can help with the large machine work on ours. John’s the best man at that stuff and he’ll be with me on Smith’s. The consoles are knobs, dials and wires.”

Smith said to Millicent, “Your people are crawling over my ship and I have no one on yours.”

Rachael cocked her head at him and said, “Who do you think would last the week from your crew on our ship?”

Smith eyed Rachael narrowly and then said, “That is problematic…very well but only for this test and consulting as necessary.”

Rachael smiled sweetly said, “I assure we have no problem with that… wouldn’t want to overstay our welcome.”

Smith coughed into his hand and said, “Patents.”

Millicent straightened and said, “Right…Mr. O’Hannigan and Mr. Redman will you please stay so we can manage the patent splits with you.”

Liam groaned, but Redman bowed and said, “I will need to attend to Miss Stanhope’s transportation needs first.”

Winifred Stanhope protested saying, “I am hardly invalid, Alfred.”

Alfred Redman looked her sternly and said, “I must insist.” He paused, smiled at John Smith and looked at Rachael and said, “so many ruffians today and they disguise themselves so well.” Smith steepled his fingers but said nothing.

Millicent gave no clue that she saw anything and waved them out.  Rachael followed, leaving Millicent, Liam and Smith.

Liam said, “Since we all are in the know, am I the only one who thinks that drone idea is bit pen and ink?”

Millicent said, “Redman knows something.”

Smith frowned and said, “He knows something. The question is what he told Miss Stanhope.” He folded his hands, leaned back and said, “She has such potential, but her ambitions will be her undoing.”

The Walk to the Taxi Stand

Winifred Stanhope slipped her hands into the muffler. It was hardly needed with the arrival of spring, but it had a bit of style and she could practice working functions on her new hand.

Alfred Redman walked next to her scowling. As they left the building he said, “You were uncharacteristically cautious.”  He leaned in next to her ear and said in a harsh whisper, “Nobody in that room is a fool. I’ve only told you I think Smith has partners. You’ve far too little information for scheming.”

Winifred smiled as she replied, “I would think you would appreciate my caution in such strange technology.”

Alfred stood on the street and put his hand out to call a taxi. He said over the noise of the street, “Normally yes. Your penchant for risk taking is something I was supposed to control.” He turned to back to her as a taxi moved towards them. “But Smith knows you are up to something. That is hardly cautious.”

Winfred smirked saying, “Pah. He expects me to up something. I would disappoint him if I wasn’t. And you can blame Smith and yourself in this. He has hidden something from you and therefore me.”  The taxi arrived. “You think he is consorting with enemies of the Guild. Such information is an opportunity.”

Alfred puffed his cheeks out and then said, “I have only said that Smith has other partners and that Smith is not well disposed to the Guild.”  The driver tipped his cap and asked for a destination. Alfred supplied a hotel near Kings Cross rail station. “Do not cross Smith. It will not end well.”

Winifred patted Alfred on the cheek and said, “Smith is not in charge. I need to work with those that are.  This is no different the Queen’s court…and I want to be close to the Queen.”

He assisted her into the cabin and said, “There is a difference….The courtiers that you climb over to get close to the Queen will gossip. They won’t stab you in the back and they don’t control a fiercely loyal self-aware ship capable of turning most of the Queen’s navy into burning timbers and fireballs in the sky.”

Winifred closed the door and tapped her hand on the ceiling to indicate she was ready. She shouted out the window, “That is what makes this so bloody exciting.”

Alfred muttered, “You’ll get us both bloody killed and that is not my type of excitement.”

A warehouse in East Bristol

Working on the Drones

Rachael swore quietly as she tried to winkle the hoops into place. “Too many damn moving parts. Ow! Dammit!” Another knuckle was scrapped on some exposed switch or lead.

She heard Stanhope’s voice say in a sing song tone from the other drone, “Problems, clock maker?”

Rachael rolled her eyes and thought not being “Yid” or “Bitch” was a significant improvement.  Rachael said back,  “In the clock shop, I can take the works out of the case. I have scraped every knuckle on both my hands.”  She leaned around the drone she was working on and said, “But that is less of a problem for you.”

Stanhope pulled her head out of the drone hatch and said, “Very true.” She pulled her hand out. The metal fingers were extended and bent in odd directions. She looked at the strange configuration appraisingly, “I am finding it much easier to do some types of work.”

Rachael watched the fingers rearrange and configure themselves into the conventional hand shape she was used to. She pointed to her own hatch and said, “You can probably mount this faster than it would take for you to explain your superiority.”  She bowed in her chair and said in a mocking voice, “If it wouldn’t be too much trouble…”

Stanhope walked over to Rachael and Charles’ drone and said, “Happy to help you finish your job for you.”

Rachael rolled back from the drone. Rachael watched Stanhope lift the hoops device with her mechanical hand. Stanhope’s remaining hand steadied the device as she moved it into the chamber. It slipped easily in place. Rachael then only heard whirring as Stanhope tightened the attachments. Then there was the sound of gas.

Rachael asked, “What are you doing now?”

Stanhope said, “Welding it in place.”

Rachael said, “How convenient.”

Stanhope pulled her mechanical out and lit the welding torch in one of her fingers. She said, “I am find it so.”

Rachael rolled up and looked at the newly emplaced device with its multiple hoops.  It was similar in design to the picture in the book and was a smaller version of the one restored from the pond.  The four concentric hops moved easily to her touch. Rachael stared at the attached wires making sure they matched her diagrams. She asked, “Very neat.” She turned around and said, “I still don’t understand why we couldn’t remove the drone casing and work that way.”

Stanhope answered quickly, “To preserve the hull integrity.  After all, we’re sending passengers up there.”

Camille piped up, “That is not really true, Miss Stanhope.  The hull case is self-sealing and everything that matters is vacuum safe. “

Rachael saw the frown and heard a strain in Stanhope’s voice, “A precaution then. We wouldn’t want our passengers to be uncomfortable.”

Camille said quietly, “I might.”

Rachael finished with the last wires and said, “They’re rats, Stanhope. I want them alive so we can study effects of travel. But I won’t shed many tears if they die…but that seems unlikely.”  She paused and looked one more time.

Stanhope tapped her foot impatiently and snapped, “I would have that done ages ago. If you can’t handle the small work Weiz, get out of the way and I’ll do it right.”

Rachael closed the panel and pulled away. She bowed and said, “Done yer high and mightiness.”  Then straightened up and said, “And you and your fancy hand would never have wound these hoops without my help.” Rachael glanced at the open hatch and said, “Camille, check the circuits please.”

After a pause, Camille responded, “Everything is functioning with parameters. There is one anomaly.”

Rachael turned and asked, “What is it?”

Stanhope interrupted Camille and asked, “Will it affect the device or the drone’s flight?”

Camille paused and said, “No…the anomaly is in the…”

Stanhope interrupted again, “Examine it thoroughly and report it to me. I will fill in Miss Weiz.”

“Certainly Miss Stanhope.”

Rachael knew that Camille did not like working with her, but figured it was part of working at Smith’s ship. Frequently Camille would only report to Stanhope which made Rachael’s efforts slow. Smith had intervened after Rachael had complained to Alfred Redman.

Rachael eyes narrowed as she looked at the open hatch on the drone, “What are you hiding Stanhope?”

Stanhope replied, “Nothing important Weiz. A small experiment of my own. Nothing at all, really.”

Rachael turned her chair and faced Stanhope and stared. Then she said, “You never experimented…Miss Stanhope. I suppose the idea that you had to fail to learn bothered you…doesn’t matter. You didn’t do anything that wasn’t guaranteed success.  You are up to something.” Rachael glanced at Alfred Redman who was inspecting his fingernails carefully. She then said, “Play your schemes. But if I find you’ve crossed me – crossed us, it will take more than a clock work hand to rebuild you.”

Winifred Stanhope clenched her fists and then said, “I suffer you because I am required to. The moment my…obligation is finished, I will finish what I started in that basement in London. The only thing that will need wheels will be your coffin.”

Rachael stared back and then said, “Alfred, it seems we are done for the day. If you will call a taxi, I will return to the hotel.”

Redman said, “Of course, Miss Weiz. Although I expect if you can wait a few minutes…say in the galley or the warehouse, John may be able to join you.”

Camille said quickly, “I’ve informed Mr. O’Malley that Miss Weiz …is ready to leave. He said he will be ready to leave in 15 minutes.”

Rachael said coldly, “I’ll wait outside the ship. Good day, Stanhope. Camille. I eagerly await the results of your …experiment. Alfred, if you could assist me to the warehouse?”

Redman’s eyebrows rose briefly and then he said, “Of course, Miss Wiez,” and quickly moved behind her chair and pushed her out of the room.  Once they were off the ship he said, “You do not need me to take you to the warehouse floor.”

Rachael said, “No…but I am passing you a message…” and a bit louder,” to Camille.” The running lights blinked. “You are both bound to Stanhope in one fashion or another. I am the interloper here. But if Winifred Stanhope does anything daft, you two will be in a better position to stop it. Camille you will know best what systems she mucks about with. Alfred, you will know best what her motives are. You don’t have to tell me, but for God’s sake figure out what the hell she is planning. Because Stanhope has one master in the end and that is her ambition.”

Redman set her chair close to the outer door and then said, “Miss Stanhope continues to underestimate you. Do not underestimate her.”

Rachael said, “I am worried we all have.”

Working on the Console

John used a lifting winch to lower the frame of the console into place. Findley Brown and Neville Carter-Fraser were guiding the large console toward the raised posts. Brown shouted, “Slower you ox.”

John sighed and slowed the winch to a crawl. It was probably slower than Brown wanted but John stared at Brown with a blank stare as Brown glared at him. Brown’s pomaded hair was escaping with the efforts of the last hour and his shirt had grease marks. Several hours of work in the closed chamber of the ship were taking their toll. As the day wore on, Brown’s polite façade fell to insults involving his size, his intelligence, his parentage, and his upbringing. Carter-Frasier was astute enough to keep his mouth shut except to ask questions or make requests making him seem positively civil. John reminded himself that Carter-Frasier had been in the basement in London and he was the one who had thrown acid on Felicity. Felicity still had a couple of treatments left. Thankfully they now only incapacitated her for a few hours as opposed to the days in the beginning.  John glared at Carter-Frasier who gulped and scurried to get some tools.

John was brought back to the present by a shout from Brown saying, “That’s too slow…you dullard. How did that engine shop of your father’s get anything done?”

John was silent for a moment and then a pressed a button that pulled the console up causing more imprecations from Brown. John looked over at Carter-Frasier and said, “Neville. Take the controls.” He set the box down and then put on some gloves and an apron and marched over to the hanging pedestal.  “Neville, don’t move until I say.” He stared at the red fuming face of Findley Brown and said in a low voice, “I would have had that thing mounted an hour ago without you. I stopped taking shit like that from my Da’ when you were learning cricket at Harrow.” John lifted Findley Brown with both hands by his shirt and pulled him close and whispered, “If I hear another word spew from your mouth, you sadistic bastard, I expect there will be a nasty accident.” He threw Brown over by the now shaking Carter-Frasier. “Shut up and stay out of my way.”

John knelt next to the mounting posts and looked at the pedestal. The pedestal was slightly turned and would have to be rotated. But once the posts were in the holes that would not matter.  He stood up and said to Carter-Frasier, “Lower it no faster than 3 on the nob. Follow my commands sharply.”

Carter-Frasier nodded and said shakily, “Right.”

John winked at Carter-Frasier and said, “Ok, Neville. Let’s show that twit how it’s done.” John wrapped his arms around the pedestal and was able to have a firm grip on half. He grunted a bit as he turned it bit. He said, “Speed down to two.” John could feel the pedestal moving just a bit slower. The space between the posts and the holes got smaller. John shouldered it about saying, “Steady…steady…slow a bit.” He shifted hard and the four posts and rings slipped together. He said “Steady…slow a bit.” The pedestal now was managed by the posts, but he did not want to damage threads so he held it for the last two inches as the pedestal lowered.  When it was settled, he let go and rubbed the feeling back into his hands and shoulders. He smirked at Brown who scowled back. John said, “Like mounting block on an axle.”

John looked over at Carter-Frasier and said, “Neville, if you would please remove the winch? And if you’re ready, I’d say go ahead and start the wiring.” He walked towards Brown and said, “Findley and I need a quick consult.”

Carter-Frasier glanced between John and Brown and then said, “Findley?”

Brown responded, “Go ahead and start. I’ll be back in a moment.”

John shook his head as the relationship played itself out. He gestured to the far side of the engine room.  Behind some crates, Brown swung his fist. John easily blocked it and threw his own punch hard into solar plexus.  Brown collapsed at his feet with his mouth working like a fish out of water as his shocked diaphragm refused to work. John lifted Brown up and set up on a crate and said, “You’re an idiot. Do ya’ think you’re the first to try and surprise me in an engine room? Da’ sent men to fight me when he couldn’t beat me proper.” John straightened his shirt cuffs and said,  “Don’t imagine your father taught you those lessons.” John made a show of straightening Brown’s collar as breath returned.  “I took your snide remarks and rude comments for four years thinking it was some odd game you all played.  I thought if I played it right, you’d hire me on to a proper engineer’s job.” John brushed some dirt away from Brown’s shoulder. Brown slapped his hand away. John’s eyes narrowed and he said lowly, “I’ve had almost a year to contemplate that mistaken idea.”

Brown stretched and said in a high pitched voice, “God, you were so boring with all that philosophy and high manners.” John cracked his knuckles and leaned against a crate. “ Brown stood up and said, “My father hire you? Winifred’s or Edward’s? Maybe to sweep the halls.”  Brown rubbed his sore belly and said, “You were the exotic East Ender we could take to parties. Your airs were a private joke to us. Nobody took you seriously.”

John smiled thinly and said, “I found that out eventually. “

Brown pointed back to the pedestal, “That little episode just shows blood tells. You’re a brawler with a lot of useless books.  Your type are good for the heavy work. Leave the managing to your betters.”

John stepped towards Brown who stepped back. John snapped, “My better?” He grabbed Brown’s shirt again and lifted him up, “I stopped taking orders from you a year ago. And you showed your true colors when you spent a week raping Simone and Eleanor by turns to show how much better you were going to be.” He threw Brown against the crate. He said quietly, “I’ve got no use for your ideas of better.” And headed back towards the working area.

Brown stood up again and said, “Don’t be so sure, you Irish ox.  Things can change back and they just might. When they do, I will remember today.”

John turned around and said, “And I will be remembering coming into the basement.  The only reason I tolerate your presence is because I am told to and you know a bit about mechanics.” He narrowed his eyes and said, “Otherwise I would beat you to pulp and then leave you for Simone and Eleanor to finish.”

Brown laughed and said, “I don’t know whose face I will enjoy more when things fall apart.  Yours or McNeill’s.”  Brown paced around and said, “You really don’t get it. This little adventure is doomed to failure.  Your Morgaine can’t prevail. I don’t think Smith even thinks it’s going to work. Bully me all you want now. But sides are being picked again and you don’t want to be on the wrong one again.”

John watched Brown pace with nervous energy and John said, “There might be sides, Brown, but I am taking my home’s side. Our planet, dammit.”

Brown threw his hands in front and said mockingly, “Our planet. Our planet will be ruled by someone else when this is over.  Best to side with the group that is going to win.”

John said, “You should read history, Brown. I don’t think worked for the Africans, Indians or Chinese.”

Brown said, “It did for some. I think the rajs are doing rather well. I certainly would rather be the raj than the coolie. You can switch John. You know the paces now.”

John laughed and then said, “Even if I was willing to sell England for a pound, I’ve heard this song before Brown. It did not work out for some reason.”

Brown waved his hand in a dismissive fashion, “You’d never work out in our office. Despite a smooth accent, cultural references and fancy clothes, you would never be anything but an invader of the norm.  This is different. It’s Cortez and the Aztecs. It’s the East India Company. Both of them had their local patronage. There is plenty to share here and the old order will be swept away.”

John said simply, ”With you and Stanhope in charge.”

“Like we should be, O’Malley. Like we should be.”

John shook his head said, “You’re delusional. But at least you’re honest now.” He crossed his arms and said, “I still don’t see how you are going to get past Millicent and Smith.”

Brown got quiet and said, “Doesn’t matter. This is all hypothetical.” He brushed his hands and said, “I’ve got work to do and headed back towards Carter-Frasier.

 

 

6 thoughts on “Chapter 17 – Joint Ventures

  1. Pingback: The Omicron Matter – Joint Ventures – Planning | The Finder's Saga

  2. Pingback: The Omicron Matter – Joint Ventures – A Walk to The Taxi Stand | The Finder's Saga

  3. Pingback: The Omicron Matter – Joint Ventures – Working on the Drones | The Finder's Saga

  4. Pingback: The Omicron Matter – Joint Ventures – Working on the Drones | The Finder's Saga

  5. Pingback: The Omicron Matter – Joint Ventures – Working on The Console | The Finder's Saga

  6. Pingback: The Omicron Matter – Joint Ventures – Working on The Console 2 | The Finder's Saga

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