The First Five Hundred Words
The Quantum Curators and the Faberge Egg
Eva St. John
#1 Neith – Beta Earth
‘Has she chucked the bloody thing in the lake yet?’
My earpiece hissed. ‘No, hang on. Oh, you are not going to like this.’ Clio started sniggering. ‘Some of our intel may be wrong.’
I didn’t need to be able to see Clio to know that her eyes were rolling. ‘Patchy intel’ was our stock in trade. Especially the further back in time we had to go. Seventh-century Britain was about as patchy as it got. It was a wonder sometimes how a culture collapsed in on itself. One minute, Roman rules, the next, hello Dark Ages. And not so much dark, as, for fuck’s sake, you used to have underfloor heating, how could you let that go?
Still, there were shining pockets of artistic wonder. However, they were then generally burnt, plundered, melted down, or in this case, dumped in a lake. Chucking stuff in water seemed to be a bizarre form of preservation, but then again, nothing about the British ever made sense.
‘So, what don’t we know?’ I whispered. From where I was crouched, behind a large rock dripping in wet moss, I had no clear line of sight, so was relying on Clio who was sitting two miles back with her goggles on zoom.
‘Turns out these priestesses can’t throw swords worth a damn. She lobbed it a whole foot.’
‘Bugger, I’d love to have seen that.’
‘Watch it on replay later and be bloody glad you didn’t. You’d have laughed out loud.’
Well, that explained the group of birds that had suddenly flown up into the sky over on the far ridge above the lake. I had wondered if a second extraction team had been sent over. God knows it wouldn’t be the first time a screw up had occurred.
The great Petersburg debacle of 1894 was still taught to first years as a salutary reminder of how not to explore a gunpowder factory. The first lesson was how to establish all friendly personnel in the vicinity. The second lesson, which seemed a surprisingly obvious one, was not to use combustible weapons in a fireworks factory. You’d think the curators of the Library of Alexandria would have been more attuned to fire-provoking situations. But hey, it’s not like the library caught fire or anything. Oh, wait…
‘What are they doing now?’
‘There was a lot of undignified arm waving and shouting, then two of the priestesses went and dragged a boat down to the lake side. Now they’re all getting into the boat, with the sword.’
‘Shit. Shit! Don’t say it.’ Clio was not about to let me forget this. She had specifically mentioned the SCUBA gear, and I had just as specifically pooh-poohed it. Bugger. I looked at my rubber boots. Well, they were a waste of time.
‘Did you at least pack the lungs?’
‘Yes,’ I said. I knew what I had to do. Dammit. I was going to be a laughing stock when I got home.
‘Well, go fetch Lot DL278643,’
‘Can you not just call it Excalibur?’
‘That’s sloppy. Now strip.’
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