I felt remarkably well when I awoke despite the previous night’s beer. I was a little thirsty, and my mouth felt like I brushed my teeth with a toilet brush. I took a long shower and took my time getting ready for work.

I bought a scone and tea on my way to the trolley and picked up a newspaper. For the first time, there was a headline that did not make me cringe.

Cholera On Decline

Source Found to be Kenton Pump Water

Treatment is Sugared Sea Water

New Cause of Disease Discovered

The paper had the new Cholera cases at eight, two local, and six in cities downriver. And no deaths. The Cholera was almost over. There was a recapitulation of the failure of the heads of the Medical Societies to successfully treat their own Cholera according to their respective Philosophies.

Then, there was a lengthy description of how animalcules and the treatment of the Cholera were discovered, and they gave me the full credit. To read the account, you would think I had single-handedly done all the work. No mention of anyone else. It was all because of the genius and perseverance of Jordan Bruno.

My cheeks burned as I read the report. I was applauded and embarrassed in equal measure and dreaded what my colleagues would say. Since I had not been interviewed for the story, at least I had an excuse for not being held responsible for its content. If they believed me. For the first time in several days, I had a sense of dread return to the pit of my stomach. I did not want my colleagues to think I had screwed them out of any credit for their work.

Rather than start at the cubby room, as I had done every day since the Cholera hit, I went straight to my office. As I opened the door, a familiar voice said,

“You are late.”

Sitting at my desk was Bosworth, no surprise, but on my desk was the pump handle.


“I slept in today,” I said. “Busy weekend, but the Cholera is almost over and those in the Ministry do not need me to tell them how to do their jobs. They are professionals. I figure no hurry on what is going to be my last day of work.”

I sat in the chair, usually reserved for visitors, and waited. After a minute of silence, Bosworth sighed.

“You present a problem,” he said. “The Medical Societies are, through back channels, demanding your head. You caused them a great deal of embarrassment and likely long-term financial harm. Not to mention two deaths. But they can’t do it publicly.

“And it appears, at least for the short term, that the Homeopathy Society has emerged as the first among equals. The stunt they pulled drinking pump water has resulted in a deluge of business for the Homeopaths as the only unaffected Philosophy. All at the expense of the other Medical Societies. Even though drinking the pump water was their idea, the Societies blame you. But for many? You, like it or not, are a hero. The man who defeated the Cholera.”

I started to object, but he held up a hand.

“I know. Most accomplishments are a group effort. But the people want a scapegoat in defeat and a hero in victory, and the newspapers have provided them a hero. You. And if the Cholera had continued, killing thousands, you would likely have been awarded the role of scapegoat. So be content to be the hero.

“But we can’t fire a hero. No. A hero needs to be rewarded.” Bosworth paused.

“There are likely to be changes in the Crown government concerning the Medical Societies. Some in positions of power, and I am not at liberty to say who, have long felt that the Medical Societies are a hindrance to the health of the people. That the Medical Societies are committed to tradition and money rather than to the health of people. They are a minority, but an influential minority, who have been looking for an alternative to the Societies. They think that it might be found in, of all places, France. An approach known as the MéthodeEmpirique.”

He smiled and paused.

“Heard of it?”

I kept my face a mask and did not reply.

“Of course,” he said. “I understand. But they want the MéthodeEmpirique applied to all aspects of the Empire, and for some reason, they think you might just be the person to help guide these efforts, thanks to your success with the Cholera. What do you say to that?”

“I don’t know what to say,” I said. “It would depend on the specifics.”

“A cautious man. That’s good. We will talk more about this moving forward. But you have been chosen to lead, and I would advise you to say yes when greatness is thrust upon you.”

“No. I think this is the beginning of the end of the Medical Societies. Not only did they fail spectacularly with the Cholera, but for the first time there was also an effective alternative. They will never recover, although I suspect they will fight long and hard to prevent the Alternative Philosophy discovered in Portland from spreading to the rest of the Empire. In that, they will also fail.”

He picked up the pump handle.

“Stupid place to hide this,” he said.

“I didn’t think so. Why would anyone be looking in an umbrella basket in summer?” I said.

“To look for a pump handle,” he replied. “It would not fit in many places given its size and shape.”

He was right. It was a stupid place to hide a pump handle.

“Well,” I said. “It was a gift, given to me here, and I did not want to be seen carrying it out of the office.”

“A gift? From whom?”

“I’d rather not say.”

“Of course. Well, do not dispose of it. The Crown likes relics of its victories, and this, along with the pump, will likely be memorialized in the future.”

He played with the handle for a moment, then placed it back in the stand, covering it with an umbrella.

“I would move it before the next rainstorm if I were you. We are almost done here. Do you have any questions?”

“So, I am not to be fired?”


“I’m getting a promotion?”

“Of some sort.”

“And the Medical Societies can’t skin me alive?”

“Not with our help. What will they do if left to their own devices? I cannot say.”

“May I make a request?”

“By all means.”

“Cass. Cassandra. She has been working on the UKM and has quite a knack for its use. It was invaluable in understanding the Cholera. She needs to be assigned to the sister’s full time.”

“Of course. We knew that. In fact, the State is acquiring its own Babbage-Ada Machine for just the Ministry, and she will be its first director.”

“You knew?”

“That and more. One last thing,” he said. “Before your promotion. Given your success here, we would like you to volunteer for another project.”


“We like that word. We just received a telegram from San Francisco. It seems the plague has returned and are wondering if you are free to provide your expertise to their problem.”

“The Black Death? That plague? Bubonic? Do I have to go?”

“The one and only. And of course, you don’t have to go. But ask yourself. How would it look for the Conqueror of the Cholera to refuse to help a city in distress?”

“Bloody hell.”


“So, when do I leave?”

“Wednesday,” he replied. “Here are your tickets and other information.”

He handed me a large envelope.

“We will talk again, I am sure,” he said. “And Mr. Bruno. Thank you. It was stellar work you and your people did. You likely saved the lives of thousands. Now go and save more.”

He stood up, we shook hands, and he left.

Bubonic plague. Bloody hell. I sat for a few minutes, contemplating the “greatness” that had been thrust upon me.

Then I got up and went back to work.

The End

So that’s it. Finally. If you liked it please write a glowing review on Amazon or Goodreads or where ever you get your books. If not? Keep it to your self.

I have two novels and a novella (no, not Steve) in the works if I live long enough. At 66, who knows. Hopefully in a year Martian Invasion followed by Ghost Story. Because The World Needs More Mark Crislip ™.



  • Mark Crislip, MD has been a practicing Infectious Disease specialist in Portland, Oregon, from 1990 to 2023. He has been voted a US News and World Report best US doctor, best ID doctor in Portland Magazine multiple times, has multiple teaching awards and, most importantly,  the ‘Attending Most Likely To Tell It Like It Is’ by the medical residents at his hospital. His multi-media empire can be found at

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Posted by Mark Crislip

Mark Crislip, MD has been a practicing Infectious Disease specialist in Portland, Oregon, from 1990 to 2023. He has been voted a US News and World Report best US doctor, best ID doctor in Portland Magazine multiple times, has multiple teaching awards and, most importantly,  the ‘Attending Most Likely To Tell It Like It Is’ by the medical residents at his hospital. His multi-media empire can be found at