John groaned as Millicent banged on the door. “Good morning, John. You are missing a fabulous breakfast.” John did not think, at this moment, that breakfast was desirable. He wasn’t nauseous, but his head felt like it was in a vice and he ached in every joint.
He managed to croak out, “I’ll be down later. I just need some sleep. ” The pain had removed the smooth accents he had cultivated and left the clipped accent of the East End.
Millicent opened the door and barged in, “No, you don’t. You need to drink water. You need to eat. And you need to move.” She glided over to the window and pushed the curtain wide letting the very bright morning sun in. This exacerbated John’s headache causing him to whimper. He heard her pour a glass of water as he buried his head in the pillow. She stood by the bedside with the glass of water in one hand and two pills in the other. “Take these. They will help with the headache and general achiness.” She handed him both as he lay there and then moved to the window humming. John sat up a bit, swallowed the proffered pills and chased them with a bit of water. “More” commanded the voice.
John protested, “You didn’t even look.”
“I didn’t have to. You’re the fourth person I’ve dealt with.” He drank a bit more water, set the glass on the table and rose to a sitting position. His head protested at such activity. Millicent continued, “Now that you are up and moving, I think a bit of washup will help you feel a bit better. Dress for train travel and meet the rest of us at the breakfast table.” She headed to the door in a swirl of cotton and taffeta saying as she left, “And I shall send Michael up with instructions if you take too long.” John grumbled again as the door closed.
He swung his legs off the bed. His knees hurt; his back hurt, his shoulders hurt; he was pretty sure his hair hurt. His head felt like someone was banging a hammer on it. He waddled to the dresser with the basin on it and splashed water in his face. He opened his union suit and took a cloth and wiped himself down. After attending his morning needs, he pulled his suit back on. The pub was old enough that chamber pots were still used although there was a commode down the hall. He put the rest of his clothes on: a white shirt, brown wool pants and a brown vest. He did not put on a tie but would probably put one on before they left for wherever they were going.
The aches seemed a bit less intense so he drank two more glasses of water to prove Millicent wrong. Then he headed downstairs. Michael and Felicity were at the table looking almost as bad as he felt. Felicity looked up and smiled wanly, “Good Morning.”
Michael said, “I have never felt this bad ever – even after exams.”
John straightened a bit and said, “I might have felt this bad when I turned 16, but not quite this way.”
Michael looked up and asked,”16?”
John said, “Cockney tradition…”
Millicent clapped her hands sharply and said, “Enough whining. Liam wasn’t nearly so whingey as you lot, and he had a bigger dose.”
John snapped without thinking, “Liam has more practice and he got to sleep early.”
Millicent turned to John and said quietly and with fierceness, “You will be respect of Mr. O’Hannigan. He may well have saved your life last night.”
John was startled, “Sorry…Joking ma’am.”
Millicent waved away the comment, “Enough. I want to start discussing the contract after you’ve finished your meal. Mr. O’Hannigan took Rachael home for a travel bag. So it is a good time for us to talk further.” Millicent walked away quickly and headed upstairs.
The three nodded and started to eat the full English breakfast of eggs, sausage, beans, fried tomatoes and toast. John started with the beans as he was feeling a little queasy. As he ate, slowly at first, the headache stopped being noticeable. From that point, eating became easier to face and he began on the eggs and sausage. Michael and Felicity also seemed to be getting better as the meal progressed. John asked as he finished, “She said we would be travelling today?”
Felicity replied between bites, “Apparently we are going to Dunstable in the North West.”
Michael nodded and finished, “Jason’s home is there. Apparently he is on the list as well.”
John looked at his plate, “Rachael and I guessed he would be. He did a lot of work with Professor Maxwell and that visiting professor Charles Wheatstone. Apparently Jason is a young genius in chemistry and electronics.”
Michael considered, “We didn’t overlap much in courses. Mine were mostly physics, engineering and drawing. He did a lot of work in the afternoons and weekends.”
John set his napkin on the table and leaned back a little, “That pill of hers seems to be doing the job. My headache is almost gone.” The other two nodded in agreement and the three enjoyed the tea while they waited for Millicent to reappear.
Michael commented, “Do you really believe this nonsense about being from another planet?”
John said, with a completely straight face, “No one has disproved things from a future time, although the conundrums with that theory make my head start hurting again. I did not see one of these fantastic demonstrations. Can you say that it came from here? From Earth?”
Felicity spoke first. She furrowed her brow and looked at the table. as she spoke, “No, The music box she showed was amazing. It was the size of this napkin and there were 20 figures dancing. They weren’t just twirling; there were managed moves across the group. Rachael was flabbergasted. I may not be an engineer, but I’ve naught seen anything that complicated so small.”
Michael scowled in an unconvincing fashion at Felicity. She smiled meekly and shrugged. John leaned back in his chair and looked at Michael, “You’re the skeptic in this. What proof do you have that your wire was from Earth?”
Michael sighed and put his head in hands, “I have none. But it should be you proving it isn’t from here.”
Felicity snorted. John looked at Felicity and winked, touched the napkin to his face, turned to Michael and said, “A hypothesis has been proposed. The hypothesis stands until proven otherwise. Sorry, chap, it’s back on you. Why are you dismissing it? What evidence do you have to say it isn’t possible?”
Felicity said, “Even I get what he is saying, Michael. He isn’t saying those things are true, but he is remaining open to the possibility.”
Michael said, “I understand him,” glancing back at Felicity with narrow eyes.
John smiled at Felicity, “Exactly so dear, and much better said. If Abigail was correct, we need to be ‘Open to the possibility’.”
At that point, Millicent returned from downstairs. She had her ever present satchel on her shoulder and sat down. She poured herself some tea. “Are we feeling better?”
After a pause, John responded, “Yes ma’am and I apologize from my comments earlier.”
Millicent smiled and said, “You were miserable and I wasn’t thinking clearly myself. Liam probably would have laughed and clapped you on the shoulder knowing how much it would annoy you. I am not…fully versed on the cultural customs of men from around here. It is done and past.” She took a sip of tea and pulled out one of the notebooks. “I would like to review the contract at this point.” She started in on the same discussion she had had with Eleanor Woodson. Like Eleanor, they had questions about the patent rights, but seemed satisfied when the amounts of compensation were discussed. From there discussions about the clauses went quickly.
When the main contract was reviewed, Felicity asked, “What about me?”
Millicent answered, “Excellent question. The services asked for are for John and Michael. You are coming along with Michael. Do you think there is something else?”
Felicity stared at her tea for a moment. She recognized this was a pivotal moment. She continued with as much confidence as she could muster and looked at Millicent as she said, “Michael, John and the others will be busy developing and making stuff. But they will also need to be organized and kept on track. Am I right?”
Millicent looked at her intently, “You are correct. Go on.”
Felicity took another sip of tea, composed herself, and continued, “I think I can help with scheduling, keeping the lot on track, letting them know what needs to be done first. That would all have to be done anyway. I think I can provide that. I do the same things as a maid. I won’t need to be technical – I just need to know the schedule and chivvy them along.”
Millicent took a sip of her tea and said to the tea cup, “My client hasn’t asked for this.”
Felicity leaned forward and rushed her words, “But your client will benefit with projects being done on time. You client will also have a single point of control.”
Millicent looked at her smiled, “You may work out.” She took another sip of tea and then said, “The client won’t pay for you – at least not initially. How do we explain your presence?”
John helped now, “She is an advisor supplied by you. We become more valuable; you raise your rates – eventually. You pay for her now and view it as an investment in client satisfaction.”
Millicent leaned back and laughed, “Fine …Fine…She will do nicely. Felicity, your first task will be to write up your job description, responsibilities and needs. I expect you will need training. Include that. Don’t worry about costing now, but you will need to learn that.”
Michael gave Felicity a hug and Felicity said, “Thank you, Miss Morgaine”
Millicent said, “Don’t thank me just yet. You haven’t started working yet. And there are details about Felicity’s arrangement that will need working out. Now gentlemen, are you prepared to sign on?”
Michael asked, “What happens at the end of the term?”
Millicent answered truthfully, “You have choices: you can stay with your patron; you may have other offers you can pursue; or you can return here. If you return here, as I have said, it will be close to 60 years later. Anyone who knew you will be dead or dying. I have rules to reduce your potential impact on the culture. And you will have more money than some governments so my restrictions shouldn’t be too onerous. “
John shrugged, “I’ve got nothing here. Count me in.”
“Excellent,” she turned to Michael and Felicity, “and you Mr. Richards? I’ve agreed to have Felicity along and we have already found a potential use for her. I have included clauses in your contract stating such and I have included some clauses for her protection.”
Felicity asked, “What do you mean ‘for my protection’?”
Millicent said, “I have specified that you are not bound by his terms and that the patron has no control or say in your activities until your services have been negotiated. I have also included a prenuptial clause – if you two break up, you will get a percentage of his profits to date, 40% seemed fair.”
Felicity eyes went wide in shock.
Millicent looking stern, continued, “This is my condition for you coming is signing. I know you believe your love will last forever. I have seen that, but I have seen otherwise as well so we are going to be quite modern. The longer you stay together, the more money set aside so you will be quite comfortable after three or four years.”
Michael protested, “I won’t leave her.”
Millicent laughed and patted his knee , “Of course you won’t and I hope not in the future.” She then put her hands in her lap and narrowed her eyes, “But what happens to the girl whose man leaves her while they are abroad?” Michael looked away as he considered the possibility. He had heard of maids left abroad and it wasn’t pleasant. Millicent continued, “There will be no consulate or embassy to provide some trip home. She will be alone and unable to return home on her own. She won’t love you less for signing, but I must insist on this.”
Michael looked at Felicity, held her hands and said, “Are you sure about this? It might get lonely.” There was a shake in his voice.
Felicity smiled and said, “I’ll be with you. Rachael and John are charming. And I can be something else than a maid. I won’t say it isn’t scary. But it will be a mighty grand adventure and we can do it together. Yes, I am sure.”
Millicent smiled and said “Wonderful, Perfect.” She found a bottle of alcohol in her satchel and some swabs and a small needle. John paled at the lance and said, “What is it with you and needles?”
Millicent explained, “This will truly be a contract signed in blood. This is a binding marked that cannot be forged easily. I could do you first or Michael if you prefer.”
John shivered and began to roll up his sleeve. Millicent said reassuringly, “it will be just a finger prick or two so you can roll your sleeve down. Drink a bit of water. It will help.”
John did as he was told. Millicent asked the wait staff to leave them. She grabbed his right finger and lanced it and squeezed. A bit of blood rose and she wiped it away. She squeezed more and dropped it on the open page in the notebook. She then pressed a corner and said. “Being Alpha Xi 6832, License Gamma 9682, at location planet 8914c in quadrant 3, Section 45. Planet is registered with Alpha Xi 6832.”
A smoothly voice with a west end accent “Acknowledged”
Millicent replied, “Register Contractor”
The voice answered, “Acknowledged. State name and location.”
Millicent turned to John and said, “John, state your full name, your address and include your city and country”
“John Ryan O’Malley, Davids Lane, Stepney, London, England”
Millicent added “Contractor is species S-Gamma-68, from Sol, Gamma planet”
After a pause, the smooth voice answered, “Contractor is registered.”
“All right then, let’s begin.” She wiped away the blood on the screen, “on each image I show you there will be the words of the contract. Read them carefully; ask questions. There will be a place for you to put your finger. That will be the same as signing the clause. The first page is the defining you, the client and me as the agent…”
John read the clause stating that he was the First party, the client was the second party and Millicent was the third party. He put his finger in the apparent spot. The voice returned saying “John Ryan O’Malley acknowledged.” Millicent brought up the second page which was about the term of the contract and the process continued. There were close to 20 pages and Millicent had to lance a second finger near the end muttering “you need to drink water.” And then it was done.
John held his bandaged fingers and feeling overwhelmed, asked, “What just happened? And don’t say I signed a contract”
Millicent asked, “Have you heard of fingerprinting?”
Michael said, “It seems to be the latest method in crime detection. People leave marks with their fingers. “
Millicent said, “Just so and purportedly no two fingerprints are exactly the same.”
Michael said, “That’s why the fuss.”
Millicent continued, “Your blood, your cells, really, are more distinctive than fingerprints.” She turned to John, “You marked clauses and registered your assent in the matter with some of your cells.”
John asked, “And at the beginning?”
“You were registered and your ‘signature’ recorded. I provided a reference to tell the device what to look for.” She turned to Michael and Felicity, “Are you ready?”
She pricked Michael’s finger and walked him through the same identification process and the main contract. After that portion was complete, she pricked Felicity’s finger and then another of Michael’s and the clauses that she mentioned were agreed to. At the end, everyone sat quietly for a moment. Then Millicent said, “Welcome to my service. I expect you will find it interesting. Now up to your rooms and pack for two days. We will be headed to Dunstable to meet another recruit.”