Prisoners of Time: All the time in the world
November 1st, 1882
Jeffrey tossed down a wrench and stared at Phineas in disbelief. "You finally got the coordinates re-adjusted, that crazy blue energy doesn't burn a hole through the velvet seat anymore, and now we have to dismantle the entire thing? But why?"
Phineas rubbed the back of his head and then clasped his neck. The tension inside him rose steadily. "Because I am a nincompoop! Like you I was enraptured with the spiral staircase, it was a great accessory to my laboratory. But I wasn't thinking of…placement! Location!"
"I find that hard to imagine. You're always mulling over something, Bogg. You have your head in the clouds. Why not have your Time Machine on the top floor?"
Phineas tossed down his apron. "Funny! Jeffrey, once we start time traveling what do you think will happen if we wind up in eras where this building hasn't been erected yet…or, we go so far into the future that it had long been torn down?"
Jeffrey's eyes widened and he understood. "Right! If we're on the top floor, the Omnichron will fall to the ground. We'll be chopped liver. This machine is gonna be the death of us."
Phineas wanted to run at the contraption, tear it with his bare hands, and fling every last screw out the window. "We're still young and able. But this is going to set us back weeks! We have to move it very carefully. Thank goodness I have the guidebook and these blueprints. Because we cannot afford to have one single nut or bolt out of place, otherwise, I may never be able to put it back together again."
"This is getting very tedious, Bogg. Voyager Academy must have given up on us by now. How is the little omni coming along?"
"They're up to testing monthly intervals of time travel and so far there are no ill effects or miscalculations."
"At this rate, a Voyager will be sailing with Columbus before we even get this stupid clunker back together again." Jeffrey grumbled. "Then when we finally test it, they'll be pushing Baby Moses down the Nile River in 1450 BC! I say you sell it to a scrap heap!"
Phineas elbowed him. "Jeffrey, where's your Voyager spirit? If all the great minds in this world thought as you did, we'd still be in the Stone Age. This will work. I know it. It has to work. "
"So, where are we going to put it now?"
"In the greenhouse next to the barn. I never use it anyway. My mother was the plant lover."
"But why not in that old library in the back of the house?"
"No, it cannot be in the building, remember, erected…torn down? Although…" Phineas scratched his chin; it bristled with beard growth. "We'll still be protected in the energy field and time will be moving fast around us."
"If we don't get burned to a crisp from the energy. But we can't take any chances of having bricks fall on our heads."
"Besides, I still have to add one more piece to this thing." Phineas grinned.
"What now? You keep adding stuff to it, it will be too heavy to even move an inch, let alone travel through time."
Phineas shrugged. One thing he learned living with the boy was that Jeffrey was never shy about displaying his attitude. "Okay, then. I guess we can leave your chair aside."
Jeffrey looked at him horrified and jumped up and down around him. "No! I didn't mean that! I'm sorry! Please Bogg! I'm going with you even if I have to sit on your lap!"
Phineas put his arm around his shoulder. "I'm kidding. Of course you're coming with me. In your own chair. Phileas Fogg needs Passepartout!"
December 1st, 1882
A full month passed and the final adjustments to the Omnichron had been made. Jeffrey spent his days with tutors and quenched his ardent love for history and stories with all the books Phineas added to his personal library. Phineas also presented him a first edition of Tom Sawyer and Mark Twain himself had signed it. It was a treasured gift. In the evenings Jeffrey assisted Phineas, and the Voyager eventually taught him how to operate some of the weapons he designed. Phineas was very adamant about exercise and maintaining good health. He had a small gym in his home which he used every day. Phineas taught him fighting and boxing techniques, but warned that even though "Voyagers never run from a fight," it should only be a last resort to put up the fists. Their meals, while plentiful, were loaded with more greens and other assorted vegetables than Jeffrey had ever seen in his life.
"We have to stay as fit and trim as we can for our excursions, Jeffrey. We don't know what trouble or adventures we'll run into throughout the time zones. It will do us no good to be bloated and tired."
"But Bogg, there's nothing wrong with a piece of cake or a slice of pie once in a while."
"Of course not. The cheesecake is one of my favorites, but only once a week or maybe a month."
"Bogg! You're a killjoy sometimes!"
Though Jeffrey was glad to have such a thorough education and warm home, he felt that Phineas was too restrictive about his comings and goings around the City. Phineas was not taking any chances; he feared reprisals from Drake and Mikey. They already knew Jeffrey was staying at the Manor. Phineas insisted that they run all errands and go on outings only together and Jeffrey was only allowed to walk Ralph within ten blocks. Jeffrey wouldn't tell Bogg, but he felt as if he were in a luxurious prison. He tried to see it from the Voyager's point of view, and Phineas reassured him that all these precautions were only temporary.
There had not been a peep out of Voyager Drake or any sign of the Hester Street gang since the traumatic incident with Susan, but Voyager Academy remained vigilant. Drake was never one to quit so suddenly.
Ramona healed well from her injuries, but Phineas was worried about her weakened condition overall. He and Jeffrey decided not to tell Ramona that they knew of her heart troubles. But come late November she finally admitted the truth. However, she wanted no preferential treatment and insisted on keeping up with her duties. Phineas could never win an argument with the stubborn woman. But through a referral from Voyager Garth, he hired a seventeen-year-old Academy student named Katrina to help Ramona with the heavy chores three times a week. Ramona enjoyed her company, though she often had to chide her to pay more attention to her cleaning, and less on the 'extraordinarily dashing' Mr. Bogg.
Phineas was positive of a calm before a storm. He knew Drake would strike at some point. But he didn't know when or how.
December 5th, 1882
A warehouse along the Brooklyn Navy Yard
Eight young boys between the ages of 10 to 19 sat at full attention, they didn't dare to twitch or take their eyes off their new leader, Voyager Dante Danior Drake, III. For three months they had made a new gang base at this warehouse. It was far more comfortable and spacious than their old haunt on Hester Street. They never lacked in food, and each had their own bed and private living space. Voyager Drake, despite his foppish manners and upscale dress code, was a more formidable leader than King-Ray ever was.
Mikey was Drake's 'dog', just as he was King-Ray's, but Drake kept him on a short leash. He used the vicious boy to mete out swift punishments on anyone who failed to follow his 'Voyager code of ethics and honor.' He believed in "discipline and order above all else."
The Hester Street Kings continued in thievery, but it was well organized. Drake bought the boys the finest clothes and taught them proper manners and social mores. At times they needed a certain charisma to win over their intended victims. The gang went on 'house missions' and learned to burglarize with speed. Drake taught them to examine quality over junk, and to calculate the value of their spoils. He had Mikey give the boys physical training. Mikey was upset that Drake never let him get away with participating like King-Ray did.
"We are preparing for a small war, boys. Once we gain control of the Academy, we will have conquered the world! You can trust me on that." Drake often said. "But it cannot be accomplished if you are all in the dumps. You must strive to be faster, stronger and smarter."
Drake lacked any sense of humor; he lived in a charm free world of black and white and pitied no one. Even King-Ray had sometimes showed a little heart when he wasn't inebriated or angry. Drake was intent on building an empire and talked often of the future. The boys didn't know what to make of it. They were only concerned with the here and now and having food and shelter before winter. They were willing to follow any rules.
Drake required them to read books on Philosophy and trained their minds from the writings of Machiavelli. Drake revered the diplomat as a master of good leadership. He often gave long-winded speeches and expected them to take notes. Tonight he was more impassioned than ever. The time for his reckoning was coming soon.
"Never allow yourself to be predictable in your actions! You will lose power! If you want to succeed you must hide your thoughts. If people are on to you, they will have a chance to outshine you and ruin you! Always catch them off guard!"
"Machiavelli taught us that a ruler must always watch his back. Even the person closest to the king should be viewed with extreme skepticism." Drake pulled out his pointer stick and rapped Mikey hard across the shoulder for sleeping during the lesson. Mikey jumped. He grimaced and sank low in the seat.
"If you see someone climbing that ladder to power, he is ambitious, and will try and pull the rug out from under you! But you must take him down with subtlety. You cannot be a tyrant like that pig King-Ray."
"Machiavelli wrote that a good prince must have wisdom in order to recognize wisdom. Before you accept others' advice, you must know everything about your dominion. A good leader has advisors and counts on them, just as I count on you, but I too must be an expert in my occupation before I can even think to consider your opinions."
Drake pulled down a map of the Cooper Square area, and noted the large iron gates that surrounded the Cooper Union building. He explained how they had specialty locks that were rigged to send off electric currents on intruders.
"Machiavelli believed that having fortresses was a strategic mistake because the enemy can besiege them. When a ruler locks himself in a fortress, he becomes out of touch with the spirit of the times, never knowing what others are saying about him or even plotting against him."
Drake laughed loud, stunning his class. "And that my miscreant boys, will be the downfall of Voyager Academy! Soon, very, very soon!"
December 8th 1882
Glass shattered and Katrina let out loud screams. She ran to the foot of the stairs and nearly tripped as she called for help. Phineas and Jeffrey came running into the apartment from the greenhouse. Phineas fell into a cold sweat. He knew exactly what had happened. He bounded up the stairs and grabbed the girl's shoulders to quell her trembling.
"Katrina! Is it Ramona?"
"Yes…yes! I went to wake her for breakfast and she's…oh Mr. Bogg! I'm so sorry!" She burst into tears and he hugged her.
"You will be okay, Katrina. Just relax." He stroked her blonde hair and patted her cheek. Jeffrey skidded to a halt by Ramona's door. He was afraid to look in.
"Jeffrey, take Katrina to the dining hall, give her some tea and one of those pills to calm her nerves."
"But what about Ramona! Is she hurt?"
"Never mind, Jeffrey, please do as I say."
Jeffrey saw the anguish building up in his guardian's face. His jaw went slack and his lip trembled. "Bogg…is she…?"
Jeffrey wiped his eyes and shook his head. He took Katrina by the hand and led her downstairs. Phineas went into Ramona's quarters and shut the door tight. He glanced at the disarrayed bed and his gaze traveled to the floor. His stomach clenched and sharp pangs of grief crawled through his soul.
"Oh dear, Lord. Roma…oh no, God!" He choked and fell to his knees. He thought he had prepared himself for this moment, but the shock was too great. It always was.
Ramona lay strewn on her back, her eyes wide open, and her lips tinged blue. She had suffered a massive heart attack in the course of the night. Phineas could hardly see through his tears. He crawled to her body and hovered over her. Her skin was frozen to the touch and her fingers clenched around her locket. Now he knew the image inside was of her baby Breannen. Phineas gently drew her eyelids shut. He held her up halfway and embraced her lifeless form close to him.
"I can change it. I can!" He sobbed into her hair. "I vowed to help you once! I will!" Phineas lifted her body and laid her on the bed. He gripped her quilt and lowered his head.
"The Great Fire…we never finished our conversation! I'm sorry! I always pushed you to the background. You knew what I wanted to do, didn't you? That's why you didn't tell me afterward and ignored my questions. But I can help, Roma!"
Phineas pulled the blanket over her slowly and rose up. "Great fire…Great fire…" Phineas thrust his head up, his eyes illuminated as he stared at the portrait of comely young Ramona on the wall. "Maybe that's what is wrong! Maybe that is the red light! Your life without Breannen. Yes! The Great Fire of 1835! It changed New York forever! But how…how did your baby…?"
It made no matter to Phineas. As long as he had all the time in the world, he could do anything.
To be continued in Story IV-Title TBA. (Coming soon)