[identity profile] copperbadge.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] originalsam_backup
Chapter Eighteen

Graveworthy went out that evening, once he'd exchanged a few words with Jack to settle him; Jack felt awkward and uneasy, the way he always did after he'd had to discipline one of the First Years at Harvard or on the very rare occasions that he lost his temper. It was a relief, really, when Graveworthy disappeared, and Jack could sit with Clare on the sofa and listen to her talk about her trips in the automobile cabs.

"I come bearing gifts!" Graveworthy boomed on his return, standing in the doorway. "Lafayette, come help with these."

Purva took the cue smoothly, unfolding from the chair where she'd been reading to them from the Guide For Touring Gentlemen she'd stolen from the library, a semi-successful attempt to lighten the mood with the more amusing extracts. He stepped inside, and Jack saw two Tribal porters behind him, pulling heavy trunks into the room. "New luggage, and tickets for Canberra."

"Oh, wonderful," Clare said, in a slightly over-the-top imitation of a spoiled young woman. Jack smiled at her, then frowned when Purva rolled her eyes, helping the porter to pull one of the trunks into the room.

"The big one in there, for John and Charity, and the other in there for me, you can leave the small one inside the door," Graveworthy said, as the porters and Purva settled them where he pointed. "Thank you," he added, tipping the porters. "Please tell the desk we'll be checking out in the morning. Come, infants, time to pack."

When the door was shut, Purva flopped down onto one of the trunks. "I am not moving this again," she declared. "You get the porters to do it."

"Sorry, I had to put on a show," Graveworthy replied. "It'll only get worse in Canberra, I imagine."

"I speak four languages, you know," Purva said, sitting up. "I am the grand-child of Jean Lafitte. I am daughter of a captain."

"And you bear it proudly," Graveworthy replied, with all seriousness. Clare went to sit next to Purva on the trunk, while Graveworthy tugged his own into the room, lifting it so he could start packing.

"Well, naturally," Purva said.

"It wasn't always this way, I think," Clare sighed, and Jack resisted the urge to sit on Purva's other side and wrap his arm around her. He didn't think she wanted sympathy. "I remember...it seems like when I lived here, it was different. Maybe they weren't...respected as much, but Tribals could marry whites, eat in the same restaurants..."

"I think, not so," Purva said. "Men do not respect others and then turn around and make them servants. They only pretend respect. If that."

"It's a complicated situation," Graveworthy said from the other room. "It has a lot to do with tensions between the settled south and the northern territories."

"Not that complicated," Clare muttered.

"Well, no, sorry..." Graveworthy ducked out, leaning against the doorway. "But the reasons for it aren't as simple as everyone up and deciding one day that Tribals had no rights. I've been reading the papers, picking things up. Looks like the southern cities started pushing Tribals onto reservations when they began expanding. After the borders closed, they needed better food production; had to open up farmland, and the white colonists -- well, the descendants of white prisoners -- used the leverage in place to get farmland for themselves. It seems as if it's spiraled from there; these things have a way of eroding slowly until it crashes down. You appear to have barely missed that crash," he said to Clare. "In the north, they haven't finished pushing the Tribals out yet -- not settled enough, I suppose, no big cities -- which is why men like Plater can still farmstead."

"You're awfully well-read on this, suddenly," Jack observed.

"It wasn't exactly sketched out for me, but I've paid attention," Graveworthy said. "Besides, I'm used to gauging political climates."

"It doesn't mean it's right," Clare said. Jack could see the tension lines in her face.

"It's not an excuse, Clare," Graveworthy replied, returning to his packing. "It's just an explanation. At any rate, cross-racial mixing might be acceptable in the north, but anywhere south of Brisbane the social rules are too firmly in place."

Jack shot a glance at Clare, who was tight-lipped and angry, but at least keeping it under control for now. He suspected his outburst had reminded her that, if nothing else, they were all on the same side in this mess. Graveworthy leaned out of his bedroom again, saw her expression, and sighed.

"We're all tired, and anxious about tomorrow," he said. "Pack your things, and get a good night's sleep."

Purva stood up to get her trunk, smaller than the others and still sitting by the door; Jack got to his feet and hurried over before she could, lifting it by the cheap handle on the side.

"Where would you like me to put it?" he asked.

She paused, looked at him, and smiled.

***

In the morning, everything did seem brighter; Jack was whistling as he packed the last of his things into the trunk, and when Ellis walked out into the sitting room he found Clare at the window, brushing her hair in the morning light. Purva, eating some foreign fruit he couldn't put a name to, tossed him half from the breakfast table. And when Jack realized they were riding in an automobile cab to the train station, suddenly he couldn't get any of them out the door fast enough.

Ellis smiled and let himself be herded, though he gave Jack a warning look when they actually got into the cab and the younger man leaned forward to study all the dials and wheels in front of the driver. Jack didn't stop his intense scrutiny until Clare pulled him out of the automobile at the train station.

The trip to Canberra was much different than their stuffy, secret ride from Port Darwin. For one thing, while the distance was only a third of that from Darwin to Brisbane, the train did not run express; it would take them almost two days to reach the capital city of Australia.

On the other hand, they were at least traveling in style. Ellis had acquired first-class tickets for all of them, even Purva, whose ticket was tagged with a large red S to mark her as the servant of 'Eric Grimes'. The servants sat (and presumably slept) on benches at the rear of the first-class sleeper carriage, which annoyed Purva until Ellis whispered a few words in her ear as they boarded.

"What did you tell her?" Jack asked, settling himself into one of the plush private-compartment day-ride seats and propping his feet up on the opposite one. Clare stepped over his legs and sat down at the window. Jack made an apologetic face and drew them back so that Ellis could take the seat opposite her.

"I asked her to gossip with the servants, gather information," Ellis said, all but falling into the seat as the train jerked into motion. "She's never so happy as when she has a job to do."

"I can't go sit with them, can I?" Jack asked resignedly.

"Indeed not. A white man sitting with the domestics? They'd think you were after something," Ellis answered, but a thought struck him. "You could go ask to see the engine, though."

"I had a look at it when we were waiting to board," Jack answered, grinning. "The dining car might be interesting, they usually are. How long until lunch?"

"Three hours," Ellis said, consulting a small card posted on the door of the compartment that listed the times and contents of the meals.

"Well, they should be just heating up the ovens, then."

"Go on," Ellis told him indulgently, but Jack looked to Clare before he stood. She gave him a small nod. He slid open the door just as a trolley blocked his exit; a dark-skinned man peered around the door and then hastily retreated.

"Sorry, sir," he mumbled.

"No, my fault," Jack said, sliding out past him into the corridor. "Can you point me at the dining car?"

The man pointed over his shoulder, and Jack took off without a backwards look. Ellis glanced at Clare, who was smiling.

"Coffee, sir, ma'am?" the man asked. "Newspapers or sweets?"

"No, thank you," Clare said.

"Newspaper, please," Ellis said. "Have you any Canberra papers?"

"Only yesterday's," the man said apologetically.

"That's fine."

"Oh, any from Melbourne?" Clare asked.

"Sorry, miss, not on the train. Station'll maybe have some," he said.

"Not to worry. Here you are. Thank you," Ellis said, paying for the Canberra paper and settling back in the seat as the door closed. Clare leaned back as well, looking out at the city passing by.

"You could still buy a ticket to Melbourne when we reach Canberra, you know," Ellis said, eyes skimming the paper. "You should know your parents. They should know you."

"I can write to the records office from Canberra," she replied. "I'd just as soon go to Canberra. I have to keep an eye on you," she added, and he smiled.

"Do you have an address for them?" he asked.

"Not anymore. I tried to get letters through, when I was younger, but I never got any answer, and finally I..." She shrugged. "I had to let it go."

"Never thought you'd be here, I imagine."

"No." She turned back to the window. "I'm sure there's a birth record for me in Melbourne. When we're done in Canberra, I'll find them. If I can."

"I didn't mean this to happen, Clare," he said. "I didn't come here with the intent of upsetting an entire society."

"Let's not talk about it," she replied. "Purva got a pamphlet about Canberra from the hotel, you know."

"Oh?"

"It didn't exist when the borders closed. It was built specifically to be the central city of the country."

"Bound to be an interesting place, then."

"The pamphlet calls it a planned city. They laid out all the streets ahead of time and designed where everything was going to be before they started building."

"Makes you wonder how long they were planning on having a capital city," he said. "Do you remember much from your childhood?"

"Bits and pieces," she replied, sounding as if she was hedging. "A lot can change in sixteen years. Maybe it was changing even then, if what you say is true, but I -- " she hesitated, then forged ahead. "I remember Tribals who were married to whites, who had children. I wonder...we saw northern whites married to Tribals, even in Brisbane. I wonder how they do it when they travel in the south."

"Probably they don't, much," Ellis said. "When they do, likely they go the same way we are; the Tribal poses as a servant, or they travel third-class where the races aren't tightly segregated."

"That must keep the southerners happy."

Ellis chuckled. "Now you're thinking like me."

"I do that, sometimes. Think more like you," Clare said. "I think things like...it seems as though closing the borders only made things difficult for the government. I wonder why they really did it. And why everyone let them."

"The Conservatives have been in power a long time. Isolationism has its appeal." Ellis turned a page of the paper. "And now they're realizing what it really meant."

"Some of us already know," she said. "What it really meant to close the borders and kick out the Creationists."

Ellis stayed silent. After another few minutes he hesitantly held out a section of the paper.

"Cryptogram puzzle?" he offered. She looked down at the puzzle blotchily printed on the newspaper page and smiled.

"All right," she said, and took the pen he offered.

***

Considering recent events, Ellis couldn't really say that the next morning brought with it the shock of his life, but it did certainly present one of the more unpleasant surprises he'd ever had from a newspaper. Generally he knew the news before it became news.

The three of them had slept the night before in bunkrooms on the train, little curtained cubicles with a bed just barely long enough to fit his lanky frame and not much clearance to sit up in. Purva, as he understood it, had spent a perfectly peaceful night on a bench, head pillowed on her pack.

Jack woke them both at an indecent hour, but he was long used to that by now. After washing at a basin in one corner of the long carriage, he stumbled his way to the dining car where food, courtesy of Jack's industrious morning personality, was already laid out for them at one of the little tables. At the door, the man who'd brought him a newspaper the day before stopped him and said that they had picked up morning editions during an overnight stop, and would he like one?

SPY IMMIGRANTS AT DARWIN PORT screamed the headline. Ellis stared down at it.

"Yes, I would like one very much, thank you," he said, and sat down to read, ignoring the food.

"What is it?" Jack asked around a mouthful of toast.

"Ssh," Ellis replied, scanning the article. If they'd been reported, life was about to become infinitely harder.

Authorities at Port Darwin relate that on Monday the 16th of January, two men were halted attempting to enter the country illegally for the purpose of international espionage.

"Honestly," Clare said, pulling the paper down to look at it as he slouched with relief. "What -- oh, no -- "

"It's all right, it's not us," he said in a voice hardly above a whisper, turning the paper around and pointing to the date. "It's much too late, and it's only two men."

"Are they on our side?" she asked quietly. "Coming after us?"

"Maybe, but not likely. Go on, Charity, read it aloud," he added, in a louder voice. Clare cleared her throat, the picture of a young upper-class Australian woman reading interesting news to her male relatives.

"Authorities at Port Darwin relate that on Monday the 16th of January, two men were halted attempting to enter the country illegally for the purpose of international espionage. Soldiers at the troubled port, recently the victim of a major theft of government property, captured the men as they attempted to scale the sheer rock face which fronts onto the northern ocean coast.

"The men are assumed to have booked passage as sailors on a shipping liner and stolen a lifeboat, which they then used to draw close to the cliff under cover of night. Attempting to climb the cliff in darkness, the men were overheard conversing and were arrested when they had completed their ascent. The men refused to provide their name and the soldiers who took custody insisted they had heard them speaking in different dialects than English previous to their discovery. They have been imprisoned at the Port Darwin garrison and will be transferred to Canberra to stand trial at the next Assizes."

"Quite right too," said a clear, somewhat commanding voice from a nearby table, and Ellis glanced up. A middle-aged woman was seated at the table next to theirs, presiding over a large platter of fruit and sausages. "The audacity of foreigners," she added with a sniff. "Probably come to scout out the gold mines and oil fields. I wouldn't be surprised at all if they were the precursors to an invasion."

"Good we're building such a stalwart civil defense force, isn't it?" Ellis said carefully. She beamed.

"Isn't it wonderful! I remember when the shipyards could barely assemble a dinghy without a delay. Do you work for the civil defense?"

"Me?" Ellis laughed, and formulated a quick lie. "No, I'm in land. Eric Grimes," he added, offering his hand. "May I introduce my daughter Charity and her husband, Mr. John Parsons."

"How d'you do," the woman said formally, and a little stiffly. "Mrs. William Bell."

"Pleasure to meet you, Mrs. Bell. Are you traveling alone?"

"Mr. Grimes, I really -- "

"Seeing as we have a spare place at our table, and the dining car is likely to fill soon..."

Her whole face changed; she smiled at him, then held up a hand to signal the sole waiter lounging at the back of the carriage. He came forward, lifted her plate and juice glass, and shifted them deftly to Ellis's table as she moved.

"Bell, I'm sure I've heard that name before," Ellis continued, dropping a wink, unseen by their new table-guest, in Clare's direction.

"My husband is MP William Bell," Mrs. Bell announced. "Are you not local to Canberra, Mr. Grimes?"

Ellis felt a thrill run through him. This was very good fortune, the kind of lucky stroke he lived to take advantage of. The wife of an Australian politician was just the sort of source he could use -- and she would get them into society.

"I've been up north for about two years, investigating farm land and mining stakes," he said. "I'm afraid I'm not current on the news, but even so, I've certainly heard of your husband."

"Ah," she said knowingly. "Well, he was elected only recently, but of course he has some popular acclaim. He stands in Commons for the third district, South Australia."

"Certainly congratulations are in order, if belated," Ellis said, warming to the discussion. "I only hope he can do some good; they're having dreadful troubles with the Tribal population in the north."

He caught Jack giving him sharp-eyed looks, and Clare biting her tongue several times, as he let Mrs. Bell expand her views on Tribals, the Northern Situation, the amenities to be found in Canberra, and the dreadful journey she'd taken earlier in the year to Van Diemen's Land. It was reasonably clear that MP Bell was a Conservative, and probably a powerful man in the party.

By the time they got round to what Ellis's business in Canberra was, Jack and Clare had finished their breakfast and gone off to smuggle the remains of it to Purva.

"I'm going to Canberra for politics myself," Ellis told Mrs. Bell, with his most charming smile. "My son-in-law is an engineer, and we're attempting to confirm some suspicions that have come his way."

"Suspicions!" she said, leaning close. "Such as?"

"Well, don't spread it about, but it's rumored they've discovered diamond mines on the west coast," he said. "John's been asked to assess the possibility of automated locomotives crossing the outback. New well-tapping and irrigation methods might even let us put up some towns on the way. Dreary little things, but I imagine they'll mostly be populated by Tribals."

"I haven't heard anything about this," she said, sounding delighted.

"It's been very hush. You know how these things are, once in a while industry gets a bit ahead of government," he whispered back. "I'm going up to the administrative offices to see that they open that land for sale and don't pass any purchase limits on it."

"Will that overextend your grasp at all?" she asked, and Ellis grinned inwardly. Nothing like a land deal to really get people interested in you; he'd used that trick in America as well, out west, occasionally suggesting he was surveying land for a second transcontinental line.

"I might have to drum up a few investors, but they must be discreet," he said. "And of course it's all dependent upon the Land Office." He gave it just the right amount of time before continuing. "I don't suppose your husband could provide any assistance in that regard?"

She leaned back and gave him a thoughtful smile. "It will be late when we arrive in Canberra tonight, Mr. Grimes. Why don't you and your daughter and son-in-law come to dinner with my husband and myself?"

He matched her smile. "It would be our pleasure. And, now, if you'll excuse me..."

"Of course. I imagine I'll see you on the platform at the station; if not, our auto is a green-and-gold Harrison, don't hesitate to come find us."

"Pleasure to meet you, Mrs. Bell."

"Likewise, Mr. Grimes."

He didn't know what a Harrison automobile looked like, but he wasn't likely to let Mrs. Bell and her politician husband out of his grip; he'd send Purva ahead to track her if necessary.

He found Jack and Clare in their day-ride compartment with Purva, who was hungrily eating cold scrambled eggs and some toast Jack had filched.

"Other people were calling their servants," Jack said, when Ellis raised his eyebrow at her presence. "The man across the hall has his reading the paper to him."

Ellis cocked his head and yes -- there was a deep voice, a word audible every so often as the servant read aloud. Shrugging, he shut the door and settled in next to Clare.

"Were you playing with that woman, or did you have some kind of purpose in mind?" Clare asked. Ellis reflected that he couldn't fault her straightforwardness.

"She's going to be very useful to me," he replied, and outlined the conversation they'd had after Clare and Jack left -- the conversation about lucrative land deals and back-door politics and dinner with the MP for the third district, South Australia.

"You," Clare said, when he was finished, "are the most accomplished liar I've ever met."

Ellis gave her a dry look. "You sound so shocked," he said. "All I want you to do is play at being Jack's wife for a night and pretend to be dim. Jack, feel free to be as thorough about engineering and trains as you want as long as you go along with the idea that you're going to be put in charge of building a transcontinental railroad."

"I wish I was," Jack said.

"Do you really?" Ellis asked, and Jack considered it.

"No. I've been redesigning the airship," he replied. Clare put her face in her hands. Ellis laughed.

"Of course you have."

"Electricity," Purva said, rolling the strange new word around in her mouth, giving it at once an Australian and a French inflection.

"Sir William was playing around with it when we met, do you remember?" Jack said to Clare. "He was storing charges in boxes."

"I remember he was blowing things up," Clare replied.

"Six of one..." Jack grinned. "Nobody really knows how it works, but down here it powers most of the lights in the big cities and parts of the automobiles and the stoves in the train kitchen. You can store the power in blocks, then hook it up to anything you might otherwise run on a boiler. It's cooler, and the blocks last longer than coal. I think I can reproduce it when we get home, if I can take enough schematics with me."

"He is going to kill himself," Purva said, but her tone was casual, not overly worried.

"I'm not going to kill myself," Jack answered, equally casual. "Just because it can cause your heart to stop doesn't mean it always does."

"Do try not to die until we're out of Canberra, Jack. It'd be very inconvenient," Ellis remarked.

***

When they arrived that evening they parted ways with Purva at the train station -- they to dine with the Bells, Purva to make her way to a hotel Mrs. Bell had recommended and book them a suite. Purva didn't seem to mind, at least, and after two hours listening to Ellis fence verbally with the Bells, Clare had an idea of why.

She had expected that William Bell, MP for the third district of South Australia, would be as dull and one-tracked as his wife, but he was a lean and energetic man, no less conservative but much more well-versed in rhetoric. He seemed to positively enjoy rising to the gentle conversational baits Ellis laid for him. Jack, looking a little bereft, commented on engineering when his opinion was sought and kept silent the rest of the time. Clare kept silent all the time. After all, as Ellis had reminded her, her job was to look ornamental on Jack's arm.

This would never have happened in Boston, but it seemed more common here, the idea that women were simply assumed to be the home-keepers, the pretty baubles. She'd read about old European ideas of female domesticity, but all that had gone out after Father LaRoche, and certainly when he founded his colony in the Americas it was with the understanding that the Creator had made them equal in spirit if not always in strength, and the spirit's call was to be obeyed.

She wondered if LaRoche's writings were even known here. Surely someone must have smuggled a few copies in.

Once dinner was over Mr. Bell suggested brandy in the drawing-room. Clare politely begged off for herself and Jack, claiming a headache, and Ellis gave her an approving nod as they left. Outside, in the balmy Canberra evening, they found Purva loitering near the green-and-gold "Harrison" auto they'd come in. She gave them a wicked grin when she saw Ellis wasn't with them.

"Still stalking his prey?" she asked, following a step behind them. "I thought you would never come out, but he will come out even later, yes?"

"Probably," Clare answered. "He's got a lot of fast-talking to do."

"I have boughten hotel rooms," Purva said. "A nice place. I took this for you," she added, pressing a book into Jack's hands. "From a man with many, many cars."

"A Guide to Automobiles," Jack read from the cover, beaming. "Look, it lists all the different kinds they sell -- technical engravings! And parts and price lists..."

Clare, arm still linked in his, grinned back. "Well, nice to have some evening reading. Come on. Purva, have you had dinner yet?"

"Yes, Graveworthy gave me money."

"AHA!" Jack said, startling them both. He glanced up, sheepish.

"Let's get you off the street," Clare sighed, guiding him along behind Purva, making sure he didn't walk into any lamp-poles while he was buried in the book.

***

Ellis was just as glad that Jack and Clare were well out of the house by the time he was installed in William Bell's library, drinking his brandy. He had some utterly contemptible things he was going to have to say, and it was well that Clare in particular wasn't around to hear them.

"I wonder if I could indulge in a spate of curiosity," Bell said, as Ellis settled into the leather chair comfortably. "These rumored diamond mines -- you've not seen them yourself, then?"

"No, no. But their existence is hardly the point, I feel."

"Oh? How so?"

"They're just the impetus for the transcontinental. My profit isn't made in mining speculation. I purchase plots of land and sell them just when they will be most useful. It's brokerage, more than anything; easier for the government -- for any buyer -- to buy a large plot from me than a dozen small plots from a dozen owners. I turn a profit, life is made easier for those around me...everyone is satisfied."

"And you're in a very good position to know what to buy."

"Well, perhaps. There's going to be money in roads soon. I'm urging John to move from trains to bridge designs and roads and such. For now, however..."

"Quite. Lucky you have a daughter who married such an industrious young man."

"Lucky for me, I have a daughter who knows how important such things are to her father. As does John, in the end. Although they of course stand to benefit greatly as well. I'm not a greedy man, Mr. Bell. I'm more than willing to share the wealth of our nation."

"Well, I'm certain I could introduce a generous man like yourself to influential friends," Bell replied.

"Good," Ellis said with a grin. "Now, tell me, as I've been out of the South for a long time. Is it me, or have Tribals got more restless lately? There certainly seem to be stricter controls on them now than when I was here last. And of course the North is quite lax."

"Yes -- I was a soldier in the North at one time. One enjoys the laxity, that far from civilization, but..." Bell gestured towards the hallway that led to the kitchen. "One wants order in one's own home."

"Indeed."

"I believe Mrs. Bell mentioned you have a Tribal valet yourself."

"Lafayette. John took a shine to her, and she's reasonably well-behaved."

"Ah -- yes, I understand that situation well."

It dawned on Ellis that William Bell thought Purva was Jack's mistress. He sighed, inwardly.

"Now," Bell said, leaning forward. "Tell me what you need."

A much stronger drink, Ellis thought, but that was a consideration for later; his morals had never been so thorough that they interfered with his goals, and after all he hadn't got where he was by telling the truth.

He leaned forward and began outlining an ambitious business plan to William Bell -- one that would require access to sensitive survey maps and a count of the military land forces. The ease with which Bell seemed to think he'd be able to get this was staggering, but then he supposed there were few fears of spies when the borders were so thoroughly secure -- when most sensible men stayed the hell away from Australia to begin with.

"Now," he said, when he had laid the groundwork carefully, "there's one other issue."

Bell gave him a level look. "The Tribals themselves."

"It'll need to be addressed."

"Oh?" Bell leaned back, his hand hanging off the arm of his chair, drink cradled in his fingers. "Are we speaking of controls, or of labor? They go a little wild on the reservations, you know. Mrs. Bell won't have any in the house; town-bred Tribals only. Much less fuss and they already know how to move about in a city."

"They're so very domesticated, though. They tend to know the price of things, and the cost of things," Ellis said, gesturing to indicate the slight but vital difference. "A Tribal domestic wouldn't take kindly to finding themselves in a railway town in the middle of the continent. Reservation Tribals already know how to survive all that; they're hardy souls."

Bell snorted. "Have you been on a reservation recently, Mr. Grimes?"

"Why, have you?"

"Good lord no, but I read all the pamphlets and things. It all comes across our desks; mostly it's from liberal money-brides down from the north to marry a rich southerner. You know the sort; not quite high class enough to be society women, but a bit too wealthy to keep busy."

"Petit bourgeoisie."

"Eh?" Bell asked. "Is that a Tribal dialect?"

Ellis winced inwardly. "Sorry -- slang I picked up in the north. It amounts to the same."

"Then you're aware of the sort I mean. They take day-trips -- oh, it's all very civilized, visiting the savages with a picnic lunch and writing about how poor their lives are afterwards. They make trouble from time to time, but who's going to riot over Tribals anymore?"

"What was that last riot?" Ellis asked, sidetracked for a moment and perhaps a little glad to be so. "I only heard inklings."

"Really? Should think you'd have been in the thick of it. The miner's strike at Cloncurry? That was the last real one. We've not had any in Canberra for years. Adelaide, now, they have their little pockets of unrest as well, but then they're so close to the wild country."

"Of course. I was far off from Cloncurry but I did hear something..."

"The usual -- the government pays what they think is low for the ores, taxation in a territory, Tribal scabs taking their jobs. You'd think the miners would be glad; the government keeps the taxes steady for the territories. They always know how much of a cut we'll take."

"Taxation without representation," Ellis said lightly.

"A terrible and inaccurate rallying cry. Why shouldn't the government look after their best interests? We stand the most to lose if any ore field goes under. But we were discussing Northern Tribals," Bell said cautiously. He was sounding him out -- as anxious to impress Ellis as Ellis was to charm him.

"I'm sure that will work itself out, once the land is purchased and everything's contracted. But that's the point, isn't it? The land must be purchased. And of course John must negotiate some contracts. It's so fortuitous we met, d'you see. If you can give my name to even a handful of people -- "

"Nonsense, man," Bell replied, and for a second Ellis froze. He forced himself to relax, and was rewarded a second later when Bell continued. "We'll have a do. Invite some of our kind of people round to meet you face to face, and once they know you, you can pitch 'em over dinner. It all happens much faster when there's a bit of wine and a nibble involved."

"Depends on who one's nibbling," Ellis replied. Bell roared with laughter.

"Very good. Very good! We're hosting a dinner in two days anyway, so my wife can show off her newfound first-hand knowledge of Tasmania, much good it did her. We'll make you unofficial guest of honor, and you can choose who to bite with this little plot of yours. All I ask is the opportunity to make a purchase, eventually."

"I can guarantee you, the first purchase will be yours," Ellis said gravely.

***

When Jack woke the following morning, he slipped out of bed and found Graveworthy in the room Jack and Clare were supposedly sharing as husband-and-wife. He was leaning over Clare at the small writing-desk as Jack walked in, buttoning up his waistcoat. Australian clothing still felt odd; waistcoats too short, trousers slightly too high at the hip.

"Morning," he mumbled, rubbing sleep out of his eyes.

"Good morning, Jack. Sleep well? Ah, de la Fitte," Graveworthy added, as Purva brushed past Jack into the room, carrying a tea service. "I'm so sorry," he said, taking it from her and setting it on the table.

"No matter," Purva answered indifferently. "Many interesting people to meet in the servants' rooms. Lots of talk."

"You are the best spy," Graveworthy told her politely, and offered her a cup of tea.

"Yes, I know." She sat on the bed. Jack took up Graveworthy's place next to Clare, hitching his hip against the desk.

"I'm to meet with Bell this morning," Graveworthy said. "You should probably tag along. I think you'll find it interesting, and it'll keep up appearances."

"What's so interesting about him?" Jack asked.

"Oh, everything. This has been a remarkable stroke of luck for me. He's taking me to the government archives, to have a look at some survey maps."

"Well, I don't mind," Jack said. "What about Purva and Clare?"

"No, I think not. They seem keen on the idea of men's business." Graveworthy glanced at Clare. "Bell's throwing dinner for us day after tomorrow, by the way."

"More ornamentalism?" Clare asked, sighing.

"Perhaps, but at least there'll be more people to talk to. And you never know -- people gossip obscenely at these things."

"All right, but I don't -- "

She was interrupted by a rap on the door of the suite; all four of them looked up, and then Purva hastily set her tea down and went to answer it. Clare went to her closet, busying herself with her clothes, and Graveworthy dragged Jack into the sitting room just as Purva opened the door.

"For Mrs. Parsons," said a voice, and they watched carefully as Purva took the envelope. After the door closed, Clare came out into the sitting room as well, accepting it from Purva with a quizzical look.

"Making friends already?" Graveworthy asked. She opened it, studied the paper inside, and then laughed.

"That's exactly what it is," she replied. "Mrs. Bell has asked me to have lunch with her. She says she wants to show me the fashions in Canberra."

"That means she wants to woo you and dress you up for the dinner," Graveworthy said. "Pick your brains about Jack, maybe."

"Shall I tell her I couldn't possibly understand all this complicated engineering?" Clare asked, amused. "And that my father handles all the land dealings?"

"If you would be so good, Mrs. Parsons."

"Oh naturally, Mr. Grimes."

Jack, sensing there was something going on over his head, butted in. "Well, then that's the day planned out, isn't it? We'll go talk business, Clare can do her research and buy a dress and take Purva along."

"Right you are, young Mr. Parsons. Breakfast with Bell for us, then; Clare, charge anything you buy to John Parsons at the hotel. Purva, look sharp, and if anyone gives you trouble, try to knife them in a dark corner where you won't be seen." Graveworthy lifted his jacket from the chair behind Clare, shrugging it on. "You know there are times when I do believe that the four of us could rule Australia, given the proper incentive."

Jack wondered, as he settled in to an enormous breakfast with Graveworthy and Bell, if this was how Clare had felt the night before. It was all politics between the two, no chance of discussing trains or automobiles, and he found it incredibly boring. It wasn't until Bell drove them to the government Archives building -- an enormous column-fronted monster smelling of dust and paper -- that Jack began to sit up and take an interest. The very first room they entered was filled floor-to-ceiling with racks of maps, apparently minded by a young Tribal in a set of gold-rimmed glasses, sitting at a high desk near the door.

"You," Bell said, snapping his fingers as they passed the clerk. "Continental maps, survey and government, the most recent you have."

"Yes, sir," the young man said, scurrying around the room and then ducking out of it, presumably to try some other portion of the archives.

"You let Tribals work in the archives?" Graveworthy asked, as Jack drifted around the room, inspecting but not disturbing the rolled maps. "Is there any issue of security there?"

"Not particularly. Most of 'em are practically illiterate. Besides, what would they do with the information?" Bell asked. "Though there's been agitation recently for the Fair Work act -- a job like this really should be in the hands of a man who'll spend it in Canberra, not send it to the Reservation."

The young clerk was back in time to catch the tail end of it, but if he heard, he didn't react.

"Anything else, sir?" he asked, as Bell sifted through the maps.

"Not just now. I'll call if I need you," Bell said, spreading one of the maps out, weighting each corner with small metal blocks. Graveworthy leaned over it studiously, a small smile on his face. Jack did too, looking for familiar points of reference, and his eyes landed finally on Port Darwin, up in the north.

There, that was where they'd landed. And all the way down to the south, there was Canberra. Jack stepped closer, tracing the route with his eyes.

"It's beautiful country," Graveworthy said softly. "Just waiting for someone to harness it. Shame you're not in irrigation, Parsons; can you imagine transforming all that desert into farmland?"

"You'd never manage it," Jack said absently, moving to stand in front of Bell. He heard a snort of amusement but didn't pay the slightest attention; he was studying the shape of the coastline. "Even if you could run rivers from the north, it'd take years to dig them. It'd be the biggest earthworks project in history. Something to see, I suppose."

"I like a man with ambition," Bell said. "But good sense is useful too."

"Parsons has both in spades, and I have a little of the latter to share. Here, now, look at this. From what we've heard, the mines are here," Graveworthy said, running his finger up the southwest coast. Jack couldn't tell how he was choosing a spot, but maybe he was just making it up as he went. "There's a Tribal settlement nearby, isn't there?"

"I think so. You know how they wander."

"Just so. Now -- "

"Do you have a topographic map?" Jack interrupted. They both looked at him. "It'll be easier to show you the track if I can see the valleys," he added apologetically.

"I don't know that anyone's mapped out that far. Boy?" Bell called, and the clerk appeared on the other side of the table again. "Topography. Continental center. Anything?"

"No official government surveys, sir," the man replied.

"Well, what about unofficial ones?"

"No sir. But there are...that is to say, some explorers have done sketchbooks. Shall I look for you, sir?"

"Go on then. I suppose you'll be sinking wells for the train stopovers?" Bell asked, turning back to Jack. "And you'll have to run construction goods out. It's not exactly a small project in itself, Mr. Parsons."

"Subcontract," Jack replied promptly, digging in his brain for the courses he'd had in tracklaying logistics at Harvard. "Supply trains follow the tracks as far and as fast as they can until they're depleted. Temporary camps for labor, and evenly-spaced stopovers based on estimated fuel loads and frequency. It's all down to tracks; you have to have tracks first."

"Isn't he good?" Graveworthy asked.

"Although I suppose if you built some really big autos..." Jack pursed his lips. "If you fitted, say, a train car onto an automobile engine...but you'd have to account for sway..."

"Sirs?" the clerk was back, with two books under one arm and a roll of rough-looking paper under the other. "These may be of assistance -- "

"Very good, you may go."

" -- if I may, sir," the man said, lowering his eyes. "They require some explanation."

Jack glanced up just in time to see Graveworthy and Bell cocking eyebrows at each other.

"Up to you, Parsons," Bell said.

"Let him," Graveworthy said carelessly.

Jack nodded, and the man set the books on the table, unrolling the new map on top of the old. The paper was strange, fibrous and discolored, but once it was unrolled that hardly mattered. Jack sucked in a breath admiringly.

"This is amazing," he murmured, spreading his hands over the map, not touching it. The coast boundaries were nothing more than rough squiggles, but the entire interior of the continent was covered with scrawls, spirals, figures, and odd shapes in a variety of colors. In one corner, a figure knelt as if in prayer. In another part, a bright green snake wound around the base of a jutting rocky outcrop. Port Darwin was a black smudge surrounded in fine, even-spaced emerald dots. Brisbane was a bright splash of yellow. Canberra was blank, but he thought the large white square, like a ship's sail, might be Melbourne.

"What the hell is this?" Bell demanded.

"It's a topographical map in the Tribal style, sir," the clerk answered.

"Tribal!"

There was a large word stamped in red over the area that would probably be just northwest of Canberra: CONFISCATED.

"Confiscated from who?" Jack asked, pointing at it.

"The last Tribal reservation uprising," the clerk answered, his voice carefully neutral. "Several maps were found."

"Is it useful?" Graveworthy asked carefully.

"I think so," Jack said, tilting his head. "Color marks cities, right?" he asked the clerk, who nodded briefly. "What's this snake?"

"Ayers Rock, sir. It's a Tribal landmark."

"Oh, spare me these fancies," Bell snapped.

"And this is water?" Jack asked, pointing to several blue smears. "Well, that's a starting point. Look here, Bell. This is what I needed. From Brisbane following the natural valleys..."

He ran a finger along from right to left, tracing an imaginary train track. It would be beautiful, if it were ever to exist.

"Yes, well, you can't exactly take some Tribal paint daubings to Parliament."

"Let me worry about surveys," Graveworthy said amiably. "We're only speaking in generalities, Bell, no need to fret. As a matter of fact, step out into the hall with me -- I've had a thought, and I believe it requires a cigarette to ponder. No point in getting ash on the maps."

Bell followed Graveworthy, grumbling, and Jack looked up to find the clerk still standing there, one hand resting on the books he'd brought.

"It's a beautiful piece of work," he said. "Why would they take it away? They can't find much use in it."

"It was confiscated under the ban on instruments likely to aid in aggression against the Australian state," the clerk answered, still in that same flat tone.

"It's illegal to have maps?" Jack asked.

"Yes, sir." The man gave him an odd look, sliding the books forward. "These are sketchbooks and accounts of travels in the interior, sir. There are some hand-drawn maps here as well, though none so large in scope. There's quite a good one of the Lake Cowal reservation."

"Are you from the reservation?"

"Me? No sir. Born and raised in Wagga Wagga. My father came to Canberra with the first load of library books and myself," the man added, with a dry smile.

"What's your name?" Jack asked.

"Sir?" the man looked confused. "William, sir."

William, Jack realized, couldn't be any older than he was himself. There was a self-containment about him that Jack envied, for a moment.

"If I can take the liberty..." William waited until Jack nodded to continue. "It's a wise man who knows who his friends are, Mr. Parsons. MP Bell is no good for liberals."

Jack felt his eyes widen slightly, but William was already gliding away and Bell and Graveworthy were returning.

"Find anything else in these chicken scratches?" Bell asked, clapping Jack on the shoulder.

"A few things," Jack murmured.

"Well, it's useful for something, then. Now, Mr. Grimes has just suggested to me the idea of a subscription corporation for land purchases, and I'll need some industrial information before we present it to interested parties. This way..."

Jack followed Bell out the door; Graveworthy paused at the desk where William sat. "Just a moment, Bell?"

"Of course," Bell said.

"I have a friend who used to work in the Archives office, I've no idea if he's still here," Graveworthy said to William. "I believe he was in office thirty-two. Could you carry a message for me?"

"Of course, sir," William replied, offering him a slip of paper and his pen. Jack watched with interest as Graveworthy scribbled a few lines, signed it, folded it, and handed it to him.

"Tell him he can find me at the Canberra Republican Hotel, at his leisure," Graveworthy said. Jack cast a look back as they left the building and saw William hurrying down a hallway, the note in one hand.

"What was that about?" he asked in an undertone, while they waited for Bell's car to be brought around.

"Tell you later," Graveworthy answered. "Ah, Bell, I think the land grant office next?"

***

They didn't have a moment alone together until well after lunch. Ellis had hoped to go find office thirty-two in the archive building himself but, barring that, at least he'd got a message through. He tried to ignore the nervousness in the back of his mind, but it was difficult not to be impatient. Bell showed them accounting records and land ordinances, introduced them to lawyers who were already working on opening land in the interior for purchase, and never left them alone.

Still, Ellis knew how to be subtle, and it beat running for his life through Paris sewers or hiding in a Calcutta bordello with the fate of half a country in his waistcoat pocket. He'd done both, in his time.

Finally, finally Bell gave his driver directions to take them back to the hotel, and left them in front of it with a clap on the shoulder and a huge grin.

"Tomorrow night, dinner -- I'll send the auto. You'll be the diamond of the ball, Mr. Parsons. Until then," Bell said, and then to the Tribal behind the steering wheel, "Drive on."

Ellis stood with his hand implacably holding Jack's shoulder, making sure he didn't speak, until the car turned the corner.

"Come in off the street," Ellis said, steering him into the hotel.

Up in their suite -- empty, which meant Clare and Purva must still be out -- Jack collapsed across the sofa and watched as Ellis went to the window, looking down.

"So?" Jack prompted. "That business with your friend in the Archives?"

"The records we picked up in Brisbane came with a letter," Ellis said. "It asked me to go to the Archive building and contact the occupant of Office 32. I was hoping I could just go myself, but Bell latched on like a leech."

"I noticed that," Jack said, sounding almost surprised about it.

"Is that all that was making you nervous?"

Jack rubbed his hair, making it stick up. "Well, the clerk at the Archives...we really have to be careful what we say, don't we?"

"As I've been trying to tell you. What happened?"

"He just said something -- that Bell wasn't any friend to Liberals. He pegged us."

Ellis smiled. "Perhaps so, but he's not likely to spread that very far, if he said it to you instead of to Bell."

"Maybe." Jack sat up, rubbing his face. "And you really enjoy all this, don't you?"

"Spywork? Yes, I suppose I do."

"How'd you get into it?" Jack asked.

"I met a woman who saw some potential in a young man with very few prospects," Ellis replied. "I hadn't yet published -- I was quite poor. But I knew London well, so she used to ask me to carry messages for her. It was all very exciting and interesting then. Not that it isn't still, but...things are more complicated now."

"It's not like you can quit in the middle of this job, I suppose," Jack said, laughing.

"No, certainly not. How are you finding it?"

"Difficult. But it won't be forever."

"The Crown could use an inventor, you know. You could make your fortune in England, working for us."

"As a spy!" Jack laughed harder.

"Spies need tools. Moreover, they need clever men at their backs. Think about it," Ellis suggested, as someone knocked on the door. He went to answer it, wondering if the women had forgotten their keys, and was surprised to find a young Tribal woman standing on the other side of the door.

"For you, from your friend at the Archive, sir," she said, offering him a small envelope.

"Thank you. Were you asked to wait on a reply?"

"No, sir," she said, looking anxious that he might make her wait.

"Fine then, go on with you," Ellis said, closing the door and walking to the writing desk for a letter-opener. He cracked the seal with the blade, noting the stamp of the Australian Archives Office in the wax, and unfolded the paper.

"What is it?" Jack asked, watching him keenly from the couch.

"An invitation," Ellis replied, skimming the brief letter, which bore no address and no signature. "To the archives, this evening, presumably for the purpose of meeting the person who summoned me here. Or his agent."

"How do they know who you are?"

"The note I sent. I said I picked up their package in Brisbane. Well, this is exciting; it means they weren't found out when they summoned me, and presumably still have interest in helping me. I suppose it might be a sting, but if that were the case, they'd have sent the police, not a Tribal servant."

"Unless they want to find out what you know," Jack pointed out.

"Well, yes. Don't think I won't be prepared for that. But that way of thinking leads slowly to paranoia that has ruined many a good agent of the Crown. Best to keep one's spirits up."

Jack laughed. "Honestly?"

"Indeed. Sometimes one must trust. And sometimes one shouldn't ask questions you know you probably won't like the answers for."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"It means that I have done, and will do, what is required to protect the mission. Now," he added, leaning forward, "Archives aside, we have a busy afternoon ahead of us. Particularly for you."

"Me?" Jack asked, looking startled.

"Of course. You are now the driving force behind a transcontinental rail installation. You must be prepared to answer some questions, and not to answer others. You're not good at deflecting curiosity, Jack; you have too much of your own. We need to prepare for tomorrow night."

Jack looked up at him. "This isn't going to go well for me, is it?"

Ellis sighed. "No, probably not."

***

Purva spent the afternoon torn between wanting to laugh at Jack and wanting to stab Ellis Graveworthy.

It was undoubtedly true that Jack was something of a boy, for all he had been captain of the airship. He was impulsive and he wasn't used to fighting people. If there was a machine to be repaired, to be reworked, Jack would know where to put the wrench. With people he was not so certain, and it made him sulky.

He reminded her of the child brought onboard the Queen Jacqueline after her mother's death, the one who could call up storms. He was valuable to the pirates because he was a storm-maker, of course -- petted and well-fed and so he cared little for fairness or honor, things Purva had held very dear. In a contest of arms, the shrewdest and strongest won. Keeping a child to do your fighting for you...well, that smacked of blunt underhandedness. Purva was underhanded enough for all three of her current traveling companions, but at least she did her own fighting.

Weeks ago, if Jack had come onto her ship rather than the reverse, she might have taken him as a lover and eventually discarded him (the next time they made port she had meant to raid the Queen Jacqueline's library and vanish anyway, or kill the captain and take the ship herself). On his ship she had hung back, unwilling to be a captain's concubine. Perhaps wise to have done so. She would not have then been so fascinated by him.

"All right," Graveworthy said tiredly. "One more time."

"I'm trying, you know. It's easy for you, you earn your living lying!" Jack said, clearly at the end of his patience.

"And you earn yours building. Do you want to see Europe in the hands of small-minded men like Bell? Men who think the only reason to build a rail line is to make a profit? They're staging a war, Jack. I have to get information on their war machines back to Great Britain. In order for me to do that, you have to be prepared. I don't like it either, but it's the way things shook out!"

"Your shouting," Purva said delicately, "is very impressive, but perhaps will draw attention."

"I can't say I disagree," Clare said, stepping out into the living room. Purva saw Graveworthy summon a smile for her.

"New dresses all settled in?" he asked.

"I've admired every one of them and put them away. I'm going to miss trousers, but they're very pretty," Clare replied. "Jack, don't be a pain."

Purva returned to her after-dinner book, while Jack and Graveworthy went back to work. Jack might not realize what a master his navigator was at the subtle art of levering a human being, but every lesson Graveworthy gave him that afternoon had some purpose: to deflect a question, to refract curiosity back on the questioner, to charm in the slick way Graveworthy charmed and not the innocent, fuzzy-headed way Jack charmed. To charm with intent, rather than with intellect.

"All right," Graveworthy said. "Try it this way. Mr. Parsons," he said, inclining his head. "So good to finally meet you!"

"The pleasure's all mine, sir," Jack answered tiredly. "I'm sorry, I've been introduced to so many people tonight..."

"Ellis Graveworthy," Graveworthy said, extending his hand.

"Ah..." Jack answered uncertainly, shaking it.

"And there you lost it. Remember -- you know everyone, you've heard of everyone."

Jack scrubbed at his face with his hands. "Again."

"Ellis Graveworthy."

"Of course! I've heard so much about you. How's business?"

"Very good -- now you've set the tone, I'm talking about myself. It's grand, Mr. Parsons, never better."

"I'm so glad to hear it. I'd heard rumors of a downswing."

"In drilling? Oh, never! Why, just this year we expanded to oil as well as water."

"Dangerous mixture," Jack replied, and Graveworthy gave a false, hearty laugh.

"So my clerks tell me, but it certainly brings in the money. Now I hear you're going to have call for wells in the future."

"And I'll certainly remember your name when the topic arises. Excuse me -- I believe someone's trying to get my attention. We'll talk later?"

"Oh, assuredly, Mr. Parsons. And, clap me on the arm, shake my hand, firm eye contact, and away. Very good, Jack. Now you're getting it. We can try -- "

"Ellis," Clare said quietly. "He's tired. It's enough for one day; you'll have tomorrow to polish him up."

Graveworthy seemed indecisive, but finally shrugged and gave in.

"Fair enough. Sleep on it, lad," he said, with a certain degree of kindness. Jack smiled at him, apparently pleased with finally having won his approval, and flopped sideways on the couch, head landing near Clare's thigh. She tapped him on the head with a pamphlet on Australia's Woman Today! and smiled. They were so strange, those two.

"I think perhaps it's time for me to meet our mysterious friend in office thirty-two," Graveworthy added, and Jack sat up again.

"I'll come with y -- "

"No, I think not. Clare's right; you should rest. I'll bring Purva; we'll be fine."

"Are you sure?" Jack asked.

"Obviously he doesn't mean us outright harm," Graveworthy said, and clapped Purva on the shoulder. "Come along; this is a business for professionals."

Purva grinned.

Chapter Nineteen

Date: 2012-05-07 07:50 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] alarivana.livejournal.com
Purva's characterization doesn't match her age. It stands out in lines like the last of this chapter: Ellis compliments her in a way that implies she's his equal and this means a lot to her. I have the sense that there are several places where she's deciding whether to look to others for a sense of self-worth or to derive her pride from disregarding others' opinions (not just in this chapter; I could go back and find more if you want), and to me, that's a conflict of adolescence.

Ellis teaching Jack to be charming is a great scene.

I also liked seeing Ellis slip up a little by not realizing that the Australian owning class wouldn't all know french. Just the sort of detail he'd be likely to forget in the situation.

I'm now at the point in the story where I half-remember what comes next and am desperately hungry for the rest to be posted so I can see how it plays out.

Date: 2012-05-08 01:33 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] hpstrangelove.livejournal.com
I just want to tell you how much I'm enjoying this story, although I'm not able to keep up with your posts! I'm way back on chapter 8 or 9 I think. I keep hoping I can catch up and then post a decent comment, but I don't think that's going to happen.

So, I want to thank you for sharing this story. It's really great - way better than some stuff I pay for at Amazon.

Date: 2012-05-08 03:28 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] belgianqueen.livejournal.com
"...which is why men like Plater can still farmstead."
--- 'farmstead' as a verb feels a little ungainly to me, though it may be widely accepted, and I just haven't quite caught up! (In which case take no notice.) '...which is why men like Plater can still farm' feels more rhythmical.

Lovely chapter; interesting detail and suspenseful -- draws you along purposefully.

Date: 2012-05-08 10:51 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] emei.livejournal.com
Very much enjoying the more intricate undercover stuff here, it's fascinating.

I'm still hoping for more of Clare and Purva, both in conversation and direct interaction between the two of them, and in the more introperspective POV stuff. I feel like I can't get a grip on how they relate to each other, what they think about each other. All the other relationships within the main four come across clearer (Jack & Clare, Clare & Ellis, Ellis & Jack, Jack & Purva, Purva & Ellis). Getting to see some of how they handle their lunch and shopping with Mrs Bell would've been great, for instance.

Date: 2012-05-08 08:50 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] emei.livejournal.com
Glad to hear you'll take a general look at it.

Might be that a shopping scene would be out of place - but as the chapter stands I went "ooh finally some Clare and Purva on their own" when it was set up - and then there was a whole lot of the boys being spies and very noticably no Clare-Purva. If I hadn't already been thinking about it I probably wouldn't have noticed, though.

Date: 2012-05-08 12:45 pm (UTC)
ext_3472: Sauron drinking tea. (Default)
From: [identity profile] maggiebloome.livejournal.com
I liked this one, although it's occurring to me that you've introduced rather a lot of Williams. Can't wait for the next chapter!

In this bit:

"Up to you, Parsons," Bell said.

"Let him," Graveworthy said carelessly.

It sounds a bit like Graveworthy is answering to the name Parsons - unclear who "him" is, etc.

Date: 2012-05-08 03:12 pm (UTC)
ext_3472: Sauron drinking tea. (Default)
From: [identity profile] maggiebloome.livejournal.com
Is Libris the archive clerk? Also the helium guy in England, I believe...

Date: 2012-05-08 03:37 pm (UTC)
ext_3472: Sauron drinking tea. (Default)
From: [identity profile] maggiebloome.livejournal.com
Heh, speaking of historical figures: when you first introduced Bell, I had to stop and try very hard to remember Alexander Graham Bell's first name just to check it wasn't going that way.

Date: 2012-05-17 04:41 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] twirlynoodle.livejournal.com
Well, everyone in the Edwardian era was named Edward. That's why they're known as Edwardians. :D!

Date: 2012-05-08 04:39 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jkivela.livejournal.com
And now I want to see Jack as the steam punk Q to Ellis' Bond. :)

It's great to see Ellis playing people like this, shows how good he is at being a spy.

I agree I'd have liked to see some of the shopping, or at least a flash back from Purva's POV that evening.

Date: 2012-05-08 06:58 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jonaht.livejournal.com
In my humble opinion between the mentioning of their age and ALL THE MEALS I am getting bogged down. I keep expecting another meal to pop up and not concentrating on their coversations so I have to re-read it. It seems to me that they are always talking over breakfast ...or lunch ...or dinner. Tea, on the other hand, is fine. I'm sorry if this is a snarky comment. I do like how we are getting into Ellis' business side now. (At a dinner party no less).

Date: 2012-05-09 06:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jonaht.livejournal.com
You know what, disregard that. I went through a blue period when I wrote that and I shouldn't have. Ellis referred to them as infants and that stroke something and anyway, I'm sorry. You are doing a great job. I'm looking forward to more chapters. THanks.

Date: 2012-05-08 11:06 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] leeduck.livejournal.com
Reading this chapter and the next I am really liking the plot changes you've made. Things seem to be happening less by chance. I didn't notice it as a lack when I read the first version, but I like the changes.


"Electricity," Purva said, rolling the strange new word around in her mouth, giving it at once an Australian and a French inflection.


There doesn't seem to be any reason for Purva to say this. Was there a context that got cut out?


"When Jack woke the following morning, he slipped out of bed and found Graveworthy in the room Jack and Clare were supposedly sharing as husband-and-wife. He was leaning over Clare at the small writing-desk as Jack walked in, buttoning up his waistcoat. Australian clothing still felt odd; waistcoats too short, trousers slightly too high at the hip.

"Morning," he mumbled, rubbing sleep out of his eyes."


On the train Jack was the morning person. Is there a reason he was the last one up?



Date: 2012-05-09 01:26 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] corbistheca.livejournal.com
The first sentence feels awkward in its construction, like it's trying to say three different things and they're all tripping over each other.

Oh, the Bells. Such useful tools they are, for both Ellis and the narrative...

I love seeing Ellis-training-Jack-at-subterfuge through Purva's eyes. We haven't seen much directly from her POV, and this is such a lovely little glimpse at her feelings about Jack, her feelings about Ellis -- and the tiniest comparative glance at the-way-Clare-interacts-with-Ellis and the-way-Clare-interacts-with-Jack and how they differ, that's nice too. Basically in the last section of the chapter you're "showing not telling" LIEK WOAH and it's making me very happy.

Date: 2012-05-09 04:25 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] derridian.livejournal.com
"Makes you wonder how long they were planning on having a capital city," he said - this is a bit ambiguous. It sound like Ellis means he wonders how long they were planning to keep having a capital city rather than how long the capital city was in the planning stages.


Jack nodded, and the man set the books on the table, unrolling the new map on top of the old. The paper was strange, fibrous and discolored, but once it was unrolled that hardly mattered. Jack sucked in a breath admiringly.

"This is amazing," he murmured, spreading his hands over the map, not touching it. The coast boundaries were nothing more than rough squiggles, but the entire interior of the continent was covered with scrawls, spirals, figures, and odd shapes in a variety of colors. In one corner, a figure knelt as if in prayer. In another part, a bright green snake wound around the base of a jutting rocky outcrop. Port Darwin was a black smudge surrounded in fine, even-spaced emerald dots. Brisbane was a bright splash of yellow. Canberra was blank, but he thought the large white square, like a ship's sail, might be Melbourne.

"And this is water?" Jack asked, pointing to several blue smears.


The tribal map part doesn't ring true to me. This gets really complicated and I don't know what research you've done and feedback you've had in this area previously. So, before I go on I'm going to ask if you want feedback on this because I'd probably pick apart most of it. I could probably come up with a few simple work arounds though with a bit of added research (which I'm happy to do - it would involve going to the art gallery and the museum which are some of my favourite things to do anyway).

(I need to go eat lots of sugar now: this is the comment in lieu of the original comment which was very long and got bogged down in complexities. Then I'll need to go to bed.)

Date: 2012-05-09 06:24 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] harkpad02.livejournal.com
I adore Purva's POV in this chapter so much. There was a comment about Purva's need for validation not matching her age. I think this delight in Ellis' approval is more from a professional stance anyway. When Ellis compliments her it is because she'd doing excellent spy work. She's new to the spy 'profession' and respects Ellis as a spy. I think if you look back on it she is looking for validation when she is in a new situation, which would be natural at any age.


"I remember...it > I guess I have trouble accepting that Clare would remember anything of this sort. My memories of when I was three certainly wouldn’t have included peripheral observations like this. You have another section where she discusses remembering the Tribals marrying whites and such, but then Ellis just sort of explains it anyway. You may not need Clare's memories to make those bits work. That could just be me and my lousy memory, though. :)

And...I went all sentence structure-crazy on you. Sorry.


when Graveworthy disappeared, and Jack could sit with Clare – you don’t actually need the comma after ‘disappeared.’ (The main clause is 'it was a relief' and the rest is just a subordinate clause.)

After the borders closed, they needed better food production; had to open up farmland, and the white colonists -- well, the descendants of white prisoners -- used the leverage in place to get farmland for themselves. > If you’re going to use the semicolon after ‘production,’ then you should use ‘they’ before ‘had’ in the next clause. It could also be written: “After the borders closed they needed better food production and had to open up farmland; the white colonists – well, the descendents of white prisoners – used the leverage in place to get farmland for themselves.”

On the other hand, they were at least traveling in style. = On the other hand, they were, at least, traveling in style. (You’ve got a parenthetical expression opening the sentence and one in the middle. You may want to consider getting rid of one of them. I kind of think they’re redundant.)

The dining car might be interesting, they usually are. = The dining car might be interesting; they usually are.

When they arrived that evening they parted ways with Purva at the train station. . . > comma after evening

“and after all he hadn't got where he was…” > technically you need the commas surrounding ‘after all,’ since it’s a parenthetical expression, but it gets awkward to have the comma before and after your ‘and’ there. Do you really need the ‘after all’? I kinda think it has more impact without it, myself.

(Ducks and runs because Sam's probably getting annoyed at this point...)

Date: 2012-05-12 04:39 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] maeritrae.livejournal.com
"A lot can change in sixteen years. Maybe it was changing even then, if what you say is true, but I -- " she hesitated, then forged ahead.

Definitely a capital letter on the She, I'd say.

My heart goes out to poor Jack - but it's a skill well worth acquiring. :)

Date: 2012-05-17 04:37 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] twirlynoodle.livejournal.com
little curtained cubicles with a bed just barely long enough to fit his lanky frame

Somehow this description of Ellis took me by surprise – I had always pictured him, not fat by any means, but with that solidity that comes in middle age. This was borne out by remarks like when he says he couldn’t get through the trapdoor on the train car with a pack on his back. Granted, some of this may come with my mental association of him with Stephen Fry, though I do picture him thinner than that ... Anderson I see being lanky; Ellis is a man of action when it comes down to it, but we’ve seen so much of him lounging about and expostulating, or enjoying the rich life, that I have trouble imagining him lanky. And I like the way that comfortable body shape plays against the stereotyped super fit sexy spy. But he’s your character, don’t be swayed by my mental image. :)

Attempting to climb the cliff in darkness, the men were overheard conversing and were arrested when they had completed their ascent.

See! It’s dangerous!

"Isn't he good?" Graveworthy asked.

As it seems to be a rhetorical question, more an expression of admiration, I’m not sure if ‘asked’ is right in this context – perhaps ‘remarked’?

You'll be the diamond of the ball, Mr. Parsons.

Ummm... Mr Grimes, surely? Unless Mr Bell is talking to Jack, in which case that should be clearer ... but the land broker with the big plans is supposed to be the guest of honour, right, not his engineer son-in-law?

”... we really have to be careful what we say, don't we?"
"As I've been trying to tell you...”

Has he?

I am happy to see William at last! I hadn't realised how late in the story he appeared, though when I read it the first time I had no idea where we were in the grand scheme of things when he made his entrance. I still mean to draw him but first I have to picture him not looking like a former colleague ...

Date: 2012-05-30 01:07 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] twirlynoodle.livejournal.com
I don't understand how the pack interacts with height – he's not carrying it on his head...? Backpacks increase your horizontal measurements, not vertical, unless you're doing some serious cross-country backpacking, and then it's still only a few inches above your head.

I guess my impression of the scene with Bell talking up the two of them made it sound like it was all about the land deal and getting Ellis hooked up with investors, and then all of a sudden he turns around and is like 'Jack will be the belle of the ball!' It just seems like a non sequitur, in a way ... the seeds weren't sufficiently planted, maybe? Bell himself doesn't seem interested in engineering nearly as much as the land speculation.

Date: 2012-05-30 04:11 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] twirlynoodle.livejournal.com
OK, now I am really confused how to visualise this whole thing ...

Date: 2012-06-11 12:41 am (UTC)
ext_14419: the mouse that wants Arthur's brain (Default)
From: [identity profile] derien.livejournal.com
The pack would make bending in any direction stiff, but backward worst. I would imagine that I would roll onto my side and then twist upward. Although I seem to recall that what strained my imagination most about that scene was them not being spotted.

Date: 2012-06-17 09:39 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] twirlynoodle.livejournal.com
OK ... I think I get what you're saying ... but I still don't see how the pack affects his dimensions in any way but, erm, depth? (as in height[up], breadth[across], depth[front-to-back])
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