Bodil sipped on her wine and listened. Ellie wasn't telling her anything new.
Seven centuries ago, any chance of the remains of humanity pulling up its collective boot straps and bringing back real civilisation was constantly being thwarted by the Faction Wars.
And any chance of these coming to an end, even if it meant one side triumphing, was pretty much impossible as long as the never-ending supply of clones continued to feed the war machine.
She tuned back in to Ellie's words.
"Of course, all of this changed with the arrival of the first carrier of the transmittable SIRT1 gene.
Clones no longer had the monopoly on 'immortality' and ordinary humans quickly bred themselves into ascendancy,
challenging the dominance of the clones and eventually ending cloned reproduction at the signing of the Los Alamos peace treaty."
Bodil again raised her glass in salute.
"Well done Ellie, but I fail to see how this..." She stopped herself, remembering her agreement to Ellie. "I'm sorry. Please, go on."
Ellie's voice introduced an edge of impatient determination.
"People don't like to lose. Defeated factions often deny that unacceptable outcome. Splinter groups, resistance groups, secret societies who refuse to accept defeat, call them what you will.
After the signing of the peace, many of these groups were created by the remaining clones." Ellie slouched back into her chair, her head dropped and now her voice took on a wistful sadness.
"They tried to continue the war. Many atrocities were committed. Thousands of needless deaths. Pointless destruction. Ass... assassinations of people who only..."
She stopped again, taking a deep breath. Then she lifted her head and sat up straight. When she spoke again it was with a renewed strength.
"Fortunately, most of these murderous groups died out after a few years. Some of them hung on for a century or so.
Some still exist today, but in name only and spend their energies recreating the past in pageants and shows. But there are a very few who still actively work towards bringing back the old days.
Often, they will pick on a historical figure who has stories attached to them that exemplify... or seem to in their twisted logic... the things they want to bring back.
They make them into a figurehead. The Lost Bride is one such."
Across the table, Bodil could only stare.
Suddenly, the death of Professor Burroughs in an accident shortly after the publication of his book on the Lost Bride character seemed sinister in the light of Ellie's words.
"So you think these people might... what? Come after me?"
"Maybe. In light of where you are and the admission in the phone call that you have access to our archive. These people aren't too fond of the Troy name after all."
When Bodil made her way back to her room after the meal with Ellie, there was indeed a grey suited man waiting outside her door. He was sitting on a chair reading a newspaper.
When he noticed the professor approaching along the corridor he folded the newspaper neatly and put it under his chair.
Bodil noticed a thermos flask and a small tin box, just large enough to hold a couple of sandwiches also standing neatly next to the wall. The man stood up, straightening his jacket.
"Good evening Professor."
Feeling atypically self-conscious under the gaze of this man who, instead of being at home with any family he might have,
was going to be spending the next god knows how many hours sitting on a chair outside her door to protect her from... whatever... maybe a bullet.
The thought struck her that this man might have to give up his life for her. That thought did nothing to ease her discomfort.
The man smiled but did not offer his hand.
"Clive, Professor Hill. I'll be right here should you need me."
Bodil nodded as her hand scrabbled for the door handle.
"Thank you, Clive. I will..." She succeeded in opening the door. "... I mean, If I... If. I mean should... Good evening."
Clive nodded and Bodil escaped behind her door. It closed with a click as she leaned backwards against the cool wood and closed her eyes tightly in embarrassment over her performance.
Early the following morning there was considerable commotion behind the museum building. Two large semi-trailers were carefully backing up to the loading bay.
Two more were just pulling away after being relieved of their carefully packed cargos.
Inside the loading bay,
all was carefully organised noisy chaos as dollies and small forklifts spun and danced and moved the offloaded packing cases in an intricate choreography of whining motors
and squealing rubber wheels before disappearing into the interior vastness of the museum.
All twenty of the conserving room bays had been emptied the night before for this long awaited arrival from the newly cleansed area of the still highly irradiated island once known
as La Grande Bretagne.
Now, the small, rotund figure of senior conservator Giles Clegane-J-Summer-A,
known as Gillie to his staff darted from crate to crate assigning them by their labelled contents to individual bays.
Just now, he checked a label, consulted his notepad, waited for the beep and then pointed his stylus to bay 16.
Each bay was staffed by a qualified conservator and one, maybe two, students.
Currently, bay 16 was only being manned by an excited looking student called Cybil who duly took charge of the smallish wooden crate that was delivered to her table.
Cybil copied the details on the label into her own notebook.
GB-D24-Prf Aden-112 (RefFile: GB634259-464-988365)
Contents of underground chamber lower level.
Contents bench/desk numbered No3. (see RefFile)
Paper Map/diagram (remnant)
Ornate box (toolbox?)
Magnifying headset (Binocular)
Tools (see list).
Artifacts-identified (see list).
Artefacts-unidentified (see list/drawing).
Note: (To conservators. Contents of bench/desk No3 seem incongruous to context and other finds in the chamber.
Possible contamination from radiation cleanup teams or earlier dig? Unlikely I know due to swampy conditions but please investigate.)
Curious, Cybil began to carefully unpack the crate, labelling each item as she lifted it out from the foam packing before placing it on the spotlessly clean surface of the conservation table.
Even as a student, it soon became apparent that some of these artefacts, especially the tools, looked definitely out of place amongst the rusting,
Verdigris covered and rotting examples normally expected from a six- to seven-hundred-year-old site.
But it was the last item, indexed as 'Found on floor under bench/desk No3' that made Cybil gasp.
Almost flattened as it was as if stomped on by an angry boot, it was undoubtedly one of the most beautiful artefacts Cybil had ever seen.