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Ambush or Adore

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Ambush or Adore by Gail Carriger



Spring 1896

Landing green at Hyde Park


Pillover Plumleigh-Teignmott met the love of his life at age twelve. Agatha is an intelligencer and intentionally misplacing herself, which is no good for one's heart, wardrobe or peace of mind. It has been over a year since Pillover last saw Agatha and frankly it was too much. On the off-chance Agatha might be aboard, Pillover has gone to meet a dirigible in the middle of a rainstorm. As the rain soaks into his clothes, Pillover, suspecting he looks like a man waiting for the love of his life to return, wonders if it is worse to be the one who waited or the one who went away.


Spring 1896

Spotted Custard dirigible

Miss Agatha Woosmoss suspected her friend Sophronia had delegated her rescue to the ridiculous crew of the Spotted Custard. The entire dirigible was crawling with legacy intelligencers, blundering and untrained the lot of them, creating a mess wherever they float. Regardless, Agatha was happy to be returning home. She had come to two conclusions during this last misadventure: firstly she was resigning her commission and secondly, she needed to take a different risk than spying.


1848

London

Agatha was ten when she met her first vampire. Lord Akeldama found her hiding in the shadows, watching everything going on around her. His curiosity was piqued at such an intriguing and observant child, thinking that, with training, she could be a valuable asset. Lord Akeldama offers her patronage, she needs only to attend a particularly interesting educational establishment for young ladies of quality and report everything she learns. So at age ten, Agatha bargains with a monster and never regrets it.


Pillover never has such a memorable moment with a vampire, his parents being evil geniuses who dealt with the supernatural set all the time. They, wanting him to follow in their footsteps, shipped him off to Bunson and Lacroix’s Boys’ Polytechnic at age eleven. However Pillover was bad at being bad and never fit in.


1851

Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality

Agatha not only survived her schooling, but thrived, unlike poor Pillover. She made friends with Sidheag Maccon, Sophronia Temminick and Dimity Plumleigh-Teignmott, Pillover’s older sister. It was through one of Sophronia’s madcap schemes that Agatha and Pillover eventually met, previously only getting tidbits from the well meaning, if a little unreliable, Dimity. In Dimity’s letters to Pillover, she described Agatha as lacking sparkle and observed that they must look after her if she is to last at school. When he first met Agatha he saw a frightened young lady. It would take him years to realize that was a front. Pillover enjoyed Agatha’s quietness and watched her try to fade into the background, which only made him want to watch her more. When Pillover returned to Bunson’s, it was with memories of Agatha, not his kidnapping by vampires, and with a new friend, young Vieve Lefoux, attending the boys school in a fake mustache.


February 1853

Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality

Agatha values the bonds of friendship but also the bonds of her patron. When Sidheag receives a pigeon indicating a crisis at home, later that night she politely asks about it out of respect for their friendship. What Sidheag doesn’t know is that Agatha had already gone through her missive. Later, Agatha will write to Lord Akeldama to inform him the Kingair pack was treasonous. Now, Agatha must live with the sick feeling of betrayal.


At the same time, Pillover was having a growth spurt. He’s gawky and awkward, as well as gloomy, which drove the girls mad and made his time at the ball at Sophronia’s house terrible. Agatha wasn’t there which was bad enough, he had been looking forward to renewing their acquaintance, and the other non-dirigible girls were twittering and fluttering around him. Ugggh. That was the same night he became inconveniently engaged to Sophronia. Matchmaking mamas can read far too much into a situation.


December 1853

Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality

At some point Agatha had started thinking of Pillover as hers, so news of his engagement to Sophronia hurt, though Sophronia called it a lark and Pillover described it as a “clod rumpus.” During the assignment where she had to imitate Dimity, Pillover’s marked preference for Agatha in her tight gown and sparkles allowed Sophronia to throw him over. The assignment also allowed Agatha and Pillover time to talk and she learned a great deal about him and his new propensity, with the help of Vieve, for blowing things up, something which allowed him to attain Nefarious Genius ranking at school. She also learned he was a homebody and that her dreams of travel were very different to his own.


New Year’s Eve 1853

Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality

The crashing of Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy provided Pillover with a newfound respect for the capabilities of ladies. For Agatha it signaled the end, the end of her education and the end of hiding her patron and her skills as an intelligencer. Sophronia was more impressed than anything, Dimity was speechless and Pillover was not surprised in the least. He always thought there was something special about her. Now with the crashing of the school, the Flywaymen and Picklemen to deal with, Agatha must use her connection to Lord Akeldama to help her friends. The events of the astonishing night before were discussed and people were duly congratulated for their part in Lord Akeldama’s finely appointed drawing room the following day over some particularly fine tea and comestibles. While the ladies were finished, Pillover still had four more years of education at Bunson’s to contend with, which he and Vieve suffered under until Pillover finally grew up at sixteen and effected a gloomy air with a touch of insanity courtesy of a small fire-kit of Vieve’s invention.


April 1858

Dimity was officially coming out this season and because Pillover is a decent brother, he traveled from Oxford to attend. It had nothing to do with Agatha also making her debut. Not at all. While Dimity stood out amongst the crowds, shining and sparkling, Agatha disappeared amongst them. Pillover was reliant on Dimity pointing her out beside a potted fern. They danced the third together and Pillover was shocked when Agatha blatantly flirted with him. He didn’t like it because he knew it was manipulation, something he thought they were above. Since they were friends, if Agatha wanted anything from him she needed only to ask. Apparently this was news to Agatha. He was her friend's brother and, while Pillover wants to improve their acquaintance, Agatha suspects she won’t be around much for that to happen, for as soon as she is able, Agatha will take the opportunity to travel.


Later that night, in Lord Akeldama’s drawing room, Agatha completes her mission set for the evening. She found and gave to him a small, brass, military style button with an octopus design, indicating the appearance of a new secret society which is likely up to no good and of a scientific inclination. Agatha has a suggestion that would be a long game, which Lord Akeldama loves. First she would need to travel to France to seek out an individual with a particular set of scientific skills still at university and employ them to work toward accessing the society. Second would involve getting someone locally recruited into their ranks, despite their vocal aversion to them. For this, Agatha would need untranslated Latin scientific texts, preferably medical. Lord Akeldama is known for his long term machinations and is onboard with Agatha’s plan.


Even later that night, after the ball ended and intrigues concluded, the Plumleigh-Teignmott siblings are sitting peacefully in their townhouse, a residence which Dimity shares with Agatha. Agatha joins them sitting on the rug in front of the fire. She explains she needs texts translated from Latin, and yes it is with the goal to be recruited into a secret society. For Agatha, Pillover can’t refuse, he only asks that Agatha write to him while she is abroad.


1859-1862

Pillover’s reputation as a translator grew as did his gloomy academic persona which became appealing to the young misses across the ballrooms of London. Thankfully his lack of fortune rallied the chaperones to keep marriage off the mind of any young chit silly enough to entertain it. Agatha, meanwhile, traveled with more frequency to greater distances. When Agatha came to town, Pillover made sure to travel down from Oxford. During these visits, they developed a pattern. Pillover would wait up for Agatha, and at some point, he would look up from his book and find her sitting on the rug in front of the fire. If she was hurt, he would tend her wounds.


April 1863

Oxford

Pillover received a missive in particularly flowery handwriting, definitely from his sister, asking him to look after her plants. Plants? Dimity doesn’t keep plants... The next day, Pillover caught a train to London, realizing he knew which wallflower his sister needed him to take care of. In their townhouse, Pillover finds Agatha ill in bed. For three days he tends to her, barely leaving her side, before her fever breaks. After a few days, Agatha is well enough to leave her chamber. A few more later, Pillover returns to his studies at Oxford, and Agatha, left alone, misses his rumbling voice reading to her in Latin.


1864

Oxford

Pillover transitioned from student to teacher without fanfare, cemented his reputation as an expert in Latin translations, and secured an invitation to join the Order of the Brass Octopus. His relationship with Agatha did not progress further than mild affection, though he was a martyr to love. Damnable secret society! Until March of 1867, Agatha was perfectly content with their relationship. Pillover was dependable and steady, but then something changed. Whilst on what should have been a simple retrieval mission, Agatha saw her potential future. She had obtained damning paperwork about her former schoolmate Presha’s father and it was while she secretly delivered it to Preshea’s residence, Agatha saw what could become of her. Preshea’s house was cold and empty, impersonal and lonely. Without Dimity and Pillover, hers would be the same. When her mission was done, Agatha returned home to the townhouse and found Pillover in residence. She confessed her fears and he confessed his feelings. One thing led to another and Pillover spent the night in Agatha’s bed.


As the years went by, this arrangement seemed to suit. When in London, Agatha would stay at the townhouse and Pillover would join her in her bed, tending her wounds when needed. He knew very little of her missions, only what information Agatha wanted to share. At Oxford, Pillover made a friend, Sorrinson Fausse-Maigre, who shared his interests and they formed a book club which extended to a geologist friend of Sorrinson, Fellburt. He also continued his association with the Order of the Brass Octopus though they didn’t seem to be up to anything nefarious, just lots of science.


March 1869

Lord Akeldama informed Agatha that her father had shuffled off his mortal coil, but left the particulars to her. Returning from abroad, Agatha dealt with her father’s estate with ease and some expense, then found she had nothing to do. Dimity was on assignment and Pillover had not expected her so the town house was quiet. One evening, however, Pillover made his way to the London townhouse. He had just left his sister in the arms of a starry-eyed large man with a propensity for pirouettes and plans to be married.


With Dimity’s change of marital status on the horizon, the living arrangements will have to change, too. The townhouse does after all belong to Pillover, and a single woman living without a chaperone where a single male also resides on occasion is a scandal! Pillover’s solution is for Agatha to marry him which Agatha simply can’t do. If she became a wife she would have to be a wife and would lose herself. Agatha feared that if she stopped being an intelligencer, she would simply fade away.


June 1870

Dimity and Crispin’s wedding

Of course both Pillover and Agatha attended Dimity’s wedding and danced together twice. They fell into their old friendly pattern of barbs and humor which did not speak well to any future dalliance. The next day, the townhouse went up for sale.


Winter 1873

Hypocras Club, London

After a visit with Vieve who was returning to London and needing to purchase property, Pillover spent the night in the Hypoacras Club. With uncharacteristic curiosity, Pillover played the bumbling academic and went for a look around. What he found gave him an unpleasant feeling. There was gadgetry, surgical tools and beds set about in pairs. These were not typical medical facilities and therefore something Agatha needed to be informed of. Obtaining a post box address from Dimity, Pillover sent a note and reminded Agatha of her promise to correspond with him while she was abroad.


December 1880

Coot’s Crest, Nottingham

Being in the area and on a whim, Agatha visits Dimity in her home with Sir Crispin. She doesn’t realize Pillover is also staying with the Bontwees and their brood and she finds him under their progeny of five boys. When he is able to surface, Pillover takes her down to the drawing room for mulled wine where Agatha sits in her usual spot in front of the fire and rests against him. Pillover unpicks her tight coiffure and Agatha feels her shoulders relax and the tears flow as they share a kiss. Pillover asks Agatha back to his cottage in Oxford, located between the train station and green (he considered her when he purchased it), but Agatha won’t go with him.


Winter 1885

It took a long time for Agatha to work up the courage to visit Pillover. After her latest mission, the loneliness became too much. When she reached Pillover’s cottage, she found light streaming through the windows and the noise of a gathering inside. Reluctantly she knocks. Pillover answers and refuses to let her leave, booting out his old friends instead. They build a new if sporadic routine where Agatha would make her post-mission report in London before traveling to his cottage. Pillover was even able to get Agatha to sit for a photograph which he promised he would never share. He had a tangible piece of her to look at when he didn’t have the lady herself. This went on for ten years.


Christmas, 1895

Coot’s Crest, Nottingham

It has been over a year since Pillover has received any correspondence from Agatha who, at the time, was in India. She was a woman who kept her promises and this concerned Pillover greatly. His solution was to speak to Dimity who understood Pillover’s concerns, took the particulars and promised to activate the Wicker Chicken. There was new stock in need of an assignment that Sophronia would activate, but they didn’t know what Agatha looked like, so Pillover betrayed Agatha for the first time in his life and handed over his most prized possession, her photograph. It is at this point Dimity truly realizes the depth of the relationship between her brother and her friend, one that had been going on for forty years.


Spring 1896

The journey back to London on the Spotted Custard was delightfully uneventful and they landed in Hyde Park on a rainy evening. There were many people there to collect the various members of the crew, but no one for Agatha. After the fuss of disembarkation died down, Agatha slipped off the dirigible and, to her surprise, Pillover was waiting for her. She realizes that Pillover activated the Wicker Chicken to find her, but she isn’t mad about this, rather, Agatha is flattered. As they stand in the rain, confessing their broken promises to each other, Pillover tells her he loves her. Back in Oxford, in bed together, Agatha tells Pillover she was thinking about staying around for a while, maybe forever. Pillover exacts a promise, and Agatha always keeps her promises.


Pillover and Agatha grew old together, and though not overly active players in the intelligence game, they dipped in when codes needed cracking or translations needed doing or there was information to be dealt with. Pillover, a creature of habit, even kept his Order of the Brass Octopus membership active as he promised he would. It was through this he found out there were plans to build explosives, hundreds of them, and seed the aetherosphere. It was Agatha who came up with the counter plan. On the eve of war, both in their seventies, they broke into a warehouse and defused half of the explosives. Though the world burned, it was changed, but not destroyed, thanks to them.


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