Bodil swallowed. She needed another drink, a big one.
But if she raised a hand for the waiter, would Gregor think she was attacking his mistress and snap her arm like a twig? Maybe even her neck. She decided the drink could probably wait.
The significance of what Ellie had just revealed was astounding.
That there were actual incriminating events in the Grand Mother's history that could, no would, change the whole world's view of Her was incredible enough.
But that she was being given permission to dig them out and publish them would be the wet dream of every archaeologist and historian everywhere.
Bodil took a long, deep breath.
"Okay. First of all, can someone get me a damn drink? Then explain what the hell is going on here. Then tell me why Joe Spivey has to have that godawful statue."
There was a visible relaxing around the table. As if by magic a waiter appeared and both Bodil's and Ellie's drinks were replaced and a fresh jug of iced water provided.
While this was going on, Bodil watched Ellie stare off towards where, just in front of the ship, a small raised stage was, by the copious addition of gold and white bunting,
finally nearing completion.
Dignitaries from the ship were already filling the dozen or so seats that had been arranged facing forward to where a metre high plinth stood unattended and unadorned near the front of
As Bodil watched, Ellie seemed to gather her thoughts. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, letting it exhale slowly. When she turned back to Bodil, Ellie was calmness personified.
She played with her drink, twisting and turning the long glass while what little moisture was in the air condensed on its beer-cooled outside surface.
Thoughts now apparently gathered; Ellie spoke while she watched a dribble of moisture zig-zag down the glass.
"Well, let's see. 'What the hell is going on here' covers a lot of ground. You know that what is going on here is what Alicia invited you to come and see, to witness."
Ellie looked up from her beer to speak directly to Bodil. Although her fingers still played with the glass of the as yet untouched beer.
"You also now know that," she nodded in Victor's direction. Victor coughed and found something interesting to look at nowhere near where his boss sat.
"What you are here to witness is Alicia about to be whisked off by the man she is to marry."
Bodil, nursing her second large whiskey,
listened while at the same time trying not to show the impatience for the answers to the ever-growing list of questions that had been building since she had arrived in 'Troy-Land'.
She acknowledged Ellie's summary with the slightest of slight nods. She saw Ellie smile the smallest of small smiles in return before continuing.
"What you don't yet know Professor Hill,
and what is perhaps the starting point of 'What Is Going On Here' is that when Alicia leaves with her betrothed she will be going on a rather long journey.
You see, the ship that she will be departing on. That very ship there. Will actually be leaving our Earth. And not just the Earth, but also our solar system.
Alicia's wedding is, in fact, going to be held in a solar system over two hundred light-years away from us.
Ellie stopped talking and watched the professor's face from behind her sunglasses where the professor couldn't see the twinkle in her eyes. Ellie had shared this revelation several times.
People's reactions amused her.
The pause extended to several seconds before Bodil broke the silence.
"Seriously?" The raised eyebrow expression was one met by many past students who tried to explain their lack of course papers with the most elaborate of excuses. "You're telling me...
what? Aliens? Space ships?"
Ellie made a laconic hand gesture to the great white whale parked fifty metres away.
"Spaceship." Then she couldn't help but smile. "And you've just met an 'Alien' called Poppy. Her father, by the way, is my opposite number for the other alien who is about to marry my... boss...
Bodil tried to speak. To refute. To ridicule. But her analytical brain, with its two hundred years of experience, was putting all the pieces together while temporarily putting her mouth on hold.
She remembered a line from one of the Subdane stories, something, something, then '...whatever remains must be the truth.' Her brain eased the pressure on the mouth's hold button.
"The people in the town? Nudeynarven?"
"Niederurnen" Ellie supplied. "Mostly aliens. Here to learn and also to teach some of the engineering skills our people will need to keep the spaceships they gave us flying."
"The ones we passed?" Bodil gestured with a thumb over her shoulder.
"But I dreamt, one floated past my window..."
"Ah, you saw that? Just a training mission that got a little lost."
"Right, right." Bodil was nodding to herself as another little piece fell into place.
There was a rising murmur from the crowd behind them, and both women automatically looked to the ship for the cause.
"Okay. So the great man appears."
Bodil, like everyone in the bleachers, reached for her binoculars.
The obvious target for the focusing reticule this time was the man in the flamboyant uniform being escorted by, who Bodil now knew to be, Poppy's father.
What brought an 'aww' from the crowd, though, and even made Bodil smile, was not 'the great man' but Poppy.
The little alien, with broad, multihued ribbons draped over her shoulders and several brightly coloured bows tied onto her erect tail, walked upright next to the man in the uniform.
Concentrating really hard on not spilling its contents, Poppy proudly and ceremoniously held in front of her an ornate silver chalice.
"That, Professor," bringing Bodil's attention back to the man. "Is Alicia's betrothed. Admiral Guliard Pfenious Backstrom. The ever so many greats grandson of one Joseph Spivey esquire.
Bodil spun the dial on her binoculars.
The reticule zoomed in, too much. Nose hairs don't tell you anything. She dialled it back a bit.
The first thing she noticed was the age.
When you've spent your whole life in a wrinkle-free, firm breasted, taught buttocked society, the looser skin,
larger pores and loss of muscle tone of anyone over thirty can come as a bit of a shock. Bodil had only ever seen pictures before. In a library. In the restricted section.
Faced with the reality for the first time Bodil's first and unbidden thought was, I wonder if he smells bad.
She had to admit though that Admiral Backstrom didn't look as bad as some of the images she had seen. She guessed him to be definitely pre-saggy. Probably about forty-something.
And he certainly didn't look like any preconception she had of Joe Spivey. He was not what she would call handsome though.
The admiral had the heavy brow and deep-set eyes that made him look less than trustworthy.
Now that, she thought with a wry smile, was a trait that could definitely have been inherited down the Spivey line. She lowered the glasses as another thought came.
Still taking in the general scene as it was developing fifty metres away, she put voice to the thought.
"Does Alicia love him?"
Also watching the proceedings but concentrating more on what Poppy was doing, Ellie answered her.
"You know. I never heard her say that she either did or didn't."
Ellie's response was noncommittal.
"That's politics Professor."
Marriage was a fading concept among Earth's post Sirtuin society. People married for all sorts of reasons, mainly legal.
Marrying someone just for the random emotional response to an electrochemical reaction in the brain was generally seen as being pretty odd.
But Bodil was a bit of a romantic at heart and the concept of love still managed to give her the warm fuzzies.
Now the president was up on his feet on the presidential platform.
His echoing words bounced around the enormous square but were made understandable by the strategic positioning around the arena of hundreds of small speakers.
Bodil automatically filtered most of it out and turned to Ellie.
"Is that why they are here? Because of Joe Spivey?"