PO'BMC Homepage
About UsCurrent GameArchive


The Spy Who Came
In From the Cold


bat dac gdf jpo js
pgb-w sdw srz


[sdw] Jack Aubrey opened his eyes and saw Stephen Maturin's smiling face hovering over him. "Why, Stephen, there you are," formed in his mind, but the words died in his throat, smothered by an enormous lassitude, a feeling of utter relaxation and inward warmth unlike anything he had ever known. Jack found himself in a room, a pure white room, and in an amazingly warm bed.

Jack's mind retrieved a memory of prodigious wet, soaking cold, white snow, green water, the blue cutter rattling and crashing against ice: Stephen, Killick, Pullings and the others. His face clouded with puzzlement. Stephen touched his hand.

"Jack, my dear. How pleased I am to see you awake. You are not to fret at all, now. You are well: I am thriving. The whole boat-load is... here: you will see them presently. Do not agitate yourself, my dear, at what I shall tell you next. You recall I am sure, how we took to boats after the dear Surprise was crushed south of the Horn. You recall the swamping, ice all around. How we clung to the boat for a moment; I am sure your fist quite froze on my collar. You also recall the fish I showed you earlier, stunned into a state of suspension in the super-cooled saltwater. Apparently we sank in a pocket of such water. We have been rescued, as you see, and are well cared-for here in Boston."

"Boston!" Jack erupted.

"Just so. We were found by some Americans and brought here to recover. There is talk of going home soon."

Ashgrove blossomed before Jack's inner eye, evaporating the confused miasma of time and distance. How long had he kept home and Sophie and the children out of mind, away from the troubles, the Horn, the sinking, the boat. Home; soon. Tears welled in his eyes. Stephen's grip tightened; his voice hardened.

"I have chosen my words badly, I find. There is one more thing I must tell you now. Time has passed since we foundered. We find ourselves in the last year of the next, that is to say, the twentieth, century."

[gdf] The white glazed lights of the Institute had long since been dimmed, but the unflagging and ever patient Dr Wilson continued his research into petrification. The walls were covered with every conceivable scientific award and trophy, save for the Nobel prize. Upon Dr Wilson's desk a well thumbed, fragile and ancient copy of "Tar Water Reconsidered" lay amongst the many newly acquired photocopies of relevant Admiralty records, Dr Maturin's many notes, monographs and speeches to the Royal Society and the petrified fish. However, Dr Wilson was considering the most suitable candidate for the third re-animation: the seaman identified as K looked prime for it. He was reflecting upon Dr Maturin's firm suggestion that K should be the last to be restored to life. Perhaps there was a degree of hidden animosity between Dr Maturin and his petrified companion? It was most unlikely, given Stephen's good nature and invaluable help, both medical and financial. It had been a stroke of such incredible good fortune to have succeeded in so completely in restoring Dr Maturin to full health in both body and mind. Stephen's willingness in offering to defray some of the vast expense of the rare drugs and specialist equipment needed was a vital step in continuing the petrification programme. Why, the very effect of compound interest on Stephen's considerable financial assets over a 180 odd years would be more than enough to achieve their joint scientific and personal goals in this respect.

Dr Wilson redirected his mind away from the glorious possibilities of a joint Nobel prize and continuing scientific research with Doctor Maturin to the crucial matter in question: which, or rather who should be next? On balance the frozen petrified corpse of K had naturally suggested itself as the next case to be revived. A robust, heavily-built ape-like man with strong arms and shoulders, which were so particular to those of the lower deck. There was the grey pinched face with its deathly pallor, horribly contorted yet perfectly preserved by the strange ocean green ice. The lifeless, unblinking open eyes were set too close together. The blind eyes stared out aggressively, as if K could somehow still see or feel what had robbed him of his life and wanted to show his ongoing visceral dislike of death itself. It was an unwholesome spectacle, but Dr Wilson was convinced that K had the constitution and the strength of will to live. Dr Wilson was glad of Stephen's welcome interruption which told him the news of his second patient's full recovery. He beamed with pleasure and pride; he could smell success like the smell of salt in the sea air off the Cape.

[dac] Georgina Aubrey looked at the note handed to her by the communications officer on HMS Illustrious. The young Wren grinned at the wording of the note, someone at the embassy in Washington had a sense of humour. "..You are hereby requested and required to present yourself to the Assistant Naval Attaché Commander Findlay at the British Embassy Washington..." Transport details followed.

Three hours later she disembarked and hurried towards the black Daimler Sovereign parked on the edge of the helicopter pad. An Embassy official was holding the door for her. Inside as the car pulled away the official handed her a buff folder, with a security classification stamped on the cover. "Your briefing Lieutenant" was all he said. "The journey will take about half an hour".

She walked up the steps of the British Embassy with trepidation, nodded to the doorman and showed her pass to the marines, who saluted. "Lieutenant Aubrey to see Commander Findlay".

The library at the Embassy had clearly been built to resemble a gentleman's club and still, a hundred years later, retained enough of its character to irritate Lieutenant Georgina Aubrey when she was shown in by a member of the diplomatic staff. She walked over to the pair of deeply buttoned leather Chesterfields where the Assistant Naval attaché sat. He got up as she approached and, acknowledging her salute, extended his hand. "Aubrey, you're early."

"Sir."

"May I introduce Admiral Wesley, Naval attaché to Washington." There was a snore from a reclined figure sheltering behind a copy of Horse and Hounds and seated on the opposite Chesterfield"

"Sir."

"Sit down Lieutenant," the Commander said with the flicker of a smile. "I imagine you know what this is about," he continued showing Aubrey a copy of The Sun newspaper bearing the headline "CAPTAIN POPSICLE".

Aubrey winced and nodded. "How can I help sir?"

"This has caused a great deal of diplomatic activity Lieutenant. The Irish and Spanish embassies have both expressed an interest in Maturin, and the Americans are being very close mouthed about their revival techniques. However, we have finally agreed that Aubrey and Maturin should have a British chaperone, at least for the moment. Lieutenant, you seemed appropriate. — Your biography of your ancestor has now been published I believe....good. — The Yanks were quite resistant at first, but have grudgingly agreed that this is at least in part a Royal Navy matter, so you will report to Dr Wilson and introduce yourself to the two patients. Whilst you are there, however, we should be obliged if you would pay particular attention to the work of Dr Wilson. Professor Skinner of Naval Intelligence will brief you on what to look for. This information you will report solely to myself or the Admiral, is that clear?"

"Yes Sir, anything else Sir?"

"No, Aubrey, that is all. Dismissed."

She got up to leave.

"Not quite David," came the gravelled voice from behind, overruling his deputy. A grizzled face appeared from behind the copy of Horse and Hounds and a predatory eye fixed on her. "A word of caution, Lieutenant," he continued in a serious but kindly tone. "I have read your book on 'Lucky Jack Aubrey', my dear, and I would advise against mentioning the words 'Back Pay' to your illustrious forebear. You might find yourself sailing around the Isle of Wight for the rest of your career."

He smiled as he said it, but somehow Georgina didn't find that comforting

[jpo] Some kindly member of the staff had placed a large naval clock at the end of the room, presumably to make the surroundings more congenial, and it sang out its bells now most satisfactorily. Jack Aubrey stared morosely at the brass plate under the face.

" Edinburgh, 1868. As if something made only fifty years after my death would put me more at ease."

There was a sharp report behind him. Dr. Wilson had thrown his – clippings board? – onto the desk and risen from his seat.

"Really, Dr. Maturin, you're being unfair. I understand, we all understand, your desire to leave this room. You can imagine how anxious I am to present you to the world. But you've seen the newspapers." He gestured at the disordered stack on the worktable. "The world is in an uproar. Surely as a man of science you appreciate the enormous impact that your resurrection has had on humanity. The spiritual questions, the ethical issues..."

"You have the leisure to indulge yourself in ethical issues, Dr. Wilson. Captain Aubrey and I must, alas, deal with more quotidian concerns. How is a Christian soul to sit in a chair that turns in circles, for all love? Or read under this debilitating light? Why must I peck like a barnyard animal at this machine to get the simplest information to appear on its glass?"

"The Q is five letters away from the U," said Jack. "Now what sense does that make?"

"No one expected your transitions to be easy, gentlemen. Of course you're disturbed by the tremendous innovations of our century."

"It is not the innovations which distress me," said Stephen coldly. "It is the poverty of their character."

Before Wilson could answer Stephen help up his hand. "Promises were made to me across this table, Doctor, promises of freedom and home. Captain Aubrey has been revived for nearly a week now, and still we are confined to our quarters. You speak of, or should I say allude to, vital information we possess that requires our confinement here. Yet what could that possibly be? My medical and political knowledge is two centuries out of date. My friend could sail the Surprise entire under the stern of one of the carrier ships you showed us on this insidious computer. Of what practical use can either us be to you or your government?"

They all turned to of the sound of the security locks sliding back. A slim young woman stood silhouetted in the doorway, a corolla of red hair picked out by the corridor lights.

"Here is someone who can answer that question," said Wilson.

Stephen rose politely, but the woman had eyes only for the figure at the end of the room. She crossed the floor quickly.

"Captain Aubrey, I am Georgina Aubrey. Your great-granddaughter, sixth removed."

[srz] Jack stood in open amazement — it having never occurred to him that though Sophie and George, the twins, and the rest were long dead, he might yet be faced with flesh of his flesh, blood of his blood. Yet here it was, in the form of the steady, lithe figure of a Naval officer — female! — with flashing blue eyes and an air of easy authority rare in one so young. Jack collected himself and addressed her in a controlled, though unsteady voice. "I am pleased to make your acquaintance, Lieutenant; for I make no doubt that bauble at your shoulder makes you a commissioned officer in His Majesty's Navy?"

"Her Majesty's Navy, actually, Sir: it's been that way for more than 45 years, since a few years after World War II."

Wilson caught Stephen's eye and asked to be excused. "I will take my leave, too, so I will, Jack. Sure and it's time you'll be needing to acquaint yourself with young Miss Aubrey. Ma'am." He bowed and followed Dr. Wilson from the room; turned and looked back with benevolence tinged with not a little envy as he pulled the door closed, Jack's familiar profile — caught in the window's oblique light with a haunted, bemused expression — echoed in the younger, feminine features of Georgina.

celestial navigation turned out to be one of Georgina's many interests, and they spent a happy span of time engrossed in the minutiae — all of which served to improve Jack's opinion of his young companion; but especially when the topic turned to late 20th century notions of a frigate, a missile frigate for all love, somewhat at the expense of his usual innate, complacent sense of well-being. "Lately, it occurs to me what a long, strange trip it's been."

She looked at him sharply, but spoke in a neutral tone. "I don't blame you for feeling like that, Sir. It can't be easy to wake up in the next century...and the end of it, at that. Here, why don't you sit down; you look like you've seen a ghost."

"I should rather think that I am the ghost," smiled Jack, wanly. "I'll tell you what is it, though. We've been kept here in this sterile place when our dearest wish is to be away, with my crew if possible, and at sea. What possible benefit can we be to the Americans, with our antiquated notions of warfare and positively antediluvian — Stephen's word, and a good one — standards of dress and behavior. Do you know: Wilson, who is a very fine fellow in many ways, came in during breakfast while we were just pouring our second pot of coffee — miserable, thin stuff, I'm sorry to report — pulled over an empty chair, sat down without so much as a how-do-you-do and helped himself to the last of the bacon. He mumbled some poor, weak thing about 'not being a morning person' and excused his actions — clucking and snorting over a sort of folding tablet with a luminous panel — on the basis of not yet having had a chance to read what he called his 'overnight e-mail'. Can you credit such impertinence?"

He paused, considered; then relented. "But I cannot fault him for his treatment of us in all other respects; a most congenial companion and very learned in the flora of the great empty interior of this continent, so Stephen tells me. And now, my dear, you must call me Cousin; or better, Jack. I cannot bear to think of myself as your great-great-great-grandpapa. And what may I call you? We must not rely on the formalities of the Service, not when we're kin, and in private."

Georgina smiled broadly, having recognized at a visceral level during his speech that here was the living, breathing apotheosis of her many years of research and writing on the Royal Navy of the early 18th century. "Cousin Jack, please, I wish you would call me Gina; it's what my mates at the Royal Naval College called me, and my baby brother before them. My baby brother, Jack," she explained, fishing out a well-worn photograph from a pocket of her uniform trousers. "And there's Mum, and Daddy." Jack stared mutely, his head beginning once more to spin in an alarming fashion. Georgina's mother was the very image of Sophie, just as he had left her not eight months before — no, no, 150 years ago, and more, he reminded himself.

"But, now, Cousin Jack, we must shake a leg. My instructions from the Intell blokes were quite explicit. As your chaperone I'm to check you and Dr. Maturin out of here, ostensibly on a day trip to see the U.S.S. Constitution; at least, that's the excuse we're giving your hosts. In fact, as interesting as Old Ironsides must certainly be to you we're going to have to give her a miss, and we're not coming back here, either. I'm afraid we're going to have to leave your crew with the Americans for the moment, not that they're likely to complain...your crew, that is, not the Americans. I can just imagine what they'll be saying this evening when we don't turn up."

She gave Jack a thin, tight lipped smile while examining his face. Jack's countenance showed concern for his crew, but already Georgina could see him drawing himself up, straitening, his whole being seeming to grow as he contemplated action, any action, after these last, bewildering few days.

Satisfied, she continued, "We're going somewhere a bit farther away. There's a Royal Navy attack sub..." She held up a hand to stem his protestations, "...or should I say submarine, a ship built for long-distance underwater travel — she's   Amphigorey, and she's just off the mouth of Boston Harbor. Commander Starkey is waiting down by the Constitution's pier with a private sailboat to ferry us out to our rendezvous. He's American, I understand, but entirely dependable; he's done the Navy great service before, as they briefed me in the helicopter on the way up here."

Jack ignored the concern he felt for his poor, inanimate crew — there was nothing he could do about it just now — and the confusion he felt about submarines and...helicopters, was it? He gave Georgina an enormous grin and a wrapped her in a bear hug, saying, "I'm proud to call you whatever you like, Gina; proud to call you an Aubrey, and your words have encouraged me no end. Nothing like the prospect of action to clear the head, eh?"

"I couldn't agree with you more, Cousin Jack. But we must get going; there's not a moment to lose."

[js] Jack and Stephen followed Georgina down the main corridor of the Institute, towards the exit. Wilson had wanted to accompany them, had been positively dogged in his insistence — it was his guests' first exposure to an uncontrolled environment, the necessity of monitoring their reactions and physical well-being was clear; he himself had wanted to visit the Constitution since his boyhood on the Canadian prairies — but Lieutenant Aubrey had over-ruled him with a firm mention of the limited space in the official car and hints of her associate's — Professor Skinner's — strong influence with the Nobel Prize committee. Wilson had watched them leave with a barely-disguised anguish.

They had not been permitted to visit this part of the building before. Stephen reflected on the harsh lighting and bare walls; this age seemed to confuse utility with sterility, decoration with ostentation. Meanwhile, Jack considered Georgina's legs; though they were encased in trousers — trousers, for all love! — they were clearly as pretty a pair of limbs as could be wished for. She was, however, both his descendent and ... well ...an officer and a lady; prodigious confusing.

Georgina turned and said, grinning: "I didn't think we'd get away from that man so quickly! We have half an hour before we meet the car."

They reached the doors, which moved apart on their approach with an electronic hum; this startled Jack and Stephen considerably, a fact they both did their best to conceal. Georgina glanced at the two men's faces with discreet curiosity as they stepped out into the twentieth century.

It was a glorious day. The campus of Wilson's university looked at its best; the grass freshly cut and the white walls gleaming in the sunlight. A lecture period must just have ended; a great crowd of students streamed out of the various buildings and along the paths, chatting and laughing as they made their way to their next class.

"I must say, Gina, I like the look of your time after all," cried Jack... "Tell me, does your duty allow us to lay out a few cents on a bite of food? — I am uncommon clemmed."

"I do not scruple to tell you that we have consumed nothing since breakfast," added Stephen. "I would see Jack eat; he is not long revived and must look to his health."

"I'm sure we'll be able to find somewhere to lay out a few dollars," laughed Georgina.

. . . . . . .

Georgina gazed at Jack's back as he stood in line in front of her. "This," she reflected, "was probably a mistake."

They had reached the front. The assistant cleared his throat. Wilson had dressed his charges in sweatshirts, jogging pants and slippers; loose, comfortable clothing with no awkward zippers or fastenings. As they left, Jack had pulled on his tall Hessian boots, carefully dried out after two centuries in seawater. Under his left arm, he carried a large and very bedraggled cocked hat, an object he had had no intention of leaving behind at the Institute. Lacking any understanding of the grammar of late twentieth-century clothing, he did not realise that his appearance might be odd.

Behind the counter, the assistant gathered his courage. "Yes, sir?"

Jack peered at the lad's badge. "Well, Mr Dwayne, I'm glad that you're here to help. Very glad indeed. I should like a meat pie... the exact sort don't signify ... whatever you have in the larder, a couple of bottles of red wine and... and some toasted cheese, done to the very point of perfection."

Dwayne gaped. "I'm sorry, sir. We don't sell any of those items." He clutched at a word he had understood: "Do you want a cheeseburger?"

Georgina caught Jack's eye and nodded. "If you please," said Jack.

"A regular cheeseburger, SuperDouble or KingSize? Fries with that? A coke? Or do you want a shake?"

"Do I want a what??? The boy's an idiot," said Jack, reddening. "I'll have no more of this nonsense. I should like to speak to the owner." And in a particularly loud, sea-going bellow: "Pass the word for Mr MacDonald!"

. . . . . . .

Findlay and Skinner, who were standing on the pier next to the moored yacht, sighed together with relief as an embassy Rolls drove towards the harbour. The car drew up and, as Stephen and Jack tried to release their seatbelts, Lt Aubrey stepped out and saluted smartly.

"Captain Aubrey and Dr Maturin, sirs! I have briefed them on the way here about

[bat] ... the submarine. I'm afraid the doctor was quite disappointed when I told him there would be no windows in the hull to observe the marine life, but he was somewhat mollified when I told him of the hydrophones through which the calls of the various sea creatures can be heard."

The squeal of automobile tires, like the sound effects in a telly police drama, caused them to turn towards the city's skyline. Three unadorned dark-coloured sedans, all of American manufacture, Georgina noted, sped along the dockside and braked sharply to a halt. From the passenger side of the lead car — it always seemed awkward to Gina for the passenger to be in the righthand seat — a tall, dark-haired man emerged. He strode purposely towards the group of British officers, his rock-like jaw jutting forward with patent determination. "Special Agent Zimmermann, Boston Field Office of the FBI," he barked in introduction.

Stephen Maturin raised an eyebrow. These Americans were so enamoured of using initials at every opportunity. Listening to them was like a perpetual word game, teasing a reverse acrostical meaning out from the letters. Field Office of the FBI? The Farmers' Botanical Institute, perhaps? Georgina Aubrey noticed the doctor's quizzical look. "The Federal Bureau of Investigation. You might think of them as the American national form of the Bow Street runners."

"You seem to have lost your way," Zimmermann said, his steel-blue eyes glinting with malicious pleasure. "Easy enough to do, the way the streets are torn up with this Big Dig project, but you'll find that Old Ironsides is across the river, over in Charlestown. We'll be happy to give you an escort. In fact, I insist upon it. So you don't get lost again."

Stephen glanced anxiously at Jack, fearful that their disappointed hopes of escape would tell heavily against his friend's still precarious physical condition. Aubrey's gaze was fixed out across the water, his expression a confusion of emotions. Involuntarily the doctor turned to follow his stare. A sailing vessel cut through the choppy blue waves whipped by the strong breeze. She had three masts and on each were squaresails. Maturin searched his memory, digging at the nautical lore painfully gathered over the past decade and more. It was ... yes, he was quite certain of the correct techical term, now ... it was a ship! Emboldened by this evidence of his mastery of maritime vocabulary, Stephen ventured a comment. "Why, I do believe it is a frigate, Jack, much the same as our dear Surprise."

"A Sixth Rate," Jack corrected without thought, "of twenty or maybe twenty-two guns. She looks a good deal like the Seaford of my youth. Sold out of the Service in '84, I think. Could the Americans still have such vessels in their Navy? Although, I must say that I expected better of them in their rigging."

Special Agent Zimmermann gave a nasty chuckle. "Oh, she's from your Navy, not ours. HMS Rose, they call her. Actually, she's a civilian vessel — a reproduction of a Royal Navy ship from a couple of hundred years ago and used as some sort of training vessel and vacation cruise ship. My kids want me to take them down to see it this weekend."

Maturin let pass any curiosity about why Agent Zimmermann's goats would wish to view a sailing vessel. Jack's face had taken on a familiar cast, one Stephen had seen upon many an occasion when the promise of a prize was on the horizon, a positively piratical gleam in Aubrey's blue eyes.

[pgb-w] At least once each day, often on encountering Gina, Jack Aubrey broke into a deep and satisfying laugh.

"Plan B!" he would gasp. "Ain't that prime!"

Gina found her forebear's laugh infectious, as did any crewman of the nuclear Amphigorey within earshot. Female officer she may be, but anyone who could put one over the Yanks like that deserved respect.

Stephen thought he had adjusted better than Jack to this amazing century, and that he had become inured to the many strangenesses it presented. But when the embassy Rolls had taken a sudden swerve into a Boston alleyway, up a ramp and into a large van — just as an identical car rolled, as it were, out of a second van, with two people in the back resembling, at brief glance, Jack and himself, he was unable to suppress a cry of astonishment. Jack had simply grinned at Gina. "Capital ruse, Ma'am. False colours ain't in it!"

On the journey across the Atlantic Jack had taken easily to submarine life, the sailor's knack of living in the moment and accepting circumstances as they came serving him well. Stephen, notwithstanding the diving bells in his past, found the enclosed space oppressive, and was more than usually excited by the sight of land.

With naval efficiency and dispatch they were taken off the sub in a motor launch, landed in a quiet tidal reach, driven across the flat expanses of what Jack thought was Norfolk, through a town that Gina insisted was Cambridge, and deposited in comfortable rooms in a large Georgian mansion set in its own grounds. Stephen had caught a fragment of its name as the car had pulled through the gates, and had remarked to Jack on the aptness of their new domicile. "Strange are the ways, indeed, my dear".

Breakfast, real English breakfast, with real English coffee, in a fine bright room looking into the park, had cheered Jack immeasurably, though Stephen had returned to his fretting about their ultimate value to whoever now had charge of them. Jack had nodded and murmured in the right places at Stephen's worrying of the problem but his mind was slipping away once more to Hampshire, to Sophie, to the children. When Gina Aubrey came into the room, followed by three persons of serious demeanour, he slammed shut that door of memory. His intuition told him that matters were afoot.

"Captain Aubrey, Dr Maturin: may I present Commander Findlay of Naval Intelligence, Professor Skinner, Director of the Navy's Special Research Projects Laboratory, and Dr Baker, Science Adviser to the Prime Minister."

"At last", exclaimed Stephen."We are to know something of what is purposed for us, are we, gentlemen? I take it from your rank and station that you are not here to make idle chatter with us?"

"Indeed not, Dr Maturin," Dr Baker said. "The Prime Minister wishes me to tell you that he recognises and feels for your discomfort in the last few days since the, er, awakening, but that the secrecy was necessary, and for it he makes no apologies. You are, he wishes me to say, adventurers in a great new British initiative in science and history."

"Political language has not changed in nearly two hundred years, I hear", Stephen replied. "Jack, what is that phrase you find so useful on these occasions? 'Directly At Them', isn't it?"

Far from taking offence, Baker chuckled. "Well, we all must spout some line or other now and then in these days. Professor Skinner, the floor is yours."

Professor Letitia Skinner rose to her feet.

"Captain Aubrey, Dr Maturin, you are intruders, trespassers, and you pose a great danger to the world, indeed, to the universe. But I intend to put an end to your existence here. I and my colleagues here at Strangeways are going to send you back where you belong!"

[sdw] There followed a long and complex description not of time travel, or metaphysics, or any of those subjects that Jack might have expected to learn about, far less of relativity, a subject in which he had started reading, and about which he was very much looking forward to continuing his discussions with Hawking, but rather, of committees and councils, grants and reviews, industrial collaborations, EUs, NERCs and GSCs, special initiatives and matching funds.

Presently Stephen slipped from the room, found his way into town, across the fields and ha-has, past the red mechanical oxen, watching carefully for the colourful horseless carriages that hurtled over the smooth roads at unimaginable rates of speed. He imagined the joy Diana would take in a smooth green vehicle standing beside the bank. There he exchanged one of the small pieces of gold he had secreted into his Redsox cap, took himself off to a clothing shop and, asking for something suitable for, say, a university seminar, stepped out with the confidence of passing for a native, bought a ticket to London, and sat back to enjoy the countryside, in keen anticipation of his dinner with Mr O'Brian.

[gdf] As Stephen secretly slipped away to his secret rendez-vous with Mr O'Brian at Black's, Captain Aubrey was called upon to create and hold a diversion. Jack's imposing presence, his detailed and insurpassable knowledge of the Age of sail; and his ability to command and speak made the gathered audience putty in his hands. After two and a half long hours as the centre of attention, Georgina Aubrey noticed only too clearly that Jack's stock of anecdotes and accumulated wisdom had begun to fail...

"And Vice-Admiral Sir James de Saumarez said to us: Why is an alchemist a-like Neptune, god of the sea? He stumped us good and proper. Well, he says it is because they are both a see-king! Oh, ha! ha!! ha!!! Wasn't it the most complete thing you ever did hear? He dished us all with that one. Oh, ha, ha, ha!"

. . . . . . .

"Well met, Dr Maturin at long last," said Himself as he rose from his reserved table to firmly shake Stephen's hand, "And I'm heartily sorry that Captain Aubrey couldn't make it."

"Thank you indeed. Most kind of you. My pardon for the delay," said Stephen as he fiddled with his brand new exquisite crimson silk tie. "I was delayed by that fussy coxcomb of a doorman who said that I was improperly dressed! Oh the shame of it – I was forced to buy a tie at some exorbitant, nay extortionately inflated cost from a nearby local tailor's shop."

"And will Captain Aubrey be coming?" asked Himself

"Alas, no. When I last saw him, he was making false signals so as to confuse and confound the opposition if you understand my meaning," replied Stephen cautiously and further asked in discreet low voice, "but who is the elderly gentleman sitting in the armchair?"

"Pray don't mind the gentleman at the next table," said Himself with a knowing smile, "He is the Anglican Bishop of Tonbridge and is as deaf as a post. Quite the ecclesiastical historian by all accounts. As for Captain Aubrey I dare say we will meet up sooner than expected."

This last remark was given with such a penetrating look which Stephen immediately understood as significant. Looking around the room Stephen noticed that Himself had tactfully reserved the table by the middle window in the long front room which had such commanding views over St James' Street which had for so long been the personal favourite table of Sir Joseph Blaine. The room was very quiet for a Tuesday afternoon in winter. After a glass or two of the Black's best claret, they quickly fell into a long and very engaging conversation upon such varied topics as ornithology, beetles, the Entomological Association, the Royal Society and Sir Joseph Banks.

"Besides the Joseph Banks biography, I had fervently hoped that you would do me the honour of casting your eye over the draft manuscript of the next book to check any inadvertant inaccuracies of mine, it wouldn't do to have you picking me up upon every detail you know!" said Himself as he handed over a weighty tome in a leather bound cover. "Perhaps you would be so kind as to give it a title! There's glory for you Sir! Fact and fiction combined make strange bedfellows. I had intended to give it to my editor this very afternoon..."

"I should be delighted and deeply honoured, but I must warn you that I am somewhat amiss with important papers and documents that go all a-hoo with me. If this be the only copy then perhaps it would suit better if it remained with you?" suggested Stephen, as he browsed through the precious manuscript.

"I dare say that my editor could run us off a copy in minutes. It is one of the wonders of the modern world with which even I am not on familiar terms!" replied Himself.

"Excuse me, but there is surely something amiss here...perhaps you have mislaid the manuscript," said a puzzled and very perplexed Stephen, "Little do I or Jack know of such things! It would appear to be a complex treatise upon the heretical doctrines espoused by those radical Dutchmen of the Synod of Dordrecht. Perhaps the Bishop could..."

[dac] enlighten us further".

O'Brian beckoned to the bishop who smiling rose and offered his hand to Stephen. A small confusion occurred as Stephen bent to kiss his Grace's ring in preference to the expected clasp of the hand but this was soon cleared up with good humour.

He was a large man Stephen noticed, with the face of a pugilist and club-like hands that did nothing to contradict his visage. The eyes were however bright with amusement as he told Stephen,(somewhat loudly due to his aural disposition),that this was indeed a copy of the 1618 synod and formed a considerable part of the notes of his own book. A volume on Jacobus Arminigus in which he planned a complete refutation of High Calvinist principles. Indeed he was of the opinion that the only good Calvinist was a flammable one. (He had always been of high Anglican persuasion Stephen should understand, indeed his 18th Century ancestors had in fact been fervent if impoverished Catholics).

The mistake was obvious, O'Brian had by accident picked up the Bishops notes in mistake for his own, an error that was soon rectified as the Bishop had seemingly done likewise.

It was however as his Grace explained of singular good fortune or providence that the confusion had taken place since he had greatly wished to make Dr Maturin's acquaintance, ever since he had heard of his "arrival" as whispered gossip in the House of Lords. Polite conversation naturally ensued between the three of them. Later as the Bishop was about to take his leave he lent towards Stephen and said in a quieter voice, "Doctor, despite the obvious fascination of our age to a man of science such as yourself, it is clear that it is somewhat tarnished by the supposed inability of your return."

Stephen sadly agreed that this was so. The Bishop looked thoughtful for a moment then said "You understand that I tell you this in the utmost confidence, but I feel bound by an old family debt. Ask Professor Skinner or Admiral Findlay about the 'Chronos Project' Doctor, you may find their reactions interesting."

Stephen watched the Bishop as he collected his coat and papers and said musingly, I wonder what he meant by 'a family debt'".

O'Brian shrugged "Who knows Doctor, Bishop Padeen was ever an obscure fellow"
 

At this point, we heard of Mr O'Brian's death and decided to stop the game.