Chapter 21 – Millicent Helps Old Friends at the Cafe


Outside Eagle Wharf and At Abigail’s Café

 

Millicent came down from the shower.  The local ruffians were gone.  She asked, “Charles where are our annoying guests?”

Charles replied, “After Mr. O’Hannigan had settled Becky, he came back in and took them.  I asked where he was taking them and he said thought they might enjoy a bit of travel. Euston station is close by and apparently they will be joining some freight to some location in the West. I do like his sense of humor. If you tell him I said that, you will never get a decent cup of tea for the next leg. ”

Millicent smiled, “Your secret is safe with me.” She headed to the door. She was wearing a dark colored long dress and an overcoat. Her ever present satchel at her side seemed bulky. “I have a large batch of inoculations. I don’t expect to return tonight.”

Charles replied, “I will set the security higher. I have deployed two watcher drones in passive mode. If they sense something, they will give me some advanced warning. At least I have the advantage of knowing the direction they will be coming from.”

Millicent said, “That is never a sure thing as you know.  Watch yourself,” and she headed out the door.  She walked down to Caladonian Road and was able to hail a taxi with not trouble. She told him to head down to Russell Square close to the University.  A fifteen minute ride put her at the square where she headed to the University Avenue and to Abigail’s Coffee shop.  The time was about 4:30 in the afternoon.

Millicent stepped into the café and the bell rang brightly as always. It was tea time and Abigail had few customers who appreciated her tea and Alice’s pastries.  They sat in ones or two at half a dozen tables.  Abigail was taking an elderly man’s order and looked up at the bell ring and smiled and waved.  Millicent moved towards the counter that showed what few pastries were left at this time of the afternoon.

Athena was parked on one table huddled over a book. Next to her was a notebook in which she occasionally scribbled.  Millicent moved towards the counter.  Athena looked up saw her and brightened and over. “Millicent! You’re back!” and gave Millicent a hug around her waist.

“Of course I am child,” Millicent said and brushed her hair a bit.

“Mother wasn’t so sure,” Athena said looking up at her.

“Well your Mother has some experience with me, but I had promised her even if she wasn’t paying attention.” At that point, Abigail came up.

“To be fair, you weren’t real great about visiting while I was working for you,” Abigail said as she greeted Millicent with a kiss on each cheek.

Millicent bowed and replied, “True, my dear. Business was business and all that.” But she looked around and down at Athena, “Times are different and I am not the same as I was. To be fair, I did say I would come back soon after the other night.  Besides I have a request or two.”

Abigail looked at Athena and said, “Mother needs to talk to Millicent alone. Go back to your homework and I’ll have Millicent check your numbers.” Athena pouted a bit and headed back to her table.

Abigail watched her daughters slow dramatic march to her lessons and said, “How ever did capture her heart so easily?”

Millicent continued to examine the bare selection of baked goods and said, “She’s smart and perceptive. I suppose the same way I manage any relationship – I listened, spoke with respect, and found out what she truly loves.”

Abigail laughed easily, “No fair stealing her with exotic science, Millicent.”

Millicent turned around and looked at Athena speculatively, “I suppose I could do that. She is very good at the tangrams.”  Then laid a hand on her shoulder and whispered in Abigail’s ear, “What she truly loves are her mothers. Love them and she will follow.” Abigail gasped and put her hand to mouth. Millicent turned around to the counter and then said, “Now is it possible to get a proper pot of tea in this den of coffee?”

Abigail muttered while sniffing a bit, “Just a moment. I need to get Alice to mind the counter while I get your tea steeping and I fix my face you shameless drama queen. ”

Millicent moved over to a table near Athena and sat down. She pulled out her notebook and reviewed some of the latest scans Charles had made from his stealth drones near Smith’s house.  Athena glanced over. Millicent nodded at her, smiled and then waved with the back of her hand for her to return to her work. Athena pouted again.

Abigail sat down with the pot of tea, looked at her daughter and then asked, “Is she allowed to hear what you are going to say?”

Millicent sniffed the tea and admired the aroma, “Bold and a bit malty. Assam?”

Abigail confirmed the guess and said, “I have a special supply from India. I buy in small batches at a bit of a premium so it comes quicker. I use a special vacuum container to preserve the flavor since few people order tea in here for some reason. Do I need to send Athena to help Alice?”

Millicent poured the tea into a cup and stirred in the cream and sugar. She took a sip and said, “I was careful in my seat choice. Having Athena hear some things will make one of my requests easier.” Millicent sighed and then said, “I have a competitor here and his methods are …obscene.”

Abigail’s face went through a set of expressions. Initially she was amused. Then she saw Millicent’s narrow eyes and the tenseness in her features and Abigail became confused. Then she became fearful. She said, “I thought competition was frowned on. Drives the margins down and all that.  Why should I care?”

Millicent closed her eyes and said, “He uses collars.”

Abigail gasped.  Athena turned around and looked at the two women in concern, “What’s a collar? Why is that bad?”

Abigail sputtered, “Athena dear. It’s hard to explain.  Go help Alice at the counter.” Athena scurried off and Abigail hissed at Millicent, “That was not necessary. If I explain to her, she will have nightmares.  If I explain to Alice, she might have nightmares – her parents remember the “Terror”. You had no right to bring your far distant squabbles into my home.”

Millicent said quietly, “I didn’t choose to bring those ‘squabbles’ as you call them. Somebody else brought them.“ Her tone got harsher then, “I defended my rights. And I harmed no one. He lied to them. When they weren’t happy he enslaved them. For all I know, he was going to do that anyway. He’s using collars on my planet.”  Her voice got louder in her indignation.

Abigail continued in an low angry tone, “You defended your rights.”  Abigail’s lips almost curled as she said it.  “You poked his eye and now you expect him to poke back. I know you Millicent Morgaine. He’s breaking your ideas of rules and you found some way to annoy him. And guess what – he’s annoyed. And now the rest of us get to watch it play out. ”

Millicent’s mouth opened and then closed. Then she said in the quiet tone again, “I could regret what I did. I am not sure I do. Regardless, he knew where I was staying and he probably knows more.  I am going to try to protect what I can.”

Abigail’s voice got a bit louder saying, “Protect? Protect how?”

Millicent said, “I have nanos for Alice and Athena.  It’s probably not necessary, but they will prevent him from collaring them or you. Come tonight and I send along some armor wear for the three of you.”

Alice fumed silently for a bit and then said in clipped tones, “What do I tell Alice? What do I tell Athena? ‘The ever so nice Millicent brought a small war to our planet.  We need the shots so we don’t get carted off as slaves?’”

Millicent was growing tired of Abigail’s rant, however well deserved it might be. She snapped back, “That is probably a good starting point.  You might also mention the freedom from disease and extended life. I understand your anger, but after you finish venting on me your frustration with the unfairness of the galaxy, I will need to give them injections.” Millicent sat back and glared, “You knew other traders have been looking for Earth for years.  This was bound to happen.  I’ve been hiding your little garden planet for long time now.  Someone found my secret treasure trove. Blame me if you want,  but Smith or someone like him was inevitable. And right now I am all that is between Earth and a most unpleasant future.”

Abigail clinched her fists and tears of frustration leaked out the sides of her eyes, “Dammit, I know you’re right. But couldn’t you have just left us alone.  I left all of that 10 years ago and now it follows me home like a swarm of hornets I somehow stirred up by accident.”

Millicent sighed and stayed quiet for a moment. She looked across the room away from Abigail and said, “In a sense the galaxy did follow you – your group made quite an impression.  I would say you scared some.  Your native creativity was disturbing. The speed of your advancement made Earth a threat. I imagine that isn’t much comfort. I’m sure the Chinese, the Africans, and the Indians feel the same way.  ” She turned back to Abigail, “You can think I was careless, but I tried to hide you.  I really did. But humans were already known and your group managed to make waves.”

Abigail sighed, “I still don’t know what to tell Alice or Athena.”

Millicent said simply, “Tell them the truth.”

Abigail laughed, “After all these years? Now you decide it’s ok?” She wiped her eyes and then said, “Things really are all topsy turvy.”

Millicent looked at her nails said in an annoyed tone, “When you are finished gloating, I have my second request.”

Abigail said a bit loudly, “A second request? Oh this should be rich.” Athena and Alice looked over at the pair alarmed.

Millicent tried to smile at them but could see the alarm in their faces.  She turned back to Abigail and in a forced calm, “I am bringing what recruits I can to a central location so they can get their nanos.  I would like you to talk about your experiences with me. Some are reluctant. Some are skeptical. And some simply don’t know what to expect. I will leave the conversation to you. You can be as unvarnished as you choose.”

Abigail asked, “Why bother if they have signed.”

Millicent said, “They haven’t signed. Any of them. This will be the first group that fully understands what they are agreeing to. This pestilent Mr. Smith has forced me to examine my practices and I found them wanting. For what it is worth, I now regret my subterfuge with you and your group.”

Abigail sat back for a moment and stared at Millicent. Then she said, “An apology from Millicent Morgaine? Is this competitor really that bad?”

Millicent took a sip of the cooling tea. She said, “I suppose I could say I don’t know for sure. I know he used Guild methods of prevarication to mislead his contractors.  I know he uses collars which are illegal in three quarters of the galaxy.  While I do not know for absolutely certain how bad he is, I know others who do those things and they are really that bad. I haven’t asked him what his plans for here are. But I suspect it similar to what you saw on Keppler –b[1].  Materials and people mined or harvested for ‘superior’ beings. It is funny how we decide who is ‘superior’ on our own context.”

Abigail played with her cup of imported tea and said, “A bit of travel helped me see the hypocrisy of imperialism. I might politely forget about England’s colonies. Having seen the damage I am sure I am not prepared for us to become one.” She looked at the tea pot. “We forget that our luxuries come from somewhere.”  Abigail straightened up and said “I will go talk to Alice and Athena and say that you need to give them an injection and that I will explain later. As for tonight, I will happily tell the others what I would have wished I had known.”

Millicent took a drink and asked, “I asked once before, but I will ask again.  If you had known, would you have signed on?”

Abigail sighed, “I don’t know.  It was all so hard to imagine then. It isn’t easy to explain now.  I could be myself when I left. I was able to perform wonders and see miracles. When I came back, I had the confidence in myself to ignore an intolerant world. But I didn’t know any of that when I signed. I have no regrets, but I don’t know if I would have signed had I known the burdens.”

Millicent held the cup and smelled the tea. She said, “As honest an answer as any.” She took a sip and set the cup down. “You probably don’t want me to do the injection out on your café floor. Let me know when you are ready for me to treat them.”

Abigail got up and headed to the counter. She sent Athena back to Millicent.  Millicent was surprised, but could guess the conversations would be different. Athena looked at Millicent with a bit of wariness, “Mother was quite cross with you.”

Millicent said, “Your mother had very good reasons to be cross with me.”

The young girl said, “Why?”

Millicent looked at her and said, “Your mother needs to explain. I will answer any questions you have after you talk to her if your mother says it is appropriate.”  Millicent took a sip of tea, “Now young lady, I believe I was to review your numbers.” Athena looked skeptical but handed the notebook to Millicent who looked over the problems of simple algebra and checked their correctness.  Athena seemed to be good at her numbers. So Millicent put a diagram on the notebook page.

10 Amps = I

2Ω = R

Volts = (I/R)

Measure between the battery and the Ground

Measure between the battery and the Ground

Athena looked at and said, “That’s easy! 5 volts”

Millicent sighed and said, “You are far too smart for me. Try this one.”

Athena looked and said, “A little harder, but that’s 3 Volts.”

Measure between the battery and the ground

Measure between the battery and the ground

Millicent looked at her and said, “You have told me a hypothesis. How would you measure this to find out if it is true?”

About this point, Abigail and Alice came up. Athena asked Abigail, “What is a hy..po…the..sis?”

Abigail looked at Millicent then rolled her eyes dramatically, “That my little genius, is a guess. A smart guess, but it’s a guess. One must test the hypothesis to see if it is true. What has Millicent set you to?”  She then shook her head and then said, “Nevermind, you can show me later and I shall annoy Millicent appropriately.  Right now, Millicent needs to give you and Alice some medicine to prevent something from happening. I will watch the tables while you and Alice are going to be very brave. Follow Alice in the back and come out when you are done. I need to tell you a story about me and how I came to meet Millicent, and Alice.”

Abigail sent Millicent with Athena into the kitchen in the back. Millicent and Alice sat in chairs next to the bakery table in the back.  She took the medical kit and set it on the table.  Millicent then looked at Athena and said, “Abigail said you need to be brave.  There are different ways to be brave. Do you want to be surprised brave? Or do you want to see what happens first and be scared brave?”

Athena asked, “Scared Brave?”

Millicent said, “If you know what is going to happen and it might hurt, but you still do it – that is ‘scared brave’ to me. You are afraid, but you are brave enough to do it anyway. Surprised brave is probably easier.”

Athena said, “but if I know what is going to happen, maybe it won’t be so bad.”

Millicent said, “Maybe you’re right. I wonder. Let’s call it a hypothesis and test it. Do you want to be surprised or know what is going to happen?”

Athena said, “I want to know.”

Alice sighed and said, “I hate needles. I guess it is better I should be surprised.”

Millicent said, “Very well,  I will do Alice first.” She slowly unrolled the kit with the swabs, alcohol, the bottles of serum, and the syringe. She pushed Alice’s sleeve and wiped down her elbow.  Millicent then put a small tourniquet on Alice’s bicep. She then watched the veins rise on Alice’s arm. Millicent said, “Those are Alice’s veins. I am going to poke one of those.”  She filled the syringe and said to Alice, “It is easier if you don’t look. Look at Athena or something.” Alice nodded and turned towards Athena smiling bravely.  Millicent held Alice’s arm firmly and hid the place where she put the needle in and quickly injected.  Alice felt a sharp sting and it was over.  Millicent put a swab on the spot and told her to raise her arm.  She asked Alice, “How was that, Madame?”

“It was very little. I think the worry was the worst part,” Alice said lightly staring at the bit of cotton she held on her raised arm.

Millicent said, “So one person has said that being surprised is better.  Now we test a second person. In the chair, Miss Monroe.”

Athena looked at the syringe and the swab and gulped, but she sat in the chair.  Millicent carefully cleaned the syringe and changed needles.  She pushed up Athena’s sleeve and swabbed her arm. Athena jumped at the cold liquid. She said, “Maybe watching makes it scarier. Aunty? Did it hurt?”

Alice smiled, “A little. A little prick.”

Millicent said nothing. She put the tourniquet on Athena’s arm and found a vein or two.  “Athena, it will be easier if you don’t look.” Athena nodded and then closed her eyes. Millicent grabbed the arm firmly and slipped the needle in and injected the serum. She quickly pulled it out and put a swab on and raised Athena’s arm.  Athena squeaked a bit at the injection but stayed still. She held onto the swab as Millicent began to clean up.  Millicent said, “So is it scary to know what is going to happen?”

Athena nodded yes.

Millicent said, “That was very brave then. Well done.” She looked up at Alice. I invited the three of you to a pub tonight. I hope to see you.”

Alice said, “Abigail explained a bit. We will be there. “

Millicent said, “I think it could be a bit of fun after everyone relaxes. I shall enjoy seeing you.”

[1] Kepler 11b is a real planet with near Earth size that is part of the multiplanet Kepler 11 solar system. The star and system are named for the Space observatory that found them.

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One thought on “Chapter 21 – Millicent Helps Old Friends at the Cafe

  1. Pingback: The Recruiting Matter – Chapter 21 – Millicent helps old friends at the cafe | The Finder's Saga

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