Saturday, 23 November 2013

NaNoWriMo Day 23 Word Count 2370


Melissa was genuinely horrified. She'd known it was likely that he would take the route of using the device for the success of the British but had hoped that he would see the journey from here to there with the same sense of responsibility that she had developed. His blank look now suggested that she may have miscalculated.

She launched into an impassioned plea for him to reconsider and not advertise the existence of the device to his superiors – or if he must, imply in some way that it is only capable of carrying one or two people, or it burned out quickly and needed to be recharged. And certainly, never tell anyone about the time element. He remained utterly unresponsive as she poured out her heart and soul to him and her fears about the future. Eventually she subsided, panting slightly, almost in tears before his unmoved countenance.

When he was sure she was finished he spoke quietly but clearly: “Using the weapon to help the British armies travel had not occurred to me.”

Her jaw dropped and she froze. She recalled the sheer volume of the information she had given him in her attempt to bring him onto her side and felt a cold dread settle like an icy scarf around the back of her neck. Her emotions over the last few minutes had been so chaotic and out of control that tears had build up inside her eyes and one now trickled unbidden from the outside corner of her right eye.

Phillip took sympathy on her. “I should have thought that way and I understand why you reacted as strongly as you did.” He fell silent and his dark eyes fell from hers. His contemplations didn't last long and when he resumed his voice was somehow different. “I have always worked in a capacity to ensure the safety and continuation of the British Empire. That has been my goal, my focus and my responsibility. The rest of the world would always benefit from being within the Empire with all we have to offer. The war in the Americas has always seemed to me to be foolish in the extreme – in the long term, of course they would be happier with us. The children of these revolutionaries would not thank them for their efforts to escape British rule and so that justified war now.”

His voice continued steadily. His volume and pitch were perfectly controlled, but she recognised a hollowness to it. She believed she understood how he was feeling and reached out to touch the back of his hand. He turned his hands and caught her own gently, looking at their overlaying fingers. He did not let go when he began to speak again. “Today was the first time I have ever considered the possibility that the future may not be perfect. The problems of war and all that comes with it have, in my mind, always been temporary. At the end of the fight will come a perfect world which will justify everything that came before.”

Melissa watched him processing the events he had witnessed today and was deeply impressed. She had not reacted as well or even slightly as rationally. It had not occurred to her before that his role meant he had effectively been conditioned to receive horrifying information and make life or death decisions for other people. As a result he immediately began to process the information, separate to the individuals involved. What had shocked him was the realisation that all his decisions were made on the assumption that there were short term sacrifices for long term gain.

Watching the devastation and death of a world which continued in that mindset utterly horrified him. He felt he had directly contributed to the world he had seen and, being a man accustomed to formed strong convictions on evidence, whether it fell in line with his previous experience and belief or otherwise, he resolved that he would no longer advertise war or death as the solution – it clearly didn't work. What he would replace it with, he wasn't sure. But for now, he knew in his own mind that the device was not to be used as a weapon on the larger scale.

The two of them sat, hand in hand, slowly recovering from the experiences of the day. Having established that she had no need to fear him, she soon recalled the question that had prompted her strong response.

“Why did you want to know how many people could be transported by the device?”

He smiled: “I was trying to reconcile the facts of the night you rescued that man from the French. I was unsure why you hadn't simply picked up Michael and James and moved them all at once. I still don't understand that.”

She looked at him carefully and decided, what the hell. He already knew this much and Andy could no longer be harmed.

She told him the full story, with the overlapping Andy's and the failure of the device to protect him the way the original Andy had believed it would. Having heard the full story he frowned and gazed into the distance. She waited for him to return his focus to her and raised an eyebrow quizzically.

“Can we take another trip?”

She was surprised but nodded and retrieved the device. “Where to?”

“Take me to the point exactly midway between here and the Americas.”

“You want to drown?”

“I want to test a theory.”

She adjusted the dials, the two of them grasped the device and they arrived on a tall ship transporting British troops.

“Can you go vertically?”

“Yes.”

“Take us two fathoms down.”

Calculating that she would easily be able to hold her breath long enough to hammer in the controls to return home before she drowned, she obeyed.

She found herself on a rock, deep underwater. It was surprisingly warm and her legs felt like they had been trapped. However, she was surprisingly relaxed. She glanced at Phillip and was horrified – she slammed the device in reverse and took them back up to the ship. Phillip collapsed and she took them to her own home and called for Mary frantically.

That woman didn't ask a single question – not necessarily as a sign of her absence of curiosity. In fact, she had simply no idea where to start treating a man whose eyes appeared to be bulging out of his head and whose whole body seemed malformed. Establishing that he wasn't breathing she made that her focus and slammed his chest with her right hand. His body convulsed beneath her ministrations and she did a quick check. None of the larger bones were broken, although his ribs seemed to be badly damaged. His flesh had been warped and bruises were beginning to form in large areas. She ripped his sodden clothes off and called for a footman and some blankets. Large red stains were forming over his upper arms, shoulders and his belly.

His breathing was shallow and there was a peculiar ticking noise with each heartbeat. The women looked helplessly at each other and when the footman arrived Mary directed him to prepare a bedroom. The fire was stoked up and the bedding heated at her command. Piles of blankets were also brought to the room where Phillip currently was and he was rubbed dry and warmed.

The butler was directed to refuse all guests, although Melissa, realising she would need help sent a note out to Paul. Within an hour she had both Paul and James on her doorstep offering help. The two men – as she suddenly realised – shared a set of apartments. Discovering 6 months ago that two men lived together would have meant nothing to her. They could be friends, lovers, whatever. Without more information she wouldn't have supposed. But here and now, the suggestion of two men living together made her wonder if they were friends, or more. It utterly shocked her – she had no reason to be interested in the nature of their relationship. But in this world, she was aware that people were criminalised for being homosexual and that idea of judgement had settled in her own head: now she was no longer uninterested in other people's lives even when it had absolutely no impact on her.

In this case, the shared apartment meant they both, effectively, received her note.

Seeing the physical state of the man lying on the bed, James suggested John would be the ideal person to ensure that Phillip's superiors were aware of the event without risking criminal charges. He immediately visited his cousin in person, while Paul remained to help Melissa.

With John's aid, it was established that Phillip was far too ill to be moved. Initially Melissa had intended to inform the general public he'd had a fit, but the response of the others was so negative that she immediately retracted and suggested a fever instead. The doctor John had arranged for the girls' hospital was summoned and was as flummoxed as Mary. In the absence of any specific treatments, he confirmed the man was too ill to be moved and needed round the clock care to monitor his life signs.

It took a full week for Phillip to regain consciousness, and when he did he was blind. After two days he was returned to his own home for the sake of propriety. Within another two days his vision gradually returned. At first just light sensitive, he gradually developed a sense of colour, form and substance. His job was not a risk. In times of war, the office were used to injured members of their group needing recovery time and John's description had led to more than one official visit from the office. They had been shocked by his injuries and the deformation of Phillip's body. The doctor's confirmation of the seriousness of his condition was enough to cause a certain gentleman to write a note for him to read when he was able saying that they would prefer his full recovery before he attempted to return.

The doctor inspected him thoroughly before allowing him to leave his room. Satisfied that Phillip could now see clearly, eat well and sleep without disturbance, he cleared Phillip conditionally. Until the red marks had faded Phillip was only to take minimal activity and was not to return to work.

Learning to walk was excruciating. The muscles had been damaged by the water pressure and the immediate rest had prevented blood flow from repairing them as it usually would – Mary lacked the empathy for male patients that she had for any women in her care so although she had initially rubbed his legs morning and evening, that had stopped when he woke as he had been so embarrassed by the other necessary ministrations she had undertaken. After the first few attempts to walk, there was more bruising around his lower legs. The doctor recommended he try frequently, for short periods of time only, and once an hour to have his lower legs rubbed vigorously to encourage the blood flow.

After a full week of barely being able to limp, he managed to climb three or four stairs at a time. The bare minimum being possible, he arranged for a chair to carry him and his stick to Melissa's home.

The butler admitted him immediately and plied him with food and beverages. Melissa was out on visits and did not return for the next hour. During that time Phillip recovered from the chair journey which had shaken him considerably more than he had expected it to and just before Melissa returned he had taken a few tentative steps.

Her entry into the room closely resembled a whirlwind encased by a voluminous sheet. He blinked, bewildered, but as she slowed and caught his hand he was flattered to realise that upon hearing of his arrival she hadn't stopped to remove her outer garments and had simply flown to him. After allowing her to greet the gentleman, Mary coaxed him into a chair and began disrobing her mistress. The butler efficiently replaced the decimation Phillip had made of the tray he had been brought with a fresh assortment of cakes, savoury bites (Melissa had less of a taste for the endless supply of sweet foods than most of her social peers seemed to) and tea.

When Melissa was settled, Phillip explained the experiment that had caused his injuries. He had wanted, he explained, to test the outcome of the travel on her. He had not anticipated the effect of being in such deep water and he apologised for the outcome of his unfortunate choice. She laughed off his apology, but demanded to know if his intention had been to put them both into life threatening experiences. When he confirmed, she assured him she was happy to hear several and frequent apologies for that particular decision.

He had the decency to apologise – but assured her that at the time he had been convinced she was safe. As it turned out he had been right and he felt justified. She continued to berate him for attempting to kill her. So their conversational cycle continued.

Eventually she subsided. He went on to explain the origin of his idea. The device had been passed to her by Andy. Was it possible the controller of the device had the safety? The device, he hypothesised, wasn't protecting her, it was protecting itself. The bearer then, had to have the safety that came with it. The French soldiers hadn't been granted the protection of the device, because Andy had never surrendered control of it until he gave it to Melissa's Andy. At which point, Melissa had been given the device by her Andy and became the controller.

Until she passed the device on, her life and safety was guaranteed. She stared at Phillip. It was a simple yet logical solution and she was willing to accept the idea and it meant that going forwards, she would be able to ensure the safety of anyone she wanted to protect.