Posted on 2010-05-09
This wasn't Hertfordshire.
Fitzwilliam Darcy looked around in a measure of confusion, then checked the coordinates on the time machine and in his tablet again. No, that was definitely what he'd written down.
Perhaps the trees had filled in a bit more than usual this year. And, granted, he didn't really recall much of his last trip to this part of the country with Bingley back in '11. It's perfectly possible this was simply another part of Hertfordshire. He'd have to stop at the nearest house or inn and get directions to Meryton.
He looked up and down the dirt road in resignation. There was nothing for it but to walk. There was certainly no habitation within sight. Hefting the time machine a bit higher under one arm, he set off.
This wasn't the first time he'd tried to time jump. He'd already gone to Ramsgate to stop his sister from eloping with Wickham, and he'd jumped to Pemberley to get more supplies for his mission. But he'd had the old man with him then, showing him the ropes -- or rather levers, as it were. This was his first jump on his own, to a wholly new location. He had obviously made a slight miscalculation.
Nothing was looking familiar. And as he walked further, he began to wonder if he weren't in the wrong part of England entirely. The trees were definitely all wrong.
He glanced back as he heard the sound of a carriage. It was coming up quickly, rattling over the uneven and pitted dirt roadway at a pace patently too fast. Probably some hell-raising young Corinthian in a phaeton, showing off to the ladies.
How right he was. Darcy felt his lip curl as the cloud of dust came close enough for him to see the dashing young man driving and the laughing young woman, holding her hat as they raced along. Darcy stepped off the side of the road in order to avoid being struck.
As they came abreast, the young man obeyed Darcy's wave and pulled his flashy curricle to a halt. "Can I help you, sir?"
"I sincerely hope you can," Darcy said. "Do you know, how far am I from Meryton? And am I in the right direction? I've been walking some time and have yet to come across a village or any signpost."
"Meryton?" the young man echoed. He turned to his partner. "Do you know of a Meryton, Miss Marianne?"
The young lady, who was attempting to right the curls that had escaped her bonnet, appeared mystified. "Why, my sisters and mother and I have been here in Devonshire only a short time, ourselves. I should think you, with your aunt here, might know more of the countryside."
"I beg your pardon," Darcy said, "but did you say Devonshire?"
The young man laughed. "Of course, man! Where did you think you were?"
Darcy felt the color rise to his cheeks. He had no idea what to say that might sound sensible. When the two young people in the curricle subsided their laughter, he managed, "And what, then, is the nearest town?"
"We are near Allenham, are we not, Mr. Willoughby?" asked the young lady. "Do you think we might be able to give him a ride?"
"What, in this curricle, Miss Marianne?" the young man replied. "There would hardly be enough room for all of us."
Darcy quickly interrupted. "Oh, no, I shall be perfectly content to walk," he said, thinking only to get rid of them so he might figure out where he had gone wrong in his calculations.
The two young people exchanged a glance, and clearly came to the conclusion that continuing on at their dashing pace was much more preferable to offering a ride to a stranger who did not seem to know where he was. With a tip of the hat, the young man slapped the reins and started the curricle again, the motion almost causing the young woman to fall backwards, and they disappeared in a cloud of dust, laughing.
Darcy turned back to his time machine. It was apparent, then, that he had done something wrong. He checked his tablet again, comparing the coordinates with those in the machine and concluded that he had no doubt written it down incorrectly. Perhaps it would be best if he returned to Pemberley and started again.
He entered the correct coordinates and flipped a few switches, and the time machine whirred to life. Within a heartbeat, he was transported to a new location. But what a location! It certainly looked nothing like his study at Pemberley. For one thing, it was not even indoors.
Darcy gazed around, mystified, at the blinking lights and signs, brighter than a thousand candles. And they were everywhere! Forming words, pictures -- my goodness! And what pictures! Darcy blushed, averting his eyes from the image of a very scantily clad, well-endowed woman in an animal skin, painted on the side of a wall of some sort, only to find himself confronted by a large seething crowd of people in equally strange clothing, the majority of it quite scandalous. It was chaos, with people moving in every direction, many of them holding strange cone-shaped objects or large pink- and blue-colored clouds. The din was deafening and the smells overwhelming, worse than any London affair to which he had ever been.
Slowly, Darcy became aware of someone hailing him, and he turned in that direction. A strange-looking man was standing behind a short wall under an awning, asking him to come closer. He did as bid.
"Have we been introduced?" he asked politely.
The man looked at him oddly, then shook his head and brought out a gun. "Step right up, sir, and win yerself a nice prize for yer lady."
"My lady?" Darcy echoed. "She's not mine yet, of course. You see--"
"Yessir, step right up. Ten shots to hit ten o' the targets an' win yerself a nice prize. Stuffed animals, remote-control cars, footballs, an' all ye have to do is hit those ten targets." He looked Darcy up and down. "Even a poof like you, sir, should be able to hit one target."
Darcy straightened, offended. He had no idea what any of these words this man was saying meant, but he did know how to shoot. "I shall take your challenge, sir," he said, stepping forward and setting down the time machine on the shelf before him.
"Five tokens, that is."
He wasn't completely sure what a token was, so he pulled out five gold sovereigns and handed them over. The man was clearly an idiot, because he seemed not to know what to do with them. He stared at the coins for a few moments, then held one up to the light. After a minute, he bit down on the coin, then shook his head with a shrug of his shoulders and handed over the gun.
"Here ye are, sir. An' we'll start this up, and ye'll hit ten o' the targets. I'll back up a bit, there, so ye don't get me with any wild shot," he added, chuckling at his own joke.
It was a strange looking musket, but Darcy assumed it would shoot normally, so he raised it to his shoulder and took aim. He was not entirely sure where the birds would come from that he needed to hit. But if they were flying about in such a small enclosure, it would surely be a simple thing to hit them.
He waited, and after a moment a painting of a strange-looking duck was drawn across the stage at the far end of the booth. That was rather odd, he thought, but continued to wait. Perhaps that had been some sort of decoy. Next, a painting of a bird was dangled across the stage.
In annoyance, Darcy glanced over at the man standing beside him. "Are you going to have the dogs flush out the game, or shall we stand here forever as we watch these exceedingly ill-drawn birds be paraded about?"
The man shot him a strange look. "Those are the target, sir. Ye have to shoot them."
"Shoot a piece of wood?"
This was all very strange, but Darcy sighed and put his gun to his shoulder again. It was all of a piece with the rest of this adventure. As another of the badly drawn ducks moved across the stage, Darcy shot it in the head.
"The sight on this gun is slightly off," Darcy muttered as he looked around for a new gun or, at the very least, more ammunition. When he did not find anything, he glared at the man beside him in annoyance. "What? Must I reload my own gun with rocks on the ground? Where is the ball and powder?"
The man again gave him a look of confusion. "It's a BB gun, man. Just pump it." When Darcy did not show any hint of understanding, the man sighed and taking hold of the gun, demonstrated the action. He handed the gun back to Darcy, who took it with amazement. He'd never seen such a thing.
When he'd gotten past the marvel of this new contraption, he returned to the task at hand. Within two minutes, he had let off the last of his ten rounds, striking nine of his ten targets. The man beside him was impressed. "Quite an eye, sir. Quite an eye. Ye can select any of the prizes on the top shelf, there."
Darcy had no idea what many of these objects were. At last he spotted something relatively familiar. "I shall take the fish."
"The stuffed shark, then?" the man said, using a long pole to hook the fish. He swung it to Darcy, who accepted it hesitantly. The plush object seemed to be some sort of pillow, he thought, and not a freshly caught trout. Ah, well. He was sure his housekeeper would know what to do with it.
"I shall call it Elizabeth," he decided, tucking it under his arm and picking up his time machine again. "Now, sir, do you know the way to Pemberley?"
The man paused in putting the gun in the rack behind him and turned back. "Pemberley?" he echoed. "Where's that?"
"In Derbyshire, naturally."
The man pulled off his odd-looking hat and scratched his head. "I don't rightly know where any Darbsure is. Never even heard o' the place."
Clearly, either the man was an idiot or Darcy had gone far afield again. Likely both. He sighed and thanked the man and walked off, his fish pillow under one arm and the time machine beneath the other. He needed to now find somewhere he might go to do another time jump. With so many people around, it would be difficult. Darcy spotted a tent that looked promising. He ducked inside.
This was definitely the wrong tent. Darcy stepped back, coming up against a pole as the lion in the cage growled and paced towards him. He'd seen one of these beasts in London before, but not at such close quarters. He hoped the bars would hold.
He worked quickly, flipping through his tablet for another coordinate as he shot nervous glances at the lion. At last he found one -- his home in London. That should work. He input the coordinates and started the machine.
The next moment, he was standing in a room with clean white walls. There was an odd scent to the air, and for some reason Darcy felt as though he was lighter than usual. "Where am I?" he muttered, glancing up at the ceiling.
"What? Oh, good day, Mr. Darcy. Didn't see you come in."
Darcy spun around to find someone vaguely familiar sitting on a tall stool. Before him on a large table was a machine not unlike Darcy's own, full of pipes and knobs. Something black was smeared on the smock the man wore, and his hands were dirty. It wasn't until the older man's eyebrows lifted in a sardonic expression that Darcy knew where he had seen him before.
"Mr…Bennet, is it?"
The older man's expression grew more amused. "Indeed, it is, Mr. Darcy. I am glad you could remember my name in the few weeks you've been gone. I hadn't realized you were returning to Deimos Base so soon."
Darcy echoed the name hesitantly. He had never heard of such a base, certainly, but he didn't know every borough... "Are we somewhere in London, then?" he asked, ever hopeful.
His question made Mr. Bennet chuckle, and the other man picked up a tool of some type from the table and leaned over his machine again. "London," he muttered, shaking his head. After a few minutes of tinkering, when Darcy continued to stare silently, Mr. Bennet looked back up and gestured to the machine in the younger man's arms. "Where'd you find the engine?" He peered at it more closely, adjusting his glasses. "I assume that's some sort of antique engine. Haven't seen that type before."
Darcy looked down at his time machine, still not understanding. "So ... we are not in London, then?"
Mr. Bennet's expression changed to one of bemusement, and he leaned back on his stool, crossing his arms over his chest. "Wrong planet, son," he said with a chuckle. He looked at him a moment longer, finally taking in his appearance. "Were you at some costume party? I don't believe I've seen that style of dress before."
"It is from the finest tailor in London," Darcy said, adjusting his waistcoat with an offended expression.
"Ah. Earth," Mr. Bennet said, nodding his head. "That explains that. So, come to see my engines, have you?" He pushed himself off his stool and walked over to one of the walls, where he placed his palm over a box and the wall slid open. Darcy stepped backwards in surprise, but Mr. Bennet beckoned him closer. "Take a look at this one," the older man said with pride in his voice, as he pointed out a mass of metal. "V8, five litre. Used to power one of the great cars of the old century. They used to call them supercars. As if they could compare with our ships." He chuckled again. Darcy leaned in closer to study the machine. Looked nothing like his time machine. There was nowhere to input the coordinates.
"And take a look at this," Mr. Bennet continued, moving further into the room. "I would imagine you'd never seen one of these complete, unless you found it in the archives."
Darcy looked and could quite honestly say that he had never seen anything like it. If he screwed up his eyes and tilted his head to the side, he could maybe see that it looked something like that walking machine he'd seen a German fellow riding, but not nearly so silly. It did have two wheels and a sort of seat in the middle. But it didn't seem to be made of wood.
"It's a motorbike. A Minsk, to be exact," Mr. Bennet said in a voice that revealed his awe over his own creation. "I pieced it together, based on some old plans Lizzy and I dug up, and a few parts I managed to scrounge up last time I was on Earth. Quite a project."
"Indeed," Darcy said.
"Would you like to ride it?" Mr. Bennet said, turning to his companion. "I could get clearance in the hallway, and you could take it for a spin.
Unsure what a spin was, Darcy hesitated, but the older man slapped him on the back and said, "Of course you would. Nothing to it."
Within a few minutes, Darcy and Mr. Bennet were standing out in a long, empty hallway. Darcy still held his stuffed fish under one arm and his time machine under the other.
"Here, I'll take that," Mr. Bennet said, taking hold of the time machine. "Hmm. Suprisingly light. Is it made out of carbon fiber?"
Darcy shrugged. He couldn't even get the blasted thing to work. At Mr. Bennet's directions, he threw one leg over the bike contraption, the motion much like getting on a very, very short horse. He seated himself and took hold of the handles. Mr. Bennet described how to go faster and brake, and then helped him start it. The noise startled Darcy, and the vibration of the machine beneath his seat was unnerving, but he held on grimly. A little too grimly.
He panicked when it started forward, but apparently that was what he was supposed to do, because Mr. Bennet cheered him on. He tentatively turned the handle again. He moved forward a little, about as fast as a person walking. In fact, Mr. Bennet was keeping pace with him.
"This is quite an experience," Darcy said when they had gone about ten feet. "But I think my fish and I have had enough."
Mr. Bennet laughed and patted the stuffed animal, tied with a bit of string to the handlebar. "Indeed. Your shark seems to have enjoyed its trip." He helped Darcy turn off the vehicle and they brought it back to the workroom. After wheeling it into the closet, Darcy turned to find Mr. Bennet studying his time machine more closely.
"So, how does this work?" the older man asked.
Darcy came over and, pulling out his tablet, flipped to the page with the coordinates for his study at Pemberley. "It's rather simple," he said. "You pull this lever, then this button, then turn this knob until the correct numbers are on the readout here, and when -- ah. This needs to be pushed in." He paused and studied the machine, then looked back at his tablet. "I think that was what I was doing wrong."
"Doing wrong?" Mr Bennet echoed.
"Indeed. Because when I then press this lever, it should--"
But Darcy was talking to empty air, because he was standing alone in the middle of his study, where he had intended to be.
Well, that was an adventure, he thought, sitting down in his chair behind his desk. It was just a pity he'd left Elizabeth behind.The End