[identity profile] copperbadge.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] originalsam_backup
Twenty-Two

Early the next morning, a series of square bank boxes, ironclad and locked, began arriving at the Central Bank of Canberra from all over the settled south. One after another they flowed into the bank and were opened, checked, locked and stored.

At eight-thirty precisely, Mr. Eric Grimes appeared in the bank's narrow lobby and was ushered into the storage vault, where he re-checked each bank-box and gave orders for ten percent of the gold sheets to be counted. When that had been done and the counted sheets set aside, he stacked those boxes neatly and had his son-in-law and his Tribal servant load them into a waiting car. The car, escorted by local police, trundled innocently towards a grand administration building which, among other things, housed the Land Sales Office.

Mrs. Parsons, apparently bored by matters of finance, met them at the office at nine and lounged about, drinking an iced lemonade while Mr. Parsons approved the rough survey map that laid out the land purchase and Mr. Grimes accepted a sheaf of title deeds and contract papers from the clerk behind the counter. The ten-percent down payment was counted again and locked in the office vault.

Next door, an excitable group of lawyers and rich men had gathered in the private back room of a restaurant, and for the next several hours the contracts were vetted, the map examined, and the parcels doled out. A courier arrived to notify them that the full amount of cash had been received and counted by the bank, and to bring them a series of mortgage papers.

At noon, the fountain pens came out and the signing and witnessing began. Mrs. Parsons and the Tribal, Lafayette, were called away to see to some last-minute substitution in the luncheon menu while the lawyers were still shuffling papers. The businessmen lit cigars.

At two o'clock that afternoon the lawyers took their leave and the rest of the gentlemen went into the restaurant to meet their wives for a late lunch. Mr. Grimes carried the thick packet of papers next door to the Land Sales Office and returned with a map, bound in red ribbon, which he placed next to his plate as he treated them all to a luxurious, highly alcoholic meal. The toasts were frequent but quiet, so as not to alert the other patrons to their purpose there, and afterwards most of them stumbled into cabs and off home to sleep out the worst of the afternoon heat.

It was noted, though not remarked upon significantly, that Mr. Parsons was perhaps more attentive than necessary when thanking the family servant for her assistance. Poor Mrs. Parsons pretended not to see.

That evening the young couple and Mr. Grimes were seen attending a concert of the newest music from a slightly unorthodox composer who used Tribal drum rhythms and folk ballads, carefully collected from old musicians who could remember learning them as children in Great Britain. The result was interesting, all agreed, but hardly the sort of thing to take hold in any big way, the infectious beat of the music notwithstanding.

The next morning, Mr. and Mrs. Parsons began looking for a house in Canberra, which they specified must have spacious quarters for servants, a workshop space for Mr. Parsons, and a suite of rooms for Mr. Grimes. Mr. Parsons was clearly a fine catch for a young woman -- intelligent, well-placed in the burgeoning engineering industry, clever and charming. Inquiries, both subtle and unsubtle, were beginning to circulate about where his family must hail from (such a peculiar accent he had) and whether there were any more ambitious young Parsons men at home.

In the end, Ellis reflected later, it was his own training of Jack in the subtle art of charm and conversational deflection that nearly ruined everything.

***

"This being wealthy is exhausting," Jack said, lounging back in a chair in the garden gazebo of the hotel, waiting for an early dinner to be brought to them. "I didn't know there were so many things I had to care about when I was buying a house."

"Nor did I when I was your age," Ellis said. He was working on a ledger of accounts, Purva checking his numbers as he went, though in his mind he was going over the plans for that evening's assault on the bank. Everything had to be timed right, and luck had to be on their side, and Ellis never liked plans that depended on luck. "You're full young to be considering such things."

"Jack was going to live in railman barracks all his life," Clare said affectionately.

"Nothing wrong with barracks, they're cheap and clean," Jack replied. "Anyway, I think being a ride-along mechanic isn't really where I want to work anymore."

"If you mean you needn't ride someone else's train when you have your own airship, I quite agree," Ellis said. "Clare, what did you tell the estate agent?"

"That we'd be deciding in the next few days," Clare said. "I told him we might go to Melbourne tomorrow to see about a holiday cottage."

"Fine. You two and Purva can drive out to the Res with Libris in the morning -- "

"Actually, I need to stay here," Jack said, surprising them.

"Why?" Clare asked, sitting up a little.

"I'm meeting with the Advancement Council of the Rail Workers' Union tomorrow, early. They want to start negotiations for pay. It'll be interesting; you don't get labor-contract law at Harvard until you're a third year."

"Will you be all right?" Ellis asked.

"I think so, I'm going to listen and nod my head a lot."

"Good lad. I'm sure you'll keep out of trouble," Ellis remarked.

And everything did seem to go smoothly, particularly the robbery that night. The bank boxes were where Ellis, who had asked the bank to show him its vaults, expected they would be. The locks were easy enough for Purva to pick, and Libris showed up right on time with a truckload of bricks and three clerks from the Archives to help. It wasn't easy work -- listening with one ear for anyone who might surprise them, carrying bricks into the bank and gold plates out as Purva picked the bankbox locks one by one -- but it was satisfying, in a way. A job well done was something to be proud of.

"We'll see you at the Res tomorrow morning," Libris said, as Andrea climbed into the driver's seat of the truck and Ellis into the passenger's. "This is a hell of a game, Graveworthy."

"The best always are," Ellis answered.

***

Purva didn't get much sleep, the night of the robbery; there was a lot to be done, and the danger kept her awake and alert. She crawled into bed near sun-up, and was woken a scant few hours later by William Libris, knocking on the door to the suite and looking just as tired as she felt. Jack and Clare were already awake and dressing; when they went down to the lobby, Jack ducked into the restaurant and came back with a basket, top tied shut. Purva had seen people carrying them as packed lunches, purchased from the hotel kitchen.

"I wanted to say, go safely today," he said, looking shy.

"Of course," Purva answered.

"We'll be back tomorrow at the latest," Clare added, turning to Jack. "Sure you can fend for yourself?"

"I think I can manage," he said drily. "Anyway, Clare, you and Libris go on ahead, I just need a word with Purva."

Clare lifted an eyebrow at him, but led Libris away. Jack offered Purva the basket hesitantly.

"I thought you should take something to eat," he said. "And this way you can say you're carrying it for Clare."

"Merci," she said softly. "We will all enjoy it."

"Well, yes, but I did it for you, is the point," he said. "I mean. You know. I'd kiss you if I could, but..."

"You must not," she added, and gave him a mock-stoic look, holding it until he cracked a slight smile. "There will be time. Now you must go to your union labor railroad people."

"Right. Isn't good to be seen whispering with the servant," Jack sighed. "Look after yourself."

"I have, I will."

***

Jack had been nervous and occasionally sullen about having to woo rich men and women on Ellis's command, but for all his inexperience with labor law he wasn't nearly as worried about meeting with representatives from the Rail Workers' Union. After all, railmen were more or less the same the world over, even here; the grubby, nail-bitten man who'd approached him about the negotiations was easy to talk to, and seemed pleased that Jack treated him with respect. If he felt bad at all, it was only about telling the workers there would be new business for them when nobody had any actual intention of running a transcontinental rail line.

It was nice to dream, though. He thought about it as he walked along Canberra's streets, heading for the union hall where he'd agreed to meet the Advancement Council. He'd read about the building of the transcontinental line in the US, about the problems they'd encountered and the final, dramatic meeting of the engines from east and west in Utah when it was complete. The great undertaking had opened the western coast of the country to easy trade and travel; more than that, it had opened Mexico, Japan, and China to rapid trade with the whole of the country. Australia's settlements seemed to cling to the coasts, but if Jack could open the interior, the western coast could trade easily with India and Africa.

What a ride it would be, across that big flat open plain, past the great hunk of rock the Kooris called Uluru. He'd seen sketches of it since the first day in the map room; perhaps, when this was all over, he could convince the others to take the airship southwest with him and see Uluru for themselves. Or perhaps he could simply fly west with Purva, over Uluru and Africa and the ocean, until they reached Barataria.

He was caught up in daydreams, but if he were being honest with himself he wasn't a spy and probably wouldn't have noticed the men following him anyway. He almost didn't notice the police officer until he was at the steps of the union hall.

He did stop when he saw the officer, and a faint frown of worry crossed his face. There had been labor riots in America's recent past, and strikes that turned bloody when the police were involved. Not many since Jack had been born though, and never to do with the railmens' union. Still, this was a different country --

He felt other men step up behind him, and when he turned he saw they were in suits, cheap suits, and they were watching him.

"Mr. John Parsons?" the police officer called. Jack whirled again. Heads began to pop out of the ground-floor windows of the union hall.

"Yes?" he said uncertainly. "I'm here for the labor meeting."

"You'll need to come with us, sir," the policeman replied. One of the men in suits put a hand on his arm and Jack jerked away.

"Why?" he asked.

"Hey! You there!" one of the men at the windows called. "What's going on?"

"Mr. John Parsons, you are under arrest -- "

"Bloody well he is not!" someone yelled. "It's a peaceful assembly for business -- "

" -- on several counts of treason, fraud, and attempted fraud," the policeman finished. Men and women were pouring out of the door to the labor hall now, surrounding the little tableau. Jack saw sticks being picked up casually, the glint of brass knuckles coming out.

"Are you interferin' with the union?" a woman demanded of the police officer. "We have a right to assemble!"

"Nobody's under arrest if Mr. Parsons comes quietly," the officer answered. One of the men tried to grab Jack again and he dodged out of his grip.

"He's here to meet with the union!" the woman insisted. There were calls of agreement from the gathering crowd. "About the transcontinental job!"

"There ain't no transcontinental job," the officer yelled.

Silence fell. This time, when one of the men laid his hand on Jack's shoulder, Jack didn't resist. He could see the faces of the union members: some disbelieving, some betrayed, some confused.

"I'd say now's a good time to come with us," the man holding his shoulder said.

"Yeah," Jack agreed, and felt himself propelled forward, away from the crowd, even as his arms were dragged behind his back so that manacles could be applied.

***

When Clare and Purva arrived at the Res, parking in the same distant field as they had last time, Dr. Saturday was waiting for them. So were a pair of Elders and, beyond them, what seemed to be curious onlookers.

"I have things to attend to," Purva announced to Clare, as they climbed out of the automobile. "I think you will too. Are you well, alone?"

Clare smiled and turned to her, and Purva watched with delight as her hair darkened, her skin shifted subtly and her true face emerged. It was eerie, like the magic that Stormpirates possessed, but Purva was not one to shrink from any form of magic. Besides, how many in the world could see something like this?

Not many, she imagined. She didn't think glamours were very common, to judge from Graveworthy's reaction to it.

"I'll be fine," Clare said. "Say hello to Ellis for me. How long will it take?"

"Some little time. I will see you at lunch, dinner maybe."

"Clare," Dr. Saturday called, coming forward. Clare shot Purva a smile and turned.

"Dr. Saturday," she replied. "I'm glad you're here."

"Thank you for coming," Saturday said. "I need to take you to the lab, and we have a lot to discuss."

"I've managed to arrange to stay the night here if I have to -- I mean, we won't be missed in Canberra," Clare said, as they walked off. Purva waited until they were gone and then set off to the south-east, skirting the boundaries of the Res.

She made good time, her long stride carrying her through the dry creek bed and up the crudely-cut steps efficiently. As soon as her head was above ground she saw it -- the high, shadowed profile of the automobile that Libris had found them, really more of a haycart with an engine on the front.

Ellis was seated on the rear gate of the cart, leaning against one of the wall-poles, pen moving efficiently as he wrote in a small notebook of Australian make, the paper smoother than European paper but also more delicate, more prone to blotting and rips. She waved at him and he glanced up, lifting a hand in acknowledgement; when she reached the cart she jumped onto it next to him and dug in the basket Jack had given her, coming up with a funny-shaped fruit the Australians called a finger-lime, a tough-rinded thing filled with small, juicy seeds like a pomegranate. Without speaking, Ellis slit it neatly open with a pocket-knife and presented her with half.

"So," she said, when she had swallowed her first bite, "no trouble on the road, oui?"

"No trouble at all," Ellis replied, licking his fingers. "Clare and Jack all right?"

"He saw us off; she is with le docteur."

"Bon. That's the best place for her to be," he said, pulling his long legs up and hooking his heels on the platform-back of the cart, standing.

"She does not mind the theft, does she?" Purva asked.

"No, I think not. She didn't object when I told her and Jack about it, but I don't know if they understood fully what it meant." Ellis bent and hauled the first fabric-wrapped bundle in the truck towards the edge. "Shame we had to leave the lockboxes at the bank."

"And what would they say, they come in this morning, the lockboxes, they are gone? No, the lockboxes must stay there, good little imposters. This, I like this theft, it is a good theft."

"It's a lot of work," Ellis replied. "You start piling the bundles next to the shack. Once we're unloaded I'll take the first shift digging. How deep a pit you think we need?"

"Do not know -- depth of a leg, maybe? You know there are many legends about pirates burying gold, but this is the first time I have done it," she added, grunting as she began transporting the heavy bundles of gold -- until so recently, property of the Central Bank of Canberra -- over to the little shack where they'd first met the Wiradjuri Elders.

"Sort of poetic, don't you think?" Ellis said, lowering another bundle into her arms.

"I do not know," she replied. "Jack, he will find it funny. I can say to him, this Graveworthy, he thinks like a pirate. I'm sorry I called you stupid."

"When did you call me stupid?"

"Many times on the airship. In my mind," she added. Ellis rolled his eyes and dropped another sack into her waiting arms.

"Talking of the airship," he added, "do you still want to go to Barataria when this is all over?"

"Yes, but I think maybe you do not need to."

"Oh?"

"Jack will take me."

"Is that your clever plan, or his?"

Purva looked dry. "Jack does not have clever plans about people, only machines."

"Too true, but it might have been his attempt at one. How are you and he getting on?" Ellis asked, dusting his hands on his trousers.

"Very difficult. Well, no, very easy; he's devoted and I favor him. But I see difficulty. Perhaps too much. Still, why worry now? We will go to Barataria. What will you do?"

"If we're successful here, I'll probably be appointed to negotiate a treaty between the Crown and Australia, whoever's ruling it. Then back to Great Britain, write another book, spend a lot of time sleeping. What exactly will you do in Barataria?"

"Find my family. There are uncles, aunts, cousins. I carry the letter of marque still," she added, patting the pocket of her trousers. "I will demand a ship and a crew as my -- what is it? What is owed to me."

"Birthright," Ellis said, checking the knot on one of the bundles.

"Now I can demand it in two languages."

Ellis laughed. "Fair enough. Come on, let's shift this."

***

They worked well into the afternoon, first transferring the bundles out of the automobile and then taking turns digging up the shack's pounded-dirt floor. By the time Purva had begun loading the bundles into the pit, Ellis was feeling the strain in his shoulders and arms, rubbing them to keep the muscles from cramping up.

"I am getting too bloody old for this work," he remarked, as Purva laid the last of the bundles in the pit and began shoving the displaced dirt over them. He rummaged tiredly in the food-basket, came up with a bread roll, broke it open and began to eat it dry.

"I think so," Purva agreed. "You should retire, write many books, send me free copies."

Ellis laughed. "Is that because you think I'm old or because you like my books?"

"Both! But you are not so old. Just too old for this. Best leave to the young."

"Well, as one criminal to another, I thank you for your consideration," he said. "Here, let me."

He took the shovel from her and finished up the burial of the gold blocks, tamping the earth down as much as possible, stomping on it when he felt it was solid enough to bear his weight. Purva got up and came after, sprinkling dust and pounding it down with a blunt-ended stick, then adding more dry earth to make it blend into the floor around it. Ellis tossed the shovel into a corner and surveyed his work -- first the flawless-looking floor, then the sore red marks on his hands.

"I could murder some of that stew -- " he started, breaking off when he saw her peering out the door.

Purva held out her hand. "Give me your gun."

"Why?"

She jerked her head at the doorway. Ellis heard the growling sound of a motor in the distance -- an auto, drawing closer. Probably just tourists going up to the Res...

Purva took the revolver from his hand and pressed herself against the open frame of the door, peering out.

"Coming for us," she whispered.

"How many in it?"

"Hard to see -- one, I think? No, two."

"All right, don't shoot yet. Make it count."

She gave him a scathing look and returned her attention to the car outside. He heard it roll to a stop on the rough ground and then the door open and close, and footsteps coming closer --

"Don't shoot!" William Libris shouted, as Purva thrust her head and shoulders through the doorway and took aim. "It's me, don't shoot!"

"Libris?" Ellis asked, as Purva lowered the revolver and stepped outside. He followed her, almost running into Libris. The younger man looked terrible -- nervous, fidgety, and upset. "What on Earth -- ?"

"Jack Baker's been arrested for fraud and treason," Libris blurted.

"Porquoi," Purva asked, looking shocked. "I -- why?"

"Your hotel rooms are being searched," Libris plowed on, ignoring her. "There are warrants issued for both of you and for Clare -- "

"The bank job?" Ellis asked, glancing back to where the gold lay buried. Libris gulped.

"No, not the bank -- someone's discovered he's not with the railroad. They took him away in shackles -- there was nothing I could do, I wasn't there!"

"You did the right thing coming to tell us. Are you implicated?"

"Nosir," Libris said.

"Then the Kooris are safe?"

"Yes, but Jack -- "

" -- will handle himself well, I've no doubt," Ellis said. "How did you find out?"

"Servants at the hotel. The police started searching your rooms as soon as Jack left. A couple of ours went to warn him -- they were trying to tip him off when they saw the police take him away."

"Have you been to the Res yet?"

Libris shook his head.

"All right. Do you need to take the auto back?"

"A friend drove me up. He needs to go back, but I can stay."

"Send him home and go up to the Res. We'll follow shortly, once we've hidden the truck. It's all right, Libris," he added, kindly. Libris seemed to calm a little. "Listen -- don't tell Clare. Don't let anyone else tell her. If they do, stop her from going back, because she'll try."

Libris nodded.

"Right. Go on with you then," he said, and gave Libris a gentle push towards the car. Purva turned to him and unleashed a torrent of ungrammatical French that he could barely follow.

"Purva -- Purva! It's all right. They have him locked up, things could be worse," he said, holding out his hands to calm her. "We don't execute without trial on land, Purva, and he's not a pirate. There's no safer place for him right now than behind a few stout iron bars."

"We must free him," she said, determination apparently allowing her to drop back into some form of English.

"I agree, but you must stay calm," Ellis said. "Clare's going to be difficult enough to stop without you joining her in the mutiny. You need to do as I say, Purva."

She nodded. "So long as you say to do something."

"We need to go up to the Res. Their timing is bad -- we're safe here, they have no idea where to look for us and Jack won't tell them. Poor lad," he added. "I'm sure he's terrified, but he knows how important this is. He knows what to do."

***

LET ME TELL YOU A STORY BOUT A MAN NAMED CHARLIE
IN A TRAGIC AND FATEFUL TIME
HE PUT TEN CENTS IN HIS POCKET
KISSED HIS WIFE THAT MORNING
WENT TO RIDE ON THE CAMBRIDGE LINE!

CHARLIE HANDED IN HIS COIN AT THE HARVARD SQUARE STATION
MEANT TO TAKE IT TO JAMAICA PLAIN
WHEN HE GOT THERE THE CONDUCTOR TOLD HIM
ONE - MORE -- PENNY!
CHARLIE COULD NOT GET OFF THAT TRAIN!

They might have rescued him from a riot of angry rail workers, but Jack had not felt particularly grateful to the men who had arrested him, especially not after they threw him carelessly in the back of an armored automobile and punched him a few times to keep him quiet. He had no affection either for the jailers who'd taken custody of him at the local precinct; he supposed he could have tried to be a model prisoner, but he doubted they'd have treated him much better.

He wasn't feeling great about being in prison, but there wasn't much he could do about it other than refuse to confess to anything and to tell the men who questioned him that Mrs. Parson and Mr. Graves had taken their servant and gone, and good luck finding them.

So he decided to do his best to live up to the reputation he imagined Ellis would have had if he'd been imprisoned.

He'd already worked his way through several of the dirtier train songs he'd picked up at Harvard, and had moved on to political train songs. In his own single-minded way, Jack was a master of psychological warfare.

AND DID HE EVER RETURN?
NO HE NEVER RETURNED
AND HIS FAAAAATE IS STILL UNLEAAAARNED
HE MAY RIDE FOREVER CROSS THE BOSTON RIVER
HE'S THE MAN ON THE CAMBRIDGE LINE!

NOW ALL DAY LONG CHARLIE RIDES O'ER THE RIVER
CRYING WHAT WILL BECOME OF ME?
HOWEVER WILL I GET
TO SEE MY SISTER IN CHELSEA
OR MY COUSIN IN ROXBURY?

"SHUT UP!" one of the jailers yelled, and Jack made a rude gesture in his direction before belting out the next verse.

CHARLIE'S WIFE GOES DOWN TO HARVARD SQUARE STATION
EVERY DAY AT A QUARTER PAST TWO
AND THROUGH THE OPEN WINDOW
SHE THROWS CHARLIE HIS SUPPER
AS THE TRAIN GOES RUMBLIN THROUGH!

BUT WILL HE EVER RETURN --

"Right, that's enough," the guard who'd shouted at him said, and stood up from his chair. He was enormous -- taller than Jack, who wasn't by any means short -- and built like a barrel. He slammed the barred door of the cell against its housing, growling. "You don't shut up, I'mma come in there and show you what happens to -- "

"OI!" someone else shouted. "You touch him and Bell'll have your stones in a sack!"

"But he's -- "

"Bell's special prisoner," the other man called. "Let him alone, he isn't doing any harm. Ignore him and he'll probably stop."

The man bared his teeth at Jack, but he went back to his chair. Jack waited just long enough for them to relax before starting in again.

NOW YOU CITIZENS AND SOLDIERS
DON'T YOU THINK IT'S A SCANDAL
IT'S ELEVEN CENTS FROM HARVARD YARD?
FIGHT THE FARE INCREASE
LINING THE MAYOR'S POCKETS
THEN SEND YOUR BOYS AND GIRLS TO HAAAAARVARD!

"What the hell do you think you're doing, anyway?" the second guard asked, as Jack drew breath for the chorus. He let it out, then inhaled again.

"Keeping myself amused?" he asked.

"You have to shout like that?"

"Yeah, you're funnier than just singing on its own," Jack retorted.

"You do whatever you want, boyo, nobody's listening to you."

"Fine," Jack said cheerfully, and started singing at the top of his lungs once more.

ACROSS THE PRAIRIE ON A STREAK OF RUST
THERE'S SOMETHING MOVING IN A CLOUD OF DUST
IT CRAWLS INTO THE VALLEY WITH A WHEEZE AND A WHINE
IT'S THE TWO O'CLOCK FLYER ON THE DUMMY LINE!

***

When Clare and Saturday walked into the Res that morning, they passed not only the line of government-owned automobiles but the large hut in which white tourists were assembling. Clare shivered as the eyes of the tourists slid over her, lingered curiously for a moment, and then moved on. Tribals didn't interest them unless they were exotic, and she wasn't exotic enough.

"It must be strange," Saturday remarked, as they hurried past. "Living in their world."

"I don't, though, really," Clare replied. "Any more than I live in yours. In Boston, things are different."

Saturday gave her a skeptical look. "So you don't wear your other face in Boston?"

"Well -- no, that's not true, I did. But if I hadn't...it's not like it is here. Nobody would assume I was a servant just because of it."

"Are you sure?"

Clare fell silent as they climbed the low hill into the village.

"No," she said finally. "I'm not sure."

"Well, at least you admit it. We find it hard to believe anywhere is perfect. In that respect we're not all that different from the prisoners who came here."

"Oh?"

Saturday shrugged. "We all believe the world is an unforgiving place, just for different reasons. We've suffered enough to know it's true; others are cruel enough that they automatically expect it."

"Not everyone," Clare said.

"No, just most," Saturday agreed with a sigh.

"There was a restaurant in Brisbane," Clare said, uncertain why she was defending Australia. "Tribals had to eat in the back, but plenty of white people were there with them."

"If everyone who chose to eat in the back of a restaurant with a Koori chose to insist that they be allowed to eat in the front, maybe things would change," Saturday said. "As it is...you're the first ray of hope we've seen in a long time."

"I don't know how much faith you should have in me," Clare answered. They had reached the first of the buildings in the village; she noticed people peering at her from windows and doorways, stopping to watch them walk as they passed.

"Well, the worst you can do is fail," Saturday said thoughtfully. "It's not like they can slaughter every Koori in Australia. Well. Not yet," she added. "Which is why you're so valuable to us."

"I hope I can help," Clare said. "I don't know how to fix this, you know."

"That's where I come in. I know a few things," Saturday replied, giving her a rare if somewhat humorless smile. "Step into my parlor, Miss Fields."

"My pleasure, Dr. Saturday."

Inside the clinic's secret room, Saturday placed a rickety stool in front of a worktable and gestured carelessly for Clare to sit.

"How much do you know about how disease works?" Saturday asked, leaning on the other side of the worktable.

"Nothing?" Clare ventured. "I haven't had much science. They don't give you much as a Creationist, you're not really supposed to think about how things work."

"But you do, or you wouldn't be friends with the mad engineer."

Clare grinned. "Jack doesn't think about anything else. A little rubs off from time to time."

"All right. I always imagine it this way: pretend that before the white explorers came to Australia, a lot of us had pet snakes," Saturday said. "And so did the white explorers. Now, when they landed, some wild animal ate their snakes. So they assumed that there couldn't be any snakes in Australia, because something was eating them all."

"I think I'm following the metaphor," Clare said.

"Good. Now imagine a bunch of Creationist prisoners land here, having heard the stories about how there were no snakes. Because they think something is eating the snakes, they Create thousands of little monsters that actually do -- "

"But that's blasphemy!" Clare blurted. "You can't Create a living thing. It's revolting."

Saturday hesitated, then leaned a chin on her hand, interested. "Why?"

"You just can't. Only the Creator is supposed to Create living things. If you Create something that's alive then you're condemning it to eventual death," Clare said, hands clenching on the sides of the worktable. "We're not allowed to murder. It's the absolute opposite of everything we do."

Saturday tilted her head to the side. "But women still have babies where you come from, right?"

"Yes, but that's natural. It's different."

"But Creationism is natural too, isn't it? You're born with it."

Clare paused. She had a point.

"I'm not a theologian," she said finally.

"Doesn't seem like you'd need to be," Saturday replied. "Who taught you all this? "

"It's in the Consolations."

"The what?"

"The Consolations," Clare said. "It's a book, William LaRoche wrote it."

"Ah. The preacher." Saturday looked disdainful.

Clare sighed. "See, this is what worries me. You can't just make someone a Creationist. Creating's only a little bit of it. The rest is self-discipline and study and faith. How much Creationist history do you know?"

"Only the biology," Saturday said. "I know it's something to do with the brain, and in theory the white prisoners Created a disease that destroys that. I mean, you can call it blasphemy all you want, but they did it anyway. Not like that's surprising. You know the Empire dumped its scum on us, don't you? Isn't that what LaRoche told them to do?"

"They can't have meant to do it," Clare said uneasily. "Creating living things, I mean."

"They probably didn't, but if they broke one rule to get sent here, why would they worry too much about breaking another? My point is, they did Create something that attacks and destroys Creationism. And because it's alive...it breeds. Spreads. It leapt from the prisoners to us. Wiped out half my people, back before my grandfather was grown. It's living, right now, inside of us. Probably even you."

"But I can still Create."

"You're immune."

"Why?"

"Don't know. I've spent years studying Creationism, but I don't get very far very fast. The whites would get further, I think, if they were willing to entertain the idea that they did this to themselves. They think it has to be something in the air, or the earth. As if somehow they know they shouldn't be here."

Clare folded her arms on the high worktable and rested her chin on them.

"We have some Creationists. We keep them well away from the whites," Saturday continued in a gentler voice. "But they have no training, and certainly they're not capable of something like this. You are. I hope."

"How?" Clare asked.

"That remains to be seen. Think about the snakes and the snake-eaters. Even if you killed something that ate a snake, the snake would still be dead. What you need to do is...make a better snake."

"Something alive?" Clare asked. "Some...living thing that gives back Creationism."

"Maybe."

"It's against everything I believe."

"I haven't got much use for religion," Saturday said evenly. "But I'm pretty sure that any preacher worth listening to would rather you made one living thing than condemned your people to a life without their birthright. And if the whites at their labs in Canberra do manage to spread the disease across the world, then Creationism will die out because you stood on religious principle."

Clare chewed on her lip, thinking.

"This is all just a theory anyway," she finally said. "It won't matter unless I know I can really do it. So we might as well go on as we've started."

"And you'll do it?" Saturday asked.

"I'll have to decide when the time comes, won't I?"

Saturday leaned forward and rested a dark-skinned hand next to Clare's. They were almost the same shade.

"They raised you, but you belong to us," she said. "Don't forget that. White law is not Koori law. Or," she said thoughtfully, "maybe I should show you."

"Show me what?"

"What Koori Creationists did," Saturday said, walking to a box in the corner. She carried it back and pried the lid off carefully. "Do you know what a lumo is?"

Clare shook her head.

"It's a chemical process where light is printed onto paper -- " She took out a small bundle wrapped in cloth, opening it. Inside were thick cards, printed in black and white.

"Oh, photographs!" Clare said, realizing what they were. "We have those. Though they do it on glass plates, not paper..."

"Sounds inefficient," Saturday observed, offering her the bundle. Clare set it down and picked up the first phot -- the first lumo, holding it carefully by the edges. It looked a little like the drawings that buskers in Boston did on the pavement -- obviously chalk or charcoal on stone -- but it was completely unreal. A graceful, spindly figure with a flattened head and upraised arms, surrounded by streaks of color.

"This is beautiful," she said. "You said a Creationist did this?"

"Maybe, maybe not; nobody knows. The paintings are old," Saturday said, as Clare laid the lumo down and examined the second one. This painting was some kind of lizardlike animal, rendered with breathtaking, intricate patterns in the scales. "They're all over."

"Where did you get these?" Clare asked, holding up an image of dozens of handprints on rock.

"Archives, some of them. White men exploring the interior whose Lumeras went mysteriously missing. Things find their way to us."

"But you said you don't know if Creationists did these."

"It's not the paintings; it's what they show." Saturday pointed to the image of the lizard-creature. "Look closely."

Clare squinted at it. Up in one corner, near the animal's head, was a handprint -- as if someone had pressed their hand to the rock and blown pigment over it, leaving a negative image.

"I think -- William and some of the others agree -- that the hand is a symbol for Creation. There are paintings of animals, food, weapons, objects...at one of the big rock formations out in the west, Uluru, there's a painting in one of the crevices of the formation, with hands all over it." Saturday picked up the lumos. "Many of the tribes have a legend about a dreamtime, when the world was more malleable than it is now."

"So the rules don't apply to you, is that it?"

Saturday shrugged. "Maybe they had rules too. If my ancestors were blaspheming, Clare Fields, so were yours. The only difference is you really believe that. I don't. Your rules are white rules. They don't suit you."

"There have to be rules. There has to be discipline," Clare said stubbornly. "Otherwise everything falls apart."

"But why theirs?" Saturday asked. "Why not ours? The hands...mean something. I think they're a signature. The people who did this Creating took responsibility for what they did. If your hands are on it, leave your hands on it. If you're held to account for what you've done, you'll have a care in what you do."

Clare rested her head on her arms again. "Father LaRoche founded our way of life in America. He made the world safe for people who could Create. He's the reason Creationists were sent to Australia, the one who told Parliament to send them here. He just wanted a better life for people. He knew the...political value of removing Creationists who wouldn't follow the law."

"The real decisions aren't easy, are they?" Saturday asked.

"No," Clare said with a sigh.

"Do you want to continue?"

Clare considered it. "Yes. For now."

"Good," Saturday looked approving. "What do you need? More of the science? I can show you lumos of brain dissections, but they're not pretty..."

"No." Clare shook her head. "I need to know who we are. I need you to show me what being a Koori means. Outside of what I've seen in Canberra and Brisbane."

Saturday smiled. "Come walking with me."

***

Purva felt like the walk back to the Res seemed to take forever. She felt jumpy, anticipatory, like she always had before a raid on a ship. So much could go wrong, so many bad things could happen, and she couldn't control any of it. Most of the time she was at peace with it, accepted her lack of control and embraced it, but this was not a raid that would happen and be done with. This was a game, and there was still a long way to go before the end.

"Let me speak to Clare," Graveworthy said, as they passed onto the Res well away from the hut where the tourists were. "She's not going to like hearing it."

"You think she'll try to leave?"

"I don't know. She understands the need to stop and think first better than most people do, but that isn't saying much."

"Not like me."

"Well," Graveworthy grinned at her. "You're not used to it, are you? On a ship, if you stop to think you might be dead. You're a woman of action."

"And you're not?"

"I never was. Even when I was younger. I can act, when needed, but I prefer to think." He stopped to hold the door of the clinic for her, but a shout in the distance made him turn his head.

It was Clare -- Clare with her dark skin and curling black hair, almost unfamiliar except for the clothing she wore. Running up to them with Dr. Saturday, dusty and smiling.

"I was hoping you'd be here by now!" she said cheerfully. "Saturday's been showing me the Res. It's not an easy place to live, but the land is beautiful and we sat and talked with one old woman who told us stories and sang us part of a Songline -- "

"There has been news from Canberra," Purva interrupted, because Graveworthy obviously wasn't going to. "You must stop and think."

"Stop and think about what?" Clare asked, turning to Graveworthy.

"Libris came up from town to tell us. Bell's found out Jack isn't really with the railroad and I'm not really a land speculator. There are warrants out for our arrest. Jack's already been captured."

"Captured?" Clare repeated, her voice rising.

"Imprisoned," Purva said, trying to make it stick without scaring her.

"When?"

"This morning. They can't have missed us by very much," Graveworthy said.

"And he's in prison?"

Graveworthy shook his head. "I don't know the details. Libris knows more."

"What do we do?" Clare asked. Purva glanced at Graveworthy.

"We stay here," he said. "He's safe, relatively speaking. They'll put him on trial, but they can't do that for a few days at least, until they build a case. They're looking for us. We must stay here on the Res."

"I could go into town," Clare said. "Like this, I mean. They don't know me."

"Libris can go just as easily, and he's better equipped."

"We can't do nothing, Ellis."

"I didn't say we should do nothing. You have work to do. If the message William sent has gone far enough, people should be arriving here soon."

"Probably already are," Saturday put in. "Some of the women went to the west end of the Res today, putting up signposts for them -- first one's'll likely be from out Girral way. Some up northwest might get the train from Alice Springs if they can."

"What about the city Kooris -- east and south?" Graveworthy asked.

"Different message -- if they all start leaving at once to come to Canberra there'll be trouble. William has them sitting tight, unless you want something else from them."

"How quickly can you..." Graveworthy looked to Clare. "Can you fix it? And how fast?"

"I don't know," she said.

"You had better find out. Jack's freedom might rest on it."

"I could free him, if ordered," Purva offered.

"Not just yet, thank you," Graveworthy replied. Purva gave him a sulky look. "Begin the work as soon as you can, Clare," he added.

"You assume I think I should," she said.

"Don't you?"

"Another thing I don't know."

Graveworthy gave her a strange little nod. "Find out. Dr. Saturday, we'll need somewhere to stay..."

"William can help. He's probably with the Elders, up the street by the laundry. Clare and I have work to do."

"Go," Graveworthy said, and smiled reassuringly at them. Saturday laid her hand on Clare's arm, pulling her away.

"Well," Purva said. "This is all very."

"Very what?"

"I do not know. But it is very."

Graveworthy nodded. "Perhaps so. Come along, let's find somewhere to put our heads tonight."

***

The first wave of travelers arrived at twilight that day, footsore but cheerful, exchanging formal embraces with the Wiradjuri Elders and greeting the rest of the people on the Res politely. They gave news that they'd seen messengers returning from Broken Hill, Wudinna, Charleville in the north, and as far away as Mintabie to the northwest. They hadn't seen any other traveling parties, but the messengers assured them that many of the northern tribes that had no Res were on the move through the outback, not bothering with roads.

Ellis, sitting around a communal fire in the village square, whistled a tune softly. Clare smiled a little when she heard it. Up the coast to Adelaide, heave away, haul away! Through the Bight to Fowler's Bay...

"It's not quite right though," she said to him, as people began to light their own fires and prepare food. "That's a sailing song. They're all coming overland."

"You find a rhyme for Wudinna, then," he said. "How are you?"

"Tired. Worried about Jack."

"I can imagine. Any progress in the work?"

"I...I don't know," she said. "Saturday's shown me what she thinks is causing it all, but when I try to Create something like it...it's hard. I fail."

"As long as you're looking."

"Now I know how Jack must have felt."

"How do you mean?" he asked, intrigued.

"Well, neither of us are certified," she said. "I wasn't even best in my class. You told him to build you a flying ship, and he did. Now you want me to Create something nobody's ever Created on purpose before."

"Because it was outlawed, or because it can't be done?"

"I think it can be done," she said, huddling closer to let a handful of children pass by. They poked at the fire with sticks, watching the sparks fly up. "I don't think there's any reason it couldn't be done, if what Saturday says is right. It's like learning anything new...you just have to twist a little to get to the key."

"The core of things."

"Yes, that's it. But I'm working against everything I've been taught." She sighed. "I think maybe I know I shouldn't do it."

The children had passed but she was still leaning against him, her dark hair pooling a little on his shoulder. He rested his chin on the crown of her head.

"I'm so sorry about all of this," he said. "I never should have let the pair of you come."

"If you hadn't -- "

"If I hadn't, and if I'd survived arrival, I'd still be back in England by now. Probably preparing for war."

"Is that any better?"

"Well, you would be safe."

"Until the war came to us. Or the government figured out how to spread the disease. Saturday calls it the Snake Eater. Snakes are sacred to some tribes."

"Wouldn't matter, you're immune."

"Lots of other people aren't. It isn't just war, Ellis, you have to know that."

He nodded. "Yes. I do. It's the collapse of civilization. Europe, perhaps, not quite so much as America -- America was built by Creationists, it depends on it. You're being watched, by the way," he added. Across the fire, several of the new arrivals were staring at her -- or rather, staring at the both of them, curled up together. "It might not do to seem so friendly with a white man just now."

"What should I do, Ellis? Pretend I didn't spend sixteen years of my life in Boston?" she asked. "I don't know these people. I don't know how they live, not really, not from a few days' experience." She sighed at his expression -- an attempt not to look wounded. "It's just frustrating. I miss Jack. I'm worried about him."

"I'd like you to think about Jack, and then think about his relationship to the world, as a whole, and his likely reaction to imprisonment," Ellis said. Clare was silent for a minute. Finally, she snorted.

"He's either disassembling the prison as we speak, or he's really annoying the guards," she said.

"My guess is the latter. Jack's world will never stop being full of wonder; he doesn't really need his freedom for that, though I'm sure he'd disagree."

"Anyone but you would be leading an armed assault on the prison, you know."

"Lucky I'm here then, isn't it? It may yet come to assault, but I think not. I think in another few days, whether you succeed or fail, we will have enough people amassed to march on Canberra."

"What then?" she asked, against the sleeve of his shirt.

"Then we open diplomatic relations -- armed, if necessary." He shifted, gently dislodging her. "You should get some rest."

"I'm supposed to be staying with Saturday."

"On with you, then."

She stood and turned, offering her hand as if he needed the help up. He shook his head and cut his eyes to the side, to those watching. She let her hand fall.

"I'll see you in the morning," she said, and disappeared into the darkness outside the circle of firelight. William Libris, passing by, gave Ellis a smile and a warning tip of his head. Ellis nodded back, soberly.

***

Jack's store of songs about trains ran out around dinnertime, and his less encyclopedic memory for the kind of lewd songs that students always sing ran out a few hours later. It was disappointing, really. He was sure that Purva would have known at least a few dozen sailing songs. When he escaped, and he would escape, he'd have to make her teach him.

He hadn't really bothered exploring his cell much when he was first thrown into it, beyond ascertaining that the cell door was on lipped iron tracks that wouldn't bend. There was no window, at least none on his side of the bars. As with most of their inventions, Australians poured equal amounts of common sense and technological skill into prison-building.

The guards apparently found his silence...unsettling.

"What're you up to?" one of them asked, standing in the corridor between cells. Jack, flat on his back with his head pressed against the bars, looked up at him.

"Exploring methods of escape," he replied. "No joy so far. Who built this place?"

"Dunno," the guard said, nudging him in the head with the toe of his boot. Jack sat up and turned around, pulling his knees up and hugging them to his chest.

"I don't guess you could find out? Bring me a book on it or something?"

"Who do you think you are?" the guard asked. "Prisoners don't get books."

"Well obviously," Jack said, waving a hand at the nonexistent bookshelves in his cell. "But you could bring me one." He sniffed and stood up, stepping onto his bed and pressing his fingers against the stone as high as he could. "Good tight mortar work. This is a paragon of the prison maker's art. And you're not going to let me out if I fake being sick or anything, huh."

"We aren't now," the guard replied.

"Shame. When am I due to get out of here, anyway?"

"That's for Bell to decide."

"Did you know he sleeps with his servants? Not that he told me," Jack added over his shoulder, walking his fingers up and down the stones. "Or anyone else, at least in so many words. But he definitely does."

The guards exchanged uneasy looks.

"Though I don't think that'll matter much longer," Jack said thoughtfully.

"Why's that?" one of the guards asked.

"Oh well. My family doesn't like it when I'm mistreated. They think I'm kind of fragile. But working on engines makes you strong -- I've got a punch like a horse-kick. Wouldn't think to look at me, would you? Anyway, they're very protective of me. They'll probably come get me soon. When they do, I want you to know that I'm sorry, and I'll make sure nobody desecrates the corpses."

"You talk loads of shit," the other guard said, joining the first at the bars. Jack lay down again on the floor and looked along the row of mortared-in bars.

"You just never know," he said, squinting.

"He's just trying to scare us," one of them said.

"Absolutely. You should be really scared," Jack replied.

"Oh yeah? What're they going to do, talk us to death like you?"

Jack stood up. The guards were quite close together, and quite close to the bars of the cell. It would be the work of a moment to grab their lapels and pull them against the iron rods, knocking them silly and giving him enough time to get one of the thick batons hanging on their belts. Dangerous, though, and without the keys to his cell, hanging on a distant wall, there was no real point.

"I can't say for sure, but I can tell you this," he said, leaning his face against the iron. "It won't be pretty. All this," he waved his hand around his cell, "is just a good excuse for what they were planning to do anyway. And I guess you're just doing your jobs, like I was, so I'll give you a tip for free. When the shouting starts, get your heads down. Nobody likes to shoot someone just because they're in the way."

The men looked like they wanted to be more skeptical than they were. Jack beamed at them and lay down on his bunk.

"From the top, gentlemen," he announced. He grinned, inhaled, and began to sing again.

Chapter Twenty-Three
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The Original Sam Backup

May 2012

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