14. BEA : Tell us about your life at home.

(Jon)

When Tony was asked that question last month, I wondered if someone would ask me.  I can only give the same kind of answer as Tony.

My full name is Beatrice Jane Harrison.

Dad says there have been Beatrices in his family for about two hundred years.  The last one (before me) was Dad’s mum’s sister.  She died when she was fifteen.  Mum says I’m not named after her: they just liked the name.

Do I like the name?  Yes, although it’s rather old-fashioned.  Perhaps that’s only my opinion.  I’ve only read one story about a Beatrice – who was a sweet old lady in the nineteenth century.

I’ve asked everyone to call me ‘Bea’, which I do like.  My mates at school do that, and my teacher.  Mum tries to remember, but Dad always calls me ‘Beatrice’.

Tony’s always called me,  ‘Bean’.  He claims it started as a mistake when he was a toddler.  I don’t really mind – I suppose.  I know he’s being friendly, not nasty.

Unfortunately, others in the Federation have heard him, and think my proper name is ‘Bean’.  Notably the Carringtons, the flying robots.  Tony told one of them that I let my friends call me, ‘Bean’.  The Carringtons are programmed to be friendly, so they all call me ‘Bean’.  And I confess that I haven’t asked them to change, in case I hurt their feelings.

The ‘Jane’ is from my dad’s mother, but we call her Granny Harrison.  She lives in a big house in the west of Edinburgh.

I was born in Edinburgh, and have lived all my life in Eskbridge, a small town near Dalkeith, in Midlothian, south of Edinburgh.

Dad’s first name is Richard.  He works in a bank in Edinburgh.  Not behind a counter.  He tried to tell me what he does, but it sounded horribly complicated.  If he receives any big bonuses, he hasn’t told us about them.

Before Mum was married, she was Angela Hay, and she studied languages at university – German, French, and mainly Russian.  She became a translator, to translate important Russian books into English.  After she was married, she meant to stop working, but her publisher kept asking her to do jobs which were always ‘special’ and ‘urgent’.  She still does these jobs, every few months.  She disappears into the conservatory, and sits behind piles of huge books.  We (the family) are not allowed in.  When she emerges, she’s stressed and short-tempered.  That’s unusual.  At other times, she’s kind to us.

Sara, my little sister, is eight.  I’m lucky, because she’s a calm person. We seldom argue.

My little brother, Roy, is three.  He’s not quite so calm.  Sometimes he screams.  I can usually persuade him to stop, because he likes me.

Dad’s sister, my Aunt Margaret, is Tony’s mum.  He’s told you about her, and the rest of his family.

Dad also has a younger brother, Simon, who is not married.  I always liked Simon, but he was a mystery.  He would be at home, with Granny Harrison, in the middle of the week, when other adults were working.  Then we wouldn’t see him for a long time.  When I asked him about his job, he winked, and said it was such a secret that he couldn’t even tell me.  I know the reason now: he’s an Administrator with the Galactic Federation, commander of the Earth base, which is under Granny Harrison’s house.

Last June, I was in Primary 7 of Eskbridge School.  I enjoyed most subjects, and was looking forward to going to Eskbridge Academy after the summer holidays.

Then, one Saturday, Granny Harrison called my parents and Tony’s to a meeting in her house.  Cavine, Simon’s assistant, told them that Simon hadn’t come back from a simple trip to a planet called Xavu 6.

Of course, Tony and I weren’t at the meeting.  You can read what happened in the first part of the report, under Story 1.

After that, Tony kept pestering Granny Harrison, until she let us go down to speak to Simon.  Tony asked him to take us to more planets.  Simon refused.  Tony persisted.  Simon said he wanted to tell us about the Federation, but our parents wouldn’t let him.

I admit I shared Tony’s disappointment.  I hadn’t enjoyed our trip to Xavu 6, but I would have liked to see some peaceful planets.

I don’t know what we would have done, but, in late June, Simon collected Tony and me from our schools.  He told our headmasters that we had an unexpected holiday.  That was true: we’d been invited to a celebration on Xavu 6, and Simon had persuaded our parents to let us go.  On our way home from that, we became involved in an emergency on Didgery 2.  (See Story 2.)

As we went home from that, Simon said,  “You did another excellent job there.”

Tony said,  “Then won’t you let us see more of the Federation?  Please!”

After a moment, Simon said,  “I’ve always hoped to invite you two to become agents, but most agents don’t start training until they’re at least 13.”  At that time, Tony wasn’t quite 13, and I was only 11½.

“Can’t we start now?”  begged Tony.  When Simon hesitated, Tony went on,  “Please, Simon!  We could do our training during the holidays.  Then, if it doesn’t work out, we can go back to school.”

Simon asked,  “Bea, how do you feel?”

“I’m not sure.  I would like to see some peaceful planets.  What’s the training like?  Is it hard?”

“No.  You learn about the Federation, and how to operate the devices. You go on missions with Investigators and Negotiators, to see them at work.”

“Sky-high!”  exclaimed Tony.  “Go on, Bean!”

“All right,”  I said.  It did sound interesting.

“I’ll ask your parents,”  said Simon.  “I can tell them you’ve done excellent work on the two planets you have visited.”

To my surprise, and Tony’s delight, our parents agreed to let us do the agents’ training during the summer holidays.

Tony’s always loved the agent’s life, but I had doubts at first.  I did like visiting other planets – between missions.  But, as Troubleshooters, we were sent to planets which had problems.  I’m not really complaining: that was our job.  And I can’t deny that we’ve made lots of friends on these planets.

Hais, my best friend, comes from Dancer 61.  I still get on well with Jenny and Alison, my mates from school, but, as Tony explained in his answer, we’ve drifted away from our friends on Earth while we’ve been working on other planets.

What else can I say?  I hope I’ve answered your question, Jon.  If not, please ask again.