by Peter C. Conrad
Jenny slowly looked at the paintings on the wall as Paul rushed to the huge oak desk that stood in the far corner of their grandfather’s den to find the field book. They had been told they were members of the Collectors Club, but this was the first mission they were going on.
“Everything looks different in here each time we come,” said Jenny.
“That’s because many of these things are different,” said their grandfather who seemed to appear out of nowhere. Paul and Jenny turned in surprise to look at the athletic figure of their grandfather. He had been a collector for years searching for things to bring back from around the world. There were many large museums that he worked for.
“This place is like a clearing house for the most important museum artifacts in the world. Things are coming and going all the time,” said their grandfather.
“So we bring things here and they are sent to museums?” asked Paul.
“No. They are often sent back to moments in time where they will be discovered.”
“Why would we do that?” asked Jenny.
“These items all have a history and story that has to include where they were found. This includes stories about how it comes to us from the original inventors or creators of the things. We work this way to find and save artifacts that may be lost in time without too many knowing that it is being done.”
“How do you know what is going to be lost in time?” asked Jenny.
“We have people looking throughout history.”
“Why don’t they just bring back those things?”
“Because they are a part of the world and are a part of history. We have found that children make the best collectors. People may not always notice a child moving among them like they notice a strange adult.”
“That’s the only reason?” asked Paul.
“No, when they identify themselves and ask for something, they are more successful in getting it. We don’t allow our collectors to steal anything. They have to be given the artifact, or they must take it the moments before it would be lost to everyone.”
“How are we going to go to strange places and find what we are sent for and then have it given to us?” asked Jenny.
“You will always find at least one helper when you arrive,” said their grandfather. “But, they can not do what you do.”
“These are the other researchers who are figuring out what is about to be lost?” asked Jenny.
“That’s right,” said their grandfather.
“So it is a simple case of going to meet people and asking them for what we want,” said Paul.
“I’m afraid that it isn’t that simple.”
“You said that we get things right when they are going to be lost,” said Jenny.
“Not as buildings fall and fires rage,” said Paul quickly.
“You’re both right,” said their grandfather.
Paul stared fearfully at his grandfather. Jenny smiled happily.
“These situations have been monitored to make sure that they are safe, but to those who are living at the time, things are sometimes unsure. There will often be confusion when major events happening.”
“Our helpers are there, right?” asked Paul.
“Of course,” said their grandfather. “But, you must be very careful all the time.”
“I don’t know if I like this idea,” said Paul.
“Are we the first to be Collectors?” asked Jenny.
“We call it the Collectors Club, because there have been many others.”
Paul looked more comfortable.
“So what is our first job?” asked Jenny.
“You have to pick up a pack of papers from the Master of Geometry,” said their grandfather.
“Then we won’t be going very far back in time,” said Paul.
“I’m talking about Archimedes.”
Paul stared at his grandfather in disbelief.
“You mean the Greek guy who figured out how things put in water will make it spill. It was when he was bathing, and he spilled some water when he got in and jumped out naked ran down a street yelling ‘I’ve got it!’” said Paul.
“Neat,” said Jenny.
“But he was from Greek times,” said Paul.
“That’s right,” said their grandfather. “You will be going back to 212 BC. That’s over 2200 years ago.”
“Okay, we go back there and our helper will take us to Archimedes and we ask for his writings about geometry and come back here,” said Paul.
“There are a few complications,” said their grandfather.
“He doesn’t like kids?” asked Jenny.
Her grandfather smiled. “No, he lives in a city called Syracuse and because he was a accomplished engineer King Hiero made him his military advisor.”
“So we have to go to the palace,” said Paul.
“No,” said their grandfather. “When you arrive the Romans will have arrived to take the city.”
“Like a war?” asked Jenny.
“Yes,” said their grandfather.
“I really don’t think this is a good idea,” said Paul.
“You will be with everyone else behind the walls of the city and because Archimedes was so good at his job, you will be safe.”
“Then what is the complication?” asked Paul.
“Finding Archimedes and then convincing him to give you his papers.”
“Won’t the helper just take us to him?” asked Jenny.
“Normally would be possible, but with the attack underway, Archimedes will be very busy directing the men who are defending the city.”
Paul shook his head in disbelief.
“There is always a way to safety,” said their grandfather. He picked up the field book on his desk that had a leather strap on it and a clasp. There were three ribbons marking the pages of book. He pointed at the green one.
“If you are in doubt and need helpful information, ask the question you want an answer to and open this field book to the green ribbon, and you will have the answer. The yellow ribbon marks answers to questions you may have when you get lost.” He stopped and looked carefully at Paul and Jenny. “Finally, when you want to come back, open the page to the red ribbon. It will not matter at all where you are, the red ribbon will bring you back.”
“What happens if we loose the book?” asked Paul.
“When you are separated from the book for more than twenty feet, both of you and the book are return here immediately,” said their grandfather.
“I guess that would work,” said Paul.
“Are you interested in being a member of the Collectors Club?” asked their grandfather.
“I am,” said Jenny. She stopped at watched as Paul thought quietly.
“I guess so,’ he said.
Their grandfather nodded his head and handed the field book to Paul.
“Open the book,” he said.
Paul unclasped the leather strap and opened the cover. The room began to spin around him. The only thing that wasn’t spinning was Jenny who was standing beside him. He realized that this is how they got to the place they had agreed to go.