Author’s Note: Hey guys! I just wanted to let you know that this is the last “Journal” story … for now. There’s a possibility that I will write more in the future. These journal entries have the potential to go on forever. It could easily have turned into something where I was recounting some of the major events of the 20th Century while inserting Tom, Brynne, and Evie into the situation, but that isn’t the route I wanted to go. The entries in this series were intended to be snapshots of Brynne’s life with her family at various points in history, and I feel that they are. I may crank out another entry for Brynne sometime down the road, but for now, this is it! I will tell you this – there is probably a sequel to this and Fumbling in the works, but it won’t be about Titanic. I’ll let y’all think about that one for a little while, hehe.
Thanks so much for reading! It’s been a joy having readers like you!
April 7, 1964
On this, the 4th anniversary of Tom’s passing, I feel inclined to revisit the events of my very unusual life. I’ve lived more of my life in this altered reality of mine than in what I like to consider my native reality. It was quite a shock, the way I entered this world, and staying was never something I desired. But now, I can’t imagine having lived any other life. It’s been filled with so many surprises, so many blessings. As a woman with a husband, a daughter, and a rewarding career, I’ve accomplished what many 20th- and even 21st-century women couldn’t: I managed to have it all without going crazy. And on top of everything, I got to witness some major historical events of the 20th century. While living through these events wasn’t exactly fun, the experience was something that can’t be matched by reading a book or watching a film about it.
As World War I began, I’d wondered if history would follow the path I’d known, or if things would unfold differently from what I knew. As it turns out, the answer would be a little of both. The war progressed as I predicted it would. The civilian contracts at our firm and all others in the kingdom were put on hold and were replaced by military contracts. The war lasted much longer than anyone (except me, of course) predicted. We ended up pulling the Olympic from service early in the war. We mothballed her in November of 1914 to keep her safe from attack. It didn’t matter; the admiralty requisitioned her as a troop transport the following September.
The Britannic was finally requisitioned as a hospital ship in November 1915. This is how she spent the rest of the war and her short life. I can confidently proclaim that she was the most beautiful hospital ship on the seas. It’s a shame that she would never carry passengers between Europe and America during peacetime. She sank in November 1917 in the Mediterranean after striking a German mine.
Everyone at the firm was devastated by the news, of course. Britannic’s foundering made us all increasingly anxious about the Olympic. As a troop transport, she was in an even more dangerous position than Britannic ever was. At least we could take solace in the fact that Britannic was on a mission of mercy. It was supposed to be understood that, as a medical ship, she wasn’t a legitimate military target. I guess somebody didn’t get the memo.
After World War I, I had a strong feeling that most of history would play out as it had before. I knew there would probably be a Great Depression, as well as a second world war, and all their accompanying horrors. I also knew about the social and political struggles Ireland would endure, but I didn’t know enough about it to know what to expect. I certainly didn’t expect so much intensity on the heels of World War I. But there it was. Not even a year passed between the end of the Great War and the beginning of the Irish War for Independence. Most of the activity started in the south, but things escalated, and by 1920, there were also serious issues in Belfast and other parts of the north. Harland and Wolff wasn’t immune to the struggles of the city. There was even an uprising at shipyard, when Loyalists forced our Catholic workers to resign. Rioting ensued, spilling out into the streets of Belfast. Tom sent me and Evie to Scotland the very next day. The violence worried him, and he didn’t think we were safe in Belfast. What worried him even more than the violence was the fact that his daughter had seen not one year of peace since she’d been born. He didn’t want her to grow up thinking of war and chaos as normal. So off to Scotland Evie and I went, while he stayed behind to see to things at the firm.
The War for Independence ended in July 1921, but Tom was sure that the violence in his home country was far from an end. He was right. Immediately after the War for Independence was over, a civil war began in the south, which had become the Irish free state, completely independent from Britain. By 1925, the Civil War had ended, and Evie and I were back home in Belfast with Tom. The situation had calmed by then, but things were never really right in Belfast after that.
We had a few years of relative peace during the latter half of the 1920s. We took advantage of it and finally took a leisure trip as a family. In 1925, we crossed to America on the Minnewaska, a Red Star Line ship. It was a wonderful trip for all of us, and I’m glad we went when we did. We had such a small window to enjoy the relative peace because in 1929, the stock market crashed, and the world, and Belfast, was launched into chaos and despair once again.
We survived it, as we always do, but by 1939, we were involved in yet another war, this one between the major powers of Europe and eventually, the United States. Evie had graduated from university in 1936 with a degree in naval design and had begun working at Harland and Wolff in the drafting department shortly after. Her life was just beginning, and it wasn’t fair that someone who’d already witnessed and experienced the effects of so many wars should have to go through it all over again during what should have been one of the happiest and most exciting periods of her life.
It was during this war that I intentionally violated one of the cardinal sins of COSI. I changed history. I shouldn’t have, I know, but I couldn’t help it. I couldn’t stand idly by while millions of people were being systematically eradicated by an evil regime. Using some of my knowledge about warships from the latter half of the 20th Century and the 21stCentury, I worked with Evie to enhance the defensive capabilities of World War II-era warships so that they could more accurately detect German u-boats and defend against them. In my mind, I’d fantasized that this would be the factor that would end the war, but I never realistically believed that. The funny thing is that this is exactly what happened. With the Allied naval forces in tact and safe from underwater attack, they were able to continuously attack and defeat Axis naval forces, crippling their operations. After that, it wasn’t long before they had to surrender. We didn’t even have to drop the atomic bombs this time. And millions who would have been casualties of the concentration camps, the battlefield, and collateral damage were saved.
Did I cheat? I suppose one could look at it that way. It was the only time, but I would do it again if I were faced with the same situation. One of the things we learned in COSI training was that everything in history happened for a reason, and it isn’t our place as agents to interfere. The reasoning behind that is that interference would probably do more harm than good in the long run. I couldn’t believe any of that was true in this case. How could it be?
Payton flipped through the last few pages of the journal. There were a few short entries containing ordinary aspects of Brynne’s day. And then there was the final entry. Payton had read the final entry the very day that Brynne had disappeared into the link. Her great-granddaughter Jo had delivered it, along with 57 previous volumes of bound journals, to him a little over an hour after her ancestor’s departure. Jo had walked into his office and directed his attention to that final entry.
He closed volume 58 of the journals and placed it on his desk. He’d spent the last 2 weeks devouring every detail of Brynne’s journals. They would be entered into official COSI records, of course, but Payton wanted to finish them first, before anyone else had a chance to look at them. It wasn’t because he’d thought any of the information in them would be damaging to him or anyone else. But it could take weeks, or even months, to process the journals into the records system, and Payton’s curiousity would not allow him to wait that long.
Brynne hadn’t been the first agent to be permanently embedded in a past era, but there weren’t many. And of those few that had, hers undoubtably had the best outcome for the agent. She’d lived an otherwise ordinary, full life. It made him feel a little less guilty about the whole situation.
His guilt rebounded, though, when he thought about Jeremy Bratt. He was the real victim in this. He was stuck in the 21st Century through no will of his own, just as Brynne had been stuck in his time. The difference was that Brynne knew more about his time than he knew about hers. And Brynne had a ready-made life waiting for her, apparently, while Jeremy had no such support.
So, the remaining loose end was what to do about Jeremy Bratt. They couldn’t just send him off on his way. That would be almost immoral, given the circumstances.
He picked up the phone on his desk and punched a series of numbers into the keypad. “Bell,” he said after a moment spent waiting for someone to pick up on the other end, “Could you bring Mr. Bratt to my office, please?” Payton hung up the phone and waited.
Five minutes later, there was a knock at his door. Payton looked up from the papers on his desk and saw his expected guests, Bell and Bratt. “Mr. Bratt – have a seat,” he said. “There’s something I’d like to discuss with you.”
Jeremy took a seat in one of the chairs across from the desk. Payton stood and walked around to the front of his desk, perching on the edge. “How has your stay with us been so far?” Payton asked. “Are you comfortable? Is there anything I can get for you?”
Jeremy shook his head slowly. “The only things I want are the things I can’t have, Mr. Duvall.”
Payton winced internally at the implied accusation. “How have you been adjusting to life here?” he asked.
“I’m not really certain at the moment,” Jeremy answered. The questions sounded trite in light of everything he’d been through. “I’m still in quite a bit of shock over everything that’s happened to me over the last month.”
“The reason I ask is because I have a proposition for you,” Payton said.
“What is it?” Jeremy asked.
“How would you like a change of profession?”
Jeremy cocked his head slightly to the side and frowned. “I’m not sure I understand you.”
“What would you say if I asked you to come work for us here at COSI?” Payton asked.
“In what way?”
“As an agent.”
“An agent?” Jeremy repeated. “You mean like Brynne?”
Payton nodded. “Yep.”
Jeremy merely stared at him in stunned silence. So many things were racing through his mind. Would this really be something that he could do? Why would he ever want to subject himself to mental and moral anguish on a regular basis?
“You don’t have to say anything right now,” Payton said.
Was this how Brynne was recruited, Jeremy wondered. What alternatives were there to Payton’s proposal? Were there any?
Payton could practically see the wheels turning inside Jeremy’s head. “Don’t feel like you’re rushed into making a decision,” Payton said. “You can take as much time as you want. Just think about it.”
“I don’t have to,” Jeremy said. “I already know what I want to do.” Payton and Bell watched him expectantly.
Jeremy stood. “I’m going to take you up on your offer,” he said. “The way I see it, I don’t really have anything else to lose.” He held out his hand to Payton, who took it and shook it firmly.
“Good choice,” Payton said. Still clasping Jeremy’s hand, he looked at Bell. “Let’s get this man on a training program.”