Chapter 33 – The Return to London


The following morning the group assembled at the train station. Millicent had left it to everyone to make it on their own. Smith might be in town, but she doubted he would act with her so close and so conscious. Still she recommended everyone travel in pairsbto the station.  The Dean, his wife and Miranda had chosen to stay another day. The break from school work was welcome and they were finding the town relaxing.

Michael and Felicity arrived together, of course. Rachael and John had waited for Jason who was slower to come down. It seems he had difficulty leaving the room this morning. Millicent  and Liam had left together. Liam’s prescription last night and his follow up antics had revived her spirits far more than she would have predicted. Liam woke and was surprised he only had a mild headache which was quickly fixed with water and some of Millicent’s pills.

Liam grumbled, “Tain’t natural. If I drink that much, I should not feel this good.”

Millicent smiled munificently, “I told you there would be some side benefits. All that liver damage and heart disease is a memory as well. You gave your nanos quite a workout last night. That is the reason you don’t have a headache or worse.”

Liam grumbled some more.

Millicent continued, “Besides, think of the young one. Jason was pretty will gone as well. Yet, I am sure Candace was happy with Jason’s nanos. I know I find it so annoying when men overdrink.”

Liam had a coughing fit.

Millicent called over to Rachael. “John arranged the tickets getting here. I want you to arrange our tickets home. Bring John along if you think you need help.”

Jason came over to Millicent and Liam and said, “I have the notebooks. There were five in all.”

Millicent said, “Excellent. I assumed they are dated or indexed in some fashion.”

Jason said, “ Stephan says there are at least  four projects  possibly more. But entries seem to be chronologic.  I don’t really know enough to tell where one project entry ends and another begins. That is going to slow me down.”

Millicent asked, “Are you familiar with punch card indexing?”

Jason shook his head no and looked quizzical.

She asked, “Have you reviewed any of Charles Babbages[1] work?”

Jason laughed, “Babbage is an angry old man who would have thrown me out of school if he could have figured out how.”

Millicent got angry, “Hush you unversed child. The only man in this age who matches Babbage’s work is Robert Maxwell. Isaac Newton and Galileo weren’t friendly personalities either. No one slights their work.  You will be meeting the distant descendent of Babbage’s work.  In spite of his regrettable attitudes to class, his work on number theory was spot on.”

Jason apologized a bit and looked wide eyed at Liam who just shrugged.

Millicent looked at one and then the other and realized her reaction was causing a stir. She took a deep breath and said, “Regardless. When we get back to my…workshop, I want you to work with Charles and start indexing and cross referencing those notebooks. He will help you with any theory you might not understand.

Jason looked her wide eyed,”You have Charles Babbage in your workshop?!”

Liam laughed and said, “Nay lad, it’s Charley who…” Millicent looked at Liam sharply.  Liam caught his statement, shuffled his feet a bit and then said, “Well, Charley is a decent bloke even if he is a bit snobby. You’ll see.”

Millicent, anxious to change the subject, asked Jason, “Your evening with Candace went well?”

Jason turned a bright red and muttered, “Just fine… I’ll just say hello to Michael and Felicity, “ and he hurried off.

Liam held his lapels as he watched Jason scurry off, “Ah, young lust. I think you embarrassed him Miss Morgaine.”

Millicent fluttered a set of gloves around her face as if she were warm or there was a fly annoying her, “You Victorian English are so easy to shock.” She turned to Liam and said, “I find it so annoying when men drink too much and can’t follow through.  Women never seem to have that problem. I am sure you will be pleasantly surprised when opportunity strikes. ”

Liam had another coughing fit and muttered that he needed to help John and Rachel get the right tickets and hurried off himself.

Millicent continued to fan herself with her gloves and whispered, “So easy…”

John and Rachel were already coming back with the tickets so Liam hurried over to Michael and Felicity as well. With tickets in hand and everyone gathered more or less, Millicent started shooing them into two train coaches.  Jason and Liam carefully avoided eye contact with Millicent and joined Michael and Felicity in their coach.  John and Rachael stared as the two men quickly took seats they might have taken. They shrugged and John said, “I guess we will travel with you.”

Apparently John was less interested in the countryside on the way back into London.  The conversation drifted over steam engine efficiencies,  bridge design and tunnel construction, the darts game last night and the various odd folk who everyone in Stepney knew.  Millicent listened and added her comments at times, but she was not focused. The meal that Jolene had sent out was good. John and Rachel both had extra sandwiches, but Millicent had little appetite. She felt bad that the conversation was muted and eventually quiet. She hadn’t kept up her part.  But she wanted to be back in the ship and talking with Charles. She wanted to start planning Eleanor’s rescue. She wanted to start researching who this pestiferous Smith was: who were his patrons and who was his sponsor?  By hour two, the conversation stopped completely and the two recruits looked out the windows as the train pulled into the outskirts of London.

After four hours, the train arrived in Euston Station, very close to Millicent’s warehouse.  Liam’s carriage was in storage at the warehouse along with Betsy. So he arranged two taxis with friends. The drivers were smart enough not to ask any questions about why anyone would want to be dropped off at Eagle Wharf drive and the group was left with their luggage in front of the beaten warehouse doors. Liam paid the drivers with an extra tip and a stern warning about talking to others. Liam looked smug as they drove off.

Millicent asked, “Will they talk?”

Liam smiled, “Oh I expect so at some point. But whoever they talk to will have to pay a princely sum and it won’t be for a while.” He smirked at her annoyance, “Can’t blame us Millicent, if the moneys right.”

Millicent crossed her arms and look down her nose asked, “What about loyalty?”

Liam watched the taxis as they drove down the wide empty street, “They’re competitors. I’d sell them out for the right price. But they know I will know they spoke and me knowing they talked means they will be cautious for a bit.”

Millicent looked at the last taxi as it rounded the corner and then said, “I am disturbed.  That whole paragraph made perfect sense.”  She looked around and then said loudly in a voice to be obeyed, “Let’s get inside before other eyes start noticing.” Liam chivied the crowd towards the door as Millicent entered the necessary codes to open the door. “Inside quickly people!” Everyone filed through the door into the darkened warehouse. Liam came in last and closed the door.

Millicent said to the space, “Charles…Status.”

The sonorous aristocratic voice said, “Perimeter secure. No visitors that I can detect.” After pause, the voice continued, “I gather that is a worry.”

Millicent said, “Yes. We ran into Smith in Dunstable. We will be having guests for a while.”

Liam said loudly, “Charley. Mate I’ve missed you.”

Charles, the voice said, “A while?! The sacrifices I am making for this conflict of yours….” In some fashion everyone knew Charles was addressing Liam now, “Hello Mr. O’Hannigan. Betsy is fed and the bots have been cleaning up after her nicely. She has a good stand of straw as well as her oats and hay. Unlike you, I find her very personable and polite.  However, she is tolerant of your foibles so I shall learn to tolerate them as I must. She needs a good grooming and she appreciates your touch over my bots for some reason.” A light at the far end of the warehouse came on showing a very satisfied horse surrounded by hay bales.

Liam smiled and said, “Why Charley, you DO have a soft spot after all,” and he headed off towards the horse.

Millicent was amused by the exchange. “Charles, we need to register our guests.” To the group she said, “Stand about 10 feet apart. Charles…illuminate forward structure door area” and the area around the group was lit.  The expressions of the group varied. Felicity froze.  Michael and Rachel jumped a bit. John looked at his arms and hands and said, “How did you do that?” Jason looked up at the roof and said, “Those aren’t gas lamps.”

Millicent said with exaggerated patience, “I think you will find those questions will eventually be answered or be replaced by entirely new ones. Now spread apart.” She clapped her hands and they all adjusted.  She had each person say his or her name. A spot light illuminated them brighter and the voice acknowledged each person.

Millicent asked, “Have you identified Liam O’Hannigan?”

Charles said, “Mr. O’Hannigan is forever burned in my memory. I fear my best cleaning routines will never remove him.”

From across the warehouse Liam shouted, “Good to be back, Charley. Love you too.”

The voice seemed to shiver and say, “Good lord!”

The group was quiet in this little exchange but looked at each other with quizzical expressions.

Millicent said, “You have just met Charles. You will find him a valuable source of information. He can also provide resources within reason. Charles, illuminate the ship.”

Charles said with an invisible smirk, “You love this moment.” Lights came on in the center of the warehouse revealing the large strange vessel.  The group became silent. The voice said, “I’ve stunned them silent as always.”

John finally spoke, “What is that?”

Millicent said, “It is many things. It is a means of transportation. It is a laboratory and supply station. It is a cargo ship. It is Charles’ body I suppose. And it is my home or at least as much of one as I might have.” She finished the last sentence quietly.

Michael shook himself back into coherency, “Wait. You said it was Charles body?”

Millicent said, “Charles is the intelligence that inhabits the ship. It is a bit complicated, but your Charles Babbage had started work towards such a being. So I do not take an ‘angry old man’s’ ravings lightly.”

John’s eyes brightened, “My lord! Descartes was right.”

Charles spoke with excitement, “You made the connection? Oh Millicent, he makes up for that ruffian who doesn’t understand his horse. Mr. O’Malley you and I will be having some long conversations.”

John smirked a bit, “Of course, Mr. Hume says you’re not possible. That you’re a flight of my fancy.”

Charles spoke derisively, “Pah… everyone in this room is a flight of your fancy according to that man. He didn’t believe in a soul. With Descartes, I have a fighting chance.”

Rachael interrupted what sounded like a very long and boring conversation, “You said it was transportation?”

Millicent said, “Remember Abigail said she had visited other stars and planets.” Millicent bowed and pointed to the ship and said, “My humble carriage. Eleanor would have so appreciated you Charles. She’s the aeronautical engineer,” Millicent said quietly.

Charles said quietly, “I have a recording of the abduction. It seems Winifred Stanhope is actively cooperating.”

Millicent said, “We know.  Queue the recording in the culture lab. I am going to want you to scan everyone here to make sure their nanos are working properly.  You will need to do some special work on Jason.” She clapped her hands again and strode quickly to the lowered stairs of the ship and said, “Come people. We have lots of work to do. You also will get to see your new accommodations.” Her pace left the stunned recruits straggling towards the ship.

 

[1] Charles Babbage – originated the concept of a programmable machine. He started several powered mechanical devices to perform calculations, but was unable to finish any due to funding issues. Babbage had great distain for the lower classes and instituted several mean spirited campaigns targeted at the poor and underclass.

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One thought on “Chapter 33 – The Return to London

  1. Pingback: The Recruiting Matter – Chapter 33 – The Return to London | The Finder's Saga

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