Chapter Excerpt

Come then: Let us to the task, to the battle, to the toil—each to our part, each to our station, there is not a week, nor a day, nor an hour to lose.
—winston churchill

1940
Oxford—April 2060


Colin tried the door, but it was locked. The porter, Mr. Purdy, obviously hadn’t known what he was talking about when he’d said Mr. Dunworthy had gone to Research. Blast it. I should have known he wasn’t here, Colin thought. Only historians prepping for assignments came to Research. Perhaps Mr. Dunworthy’d told Mr. Purdy he was going to do research, in which case he’d be in the Bodleian Library.

Colin went over to the Bodleian, but Mr. Dunworthy wasn’t there either. I’ll have to go ask his secretary, Colin thought, loping back to Balliol. He wished Finch was still Mr. Dunworthy’s secretary instead of this new person Eddritch, who would probably ask a lot of questions. Finch wouldn’t have asked any, and he’d have not only told him where Mr. Dunworthy was, but what sort of mood he was in.

Colin ran up to Mr. Dunworthy’s rooms first, on the off chance Mr. Purdy hadn’t seen Mr. Dunworthy come back in, but he wasn’t there either. Then he ran across to Beard, up the stairs, and into the outer office. “I need to see Mr. Dunworthy,” he said. “It’s important. Can you tell me where—?”

Eddritch looked at him coldly. “Did you have an appointment, Mr.—?”

“Templer,” Colin said. “No, I—”

“Are you an undergraduate here at Balliol?”

Colin debated saying yes, but Eddritch was the sort who would check to see if he was. “No, I will be next year.”

“If you’re applying to be a student at Oxford, you need the Provost’s Office in Longwall Street.”

“I’m not applying to be a student. I’m a friend of Mr. Dunworthy’s—”

“Oh, Mr. Dunworthy has told me about you.” He frowned. “I thought you were at Eton.”

“We’re on holiday,” Colin lied. “It’s vital that I see Mr. Dunworthy. If you could tell me where he—”

“What did you wish to see him about?”

My future, Colin thought. And it’s none of your business, but that obviously wouldn’t get him anywhere. “It’s in regard to an historical assignment. It’s urgent. If you could just tell me where he is, I—” he began, but Eddritch had already opened the appointment book. “Mr. Dunworthy can’t see you until the end of next week.”

Which will be too late. Blast, I need to see him now, before Polly comes back.

“I can give you an appointment at one o’clock on the nineteenth,” Eddritch was saying. “Or at half past nine on the twenty-eighth.”

What part of the word “urgent” do you not understand? Colin thought. “Never mind,” he said and went back downstairs and out to the gate to see if he could get any more information out of Mr. Purdy. “Are you certain Research was where he said he was going?” he asked the porter, and when he said yes, “Did he say where he was going after that?”

“No. You might try the lab. He’s been spending a good deal of time there these past few days. Or if he’s not there, Mr. Chaudhuri may know where he is.”

And if he’s not there I can ask Badri when Polly’s scheduled to come back. “I’ll try the lab,” Colin said, debating whether to ask him to tell Mr. Dunworthy he was looking for him if he returned. No, better not. Forewarned was forearmed. He’d have a better chance if he sprang it on him suddenly. “Thanks,” he said and ran down to the Hi

Excerpted from Blackout by Connie Willis
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