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Nov. 4 — Consulting the Best

“Captain Lanfier!” The elderly gentleman stood up, a smile of mingled surprise and pleasure deepening some wrinkles.

“Dr. Andresen,” Mariah said. “It’s been a long time.”

“It certainly has,” Dr. Andresen replied. “What, eleven years? Twelve? Please, have a seat.” He gestured to the moderately-stuffed seat near her. Mariah sat down, and Dr. Andresen followed suit, relaxing back into the armchair he’d been seated in when she entered.

“How have you been?” he asked. “Are you still…in business?”

“No, I retired several years ago. I’ve been living in America.”

“Ahh, good show, Captain!” Dr. Andresen exclaimed. “But I’m sure you’ve still been keeping up on the news in our lands.”

Mariah smiled. “Indeed I have.” She settled back, answering a few questions and letting him guide the conversation where he would. She knew full well that her time here was limited, but she didn’t begrudge him this; after all, his news sources were quite limited.

And, indeed, he knew her constraints, for after about 20 minutes, he said, “Well, I know you didn’t come all this way simply to fill me in on gossip. What brings you here?”

Mariah leaned forward a little. “I need your advice.”

Dr. Andresen raised an eyebrow. “I’m not sure what I can do in my current situation, but ask away.”

“I find myself in the rather interesting position of training a budding Heroine,” Mariah explained. “Now, while I certainly know some areas in which to train her–marksmanship and unarmed combat, for instance–I wonder what else she ought to know. I considered you the likeliest person to be able to help me.”

Dr. Andresen’s eyes had widened further and further with surprise as she spoke. Now he burst into laughter. “Yes, an interesting dilemma, indeed! Is this Heroine-to-be up against any particular Villain?”

Mariah nodded. “Dr. Obolensky.”

“Ahhh, Gelving!” He chuckled. “Good to know that he’s still active at his age. And does your protégé have any mechanical aptitude?”

“No, unfortunately. That makes things rather interesting.”

Dr. Andresen nodded. “Tell me what you know.” He listened intently as Mariah recounted Miss Hienrich’s various encounters with Dr. Obolensky.

For over two hours, they discussed areas of training and possible strategies to use against him. Finally, Mariah noticed the man standing by the door, shifting his weight from one leg to the other. “I think our time is up,” she said, standing up.

“So I see,” Dr. Andresen replied, also rising to his feet. “Any chance you could visit again?”

Mariah shot a look at the man in the doorway, then looked back at Dr. Andresen, shaking her head regretfully. “I’m afraid not.”

“Ahh, well, I didn’t really think so. I was good to see you again, Captain Lanfier, however briefly. Good luck.”

“Farewell, Doctor.” Mariah bowed, then made for the door. On the threshold, she paused, turned back, and waved to Dr. Andresen. He waved back, his motion partially obscured by the bars that marked the edge of his cell. She followed the other man down the narrow spiral staircase, neither saying a word.

The man finally broke the silence as they exited the stone tower. “Well? Did you learn what you needed to learn?”

“I think so, Warden,” she replied.

——–

When Mariah left New Babbage after the October Aether Salon, she already knew what she wanted to do. The trick was gaining permission to do it. She was, after all, still wanted in Caledon for her smuggling activities. Not that that had stopped her from visiting Caledon, but those visits had generally been in disguise, and to areas where the authorities had less sway. But now, she wanted to talk to Dr. Michael Andresen, notorious Villain and, for the past ten years, prisoner on an isolated island off the Caledonian coast. To do that, she would need to talk to someone in authority.

Luckily, the very person she needed to talk to was someone who would have to listen. Warden Jameson had been a young Lieutenant Jameson when she first saw him 15 years ago, adrift on the open sea after his ship had been attacked and sunk by pirates. Her crew had wanted to leave him on the seas, or even kill him outright. She’d taken the longer view, though, rescued him, and dropped him off in New Babbage, after making sure he understood very well that he owed her a life-debt–one that she might, or might not, collect one day.

When she arrived in Caledon, she found a small hotel at which to stay, and in her room, put together her package. She placed a ring in a small box; it wasn’t valuable, but it would be immediately recognizable to Warden Jameson as the ring she’d taken from him as his pledge to honor his debt. She penned a note to go with it: “The time for repayment has come. Hotel Malibrae, 10:00 tonight.”

She went downstairs to the reception desk and, placing the package in the care of the attendant there, said, “Please see that this is delivered to Warden Jameson as soon as possible.”

She spent most of the day in her room, wanting to be as circumspect as possible. She came down only for a late dinner, then took some sherry into the lounge to wait. Promptly at 10:00, she saw a man enter the lounge and look around. He was graying at the temples, and his face looked a little careworn, but otherwise, he looked very much as he had 15 years ago. He spotted her and came over to her table.

“I could have you arrested,” he said.

“You could. You won’t,” she replied. “At the very least, you’re too curious to know what my request will be.”

“True.” He sat down and leaned forward. “So what is it?” he asked quietly.

Mariah could almost see him mentally steeling himself for her reply, and smiled slightly in amusement. “I need to talk to Dr. Andresen for a few hours.”

Warden Jameson’s eyes widened in surprise, then narrowed in suspicion. “Why?”

Mariah explained the entire story. She saw no reason not to, and the more forthright she was with the warden, the better her chances of getting what she needed.

Jameson sat in amazed silence for several minutes. Finally, he said, “You…*you’re* training a Heroine?”

She saw amusement starting to creep into his eyes, and felt relief inside. “Believe me, Jameson, I’m more surprised by this than you are. But if I’m going to train her, I need to know what to train her in. My…previous line of work didn’t exactly bring me into close contact with any Heros, so I may as well consult with the other end of the spectrum.”

Jameson nodded slowly. “Understandable.” He thought for a few minutes. “All right. I’ll help you. But it’ll take some time to arrange–you may as well go back home for now, and I’ll send you a telegraph when things are ready.”

Mariah sighed a little, but knew better than to push. “All right. I have to put some things into motion anyway; it’s just as easy to do it now as later.” She gave him her address in Boston–an address that wouldn’t be hers for much longer.

——–

It had taken nearly three weeks, but she did finally receive that telegram, and came back to Caledon, to be guided by Warden Jameson to the isolated prison of Dr. Andresen. And now, he was guiding her away.

“And my life debt?” he asked.

“Paid in full,” she replied.

“Good.” He suddenly grinned at her. “Don’t let me *see* you here in Caledon again.”

Mariah easily picked up on his slight emphasis, and grinned back. “You won’t.”

Their boat dropped her off by the ship she’d take back to Boston. Only a few more arrangements, and she could make her life-changing move…

Back to New Babbage.

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