Finally after three hours, the train arrived at the small passenger station of Dunstable. The time was a bit after 4pm. In truth, it wasn’t that small. The station had four platforms. But the Euston station they had just left had 16. Two porters had arrived to help with luggage which was unloaded from the two carriages. The total crew was 9 with luggage. Liam arranged two local hackney’s who agreed, for a sum deemed generous but reasonable by Liam, to shuttle the crew to the destination. Millicent, Liam and John were in the first carriage. The Dean, his wife and Rachael were in the second. The taxis took off leaving the remainder with assurances that it was a short ride and they would be back quickly.
The ride left the station and then made a right turn on a main street. The buildings were less crowded than London and generally not as tall. Some were brick, but most were wood frame and stucco in the Tudor fashion. About five blocks down the main street, they arrived a pub called the “Cow and Pig” which had the two animals dancing some jig over a spiral galaxy. John noticed Millicent looking at the sign and grinning. She then went into the pub and John and the others followed. The taxis then headed back to the station to pick up the rest of the crew.
The doors were solid and heavy as Millicent pushed one open. A large man stood behind the bar talking to two waitresses who looked exactly alike save for hair style. All three looked at Millicent and the others. John noticed that the bartender had stopped cleaning the bar and stared at Millicent intently. Millicent winked at him and turned to the young woman greeting them.
The girl was average height -a bit over 5’. She had brown hair in a fast bun and was smartly dressed in a light blue dress. She appeared to be John’s age. Despite her apparent youth, she was clearly used to authority. Her hands were held lightly behind her back, chin high and a wide smile. She told Millicent, who was in front, “We’ll be open in an hour.”
Millicent, ignoring such hints as she usually did, said “I am interested in some rooms for the next night or two. Who do I speak to about that?”
The girl, unvexed, replied easily, “You talk to me. We’ve got four rooms right now. They will be 8 shillings a room and each can hold two.” Counting up the party, she recognized she might be short a room, “But we can arrange a room or two at other locations as well.” All this was done very businesslike and with no room for haggling or discussion. John could learn to like this girl.
Millicent asked, “Miss….”
The girl, now feeling fully in charge, replied, “Stephanie Miller, Stephanie will do, Ma’am”
“Stephanie, “savoring the name, Millicent mused, “oh how time flies. Stephanie we will need seven rooms and your assistance in finding others will be appreciated. We’ll take your four rooms for at least two nights. If we can find three rooms to match your excellent quality, that will suit us fine. Close by if possible. We just got off the train and others will be arriving shortly. A rest would be appreciated.”
Stephanie bowed slightly and then pointed to two tables. “Very well Ma’am. I’ll get someone to find rooms nearby. Take a table or two and we’ll get you settled. The pub opens at 5PM mostly for drink. Dinner starts in earnest around 6PM. “
“Excellent dear.” Millicent turned to the rest in her group, “you heard the young lady. Take a table or two.” Stephanie gestured at two near the door. Millicent continued, “Liam and I are going to the bar.” Stephanie headed to the bar to speak to the twins.
Rachael and John, took one table. The Dean and his wife took the second table. The Dean made conversation, “Did you enjoy the ride up here?”
John replied, “I can honestly say, it is like nothing I have been on before.”
The dean laughed, “Jolly good way to travel. Far more comfortable than carriages. And I can’t imagine doing that trip on horseback.”
John smiled and said, “Neither can I. Have you traveled far sir? Neither Rachael nor I have seen much of the world.
The Dean’s wife spoke up, “Last year we went to Germany and Austria. Henry had some dreadfully boring conference on mechanics. The music in Munich and Vienna are simply wonderful. And Rachael, if you’re in Munich, you simply must see the clock there.”
Rachael replied, “Yes Ma’am. I hope to see that one and the one in Prague someday. They are quite famous among clock makers. I also hope to get to Switzerland to see their clocks and music box works.”
The Dean’s wife responded, “We haven’t been to Switzerland. Our trips seem to center around Henry’s conferences or work. We never seem to have a proper vacation.”
The Dean looked a bit flustered, “It is an excellent way to pay for travel. It’s not cheap you know. Especially if we have to bring the children and grandchildren which seems to be the case now.”
John was bemused and confounded. He hadn’t really thought about the Dean having a family. He was just “the Dean”. Rachael, much better at conversation asked them, “Tell me about your children. I have to admit, I never really pictured Dean Mill with a family. But I suppose they happen even to professors. “
The Dean’s wife laughed and said, “They do happen, but when you’re a young professor sometimes they are a bit expensive. Starting out was a bit tight; had to depend on the families to keep up. But we are doing well now.”
About that point, one of the barmaids came up, “Summat to drink?”
Rachael said, “How is your bitter?”
The barmaid replied, “Stephan brews his own ales, lagers, and bitters. I’m partial to the ales. I’m told the bitter is excellent, but I can’t stand the stuff – too hoppy. It’s what Stephan usually drinks so it must be passing.”
Rachael said, “I’ll have a bitter.”
John said, “I’ll have the ale, you’re recommendation sounds good. And your name, Miss?””
The waitress said, “Getting fresh and it’s only 4:30 and you ain’t had no beer? It’s Kimberly by the way.” nodding to the Dean and his wife, “Ma’am and sir?”
The Dean said, “I’ll have a stout if you’ve got one.”
Kimberly shivered, “Aye we have that. Stephan makes it with oatmeal. Some say it tastes like chocolate. Can’t say I agree. ‘It’s an acquired taste’ they say.”
The Dean’s wife said, “I’ll have a sherry.”
Kimberly said, “Righto, I’ll be back with your drinks shortly.”
About that point the rest of the crew arrived. Michael and Felicity put themselves at John’s and Rachael’s table while Miranda sat with the Dean and his wife. Kimberly returned with drinks. Felicity and Miranda also ordered sherries. Michael ordered an ale. Rachael commented, “Am I the only one who likes the taste of beer in this group? The Dean is drinking mud, that doesn’t count.”
Kimberly laughed at the comment and said, “You sound just like Stephan.”
John said, “Kimberly could we get some crisps or chips?”
Kimberley apologized, “The kitchen is prepping for dinner at this point. I might be able to scarf up some bread and cheese after I get the drinks”.
John smiled his warmest and said, “That will be perfect.” Kimberly headed off to the bar with the new drink requests. John turned his attention to the bar. It seemed that Millicent already knew the bar keep. Even with her exceptionally congenial personality, he was looking at her warily while she was smiling and admiring the bar. Finally, the bar keep leaned over talked closely with Millicent. There was fear and anger in his face; his features pinched and red. She shook her head strongly and said loudly, “That was not me. That is not how I handle matters.” And she then leaned into the bar and whispered to the bar keep. His expression eased, he leaned back a bit and then he poured new beers and headed into the kitchen.
Kimberly returned with the beers and some bread and cheese. Rachael asked, “Do you know Jason McNeill? I understand he is from around here.”
Kimberly exclaimed, “Jason? Lordy he’s our dishwasher. Brilliant guy. Built an automatic hot water heater for the kitchen with Stephan. “
John and Michael said together, “That’s our boy.”
Kimberly said quickly, “Let me see if he is available. Who are you?”
Rachael said, “Rachael, John and Michael from University. And let him know he will get to meet Michael’s mysterious fiancée as well.”
Kimberly left and everyone raised their glasses to the trip. John took a drink of the ale. It was surprisingly smooth with just the right amount of hops. Rachael had her eyes closed and appeared to be near swooning saying, “Blimey. We have found heaven. This is the best bitter I have ever had.”
Michael looked at the glass with a wide eye look commented, “This ale is right good. The owner is a genius.”
John considered the conversation he saw with the bar keep and Millicent. The was now the bar keep as well as his wife talking with Millicent and Liam. It was friendlier now and there was a bit of laughing while Liam and Millicent drank their beers. John commented, “I wouldn’t be surprised if he is. Not at all.”
Kimberly came out with Jason in tow. Rachael got up and gave him a hug. Michael got up and gave him a handshake and a clap on the shoulder. Then Jason stared a bit at John. John stayed seated and sipped his beer and said, “You might not believe me, but it is good to see you again.” Jason ignored the comment and turned to Rachael, “What brings you all around here?”
Rachael said, “The woman at the bar. She is…well she can’t really be described.” Rachael looked severely at the others and said, “and I don’t think we’re supposed to say much until she talks to him directly.” She turned back to Jason and asked, “Can you sit for a bit?”
Jason said, “I don’t know. It’s close to dinner.”
Kimberly said, “Sit. Rob will finish the rest of the lunch dishes. I’ll tell Jolene that. “ Jason shrugged at the command and sat with his peers.
John tried conversation again, “The ale here is excellent.”
Jason replied tartly, “Stephan will be pleased it meets your standards, “ and then turned to Rachael, “Did you get a job yet?” Rachael looked at the table a bit uncomfortable.
She replied, “Jason, I didn’t get a job. Michael didn’t get a job. And John didn’t get a job. And you need to be civil. John’s not perfect but he tain’t the ass he was.”
Jason looked at John. John cleared his throat and stared at his beer and said, “I am sorry. I made a long running mistake I am now paying dearly for. I thought I could worm my way into to society. And I tried to do that by climbing on your backs. “
Jason thrust out his chin and said with a sneer, “As I recall, you more or less ignored us. And when that wasn’t enough for your new friends, you played the silly high society games of exclusion.”
Rachael tried to defend John, “He was an ass – a grand ass. We know it. He knows it. He also spent the last two months working for his daddy’s machine shop as a mechanic and that is in Stepney. You’ve haven’t met John Senior. I think John paid a bit already.”
Jason came back hard, “Why should I make nice with him now? He wouldn’t work with us; eat with us; or even talk with us.”
Michael chimed in, to John’s surprise, and defended John, “Look, it stings a me too. But at least act civil around him or you are no better than what you accuse him of.”
Jason sat back for a moment and then said, “Michael, you’re right. I apologize. John, we will talk, but I will save it for later. Michael, introduce this vision next to you. “
Michael said, “Careful mate. This is my fiancée, Felicity. Felicity, this is Jason. Sharp guy. Knows electronics. “
Felicity offered a hand and said, “Charmed”.
Jason took it, gave it a quick kiss and said, “She’s too good for you Michael. So if none of you will talk about why you’re here, at least tell me what you’ve been doing.”
Rachael started with her work at the clock shop and how she was planning an addition to the track. Michael talked a bit about being a butler, but pulled out some sketches of a house he was planning with Felicity. Felicity introduced herself and talked a bit about what she and Michael did over the summer. Jason talked about the pub, about leaving his home, and the water heater. John reflected that he and Jason had common issues around home. Jason also talked about finding more about his parents and about the house. All four were very intent as he described the house and its condition.
John asked, “Can we see it?”
Jason said, “I’ve only been once and it isn’t really safe.”
Millicent, Liam and the bar keep, Stephan came over to the table. She asked the four, “How are you feeling now?”
John considered for a moment, “I haven’t had a headache since we first got on the train. So pretty good, I suppose.” Rachael, Michael and Felicity nodded in agreement.
Millicent said, “Excellent. Jason, allow me to introduce myself. I am Millicent Morgaine.”
Jason’s eyes narrowed and he looked at the big man from the bar who looked at the ceiling. Millicent looked at the interchange between the two and then said with a grin, “Why Stephan! Have you been indiscrete?”
Stephan looked a bit defensive, “It was his parents that was taken, Millicent. Sean and his wife. Somebody had to tell him something.” There was a pleading in his voice.
Millicent tried to look stern, but failed and said in a mock harsh tone, “Normally, I’d give you a stern talking to and see if I needed to do damage control.” Her voiced softened a bit, “Fortunately, it may have speeded things up for me. Just so we are clear, how much does he know?”
Jason answered, “That you’re not from here and that my father and Stephan worked as contractors for you and someone else for 10 years and came back much later.”
Millicent frowned at Stephan who shrugged and put his hands up. She asked Jason, “What do you want to know?”
Jason answered, “What happened to my parents.” The tables got very quiet.
Millicent answered, “I truly don’t know. I will see the house tomorrow. I will want you to join me. I suppose the rest of you should come along as well. But Jason, I don’t operate that way.”
Jason’s eyes narrowed and he leaned forward and asked, “And how do you operate?”
Millicent shrugged and continued, “I try to catch issues early and get the person to see their error. If they persist, I generally subvert their efforts.” She paused and then leaned down on the table and matched Jason’s glare, “I assume you’ve heard of Galileo. There are others, but he was isolated and removed from further research. Lavosier I regret. I had not anticipated Robespierre’s maniacal actions.” There were gasps around the table. “I do not snatch people in the night and blow up a block. Although, I am reconsidering that for some right now.” She glared at Stephan who was extremely interested in the lighting fixture over the Dean’s table.
Jason leaned back and said, “Why should I believe you? Everyone else has covered up or lied to me. Your tale is even harder to believe.”
“I have done neither to you,” She said simply. “Although, I will admit I would have approved the cover up. I will tell as much truth as I can. This I will say, if your father was doing things he shouldn’t have, when I was done he would still be here. He might be living in the poor house or exiled to a distant island, but he would be here.“ . The tables were quiet as the exchange had occurred.
There was a quiet. Jason said, “I’ll reserve my thoughts until tomorrow after we visit the house. “
Stephan, the bar keep ,stepped up and talked directly to Jason, “Lad, she needs to talk to you and you need to listen. Things are afoot and you could be hurt. Remember I said that the universe can be cruel?”
“Well our little corner of it is getting ugly,” Stephan said with some tension.
Millicent pulled up a chair and said, “I gather Stephan has filled you in on at least some of my venture.”
Jason replied in a very succinct description, “You find people to do work, design and build things. They can come back after a bit, but they aren’t allowed to use strange technologies. If they do use strange technologies or profit from their knowledge,” he paused and looked directly at Millicent with narrowed eyes, “there are consequences.”
Millicent said, “That the postage stamp version. I would rather discuss it in detail with you later. But you are risk. Rachael and John, if you could recount your adventure from last night.”
Rachael and John described the assault on the taxi and the efforts to capture them.
Jason took it in for a moment and then said, “Wait a moment.” Pointing at Liam, “He was shot. Why is he here?”
Liam said, “Can’t rightly explain except a vest Millicent gave me is now me favorite piece of cloth. Left a nasty bruise though.”
Stephan continued, “Apparently this outsider is doing a bit of control with his group. Forcing them to do things they wouldn’t do. Nasty business – remember I said it is a harsh universe. Anyway, Millicent has a way to protect you from that at least.”
Jason grew frustrated he waved his arms, “None of this makes sense. Why should I have to worry? Why me? Why would anyone be interested in me? They certainly weren’t after I graduated. I am just a damned dishwasher from a backwater town who probably ought to be milking cows and cleaning stables.” His voice was plaintive at the end.
Millicent looked at the Dean and said in outrage, “You are responsible for that. You are responsible for Rachael nearly abandoning her work on a track that sings. You are responsible for John O’Malley taking on airs and ignoring those that matter. “ She pointed at Jason and shouted, “That boy worked with James Maxell. I have talked with Dr. Maxwell and he is ready to give him a position as an assistant. Maxwell, by God, says that! You accepted these geniuses, gave them no support, and when they finished, they got nothing. But the Neville Carter-Frasiers and Winifred Stanhopes of your University seem to have no problem finding a position.” She waggled a finger at him and said, “You and I will have a discussion on this.”
The Dean turned red and stared into his beer, but Rachael was almost grinning. John even felt a smile coming on. True, he had tried to play the aristocracy game, but the diatribe warmed his cockney soul to hear the outrage.
Millicent turned back to Jason and calmed herself with a breath, “First, you are on my list which makes you a target. I regret that, but there is nothing to be done. Second, if John Smith connects the dots with you and your father, you will not be safe. Whatever reason caused Sean’s abduction could be applied to you.”
Jason put his out and leaned and said in a mocking tone, “Fine, fine…I am grave danger.” He let out a long breath, “Now what?”
Millicent said, “I have an inoculation that will prevent Smith from forcing you to do anything. It will prevent Smith from doing his worst and will have some helpful benefits. It has some side effects, but your classmates have taken it and survived.”
Michael muttered under his breath, “Wasn’t sure I wanted to last night.” John groaned a little at the memory. Rachael just drank more beer.
Millicent smirked and continued, “There are some unpleasant side effects, but I need you to take the inoculation.”
Jolene asked, “Is he going to be fit for work?”
Millicent glanced at Stephan and said, “I see how the lion was tamed.” Back to Jolene, “Yes, he will be fine for the next couple of hours, but he will want to be in bed early I should imagine. Tomorrow morning, might be a challenge.”
Jolene grimaced and said, “We’ll have Rob cover tomorrow. If this protects him from something, it is probably worth the trouble.”
Millicent told Jason, “Join me at the other table and we’ll take care of this.”
John watched as the two retreated to another table. While he wasn’t looking, the Dean had taken Millicent’s space at the table. He looked forlorn, “Was it really that bad?” John looked at his drink. Rachael looked angry as if a wild animal had been unleashed and she was controlling it badly. Michael looked at his shoes and seemed a bit sad. It was Felicity who finally spoke, “They won’t say so because they respect you. So I’ll speak. Yes it was. I don’t know the rest of the class, but I know Michael. He didn’t have a free moment in five years. His drawings were better; his ideas fresher. He had a portfolio of plans for houses, shops, and even bridges. All he was offered was drafting positions that paid less than the butler he was. Rachael, according to Michael, was better at math and physics than just about anyone and somehow never got a proper grade. John… poor John sold his soul to fit in and get out of his lot. And you ask if it ‘was that bad?’”
The Dean looked at the table and said, “I didn’t know.”
Liam stepped up said with a snort, “You didn’t want to. If you had seen the things Rachael did with her track in the shop or listened to John and his philosophizing you’d scratch your head and wonder why they weren’t snatched up.”
The Dean got a bit defensive, “I can’t change the world.”
From the other table, Miranda the secretary said, “But you can change your little bit of it, Henry.”
The Dean’s wife finally spoke up, “Henry, they’re angry at the moment and Millicent gave them a focus. But take a bit of time to listen to Miranda. A bit of change in London might be good.”
Rachael sat back and relaxed for moment, “She’s right, Dean. Millicent is just opening our eyes now. And we’re channeling our anger a bit. You ended up being the scape goat for everything that hasn’t worked and that might not be fair. I suppose I should be a bit grateful for the chance at all.” She leaned back in her chair and closed her eyes, “But things really ought to change.”
John looked up from his beer, “I expect tonight’s darts game will be exciting if you move too early to the board. I owe you a beer and you owe me a rematch.” There was a bit laughter at the joke and the Dean looked relieved.
Shouting suddenly came from the other table. Jolene sounded panicky, shouting “You said it was harmless.”
Stephan was shouting back, “It is!, I’ve had it, it’s nothing like this.”
Attention was drawn to Jason, who was shaking violently on the chair. His eyes were rolled up and there was foam in his mouth.
Millicent commanded, “Ice, I need lots of ice in a bathtub. Now!” Jolene shouted to the kitchen and the cook and waiters were moving ice blocks upstairs. Millicent shouted to Liam who was at the other table, “Help Stephan move the boy to the bath. Get him covered in ice water.” She turned to Jolene, “Find a butcher and get all the sheep or ox kidney you can get.” Jolene ran into the kitchen wiping her face and shouting new orders.
Rachael moved over to the ruckus and demanded, “What happened?”
Millicent was gathering her things together and pacing back and forth muttering. She glared at Rachael and pointed her finger at her as if to reprimand, but other people were moving in her direction. Millicent thought better and stopped her pacing and put her hand on her head saying, “I don’t know for sure. I am having him cooled down to slow the seizures and limit the damage. I am hoping I can brew up something with those kidneys if we can get them fast enough. Stay in here, we do not need people underfoot.” And with that, everyone else was dismissed.
For the next hour, people came and went into the kitchen or upstairs. Stephanie came out and talked with the Dean and Miranda and they rushed back into the kitchen. A bit later Stephanie came out clearly upset and teary and pulled the sandwich board from the street. Everyone in the group walked back and forth or sat in a chair. The jollity of the train was forgotten. Around five employees started arriving. As the news was delivered, they sat at the bar. Jolene came back from the street with a bucket of kidneys. Millicent called the second cook into the kitchen and chopping could be heard through the double doors.
After about an hour and half, Liam came down the stairs looking tired but relieved. “He is going to be fine. That boy has an iron constitution. He was shaking heavily until we got him in that ice bath. Stephan held him down and pushed him under a couple of times. He said we needed to keep the brain cool. Don’t rightly understand, but Millicent said he was right. Millicent and the two cooks used the kidneys to brew up something and gave him a second shot. That seemed to get things under control. Kimberly’s sister and Stephanie are watching him and keeping cool water towels on his head. Not that he is noticing anything.” He paused and looked wistful, “Lord I never had that talent.” He shook his head and continued, “Anyway Jolene is giving Millicent a piece of her mind and Millicent is taking it. When Jolene is done with her, she is going to want to talk to you. “
Eventually Millicent came out. Her hair was down and her sleeves were rolled up. She brought Stephan along and sat down. “Stephan, I will pay for business tonight. I am sorry. I didn’t know.”
Stephan sighed, “You couldn’t have. Sean was bending the rules as always.”
She addressed the group, “It seems that Jason’s father gave him an inoculation when he was very young. I asked Stephanie if she had ever known him to be sick. He hadn’t. I expect there are a couple of other side effects such as strength and reaction time that he hasn’t really noticed. Like my inoculation, his father’s was designed to fight off others. So Jason’s body started fighting my inoculation and Jason’s body became a battleground. I expect his father’s won, but I can’t be sure until the morning. He is safe for now, both from my inoculation and from anything else. I expect he will have a monstrous headache tomorrow. Stephan, have the girls keep filling him with water and a bit of broth for a bit of protein. He will probably be moving by morning. And please let Jolene know I am truly sorry.”
The big man replied, “I’ll pass that on. You folk stay. We’ve plenty of food that won’t keep. “ He headed upstairs again.
Millicent turned to the group, “I am sorry about that. If you wonder what would happen if someone tried to control your mind, that is what would happen. Well a rather bad example of what would happen – except for Liam. Sean’s nanos fought off my inoculation but it caused a massive overreaction. My nanos are a bit more measured. Given what Sean had to work with and how he possibly tested it, I am surprised it worked at all. He would probably be surprised.”
John asked, “What happens now?”
Millicent said, “We eat. We mingle with the workers. We drink and we go to bed.” To the younger members of the group, “You all stay here. I will stay and check in on Jason through the night.” To the older group and Liam, “You three and Liam are across the street. If I can convince Jolene not to poison me, breakfast will be later at 9AM.” The evening was subdued. The workers went up to see Jason and came back looking relieved and started a darts game. Felicity and Michael headed off early. Eventually John and Rachael headed up. They poked their heads into Jason’s room. Stephanie and Kimberly’s twin were there. Jason looked up at John and asked, “You did this?”
John said, “Not quite like you mate. You were much more dramatic. Follow the lady’s directions. It is hard to believe right now, but she knows what she is doing.”
Rachael and John closed the door and headed to their rooms. Things felt a lot more serious
 Adrenaline is a form of epinephrine. Epinephrine is a common antidote to anaphylaxis. The body creates and stores adrenaline in the kidneys.