Mars, A Long Stay; Chapter 1 - April 1, 1788

Elsie Conner steps out of the carriage greeted warmly by a tall, slim, older, red headed gentleman. Van is Benjamin Franklin’s chief servant.

Elsie Conner is just twenty-two, five foot four inches tall, a hundred and twenty pounds, with long curly blonde hair and deep blue eyes. Her bulky dress does not hide her curves. It seemed no matter what she wore men found her attractive. She was always having to refuse their advances.

Elsie is not sure why she was brought from New York to Benjamin Franklin's house in Philadelphia. She knew her math and memory skills were impressive. Her professor considered her one of the most impressive minds of the century. She can't imagine what Benjamin wants with her, for he is a famous scientist and must be just as intelligent.

Van leads Elsie to the study. It is a large room off to the right of the entrance. It was a site to behold. Simply put, it was a large collection of organized and disorganized piles. The book cases were all filled to capacity but neat. Every table had piles of books on them. Some arranged thoughtfully and some look as they were stacked haphazardly. There were three chess tables with games in progress but no chairs at them. There were six chalk boards and all loaded with formulas. One was bugging her. On the third line of the second board was an error. She stared intently at while she waited for Mr. Franklin. When she could not resist any longer she walked over and erased the last digit of a long decimal number. The correct answer is 3.385462953 not 3.385462952.

In comes a gentile man. He is slender. Not just slender he is lean. A very healthy lean. He walks with a limp, supporting himself with a red stained wooden cane around to the chalk board. At closer inspection she can tell that he is older than he first looks. She can't finger his age but it is over sixty and certainly older than Van. He studies her correction. "Miss Elsie Conner, I presume," he says while looking at the board.

"Yes, and you are."

"I am Benjamin Franklin."

"No you are not. I have seen his portrait and you are to slim."

"I assure you that I am him. I have been very busy this last year and for my project it has become necessary for me to shed the extra weight.” Which is true but there is also an illness creeping through his organs that was making him loose his appetite. Ben is very much aware of it.

Elsie stared at him closely. The face would look like the portraits if he had more weight. He does have the limp. The hair is cut short but it is the right color. He is face looks that of an eighty-one year old. "I will give you the benefit of doubt, for now."

"You will see soon enough. I see you found an error in my calculation. Thank you."

"Surely that is not why you have brought me here."

"No but first I want to know if what I have heard about you is true."

"Ask," said Elsie.

"How long have you been in this room?"

Odd, she thought, I don't get a time questions very often. "Nine minutes and twenty-three seconds, now."

Ben checks is watch, "right," he smiled. "So, you always know the time?"

"Yes, it logs my every movement. I can tell you what I was doing at any time. It takes just a little math to figure the difference."

"What do you know about sun and star positioning?"

"I can tell you approximately where you are just by glancing at the sun. With the degrees, I can tell you exactly. I can do the same with a few stars.”

"We will have to test that tomorrow. For now, join me for dinner and I will tell you what I hope you can help with."

When they came into the dinning room a gentleman stood up. Five foot nine Elsie guessed. Handsome and rugged looking. Dark short hair but with some gray mixed in. Her first thought was a former navel officer, late forties.

"Elsie Conner let me introduce you to Captain Carl West."

Carl greeted her, "Mrs. Conner."

"Mr. West," She said as she nodded.

Ben helped her to her seat.

"Listen you two if this is going to work we need to be a lot less formal. It is Ben, Carl and Elsie,” said Ben.

"Ben, I still don't like this," said Carl.

"We are just having dinner, Carl. Besides, she did it. She caught the error on the board and figured her time in the room correctly."

The staff begin to serve dinner. It was delicious but modest thought Elsie.