A Minister of Prims...Undercover Part I

Author's Note: The alternate title for this should be "How Gabi became a Prim Minister and resident of New Babbage". This is my "history" from November until the present from a storyline perspective.

Thursday, July 2

I adjusted the maid's cap on top of my head, and slid one last pin under it to ensure it would stay connected to the wig I was wearing. I really had this all down to a science now after several weeks of practice. I stepped back, smoothed the apron over my skirt and then looked into the mirror...

I did not recognize the woman who looked back. Light, tawny, brown hair pulled back around a face scrubbed clean of even the slightest hint of rouge. A somber and simple maid's uniform. I shifted my body as I cast my eyes down to the floor, trying to assume a servile posture. I smiled ruefully and said to myself: "Well Duchess, who knew that *this* was where you'd be 8 months after leaving Caledon."

Actually, it was what had happened to me, and how I lost my land, in Caledon that now had me dressing as a maid so I would not be recognized on the streets of New Babbage. I could not stand by and do nothing as a tyrant and his goons overthrew the elected government of a nation of the Steamlands. I knew how it felt to have your home ripped away from you by power and money hungry interlopers. I was going to do everything I could to help the people of New Babbage and Clockwinder Tenk...well, that is, if Clockwinder Tenk was even still alive.

The Clockwinder and I had been friendly, casual aquaintances in Caledon, however we had communicated more in the last 8 months as we both found ourselves in very surprising, very unexpected positions of leadership!

8 Months Ago

I had remained in my deep depression that had begun on the RMS Campania, as Azul and I crossed the sea to stay in New Boston Station with our friend Hypatia Dejavu. I simply could not function, so deep was my grief at losing Carntaigh...and for being exiled from the only home I had ever known. Azul and Hypatia tried to cheer me up, to no avail...until one day when Hypatia took me and Azul to her office and placed a map on the table in front of us.

"Gabrielle - look at this land, here to the west. I traveled out there several years ago and laid claim to a very large section of it. It's basically the size of a Province. I had hoped to focus some of my time on a settlement out there, but New Boston Station is taking far more from me than I ever thought it would. I don't want to just let it go...Gabi...you have experience managing a Duchy. You've had tenants. And...you need a home."

I winced at the last sentence.

"Would you consider taking on the responsibility of this land? I know it's a lot Gabi, but I know you can do it...and I know you need it."

After weeks of complete numbness, Hypatia's words somehow slipped through a crack in the ice around my heart. I did not even realize that I was crying until I felt Azul's hand wiping the tears off my cheeks....and then she was holding me as I sobbed.

Within a week, Azul and I were on a train and westward bound to survey the land that Hypatia was offering me. It took another week to travel around and throughout the land so I could truly see what it was like. There was a massive river, the Clinton River, that ran through the region with bluffs rising up on either side. That river was going to be a total boon for trade and travel...it was just screaming potential at me.

I met with the few tenants that Hypatia had living on the land. They expressed to me that they desired to live under a more official and legal entity, rather than just being called "out west" or "up north". There were no towns, no cities, just these few people in homes with hundreds of kilometres to the nearest neighbor.

The challenge intrigued me. Azul chuckled happily when she saw me go into "idea and planning" mode, something I had not done for weeks...not since I had to leave Caledon. It was going to be a huge challenge, but I don't back away from challenges. I sent a telegram to Hypatia, making her an offer on the land. When she accepted, I sent telegrams to my lawyers back in Caledon to direct them to initiate the necessary legal steps to have the region classified as an actual Province. I named it: The Province of Edison.

I knew that there were other former Caledonians who had settled on the west side of the Atlantic in the last few years, for example Admiral Carricre Wind, the First Duchess of Caledon Sound. Admiral Wind had left Caledon and established a community named New Toulouse in the southern region of North America. I had heard wonderful things about it from people who had visited there, however, I had not realized how truly big North America was. If I had expected a day's train ride to go visit Admiral Wind, I would have been sorely disappointed. Therefore, I was completely shocked when I received a telegram from her. She needed to see me...as soon as possible.

I left Azul in Edison, supervising the surveying and building projects and took a train south. The train followed the Clinton River, which cut straight south through the land. It took seven days to reach New Toulouse. I used this time to catch up on my correspondence to my friends and family, writing letters to Eva, Edward and Christine, Mr. Drinkwater, Baron Wulfenbach and my friend, the Ambassador of Adam ondi Ahman to Caledon, Mr. Galactic Baroque. Thank goodness for the telegraph, it had been a life saver ever since I hit this side of the Atlantic, but I still enjoyed penning longer missives to people. So much had happened, and it was a lot to explain! Little did I know, but a lot more was about to happen...

Admiral Wind greeted me at the New Toulouse Algiers train station, although now she was referred to as "Mama Cree" by one and all in her community. I grinned, thinking how fitting it was for her to take to the laid back Swampy way of doing things. She had never let anyone call her "Your Grace" or "Duchess" back in Caledon. :-) She gave me a tour of the New Toulouse Algiers, which was a more rural, backwater (literally) place with shacks that...well...looked like they were falling apart! Then we crossed the Missedabracket Estuary and headed into New Toulouse proper, which was a gorgeous old city...old for North America.

New Toulouse and New Toulouse Algiers

The influence of the original French settlers was everywhere, including in the language! It felt strangely familiar to me, even though it was on the west side of the Atlantic, as I had attended University in France. Mama Cree showed me the home where Miss Chrystin Hathor and Miss India Ingersoll were living. They had been original, founding members of Caledon, although I had not seen them in years, our last meeting being at a Ladies Society of Caledon tea when I was a very young Duchess and just starting to hold social events on my own.

She also pointed out La Maison DuBois, the familial home of one of my dear friends back in Caledon, Professor Rudolfo Woodget. I was amazed at the number of Caledonians that had migrated here! Cato Quan, Eladrienne Laval, LilyDay Darkstone, DreamIngen Writer, Mari Moonbeam and my "boys" that I had married back in Caledon, Jameson Despres and Jayleden Miles too! However, the majority of the residents were "local" - people whose families had arrived several generations back when the city was first established. The cemetary was filled with the crypts of those original settlers.

Mama Cree took me to "Lafitte's - The Old Primsmith Bar", her watering hole that was in the oldest building still standing in all of New Toulouse. She poured me some of the local "whisky"...which I took politely, and eyed suspiciously; the smell coming from the cup was not like any whisky I knew! I sipped at it, trying not to betray my unease at drinking the unfamiliar liquor. She poured herself some and downed it in one quick swallow, and then poured herself another. I stared - my goodness, social libations here in New Toulouse were sure interesting!

Then Mama Cree explained why she had asked me to come, which to an extent explained why she was slamming her whisky. She told me, her words full of sorrow, that she had very serious personal business that she needed to deal with, and that she was going to have to resign her leadership position in New Toulouse. She was going to be traveling a great deal, and she would only be in New Toulouse occasionally, and she knew she would not be able to focus her attention on the community coming and going like that. She took a deep breath, and then dropped the bomb...

"I know you have left Caledon Gabi, and that you are on these shores now. And I know that you have the experience with community and land management. I propose that you take over my position here in New Toulouse."

I gaped at her.

"Ohhh...oh my goodness", I stammered, "Uh...thank you for thinking of me, but...", I lifted the cup to my lips and downed the rest of the whisky in one fell swoop. Mama Cree waved her hand at me, "Let me tell you more about New Toulouse!", and then she poured me another glass of whisky, which I took and slammed.

Suffice to say, my memory of the rest of the afternoon and the conversation is vague and fuzzy. Before I could say "laissez les bons temps rouler", Mama Cree and I were sitting with our arms around each other singing a drunken and tearful rendition of "Caledonia". My next memory is of me dancing on top of the bar at Lafitte's to the most amazing Jazz music...and then the next one is of Mama Cree sliding some papers in front of me that I signed...

To be continued!