The Time Travel Journals: Chapter 8

Chapter 8

June 1906

At the end of her first week, Casey found a doctor to examine Sam. She paced outside their flat, wondering why it was taking so long. Somehow, the longer the exam, the more worried she was that something was seriously wrong. How long did doctor exams take in 1906, anyway? It wasn’t like he could take x-rays or anything.

Eventually, her private eternity ended, and the door opened. The doctor motioned her in and she anxiously looked over at Sam, resting on his couch. He managed a smile for her, but gestured to the doctor. Casey turned her glare on him, but he didn’t seem fazed.

“Dr. Altair has bronchitis, my dear. I’ve given him some medicine to take for the next two weeks and he’ll have to stay in bed for at least one week. After that, if he’s feeling better, he can start taking some sun for short periods, but stay out of the dust. Continue the toddies you’ve been giving him, they’ll do him good.”

He snapped his bag shut–he really did carry a black doctor’s bag–then gave Casey a pat on the shoulder. “He’ll be fine, I think. His lungs are in remarkable shape.” He turned toward Sam. “I’ll bet anything it’s because you say you haven’t smoked in twenty years. Nasty habit.”

He turned back to Casey. “The medicine will make him sleepy, so don’t let him go out alone. I’ll be back in a week to check on him.” His gaze was suddenly piercing. “What about you? No signs of illness?”

She shook her head. “No. I’ve been fine.”

Satisfied, he reached to shake Sam’s hand. “Follow your instructions, now. I’ll speak to my brother-in-law and, once you’re better, I’ll arrange an introduction.”

“Thank you,” Sam rasped it out, already under the medicine’s influence. “I’ll look forward to it.”

Casey watched him leave, feeling an odd mixture of relief and consternation. Bronchitis in 1906 was nothing to take lightly, but Sam had medicine and she could only hope it would be effective. She turned to ask Sam his opinion of the matter, but instead, just covered his sleeping form with a sheet and settled down to read for a while.

***

“So what’s with the doctor’s brother-in-law?” Casey asked as she handed Sam a cup of soup a couple of days later. He was still groggy from the medicine, but was feeling a lot better, just reaching the point where he was chafing about having to stay in bed. Not yet chafing seriously, thank goodness, or Casey would be tempted to ask for overtime at the shipyard.

“Ah, the brother-in-law. Aye, that’s a good thing to come of this.” Sam sipped his soup and paused to let its heat sooth his throat, before glancing up at Casey. She had settled with her own cup at the small table near the hot plate, having changed from her “boy clothes” into a skirt and blouse. She liked to change out of her work clothes when she got home, since she had only two outfits for work and had to wear them all week.

“Good, how?”

“A job, that’s how.” Sam coughed with careful attention. He was, he’d told her, “sick of coughing” and sore from it, besides. He said his chest felt like it was filled with chain saws. “Dr. Thornton and I got on the subject of new advances in technology, due to the easy availability of electricity. One thing led to another, and I told him some of my background. His brother-in-law works for National Telephone and they’re trying to break into some R&D work. He said he’d tell him about me; see if there was work to be had, even if I couldn’t prove I had a PhD.” Sam raised his eyebrows at Casey. “I think I can convince them I know something about physics.”

Casey stared at her soup, feeling real hope stir in her heart. “That would be wonderful,” she said, not missing the tears that filled Sam’s eyes.

***

Three weeks later, Sam stood in the doorway of his new laboratory. Long wooden tables equipped with Bunsen burners. A steam boiler. Pipes and electrical wires running from the walls to, and between, equipment. A fan on each end of the room. Shelves of glass bottles over cabinets with locking doors. Sinks with running water.

He smiled a small, not-quite-bitter smile. Part of him was jumping for joy to have a laboratory again. The other part was crying because it was 1906, and the phrase, starting over, had never been so real, before.

Dr. Thornton had been true to his word. His brother-in-law, a jovial, skinny man with no hair and a twice-broken nose, had been delighted to chat with Sam and in no time, had arranged an interview with Lord Dunmore, the head of Belfast’s local telephone office. Sam spent an hour dazzling Lord Dunmore with his scientific knowledge and the practical applications he could envision. It wasn’t hard. For all his lofty position, Lord Dunmore was not a scientific person, and he depended on subordinates to guide him through the treacherous waters of new technology. Those subordinates insisted that Sam, despite his lack of documentation, was the perfect man to head up their new attempts at research and development. So here he was, with a new lab still to be furnished, his own staff, most still to be hired, and a nearly free hand to determine the directions to take for future technology.

So there, Dr. Riley, he thought as he wandered through the room, letting his hand caress the table tops, before stopping to examine the hood and determine just how much exhaust he had. When he reached the back of the room he faced the door that stood closed in front of him and reached, for the first time, to open it. His office. A desk holding a telephone, a blotter, a pen, and ink stand, with a nice office chair and a visitor’s chair. Bookshelves. Filing cabinet. A window. Not a large office, but adequate. As he placed his briefcase on the desk, footsteps made him look up, to see a youngish man approach the door and stop just inside.

“Hello,” Sam said, waiting for information.

The man smiled, quite sincerely, Sam thought. “Good morning, Dr. Altair.” He held out a hand, which Sam took. “I’m Craig MacDonald, sir. Your secretary.”

“Ah. Mr. MacDonald, quite pleased to meet you.” Sam allowed a moment of amusement. With the advent of computers, personal secretaries had gone the way of carbon paper, and it had been several years since he’d had the use of one. For a moment, he wondered if he could stand having someone following him around all the time, but he reminded himself that without modern office equipment, a secretary was essential. Not even carbon paper had been invented yet, after all.

“Lord Dunmore has asked to see you at nine a.m., sir. He’s in meetings until then. I have submitted your list of requested supplies and hope to begin receiving a few of the items later today.” MacDonald was eager, but Sam had the impression he was competent, too. The young man handed him a set of keys.

“Here are your keys, sir. You’ll find keys for your doors and all the cabinets, as well as the front and back doors to the building itself. Please don’t lend any out; I’ve an extra set for loans if one of your assistants needs one.” Sam nodded, and MacDonald continued without stopping. “The telephones in the building receive and send outside calls in addition to interoffice communications. A list of personnel is in your top right drawer, simply tell the operator who to route the call to. If you’d like, sir, I’ll show you around a bit and let you get your bearings before your meeting.”

Sam nodded again, pocketing the keys and feeling a little overwhelmed. “That’s a splendid idea.” He started to check his wrist for the time, remembering just in time to take out his pocket watch, instead. “We have about half an hour. You can show me around and finish by dropping me off at Lord Dunmore’s office.”

Sam began to enjoy himself. Belfast prided itself on advanced technology, a pride just as strong in 1906 as it was in 2006. MacDonald introduced him to a few of his new assistants, and he promised them he’d have the lab up and running as quickly as possible. They were all eager, which was good, but they were also all men, which Sam hoped to rectify. He didn’t plan on asking permission to hire women. He expected to just do it, provided any at all were graduating with degrees in physics. He’d even take a chemist or two. If he was going to nudge the human race into a quicker paradigm shift in technology, he’d do it with all of them.

***

That evening at dinner, he told Casey about his chat with Lord Dunmore. “It was… interesting.”

She had changed into a skirt and blouse and was eating quickly, hungry after running around the shipyard all day. She’d been listening with amusement to the story of his day, but picked up on his pensiveness. “How so?” she asked.

Sam considered how to describe it. “Part of the problem, I suppose, is my own experience with employers. When I first started working, in the seventies, company culture was still pretty strict–managers were managers and workers weren’t, if you know what I mean.” She nodded and he shrugged. “As a scientist, I pretty much spent my day in the lab and didn’t worry too much about it. My boss was also a scientist and he dealt with the bureaucracy. But as I got older, I turned into my boss and I had to deal with it. By that time, the culture had relaxed, but also, by that time, I was working for the Consortium. Bureaucratic, but with a distrustful, spy mentality.”

He paused while Casey laughed at that. He’d known she would.

“So I’m not wild about managers. It’s even worse here and now, though, when the boss is likely to be Lord Someone and there’s a culture of elitism behind his shoulder. You know that from your experience at Harland & Wolff.”

“Yeah,” Casey gave it some thought. “I think that most of the managers are part of the landed gentry, at least. But there are a lot of foremen who are just regular folks who worked their way up.”

Sam nodded. “Sure, but I’ll bet they never go any farther. You have to have that original step of being part of the deserving class.”

Casey looked puzzled. “But you’re not looking to run the place, Sam. And they have made you a manager, haven’t they?”

“Aye, but that’s not my problem.” Sam laughed at himself. “I’m talking to Lord Dunmore and finding myself feeling impatient with the whole system. Maybe it’s a reaction to the poverty we’ve experienced since coming here. It’s been a long time since I’ve had to prove myself to someone who is assuming I’m going to fall on my face. And it’s not completely his fault. After all, I can’t show him my years of research in quantum physics and string theory and neutrino behavior. All I can do is talk fast about recent discoveries and where I think I can take them, and hope he doesn’t think I’m a charlatan.”

“Did he like what you told him?”

“Aye, he did.” Sam was bemused. “In fact, he seemed a little excited about some of the possibilities. But Case, he’s a businessman. His background is not in the sciences and his first objective is to make money. Still, I think I convinced him that advancing the technology is the way to get ahead. He’s funding my project for an entire year, with an extension guaranteed as long as we have results. Which we will have.”

“That’s great! Will you be able to sneak in the time travel research?”

Sam nodded. “I think so, but it’s going to take small steps. I’ve got to get the technology built up and I can’t do that overnight. It’ll take years to get us to the point of any practical work.”

He leaned forward and pointed his fork at Casey. “But one thing it does mean, is that you can stop pretending to be a boy.”

Her brows went up. “It does? How’s that?”

He spread his arms wide. “I’ll be making plenty of money. My salary alone will give us plenty to spare, but I talked him into a share of any patents and royalties, too. Believe me, those will pay off big-time.”

“And I’m supposed to just be the little woman sitting at home?”

“Oh, don’t start that.” He glared at her. “You can do anything you want to. Go back to horticulture. Go back to school. Start a business. But you can do it as a woman.”

He watched her, confused, as she stared uncomfortably at her plate. “What?” he asked. “You prefer the disguise?”

Her eyes were troubled. “No, of course not. I hate it. But I don’t feel right just going up to Tom Andrews and telling him I’m quitting, either. He hired me for six months and believe me, they are keeping me busy.”

“If he knew you were a girl, he would want you to quit. In fact, he’d have to fire you.”

“Is that supposed to be comforting?”

“It’s just a fact. Do you expect to never tell him the truth?”

She stared at him. “I don’t know. I suppose I thought I wouldn’t.”

“But you want to warn him about Titanic.” Sam tapped a finger on the table thoughtfully. “What are your thoughts about that? Do you want to just give him a cryptic warning and leave it at that? Or would you want to be available to help him through it? Give him details about the ship and all the things that go wrong that night?”

She shook her head, disturbed. “I don’t know.”

“We need to think about it, Casey. Frankly, I don’t think it will help to just warn him and walk away. He’ll need help. And that means, that at some point, you have to tell him the truth.”

She covered her mouth with a hand, her eyes filled with tears. “He’ll hate me, Sam.”

“Ah, lass. He will not.” Sam looked her over intently, before a small smile tugged at his lips. “You have a crush on him, don’t you?”

Her mouth fell open. “A crush?” She closed her mouth and affected a haughty air. “I refuse to answer that.”

He laughed a little. “You do! It’s okay. I’ve seen pictures of him. He was a handsome man. A good person, too.”

Her face bland, she stood and moved to a chair, tucking herself in with a book. “Think what you want. And I don’t need anything to be okay with you.”

That stung a little, but it was worth it to see her blush.

Chapter 9

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