“Wright!” Christopher called to Eudora after morning exercises. “Come see me a moment.”
“Sir, yes sir, Eudora acknowledged, and jogged across the gymnasium to him.
“Mr. Brenton has a special assignment for you, Wright. You’re to report to his study for a briefing as soon as you’ve cleaned up.”
“Sir, yes sir!” She lingered a moment.
“Have a question for me, Wright?”
“Sir, I was just wondering if you can shed any light on the nature of this assignment.”
“Only that it’s a mission here in Thorthrope rather than the tentaclebeast realm. Don’t worry; when the time comes for your first Crossing, you won’t be flying solo. Go on, now, don’t keep Brenton waiting.”
“Sir, yes sir!” Eudora acknowledged, hurrying back to her quarters to change. As she walked, she mulled over this new course of events. Should I be pleased that I have an assignment, she wondered, or is this going to involve fetching Albert’s shoes from the shoe shine boy?
She changed as quickly as she could, washing up from her basin and re-arranging her brown hair. She’d taken to wearing it bundled into a neat bun at the nape of her neck, despite being unmarried. There weren’t too many other options that were also compatible with SPOT training. It was certainly simpler than trying to curl it each day, a process that, much like lacing corsets, was far easier with a lady’s maid to assist.
Soon enough, she had arrived at Michael’s study. Taking a moment to smooth her skirts, she knocked on the door.
“Come in,” Michael answered.
Eudora entered, and saw Michael and a young man not of her acquaintance stand to acknowledge her. A handsome man with dark features, he was taller than Eudora and even than Michael, and wore a sharp-looking Bishop burgundy vest with a black tailcoat and trousers. “Good day, gentlemen.”
“Good day,” both men returned.
“Miss Eudora Wright, please allow me to present Mr. Gideon Simmons,” Michael said as Gideon gave a polite bow.
“I am pleased to make your acquaintance, Mr. Simmons,” Eudora said, extending her hand.
“Charmed, Miss Wright,” he said, briefly kissing her hand. After only a few short weeks at Thousand Candles, Eudora was still surprised when he did so. I expected that anyone here would shake hands now, she thought. She felt the brush of his neatly trimmed black mustache against her hand. His dark brown eyes met hers for a moment as he released her hand and moved to pull out a chair for her.
“Thank you, Mr. Simmons,” Eudora said, taking her seat. Gideon and Michael then resumed their own seats.
“Miss Wright, Mr. Simmons is a new applicant to SPOT’s Special Services. I’ve called you both here because we have an assignment for the two of you.”
Eudora snuck a glance at Gideon to see how he responded to this information. Nothing changed on his face, but his hand seemed to tense subtly on the arm of the chair. I’d surmise, then, that he has not heard of this matter previously, Eudora thought.
“There is a certain gentleman, by the name of Neil Harper, who is announcing that he has discovered a means of preventing tentaclebeast attacks on the populace. As you well know, Miss Wright, and as you will come to understand better, Mr. Simmons, tentaclebeast attacks are not deliberate assaults on the populace by aggressive tentaclebeasts. They’re the incidental casualties of a war taking place on an alternate plane of reality, one that sometimes overlaps with our own.”
Michael paused and picked up a newspaper advertisement. It was a small section of the classifieds. “Harper is offering a demonstration of this discovery to those with a serious interest. Chances are, there’s nothing to it. None of the papers have reported on this advertisement. All the same, we do have an interest—both in anything that might actually impact the tentaclebeast world, and anything that might influence popular opinion for or against our work. The two of you will attend this demonstration, and observe all that you can. Your mission is to discover what, if anything, underlies Harper’s “discovery”. You’re also to take note of the others in attendance. Find out who they are, why they’re interested in the technique. See if anyone makes an investment or shows signs of doing so. We’ll analyze that information upon your return.”
“Are we to make any sort of offer of investment?” Gideon asked.
“Absolutely not,” Michael said. “The less the attendees remember about either of you, the better. We want you to maintain as high a degree of discretion as you are capable of. You’ll be working under assumed names, and under no circumstances are you to reveal any connection whatsoever to SPOT.”
This is quite unlike anything I imagined, Eudora thought. “What is to be our ostensible reason for attending the demonstration?”
“You’ll be posing as a banker and his wife who have a bit more money than you know what to do with. Mr. Simmons, you can affect interest and ask questions as if you intend to verify the discovery, just be vague about any actual investment. Miss Wright, you won’t be expected to show much interest in the demonstration itself, which should leave you free to mingle with the other attendees and discover their intentions without arousing as much suspicion. We’ll go over your aliases in detail before the mission begins. Any further questions?”
Gideon and Eudora glanced at each other for a moment, then back to Michael. “I haven’t,” Gideon said. “And you, Miss Wright?”
“No, thank you,” Eudora said, more to Michael than to Gideon.
“Very well then,” Michael replied. “That’s all I’ll be needing from you two for now. Oh, and one last thing—don’t discuss your assignment with anyone but myself or Albert.”