Log of Captain Christopher Drury
May 21, 1883
Estimate: 5 minutes
Actual End: 8:57am
Estimate: 5 minutes
Actual End: 9:29am
Estimate: 15 minutes
Actual End: 10:08am
Estimate: 25 minutes
Actual End: 10:17am
Estimate: 10 minutes
Actual End: 11:03am
* * *
Christopher sighed, rubbing his forehead after the tentaclebeast he was working with drifted away from him. I’m not getting any closer, he thought, reviewing the entries. He stood up from the simple wooden chair in which he’d been sitting. Behind him was a clock, and in front of him, a table and his log book. For each trial, he would note the time at which he began Interfacing, and then attempt to separate after a specified amount of time. Then, he checked the clock again to see when he actually returned. And always, the entries had little to do with one another.
Originally, he’d made the trials with “Boulder”, as Gigi liked to call him, the tentaclebeast that Christopher Interfaced with for missions. But that one—Christopher was dissatisfied with the appellation “Boulder”—brought him no closer to estimating his time spent Interfacing than working with any other tentaclebeast.
He stood and waved to the tentaclebeast, indicating that they were done for the morning, and gathered the logbook to convey to Mr. Charles Valentine, resident cartographer. Not that this is going to be of any use to him, Christopher thought. He felt tired. Much more tired than a couple goes at Interfacing should merit, he told himself. He turned his steps towards Mr. Valentine’s study, near to Albert’s but a bit of a ways from Mrs. Valentine’s workshop. Her rooms were set off from the rest on account of the great din her efforts were wont to produce.
Charles knocked on the door. “Come in,” was the reply.
He entered an office at once very different from and very similar to Mrs. Valentine’s workshop. Maps, more maps, and the tools of map-making took the place of the more forceful tools of Mary’s trade. The primary difference, however, was in the presence of the room’s chief resident. Whereas Mary’s exuberant, intense, and focused personality spilled out over her very worktables, Charles had a quiet demeanor, and he gave the impression that he was at once in the world and outside of it.
“Good day, Mr. Valentine.”
“Good day, Christopher. How are you getting on then?” Charles pushed up his gold-rimmed reading glasses on his long nose as he looked up at his visitor.
“Oh, right enough, I suppose. I have the time trials you requested.”
“Ah you do? Good then. Shall we have a look?”
Christopher placed the logbook on his desk and opened it to that day. “I’m no closer to estimating it correctly, I’m afraid.”
“Ah, you may not be, but if I can find the pattern behind all of this, that might give us something.” Charles poured over the log with interest. “I’m quite excited to make another survey. I’ve been hounding Albert about it for months. Really, the longer I have to wait in between missions, the harder it is to correlate everything.”
Christopher mentally weighed the importance of Charles’ work against the difficulties of protecting him on a battlefield and chose to remain silent on the subject.
“Well, I can’t say I see it as of yet,” Charles continued. “But I’ll get to work on it. Thank you for bringing this by.”
“My pleasure. Will you be needing more trials?”
“If you can fit them in. I know you’re busy, though…”
‘Busy’ doesn’t begin to describe it, Christopher thought. “Not a problem. I’ll have more on your desk tomorrow afternoon.”
“I’m in your debt, Captain Drury. In the absence of field-work, this is the only data I have.”
“Let’s not forget who you’re working to help, now,” Christopher chimed in amiably. “We’d be “lost” without you, Mr. Valentine.”
Charles laughed. “I do believe you can make a joke of anything, Christopher.”
“Nah, that’s not me—you’ve gone and confused me with Albert.” Charles laughed harder as Christopher took his leave.
He yawned as he shut the door behind him.“There’s no rest for the wicked,” Christopher said aloud to the empty hallway. “Time to round up the team for a surprise run around the grounds.” He could hear them groaning and complaining already as he headed for quarters.
* * *
June 3, 1883
Mission Room, Thousand Candles
Christopher tumbled through the portal, bleeding at his left shoulder, left hip, and right calf from an assortment of wounds. Boulder, the tentaclebeast on his shoulders, clung tightly to his right side and hung limply from his left. Marcus, a member of SPOT’s support staff, gaped wide-eyed for a second before rushing forward with a medical kit.
“Dear God,” Marcus started, “what in the name—”
“Not me, Marcus. Go get Albert. Get him now.”
“Sir, you’re wounded, and protocol de—”
“Yes, sir.” Marcus dropped the kit and ran to wake Albert.
Christopher waited until Marcus was through the doorway, then Interfaced with Boulder once more. Return, he thought, and Boulder’s agreement was simultaneous. They crossed.