Wednesday, 20 November 2013

NaNoWriMo Day 20 Word Count 2046

Melissa settled into a steady routine for a few days. Silence from Lord Penthvere, and a few late night visits with Sir Francis kept her occupied in her personal time; planning the soiree and attending the events of others filled her social time and Starke kept her busy with paperwork, site visits and various minutiae of business in the few hours that remained.

Her own matters in life progressed rapidly and smoothly for two or three weeks, and it was only after some time in this new life that she wondered idly what had happened to the world she had left behind. Here she had discovered a purpose she had never really known before, and sje didn't want to lose that, but she was deeply curious about the world of the future – and what she had accomplished by her actions.

One day she ceased wondering and went to find out.

Setting the date for a month or two after she departed, and the location as Oxford University, she took a deep breath and went back.

The land was barren and molten. There were no buildings in sight. No people, nothing. She teleported a few miles away – the same. Sticks of dead trees stuck up out of the ground – burned to pure carbon and effectively fossilised. Shocked, she tried travelling to London. The street that she had lived on was flattened. There was scattered rubble around and only a few misshapen lumps disturbed the horizon. She ehaded for those. Upon reaching them she saw gutted buildings, with some signs of life. A smell, for a start. Until now she hadn't realised how everythign had been wholly odourless. The rank, ammoniac smell that pervaded this atmosphere fixed that. She called out and from the rubble crawled starving, weak specimens of humanity. They stared at her with eyes wide and nothing intelligent about them.

She asked where their parents were, but she terrified them and they disappeared, scattering like wild rabbits. Following them into the ruins, she stumbled and almost fell. Inside was no more civilised than outside. There were representatives of most ages of people here, but none healthy, well fed or even surviving. There was dirt on their skin and hands and beyond that only sign of an effort for survival was the miniscule pile of bones in the corner. She at first assumed it was a carcass of an animal, but shuddered when she realised that the boulder at the back was a skull – a child's skull. Staring around, she realised that these people had no meat except themselves. She shuddered and teleported outside immediately where she began to retch.

Terrified that what she would see would be the starving children eating her rejected food, she turned and walked hastily away. She saw the scrubland which accounted for the dirt on their hands and realised these people were eating grass and little else. Trying to establish how far this had spread she travelled to France. Again, the land was flattened and barren. She travelled further, not daring to stop and seek out the wretched specimens of humantity that might be in the area. Continuing onwards she hopped over the world. Several times she saw people, but none healthy. Scrubland was about as verdant as the earth was. People were clinging on, but clearly not for much longer.

Wondering what had caused such devastation, she hopped back five years and stood in the midst of chaos. The world was choking with smoke, the sky was orange and there was a continuous roaring bellow.

Two years earleir, there was still widespread confusion and horror, but in the middle there were public news outlets and she was able to find the history of the world. In summary – Napolean had assassinated Wellington a year or so after she had released Andy. From the history of her own world, she knew that wasn't supposed to happen. Without Wellington at the helm Napolean had expected the British to fall. Instead, they had turned rabid. From a coldly calculating machine, they turned into a pack of savage animals. The sudden increase in attacks was enough to require Napolean to divert all his troops to protecting his French borders. Beyond the soldiers already there, the British ditched their interest in the Americas and returned all those troops. Hundreds and thousands of men -0 trained and experienced and driven by the kind of fervour that only madmen can feel they tore into the French army and were not subdued for decades and with a loss of life on both sides that had never been contemplated under Wellington's command.

Some time later, the Napoleonic empire had recovered from the depravations of war that the British had inflicted, but then it was too late. In that time the America's had recognised the ambitions of the Corsican. Then there was the following war which lasted decades. A tentative peace had formed, during which both the sides had established a team of researchers and developers. Hundreds of minor skirmishes had broken out periodically and then faded.

At this point in time, both sides were producing weaponry that would flatten cities – projectile missiles that released heat, concussive force and poisonous chemicals which killed bacterial life. Humans had to inhale a lot over the course ofn a month or two, butt eh weapons were designed to destroy instead their food sources.

The first place to go was the former British Isles. Then Africa. Greenland fell, and finally the combatative forces were focussed on each other's central land and provisions. Any pretence and non- obliteration had disappeared long ago. The politics of the situation were not clear, but a relative peace of 70 years which began in the early 20th century had come to an end around the year of her own birth when.... horrified she saw that Napolean had kept records of Andy. A beauracratic file had identified the birth of the young Andy and had killed him shortly after birth. According to the documents before her they had done the same with a vast nubmer of young boys throughout the last few hundred years but now they had been caught and it triggered a massive response from world wide forces.

Now, the world was coming to an end, even sooner than it would have had she not become involved.

She sat and stared as the world began to crumble around her. There was nothing good here. She had only one choice – she must protect Wellington at all costs. She could not live her everyday life, attempting to help the young women of London, rescue a few measly horses and also know that this was coming.

She returned home immediately and sat in her bedroom for several minutes. She had returned within minutes of leaving and she sat staring into the comfort and safety of her fire. Each time she blinked, the world of orange smog returned. Each time she tried to close her else and relax, the crackle of fire was converted to a muted roar and a terrifying closeness gripped around her face.

Mary entered the room an hour later to stoke up the fire which was kept permanently burning in Melissa's rooms to discover her mistress clutching a peculiar lump of metal and leather and white faced, staring horrified into the fireplace. Beginning to grow concerned at how frequently this was happening Mary made a mental note to look for suggestions of opiates in the property. There were none of the more obvious signs of an addiction, but Mary had encountered dependant users before and knew well enough that symptoms presented differently in each individual.

Feeding Melissa a controlled dose of laudanum, she put her to bed. The next day as soon as Melissa awoke, she insisted on a note being sent to Lord Penthvere. He arrived in response to her summons within three hours and he was the only individual she admitted into her property that day. His attitude upon entering the room was cold and distant. His men were still watching her property and he knew all about Sir Francis' late night visits. When he had first found out he was furious. Since then, he was jealous, but also unwilling to engage with her any more than necessary.

This response was solel because f her note. She had written that she had discovered something following from her French adventures that she could not substantiate but believed he would need to know. In the event that he was unwilling to hear her, she would have no option but to try to avert the upcoming situation alone: in which case he would face her interference in political matters.

He arrived and without physical contact or preamble he demanded to hear her information.

She gazed steadily at him. She had guessed he had the information, but had not expected the look of distaste on his face as he was now obliged to deal with her. Suddenly she realised how diffiuclt life must be for her girls who were already questioning their own worth after being abandoned by a man they trusted, to face such contempt and indifference to their rights as an individual.

She had a lot of self respect and a healthy dose of pride. She also had the knowledge that she was the same person as she had been on their first meeting and if that woman deserved civility and interest, so to did the real woman he was meeting today; faults and all.

He didn't precisely quail under her gaze, but it was clear he had not expected dignity from her. Once again his convictions were challenged and shaken, but he was not willing to see her as a potential equal any more. Regardless he seemed to accept that she deserved a modicum of civility and he bowed slightly before taking a seat.

She had thought about her story this time and laid it before him simply.

“You already know I can travel without you seeing me, and that I can cover ground at a speed you cannot. I wanted to know the outcome of my recent action in France, so I went and looked. It's worse than I had expected: the man we rescued had apparently given Bonaparte information about the British leaders. Now there is a plan to eliminate the key military generals named by the man. The only one I am sure of is Wellington.

“I doubt that this is new information to you so I will tell you the part I cannot substantiate. I told you your assassination attempts would fail when you targeted the prisoner and although I do not know how many attempts your men made, I hope they were sufficient to convince you that I had some additional knowledge. I can tell you now that within a year, unless something significant happens, the French attempts to assassinate your British Generals will succeed and the effects will be catastrophic.”

Phillip stood contemptuously and snarled at her. “Mythic babbling will not win any points in your favour. I have important work to do and this information is utterly valueless.”

“Wait!” Melissa called out, but in a controlled fashion. She had anticipated this and that morning had carried out some specific research in a slightly horrifying visit to the date of the assassination. Newspapers at the time had recounted details of the varied attempts made on Wellington's life that had failed throughout the year yet culminated in the success of one man who publicly ended it all in a deeply humiliating way for the great man. Although the assassin was strung up more or less immediately by a lynch mob, Wellington was not considered avenged and the newspapers had played their part in tearing into the French.

The specific details Melissa had noted were related to the first attempt which was due in five days time. She recounted the anticipated movements of the French and ended with the reassurance that this attempt would fail whether he acted on this information or not.

Phillip flounced out of her property once again.

A week later, he returned with a harrowed face, haggard from sleepless nights and asked her up front how she had known.

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