The car closed in on the entrance to the tunnel and as it got closer Bodil quickly realised that this tunnel was different from the others they had passed in that it was new.
It was new and it had gigantic steel doors. It also had a lot of flashing orange lights and men in overalls... who carried weapons.
Then they were through the entrance and into the tunnel. Bodil twisted in her seat to try and get a better view of the men outlined in the rapidly shrinking oblong of sunlight.
The only people she had ever seen with weapons anything like the men at the entrance carried had been Rangers who protected some of the more remote archeological digs she had been on in
her long career.
Finally, she turned to face forward again.
"I suppose it's not even worth asking is it?" She said, watching the ceiling lights as they blinked by.
"Probably not," Victor said.
It was more the changing down of the gears rather than the minute change in her bodyweight distribution that clued Bodil in to the fact that the car was climbing a steep gradient.
Only when Victor was able to change up again and the new tiny rectangle of light far off in the distance began to grow did she realise that they were once more on level ground.
When the mountain they had travelled through finally birthed them into the afternoon sunlight the peaks that had loomed above them before were gone and only the
more distant snow-covered mountain tops of the central alpine range were now higher than they were.
The sunlight was so brilliant that Bodil had to shade her eyes against the glare off the flat white concrete and it was only when her eyes, at last,
became accustomed to it that she was able to see her surroundings properly.
What she saw made her gasp.
The car she and Victor were in was a toy on a giant road flanked by two rows of gleaming blue aircraft the like of which she had never seen anywhere else in the world.
Like ants, black glad figures busied themselves around and on top of the thirty metre wide fuselages.
A memory stirred and she suddenly clutched Victor's arm, making the car swerve before the startled Victor brought it back under control.
Bodil snatched her arm back.
"Oh, I'm sorry! I... I..." Victor was staring at her and she knew her next words were only going to add to the impression that she was, if not crazy, then certainly eccentric. "...
I dreamt this!"
Victor was smiling.
Bodil was looking right and left, trying to take in as much as she could as they drove past more and different types of strange aircraft. There were buildings, too, behind the neat rows.
Solid looking blocks just like the town they had left. Industrial, business-like... Military? Suddenly Alicia's words came back to her. "We have no armies, no navies, no air-forces..."
Through the windscreen, Bodil saw that they were at the end of the avenue of airpower. Ahead was an enormous open space, a square bounded by more of the box buildings.
But, and looking so out of place,
in front of the utilitarian concrete facade on the north side and also on the east side there had been erected huge and gaily decorated platforms on which hundreds of people sat or stood
under enormous awnings to protect them from the high altitude ultra-violet.
The northern one being the more lavish of the two by far with an elegant stairway leading down from the middle of the platform to the ground.
On the eastern side, though, the structure was more bleachers than platform and had a row of parasol shaded tables at its foot. It was towards these that Victor now steered the car.
Ellie watched the car approaching.
Though her sunglasses hid her eyes,
her tightly pursed lips went a long way in expressing the feeling that she was not full of the joy and happiness being demonstrated in the crowded bleachers behind her.
Two boys, both about Arno's age and dressed in the subtle livery of Schloss Egg appeared from somewhere and trotted forward to meet the car.
Behind her sunglasses, Ellie continued to watch while her thoughts gave words to just one of the reasons for her lack of joy as the car pulled up. You had better be right about this Alicia.
You better damn well be right.
Standing straight and as tall as their years allowed, the boys opened the doors. The one offering his arm to the lady as he had been taught.
The other accepting the keys from Victor so that he could take the car away.
Ellie took a deep breath, holding it for several seconds while the pent up stress dissipated through the soles of her bare feet into the smooth concrete.
When she breathed out again a broad and welcoming smile greeted the professor.
As the car came closer and closer to the bleachers with the parasol covered tables at their foot, Bodil was able to pick out faces amongst the hundreds of spectators thronging the tiers.
She recognised several people from the Schloss and from the museum too.
The car's destination, however, was clearly indicated by the veritable hill of grey linen that was Gregor,
who stood silently with his hands clasped in front of him next to the centremost of the round VIP tables that had been set aside for senior members of the Troy staff.
Hardly had the car come to a standstill before Bodil's door was opened by a smartly dressed young man.
Shading her eyes with one hand, Bodil was glad of the proffered arm of the boy as she pulled herself up from the seat.
It made her emergence from the car in front of so many watching eyes much less inelegant than it otherwise could have been.
She beamed a thankful smile at him and mouthed a 'thank you' for which she was rewarded with the cutest blush.
Victor joined her and, as their car disappeared off behind the bleachers, they walked the few metres to where a smiling Ellie waited for them.
Victor played the gentleman with one of the white cast iron chairs and then, his escort mission completed, became professionally invisible in the background next to Gregor.
"Professor. So glad you could join us. I'm sorry that you seemed to have had a little difficulty getting through Niederurnen."
As soon as Bodil was seated a waiter appeared at her elbow. However, the jug of iced water that was already on the table took care of her immediate needs so she sent him away.
Bodil took her time pouring herself a tall glass of water.
"Yes. Strange people." She took a long drink of the water. "So, I see the Troy's have their own air force now. Is that what Alicia wanted me to see?"
Ellie's smile grew some warmth, tinged with actual amusement.
"Partly, I guess. But you're chasing the wrong creeper if you think those 'aircraft' belong to the Troy family." Ellie waited for Bodil's lips to form a retort before continuing.
"Unless you think President Floyd over there would sanction such a thing." She tilted her head to the main elevated platform off to her right across the open square.
Bodil squinted her eyes but at over a hundred metres away and in this glare, making out any single individual was impossible. The presidential banner, though, was easier to make out.
She bit back what she was going to say. The Constitution specifically forbade the formation of militias... even if they were the government.
"Then what were all those aircraft we drove through? They looked pretty well armed to me."
"I can't tell you, Professor. Not yet anyway. But once the event Alicia brought you here to see takes place she has told me to answer any questions you have.
Bodil picked up on the slight emphasis Ellie used on the word 'told' and guessed that there might have been some disagreement between the two women about giving an outsider like her
any information on Troy family business.