Author's Note: I wanted to get back to basics with this story, so I tried to imagine what the first voyages of Phineas and Jeffrey would have been like. They didn't know much about each other, and Jeff had a lot of emotional baggage, not only from the sudden loss of his parents, but from his aunt's neglect. Poor Phineas didn't have much experience with kids and had lost his guidebook and was violating the code by traveling with a civilian. They must've had a lot to sort out.
Also, I wanted to try my hand at writing different "points of view" and this story seemed to lend itself to that. So, as they experience their first few voyages together, I've tried to write their differing points of view. This story takes place after the Battle of Hastings at the end of the Pilot episode, long before Episode 2: Created Equal.
Chapter 1 Climbing to the Summit
Phineas Bogg and Jeffrey Jones landed on a steep path on a trail through the woods and both started to slide downhill on the loose stones. Bogg reached for a small tree trunk with one hand and Jeffrey's arm with the other, and suddenly they stopped sliding.
They stared at each other and then at their surroundings for a second before Bogg spoke.
"See if you can climb up and sit on that rock," he said, motioning with his head. Immediately, Jeff began making his way to the rock and as his weight left Bogg, the older man moved in the same direction.
"Some landing!" Jeff exclaimed as he settled on the ledge and waited for Bogg.
Bogg opened the omni "September 13th, 1901, the Adirondacks," he paused to catch his breath. "Any ideas kid?"
Jeff's brow furrowed as he thought. He had only met Bogg for a few days, and he was determined to be an asset to him, always an asset, but he couldn't quite remember about this place and date. In Bogg's line of work, those were two very important things, and Jeff was disappointed in himself. Bogg's job was to fix things so history would stay on track. Jeff's job was to help him and never be a problem. After this landing, where Bogg had needed to hold him to prevent him sliding down the trail, he felt like a failure instead of an asset, and he was anxious to redeem himself. It was important that he get this right, so he continued to concentrate.
"I do know this date," Jeff said suddenly. "Tomorrow, William McKinley dies," he announced proudly.
Jeff looked at Bogg in surprise, "President William McKinley?" he asked. He was unable to keep the surprise out of his voice, and he hoped Bogg didn't mind too much. He didn't mean it in a bad way, in fact Jeff was secretly glad that Bogg wasn't very good at history, because it made Jeff's knowledge more valuable. After all, it would be harder for Bogg to send him away if he needed him. He wondered nervously, just how long it would take for Bogg to get a replacement Guidebook.
"Did he die in the woods?" Bogg asked, looking around.
"No, in Buffalo, NY. He was shot twice while he was standing in a receiving line. One of the bullets just grazed his chest, but the other went into his stomach. He died of an infection 8 days later."
Bogg stared at him, "anything else?" he asked in an amused tone.
"Most historians think that if the doctors hadn't poked at the wound with dirty hands, he might have lived." He paused uncertainly, "nothing else I can think of."
"So what are we doing in the Adirondacks?"
As Jeff took a breath to give an opinion, they heard a faint shout.
"Help," it could barely be heard.
Bogg jumped to his feet, looking around, trying to figure out which direction to go.
"Where are you?" he yelled loudly, and they paused to wait for a response.
"Help, the cliff, help" the man's voice repeated.
"It's further up the trail," Jeff said and they both started up the steep, rocky trail, Bogg in front, traveling as fast as he could toward the distressed voice.
As the trail leveled off, Bogg paused and looked around. The land dropped off precipitously on one side, and halfway down the cliff, a young man lay on a narrow rock ledge. He had fallen and was wedged between a large tree growing out of the side of the cliff, and the cliff itself. He was unable to move.
"Hang on," Bogg called down and glanced around. He could see Jeffrey just reaching the top of the hill and called out to him, "stay up here, I'm gonna try climbing down to him, maybe I can get him out of there."
Jeff watched as Phineas started descending the steep slope. He reached the man quickly and pulled him up and out of the narrow gap between the tree and rock.
"Can you climb?" Bogg asked.
Together, they made their way slowly back up the slope and when he got close enough to the top, Jeff reached down and offered him his hand to help pull him up the last bit.
"I can't thank you enough," the young man gasped as he collapsed onto the ground.
"No problem," Bogg answered. "It's not safe to hike alone you know."
The man smiled, "I've gotta be going, thanks again," and as they watched he took off, running up the trail.
"No wonder he fell," Bogg remarked, taking the omni from his belt. "Can't still be red," he said, and Jeff could hear the familiar sound of the red light.
Suddenly Jeff snapped his fingers, "he's a runner, not a hiker," he said as if that would explain everything.
"A runner?" Bogg asked, perplexed, "why is he running? It's too dangerous to run on this trail." He smiled as the kid began to explain. He had been amazed at Jeff's knowledge of history since they met.
"He's running with a message for Teddy Roosevelt," Jeff answered proudly.
"Keep going kid," Bogg's told him, still not understanding.
"Bogg, Teddy Roosevelt is Vice President. McKinley was shot and died on September 14th. This guy's got to be delivering the message to Teddy to get back to Buffalo."
"Why is it still red then?"
"I don't know, maybe something else happens to him," Jeff answered and shrugged.
"Well, I guess we should follow him then," Bogg said and started up the trail.
The path was steep and rocky. It didn't take Bogg long to realize they were climbing to the summit of a mountain. He glanced back at Jeff, who was lagging behind a bit, then slowed his pace so the boy could keep up. It was not an easy climb, and he imagined that Jeffrey was very tired and sore, but the kid never complained.
This was a slower pace than he would've kept up had he been alone, and he found that it gave him time to look around. He noticed the trees changing color and the crisp blue of the sky. He'd never slowed down to notice those kinds of things before and he smiled to himself. It was nice to take it a bit easy, to enjoy the journey instead of being constantly driven to one destination and then the next. He spotted what looked to be an abandoned cabin alongside the path and thought that it would be a good place to spend the night. Ordinarily he would just find the most comfortable spot he could and lie down, but now, he felt that he had to provide a bit more than that for the kid's sake, if he could.
Finally they heard a familiar sound and Phineas stopped climbing. Jeff reached him, so out of breath that he bent over, unable to speak at first.
"It sounds like a moan this time," Bogg said glancing around, "but from where?"
They had stopped at the base of a particularly steep part of the trail. On two sides there were cliffs rising above them. The moaning sounds seemed to be bouncing off every rock. It was impossible to tell the direction from the sound.
They scanned the area intently. "There," Jeff said finally and pointed up and off the trail to their left. It looked like the runner had made it up the trail, but slipped or stumbled at some point and lost his footing. He lay in some bushes that had grown sideways, out of the steepest section of the cliff. They had broken his fall and probably saved his life, but this time it was obvious that he was injured, and based on the moaning, Jeff didn't think he'd be finishing the run.
He watched as Bogg made his way off the trail and up the cliff. He approached the man cautiously.
"How bad is it?" he asked.
"I think my leg's broken, I'm done for," the man answered.
"We'll get you help," Phineas said, reaching toward him and squeezing his shoulder. He knew he wouldn't be able to move the man this time without help. "We can deliver the message too."
The man stared at him in shock. "How do you know about the message?"
"Roosevelt hired me as a second runner, just in case there was an important message that had to get through. That's why I was following you on the trail," Bogg lied smoothly.
The man nodded, "he had a bad feeling about the president. He told me on my last trip up," the man agreed, then he put out his hand. "Bill Curry," he said.
"Phineas Bogg, and that's Jeffrey Jones," he said pointing back toward the trail where Jeff was sitting on a rock resting.
Curry reached into his pocket and handed Bogg an envelope, "better deliver this then," he said.
Bogg took it, "we'll send a group back to get you out of here," he said and pocketed the letter before heading back to Jeff.
"What's happening?" Jeff asked.
"We have to get this," and Bogg held up the envelope, "to the Vice President."
Immediately Jeff turned and led the way up the trail. It was as steep as any trail Phineas had hiked, and Jeff paused to rest many times during the climb. As they climbed, Phineas could see the sweat through Jeff's shirt, and hear him breathing hard. He was impressed that Jeff rested frequently enough to allow him to maintain a steady pace. Most people would have attempted to travel faster and burned themselves out long before the ascent was completed.
After an hour, the trail finally flattened out and they smelled a campfire and headed for it.
Jeff stopped as they approached the camp. His legs ached and he wanted to sit down and rest but Teddy Roosevelt was standing less than ten yards from him and he was suddenly unsure what to do. He felt Bogg tapping him on the shoulder, and when he turned, felt the note being pushed into his hand.
"Well, give it to him," Phineas instructed with amusement in his eyes that Jeffrey didn't notice.
"He's your president."
Jeff paused and then cautiously approached the famous man. "Mr. Vice President?" he asked.
"You're just up from the telegraph station?" was the curt question.
Jeff handed him the note, "yes, sir," then stepped away. He didn't want to say too much, he knew he could change history accidentally if he did.
He watched Roosevelt open the note and read it aloud to his aide,
"The president appears to be dying and members of the cabinet in Buffalo think you should lose no time coming."
Bogg watched in awe as Jeffrey mouthed the words of the famous message as Roosevelt read it. He knew that Jeff hadn't seen it before this moment. How in the world could the kid have known it?
Roosevelt finished the note and then looked up and his eyes met Jeffrey's. "I know you," said the Vice
President. Jeff shook his head in shock, but the moment passed as the Vice President began to shout orders.
"Mr. Skully, prepare for a descent, I must get back to Buffalo."
Jeff backed away toward Bogg and they watched the camp spring to life.
"Come on," Bogg whispered, tapping his arm and Jeff followed him to an army Sargent who did not appear to be involved with the emergency descent. Bogg explained where the injured runner lay and stayed until a rescue unit was dispatched. Then he moved to the periphery of the camp and found the cook while Jeff sat down on a nearby rock to rest. When he returned he carried a brown satchel.
"What's that?" Jeff asked as Bogg sat down beside him.
"Supper," Bogg answered as he opened the omni. "Green light," Bogg announced, "we did it."
"Yep," Jeff agreed, then suddenly he felt a chill. The sun was setting and the wind had picked up. They both realized it would get cold quickly up on this mountaintop.
"Come on," Phineas instructed, and started to walk to the trailhead.