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The Predator, the Prey, and the Protector (23rd Installment)

December 27, 2018 09:35PM
PART TWENTY-FOUR

Several weeks later, they were in the sitting room (“living room” Jane remembered) in Michael’s apartment. Jane was wearing the morning dress she wore when she first stepped through the portal into the 21st Century. Michael was dressed in the Regency-era clothes he had worn when he visited her townhouse.

It had been an eventful few weeks. A train trip to Chicago. A few days in that city, going to a performance of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, judged by many to be the finest in the world; a performance of Romeo and Juliet at the Shakespeare Theatre (located in a place called Navy Pier, though it had no military function that Jane could see, just shops and amusements, and huge upright carousel that Michael called a “Ferris wheel”), dinner at a restaurant called Lawry’s that made her a little homesick. In the evenings, they watched Adventures in Babysitting, The Untouchables, Scarface (the first one; Michael told her there was another version set in a city called Miami), The Fugitive (a film Michael seemed particularly devoted to, since the policeman in it was a present-day US Marshal), and In the Good Old Summertime.

Then another train trip to the biggest city in the United States, New York. They saw three of what Michael called “musicals,” Hamilton, Aladdin, and My Fair Lady on Broadway, and a musical version of Pride and Prejudice called First Impressions in a theatre that Michael said was “off-off-off Broadway,” but which he had sought out because, “I thought you’d get a kick out of it. It was originally a Broadway show way back in the ‘50’s. I managed to find this revival when I was planning the trip.”

New York movies included The French Connection, Serpico, An Affair to Remember, and Moonstruck.

Then he managed to persuade her to do something that would have been inconceivable when she first saw the frightening flying machines Michael called “airplanes.” He persuaded her to get on one. They had arranged for her to be issued a British passport that would allow her to enter the country of her birth, but with dates and such adjusted. Michael’s friend, Jack Grant (who was also, she learned, a 21st Century policeman assigned to the past, though a British one), had assisted Michael and Ada in acquiring this necessary document.

They flew across the ocean to London, and spent two weeks exploring that city, nearby Heretfordshire, and Bath (where Jane Austen had lived for awhile, and where her friend Anne Elliot had finally found happiness with the Naval officer she had loved for so long).

Along the way, they watched The Long Arm, both Oliver Twist and Oliver!, both Pygmalion and My Fair Lady, The King’s Speech, and Persuasion.

Then a train-trip to Southampton, a restful and luxurious week-long cruise on the Queen Mary 2 back to New York, a train-trip back to Washington, DC, and then a local Metra train to the suburbs, and a cab ride to Michael’s apartment. All told, she had been staying in the 21st Century for about two months.

Now, after a night’s sleep, she was watching as Michael set the time-travel device for the trip home. He pushed a button, and the screen showed her and Michael in her parlor in London. Michael, on-screen was adjusting the time travel device just as flesh-and-blood Michael was doing the same thing here in his apartment. On screen a portal appeared. Ada stepped through it into the parlor and guided Jane back to the other side. Then carrying the device, Michael stepped through, and, when he was out of sight, the portal closed. At that point, flesh-and-blood Michael hit another button, and the image that had been on the screen vanished and became an actual portal to her parlor.

Ada was standing off the side. Jane went to her and embraced her warmly.

“You have been a good friend. I shall miss your company more than I can say,” she told Ada.

“I’ve gotten kinda used to you, too,” she replied. She gave her a peck on the cheek and said, “Mike’s a good man. If you decide to say yes, I think you could be very happy.”

Jane whispered in her ear, “I think so, too.”

With that, she turned to Michael, took his hand, and the two of them stepped through the portal into the suburbs of Washington, DC, in 2017.

*


O’Brian pondered how to broach what was truly the last secret. No really a secret, but just something that was rather obvious, when one thought about it, but had been left unsaid to this point.

He turned to Jane and said, “Haven’t lost but a few seconds even though we’ve been gone for so many weeks.”

“I am happy to be home,” she replied. “It was a wonderful adventure, but I missed my children very much the entire time.”

“Speaking of ‘home,’ there is one more issue that we should discuss.”

“What is that?”

“Well, eventually I’m going to run out of 21st Century bad guys to track down. When that happens they’ll send me back to the States. Which means, my family would have to move with me. Assuming, of course, that I have a family.”

Jane looked thoughtful, and said, “That hadn’t occurred to me, but it does seem quite evident when one stops to think about it.”

“Well, how would you feel about that?”

“The Bible says ‘Let not the wife depart from her husband.’”

“I could quit the service, although I doubt I’d be able stay on as a Bow Street Runner. I got the warrant as a courtesy, but without the diplomatic status, they’d have no reason to hire a foreigner. Particularly a Catholic one. Catholic emancipation in Britain’s still more’n a decade away.”

“I wouldn’t want you to do that. Being a law officer is not merely your job. It is your vocation.”

“All right, let’s say hypothetically we move to the States. Do we stay in this time, or move to the 21st Century?”

“I imagine you would prefer the latter?”

“I would, for a lot of reasons, but the biggest one is health care. Medicine’s a lot more advanced in my time. You know what the infant mortality rate is in this era? Something like twenty per cent. And the maternal mortality rate’s just about the same. Every time a woman gives birth she’s got one chance in five of dying, and so does the kid she’s bringing into the world. All too often both of ‘em die. Now that’s across the board. The rate’s better for someone in your position, of course, but it’s still not great. And the corollary is that it’s a lot worse the lower you go on the social scale. In the 21st Century, it’s less than five out of a thousand. Five out of a thousand compared to twenty out of a hundred. Maternal mortality rate’s even better. A bit more than twenty for every one hundred thousand live births. On top of that, we’ve stopped most of the deadly childhood diseases. Infant paralysis. Whooping cough. Measles. Mumps. Smallpox. All licked.”

“Truly?”

“Vaccinations for all those diseases and more.”

“How is that possible?”

“Well, y’know how, if someone gets, say, smallpox, and survives, he or she can never get it again?”

“Yes, but that’s very rare.”

“Well, what’s been done in my time is that we’ve found a way to give people a very minor case of the disease. Makes ‘em mildly sick for a day or two, sometimes. Most times you can’t even feel it. And the result is they’re immune for life.”

“I’ve heard of that. There was a physician. Named Jenner, I think. He developed a, what did you call it? A vaccine against smallpox some years back.”

“That’s right. Edward Jenner. He made a huge step. And one of the consequence of the discovery he made back in 1797 is that his method has been used on a host of other diseases.”

“Then I think I am inclined to agree with you, Michael. If we agree to marry, we will, when the time comes, move to America, and to your time.”

“Don’t be too quick to agree. There’s a lot wrong with my time. The pace is fast. Sometimes crushingly, destructively fast. And there are a lot of ills we haven’t cured. And I’m not talking so much about the medical ones. Wars are not only still being fought, but are more destructive than ever. Technology’s brought us closer together in some ways, but seems, in many cases, to’ve robbed us of our empathy, making it harder to stay together. Air and water pollution are among the prices we have to pay for all that technological advancement. And I grew up in it. You’d be adjusting to a pace and a social structure that’s two hundred years removed from yours. And it’s been an eventful two hundred years.”

Jane nodded, considering what he’d said. “Nevertheless, I think, on balance there is much to be admired about your time. You are one of the finest men I’ve ever known, and you are a product of that time. If you and I decide to share our lives, I think it is best that we do it in the world you are most familiar with.”

O’Brian heaved a sigh of relief, then got down on one knee and said, “In that case, there’s only one question left I need to ask. Jane Bennet Bingley, you already have my heart, and you always will. Will you also accept my hand and make me the happiest of men?”

“I will, Michael,” she replied softly.

O’Brian got up, took her in his arms, and kissed her passionately. When they broke he began to laugh uproariously.

“Do you find something funny, Michael?”

“No, darlin’, not at all. It’s just that I feel too happy for it all to be contained by a mere smile. I have to laugh or I’ll burst from the sheer joyfulness that’s overflowing inside of me.”

“Lizzy said something similar when she and Fitzwilliam became engaged.”

“Yeah, I remember reading that in the book. Now I know what she meant.”

***
SubjectAuthorPosted

The Predator, the Prey, and the Protector (23rd Installment)

Jim D.December 27, 2018 09:35PM

Re: The Predator, the Prey, and the Protector (23rd Installment)

Shannon KDecember 29, 2018 07:51PM

Re: The Predator, the Prey, and the Protector (23rd Installment)

Jim D.December 29, 2018 11:21PM



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