Chapter 3: The Assignment

In the month that followed Brynne’s initial exposure to COSI, her life changed in more ways than she would have ever imagined. She left her new job as an architect before she even began, and she embarked on an accelerated COSI training program. Normally, the program took six months, at the least, to complete. Because of the upcoming mission that Payton had planned for Brynne, she was forced to pack six months of training into only a month.

Now, Brynne sat in Payton’s office, waiting anxiously to hear what he had in store for her.

“Now that you’ve completed your training, it’s time to give you an assignment,” Payton said in his customary casual manner. He walked around and sat down in the chair behind his desk. “The Titanic,” he said.

“The Titanic,” Brynne repeated.

“Yes,” Payton said. “Your objective is to gain access to the ship so that you can recover a document.”

“What kind of document?” Brynne asked.

“It’s a notebook that contains information about the sinking of the ship,” Payton explained. “We had some agents on board making observations, and one of their notebooks contained information from the present about the disaster. If anyone from 1912 finds that information, it could pollute the timeline. Your job is to recover the document before it falls into the wrong hands. If anyone gets off the boat with that notebook, it could take us forever to track it.”

“You think that there could be someone else on board with temporal technology?” Brynne asked.

“Possibly,” Payton admitted. “But if you get in there and get the document right away, we won’t have to worry about that.”

“I understand.”

“Now, I’m sending you to Belfast, Ireland , May 1911.”

“1911?” Brynne said. “Wait, the Titanic –”

“I know. The objective date is April 1912, but in order to gain access to that notebook, you’ll have to go in as a naval architect at Harland and Wolff,” Payton explained. He grinned. “Remember when I first told you about becoming an agent, and you said you didn’t know how you could be useful? When I found out you were an architect, it was like gold. We’ve needed someone to complete this mission for months now, but we didn’t have anyone qualified enough.”

“You’ve got a whole organization full of specialists, agents, and scientists,” Brynne said. “You’re telling me you couldn’t find anyone to go back in time to get a little document?”

“No,” Payton answered honestly. “This is one of those missions that you can’t fake your way through. We needed someone with actual architectural skill. And fortunately, you’re that person.”

Brynne sighed. “I don’t understand why we have to go through all this. Can’t I just get in, get the notebook, and get out? That’s what you said recover was like anyway, isn’t it? Get in, get the goods, get out. What happened to that?”

“It doesn’t work like that in this case, Brynne. The more people you’re dealing with, the higher the risk you run of being spotted as out of place. If you get spotted in a place you’re not supposed to be in, we’re in trouble. It’s just too risky. So, we have to remedy that by establishing that you’re supposed to be there.” Payton watched for Brynne’s reaction. He knew that she hadn’t contemplated being on a mission for a whole year. He probably should have mentioned the prospect to her earlier.

“We’re talking about a whole year, Payton,” Brynne said. “If I get sick, or something happens to me –”

“We’ll know,” Payton insisted. “If you don’t step back out of the link after a few minutes, we’ll know something went wrong. We’ll send someone in for you. Don’t worry; we’ve never lost an agent.”

“Where’s this notebook supposed to be?” Brynne asked.

“It’s in the unoccupied millionaire’s suite, inside one of the drawers in the second bedroom, B-56,” Payton explained. “Once you find it, don’t let it out of your sight.” He reached into his desk drawer, pulled out a DVD, and handed it Brynne.

“What’s this?” Brynne asked.

“It’s a video on Edwardian etiquette. Watch it. Live it.” Next, he handed Brynne a folder. “These are your vitals. Don’t lose those.”

“When do I leave?”

“One week.”

/\/\/

That one week passed like one day for Brynne. Before she knew it, she was standing outside her bedroom closet with Bell. Her heart was pounding in her chest.

“Well, this is it,” Bell said. He looked at Brynne. “Are you scared?”

“A little,” Brynne said. Then she reconsidered. “A lot.”

“I remember my first time,” Bell said. “It was three years ago.”

“Only three years?” Brynne asked, surprised. “You could’ve fooled me. I would’ve guessed you were born into the agency.”

Bell grinned and continued. “I was assigned to Nazi Germany.”

Brynne looks down at her watch. It wasn’t just any watch; it had a special mechanism which activated links. She pressed a button on the watch, and the link flashed into existence. Light flooded the closet and bedroom.

Bell began to speak again. “My assignment was to determine whether Hitler faked his death,” he said.

Brynne looked at him curiously. “Did he?”

Bell grinned and said, “I’ll let you know when you get back.”

“You’re going to make me wait a whole year?” Brynne asked, her question on the verge of classifying as a whine.

“Hey, it won’t be that long for me,” Bell reminded her. “You’re supposed to be coming back out in a few minutes.”

“I’ll see you in a year, Bell,” Brynne said.

“Call me Drew,” Bell insisted. “And I’ll see you in a few minutes.”

Brynne turned to the link entrance. “Here goes.” She looked down at her watch, counting down the seconds until her time signature arrived. “Five, four, three, two … ” She stepped into the light and disappeared from sight.

/\/\/

Brynne pushed a door open and stepped out of a stuffy closet. “My God, it worked,” she said. “I’m actually here.”

She looked around the room. A bed, a table, a lamp. A few chairs. It was all very plain. And very old, she realized. She took a few more steps into the room, and something on the table caught her eye. She walked over to it. It was a folder. She picked it up and opened it. There was a letter inside.

Brynne, if you’re reading this, you have arrived safely to your destination. The adventure begins. If everything went as planned, it should be about five in the morning where you are. You’re expected at Harland and Wolff at nine. Your wardrobe is packed in the five trunks across the room. Feel free to add to it at your leisure. This is the last you’ll hear from me. Once again, good luck. Payton.

Brynne placed the letter back in the folder and dropped it on the table. She looked around the room, and her eyes landed on the trunks mentioned in the letter. She walked over to one of them and opened it. A neat stack of dresses lay inside, and Brynne realized that this would be her existence for the next year.

The knock on the door startled Brynne, and for a second, she panicked. She looked down at her 21st century clothing and at the door again. Maybe if she were quiet, her visitor would go away.

Knock, knock, knock

Then again, maybe they wouldn’t.

Knock, knock, knock.

“Who is it?” Brynne asked.

“It’s me, ma’am,” the person answered from the other side of the door. It was a woman with a thick Irish accent. “Your maid.”

“Maid?” Brynne repeated.

“Ma’am?” the person asked.

“Uh, coming,” Brynne promised. She paced a few times before finally walking over to the door. She moved to look out the peephole, but quickly realized that there wasn’t one. It was one of those 21st century habits that she would soon have to get rid of. She unlocked the door and opened it. A young, short woman in a maid’s uniform was standing in the hallway. A small white cap sat on top of her full head of curly brown hair.

The woman cheerily entered the room. “Top o’th’mornin’, ma’am,” she greeted. Brynne closed the door, and as soon as she did, the woman’s accent changed dramatically. “How did you sleep?” she asked Brynne in an American accent.

“Just fine, thank—um, didn’t-what happened to-you’re not Irish?” Brynne asked, stumbling over her words.

“Irish?” the woman asked. “What ever gave you that idea?”

“Um, well, I mean you were just speaking with an accent a few seconds ago,” Brynne pointed out.

“Oh, you mean this one?” the woman asked, bringing the accent back out again. “I’ve gotten pretty good at it, if I don’t say so myself.”

Brynne, completely confused, stared at the woman.

“What’s the matter?” the woman asked, using her American accent again, which Brynne took to be her native tongue.

“Are you sure you’ve got the right room?” Brynne asked. The last thing she needed was to bring some crazy lady into a situation that was, for Brynne, already bizarre enough.

“Of course,” the woman replied. “There’s no one else on this mission besides us?”

Brynne’s jaw fell. “Mission? How do you know about that?”

“I was assigned, same as you,” the woman said. Her brows furrowed and she studied Brynne closely. “What’s the matter with you? Didn’t Payton tell you about me?”

“No, he didn’t. Who are you?”

The woman, exasperated, sighed. “Not again … I’m Carmen Scott. Your contact. I’m supposed to help you get settled in, help you learn the ropes. I can’t believe Payton forgot to mention me – again. This is the third time this has happened. I swear that man would forget his head if it weren’t screwed on. You’d think that he’d remember to mention his own wife.”

“Oh, so you’re Payton’s wife,” Brynne said with a knowing nod. “It’s so nice to finally meet you. He talks about you all the time.”

Carmen chuckled. “You wouldn’t think it, the way he forgets to tell my contacts about me. Come on. Let’s get you dressed.”

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