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Epilogue

CLIPPED FROM CANBERRA HERALD, MORNING EDITION
CEREMONY OF WELCOME

PICTURED: At left, first returning Expatriate Gregory Anderson is greeted by sister Elizabeth Jackson and family as he disembarks from the HMS Racecourse in Sydney. At right, Mr. Jack Baker and Miss Purva de la Fitte speak with leaders from the newly-formed Association for the International Advancement of Engineering and representatives of several automobile manufacturers. Center, Murra Fields and William Libris (MP - Canberra), with representatives of Colonial and Koori Joint Parliament, ceremonially welcome newly appointed British Ambassador to Australia Ellis Graveworthy.

***

That evening, after all the lumos had been taken and the journalists satisfied with quotes, Ellis sank into a deep couch in the reception room of the suite the Sydney Grand Hotel had offered him and accepted the drink Jack passed him.

"How long will you stay in Australia, Mr. Baker?" Anderson's sister asked, from the table where they'd been sitting and speaking quietly for the last half hour. Ellis didn't begrudge the man a little time to catch up with his family; after weeks of conferences and politics with Anderson in London and months spent sharing a stateroom with him on the more sedate steamer journey back to Australia, he felt inclined to be generous.

"Not too long," Jack said, glancing at Purva, who was studying the bookcase, looking for new reading material. She glanced back and smiled. "Purva and I are taking the airship to America, as soon as it's ready. I'd like to refit the propellers with an auto engine, but if it doesn't work we can always buy coal."

"You have to stay at least a few weeks, Jack," Murra said, settling on the arm of Ellis's chair. He reached up and ran his fingers down the small of her back, hidden from view of the others. She twisted, giving him a smile.

"Well, yeah, I mean -- if I do refit the airship it'll be at least a month," Jack agreed. "And the AIAE -- what a mouthful -- needs help getting off the ground. But I can't just please you anymore, you know. I have Purva to think of."

"Oh, you usually please me," Purva answered, while Murra laughed. "Mr. Anderson, we can find you an Australian bride, I think? Something in the air, I am sure of it."

"I shudder to think, de la Fitte," Anderson said with a smile. "Besides, I'm sure you all have much more important work to do."

"As do you," Ellis reminded him.

"Nonsense. You're the Ambassador. I'm just a lowly lieutenant in your office. We're expected to skive off and live immorally. You know," Anderson said to his sister, "He's never been my boss before."

"I'm sure he'll keep you in line," she answered, and his reply was interrupted by a knock on the door. Anderson's nieces ran into the room in their nightdresses, shouting and laughing. They demanded kisses goodnight from Miss Fields and Mama, and then begged Uncle to put them to bed with a story.

"Nothing that breaks the Crown Secrets Act," Ellis called, as Anderson took them by the hands to lead them away.

"Mr. Graveworthy's a bore," they heard Anderson say to the girls as they walked down the hallway.

Mrs. Jackson stood, smoothing her dress. "I should go make sure they don't pester him. He's a lovely man but he's not very used to children, I think..."

"We should go too," Jack added, as Purva took a book off the shelf and tucked it under one arm. "The Harrison automobile company's holding a reception for me tomorrow, and I was promised a look at their new engine."

"Don't sign anything," Ellis said.

"Thank you, Ambassador," Jack replied mockingly. Purva took his elbow, shooting Murra a knowing look. "Onward to adventure! And Engineering!" he called, as they left.

"So," Murra said, as he moved over so she could slip down into the corner of the couch. "I hear you're a diplomat now."

"Never believe it," he answered. "I'm gathering inspiration for my next novel, that's all."

"I suspected as much. You're not a very good writer, you know," she teased.

"Well, I'm still practicing," he said, settling an arm around her shoulders. "How are you, Murra?"

"Tired. Still settling in, still learning things. Happy to see you," she said softly. "You?"

"Eager to hear all the things you've done since I've been away. The trip here was excessively boring. Not a single pirate or a crash on a storm-tossed beach."

"Probably just as well." She leaned sideways and kissed him, then let her forehead rest against his. He allowed himself a rare moment of quiet, of peace; God knew he probably wouldn't have much of either in the near future.

Not that he minded -- they had so much good work to do, and she was here.

"Welcome to Australia, Ambassador," Murra said, and Ellis laughed.

END

Author's Note:

I just wanted to say a quick thank-you to everyone who's been reading along and commenting. If you haven't yet gotten to comment but still want to, please feel free -- I'll be in edits for a while and I can incorporate them as I go.

As ever, I can't do this without my readers, and wouldn't even want to try. Thanks, all. :)
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